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Lords Chamber

Volume 706: debated on Monday 12 January 2009

House of Lords

Monday, 12 January 2009.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

Employment: Public Sector

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in light of the current economic circumstances, whether they will impose a freeze on new public sector recruitment and permit only replacements for staff who have left.

My Lords, the Government will continue to invest in key public services to support people during the economic downturn. To ensure that resources are targeted on core front-line areas and to reduce further the cost of running government, administration budgets will fall by 5 per cent per annum in real terms for each of the next three years. Public sector employers will need to take decisions over how best to deploy the resources within their budgets.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but I find it very disappointing and falling short of what we might have hoped for in these stressed times. The Minister will no doubt be aware that, prior to his arrival to rescue the Government, they had for 11 years been increasing public employment at the rate of 2,770 jobs per working day—a total of 573,000 more jobs today than when they came to power. As this has brought about an increased tax burden of £2 billion a year for 11 years—it now runs at £22 billion, which is exactly the same as the amount that the Government have boasted that they have saved as a result of the Gershon report—will the Minister now consider whether it is time for another cost-cutting exercise and to take forward another Gershon exercise?

My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that the Gershon exercise, which was part of the 2004 spending review, has been followed by further exercises and further commitments to secure operational efficiencies, including in particular the use of five well respected business people to provide guidance on core areas, such as Mr Grimstone of Standard Life, who is providing advice on asset management. These are quite complex areas. I felt a degree of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, when Mr Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, said on 19 May that he was not sure that the approach that the noble Lord, Lord James, had adopted in his own review of public expenditure was credible.

My Lords, the House can remain assured that we are absolutely committed to effective public expenditure, to value for money and to securing operational and efficiency improvements. However, at the same time, we are not going to slash public expenditure when it is most vitally needed to support the economy.

My Lords, in the months ahead, will the Government practise what they are advocating to the private sector in terms of their hiring policy? Will they, for example, pay graduate trainees to be interns, and what incentives will they give to the long-term unemployed to work in the public sector?

My Lords, the Government’s policy on recruitment, head-count and remuneration for public sector employees is to pay whatever is necessary to meet the predetermined requirements. In as much as labour market conditions are changing, I envisage that the Government’s own policies will reflect those changing conditions.

My Lords, underneath all those words, did the Minister mean to say, no, he will not think of a freeze or, yes, he will think of a freeze?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asks a penetrating question. I do not think that it is quite as simple as that; in the real world, it is a matter of efficient expenditure and efficient head-count allocation to meet needs. Some parts of government services are demand driven. In this type of economy we have automatic stabilisers, which recognise that. In some parts of government there will be reductions—and I have said, in response to the noble Lord, Lord James, that there is a 5 per cent per annum commitment in real terms to reduce expenditure on administration over each of the next three years. I hope noble Lords take some comfort from the fact that we are pressing for further efficiencies.

In a straight answer to the noble Lord’s question, no, there is no head-count freeze.

My Lords, this corner must have a turn from time to time. Is this not the time to start rebuilding our manufacturing industry, which has declined by two-thirds over the past 30 years and needs rebuilding, unless we are to import everything from overseas—particularly from China and India?

My Lords, I would welcome further strengthening of the British manufacturing industry, and believe that will be one of the consequences of the actions that we have taken on fiscal stimulus, on monetary easing—and as a consequence of the fact that we now have a very competitive currency.

My Lords, is it not the case that, following recent productivity gains, manufacturing industry now provides 60 per cent of our exports?

My Lords, I defer to the noble Baroness. I do not have those statistics to hand. However, to the extent that I find that that is correct, I shall confirm it to her in writing.

My Lords, I think that we would all like to hear the answer to that, as I do not think that the noble Baroness was correct.

On efficient spending, the Minister referred to real-term cuts in administrative budgets, and the PBR referred to £5 billion per annum of efficiency gains. What does that mean as regards employment in the public sector, or do the Government believe that maintaining public sector employment is one of their responses to the recession?

My Lords, we are talking about securing sustainable efficiencies and improvement in productivity. The audit done under Gershon evidenced that that has been achieved in the past and will be continued in future.

My Lords, I think that we are straying from the subject of the Question. I would beg noble Lords’ indulgence not to be guilty myself of straying from the subject.

People’s Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to observe the latest judgment of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities concerning the People’s Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran.

My Lords, mindful of the clear judgment of the Court of First Instance of 4 December 2008 annulling the July 2008 listing of the PMOI, the UK believe that EU member states must observe and respect the court’s judgment in the current review of the EU list of terrorist organisations.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply, but I think that he will agree with me that so far the British Government have not covered themselves in glory, having abstained rather than supported the Court of Appeal’s decision that the PMOI was not a terrorist organisation when the matter was before the Council of Ministers some months ago. Did not the European Court say in its judgment of 4 December that the British Government’s excuse for abstaining on that occasion—namely, that they had to vote either for or against the whole list of terrorist organisations—was wholly spurious? Surely we are entitled to expect that from now on the Government will ensure that the judgments of the Court of Appeal and the European Court are observed and that the European Union respects the rule of law.

My Lords, the noble Lord is, as always, gracious; he was kind enough, in attributing the spurious response to the Government, not to say that it was my response in this Chamber to him and others. This gives me the opportunity to say that, while the Court thought the view incorrect that it was impossible to vote against only one member of that list, I checked back with officials, who have reconfirmed that it is up to the presidency of the European Council at the time to determine how such business is dealt with. A whole list was given and there was no option but to vote it up or down. Therefore, if we had not abstained, other terrorist organisations would have been delisted.

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to hear the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, supporting so strongly the EU Court of Justice and the importance of obeying its rules. We all recognise the delicacy of defining a terrorist organisation. I am not an expert on the PMOI, but I have some hesitation about it, which arises from the fact that right-wing think tanks, Washington, Christopher Booker and the Sunday Telegraph are among its strongest proponents. Does the Minister accept that we are concerned about the delicate line between legitimate exiled organisations in this country and terrorist organisations? For example, the last day we met in December, the VHP from India was mentioned in the context of raising charitable moneys in this country that may go through to violence against minorities in India. Are the Government looking overall at the question?

My Lords, we constantly review which organisations we believe should be proscribed. It is enormously important that our reviews and the decisions that we and our European partners make are subject to scrutiny by the courts. In this case it is clear that courts both at the national and the EU levels have found repeatedly against our desire to proscribe this organisation and it is enormously important that we accept and respect those judgments.

My Lords, will my noble friend reassure the House in clear and absolute terms that every future vote cast by Her Majesty’s Government will aim at the removal of the word “terrorist” in relation to the PMOI?

My Lords, let me be clear: at the end of this month there will be a decision on this issue by Ministers at the European level. Let me be equally clear that the UK will, both in the working meetings that precede that decision and at the time of the decision itself, urge respect for the decisions of the courts.

My Lords, will the noble Lord explain why, if one is excluded, all others are excluded? Surely there is a form of assessment on the merits of each case. What is going on?

My Lords, each organisation is individually considered by the working committee that gives advice to the Council of Ministers. It is then the prerogative of the presidency to decide how a vote is taken on the list derived from those discussions. The last presidency determined that the vote should be on the list as a whole and that the list should be either adopted by consensus or rejected. It was not possible, in the view of the officials involved, to demand a vote on individual organisations on the list.

My Lords, in the light of the PMOI’s hopes for a Government in Iran who respect religious freedom, what action are Her Majesty’s Government taking on the position of the seven leaders of the Baha’i community who have been imprisoned without trial and held in severe conditions and who are now threatened with execution for no other crime than their religious beliefs?

My Lords, we are very much aware that seven leading members of the Baha’i community have remained in detention without formal charge since their arrest in the first half of last year. We received reports in December that the group had been sentenced to death and that executions were imminent, although we have been unable to confirm this and cannot therefore substantiate the reports. Since the arrests, we have made several representations to the Iranian authorities calling for the group’s release and will continue to monitor developments closely. I associate myself with the right reverend Prelate in saying that this is an extraordinary attack on freedom of religion in that country.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, in view of the court decision that effectively removes the PMOI from the terrorist list, it would be quite wrong to seek its inclusion on the EU’s asset-freeze list?

My Lords, the two lists are in this sense linked. The deproscribing of the PMOI indeed has knock-on effects on the organisation as a whole.

My Lords, when the decision comes before European Ministers at the end of this month, will there be an individual decision on the PMOI? Will the Government then vote for deproscription?

My Lords, in the light of the court decision, we hope that the list, when it arrives before Ministers, will ideally not contain the PMOI.

Iraq: UK Armed Forces

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any withdrawal of British troops from Iraq will apply to the 250 deployed in Baghdad as well as the 4,100 deployed in southern Iraq.

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House would wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the family and friends of the servicemen killed in Afghanistan since the House last met. They were Rifleman Stuart Nash, Corporal Robert Deering, Lance Corporal Ben Whatley, Corporal Liam Elms—all of them Royal Marines—and Sergeant Christopher Reed of the 6th Battalion The Rifles. Our thoughts are likewise with the family of the marine who was killed in Afghanistan yesterday.

The legal basis that took effect on 1 January requires the withdrawal of UK forces from Iraq, including those in Baghdad, by 31 July. As part of the normal bilateral defence relationship that we will move to in 2009, the Iraqis have indicated that they wish the UK to continue to provide military training. Negotiations to establish the scope of that activity will begin shortly.

My Lords, we on these Benches associate ourselves with the condolences the Minister sent to the families and friends of the servicemen tragically killed in Afghanistan.

Can the Minister confirm that the 600 British troops in Kuwait who are currently acting as a reserve for Iraq will also be withdrawn? The Minister mentioned training; will the Royal Navy’s training and advisory mission, carrying out the vital work of training the Iraqi navy, remain for the time being?

My Lords, we do have reserves in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti Government continue to support the ongoing operations in Iraq through the provision of facilities such as logistics and engineering staff. That will continue for the time being because we need to see an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. We have a good, long-term and strong bilateral relationship with the Government of Kuwait, which will of course continue.

We are significantly contributing to the training of the Iraqi navy, which is important for protecting energy reserves and maritime movements in that area. There is still a significant amount of work to be done, and we anticipate that that may be one of the areas in which we have ongoing work. However, as I have said, no direct decisions have been made at this stage.

My Lords, I associate these Benches with the condolences that have been given. Will the Minister guide us on the status of the troops who will be left in Iraq? Will they still be regarded as front-line troops, even after the withdrawal of the majority of their colleagues, and will they receive the same support packages when they return from their tours of duty?

My Lords, we have been in direct negotiations with the Iraqi Government about the protection that will be offered. We would not allow troops to maintain a presence there if we were not satisfied that there were proper safeguards for their positions, and the service chiefs agree that that is the case. As the Prime Minister indicated in his Statement in December, we are now moving away from a combat role to one of training, support and mentoring. The discussions that we will have with the Iraqi Government about our future presence, which will be a more conventional presence, as I said, will scope the exact extent of that military support. However, we can all be assured that the agreement we have will safeguard the positions of any troops that we will have in Iraq.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that this withdrawal of troops from a combat role removes the Government’s objection to an inquiry into the Iraq war?

My Lords, it has been made very clear that at the appropriate time there will be an inquiry into what happened in the events leading up to the war in Iraq. We have said repeatedly that that is not appropriate while we have servicemen there.

My Lords, will that inquiry include an investigation into those companies, some of which are British, particularly the Weir Group, which were responsible for breaching the sanctions legislation in the early part of this decade?

My Lords, as no decision has been made on the exact extent or remit of any such inquiry, I cannot comment on that. I have heard some very interesting suggestions about the scope of any inquiry, including from my noble friend Lord Soley, who suggested that the inquiry ought also to include the circumstances in which international organisations failed to live up to their commitments.

Police: Surrey

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their contribution to the Surrey police force’s budget for the current financial year; and what proportion of the total budget for that force that contribution represents.

My Lords, the Government have contributed £99.3 million in general grant towards funding the budget of the Surrey Police Authority in 2008-09. Government funding to Surrey Police Authority represents 51.8 per cent of its budget, which was set at £191.5 million. In addition to general grant, Surrey will receive approximately £16.5 million from a range of other government funding in 2008-09.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Is it not the case that Surrey is not really the leafy, law-abiding county that many people imagine? There are some very important security considerations in that county, some of which I took the liberty of drawing to the noble Lord’s attention a while ago. Is it not therefore inappropriate that there should be pressures on the Surrey police budget, notably from the claw-back currently being exercised by the Home Office on what was paid to them last year?

Generally, my Lords, most people in Surrey are law-abiding, though the noble Lord has raised with me the issue of people doing “away days” from London in order to redistribute wealth. Overall, Surrey has done quite well. It has received £3.8 million in grant for 2009-10, more than it would have done by a strict application of the rules. We have heeded some of these issues. It also receives extra money from the CT grant, which is analysed and worked in conjunction with ACPO, looking at all the forces in the country. Overall, it has not done badly at all in the outcome.

My Lords, will the Government assure the public of their commitment to increasing police expenditure by at least 2.7 per cent next year as part of the 2010-11 funding plan?

My Lords, the current plans are that it will be increasing by 2.5 per cent year on year. That is still the plan and I have seen nothing to show any change to it. We are still mindful that we do not want council taxes to climb, so we are setting limits on the maximum that any police authority can claim, as it will impact on council tax payers. We are going to be very strict on that in 2009-10. We expect the increase to be substantially below 5 per cent in England and Wales, and we will not hesitate to use the capping powers if they are needed to stop that.

My Lords, when my noble friend talks about the peaceable nature of the people of Surrey, does he not recall the civil unrest and protests that took place against the hated poll tax?

My Lords, my Permanent Secretary in the Home Office lives in a very quiet, nice little village in Surrey where there was a big debate about getting a PCSO, and a feeling that it did not need one. But the other day my Permanent Secretary was very excited because the PCSO had arrested a burglar. So, things occasionally do happen there.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the last riots in Guildford were, I think, in 1865, when a Liberal called Onslow represented Guildford in the House of Commons?

My Lords, nothing would surprise me about the name Onslow—although the thought that one was a Liberal is a little surprising. The only warfare that I have been involved in in Guildford was when I played rugby there many years ago.

My Lords, have other authorities suffered clawback, and if so, how many? What is the maximum amount that has been clawed back?

My Lords, seven police authorities were subject to capping action in 2008-09. Of those, three—Surrey, Bedfordshire and Norfolk—were allowed to keep their budgetary increases but have been set lower nominal budgets for future increases; three were allowed to keep their budget precept increases but have been restricted to a 3 per cent annual increase over the next two years; and one, Lincolnshire, was capped.

My Lords, the Flanagan review of policing stressed that the existing police grant formula does not suit current circumstances, and that it needs significant work in order to do so. What action is being taken to implement changes to the current formula?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is, as usual, up to speed, and she is absolutely right. The funding formula is currently being reviewed, with the involvement of a number of interested parties. The review will be in the early part of this year and is likely to entail changes for the next CSR.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the disturbances that will occur in Surrey and need police to control them should the Government decide to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow?

My Lords, that is going a little beyond the Question, but I feel absolutely certain that Surrey police will be able to do whatever is required in that county. It is a very impressive force. It is one of the forces involved in the workforce modernisation programme and has done some very good work in looking at ways to optimise its workforce balance. I am sure that it will meet any challenges it has to face.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that the principal riots against the poll tax in Surrey took place in the 14th century?

My Lords, although I found out over Christmas that my family thought I was rather old, that is a bit beyond even my memory. I am afraid that I cannot really comment on the point.

My Lords, I had the honour of being the Member of Parliament for Guildford for 31 years. I know that I do not need to teach the noble Lord any geography, but Surrey is not an island surrounded by sea; it is bang up against London, from which a large number of the criminal element of southern London descend into Surrey. That presents the policing of Surrey with a special problem, which I hope is taken into account in assessing proper funding to enable law and order to be maintained in that very pleasant county.

