Quiet Progress on the Marine Bill

Amidst all the high drama of UK politics over the last week, it was very easy to miss a significant environmental legislative milestone. However, on Monday 8th June, the UK Marine Bill achieved its third reading in the House of Lords, thereby being passed out of that House and sent on to the Commons for consideration (somewhat unusually, the Marine Bill started first in the Lords and goes to the Commons second).

It has taken considerably longer than normal legislation to make its way through the Lords, and is in fact amongst their slowest-moving pieces of legislation ever (it took 1 week short of 6 months), which reflects the wide-ranging and complex nature of the Bill. Hopefully the amount of time spent examining and amending the Bill also means that it has been considerably improved. Indeed, this was one of the major sentiments expressed by Lords from all sides of the House in the last debate on the Bill, who took the opportunity to reflect on the significant improvements that have taken place over the past six months. In particular, marine science has been given a more major role in the new Marine Management Organisation, and the duty on Ministers to create a network of marine reserves has been strengthened.

There are still some major concerns however. The most important being that the network of marine reserves to be established under the Bill does not currently have to be ecologically coherent, which means there is ample opportunity for future Ministers to limit the effectiveness and extent of the network. Given the current focus on marine sustainability issues engendered by the excellent documentary ‘The End of the Line’, which was released this week, the BES hopes that this issue may be addressed by MPs when the Bill is taken up by the Commons.