Amendment 110

Part of Environment Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 30th June 2021.

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Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 4:00 pm, 30th June 2021

I am delighted to follow my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge and I am grateful to him for his support in principle for Amendment 113. I pay huge tribute to his work and his interest in birds—of the feathered variety—whereas I have to confess that water is my element. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their support for Amendment 113. I thank the Marine Conservation Society for its support and briefing as well.

Why is Amendment 113 necessary? The Bill at present makes only a passing reference to the marine environment. I wonder why that is the case, particularly as our seas represent over 50% of the environment of England. Anyone who has even a passing interest in the work of David Attenborough on plastics in our seas and oceans will realise how it has captured the public imagination, in this regard.

My noble friend Lord Caithness spoke eloquently on why soil should be included, as did my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge. In his Amendment 113B, my noble friend Lord Caithness goes on to say why

“terrestrial … marine, and … other aquatic ecosystems” should be included. I believe that Part 1, and indeed the Bill in its entirety, is relevant to the marine environment, and I would welcome the greater clarity of putting “the marine environment” into the Bill, in this regard.

I also acknowledge that, in replying to a Parliamentary Oral Question either a week or 10 days ago, my noble friend Lord Goldsmith acknowledged that there is a “tension”, to use his word, between inshore fisheries and offshore wind farms. So my question to him is: how will that tension be eased and resolved if we do not place, as I have chosen to phrase it here,

“the sea, the marine environment and maritime wildlife, sea mammals, flora and fauna” on the face of the Bill?

I will address the point made by my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge on whether sea mammals should be included here. Under the very able chairmanship of my friend the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, the EU Environment Sub-committee—within the greater family of European committees under the excellent chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who is in the chair now—did some work on this earlier this year and took evidence. I think it was on 17 March that, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, we took evidence on North Sea ecology.

One of our witnesses was Trudi Wakelin, the director of licensing for marine planning et cetera at the MMO. In response to a question from me she said that there were unaddressed “cumulative impacts” from not just the construction but the operation of wind turbines that may be causing sea mammals such as dolphins, porpoises and whales to bank in increasing numbers on our shores. That is a source of great concern to me and we will go on to look at it in a later amendment on wind farms. It will probably surprise noble Lords to know that no research has been done on this, yet we are going to urbanise our waters even more by rolling out wind farms in future.

Another witness on the same day, Professor Melanie Austen, the professor of ocean and society at the University of Plymouth, told us that

“by urbanising the sea and offshoring our problem of energy generation, there will be casualties”.

As others have argued, I argue today that we should exercise here the precautionary principle, at sea and on land, by halting or pausing our offshore wind farms and other activities that may be harming

“the sea, the marine environment and maritime wildlife, sea mammals, flora and fauna”.

I will end with a question to my noble friend the Minister. Does he agree that it would be in the interests of greater clarity to put my proposed sub-paragraph (d) into Clause 43? Why has the marine environment been left out from the specific remit of the Bill as it stands?