SALTER SPEAKS FISH AGAIN

Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
I was going to say how much I was looking forward to serving on the Committee but the prospect of continued medical bonding between the hon. Member for St. Ives and the Minister is too horrible to contemplate. I hope that is the last we hear of it, Mr. Gale. I am sure you will clamp down on that kind of nonsense.

I reiterate that this is an excellent piece of legislation, and I welcome the commitment to the broad principles given by both Opposition parties. Many other Members and I worked closely with the Minister and his predecessor Ministers to see the legislation reach the stage it does today. I put on the record a slight concern, for the Minister’s ears in particular. A number of us—particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test and for Plymouth, Sutton, the hon. Member for Broxbourne and myself—worked long and hard on the Joint Committee. The Bill has been the subject of extensive scrutiny, and the work of the Joint Committee must not be mothballed, it has to be a point of reference. There might be times when, on an all-party basis, we will come up against Whitehall red lines, but going back to some of the deliberation that took place in the Joint Committee might give the Minister strength to push back some of the red lines that need to be a little less starkly drawn, particularly on nature conservation and sea fisheries issues that we will discuss. However, the programme motion is broadly sensible, and I think that we can meet the timetable we have set ourselves, precisely because of the extensive scrutiny that both Houses have already had the opportunity to engage in.

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Question put and agreed to.

Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
I commend the approach outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test. As a signatory to the amendment, I would be very happy if the Minister were to take that approach, assuming that we can build consensus across the Committee—judging by the body language of my colleagues, we might be able to do so.

Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
I am still waiting for the Minister to inform the Committee why the Environment Agency got it wrong when it said that the MMO should have a duty to further the conservation of marine fauna, for example, as I quoted earlier, and why the Joint Committee got it wrong. I specifically asked him to inform us what the Government’s response to the Joint Committee was, because he said in his response that that could seriously undermine the Bill. If it is as serious as he suggests, that will be reflected in the Government’s response.

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Huw Irranca-Davies (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine and Natural Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Ogmore, Labour)
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point again. In the Government’s response to the Joint Committee, we ruled out defining sustainable development on the face of the Bill for the reasons I have laid out, but we did say that we would consider how to clarify the MMO objectives, which is what we did in the other place. I want to reiterate what we have done and how it has been welcomed. We responded to the Joint Committee not by defining it in the Bill, for all the reasons I have given, but by strengthening and clarifying what we would do in terms of the marine management objectives.

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Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
Will the Minister read out the Government response, rather than interpret it? I feel that it is the first time he may have seen it.

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Huw Irranca-Davies (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine and Natural Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Ogmore, Labour)
No, it is not. Paragraph 3.1.9 states:

“We are currently considering whether and, if so, what changes could be made to meet Joint Committee and public consultation requests to clarify the MMO’s purpose and it’s general objective.”

We listened and brought forward changes on the back of that.

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Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
May I put it to the Minister that that hardly justifies the statement that the amendment, which has cross-party support and which would replace “contributing to” with “furthering”, seriously undermines the structure of the Bill? The Government response goes nowhere near that point. Does he not agree? The answer is yes.

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Huw Irranca-Davies (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine and Natural Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Ogmore, Labour)
We responded to the Joint Committee by bringing forward clarification on what the MMO should do to contribute to the achievement of sustainability. There is also what we signed off on the high-level policy objectives and what will come through in the marine policy statement. My hon. Friend is right that the legal precedent aspect was not picked up at the time, but I am picking it up very quickly now. We are faced with a long legal precedent as sustainable development has been a concept for quite some time. It is enshrined within another 70 pieces of legislation and its interpretation in the law courts is very clear. Therefore, if we chose to adopt a different form of wording here it would be interpreted that we mean something different.

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Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test, Labour)
My hon. Friend makes a strong point about the comparative read-across of wording in the Bill with other pieces of legislation that have or may have a bearing on it. Schedule 5, however, is only relevant to the Bill and does not read across to other Acts. An amendment to that schedule, particularly to paragraph 7, could reflect the substance of this amendment. If he tabled such an amendment on Report he might secure a great degree of cross-party support.

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Martin Salter (Reading West, Labour)
On that point—

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Roger Gale (North Thanet, Conservative)
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot intervene on an intervention.

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Published in: on July 4, 2009 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  

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