Northern Ireland Assembly
Monday 22 January 2001 (continued)
I hope that in future these statements will not be judged on how many paragraphs people get - although it might be easier, particularly for me, to give people paragraphs rather than money. I will bear that in mind. There will be compensating paragraphs for those who are not quite so successful when it comes to bids.
As far as I am concerned, all Departments are in the loop in terms of public expenditure. That is also the position taken by the Department of Finance and Personnel and by the Executive. In agreeing these allocations, the Executive are discharging their responsibility. It is not just for Ministers to have regard for the needs of their own Departments, but also to have regard for the needs of the total public services, including public services administered by the Department for Regional Development and the Department for Social Development.
It is not a matter of people being advantaged by being either inside or outside the loop. That is a mistaken and superficial approach, not unlike the rather crass approach that Ian Paisley Jnr took earlier when trying to look at it in terms of Nationalist Ministers and Unionist Ministers. We have responded to need. Bids have been made by Departments and we, as an Executive, have responded to those bids as we have seen fit to do in the circumstances.
The point about the £5 million obviously relates to the Hi-Park Centre. It had been anticipated that the transport holding company would sell Hi-Park this year, raising about £5 million. That was the basis on which the Department for Regional Development budget was predicated. Obviously, that has not happened. We do not take that lightly. That £5 million has been made good now on the understanding that it will come back to us in a revision of the Department for Regional Development's budget for asset sales next year. That is working out in those terms precisely because Departments need to uphold the terms and the premises on which their budget has been allocated.
On the subject of health trust deficits, I welcome the Minister's indication of a possible role for the Public Accounts Committee. Will he support increased powers for the Comptroller and Auditor General so that health trusts can be brought before the Public Accounts Committee to explain their overspending, their consistent failure to meet targets and their plans to put things right?
As I have said, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. At this stage I think it would be wrong for me to focus on any one aspect of the issues that we need to pick up. The questions that have been raised in relation to audit and the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General are wider questions than pertain with this particular monitoring round.
The Member is aware that in the context, both of the Government Resources and Accounts Bill and of work on the pending audit reorganisation Bill, we are looking at ways of adding to the scope and access of the Comptroller and Auditor General on behalf of the Assembly. However, there is nothing in particular that I can add at this stage in the context of this monitoring round statement.
I welcome the additional £600,000 for historic buildings grants, as that will lever more money from the heritage lottery fund for Northern Ireland. How much money is being spent on planning compensation? How much money has been set aside for the Irish-medium education trust fund? Given the state of school buildings in the controlled sector, there is a lot of concern in my community that money is being awarded to the Minister's pet projects while schools are falling down around children.
Did the Minister receive a request from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister for £120,000 for victims? Would that money not have been better allocated than the £100,000 to the President's last-minute trip over to the Province to try and get some concession for his foreign policy, which has failed everywhere else?
I am glad that the Member welcomes the £600,000 for buildings and heritage. As for his specific question on planning compensation, it is £293,000. That is to meet legally binding settlements for planning compensation that could not be met within the existing budget.
Regarding the allocation in the Department of Education, in particular the question of the Irish-medium trust fund, £750,000 is being allocated there. Obviously that is in response to the needs of that particular sector, and those bids, like other bids, have been assessed by the relevant Department and by ourselves. The Executive have seen fit to meet those bids. Bids have also been received in the past, and met, in the context of budget and other monitoring rounds, in relation to other sectors in education and to the wider school estate.
In response to Monica McWilliams's question on trust deficits, the Minister said that it had to be dealt with within the context of financial control and management. I am a bit disappointed that the needs of the people did not come into play there. We need to ensure that the needs of the people come into play because there are different needs across different trusts.
On the issue of the additional money to Departments, the total amount, according to the statement, is £67·7 million, but in the allocation it is £39·7 million. That is a shortfall of £28 million. What will happen to the rest of that money? I am concerned that there is no additional money in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Will this money be used to prop up shipbuilding, as has been done in the past? In total, how much has been given to the regeneration of north Belfast lately?