My Lords, I can absolutely reassure the House that these issues are taken into account. For the doughnut police authorities, as they are called because they surround the metropolitan area, a number of factors are taken into account, not least some of the motorways shooting out through them. The noble Lord talked to me about “away days” from London for various reasons. I say again that I think that the majority of people in London also are very law-abiding, but there are special circumstances which are taken into account when we make allocations.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the appeals from Members opposite for more resources for policing are in themselves an adequate answer to the rather nonsensical earlier Question from the noble Lord, Lord James of Blackheath, who asked for a freeze on public spending?

My Lords, I have to agree that imposing a blanket freeze on public spending would not be a clever thing to do.

My Lords, can the noble Lord confirm that the high cost of policing the M25 motorway, a large part of which goes through Surrey, is taken into account when assessing the budget of the Surrey police force?

My Lords, a large number of issues have to be taken into account when working out the budget and, as I mentioned, one of them is the motorways running through the county. Specific issues have to be addressed but, overall, Surrey’s allowance has been very fair. It has done rather well, receiving £3.8 million more than expected. There is no doubt that its work in a number of areas, such as financial management and workforce modernisation, has been positive and progressive, and that is also taken into account. HMIC has commented on some of the balancing difficulties in a number of police forces, particularly the seven that I mentioned. We wanted to look at the issue carefully to assess whether we were right in what we had done in capping and restricting the amount of money available.

Arrangement of Business

Announcement

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown will repeat the Statement on the situation in Gaza at a convenient point after 3.30 pm, interrupting the Committee stage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. Assuming that the first debate runs on for a while, I would suggest that the Statement take place after the first group of amendments.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Committee (1st Day)

Clause 1: The Marine Management Organisation

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out “Management Organisation (“the MMO”)” and insert “Agency (“the Agency”)”

I shall speak also to the other 22 amendments in the group; most are identical in wording and all are identical in purpose. This is the beginning of the Committee stage, which no doubt will detain us for a few days. Therefore, I need to declare my interests, which mainly relate to Part 9. I am a member of the British Mountaineering Council, its access, conservation and environment group, the Open Spaces Society and the National Trust. That is about it. I had the privilege to be a member of the Joint Committee of the two Houses that carried out the pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill. No doubt some of the things that I say will be informed by what happened in that committee.

This is a simple amendment to change the name of the organisation that will be in charge of the planning and regulation set out in the Bill from the Marine Management Organisation to the “Marine Agency”. I have tabled the amendment for two reasons. The first is on the ground of simplicity. Shorter names are better, within reason, if they are not silly. If the body is called the “Marine Agency”, it is likely that people will call it that. If it is called the Marine Management Organisation, everyone will call it the MMO—or at least everyone who understands what MMO means will call it that, as indeed everyone is doing already. Acronyms generally are bad, partly because they are meaningless to many people, who therefore tend to be excluded from the club of people who know what is being talked about. Jargon is bad. Acronyms are usually a kind of jargon and should therefore be avoided.

Perhaps the more substantive reason for the change is that the name of an organisation is not irrelevant; it reflects what it does. In a sense, the name brands the organisation. The word that I consider to be unfortunate and which gives the wrong impression of what this organisation should be doing is “Management”. Perhaps it gives the right impression of what the Government think that it should be doing, but we will have that debate in relation to a number of amendments.

I am not arguing for a sexy name. Sexy names seem to be going out of fashion, which I hope they are because they are silly as well. People have suggested that the organisation might be called “Seas UK”, which would be totally silly. Someone said that it is the body that will rule the waves, so let us call it “Britannia”. My noble friend Lady Hamwee said that if I want to call it Britannia I had better transfer to the Tories. I replied that I had better not call it Britannia because the Tories would not have me. At least, I hope that they would not have me if they understood a lot of my views. Therefore, I am not calling for a silly name and I hope that it will never be given one. I am calling for the simplest, most basic name, and “Marine Agency” seems to be the best that anyone can think of.

There has been a lot of debate about what the marine agency, or Marine Management Organisation, will be, and we will probably discuss that in some detail in a later series of amendments. How strategic an organisation is it to be? Will it just carry out government policy and co-ordinate that policy to the best of its ability? Is that what “strategic” means? We will be debating that. Is it in some ways a policy-setting or lobbying organisation? Perhaps that is going a little too far, but to what extent will it be the champion of the seas? That is certainly what the Joint Committee recommended it should be. Will it help to set the policy agenda and be the body that speaks for the sea? We will shortly come to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Miller that questions whether it should be the body that represents public interest in the sea. Those are all important and interesting concepts but none of them particularly relates to management.

Of course, many of the organisation’s functions will be about management. It will be in charge of carrying out the new planning system and new planning regime for our coastal waters, and rightly so. It will be the body that carries out the licensing and regulation; a great deal that is currently carried out by diverse agencies will rightly be brought together. However, will it have a function over and above that? Will it play a leading role in the debate and in discussions on proposals for what should happen in its sphere of interest, as, for example, the Environment Agency clearly does and as Natural England and its predecessors clearly have done? Will it be that sort of body or will it be a functional, managerial, mechanistic body that only carries out government policy, doing a useful job in bringing things together but nevertheless being no more than that?

There are other big issues relating to its functions, such as the emphasis on development as opposed to conservation, and how those can be synthesised, but they are for later debates. The name change that I am proposing raises the question of the organisation’s culture. There is a concern that its culture will be derived from the Marine and Fisheries Agency, its predecessor, which does good work but is basically a delivery body—a regulatory body. It is not an organisation such as the Environment Agency and Natural England.

On Second Reading I complimented the Minister on his speech and said that he had been visionary, but when I read what he had said I thought that I had been a little over the top. I complimented him a little too much; I was taken in by his usual enthusiastic style and delivery rather than his actual words. We have had a useful Explanatory Memorandum about the organisation and how it will run, in which we read the details of an organisation that is functional, carries out services and delivers policies on behalf of the Government but does not have a real life, spirit and vision of its own. Will the body provide leadership and vision? As well as doing all its work, will it argue its case and promote its cause, which is the cause of the British seas? The Government’s document refers to its being a regulator of most activities in the marine environment. It will be a licensing body that will take a strategic view across all its responsibilities but not a strategic view of the way in which policy is going. We argue that it should be a body that promotes, champions and leads. If it does not, who else will do that on behalf of the marine environment? I beg to move.

I should declare an interest. We are a long way from coastal access but I am a farmer and involved in the ownership of land, so my interest should be on the record as we start the Committee stage.

My notes on this amendment consisted of one word—why? I was rather hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, would answer that question so that I did not have to say any more than that I thoroughly agreed with what he said. However, I am rather disappointed. If I were to be mean-minded and uncharitable I would say that the amendment was tabled largely so that he could kick off this Committee by picking on the first possible thing that could be open to argument, although I am sure that that was far from his mind.

I have learnt that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, does not want to be a Conservative. I am not really surprised to hear that; he has spent much of his political life trying to fight the Conservatives in the various parts of the country in which he has been politically active.

I am confused by the noble Lord’s denigration of acronyms. After all, they identify bodies that are really worth their salt. They do not need to be explained. We do not need to explain the BBC or NATO, although we might occasionally have to explain what the Lib Dems are, but that is different, I suppose.

Management is what the Marine Management Organisation should be about and we on these Benches have no objection to “Management” being included in the name of the organisation.

We have made a splendid, non-consensual start to our debates in Committee. I am aware that we are enjoined by the Chief Whip to try to make this group last until just after 3.31 pm and I am sure that, when he replies, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, will enable us to do so. It is a great pleasure to respond to this first group.

Behind his comments, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, posed a fair question about the essential nature of the Marine Management Organisation. I accept that he is also arguing for a title that is as simple as possible and avoids jargon, but his question was essentially about the status of the proposed MMO and, more important, about what it is to do. I hope that I can reassure him that we think it right that the word “Management” should be in the title because, as I will explain in a moment, the Marine Management Organisation will have to manage some difficult issues and tensions that are inherent in the sea and many of the activities that take place there. Although it is right that the work of the MMO should take place within the strategic direction given by the Secretary of State, who is accountable to Parliament, it will have sufficient independence and confidence to make a major impact in relation to marine policy and to wider debates about the development of the sea and all the issues that we are going to debate over the next few weeks.

We are setting up the MMO as an independent non-departmental public body—not a step taken lightly—because we want the independence that the status of an NDPB brings. That status has been accorded to the Environment Agency, which has already been referred to, the Trinity House lighthouse service, the Health Protection Agency and the Natural Environment Research Council. We think that that gives the organisation the independence and status that it needs to deliver on behalf of government as a whole. It is notable that all those bodies have different names, yet they have the same legal status as the Marine Management Organisation.

I ought to say a word or two about the policy matters that the MMO will be concerned with, which are of direct interest to nearly every central government department: defence, shipping, courts, renewable energy, fisheries, aggregates, environment, recreation and more. While the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be the sponsor Minister, the organisation will deliver on behalf of all departments. We think that this status ensures that it will have their confidence to do so.

The MMO will be able to deliver the new marine planning system with objectivity and propriety. It will build on experience of fisheries and environmental licensing to deliver more joined-up decisions and a better, faster one-stop service to developers. It will play a key role in integrated coastal zone management by linking conservation with fisheries management and regulating a new flexible tool to enable conservation benefits to be delivered while encouraging important economic developments, such as renewable energy. These are major policies that run through the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. They mostly arise because of the need to deal with the increasing and sometimes conflicting pressures on the sea.

I accept the point that the noble Lord made about a champion, but what is also urgently needed is a referee. That is what we are equipping the MMO to be and why I do not think that the word “Management” is inappropriate.

The Minister may look specifically at paragraph 46 of the Explanatory Notes, where the Government state:

“The MMO is to act as the UK Government’s strategic delivery body in the marine area. As such it will exercise a number of marine functions”.

That is a long way of saying that it will be precisely an agency. The Minister already cited the Environment Agency—which the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, may agree is perhaps the best exemplar and model for the new agency—but it was significant that the other organisations to which he referred do not have “management organisation”, which is, to my mind, a limiting title and inappropriate for this body, as part of their title.

I do not agree with the noble Lord. As I explained, a central part of the remit of the proposed organisation will be to deal with what are often conflicting pressures with the sea and its management. That is why the title “MMO” was developed. It has been asked: what is in a title? A number of the NDPBs sponsored by my department, Defra, have different titles but none the less have the same status. The important matter here is: what is its role and accountability, which we will debate under later parts of the Bill?

I understand that there will often be disagreement about the name of an organisation. Noble Lords are fully entitled to suggest that “the MMO” does not reflect what they think that the organisation is here to do. I reassure them that there has been extensive debate about the name. I know that during consultation stakeholders raised issues about the name with the previous Bill Minister, Mr Jonathan Shaw. He challenged stakeholders, if I may call them that, to come up with other names, but no consensus was reached. The question is: will this be an effective organisation that will make a major contribution? I am clear that it will. The status of the organisation as contained in the Bill ensures that it will have sufficient independence within the overall policy direction that must fall to Ministers to give.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, asked, finally: will the organisation be able to set its own culture? The answer must be yes, of course it will set its own culture. Will it be listened to by government? The answer must be yes, it will be listened to by government. The body has a crucial role to play. I am satisfied that the legislative framework in which it is to be established will ensure that it can do so. I accept that we will not always agree about names, but we can set this organisation up and running to do an effective job.

I was not planning to intervene, because until the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, illuminated what he intended by substituting “agency” for “organisation”, I thought that this might be a debate about semantics, but having heard the discussion I should like to make two contributions from my experience. I declare an interest as a former chairman of Natural England’s predecessor, English Nature, and a former chief executive of the Environment Agency. First, there was all hell to pay in the early stages of the Environment Agency to establish a role for it as a commentator on policy. If an organisation is carrying on regulatory, scientific, research and other functions on behalf of government, it is vital that the practical experience, knowledge and skills developed as a result are brought forward to comment on policy so that government and everyone else may learn from that. Does the Minister see this as a key role for the MMO, because it is a fairly fundamental one? It is crazy to invest huge amounts of money in staff, skills and programmes if you are not willing for the organisation to say things about policy from time to time. The minute you start saying things about policy from time to time, questions begin to be raised about the role of the organisation.

I intervene partly because the Minister used the word “referee”. If you are refereeing a football game, which I hope I never have to do, between—to show the depths of my ignorance about football—Manchester United and Chelsea, because they are the only two teams apart from Tottenham and maybe Arsenal that I know, you are not expected to have a pretty strong feel for what is right and what is wrong; you are expected to be totally dispassionate towards the two teams and to referee simply on the ground of the rules.

I press the Minister to illuminate us on whether the Marine Management Organisation is entitled to have a view, based on all this knowledge, research and expertise. If it has a view, what is the purpose of it having a view? Who is it standing up for? Who is it championing? It may simply be a very dispassionate organisation—a planning authority is one model—or it may be an agency like the Environment Agency or Natural England, which is a very different model in that the organisation is charged with a set of outcomes and purposes that it wants to achieve. In my view—one of my amendments later in the list focuses on this issue again—we really must task this organisation with some very strong outcomes that we want to see delivered on behalf of the marine environment and the nation. We cannot allow it to be simply an implementer of the rules. I am keen to hear what the Minister has to say about this.

That is a very interesting comment. The noble Baroness and I share experience of the National Health Service, and she will know that the debates that we are having about the role of special health authorities and non-departmental public bodies in relation to their sponsoring department are very much the same. She is absolutely right; an organisation that can make its authoritative views known to government on the basis of its experience should not be inhibited from doing so. However, that is rather different from being seen to be simply a pressure group. I do not think that she suggested that; I think that her question was whether the MMO could be an influential body that builds on its work and scientific expertise and all the experience that it can develop and whether government would listen to it. The answer must be yes.

I am not sure that the noble Baroness’s analogy about referees is right. Of course referees are there to apply the rules of the game of football or of any other game, but they do so with a love and appreciation of the sport itself, so I am not sure that she has got her analogy right. I hope that I have reassured her that it would clearly be nonsense for Governments not to want to have an appropriate dialogue with the MMO on all these important matters.

I wondered why the Minister was a little surprised when I mentioned at Second Reading that it was my understanding that the Marine Management Organisation was a working title and that the Government were looking to come up with something better. He has since explained what happened with the Minister in another place, Jonathan Shaw.

On the amendment, an argument against changing the name of the organisation is that the abbreviation would be “MA”. We already have an MCA—the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—and to have two marine agencies might be a little confusing.

To what extent does this body relate to Scotland? Clause 313(4) states that Part 1 relates to Scotland. The Explanatory Notes say that the MMO will discharge a number of marine functions on behalf of the UK Government. That is clear and, so far, the discussion has exemplified that. Recently, the Calman commission on devolution produced its first report. I think that last week it sent to noble Lords a summary of its conclusions to date. It says that the Scottish Government are considering legislating for the marine environment. What does that mean? Do the Scottish Government want to supersede this Bill almost immediately? Perhaps the Minister will clarify that, although I may be misunderstanding completely what is going on.

At Second Reading, I promised to send noble Lords a memorandum relating to devolution and the points raised. Alas, having received a draft at the weekend, I made some changes. I will write to Members of the Committee later in the week. I apologise that it is not available today. Perhaps I may respond briefly to the noble Baroness, although I could respond at some length. On the general working together of the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, there was a meeting of the joint ministerial committee over the summer and autumn. I assure the noble Baroness that the UK Government and the devolved Administrations committed themselves to working constructively to ensure that there is an integrated and joined-up approach to the new marine legislation and its implementation.

