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Thursday 6 December 2012

Volume 554 No. 82




© Parliamentary Copyright House of Commons 2012 This publication may be reproduced under the terms of the Open Parliament licence, which is published at




House of Commons Thursday 6 December 2012 The House met at half-past Nine o’clock PRAYERS [MR SPEAKER in the Chair] BUSINESS BEFORE QUESTIONS LAIDLAW INQUIRY Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of the Report, dated 6 December 2012, of the Laidlaw Inquiry.—(Mr Evennett.)

Mr Speaker: For the benefit of the House, a Whip nods and nothing further is said or done. There can be no opposition.

Oral Answers to Questions ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS The Secretary of State was asked— Marine Conservation Zones 1. Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): What plans his Department has to consult stakeholders about the conservation plans which give effect to marine conservation [131726] zones. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I expect to consult shortly on the first round of marine conservation zones. Andrew George: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Like him, I am a strong advocate of this policy and have been for some time. May I seek reassurance that the introduction of this policy will create an ecologically coherent network of marine conservation zones, and will he ensure that all stakeholders—fishermen and environmentalists—are fully consulted on conservation plans, as well as on the designation of sites? Richard Benyon: My hon. Friend and I are veterans of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. We have strived hard to achieve the definition of ecological coherence, which I am confident we will achieve. He is right to say that the next stage of consultation concerns the management of conservation zones, and I absolutely agree that fishermen and other stakeholders who were involved in the early stages of the process should be included.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Statutory conservation bodies and the scientific advisory panel have said that to achieve an ecologically coherent network we need 127 marine conservation zones. There are clear indications that the Government intend to reduce significantly the number of zones, so will the Minister look at substituting other zones for those that have been dropped? Richard Benyon: With respect to the hon. Lady, I am not the slightest bit interested in numbers or lines on maps. I am interested in an ecologically coherent network that can stand up to the independent scientific advisory panel, which stated that some of the 127 sites did not have enough scientific evidence to support them. When introducing the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the then Government said, quite rightly, that the zones needed to be evidence-based. We have put lots of resources into getting more evidence—we will bring forward the first tranche of that any day now—and we will continue to progress this expensive yet important measure as years go by. Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I welcome the Minister’s proposed visit to the Isle of Wight. Is he confident that the economic impact of MCZs, particularly off the island, will be given sufficient consideration and weight before any formal decision is made? Richard Benyon: Quite rightly, the Act allowed Ministers the discretion to consider socio-economic impacts in the designation of zones. I assure my hon. Friend and his constituents that we will take such considerations into account. Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): The Minister’s Department insists that a lack of scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse to delay the establis