Reading West MP, Martin Salter, who was recently appointed Vice Chair of the Labour Party for the Environment, has welcomed new Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement that the government are considering publishing a draft Marine Bill in the next Parliamentary session.

The Prime Minister included the reference to the Marine Bill in the Government’s Draft Legislative Programme, published on Wednesday. The announcement follows lobbying for a Marine Bill by the Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of the UK’s major voluntary organisations concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife, the countryside and the marine environment, which represents 8 million people in the U.K

Mr Salter is the primary sponsor of House of Commons Early Day Motion 1833 Marine Bill (No.2) which argues for a new approach for the management and protection of the U.K.’s marine resources, wildlife and cultural heritage. The EDM also presses for the Marine Bill to be based on a system of spatial planning to reduce conflict between the many users of these seas and includes reform of inshore fisheries. It calls on the government to put protection of wildlife at the heart of marine policy through measures including the designation of a network of marine conservation zones.

The cross-party EDM was tabled only a week ago, but has already been signed by over fifty MPs. To raise awareness of the campaign and to thank the MPs who have already signed, the RSPB campaign came to London on Wednesday 11th July. They brought a giant, inflatable two-metre replica of a puffin to highlight the fact that the UK’s coastline is home to 18 exclusively coastal species of seabird, including puffin, gannet, kittiwake and guillemot.  The great skua, Manx shearwater, gannet and shag have their most important populations in the world in the UK.

Martin Harper, Head of Sustainable Development, RSPB said:

“Increasing protection for marine wildlife has been an outstanding commitment for this government over the last decade. We have been greatly encouraged by the public and cross-party support we have received for a Marine Bill. We owe it to everyone who believes in greater protection for the marine environment to continue our fight. We have been given hope, as a draft Marine Bill is being considered for the Queen’s Speech, that we will have comprehensive marine legislation by the next general election.”

Martin Salter said:

“I am delighted that Gordon Brown has indicated the government’s support for the much-needed Marine Bill. By publishing the Bill in draft there will be an opportunity for full scrutiny of the proposals which will help us to produce successful and sustainable measures to protect the seas for future generations. There has been a huge groundswell of public support for a Marine Bill, as shown by the success of the campaign by the Wildlife and Countryside Link. However, I believe that it may be possible to go further and include the implementation of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review of 2000 and other measures. This is a once in a generation opportunity for comprehensive legislation protect our fisheries and the marine environment and it is important that we get it right.”

The full text of EDM 1833 MARINE BILL (No. 2) is as below and the full list of signatories can be found at:

That this House welcomes the ongoing campaign by Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of environmental organisations, including the Marine Conservation Society, the RSPB, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, the Wildlife Trusts and WWF, for a comprehensive Marine Bill; notes the continued public and cross-party political support for such a bill; welcomes the publication in March of the Marine Bill White Paper A Sea Change; believes that with the utmost urgency the United Kingdom needs a new approach to managing and protecting its marine resources, wildlife and cultural heritage; further believes that the Marine Bill must be based on a system of spatial planning to reduce conflict between the many users of these seas; further believes that the Bill must include reform of inshore fisheries; further believes that, given the extraordinary richness of wildlife in UK seas, the Bill must put protection of wildlife at the heart of marine policy through measures including the designation of a network of marine conservation zones; and calls on the Prime Minister to include such a bill in the 2007 Queen’s Speech.

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