Go raibh maith agat.
I thank the Member for her questions. I made it clear in my statement, and in my responses to questions, that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed regarding trusts. I have talked about being sensitive to the pressures that are facing trusts, particularly those providing acute services. I do not think it is fair for the Member to imply that any exercise that is now being carried out on behalf of the Executive will be blind to the needs that are there. We are taking this exercise forward in ways that will be sensitive, realistic, and responsive - where we can be - to needs, but we also have to regard our own financial control and management requirements. That is a responsibility I have to this Assembly.
I have said that we want to look at all of the issues involved, and that is why we are taking more time on this. I want to reassure the Member and the House generally on that point.
The allocation of £1 million to north Belfast is in addition to the £2 million allocated to the north Belfast regeneration effort in the revised budget that I announced in December. These two announcements mean a total contribution of £3 million to that strategy.
We have detailed the amount of money available as £67·7 million; we are allocating £40 million. We have said, on behalf of the Executive, that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister are going to look into the issue of trust deficits, and we will make recommendations on allocations to the Assembly if that is what the Executive see fit to do. Obviously that is relevant to the money not allocated in today's statement. So too are other possible uses for money allocated into Executive programme funds for future use.
I welcome the additional £5 million that has been allocated as a capital grant to railways. Will the Minister further outline exactly what that large amount of money will be spent on? Can he let the House know when each of the Roads Service divisions can expect to hear its additional allocation from the £4 million earmarked for road maintenance? Will the Minister highlight the allocations that have been made in health that reflect expenditure or deficits that have already occurred? Can he further advise what additional money has been targeted on bed blocking and the associated inefficiencies related to this? Will he ensure that a better balance of funding in the health sector will occur in the future?
The capital funding for the railways is essentially the money from the Hi-Park Centre. Members are well aware of the case that has been made regarding railway need, not least on the capital side, so this is part of a response to that. The £5 million that I mentioned in response to an earlier question is being allocated to that particular end.
The Department has allocated £4 million towards structural maintenance. Members are aware that there is a significant backlog in structural maintenance, so this is aimed at reducing this problem.
There is also the point of oil-related pressures. Roads Service uses oil-related products, such as asphalt and bitumen, so that puts a particular burden on its budget. Again, this is extra funding to try to mitigate those extra pressures. The Member also touched upon the issue of bed blocking with regard to the health budget. The Minister announced last year, in the context of winter pressures, several significant reviews into the different causes and contributing factors to many of the pressures which manifest themselves, particularly in the winter, but which are not always easily described as merely winter pressures. Those include the issue of bed blocking. We have responded to a number of bids from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, and we are giving consideration to the outstanding points in relation to deficits.
Mr A Maginness:
I welcome the £1 million allocation to the north Belfast housing strategy, which, combined with the £2 million from the last monitoring round, will contribute greatly to the most pressing housing need in all of Northern Ireland. Had it not been for the dilatory and inept manner in which the Minister for Social Development has dealt with this issue - or rather has not dealt with it - and his lack of diligence in highlighting this as an urgent housing need, these topping-up allocations would not be necessary. Does the Minister agree that it is the Minister for Social Development's lack of commitment which has necessitated this matter's being brought to the Assembly today?
I thank the Member for his welcoming of the additional money, which means in total a further £3 million to the north Belfast housing strategy. That is not the only money going into the north Belfast regeneration scheme. Other money is going in from the Housing Executive and from the Department for Social Development budget. I hope that these top-ups are not regarded as second-rate money and that they will go as far and be spent as effectively as any other money. A bid has been received from the Department for Social Development, and we have been able to meet it in this context. It would be inappropriate for me to comment any further along the lines that the Member has requested. I find that all Ministers deal with me and my Department in a straightforward manner. I hope that my Department and I deal with them in a straightforward way in return. That applies in this Chamber and anywhere else.
