Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Norman Baker, Lib-Dem environment spokesman

When is the draft Marine Bill likely to be published?

The Government said it would do it during this parliamentary session. It could happen within six months, but it is not very clear.

Are you going to support it?

We strongly support the principle of the Marine Bill. We want a special planning framework that would bring together all the responsibilities of different departments. At the moment, five different departments have responsibilities for the marine environment. We need an agency such as the Environment Agency for this sphere.

What would you do if this framework was not mentioned in the Bill?

We would raise concerns and table amendments to introduce it. The Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs is a relatively weak department and might bow to other departments.

What do you think the main debate in the Commons will focus on?

It depends what is in the Bill. The Government is not united on it.

What do you think the Bill should include?

The Bill needs to deal with fishing, but not drive fishermen out of business. As a party, we want further reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to give local fishermen and other stakeholders a say in the management of their own waters. We want to establish conservation zones for highly sensitive areas and strengthen protection of commercial fish stocks, dolphins and other endangered marine wildlife. We are closer to Defra's position on these issues than to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Did you take advice from conservation charities?

I meet all environmental pressure groups on a regular basis. There is nothing I disagree with them on in terms of substance - just a few details.

What do you think about the Government's response to the Review of Marine Nature Conservation this autumn?

Again, it depends on the internal politics within the Government.

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