The Marine Management Organisation is being established with a core purpose to deliver planning, licensing, fishing management and enforcement functions in the waters around England and the offshore area for matters that are not devolved. My understanding is that the Scottish Executive intend to set up Marine Scotland to deliver marine functions in Scottish territorial waters and for devolved matters in the offshore area.

I thought that the organisation being a champion of the seas would come up in later debates, so I may be too early in my remarks. As someone who sat on the Joint Committee, there was a strong feeling that the MMO should have greater powers than those in the Bill. I should be grateful if the Minister would enlarge on that. He also mentioned that it will not have a strategic role, but is a delivery body. Some of us would like it to have greater power and more teeth than it has now. If the Minister thinks that this matter will come up in later discussions, I am happy to wait. Since the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, talked about the organisation in a broader context, I should like clarification.

That is a fair question. It is true that later amendments will come back to this point. In this first amendment, I seek to reassure the Committee that the role of the Marine Management Organisation is not simply to be a referee in the terms that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested that I had said. It will have to deal with critical issues and pressures from many sources. We should not be under any misapprehension that it will have an extremely challenging job, but it will act within the strategic direction given by Ministers, in particular through the marine policy statement. That is how accountability will be discharged to Ministers and thence to Parliament. In so doing, it will become an authoritative body that will be listened to carefully and, I strongly suspect, play an influential role in the development of future policy. While I understand what noble Lords are saying, my problem with the concept of a champion is that it has the suggestion of a pressure group about it. This has to be an authoritative body acting within the statute and on the directions given to it.

Am I right in saying that the maritime unions have raised no objections to the name of this organisation?

I am not aware of any objections, but if I find that members or potential members of staff have raised them, I will let noble Lords know. We have done well to get ourselves past 3.30 pm.

We have done so without any filibustering from me, and for that reason if for no other, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in the debate. I am particularly grateful for the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, which go to the heart of what the debate on the first few parts of this Bill will be about. That is because there are conflicts about the concept of this organisation, so we need to understand the issues. The Joint Committee said that the purpose of the organisation is ambiguous, so I do not apologise for raising this essential issue at the beginning of our consideration; it will be a thread that runs through all our debates.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that, although I have been fighting the Conservatives for most of my political life, that fight, because of the area I come from, has been nothing like as hard as my fight with the Labour Party. It is also true that some acronyms become household terms—the BBC is a good example. That reminded me of the acronym SDP which was very successful from the branding point of view, although whether the SDP was successful in other ways is something on which noble Lords will have views. However, most acronyms are used only by the members of elite or specialist groups who know about their area. That is a fact of life. If this organisation becomes known as the MMO, 95 per cent of the population will not have the slightest idea what it stands for. I have to say that if the Scottish Parliament is going to call its body Marine Scotland, it understands the skill behind naming organisations rather better than whoever came up with Marine Management Organisation.

This body is going to be a quango operating alongside the Environment Agency and Natural England, to name two obvious examples. However, terrestrial quangos, if I can call them that, operate in environments filled with people who champion their causes. We have parish, district and county councils, regional bodies, Members of Parliaments and all sorts of other organisations whose job is to promote issues. The sea is used by people who value the marine environment and economy, but of course do not live there. They go out to sea and then come back to where they live. That is a particular reason why the Marine Management Organisation, despite its clumsy title, has to be a champion of the seas.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Do not the number of letters sent to noble Lords by organisations concerned with the issues he has raised suggest that this powerful group of bodies is able both to raise them now and will continue to do so with the establishment of the MMO?

That is true, just as it is for terrestrial environment issues. Lots of people write to us about quarrying in the Peak District. There are companies that think that it is their right to do it and want to continue doing so to provide jobs. There are people who think that it is a scandal. There are all kinds of points of view. For any issue or area of interest, there are, quite rightly, always pressure groups. They are a vital part of democracy. However, the seas are not a democratic set-up; no one lives in the seas or stands for them as elected people—and many unelected people—do for any particular region, area, borough, city, town or parish on land. This is important. These matters will run as a great thread through this debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

House resumed.

Gaza

Statement

My Lords, with permission, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows.

“With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement on the appalling situation in Gaza. The fighting continues, but the bald statistics of the rising death toll do justice neither to the scale of the suffering nor to the ramifications of the conflict. I said at the UN last Tuesday that the crisis was an indictment of the international community’s collective failure, over years and decades—not just months—to bring about the two-state solution that offers the only prospect of lasting peace in the Middle East, but there are also more proximate causes of the current conflict.

The Gaza truce of June to December 2008 was less than a ceasefire. More than 300 rockets were fired into Israel. Eighteen Palestinians were killed in Israeli military incursions into Gaza. The humanitarian situation in Gaza went from bad to worse as the Israeli Government restricted the supply of goods, fuel and aid into Gaza. The political negotiations for a viable Palestinian state proceeded too slowly. The immediate trigger for Israeli military action on 27 December was the end of the truce. Hamas refused to extend the lull, and instead fired almost 300 rockets into Israel between 19 and 27 December. Those rockets and the hundreds fired since were a cruel choice by Hamas to target Israeli civilians and to reject again the fragile peace negotiations that had been taking place between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government since the Annapolis conference in late 2007.

However, whatever the trigger, the immediate consequence of Israeli military action over the past fortnight is also very clear. More than 800 are dead, many of them civilians, apparently more than 250 of them children—the most terrible statistic of all—and thousands injured: the horror of war on top of months of deprivation. The quartet envoy, Tony Blair, went so far as to call the situation in Gaza “hell”. The shortages of food, fuel and medicine are acute. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has had to suspend its activities. The Swedish Foreign Minister told me yesterday that a church-run medical centre was bombed. The scale of suffering that is already evident is immense.

Today I met a group of leading independent NGOs which are active in delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza. Every day these NGOs have to decide whether it is safe for staff to work in Gaza. Tragically several have been killed or injured. Their concerns bear reporting in this House. Sixty trucks a day are currently entering Gaza, which is less than one-sixth of the 400 necessary. The current three-hour daily pause in fighting, while better than nothing, is deeply flawed in its practical effect. The blockages on people leaving Gaza for medical attention are profound. Extremely serious allegations about the conduct of both sides during this conflict have been made by the ICRC and others. These allegations must be properly investigated.

Since the beginning of Israeli military action in Gaza, both the Prime Minister and I have called publicly and privately for an immediate ceasefire. On the first day of the conflict the United Nations Security Council, with the support of the British Government, called for an “immediate halt to the fighting”. The EU presidency also called for “an immediate end to hostilities” and described the use of force as “disproportionate”. The British Government support this view.

The emergency meeting of EU Foreign Ministers called, with my support, on 30 December for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, urgent humanitarian steps, including opening of crossings, and action on the illegal traffic in arms and their components into Gaza. On 3 January we said that the escalation of the conflict to include a ground offensive would cause alarm and dismay, as well as more death and destruction.

These issues were at the heart of three days of negotiation last week at the UN. Our priority was for a loud, clear and unified message to come from the UNSC. This was achieved in UNSC Resolution 1860, introduced in Britain’s name and the product of intensive unified work by Secretary Rice, French Foreign Minister Kouchner and myself, working to find common ground with the Arab League delegation, led by His Royal Highness Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia.

SCR 1860 is clear in its call for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire leading to full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. It also denounces all acts of terrorism. It summarises well the agenda of action of the British Government in the search for a ceasefire and sets out authoritatively what the international community expects to be implemented. This is what the Prime Minister and I have been working on over the weekend and will continue to focus on this week.

First, relief is needed for the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza. Emergency aid is essential, and Britain has added £10 million to its aid contribution since the conflict began. We will continue to support the United Nations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and other international agencies that have the infrastructure and expertise to lead the humanitarian response in Gaza. But international aid agencies need the wholehearted support of the Israeli Government, and I urge the Israeli Government to provide it. In truth, only a ceasefire and opening of the crossings on the basis of the 2005 Israel/Palestinian Authority agreement can deliver sustained progress.

Secondly, there need to be security improvements—above all, a curb on the trafficking of illegal arms into Gaza. These armaments are the source of fear for hundreds of thousands of Israelis, some of whom I talked to in Sderot in November. They are also a threat to any prospect of Palestinian reconciliation, designed as they are to entrench the power of Hamas in Gaza in defiance of President Abbas’s call for “One Authority, one source of security”. I spoke twice yesterday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit on this issue and commend Egyptian efforts to develop further action on this front, and I urge that the direct talks between Egypt and Israel be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Finally, there is a political imperative to re-establish the unity of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the PA. I continue to be convinced that the division of Palestinian political authority needs to be addressed. Egypt and the Arab League continue to mediate between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions. The aim must be a strong Palestinian Authority speaking for all Palestinians, committed to the two-state end and peaceful means upheld by the vast majority of Palestinians. So the resolution is clear. But the passage of the resolution on Thursday night New York time was followed within hours by its rejection by both sides to the conflict.

The resolution calls on all states in the region to support peace efforts. The Prime Minister and I have been in close touch with the Israeli Government since the onset of this crisis. The Israeli Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister argued strongly against any UN resolution. Their argument is that there can be no equivalence between a democratic state and a terrorist organisation.

There is and can be no equivalence. Hamas has shown itself over a number of years ready to be murderous in word and deed. Its motif is “resistance” and its method includes terrorism. Israel, meanwhile, is a thriving, democratic state with an independent judiciary. But one consequence of the distinction between a democratic government and a terrorist organisation is that democratic governments are held to significantly higher standards, notably by their own people. That is one reason we supported Resolution 1860—to uphold the standards on which Israel and the rest of us depend. As a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, Israel’s best defence is to show leadership in finding a political solution to this crisis and to comply with the standards of international humanitarian law.

A week before the onset of a new American presidency, immediate issues of life and death need to be addressed. We are working with Egypt, the US, European partners, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria, all of whom are playing a role in talking to various of the parties. The UN Secretary-General is in the region today. The focus of all our efforts is to implement the resolution.

Over the past 40 years in the Middle East, the immediate has become the long term. Short-term conflict has become long-term division. So while the current hostilities require urgent attention and action, so too do the medium term and the long term. War cannot address that.

The Government stand four-square behind UNSCRs 1850 and 1860, which call for renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace. Security and justice for a Palestinian state depends on a political settlement that defends its existence and cherishes its rights. Security and justice for Israel depends on the same political settlement that cherishes its existence and defends its rights.

Our vision must be of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, with secure and recognised borders. As the vision comes under threat, it bears repeating. The Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel recognition by, and normalization of relations with, the 22 Arab League states, and to which Israel’s leaders had started at the end of last year to respond favourably, provides the right regional comprehensive vision for progress.

At a time of war on the current scale, these words can seem worthless, but it is the war that pushes them out of reach. That is one further reason why the current war needs to be brought to an end before further loss of life renders the vision unattainable, as those committed to necessary compromise are marginalised.

Mr Speaker, I hope that you will let me conclude on the following point. Peace benefits Israelis and Palestinians; war kills both. They are destined to live next door to each other. They can do so either as combatants or as neighbours. We are committed to help them do the latter. That is what Israelis need and Palestinians need; it is also what we need before it is too late”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I am sure that we are all very grateful to the Minister for repeating this long, sombre, but very important Statement. I am sure that he accepts that we on this side of the House—and, I suspect, all your Lordships—fully share in the universal grief over the sickening, tragic and unbearable nature of what has occurred and is occurring—the dreadful fatalities and casualties among civilians, the 250 children dead as the Statement reminded us, whole families in the Gaza Strip wiped out, and the fear and deaths on the Israeli side brought about by the unending rain of rockets and missiles on people’s homes and towns, bringing all normal life to a standstill. Indeed, as the Statement reminded us, 300 rockets fell between the 19 and 27 December alone, paralysing life in nearby Israeli towns.

Does he Minister agree that, at least at this moment, there is little to be gained from the blame game of how the truce of last June came to such a violent end? The New Statesman must be right in describing the resumed Hamas firing of rockets into Sderot, Beersheba and other Israeli towns as “a grotesque and pointless provocation”.

We welcome UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and the work that went into achieving it, but does the Minister agree that the central and urgent task now is a ceasefire on both sides, of which the main components are very obvious; namely, a firm halt to the rocket and missile attacks and the smuggling-in of new and more sophisticated missile weapons on the Hamas side, and the end of the fearsome bombing and an opening of the borders on the Israeli side, allowing humanitarian emergency aid at last to go ahead full steam where it is so vitally needed?

Is not the first move on both sides one of psychology, almost of states of mind? Do not the combatants, any mediators and the international community have to stretch their minds? This requires big minds to look with compassion both on the terrified and besieged people of Gaza, among whom the militant Hamas has embedded itself, and on the people of Israel, who live in fear or have been destroyed by the awful randomness of rocket fire. That said, since Israel is clearly the dominant military power, is it not bound now to have to make the first unblocking move by stopping the bombing and the ground raids, whether or not it thinks that it has crushed Hamas, which is probably a completely impossible objective anyway? Does not any such move have to be followed immediately by an end of the rocketry and, after that, by Israel’s lifting of the sanctions on Gaza to allow in food, water, electricity and vital supplies—and, on the Hamas side, a halt to the constant smuggling in of weapons from the tunnels that have their entrance in the Sinai desert?

Beyond that, can the Minister say more on what is envisaged for the all-important role of the international force, which will be necessary to supervise this initial agreement and open the way for more agreements and, eventually, a massive rebuilding of ruined Gaza? What are the particular British skills, diplomatic and technical, that can be brought to bear in constructing that pathway? Does the Minister agree with the wise words reported yesterday of Prince Turki-al Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador here, known to many of your Lordships, who has counselled not only a stronger American line from the new Obama Administration but a new security co-operation body for the region, which would include not only the United States but also the EU countries as well as Russia, India, China and Egypt, along with the Gulf Co-operation Council states and those of the Arab peninsula? Might it not be this grouping, not just another western line-up, that could then press successfully for a major reconstruction and a reunification of the whole of Palestine, which has been split by the Hamas-Al Fatah rivalry, and for the Israelis finally to curb their more extreme settlers and tell those living in what will patently be Palestine that they must become citizens of a Palestinian state and live by its laws, or go?

A climate of discourse simply must replace the climate of hate and extremism that now dominates. That is the only way in which Israel will ever get security and the only way in which a united Palestine will come into being. It is also the only way in which the rest of the region can ever hope for stability, rather than war without end, hatred on the streets and the deliberate promotion of nihilist revolution and chaos by Iran—even though Iran is Shia and Hamas are Sunnis—and by Iran’s other surrogates.

We have unique experience and understanding to contribute to this better future and we therefore hope that the Government are putting forward to the Obama team ideas and perspectives that can lead America to play a much more constructive role and help to prevent the whole scene cascading into a wider and even more dangerous zone of war and total destabilisation.

My Lords, we welcome the Government’s Statement and the constructive role that they have taken in drafting and securing UN Security Council Resolution 1860, calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Gaza. It is a much more satisfactory approach from the Government than what we first heard at the beginning of the conflict a week ago.

This is a tragedy for Gaza and, as it seems to many of us, a strategic disaster for Israel. Those of us who are committed to the long-term security of Israel within a two-state solution recognise that that can be built only on the consent and co-operation of both sides. We now see how Gaza is clearly a problem that must be part of the peace process. Clearly, neither Israel nor Egypt wants to have to inherit the 1.5 million people stuck in Gaza, heavily concentrated and suffering from effective economic siege over the past three years. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has just said, Israel has been the occupying power in Gaza for much of the past 40 years. It therefore has to accept some of the responsibility for the current state of Gaza and for the current bitter attitude of its population. The deteriorating situation for these people of course drives them towards increasing radicalism. All the evidence we have from Vietnam and from studies of British and German people in World War II is that bombing promotes radicalisation. Bombing does not encourage people to give in and accept whatever terms they are offered by the other side.

