I wish to inform the House of the process and decision on the future location of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) HQ, which will become the UK Government's marine delivery body, subject to the passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.
In line with the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, it is proposed the MMO will set the standard in the UK and internationally for strategy and planning in the marine and coastal environment, so delivering the Government's commitment to introduce a new framework for the sea that balances conservation, energy and resource needs.
In June 2008, KPMG were appointed to help provide an independent assessment of the most suitable locations for the MMO headquarters, ensuring that the process was transparent and fair. The first part of the process was an evaluation against agreed business and quality of life criteria, based on assessing published information and wide stakeholder consultation, to reach a short list. Copies of the final KPMG report along with an explanatory narrative will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
In consultation with the Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA), DEFRA Ministers and senior officials along with other key stakeholders, KPMG produced a shortlist of five locations, while retaining London as the benchmark. Lowestoft/Great Yarmouth was added in order to ensure good geographical spread and to ensure that full consideration was given to any business benefits potentially arising from location alongside a directly related part of the DEFRA marine network. This made a final shortlist of six locations, all with considerable merit and some with an excellent foundation of marine expertise: they comprised Plymouth, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Merseyside, Tyneside, Carrick and Lowestoft/Great Yarmouth, in addition to London.
DEFRA officials—accompanied by KPMG—visited all the shortlisted locations to help inform the decision. Each location also had the opportunity to put forward a case to be the home of the MMO to me through its Members of Parliament. I would like to thank parliamentary colleagues for their time and effort, and for the quality of their presentations.
All of the shortlisted locations made professional, well-presented submissions and I would also like to thank all those people and organisations involved for their efforts, enthusiasm and time. All of the shortlisted locations had much to offer as a home for the MMO HQ.
Having assessed all of this information carefully, together with further analysis on the cost of the move, the impact a relocation would have on current MFA business and staff, and DEFRA's wider corporate responsibilities, I am pleased to announce that Tyneside will be the new home of the MMO. Tyneside has a broad range and a good balance of marine interests including a working port, fisheries, a growing renewable energy sector, environmental and industrial sectors, and a strong and developing university sector in marine specialisms, all of which will complement very well the role of the MMO. Tyneside also provides strong transport links to key stakeholders in London, Brussels, Scotland and across the UK. In addition, the extensive evidence of partnership working in the area provides confidence that Tyneside will be able to help the MMO to fulfil its role under the Marine and Coastal Access Bill.
The House will also wish to know that whilst the North East has had some notable success in encouraging private sector investment in recent years, it has not benefited to the same extent as some other regions in the UK from the relocation of public sector organisations and employment following the Lyons Review.
As I indicated earlier, all of the shortlisted locations could have provided a good base for the MMO, and this is a tribute to the continuing strength of those locations, to the case made by their respective Members of Parliament, and to the professionalism of the teams who put their presentations together. There can however be only one MMO HQ, and in thanking all the other locations' teams, I am sure they will join me in offering Tyneside our congratulations and best wishes.
To ensure there is a smooth transition and to mitigate against any risks arising as a result of the relocation an MMO skeleton body is proposed from Autumn 2009. Subject to Royal Assent on the Bill, the expectation is that this will run in parallel with the MFA until midnight 31 March 2010 at which time the MMO will be operational.
The Marine Bill and further information about the Bill can be accessed at: http://defraweb/marine/legislation/index.htm
And further information on the MMO and its implementation on the MFA's website at: http://www.mfa.gov.uk/