The Government has published, as Command Paper 7422, its proposals for taking forward the draft Marine Bill together with a summary of the responses to the public consultation which ended on 26 June 2008.

This records that pre-legislative scrutiny was completed by a Joint Committee of the House of Lords and House of Commons, and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee who, between them, received evidence from over 100 different witnesses (either in writing or orally) and made 119 specific recommendations to the Government in their two separate reports. It also records that Defra conducted a public consultation on the draft Bill via its website which generated 399 ‘non-campaign’ responses, and around 3,500 responses affiliated to specific campaigns organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, International Fund for Animal Welfare and Friends of the Earth, and a further 11,000 responses from the Ramblers’ Association, in support of coastal access. Overall, Defra indicate that around 459 organisations and individuals offered their views on the proposals in the draft Bill and that Defra believe that the nature of the responses and Committee reports indicate ongoing broad stakeholder support for our overarching proposals.

In light of the pre-legislative scrutiny and the results of the public consultation, Defra indicates that the Government intends to further develop the draft Bill and its planned implementation in the following ways, subject to Parliamentary time:

  • establish a new organisation, called the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to deliver marine functions in the waters around England and in the UK offshore area (for matters that are not devolved) which Defra will ensure is properly resourced and has a clear and unambiguous purpose;
  • take forward the proposed new marine planning system including through amending the draft Bill to introduce a requirement on policy authorities to periodically review the Marine Policy Statement (MPS); make the MPS subject to a similar Parliamentary process as National Policy Statements; and ensure marine plan authorities are under an obligation to do what they can to ensure compatibility with terrestrial plans;
  • improve the provisions on licensing by requiring each appropriate licensing authority to establish an appeals mechanism and setting out detailed transitional arrangements;
  • amend the draft Bill provisions relating to nature conservation in various ways to provide greater clarity and certainty, including through conferring a statutory duty on Ministers to designate Marine Conservation Zones and setting out other functions and responsibilities on the face of the draft Bill;
  • continue with Defra’s plans to strengthen the management of marine fisheries, including by replacing Sea Fisheries Committees with newly created Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities and to modernise powers for the licensing and management of migratory and freshwater fisheries;
  • streamline and modernise enforcement powers ensuring enforcement officers are appropriately trained; provide a power to establish an appeals process for statutory notices under the licensing provisions; and provide guidance that the maximum level of fixed monetary penalty will be capped at £5,000;
  • place a duty on the Secretary of State and Natural England to secure a long distance route and land available for open-air recreation, including through amending the draft Bill to require Natural England to conduct a review of early implementation, and to report to Parliament after 10 years.

The Bill was included in the 2008-2009 draft legislative programme published last May but Defra indicate that the introduction of the draft Bill remains ‘subject to the availability of Parliamentary time’.