In the process of this war we are also seeing radicalisation across the Middle East and less willingness on the Arab street to accept a two-state solution or a permanent presence for Israel in the Middle East within its 1967 borders. Therefore, the British Government, with their European partners and with the United States—after all, as part of the EU we are a member of the quartet—need to promote conversations with Syria and other Arab Governments; take up again the Saudi peace offer; work with the new Obama Administration; and relaunch a realistic Middle East peace process which must involve both a withdrawal of Israel’s settlements and army posts within the West Bank and a solution to the multiple problems of Gaza.

We also recognise that this has a backwash, as we have already seen this weekend, within the United Kingdom. We need to ensure that communities within the United Kingdom with interests or faith connections to the region are encouraged to promote moderation and compromise and not to give their support to the more partisan, radical and intransigent elements on both sides in this conflict. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians can establish long-term peace and security without the co-operation and consent of the other in a shared land. The tragedy of Israel’s intervention is that it is based on the belief that peace in Israel can be maintained through repeated humiliation of its neighbours.

My Lords, I thank both Benches opposite for the support they offered to British policy. I think that all recognise just how difficult this is—the cover of this week’s Economist said it all, describing this as a 100-year conflict. The roots go deep. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, while the blame game is not the way to go when we need to look forward, the difficulty is that both sides expect to hear us touch certain bases before they are willing even to open their ears to any proposal we have. My colleagues the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have done a very good job in recent days of walking through this minefield in trying to arrive at a balanced position.

However, as would perhaps be the case for a conflict of 100 years’ or longer duration, balance is not always welcome. The reaction in Israel to Resolution 1860 has been negative, to put it mildly, across most shades of political opinion as well as in public opinion, where levels of support for the war remain high. There is a feeling among Palestinians that it is too little, too late. In Palestinian eyes, the long bias of western policy is not corrected by this resolution. Therefore, we in government—indeed, all noble Lords who care about the Middle East—must fight hard to make heard our voices as well as our calls for moderation and the end of violence, at a time when passions are high and people immediately revert to more extremist, violent positions in both language and deed.

We support the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that the process must start on both sides with the stopping of the bombings and the rocket attacks. Certainly, if we are to proceed successfully towards a sustainable ceasefire, the sheer size of the Israeli arsenal means that Israel needs to demonstrate clearly that it has suspended its aerial and ground operations. However, as many have said both in Israel and outside it, the difficulty with Resolution 1860 is that a ceasefire alone may not be sustainable: it must go to the broader agenda of opening the crossings as well as steps to prevent arms smuggling and the renewal of Hamas’s weapons supplies. Israel must have confidence that its civilians will not come under rocket attack again and that any ceasefire will hold.

I certainly take the point about the “rebuilding of Gaza”. My shoulders, like those of other noble Lords, slump when I hear that phrase. How many times have we already “rebuilt Gaza”? As a UNDP administrator, I opened a civilian airport building at Gaza airport. As I did so, a Palestinian official whispered into my ear, “You’ll be back. You’ll have to reopen it again—and probably several more times after that, because it will be knocked down, you know”. For a Government such as ours who have been extremely generous in our financial support for the reconstruction of Gaza, there must be recognition on both sides that we cannot continuously go through this cycle of political failure and violence followed by a big western cheque to get the economic infrastructure back on its feet. The fact of our economic support gives us a right to sit at the table and bang it hard, to insist that this cycle be broken once and for all. In that sense, I suspect that all noble Lords would strongly affirm what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said about bombing encouraging radicalisation.

Of course there is a role for an appropriate response to attacks on Israeli civilians. Nobody would deny that Israel has the right of self-defence, a right properly enshrined in the UN charter. However, that requires proportionality and the pursuit of the rules of war in ensuring that, as much as possible, only military targets are hit. Those same requirements of course fall equally on the shoulders of Hamas.

The Government will continue to pursue hard that which was called for in Resolution 1860. As noble Lords heard me repeat in the Statement from the other place, diplomacy is carrying on at an intensive pace. There is a recognition that the solution lies not just in New York but among the parties on the ground. That has now become the focus of our efforts.

My Lords, if we are so concerned about conditions in Gaza, why cannot a coalition of forces from the international community combine and break the blockade? I understand that that would not require the UN’s permission.

My Lords, I hesitate only because the logical and military difficulties of what my noble friend proposes are considerable. Parties are at war on the ground and any intervention would require full international legitimacy. While there is a role for an international force in helping to ensure that any ceasefire is agreed to and arms smuggling and other things stop, it is very hard to imagine that it would be possible to use force where politics and diplomacy have failed to open up humanitarian relief.

My Lords, I endorse what others have said in thanking the Minister very much for repeating the Statement. I also endorse the congratulations offered by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on the role that the Government played in drafting and passing the Security Council resolution and on such influence as they may have been able to bring to bear on our United States friends in their rather unfamiliar act of abstaining from the resolution after the depressingly familiar tendency of the Bush Administration to veto every helpful resolution on the Middle East that has ever come to the Security Council.

I should like to ask the Minister two questions. I am afraid that the Statement again draws a familiar distinction between democratic governance—ie, Israel—and terrorist organisations, ie, Hamas. However, does he accept that the democratic Palestinian elections two years ago resulted in a majority for Hamas members, 40 of whom were immediately arrested by the Israeli authorities and as far as I know are still in Israeli jails? I do not wish to enter into the blame game, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Howell, but does the Minister accept that the behaviour of both sides needs a serious rethinking by the international community as regards balance in this distressing conflict? Finally, can he give us an assurance that no British arms, equipment or munitions have been made available to either side in this conflict? If he is unable to do so, will he investigate whether such an assurance is justified?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words about the British diplomacy that led to Resolution 1860. There was hope, which I can comment on because it was publicly speculated on in the media, that we might even have obtained a 15:0 vote for the resolution. While he is right to observe that a US abstention was a significant change in US policy, we feel like the deep-sea fisherman who almost hooked the big one but had to make do with second best. It is still a sizeable catch but not what we had fully hoped for. However, it is still an important advance on where the international community as a whole stands on this issue. While he will not expect me to go all the way with him in his recasting of Hamas as a democratically elected movement as against a terrorist organisation, I certainly do not quarrel with him that Hamas was elected on the basis of popular support in Gaza. On his second point, while, indeed, there are very modest British arms sales to Israel, they do not comprise lethal material. He is well aware of the export licensing system and both EU and British rules on this and we can say with relative confidence that what we provide has not been used in the offensive attacks and has not cost the life of anybody in Gaza.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for the transparent way in which he engages with us on these sensitive issues, which is hugely appreciated. Does he accept that people in our country feel a growing distress and even anger about the apparently disproportionate use of force in Gaza and that, whichever way we do it, there is an urgent need to bring this violence to a swift end? Does he also accept what representatives of the United Nations and the World Bank said to me in Jerusalem more than a year ago, which was that Gaza is in effect a very large prison? What are we to say to the Palestinian people in Gaza who for generations have lived with the abuse of their human rights and an attack on the fundamental principles of justice? What hope can we bring to them to enter into a conversation that brings them into the game? Is not this a further illustration that, if we do not address the fundamental issue of justice in the Holy Land, we shall go on having this festering sore burst out in these very unhappy ways with innocent people being caught up and losing their lives in its midst?

My Lords, first, obviously in a situation where fatalities are running at something like 100 to one in terms of the loss of Palestinian life to Israeli life, it is not surprising that British public opinion and international opinion more broadly consider the situation disproportionate. It is extraordinarily important for all of us who care deeply about the democratic credentials and reputation of Israel that we use every means that we have to make it clear to the Government and people of Israel that no fair-minded people anywhere can accept that that is just or right.

Secondly, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that there is a long history of the abuse of the human rights of the Palestinians of Gaza and that the economic conditions for many—two, three, even four—generations, as habitants of refugee camps, have been such that it is very hard to reach them and offer hope. However, we must offer them hope. We must make sure that there is a silver lining to this conflict and that Resolution 1860 is not only implemented but is the beginning of a process that addresses, in an urgent, ambitious and full way, the grievances of both sides. It is not just a matter of recognition and peace; it is a matter of creating a viable Palestinian entity and state that allows for both the return of Palestinians and, for those who cannot return, proper arrangements to deal with compensation. We have to finally grasp this nettle and deal with the fundamentals of this conflict. How many more times otherwise will we face this cycle of violence?

My Lords,

“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph”.

That quotation from David’s lament for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan cannot be more appropriately said than now. We have to go back—have we not?—to the root causes of the problem, which were 2,000 years of Christian guilt at their treatment of the Jews, culminating in the Russian persecutions of the late 19th century and the ghastliness of the Holocaust. What do Christianity and the western world do but impose on the Arabs and the Palestinians to make the redress and pay their fine? They have put on the Arabs by terrorist means, through Likud and Haganah, the bombing of Deir Yassin, the murder of people in Lydda and outside Mount Carmel and the forced evacuation of over 1 million people from Palestine in 1948. We cannot go back over that, but somehow we have to redress that dreadful series of injustices. If we do not, as everyone else has said, this will go on and on and on, and one day a Hamas or Hezbollah chap will get hold of a dirty load of nuclear weapons and lob it into Israel and Israel will use nuclear weapons. The situation can get worse. We have to make both sides realise that a terrible injustice was done to the Arabs, who have to be compensated in some way for that injustice done by Christianity to the Muslim world.

My Lords, the noble Earl is correct about the centuries of injustice, for which we all carry our share of responsibility. That is why the Middle East keeps on pressing its way back on to the global stage, not as an annoying regional problem but as something that separates us all globally and whose solution similarly would unite us all globally. Let us all hope that the change of Administration in Washington, coming as it does on the heels of the start of this conflict, offers a chance for us all to combine to address the fundamental, root causes of this conflict.

My Lords, I was in Gaza six weeks ago. Now, as a result of the impotence of the international community, not just in Gaza, but, as my noble friend said, over 40 years of occupation of Palestine by Israel, those institutions that I visited are rubble and many of the children with whom I played are dead. Is the Minister aware that Mrs Pillay, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has spoken of war crimes being committed in Gaza? Will the Government, therefore, show leadership and call for the immediate—and I mean immediate—establishment by the United Nations Security Council of an independent fact-finding commission to Palestine to investigate all breaches of international law?

My Lords, let me say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that I did say, when repeating the Statement that the Foreign Secretary made in the other place, that there would need to be an investigation of these allegations. Let me be clear that Mrs Pillay’s charges seem to refer to some very specific actions; they refer not to the general conduct of the conflict but to particular incidents that have been reported. Those incidents, as the Foreign Secretary said, cause great concern and will require investigation. The issue is the timing of that investigation. In 2002, the incidents in Jenin similarly provoked an international investigation. In a sense, that investigation failed, because it was denied access and became politicised as a propaganda tool in the conflict, used by both sides. There is a question of timing and of hard evidence needing to be assembled, but I can say confidently that clearly some of the incidents in this conflict on both sides will be the subject of intensive international human rights investigation.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend about the current political impact of what is going on within the region, from which I returned late last week? I was struck by the fact that many people thought that the role of Hamas was being strengthened by Israeli action, that the outcome of all this undermined moderate Palestinian opinion, which would talk to Israelis sensibly about the future, and that this action has put much more opinion behind the very extreme views held by Hamas. Does my noble friend agree that that is happening not only within Palestine, but on a broader basis throughout the Middle East, because moderate Arab opinion is enraged by the constant television pictures? We do not see on our televisions the sorts of pictures of broken bodies that I witnessed last week; we see them camouflaged. However, in the region you see the unalloyed horror of what is going on, which has enraged opinion there. The Statement talks about the vision of the two-state solution, but I have never before heard, as I heard last week in the region, people denying that a two-state solution was the way forward. That almost follows the logic of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, but comes to the horrifying conclusion that the state of Israel should no longer exist. That is what is happening politically in the region. I do not know whether my noble friend agrees with me, but I was more worried, concerned and frightened by what I heard last week than I have ever been.

My Lords, my noble friend brings to us all an important observation from her week in the region. This has been a terrible time for moderates in the Middle East, whether they are Palestinian, Arab or Israeli. You are seeing the classic consequence of conflict. Everyone is reverting to hard-line positions and we need to regroup before some point of no return is passed. Therefore, I absolutely endorse the insights that my noble friend gathered during her visit.

My Lords, will the Minister not go a little further in relation to the US vote on the resolution and admit that it was pretty deplorable that the US abstained at the last moment? That sent completely the wrong signal, particularly to Israel but also to Hamas, that the United States will not press very hard on a resolution. Will the Minister accept my gratitude for the Statement, which I thought excellent? Will he say whether the encouragement for a national unity Government, which I very much welcome, implies that, if a national unity Government are formed, the British Government will not again refuse to talk to the Hamas members of that Government?

My Lords, in response to the noble Lord’s first point, of course the resolution would have had greater authority if the US had voted for it and it had been passed 15:0. It is disappointing that ultimately that was not the case. However, with the mood of both parties, I am not certain that even with a 15:0 result we would have achieved the end of hostilities that we so deeply desired. We very much hope that, as we move forward, we will be able to demonstrate a united international community. As the noble Lord, Lord Wright, observed, the United States has moved significantly, as reflected in this resolution, and the challenge now is to keep everyone moving in the same direction. The United States is working as strongly as the other partners mentioned in the Foreign Secretary’s Statement to bring pressure to bear on all parties in the region to end the conflict as soon as possible. In that sense, behind the vote, whatever its result, lies an international community devoted to securing a ceasefire at once if it can do so.

My Lords, it is the Conservative Party’s turn and I think that the House would probably wish to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe.

My Lords, I apologise that I was not present at the outset of these proceedings—all the more so because of my present intervention. I congratulate—if that is not too strong a word—the Minister on the way in which he has skilfully reflected the near unanimity from all corners of this House, from Front Bench and Back Bench alike. Many noble colleagues must have been put in mind of an event that occurred almost exactly 30 years ago. The Venice declaration was the first time that the European Union, under the leadership of my noble friend Lord Carrington, drew itself together and expressed a unified view on what needed to be done, reaffirming the integrity of the state of Israel but reasserting that Palestinians also had rights. The tragedy is that there has been insufficient unity since then to carry matters forward. Of course, we should like to see the United States play a stronger and more positive role, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, identified, but so too should we like to see a truly united expression of opinion from the European Union, with our country playing the leading part in putting across the strong, unanimous judgment of this House.

My Lords, I think that there has been a great growth of unity during the past few weeks, as was implied in some of the opening comments in this debate. The international community was rather all over the map when we began this crisis, but we have come together to form a solid and strong position. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, very much for his observation on that. So that I do not lose my reputation for frank speaking, I should respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, concerning Hamas involvement in a Government of national unity. Were that to come about as a result of Egyptian or other mediation, I have no doubt that we would welcome such a Government and deal with their membership.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Committee (1st Day)(Continued)

Amendment 2

Moved by

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, at end insert—

“(1A) The purpose of the MMO is to represent the public interest in the marine environment.”

I begin by declaring some interests that should stand for the whole Committee stage. I am vice-president of Wildlife and Countryside Link and vice-president of the Council for National Parks. I am a member of Devon Wildlife Trust and my husband is a member of Devon County Council, representing it on the sea fisheries committee. He is also the Environment Agency’s flood defence chair for Wessex and chairs its coastal partnership for north Devon and north Somerset. Further, I apologise for being unable to speak on Second Reading, and I hope that the Committee will forgive me for that.

This debate is now about the general objectives of the Marine Management Organisation. I have taken the wording for my amendment from the statement of the Joint Committee on the draft Marine Bill, of which I was honoured to be a member, which states paragraph 39:

“In our view the MMO should be, and be seen to be from the outset, the owner of the public interest in the UK marine environment”.