Mr P Robinson:
Can the Minister confirm that he considers his Colleague's remarks to be petty, party political rubbish? First of all, how can he attack a Minister who put in a bid for funding, considering it to be urgent, for not taking the matter seriously? Secondly, pursuant to the reply that he gave to Monica McWilliams with regard to the legal cases that Ministers are taking against each other, what is the size of this ministerial wrangling fund that he has? How much does he expect will be spent by Ministers taking each other to court so that we may assess what good could have been done for Northern Ireland if they had not decided to do so?
Can the Minister also indicate, in relation to the regional rate, what degree of fiscal flexibility he has? Is it possible for him to carry money forward from one financial year to the next, considering this is a relatively small amount of money in relation to his overall Budget? That is one possible way for the Minister to reduce the impact that businesses in Northern Ireland will have as a result of his significant hike in the rates.
As has been indicated, about £150 million is reallocated every year. Ten million pounds is all that is required to maintain the regional rate at the level of inflation. Surely the Minister recognises that during the course of the next financial year he will be making statements similar to today's, and he could very easily have absorbed the regional rate increase by allowing that on this occasion.
Finally, in relation to the Department for Regional Development, he has indicated £5 million pounds for the sale of capital assets. Does he take into account that, for instance, if the Hi-Park Centre is sold, a revenue stream in the region of £800,000 will come from that, which he will additionally have to input in every subsequent year?
There are several points. First, I decline the Member's invitation to brand my party colleague's contribution as petty or partisan. Mr Maginness was possibly making the point partly to counterbalance some remarks made in the Chamber by Nigel Dodds that there had previously been impassioned pleas about north Belfast that I had rejected. That was not exactly true, I hasten to add -
I did not say that. I was thanking the Minister.
I was referring to a previous occasion in the Chamber when the point was made that there had been impassioned pleas.
Order. It is a curious problem when we get confused between praise and blame, but perhaps the Minister will continue to respond to the substantial number of questions raised by Mr Robinson.
As regards the further points in relation to the regional rate, clearly we can carry money forward from one year to the next. We have already indicated that in relation to Executive Programme Funds and in relation to an amount for health service capital. It can be done.
However, it would not be appropriate for us to carry money forward from one year to the next simply to offset the rate increase. It would not be good budgeting practice to use budgeted money from one year to reduce revenue needs in another year. Had we tried to do that, many in the House would have raised their eyebrows and said that we were trying to duck hard decisions and were taking softer options. We recognise the serious concerns that are felt in relation to the rates in general, and that is why I will shortly be bringing forward details of the review of overall rating policy, which is provided for in the Programme for Government.
Concerning the Hi-Park Centre, again I would point out that what I have announced today is with the agreement of the Minister for Regional Development, so I hope that all the relevant points have been taken into consideration. It is obviously a matter for him to determine. I am not in a position to specify that the assets that might be sold next year by the Department for Regional Development to reflect that £5 million will necessarily be the Hi-Park Centre. The commitment to the sale of assets is there. However, it does not refer to a specific asset. It is a matter for the Minister for Regional Development, and it would be inappropriate for me to go into any more detail on that point.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I congratulate the Minister. The benefits of having a local hand and local accountability can be seen in the two monitoring rounds, and there have been some impressive results. We are talking about a very significant amount of money, and it is hard to find any grounds for criticism of the announced allocations.
This should not be taken as a sting in the tail. The Minister has demonstrated considerable interest in the subject, but I was disappointed that there was no reference to the gap funding proposal. It was a very welcome announcement by him on the last occasion.
Community and voluntary sector groups are facing a significant problem in the hiatus between the outgoing and incoming European programmes. That time frame may be more significant than was originally thought.
