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Marine Bill

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to bring forward a draft Marine Bill; and if he will make a statement. (78416)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to publish a draft Marine Bill; what steps are being taken to ensure that the Marine Bill is introduced and passed at the earliest opportunity; and how the Marine Bill will protect the marine environment of the UK. (78619)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government expect to publish the draft Marine Bill. (79057)

DEFRA published a consultation document on 29 March 2006 setting out the Government’s thinking in a number of key areas to be addressed by a Marine Bill. These include marine spatial planning, nature conservation, licensing reform, and the possibility of setting up a new marine organisation. We had already undertaken initial consultation on some fisheries issues that will also be dealt with in the Bill.

The final scope of our proposals for a Marine Bill, including the strategic direction we should take, will not be decided until we have fully considered the responses to the consultation exercise. The consultation period ended on 23 June 2006. We will publish a summary of the responses within three months.

We will need to take these responses into account before any decision is made on the timing of further consultation on detailed proposals for a draft Bill. Introduction of a Marine Bill will follow later in this Parliament, subject to the availability of parliamentary time. We want to move forward swiftly, but this is a complex area and we must make sure that we take sufficient time to consult effectively and get our proposals right.

The Government’s primary purpose for a new Marine Bill is to introduce a stronger framework for the seas, based on marine spatial planning, that balances conservation, energy and resource needs. Together with a planning system for the marine area, we have proposed a number of possible approaches for the reform of marine nature conservation legislation. These include new mechanisms for the conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, including protected areas for important species and habitats.