That objective should be in the Bill. It is important that the MMO represents the public interest in the marine environment. The previous debate was helpful in setting the scene for what the MMO’s objective should be and I hope that the Conservative Front Bench will see merit in debating these issues as they are at the heart of what this Bill is trying to establish.

The Minister explained that the overarching role of the MMO is to resolve the tensions that exist in the marine environment. He is right that there are a lot of tensions. He mentioned a few and I am sure that noble Lords are well aware of them. Some are historic, to do with a healthy ecosystem and the issues over fishing, and some are new—for example, issues of renewable energy. Marine energy has a very strong future, as it should, because after all the UK has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world. At a time of climate change it would be totally irresponsible to squander them. Their exploitation will bring a lot of new issues to the fore; that new tension will have to be managed. The scale of dredging is phenomenal, which I am sure we will discuss later. It has been licensed in the past, more or less satisfactorily, but the advent of the MMO and a new licensing regime will be helpful.

There are lots of other slightly lesser issues but nevertheless, there are tensions around recreation and the water-based sports that are often the public’s first introduction to the sea. I do not think that the MMO can just be a manager of bureaucratic processes. Contrary to some of the opinions expressed in the debate on my noble friend’s first amendment, I think that the body needs a vision. Whether we call it a champion or a steward it needs to have the objective of making the marine environment as valued to the people of the United Kingdom as the special—terrestrial—landscapes that exist.

In 2007, a Natural England survey produced some shocking conclusions: 44 per cent of the population of this country think that the area under the sea is utterly, generally or mostly barren and only 10 per cent expect a rich landscape including plants, animals and features. That 2007 survey gives us a starting point for why the MMO needs to be far more than the Bill envisages. I think noble Lords would agree that the public interest is strong, but interest among the public is not very strong. The reason why we need to involve the public in this debate is well put in the United Nations’ website on the Convention on the Law of the Sea. It states:

“Life itself arose from the oceans ... Not only has the oceans always been a prime source of nourishment for the life it helped to generate, but from earliest recorded history it has served for trade and commerce, adventure and discovery. It has kept people apart and brought them together”.

I shall not continue to quote the website, except to say that it regards the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as,

“the most important international achievement since the approval of the United Nations Charter in 1945”.

It has generally been hailed as that by world communities.

This important, landmark Bill is the UK’s version of that convention, which is why the body tasked with overseeing it deserves better than the current wording. If we were dealing with a perfect marine environment, the wording would be satisfactory, but we know that it is not perfect. It is exploited well beyond its limits in some ways. Fishing is an issue that will raise tensions very high. However, it is not the only issue; there are also issues of renewable energy and pollution. On many beaches, there are as many bits of plastic as there are pebbles, which gives an idea of the extent of the pollution. The Marine Conservation Society has done some good survey work that has highlighted the extent of macropollution, which involves buckets and bits of plastic that one can see washed up, and micropollution—tiny bits of plastic that are ingested by living organisms and have begun fundamentally to change the environment in which such organisms live. We have all of that to contend with.

The MMO needs to be visionary. It needs to engender knowledge in the public, who have an innate love of the sea. We need to move to a position where everyone is able to take a strong part in the improvement of the sea. That includes an educational role and an international role. In evidence to the draft Bill Committee, the then Minister, Jonathan Shaw, and Hilary Benn made the point that it is ultimately for the Government to represent the UK’s marine interests abroad, but I am sure that the Minister will agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, who has championed this point vociferously, particularly in the committee, that a lot of fundamental work needs to be done at international and EU level, and the head of the MMO will be well placed to undertake that role. None of that is envisaged in the Bill.

In summary, the Bill needs to lay down in the strongest possible terms a general objective for the MMO. For that reason, I hope that noble Lords will consider supporting the amendment. I beg to move.

I have much sympathy with what the noble Baroness has said and understand why she wants in the Bill reference to the public interest in the marine environment. However, I am worried about that and want to explain briefly what my worries are.

I regard the primary purpose of the Bill to be the establishment of marine reserves. I hope that nothing is done during the passage of the Bill that weakens that primary objective. It is urgent that we press on with the establishment of marine reserves. If we try to make the MMO an organisation that satisfies every conceivable side-interest that could become involved in marine activity, we may end by weakening our principal objective.

I know that it is important that we consider the impact of renewable energy, of dredging and of public enjoyment of the marine environment—all matters about which the noble Baroness spoke—but we must also consider their impact on the establishment of marine reserves to try to rescue from extinction many species of fish and marine animal life which are now placed at real risk.

The biodiversity policy officer of the Marine Conservation Society stated in a report in the Daily Telegraph of 9 December:

“We have dithered while Rome burns. Marine reserves are a cost-effective way to achieve benefits for wildlife and the fish species that rely on habitats are being protected for the long term”.

That is so vital and so important that I hope that nothing that happens during the passage of the Bill will detract from our pursuit of that objective.

My noble friend is quite right: one could quite easily expand the purposes of this body until it bursts. It must have clear purpose; we must be clear what that is; and the Bill must say so early on. A quango is not the right body to represent the public interest; that is Parliament's job. Elected people represent the public interest. A quango may argue until the cows come home about what is the public interest, and there is no way to resolve it. I am not sure that this is the right answer, although I understand what the noble Baroness and her colleagues on the Front Bench are so keen to achieve. We must be careful. This is a management body—that is what it says here. It either is or is not a management body. If we do not want it to be one, we must say so, but the matter clearly needs management and it seems to me that the Bill is not far off in saying so.

It is hard to argue with the noble Baroness’s introduction of the amendment, but the MMO has such a multiplicity of functions that to single out this aspect, however key, may give it a focus while limiting the range and scope of the issues which the MMO will address. My noble friend Lord Eden gave voice to similar sentiments, and we heard similar expressions from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. I am sure that we will return to many issues throughout our debates that will show the breadth of the Bill and the issue of marine conservation zones, as my noble friend Lord Eden mentioned.

It may help to consider exactly what we mean by the public interest. More to the point, how can the public interest be determined in a democracy other than by Parliament? We therefore return again to the relationship, which we discussed during the passage of the Climate Change Act, between people, Parliament, government and a public body. We drew attention to this because we wanted to get right the relationship with the Committee on Climate Change. How right the noble Baroness was to draw attention to the key role of public opinion in helping to form the public interest there. I accept that she seeks to get this balance right in the rather different context of this Bill, but I hope that our work on the detail of the Bill will be the most effective way of achieving this.

The criticism of my noble friend’s amendment is that the term “public interest” may not be sufficiently wide. There can be only one alternative to public interest, and that is private interest. Private interests are certainly involved in this area—fishing, the development of energy resources and so on—but surely the MMO’s purpose is to deal with those private interests on behalf of the public and therefore to represent the public interest.

It is a great pleasure to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, to our debates. In a sense, this discussion has followed on very well from the discussion on the first amendment and the essential nature of the Marine Management Organisation and its appropriate accountability through Ministers to Parliament.

There can be no doubt that it is in the public interest that we bring the Bill to Parliament today. That is why we want a marine management organisation to be established. It will make an important contribution to protecting the wider public interest, and will do so by discharging the responsibilities that are laid down in legislation. It will have to work within the parameters set by both the marine policy statement and the guidance that the Secretary of State will give to it, as described in Clause 2. There is no doubt at all that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Lord, Lord Eden, are right. The noble Lord referred specifically to his legitimate concerns about marine reserves, which are among the very important issues and pressures with which the Marine Management Organisation will have to deal. The noble Baroness raised two other issues: dredging and renewable energy. All those matters are important.

The Marine Management Organisation will be faced with a number of competing users and interests in the marine environment. That is why we believe the public interest is served by creating this new organisation, which will work within a new strategic framework for marine planning, with new bodies to deliver it, together with a range of other functions.

In addition to the guidance that the Secretary of State must give in relation to the contribution that the Marine Management Organisation is expected to give to sustainable development, which we will debate later today, the marine policy statement, which we will debate under Part 3, enables the Government to take a broad strategic view across a range of government policies in the marine environment. It will then be up to the Marine Management Organisation to produce plans within that context. As its expertise develops it will become a strategic delivery body in the marine environment. The status that will be given to the MMO as a non-departmental public body gives it that degree of independence which is clearly essential, but ensures that it will remain answerable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

As a non-departmental public body, it is axiomatic that the MMO must carry out its functions in a way that serves the public interest. As the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy—reinforced by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—said, in the end, that public interest duty lies primarily in the Secretary of State’s accountability to Parliament. It is within that context that the Marine Management Organisation has to operate. While it must operate within the public interest, it is with Ministers, through their accountability to Parliament, that the overriding public interest responsibility must lie.

For that reason, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment. I do not disagree with her general comment about the pressures on our marine life and marine environment or the tensions and pressures that the Marine Management Organisation will have to deal with, but that has to work within the parameters set down by Parliament in the directions and guidance given by Ministers and the marine policy statement. For that reason, I resist the noble Baroness’s amendment.

I am very grateful to Members of the Committee who have spoken. To the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, I would say that perhaps I did not emphasise enough that the establishment of the marine conservation zones is a crucial part of the Bill. Until they are established, until marine areas have a healthy ecosystem and until we can see high-level reserves to preserve the best and most precious things, and lower- level reserves to preserve the others, we would not be in the slightest bit reassured by anything else in the Bill. Just over the water from where I live, Lundy is the first highly protected marine no-take zone in Britain. Having seen some of the small effects around, and the experience of, Lundy, I can say that these reserves will work in a surprisingly short time.

I shall deal with some of the criticisms of the amendment, which in one way are hard to understand. It is difficult to represent the public interest in marine areas simply because no people live offshore. My noble friend Lady Hamwee put it beautifully when she said that the amendment deals with private interests on behalf of the public. That is because there is no public representation of marine areas except for coastal ones, with the complexities of which we shall no doubt deal later. Therefore I would say gently to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, that there are no people to deal with these issues in the same way as they would be dealt with in the terrestrial environment. Nevertheless, we had much bigger aspirations for Natural England when it was established than seems to be the case for the Marine Management Organisation.

Before I withdraw the amendment, I refer noble Lords to the general objectives of the Marine Management Organisation set out in Clause 2, which really are pretty bureaucratic. Subsection (1)(a) states that the body should exercise its functions,

“in a manner which is consistent and co-ordinated”.

That is necessary but not really a high-level objective. Subsection (1)(b) provides that the body should contribute,

“to the achievement of sustainable development”.

Again, this is a duty that we lay on every public body that we choose to create because it is so important. I shall endeavour to think of a more acceptable way of phrasing this amendment, and I accept the Minister’s comment that the public interest is represented through Secretaries of State to Parliament. Nevertheless, he needs to think of how this body could better engage with the public, and to that end I refer him back to the comments of the Joint Committee, which cannot be bettered: the body must be seen to do so from the outset.

We need to draw a distinction between whether the words “public interest” should appear in the Bill in relation to the duties of the Marine Management Organisation and whether the body should be seen as one that listens to and communicates with the public. I want to make it clear that we expect the organisation to have a positive and interactive relationship with the public and all organisations with interests in this area.

I am grateful to the Minister. I sense that a small chink has opened up to suggest that between now and the Report stage, he might join me in discussing a form of words that provide a more worthy objective in the purposes of the MMO. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Amendments 3 to 5 not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

Schedule 1 : The Marine Management Organisation

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Schedule 1, page 212, line 22, leave out “5, nor more than”

In the curious way of these things, we now move away from discussing major issues of principle and get on to what might be called the Committee nitty-gritty. In addressing Schedule 1 we leap to page 212, where we shall stay for a while before going back to page 2. In moving Amendment 6 I shall speak also to Amendments 8 to 11 in the group. They refer to the membership of the Marine Management Organisation, and all are probing in nature in order to discuss the size of the organisation and the purposes of its members, as well as what expertise and skills they should have.

Amendment 6 seeks to remove the provision that the membership should be between five and eight, which with the chairman would be a range of six to nine, and replaces it with a provision that there should be nine or more members. The Government also suggest that, despite these clear and restrictive numbers being in the Bill, the Secretary of State can nevertheless change them to anything else if they do not turn out well. Amendment 10, by seeking to remove that, again probes exactly what the situation should be.

Amendment 8 probes the question of the skills and experience required. Paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 says that,

“the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability … of securing that a variety of skills and experience is available among the members”.

I want to delete the words,

“that a variety of skills and experience is available among the members”,

and insert a much stronger wording, so that the paragraph would read: “As far as is practical, the skills and experience of the members cover the full range of functions of the MMO”.

It is interesting to go back to the useful draft document on the MMO, which the Government have kindly provided, to look at what the Government believe to be the experience and expertise required by MMO board members. The Government refer to three pillars of sustainable development: economic, environmental and social. Under “economic”, they suggest that experience of aggregate extraction is relevant, along with experience of renewable energy—which is very different—fishing, ports and harbours, and shipping. These are all economic factors and they are all very different. Somebody with experience of renewable energy will not necessarily know about shipping. Under “environmental”, the Government suggest experience of habitats, fish stocks and water quality, which seems to understate what is required. We need to think about questions of conservation and biodiversity, particularly the proposals for conservation zones, and questions of the geology and geomorphology of the seabed. Under “social”, they list, for example, heritage, recreation and defence. Clearly, somebody who is expert in heritage is not necessarily expert in defence. Indeed, that would be very unlikely. Recreation is different again.

These are 10 examples, although they are not exclusive. How is the board of this organisation to get the experience and skills that it requires if it has only six members? Six seems to be very much on the low side. I understand and accept that you do not want a big public meeting every time the board meets. The body has to be relatively small, but the numbers that the Government are proposing seem a little restrictive.

I am grateful to the Conservative Members for adding their names to Amendment 9, which refers to the need for experience and knowledge of marine science—that is not on the Government’s list—and marine conservation.

Amendment 11 is slightly different; it probes remuneration and allowances. The Bill says that the Secretary of State may specify the level of remuneration and allowances of members of the board. This is a probing “may/shall” amendment. It is the first of the Bill, but no doubt there will be many more. Perhaps there will be some “shall/may” ones as well. Is it the Government’s intention that the Secretary of State shall specify the remuneration and allowances? If so, why does the Bill not say so? The first question, then, is will they be paid? The assumption is that they will. Secondly, who will decide what they are paid? The assumption is that it will be the Secretary of State. Will the Minister confirm that? Thirdly, how much will these lucky people be paid? I do not imagine that we will get a clear answer to that today, but perhaps we will. Perhaps there is a scale on which these things are done.

These are nitty-gritty amendments that refer to the membership of the board, but the board and the people on it are going to be very important if this is to be successful, and it is right that the Committee should probe the matter.

I declare that I have been a local councillor for 10 years and a member of a number of conservation and sporting bodies, including the Game Conservancy Trust, the BASC and the Salmon and Trout Association.

While we sympathise with the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, regarding the number of people on the board of the MMO, it raises the question of just how many people should be on it. I think that he was trying to probe that very thing. We are all in favour of the MMO having sufficient membership that its work can be carried out effectively and efficiently. I agree with the noble Lord that having only between five and eight members seems to be on the low side. I recall that when the Housing and Regeneration Bill and the Planning Bill set up organisations last year, they proposed more than a minimum of five members for such bodies.

Nevertheless, the removal from the Bill of the number of members is potentially dangerous. The MMO must not become just another quango filled with paid bodies without enough work, although I am sure that it will not. How many people does the Minister think will be needed on the board, and where does he feel the optimal ratio of manpower to workload might be? He might not be able to answer that, because at this stage he does not know what workload will be put on the MMO.

Amendment 8 seems sensibly to change,

“a variety of skills and experience”,

into “skills and experience” that will,

“cover the full range of functions of the MMO”.

That organisation has a broad remit, which makes it all the more vital that the relevant skills and experience are there to cover all aspects of the MMO’s duties. A variety is certainly useful but, if the MMO is to carry out its duties fully and effectively, it needs a full remit of skills.