Does the Minister agree that there may be an opportunity to extend the scope, the budget and the time frame of that gap funding proposal so as to ensure that there is no significant loss of capacity, experience or jobs in the most vulnerable parts of our society? The Minister has recognised that problem in the past. There is money in reserve - he has not spent all his money - so there is the opportunity to do something about that.
With reference to what is not in the statement in terms of gap funding, I recognise the concerns felt by many, not just in this House but across the community. We have met bids in previous monitoring rounds in relation to gap funding, particularly with reference to the peace programme. There was no specific bid for gap funding that was not met in this monitoring round. We cannot meet bids that are not presented.
We are trying to keep the wider issue under review on a number of levels. We have to deal with the fact that a considerable amount of money allocated under Peace I has yet to be spent or drawn down - something like 27% - and that has to be spent by 31 December 2001. We want to look at the problems in that hold-up and consider what can be done to ameliorate the situation. That could, in turn, ease many of the problems that are manifesting themselves as gap funding issues.
The Member touched upon not just the amounts of money but also the dates. Some groups are on different end dates for funding for different measures, which creates difficulties. We want to look at the total picture and will keep it under review. We will be as responsive and effective in the future as we have tried to be in the past.
I note that the Minister had £68 million available and he allocated £40 million. What is going to happen to the difference? Is he building up a war chest? What is that money for? Is it to bankroll financial mismanagement, possibly in the NHS trusts?
I have already said that there is £28 million that we are not allocating today. We need to look at the deficits issue. There are a number of matters there, not just relating to financial management, but also to service pressures and unmet need. We need to look at this matter in the round and take a balanced approach, with due regard both to financial management and accountability and to service accountability and meeting need. Those are legitimate concerns of the Assembly and the Executive.
I cannot anticipate what will be allocated to the trusts. The Executive will decide after the three Departments involved have looked at the issues and brought recommendations forward. Money can clearly be used in that area, and I have also said that money can be used and carried over in Executive programme funds. It is not a case of building up a war chest. All the moneys available are declared and open. There are no public moneys hidden, and people will see clearly that our system is geared to ensuring that public expenditure takes place rather than does not take place. We need to do more to ensure that public expenditure takes place according to the authority on which it was given.
Many citizens in Northern Ireland have concerns about performance-related pay and fat-cat bonuses, as identified in the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which was published last year. Many people in the Health Service cannot avail of performance-related pay. Can the Minister confirm that work is taking place on these issues? Can he also confirm that those trusts identified this morning - those whose chief executives are getting performance-related pay while the trusts themselves have a deficit - and the whole management culture within them will be investigated?
I recognise, as do most people, the wide concern that the public and the House have about the whole issue of performance-related pay for Health Service managers. That issue has been addressed by the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in communication with the trusts and in legislation.
We also need to be conscious that in this exercise we are trying to deal with service-related problems as well as with financial management. We want to get the total picture. I hope that the wider exercise that we are conducting will address all issues to do with performance-related pay that impact on trust performance and trust deficit. We are not trying to scapegoat anyone; nor will we come up with a short-term fix. We want to deal with the problem in ways that make sense and work for the Health Service as well as for our financial management processes.
A lot has been said this morning about trusts' deficits. The Minister has stated that he intends to address further the question of the Health Service trusts' deficits and to bring his conclusions to the Assembly as soon as possible. I appreciate that this is a very complex issue, but I would like to know if the Minister is going to give us a timetable for dealing with it as soon as possible. Is it going to be a matter of weeks or months? When does he intend actually to do something about it?
I do not want to repeat the points I made earlier on the issue in general. On the question of timing, as I indicated in the statement, we clearly need to be able to bring indications forward in time for the spring Supplementary Estimates. We need to table those in mid- February, so it really is a matter of weeks.
