Powers relating to the exploitation of sea fisheries resources

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 17 December 2018.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 7:00, 17 December 2018

I beg to move amendment 68, in schedule 7, page 57, line 15, leave out “and” and insert “or”.

This amendment would amend the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to enable the Marine Management Organisation to make byelaws to protect marine features in circumstances where the need for protection is not necessarily urgent.

It is good to see that Government Members managed to refresh themselves appropriately during our short break. I will not carry on speaking until Opposition Members return. You will be pleased to hear, Mr Hanson, that we have a long oratory ahead of us about the protection of the marine environment and shipwrecks, so you can look forward to that. In all honesty, this should be relatively brief. It picks up on the discussion that we had on the aquatic environment the other day.

The amendment seeks to expand the remit to protect marine features when it is not specifically urgent to ensure we care for our marine environment proactively. I will not go on about shipwrecks too much; we have already been through a number of reasons why protecting them is important. However, last week when I referred to archaeological and historic features, the Minister contended that archaeology is addressed by marine licensing under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. It is important to note that fishing is not subject to marine licensing under the MCAA because licensing offers no protection in respect of wrecks. In addition, the Protection of Wrecks Act does not restrict fishing activity, and assurances were given during its introduction to that effect back in the ’70s:

“The situation of designated historic wreck sites is different. There will be no bar on any kind of fishing from the surface, either commercially or for sport.”—[Official Report, 4 May 1973; Vol. 855, c. 1706.]

So said a politician in the ’70s, long before I was born. A member of the Lords said:

“My Lords, the Bill does not prohibit navigation, anchoring, fishing or bathing within these restricted areas, except when those activities amount to obstruction of an authorised salvage operation.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 May 1973; Vol. 342, c. 931.]

That is why the Opposition believe that it is necessary to have specific provisions for archaeological and historic features within fisheries legislation. I am grateful for the support of the Honor Frost Foundation Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage, which dug out those records from the 1970s. The amendment is necessary to ensure that underwater and aquatic environments are protected, especially the historic wreck sites. Will the Minister address those concerns?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank the shadow Minister for his contribution. The real purpose of schedule 7 is to make consequential amendments to the Marine and Coastal Access Act to ensure that the suite of powers contained in the Act, to make byelaws both within and outwith marine conservation zones, can be extended to the English offshore region: the zone that would currently be affected predominantly by EU law and the common fisheries policy.

Amendment 68 proposes deleting the word “and” and inserting the word “or”. The schedule states that

“there...may be reasons for the Secretary of State to consider whether to designate the area as an MCZ”.

The amendment would add the word “or” before the phrase,

“that there is an urgent need to protect the feature.”

New section 9 specifically relates to section 132 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act and the designation of marine conservation zones. It gives the powers to designate in those zones where there is an MCZ and where there is an urgent need to protect a feature: in other words, where it is under consideration to designate a zone as a marine conservation zone, but there is an urgent threat to that emerging policy and therefore a need to act expeditiously.

In the narrow context in which paragraph 9 operates, which is simply around the designation of marine conservation zones, the use of “and” is the appropriate link between paragraphs (2)(1A)(a) and (2)(1A)(b) because they are interdependent. This particular power would be used in circumstances only in which someone intended to have a marine conservation zone. Other parts of schedule 7, not least paragraph (6), set out broader byelaw-making powers that can be used, whether or not the feature that somebody attempts to protect is in a designated marine conservation zone.

I hope that I have been able to explain to the hon. Gentleman why “and” is used in the paragraph—because the sub-paragraphs are interdependent—rather than “or”, which suggests that they should stand alone. As I said, this is within the narrow context of a soon to be designated marine conservation zone.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water)

I thank the Minister for his remarks. I suspect that his officials will revisit provisions on the protection of wrecks when the Bill goes to the House of Lords. The Minister will be relieved that he will not have to repeat his speech about the aquatic environment for a bit.

Importantly, the purpose of the amendment on protecting our marine heritage is to make sure that conflict between fishing and the protection of our natural and marine heritage sites on the seabed is understood and managed in advance of its arising. However, on the basis of the Minister’s remarks, and in anticipation of our friends down the corridor making similar forceful arguments on the basis of what the Minister said, I am happy to withdraw the amendment at this time. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Schedule 7 simply defines the byelaw-making powers, provided for under clause 38, conferred on the Marine Management Organisation and Ministers of the devolved Administrations for the enforcement of marine conservation standards. Schedule 7 defines the scope and procedure for creating byelaws in the UK’s exclusive economic zone by the MMO in England and Northern Ireland, or Ministers in Scotland and Wales, for the purpose of protecting the UK’s marine environment.

Paragraph 1 introduces an amendment to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and paragraphs 2 to 5 address the nomenclature in that Act. Paragraphs 6 to 10 insert new clauses into the Act, providing the Marine Management Organisation with byelaw-making powers within the English offshore region for the purpose of preserving marine flora or fauna, marine habitats or types of marine habitat.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 7 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 39