I am also happy to support Amendment 9, to which we have put our names, to ensure that when appointing the chair or members of the board of the MMO the Secretary of State has regard to the desirability of making sure that there is sufficient scientific representation. The functions of the MMO as defined in Clause 2 make it clear that it would be advisable and wise to have those with experience in marine science and/or marine conservation on the board. The MMO is concerned with helping to secure the achievement of sustainable development and it would seem wrong to attempt to do so without a proportion of the board having appropriate knowledge and experience in that area.

We do not think that the Government are in any way against having such people on the board; indeed, perhaps the Minister will tell us that those were exactly the sort of people to whom the phrases,

“experience of, and … some capacity in, some matter relevant to the exercise of the MMO’s functions”,

or,

“a variety of skills and experience”,

were supposed to refer. Nevertheless, we are happy that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has sought to have this more specifically defined. It is vital to ensure that the MMO can carry out its functions to the highest standards. How important does the Minister regard the presence of those with knowledge of and experience in marine science on the MMO board? If he considers it to be important, why has that not been defined in the Bill? It is difficult to see what could be gained from that omission but easy to see how much effective marine management could be put at risk. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.

Amendment 10 would remove the Secretary of State’s power to amend the numbers on the board of the MMO. That lack of flexibility could be damaging if changes needed to be made to streamline, strengthen or improve the MMO’s functioning. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

I welcome the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in that it opens up the question of the ideal size of the board of the MMO. I strongly support the amendment spoken to by my noble friend, because there should be somebody with knowledge of marine science and marine conservation on the board. That seems to be absolutely vital and should go without question. However, if there is any doubt, it is desirable that it be written into the Bill.

That said, I favour a smaller board. If we are to try to make the board representative of particular interests within the public domain, it will be very large indeed and endlessly increase in size. Worse, the quality of its debate, discussion and decision-making will decline. I certainly do not want to see special interests represented on the board simply because they are special interests. I favour a smaller board with the power to co-opt others should the need arise on specific occasions. I hope that that is the direction in which the Minister will take us.

I support Amendment 9. I should, however, declare an interest as chair of the advisory board of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. It goes without saying that there simply must be marine science and conservation expertise on the committee. However, I agree with my noble friend who has just spoken that we are always at this game, trying to ensure that our own interests are represented on such a committee—I remember a debate of this kind taking place in relation to the climate change committee. If every interest is to be represented, the committee becomes unwieldy. I hope, however, that the Minister will give a firm assurance that it is inconceivable that marine science would not be one of the represented areas of expertise in the Marine Management Organisation.

I support the view that this body needs a strong focus on marine science and environmental conservation science—when I come to talk about my Amendment 28A, your Lordships will better understand why. In a body such as this, which is aimed at bringing together a whole variety of competing interests and developing some sort of consensus if possible, there will be a need to make sure that, if consensus and agreement are not possible, it makes decisions on the basis of good evidence and scientific information, rather than simply of voting power. For that reason, I used to be attracted by the idea of a smaller rather than a larger board. However, perhaps I could give the Minister the benefit of a little knowledge gained from recent personal experience setting up an organisation in his former field of health, the Care Quality Commission. Having gone for a smaller board there, I regretted deeply the proposition. With issues as complex as the marine environment, there is a range of different perspectives—not necessarily interest groups or stakeholders, but perspectives that need to be represented around the table when decisions are being made. I would therefore favour a board that is bigger than five, and probably bigger than eight, but that has an upper limit, because it needs to be effective and to be able to resist through a statutory limit on its size pressure for every interest group under the sun to be represented on it.

I agree with those noble Lords who have talked about perspectives, as the noble Baroness just did. It would be a mistake to try to see interest groups represented. After all, what are the staff and consultants to the organisation, and so on, to do? An organisation is almost bound to fail if it relies primarily or only on the expertise of individual board members. We are talking about something much more than this.

Eight is a low number and it seems odd that the Government want to impose such a low ceiling at this early stage, particularly as the Secretary of State has the right to move all these things around. There are skills and qualities beyond expertise that need to contribute to the workings of the board—things such as judgment and openness to other people’s areas of knowledge, as well as having enough knowledge to understand what is being discussed without necessarily being expert in the subject. I think, too, that the dynamics of a board composed of different numbers needs to be one consideration. A board of five would probably behave a bit differently from a board of eight and certainly very differently from a board of 12 or 16, so I question whether it is sensible to put such a low ceiling on the number.

When we debated the Planning Bill and the Housing and Regeneration Bill, to which the noble Earl referred, we were told that these schedules were very much in standard form. However, comparing this schedule to those pieces of legislation, I do not think that this is completely standard. For instance, last year the Government resisted a restriction on board members serving for more than a total period of however many years. We have 10 years here and the IPC has five to eight years, whereas for the Homes and Communities Agency the period is unlimited. As for my noble friend’s amendment to paragraph 11, on remuneration, I had a look at comparable provisions, under which the HCA may pay its members whereas the IPC must pay them. If we are supposed to have consistency, as we are told we should, I wish that we could actually have it.

I shall contribute briefly, not least because I wanted to congratulate my noble friend Lady Hamwee on spending her birthday in your Lordships’ House, which shows great self-sacrifice. I have no particular interest to declare, although if under one of our later amendments we add the Youth Hostel Association to one of the schedules, I will. At this stage, however, I come to the matter dispassionately, without any special interest, except that for a number of years I represented the most beautiful coastal constituency in the United Kingdom.

These are probing amendments, as my noble friend Lord Greaves said, but they are none the less significant. The nature of the MMO lies not just in how we describe it and the semantics that we discussed under the previous sets of amendments, but in the type of people whom we expect to go on its board. I have served on a number of public bodies and have advised a number of others and I take seriously the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. It is difficult to think of any organisation with as wide a remit as this legislation gives to the MMO that would be able to cope with all those responsibilities and have that wide range of perspectives to which my noble friends have referred with a maximum of perhaps only nine members—eight members and the chairman. On a practical point, after my experience of the organisations that I have served and advised, I think that having such a low ceiling on the number, simply with regard to retaining a quorum when you have a lot of business to deal with, seems ill advised to say the least.

The range of expertise to which my noble friends Lord Greaves and Lady Hamwee have referred is itself a significant pointer to what we should be doing, but there are simple practicalities. The dynamic of an organisation as small as might be supposed from the text of the Bill would lead to an unfortunate type of body, which would not be seen by the public whom it is serving to represent them sufficiently

It is also essential that we pass Amendment 9. I think that there is unanimity across the Chamber that that measure should be firmly in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to our amendment on that.

Finally, on payment, I had not spotted the discrepancies with other legislation that has gone through your Lordships’ House in recent months, a matter to which my noble friend Lady Hamwee referred. It is odd to have this curious “may” popped in when surely it will be a matter of “shall”. Why do we not start at the outset, as my noble friend Lord Greaves said, trying to get the “may” and the “shall” sorted? We might save ourselves a great deal of time later in Committee.

I support my noble friend’s amendment and especially its mention of,

“knowledge of marine science or marine conservation”.

I sat in on the committee and, apart from some of the organisations fighting for a place to represent themselves in the MMO in their own right—probably more than 20 thought they should have a place—the overriding theme was the recognition of the need to have scientific knowledge on the board. I can only reinforce what was said earlier when we debated and looked at the legislation in great detail, and stress the importance of having a representative with that ability.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made an interesting observation on quorums. I remember taking another Bill through—I do not remember exactly which one—and one of my colleagues, who sits on the Labour Benches, saying that reaching a quorum was one of the difficulties facing the quango board on which he served. As only a small number of people served on that board, it was pushed to reach a quorum if somebody was off sick or away on business. I am sorry that I cannot quote who said it or the name of the Bill. There is clearly a risk for very small quangos of not being able to get their business through. However, on the broader issue, the feedback we received when we looked at the Bill in great detail was that we need representation from marine science or marine conservation. I therefore support my noble friend’s amendment.

I do not think that I have any special interest to declare except that in the distant past I was a member of the council of the Royal Society. It is important that scientific advice is available to the board, and I am not sure that the wording of the amendment goes far enough. At Second Reading I emphasised the complexity of the marine environment. It is not clear whether there is any such beast as “marine science”. What one would really like to see is a range of scientific expertise available to the board when it is making its decisions. We do not want a token scientist on the board. I hope that the Minister, perhaps at a later stage, will consider providing assurances or wording in an amendment that indicates that a range of scientific expertise will be available to the board and that the board should not be simply a grouping of commercial interests and a token scientist.

It would be wrong for me to anticipate my amendments, which will follow shortly. Perhaps I may just draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, to them, and hope that he will speak to them with equal warmth when the time comes.

We have heard that the board will be small, but it would be helpful if the Minister could say something about what arrangements, if any, the Government have in mind for regional representation. I am not advocating a system that allocates places to a member from the south-west, a member from the north-east, and so on, as that would be far too limiting given what other noble Lords have said about the need for scientific expertise and perhaps for representation of commercial interests. However, I would like to hear the Government’s thinking on whether, and how, the MMO will devolve its powers, perhaps on a regional basis.

Listening to this extremely interesting and important debate, my mind goes back to the wisdom in the earlier intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she talked about this body being a referee. The Minister said that that is not exactly what it is, but there is an element of that. The job will be the reconciling of conflicting interests. There was an earlier suggestion that the public interest and private interests were sort of opposites. That is not necessarily the case, but there will be all sorts of different interests. The important thing will be that this body is able to understand properly what those interests are and what they are saying, and come to a conclusion that works in practice.

That must happen. As we all know, it will not happen if people are just sticking up for their own interests. Those of us who have chaired such bodies—and several noble Lords have spoken from that perspective—know that you need people who are good at reconciling interests and getting the necessary information, people who are good at identifying and understanding the interests and then discussing and reconciling them. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, had considerable insight into that. That would obviously happen more easily if the body was not enormous, but there must be enough people there to get an understanding.

As one would expect, the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, was trying to visualise how the necessary information could be put before the board. It may be that it will have to bring people in when it is discussing the different interests. I have chaired a body that had to do that in a different context. The really important thing is that the membership must be capable of doing this job. As for size, that will have to take into account the quorum issue. The body will have to include a wide spread of understanding but also be able to bring in the necessary information. The Bill has not quite faced up to that, but perhaps this discussion will help the Minister to grasp the issue and improve upon it.

I remind the Committee that the Joint Committee recommended that the MMO should establish a scientific advisory panel. According to the Government’s response, that is perfectly possible; it is merely a decision for the MMO board. Marine science will be covered, but that does not necessarily mean that we must have a marine scientist as a member of the board.

This has been an interesting and helpful debate. The Government will of course reflect on the views expressed as we take forward—assuming the legislation is passed—the establishment of the MMO board. I also take this opportunity to inform Members of the Committee of the timing of the board’s appointment and the process whereby that will be undertaken. I understand from the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that some of these amendments are probing amendments.

First, board members will be appointed by the Secretary of State in line with the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ code of practice and in line with the Nolan principles. Because we wish to establish the MMO as quickly as possible after the legislation has been enacted, we plan to appoint what has been described as a skeleton body for the MMO consisting of a chairman, chief executive and board. That would allow it to focus on the preparation and establishment of the organisation, working with the Government to establish its framework including its structure, governance arrangements and financial systems, and agreeing objectives, targets, performance measures, resources and all the things that come with being a non-departmental public body. The hope would be to make appointments in autumn 2009. At the pace we are going today, that might prove to be a departmental autumn, but we must hope that that will not be the case. The aim is essentially that the skeleton body will have been in place for approximately six months before the vesting of the MMO in April 2010.

We have had an interesting debate on the numbers of ordinary MMO board members to be appointed. As Members of the Committee will know, the Bill allows a range of five to eight members in addition to the chair. If I included all the various interests and considerations that noble Lords have expressed this afternoon, we would probably already have reached a board of 20 or more. On the other hand, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, has put it very well. The calibre required of those who will have to exercise their judgment when faced with all the pressures and interests wishing to influence the MMO indicates that one would ideally have a small board. I am sure that those of us with experience of public bodies will have worked on both small and larger boards. I accept the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, but, in the main, smaller boards work more effectively. That is why we went for the range of five to eight.

There is a range rather than a specified number because it is normal practice when setting up a new organisation to specify the approximate number of members that should comprise its board. However, there must be a minimum number for it to operate effectively and have sufficient breadth of expertise and skills. It is envisaged that the MMO board should comprise eight ordinary members plus a chair.

I apologise for having been in and out this afternoon. What will be the quorum for a board of five, for example? Knowing a little about quangos and public bodies, it seems to me that to get more than 70 per cent as regular attenders is quite difficult.

Paragraph 19 of Schedule 1 says:

“Subject to the following provisions of this Schedule, the MMO may regulate—

(a) its own procedure (including quorum), and

(b) the procedure of any of its committees or sub-committees (including quorum)”.

The intention is that it would be for the MMO to decide on this quorum. I am sure that we can rely on the good judgment of those appointed to come to a sensible conclusion on that.

From what the Minister has said, there is no specific quorum at all. It could ultimately be just one or two people, which is surely not desirable.

I am hesitant to start micro-managing the affairs of a board that is not yet established. It is perfectly appropriate for the body itself to decide its quorum. The Bill allows for that. I would have thought that we could rely upon the judgment of those appointed to come to a sensible view.

I do not think that any of us were asking the Minister to micro-manage. However, he might indicate what public body of a similar status could be as small as six—five plus the chair—and in what circumstances the Minister would expect a quorum to be, perhaps, as small as two. Those of us who have served on such bodies have never experienced anything of that size, and have certainly always found it difficult to maintain a quorum when the board is quite a bit bigger than that.

I shall resist answering that question. It is sensible for the board to come to a view on what the quorum should be. It is not for me to say in Parliament how many members I think would constitute an appropriate quorum. It is perfectly appropriate for us to expect the MMO to come to a reasonable view on that matter.

We have looked at the number of members on other boards. We think that the number specified in the Bill is about right, but we have allowed for discretion should the board’s size or remit change in the future. If the organisation were given more functions, which the Bill allows the Secretary of State to do, paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 allows the Secretary of State to vary the number of members in paragraph 3(1) by order. I resist the noble Lord’s amendment to remove that discretionary power. Whatever figure is decided on by Parliament, it is sensible, subject to parliamentary processes for bringing an order before Parliament, to have a discretionary power to vary the number according to circumstances that might arise.

Will the Minister share with noble Lords the Government’s thinking on the maximum number or ceiling? It will be hard to consider an order to vary the ceiling without knowing the starting point for it. As I said, to impose such a low figure at the very start could unnecessarily hamper the effectiveness of the organisation. I do not think that the Minister has shared with us anything more than that the Government have thought about it and this is the conclusion they have come to.

That is a very reasonable line to adopt on many matters. It is expected that when the MMO is up and running it will have a board of nine people comprising a chair and eight ordinary members. We do not think that is an unreasonable number to steer the organisation and do all the things that a governing body is expected to do. My experience of public bodies is that, provided you have a reasonable number of people to do the job required, the smaller the number, the better that is. Essentially, that is the philosophy encompassed in the Bill.

Amendments 8 and 9 relate to the experience of board members. As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said in his introductory remarks, paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 ensures that in appointing members to the MMO board, including its chair, the Secretary of State should have two considerations of equal importance in mind. The first is the relevance of the potential candidate’s expertise and experience to the MMO’s activities. To assist the MMO in fulfilling its objective, that relevant expertise and experience should as far as possible be drawn from one or more of the pillars of sustainable development; in other words, board members should have experience of environmental, economic and/or social issues. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, read out some of the categories that might come within those broad pillars. The second consideration is the need to ensure a proper balance of skills and experience so the board functions effectively and adds value to the organisation as a whole. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, expressed that very well. Of course, that experience is important, as is regional balance, but in the end the key consideration is the calibre of the people to be appointed and the judgment they exercise. As we heard in our first two or three hours of debate, this job will be a very challenging one which calls for people of the highest calibre to be appointed. That must be a prime consideration, albeit we need to ensure that those high calibre members come from a variety of specified backgrounds to ensure that the board works as effectively as possible.

