Thursday, 29 October 2009

The tale of Amendment 3, Marine Reserves Bill

To those who have followed the Marine Reserves Campaign in recent days, I posted the following today on the Marine Reserves Site:

The tale of Amendment 3 – The Report Stage 28th October, 2009

Monday (26 Oct) saw the last debate on the Marine Bill after 11 months of debate in both Houses. The last action, at 10 pm, was a division of the House on Amendment 3, proposed by Katy Clark MP.

The vote was lost (For 158, Against 246)

There were various amendments introduced by the government, and not voted on. So there will be a little time before we see the complete picture.

Hansard records the following: (27 Oct)

Nick Herbert (Con): …I am disappointed that, as a consequence of lack of time at the end of the debate, there was not more opportunity yesterday to discuss all the concerns about MCZs, particularly the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark).

The Minister advanced technical arguments why a power could not be given to the Secretary of State to designate a marine conservation zone for the protection of a whole ecosystem, but as Friends of the Earth said, that power could have been used to restrain damaging activities where a whole ecosystem could be put under threat. Given that the amendment created only a power, not a duty, I hope the Government noted the force of the argument.

Mr. Gummer(Con): Is it not disappointing that on two occasions, once today and once yesterday, when the Government have done so much on the Bill, they failed to understand that giving a commitment such as protecting an ecosystem is crucial for people outside to believe that we understand how all this works? To deny that is to say something very old-fashioned—that we can pick bits out and defend those, without understanding that the ecosystem as a whole is what we ought to be concerned to preserve.

Nick Herbert: I agree with my right hon. Friend. It was a shame that there were, apparently, reasons, I believe they were largely technical, why the amendment could not be accepted. It created a power for the Secretary of State to have regard to the issues of a whole ecosystem. It is true that rather too much of the work of nature conservation is process-driven, so we have to remember that creating a marine conservation zone is not an end in itself. We should be focused on outcomes and should, therefore, be looking for tangible results from the designation of those protected areas.

- The Tories supported the MARINET amendment. It is clear from this that we may have lost the vote – but did not lose the argument. The new role of the Campaign will be addressed in a later post. Watch this space.

Bill Rigby, Beverley

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