I listened with great interest to the argument that the Bill should specify that someone with experience in marine science or marine conservation be appointed to the board. I understand why noble Lords might support that. However, I have reservations about specifying a particular expertise which should be given priority over all other experience. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, some of the potential technical difficulties of drafting an amendment capable of being put into practice. Of course, I fully accept that this organisation needs to have people with very good scientific knowledge and background. I refer noble Lords to the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, in which he referred to the recommendation that a scientific advisory board should be established to advise the MMO board. That might well be the most appropriate way to ensure that the board has the scientific expertise that is required given that such a board—certainly the Government are strongly of the view that such a board should be established—would consist of representatives of major government and independent scientific bodies. There is no doubt whatever of the need for the organisation to have scientific expertise available to it.

We then come to the interesting question of remuneration and allowances and, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, to the first “may/shall” debate on the Bill. I believe that the wording is unexceptional. The Bill permits the organisation to pay such remuneration and allowances as the Secretary of State may determine. The noble Lord invited me to say what rates the Secretary of State may determine. Alas, I am not in a position to give further information on that other than to say that the rates of remuneration will be appropriate; in other words, they will be sufficient to provide reasonable remuneration to those who give their services but they will not be astronomical or unreasonable. I understand that the level of remuneration will be determined by the Secretary of State on central guidance from HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office. I reassure the noble Lord that it will be broadly in line with that paid to board members of other non-departmental public bodies. The intention is to ensure that board members will be so remunerated. In those circumstances we do not think that it is necessary to make any changes to the Bill as it now stands.

This has been a very interesting debate. I shall reflect on the points that noble Lords have raised. It is absolutely right that we should ensure that this new organisation has a board of the highest calibre but I am reluctant to expand the board’s number or to guarantee that a particular expertise or person from a particular specialist background will be on it. However, I understand the points noble Lords have made about the importance of scientific expertise being available to the board and of ensuring that, whatever background members of the board come from, the key thing is the personal qualities they bring to board considerations.

Will the Minister reply to my question about the different regions? Obviously, they are vastly different. I was not by any means saying that every region should have a representative, but I am sure that the Government must have considered this and had some thoughts about it. Will the Minister share them?

I thought that I did respond to that briefly at the beginning. Our prime duty must be to ensure that we get people of the highest calibre. That must be the first consideration. I cannot give a guarantee from the Dispatch Box that there will be a scientifically regional balance on the board. Of course, one would hope that the board members will come from a variety of backgrounds and that there will be a reasonable geographic spread, but I cannot give any commitment on that basis, because the calibre of the people appointed must come first.

I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate. I was a bit worried about plunging—if that is the word on a marine Bill—into the nitty-gritty of Committee, but the debate around the Chamber has shown that these are important issues. There is one issue that we need to knock on the head straight away. My noble friend Lord Tyler said that the most beautiful coasts in Britain were in Cornwall in his former constituency. I say to my noble friend that he ought to get up north a bit more, and then keep going, because by far and away the most beautiful coasts are in Scotland, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, will agree. The further north you go, the better it gets.

There has been quite a lot of consensus around the Committee putting pressure on the Minister on two issues. I shall come back to that when I comment on what he said. I particularly thank the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for taking our amendment seriously after the knock-about on our first group of amendments, which got a different reaction from the Conservative Front Bench. We are back into proper Committee now, and that is fine.

On representation of interests, which was originally raised by the noble Lord, Lord Eden, I do not think that any of us is suggesting in these amendments that there should be direct representation of interests on the board of the Marine Management Organisation. Various contributors, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and my noble friend Lady Hamwee, talked about the presence of a range of expertise and experience and a range of perspectives. These are different from direct representation; you do not have to be representing an organisation to know a lot about it and to have experience of it. That is the issue that causes us concern; that a board of only six members, including the chair, would not be enough.

I reiterate that it is possible that from time to time if members resign, the board might go down to six, but in general the intention is that it should be a board of nine; eight ordinary members and the chair.

I am very grateful to the Minister for repeating that, because that was a particular thing that he said that I picked up and want to come back to in a minute. I thank the Minister for treating the amendments with great care and for the detailed answers that he has given.

We would expect the quorum to be a third, which is normal in most public bodies. Again, that is a concern if the body is too small, but I accept what the Minister said, that the organisation will decide for itself. As for the expectation that there will be nine members, including the chair, that is a valuable statement from the Minister, because to some extent it sets aside some of the concerns. I say to the Government—the Minister said that he would reflect on this—that if it is their intention that it should be nine, it would be sensible, if they are putting a range into the Bill, for their expectation to be at the centre of that range.

Who knows what circumstances might occur where it would be valuable to appoint an extra person, or to reduce the size, if the size was at the bottom of the range? There does not seem to be much sense in saying that the range would be five to eight, or six to nine including the chair, and then saying that the expectation is that the body would be at the top of that range from the very beginning. The sensible thing to do would be to put a range in the Bill in which what the Government want to do is at the middle of the range. Perhaps we can have some discussions and think about that. That seems to be the common sense thing to do; to allow flexibility without having to go through the whole rigmarole of the Government coming back with an order and having to present it to Parliament and so on.

The assurances by the Minister on Amendment 9 about scientific and conservation expertise are valuable. We will come back to this issue as the Bill goes through Committee, and I think that the Minister will be pressed to give these kinds of assurances on several more occasions. It may be that we will want to find a form of wording that is appropriate to legislation, which I am sure could be found for a later stage. We will consider that and reflect on it.

On the remuneration question, the Bill says that the MMO “may” pay and the Secretary of State “may” decide what it will be. The Minister has made it absolutely clear that the MMO is going to pay its members and that the Secretary of State will decide what the remuneration is, so I do not understand why the Bill does not say what is actually going to happen. Perhaps expecting legislation to say what is going to happen is an idealistic point of view.

The Minister will do a bit of reflection, we will do some reflection, and Members of the Committee will do some reflection on these issues, some of which may come back for further debate on Report. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 6.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Amendment 7

Moved by

7: Schedule 1, page 212, line 28, at end insert—

“Nomination by other bodiesThe Committee on Climate Change or the Infrastructure Planning Commission may nominate a member for considertion by the Secretary of State under sub-paragaph 3(1) above.”

I shall speak also to Amendments 19 and 20. I hope that the amendments reinforce many of the arguments made in Committee this afternoon.

I return again to the nature and construction of the board. This may have some bearing on the way in which we return to our previous debate at a later stage. I apologise for referring to past legislation, but we frequently commented on the interlocking legislation from the previous Session; the Climate Change Act, the Energy Act and the Planning Act, which are now being followed by this Bill. In particular, the Committee on Climate Change and the Infrastructure Planning Commission will have responsibilities that interact with each other and with this organisation.

The three amendments relate to the working relationship between three organisations that are undoubtedly going to have a great deal of impact on each other’s areas and duties. There are several later groups of amendments that we will come to that deal with similar issues, especially between the IPC and the MMO. I will save my remarks about some of the more obvious overlaps between these organisations until that time. However, I am sure that noble Lords agree that it will be critical for these three organisations at the very least to work well together. My amendments suggest a system of mutual nomination for the membership of the boards that would allow the relevant experience and expertise to be applied across the board.

I agreed with everything that the noble Lord said, except on the terms of his amendment. He is absolutely right that in taking forward the Bill we will frequently refer to legislation passed in the previous Session, the Energy Act, the Planning Act and the Climate Change Act. That is right because they do, indeed, come together in many areas. The noble Lord is also right to refer to the importance of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the Committee on Climate Change. They will have a crucial role to play in relation to major infrastructure planning decisions and the advice to the Government on climate change. We have already seen, under the expert chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, just how far-reaching, important and significant the advice of the Committee on Climate Change has been. Equally, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, we will discuss the relationship between the IPC and the Marine Management Organisation regarding the giving of planning consents in relation to offshore renewables. There is no question that there needs to be a consistency of approach and for those organisations to be seen to work together.

However, I have considerable doubts about whether that is best achieved through nomination rights for consideration for appointment—and I take the amendment to refer to nomination, rather than automatic appointment. Apart from the issue of whether noble Lords accept the numbers of members of the board specified in the Bill, should we agree to additional nomination rights? I would have thought that given the importance of the IPC and the CCC, it would be very difficult to turn down those nominations for board membership. It would certainly crowd out the board in terms of other appointments.

I also wonder whether, as we debated in the previous group of amendments, if a person was nominated either by the IPC of the CCC, and then appointed, there would be a danger that they would be seen as the representative of the Committee on Climate Change or the Infrastructure Planning Commission. That would detract from the corporate role that we envisage the MMO board having to play, whereby, although people might come from different backgrounds, when they sit around a table, their job is to come together as a corporate organisation, not to represent special interests.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord’s intention to ensure that there is co-ordination between the IPC, the MMO and the Committee on Climate Change and that they work together. However, I doubt that the amendment is the way to do it.

I am increasingly anxious that the letter that the Minister promised about interaction between the devolved Administrations in relation to the Bill should come to us quickly. For example, the Infrastructure Planning Commission does not relate to Scotland at all. The Scottish Parliament would have nothing to do with the Planning Bill. It is difficult to envisage how this will work. When we discussed the membership of the organisation, the Minister kept saying that we did not want regional representation; but, if we do not look out, one can picture a situation in Scotland whereby something is turned down by what will be seen as a bunch of Englishmen. One wants to avoid that, if possible, however great the Englishmen may be. We have a problem and the sooner we clarify the relationship with the devolved Administration, the easier it will be for those of us who think from that perspective to be of assistance to the Committee. I hope that the Minister will do that quickly. However, the amendment would mean that, from the point of view of major planning infrastructure projects, Scotland would not be involved.

I am very much in sympathy with the amendment, but, on this occasion, the Minister is right, because, for the general reasons we discussed earlier, the balance of the organisation will be important. It is hard to put together a football team and fill all the appropriate positions if other bodies effectively pre-empt some of them. I have experience of other bodies that were put together in that way; if, as the amendment suggests, some way could be found for those bodies to feed in suggestions, that would be fine, but ultimately, because one is putting together a coherent group with a range of expertise, it would not make sense for individuals effectively to be nominated by external bodies who would do so in ignorance of the other nominations that had been made.

I agree very much with what has just been said. There is a conflict of interest about the nominations that would accrue for the MMO board. I can see that the “guardian of the environment” function of the MMO would be weakened if it was compromised by nominations from the IPC and the climate change body. I also sympathise with what the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, said about devolved matters. I have a couple of amendments that we may reach this evening that may cover some of that issue.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, I will ensure that the note is sent out within the next two days.

I thank the Minister for that, because it will be useful. I hope that the Chamber will forgive me for tabling these amendments and finding that they have been widely spoken against. However, with some justification, it is correct to focus the Chamber’s attention on the interaction between these three bodies, which will exist for a common purpose and with similar objectives. I shall seek leave to withdraw the amendment, but I suggest that the process of appointing the skeleton board may well involve consultation with the Committee on Climate Change and the Infrastructure Planning Commission. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 7 withdrawn.

Amendments 8 to 11 not moved.

Amendment 12

Moved by

12: Schedule 1, page 215, line 5, at end insert—

“( ) In appointing other employees, the MMO must ensure the employment of sufficient persons with scientific capability or expertise for the exercise of its functions.”

This group of amendments takes us back to our earlier debate about the relationship of science to the organisation. I should start by declaring an interest: for the past seven years, I have been chairman of the board of trustees of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Until 2002, it was a Government-owned institution. I hasten to add that I am not a marine scientist, so I do not need to debate with the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, about whether I would have, if I were a marine scientist, a right to exist or not. Indeed, the fact that I am not a marine scientist is the main, perhaps the only, reason why I was appointed to the post in the first place.

Although this group of amendments starts with Amendment 12, I want to begin with Amendment 28, which relates to the general objectives clause, Clause 2. To put the amendment in perspective, it is worth reading the clause to the Committee. I am concerned only with subsection (1), which states:

“It is the duty of the MMO to secure that the MMO functions are so exercised that the carrying on of activities by persons in the MMO’s area is managed, regulated or controlled—

(a) in a manner which is consistent and co-ordinated … and

(b) with the objective of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development ...

Any reference in this Act to the MMO’s ‘general objective’ is a reference to the duty imposed on the MMO by this subsection”.

Amendment 28 seeks to add a further paragraph—paragraph (c)—which reads:

“with regard to the best available scientific evidence”.

In other words, it would lay a duty on the shoulders of the MMO,

“to secure that the MMO functions are so exercised that the carrying on of activities by persons in the MMO’s area is managed, regulated or controlled … with regard to the best available scientific evidence”.

I believe that this amendment flows ineluctably from the fundamental activity in which the MMO is to be engaged—that is, assessing the impact of human activities on a particular sector of the waters around our country. Therefore, the starting point in any decision of the MMO is: what is the state of the biodiversity of that particular section of water? It must ask: what is going on on the surface, what is going on in the water column and what is going on on the seabed? Until it knows the answers to those questions, it cannot go on to make an assessment about the desirability or otherwise of particular economic or other activities taking place there. Therefore, any decision by the MMO will be based on science, and if it does not establish with the best science available at the time the most likely situation, it will be incapable of fulfilling any of its other tasks.

The other two amendments in this group flow from that. Both concern the way in which the MMO would acquire the appropriate scientific information. Amendment 12 deals with the desirability of the MMO having a sufficient number of skilled scientists with the capability or expertise to exercise the judgments to which I have just referred. The word used in the amendment is “must”, not “may”. A related obligation is set out in Amendment 41, which concerns the other means by which the MMO might acquire the appropriate scientific information. It reads:

“In seeking to secure the duty mentioned in subsection (1)(c), the MMO must consult with any relevant government or independent scientific bodies”.

Both those amendments address what I consider to be the weaknesses of Clause 23, which is entitled “Research”. I apologise for again testing the Committee’s patience by quoting the Bill. Subsection (1) states:

“The MMO may (whether alone or with other bodies or persons)—

(a) undertake research into any matter relating to its functions or its general objective, or

(b) commission or support (by financial means or otherwise) research into any such matter”.

I do not need to read out subsection (2) because it is not germane to the point that I am trying to make. How can the MMO undertake research into any matter relating to its functions if it does not have the appropriate expertise among its employees? Equally, if it has certain expertise but not the particular expertise relevant to the decision that it has to take, surely it must—not may—go outside to get the appropriate scientific information.

The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, expressed doubts about the existence of marine science and I can understand why he did so. Only a tiny proportion of the oceans around our country have been subject to traditional marine scientific analysis. Most people have to rely on predictions rather general scientific knowledge. We now have the capacity, through satellites, to examine quite intimately and very quickly what is happening on surface waters. We also have the ability, through geophysical information, to draw from the contours of the base of the continental shelf certain conclusions about the kind of biodiversity that exists there. As many noble Lords know, there are also experts called marine modellers who are tasked with making these predictions. This is as much a form of forecasting as it is traditional scientific analysis; and for the first 10 years of the MMO’s life decisions about the impact of human activities on biodiversity in a particular area will depend heavily on assembling what we know and then forecasting in the way that I have described.

That leads me to my final point, which is not directly affected by these amendments. If the MMO is to be increasingly effective, a very powerful priority will have to be to assemble and spread as widely as possible data on what is going on in the sea, together with marine monitoring. That is dealt with in later clauses and I do not intend to go into it now, but it is a related issue. I beg to move.

I support what my noble friend has said. It is extremely important that relevant scientific evidence is available to the MMO, but to my mind the most important point is that the evidence should be “objective”. One problem that has already been mentioned in relation to the forthcoming activities of the MMO is that they will be arraigned by a vast conflict of interests. All sorts of bodies will be representing their views and opinions on what is or is not taking place in the ocean around our shores. Therefore, as my noble friend said, the MMO will have to base its decision on an independent judgment, and the evidence, scientifically based, should be as objective as is possible to find.

Happily, today there are in existence distinguished people who have almost made it their lifetime’s work to study and analyse what is taking place in the sea around us. Evidence of the success that can be achieved by the establishment of marine reserve areas is already available to us in considerable abundance. One of the most notable is on the northern coast of America—California, in particular—where a vast area that has been set aside has yielded extraordinary results.

While we consider the situation in the sea at present we are naturally confronted by the evidence of the hideous destruction of marine animal life and the serious risk at which many species, some of which are well known to us, such as skate, the leatherback turtle, sturgeon and others, face. That is known. The Bill will establish an organisation that will bring about action based on that knowledge, and it is that knowledge that will have to be made available to the board of the MMO. I hope that the Minister can assure us that it will listen not only to representations from special interests groups but will consider objective analysis presented by scientific expertise.

I would like to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, in his Amendment 28, as his aspiration is correct, but the Minister will remember from the report of the Select Committee in the other place, Investigating the Oceans, that the funding and progress of research have been extremely limited. The amount of seabed that has been mapped and the amount of resource to speed up that mapping—I am talking just about vessels, but the noble Lord referred to satellites, and even satellite time costs—are such that I do not think that we can include such an amendment in the Bill. The MMO will simply be unable to look for that evidence for several years yet. I ask the Minister whether the mapping of the seabed will be speeded up before designations of the marine conservation zones, for example. If not, it will be difficult for those zones to be designated at all. This area is one of my greatest concerns about the Bill. We have good aspirations but we simply do not know much about what is on the seabed or in the water column over the vast areas that we are talking about.

Will the Minister comment on the phrase “consistent and co-ordinated” in Clause 2, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, referred? It is essential that work should be co-ordinated both as a snapshot and over time, but “consistent” could raise issues, which I hope the Minister can dispose of. The definition is not set out as exclusive, but as research continues and knowledge expands, and perhaps as judgments and assessments develop, decisions may not be consistent with decisions taken five or 10 years previously—indeed, one would not want them to be. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that. I am not seeking to unravel the general thrust but would like a common-sense assurance.

I warmly endorse my noble friend’s amendment on two grounds. I suspect—although I hope that I am wrong—that the Minister will say something on the lines of, “Of course, the MMO will consult the best possible scientific expertise available”. When an organisation is set up with the burden that the MMO will have, it is extremely important that the “best available scientific expertise”—I am deliberately using the wording in Amendment 28—is there for the MMO to consult. It will not be good enough to say at this stage that that is what is intended. The burden on the MMO will be huge.

I have some outdated experience, gathered when I had the enormous privilege some 35 years ago of working in a somewhat junior capacity in an association chaired by the redoubtable Commandeur Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He taught me in a very short time more about the potential of the marine environment than anybody could. I am not a marine scientist—I am not even a scientist—but even at that age he made a huge impression on me, none of which has left me. I urge the Minister, even if he cannot accept the specific words of my noble friend’s amendment, to take the intent extremely seriously. I repeat that the burden on the MMO will be very great. If we do not get it right at this stage, there will be problems in the future.

I add my support to the amendment. Whether the wording is right or not remains to be seen, but the important element is that this organisation will need a substantial science base, partly because the consequences of most of the activities that it seeks to regulate are not seen on the surface. Indirect geophysical and surveying techniques are needed to see what is going on. There has to be a substantial science base within the organisation, which the amendment would ensure. The other general point is that in the exploitation of the marine environment there are some commercial interests and lobbies. I hope that it is not thought in any sense that I am against that, but the consequences of commercial activity have to be understood. If there are good arguments against them, or indeed for them, they have to be properly marshalled from a technical point of view. For that reason it is extremely important that the scientific expertise that is available to the organisation matches the commercial pressures to which it will undoubtedly be subjected.

On the question of mapping raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, in chairing the Joint Committee I had the advantage of being present all the time. She may not have been there when one of our expert advisers showed us that, as I understood it, the basic knowledge of the seabed is much more widespread than any of us thought at the time. We are lacking the detailed work that requires special techniques. That is very expensive, as we need ships with side scan sonar and all the rest. However, basically we have a good idea what happens on the seabed, although we are lacking the detail, which will take time to get.

I follow that contribution also as a member of the Joint Committee, although not quite as good at attending as our chair, who led by example. The Select Committee in the other place drew attention to the parlous state of marine science in this country, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, referred. Funding comes from a number of sources—it is appropriate that it should—such as Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council, the devolved Administrations, the conservation agencies and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. All of these need co-ordinating and will impinge on the activities of the MMO and the functions specified in the Bill. It is essential for this organisation to be plugged into this research with expertise at all levels: employed staff, board members and the scientific advisory committee. We all welcome the Minister’s assurance that that scientific advisory committee will be put in place. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who pointed out that a fundamental understanding of the state of the marine sciences—how they are emerging and how they can contribute to fulfilling the functions in the Bill—is critical. I welcome the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Kingsland, particularly Amendment 28, which extends the objectives.

We, of course, agree with the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Kingsland, which follow on from Amendment 9. That amendment was slightly shot down by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who said that it was not nearly strong enough and that the MMO must have proper scientific advice available to it to deal with all the technicalities. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, said on Amendment 9 that the Joint Committee recommended a scientific advisory panel. With these amendments, my noble friend Lord Kingsland has amplified the theme and I think that they have support from all round the Committee. I hope that the Minister will accept them but, if he cannot, perhaps he will take them away and see whether he can draw up something in better form and come back to the Committee with it.

I am sure that I did not attend the Joint Committee as perfectly as the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, but I was there when Defra showed a film modelling how it is filming the seabed and I followed that up with various people. I retain serious concerns about the fact that what is now mapped is small. I draw the Committee’s attention to paragraph 66 of the Joint Committee’s report, which refers to the difficulty in sharing data because of the way in which, even when the data are held by government agencies, costs are recharged and so on. That paragraph spells out the difficulties that the MMO may face unless the Government resolve the issue of scientific data being freely available to it.

This has been an interesting debate. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, has laid these amendments to ensure that the MMO operates on the basis of the best available scientific evidence and that, in carrying out its business to fulfil its part of its duty, it consults any relevant government or independent scientific bodies.

I fully accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Eden, that, although the MMO will be called to make judgments, part of its work will be receiving representations from different interests, because inevitably many tensions will come to the fore in the work of the MMO board. We do not see it as an organisation that will simply listen to vested interests and then come to a judgment without giving due regard to the scientific evidence on which it ought to be made. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, was concerned that the burdens on the organisation might mean that it would not pay due attention to the scientific evidence. I reiterate that we expect—indeed, will require—that this new organisation operates on the basis of the best possible scientific evidence in carrying out its functions. Our expectation is that the MMO will always operate on the basis of the best available evidence. The guidance that the Secretary of State will issue to the MMO will make that very clear. The existing agency—the MFA—bases its decisions on the evidence; the same will apply with the MMO. However, I am not sure that it is necessary to include that in the objectives of the organisation. I assure noble Lords that we would expect the MMO to continue best practice on consultation by consulting the relevant scientific bodies and whomever it needs to consult to carry out a particular function.

I apologise to the Minister for intervening at this stage and breaking up the flow of his eloquence, but he has kindly given way. The reason why I believe it crucial to have this expression in the duties in Clause 2 is that the scientific obligations on the MMO are of a different order of magnitude from the obligations that it has in relation to all the human activities that may or may not take place in a particular sector. If the Minister glances at our obligations under OSPAR and under the new European Community directives, he will see that this is also the case under those. I know that the draftsmen will be taking into account those obligations as our debate continues.

In my submission, the starting point is the scientific position. Until the MMO has established the best available scientific evidence, it cannot go on to make an assessment about the damage or otherwise that particular human activities would do. That is the reason why it is not just a question of having regard to the scientific evidence; the scientific evidence plays a fundamental role in a way that no other evidence pertaining to any particular column of water does.

Of course, the Marine Management Organisation must take objective decisions on the basis of the best available evidence in the context of the guidance given to it by the Secretary of State and the marine planning statement. However, I still think that there are always risks in establishing a list of factors that have to be taken into account. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, knows the risk of lists. He says that in the case of his amendment there is, in a sense, no higher duty and that it warrants greater consideration than any other matter. No one would disagree that scientific evidence is critical to the decisions, but I am wary of going down the route that he suggests in terms of the drafting of the Bill. I hope that he will accept that the Government wish to see scientific research and evidence developed on the marine area. The noble Lord, Lord Greenway, made an important point about our current knowledge. Of course, we want to see the Marine Management Organisation make its decisions on the basis of the best available evidence, but I am cautious about accepting the noble Lord’s amendment as he has proposed it. There is the same risk with the noble Lord’s amendment on consultation. If we single out scientific bodies in primary legislation above other interests, we may well exclude organisations that the MMO ought to consult in other cases because we specify in the legislation that it is that class of bodies that have to be consulted.

I want to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that the MMO needs to employ people who have the appropriate skills and expertise to carry out its functions. I sympathise with the intention behind his amendment. I undertake to ensure that recruitment of staff will be undertaken professionally. Work is already under way to identify the skills and expertise that the organisation will need to carry out the new functions, as well as to prepare for the robustness of the skills base as the existing functions of the current Marine and Fisheries Agency transition to the Marine Management Organisation. Of course scientific staff will be necessary, but so will other professions and abilities, ranging from engineering, fisheries management, statistical interpretation, planning and economics, to social science as well as marine science and conservation.

In addition to the skills of the staff directly employed, the Marine Management Organisation needs to be able to call on expertise from elsewhere. For example, the current marine licensing operations are informed by science and evidence input from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science within my department. We intend that that key input should continue to be available to the MMO.

It may be thought unnecessary or not cost-effective for the MMO to set up similar expertise when existing expertise will be available to it. That will be a matter for the MMO in discussion with my department. What is not in doubt is that the MMO will have the expertise available either on staff or within the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. Nor should there be any doubt that the Marine Management Organisation will understand the need to ensure that it has the high-level scientific advice appropriate to it.

We have already discussed our intention for the MMO to have a scientific advisory board. I have already said that we intend to ensure that the MMO has that. There is no disagreement between us about the importance of scientific evidence and of having the right expertise, whether it is employed by the MMO board or made available to it through other agencies. I accept the point raised by the noble Baroness about access to data. I am sure that we will debate that under future amendments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, wanted reassurance on the question of consistency in Clause 2. She seeks a commonsense interpretation; she is right. I refer her to Clause 45, “Amendment of statement”, and Clause 52, “Duty to keep relevant matters under review”. I think that we get the balance right. Obviously, she would not disagree with consistency of approach but, equally, I am sure that she would recognise that the Bill contains provisions to allow for revisions and changes to be made from time to time on the basis of the best available evidence.

This is a very important matter. I understand the wish of noble Lords to ensure that the Marine Management Organisation makes its decisions on the basis of the best evidence. The construct of the MMO as provided for in the Bill will allow for that. I also understand that it is important to ensure that the MMO has the right expertise and scientific advice that can be brought to bear. We will certainly ensure that that happens.

Will the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science receive extra resources to support the needs of the MMO, or will that be on a contractual, consultancy basis, as it might be with any other external organisation?

These matters are still under discussion. As I was saying, one would not want to waste resources by duplicating expertise but it is important—no doubt we will come to talk about the funding of the MMO in due course—to ensure that it has sufficient resources to carry out its responsibilities. Equally, we must ensure value for money.

Perhaps I may elaborate slightly. There is a big difference between having your scientists in-house and on the team and going to an external organisation for which you pay for your science on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. It is very important in setting up this organisation that that distinction be recognised.

I understand that. These matters will have to be worked through by the MMO in discussion with my department and the centre, but I suspect that, in the end, we will see a number of approaches. One would expect the organisation to have scientific advisers on its staff; one would also expect it to have available the resource of the centre; and it may also need to contract out to other organisations. We should leave that as flexible as it can be. The key question is: will the best evidence possible be available to the MMO? The answer to that is in the affirmative.

My question follows from the exchanges that have just taken place. I am the complete naive lay man. I am a total non-scientist and regard scientists in rather the same way as I regard lawyers: with a degree of admiration, but not believing everything that they tell me.

The Minister has several times during this very interesting debate used the words “the best available evidence”. “The best available evidence” is a matter of judgment. The Chamber will agree that scientists do not think the same things at the same time. We have to think only of the science of climatology, which has changed dramatically in recent years. Some scientists have led it; some scientists have held back. The idea that there is a body of science available to the MMO that is unchallenged from all sources is a naive assumption. Therefore, I am with the Minister. It is important that we recognise that the body of science will be available to the MMO. It is quite a different job for the MMO to have sufficient expertise—I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, just said—to use its judgment. That does not necessarily mean that we should follow the precise prescription suggested by several noble Lords. It is important to put on record—I hope that the noble Lord agrees—that the MMO must keep pace with changing science as much as listen to scientists.

I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in this debate and to the Minister for his full reply. For clarification, is he saying that although he is not inclined to include my Amendment 28 in Clause 2, nevertheless we can read it as if the amendment were included?

Indeed, it is. The advice that I have received is that Clause 2 on the general objective, particularly subsection (1)(b), which says,

“with the objective of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development”,

is wholly consistent with the MMO taking decisions on the basis of the best evidence available.

I would have expected nothing less from him. It follows from what he says that I shall return to this matter on Report, because, with great respect to him, he has not met my fundamental argument, which is that in each case where the MMO exercises its judgment, its starting point must be the best available scientific evidence. I accept that there may be different views about what is the best available scientific evidence. Indeed, I am quite sure that people who apply for operational developments at sea will argue that there are different scientific views; but it is vital that the MMO is informed as to what the best available scientific evidence is.

The MMO must take its decisions on the basis of the objectives laid down in the Act in the context of the marine policy statement, which we will debate in due course, and the guidance mentioned in Clause 2(3). Clearly, the guidance that the Government will give to the Marine Management Organisation and the marine policy statement will be informed by the best available evidence. The MMO must operate within those parameters. It will be called on to make some very difficult judgments, and will work to the guidance and the marine policy statement. Again, one wants and expects it to take those decisions on the basis of the best available evidence. That evidence will probably come from a variety of sources. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, I doubt that there will be unanimity about a particular scientific view, but it will fall to the MMO to decide. That is my problem with the noble Lord’s amendment.

That is a different argument from the one that the Minister deployed previously. I understood him to say that the expression “the best available scientific evidence” is insufficiently precise.

No, I was simply trying to describe the context in which the MMO takes its decisions. I would always be wary of accepting the kind of amendment that the noble Lord proposes, because it seeks to put one consideration above all others.

That is precisely its intention. Its whole intention is to say that this consideration is above all other considerations; because the fundamental question is what impact certain human activities will have on the biodiversity of a particular slice of the ocean. The starting point for the MMO must be to decide what the scientific situation and the state of biodiversity are. How endangered are they? Until the MMO has answered those questions, you cannot say to the fishing interests, the energy interests or even to the renewable energy interests that they can do this or that. The MMO cannot move to that decision. That is why the scientific evidence is qualitatively different from all other forms of evidence. However, the Minister has shaken his head a sufficient number of times in the past 10 seconds to convince me that it is not worth my while pursuing this matter. Once again, I am very grateful to noble Lords, all of whom have informed this debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 12 withdrawn.

Amendment 13

Moved by

13: Schedule 1, page 216, line 6, leave out sub-paragraph (3)