Mrs E Bell:
I welcome this monitoring round and thank the Minister for it. A number of points have already been covered. I welcome the moneys for children's issues and community care, et cetera. However, I am disappointed that no bid was made, nor moneys allocated, for the purchase of urgently needed library stocks. Can I have a breakdown, perhaps by way of a written reply, of the moneys allocated to the Department of Education for oil? In response to the Minister's comment earlier about budgeting, is it really good budgeting practice to put people out of business with increases in rates?
I thank the Member for her broad welcome. The Department of Education has been allocated £1·8 million for fuel costs. I assume that the Member would like that figure to be broken down by board areas or by school sectors, and we will endeavour to do that. Members may recall from the previous monitoring round that some allocations were made to cover fuel costs, particularly for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. No such allocation was made for the Department of Education, so it has to absorb the cost pressures.
I have already indicated that in a few weeks' time we will be making a final decision on the rates, based on available figures. If those figures allow us to reduce the rates increase in any way, the Executive will look positively at such an option. I am not confident that there will be significant room for manoeuvre in that regard, but I hope that when the figures become available, I will be consulting with the Committee for Finance and Personnel.
I also welcome the Minister's statement, particularly the reference to funding allocations for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. I also welcome the view he expressed on poverty allocation - I am very glad to hear that.
The issue of Health Service trusts' deficits has already been well probed. However, will the Minister ensure that those trusts that are not in deficit, those that have surplus funds or that break even, will not be punished for living within their means, regardless of what is seen to take place?
Officials will be examining the trusts' figures in detail over the coming weeks. Current estimates suggest that just under half of the 19 trusts experienced a cumulative deficit, but it must be remembered that every trust, bar one, reported a deficit in 1999-2000. Obviously, we will be eager to ensure that any proposals drawn up will deal with the problem in an even-handed and equitable manner.
We have come to the end of the time. Other Members wished to ask questions. Unfortunately, we were not able to get to them.
In that regard, almost all of the Ministers, including Mr Durkan, when asked the same question more than once, are courteous enough to repeat their replies. However, this is not always the best use of time. I will not object if a Minister, when asked a question on the same issue more than once, refers a Member to a reply that he gave earlier. It is another matter if a Member is creative enough to base his question on something closely related, but who frames it in a slightly different way, so that an additional response can be given. I am not suggesting this to enable Ministers to avoid the responsibility to be accountable; rather, I want to ensure that time is properly used.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to rule, now or later in the day, on comments made earlier by Mr Paisley Jnr during the discussion on the statements by the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. As I understood it, Mr Paisley Jnr referred to the attendance or non-attendance of Ministers at meetings of the North/South Ministerial Council, in accordance with their party manifestos. Clearly, Ministers attend those institutions by virtue of the Pledge of Office, which legally binds all Ministers. This admission by the DUP that one of its Ministers is in breach of his Pledge of Office, in accordance with the party manifesto, is an important one.
It would be difficult to speak with authority on the specific matter to which you refer. In general, you refer, on the one hand, to Members' responsibilities in respect of their manifesto commitments and, on the other hand, to the responsibilities that they may have by virtue of Standing Orders in which the Pledge of Office is mentioned. Obviously, anyone elected to the Assembly has a responsibility to his electorate to uphold his manifesto commitments. However, there are responsibilities in respect of the Assembly that outweigh that. My own position, for example, is a clear case in point. Regardless of any political commitment I may have made to pursue certain matters, it is no longer open to me to follow through these pledges. I have had to forego my involvement in party politics, and it is unlikely that I will be able to return to them in this jurisdiction.
So it is quite clear that certain commitments made when taking office do obviate and overtake manifesto commitments that may have been made.
Without thorough thought, I could not comment on how far that applies to the matter that the Member raises. However, in principle, the pledges one gives to the House when taking office have a particularly special place. They also have particular substance and are therefore taken account of in Standing Orders.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Member believes that another Member, a Minister or whatever, is in breach of any pledge of office or any other obligation owed to the Assembly, is it not open to him, or to any Member, or to any party, to propose that that matter be dealt with in the Assembly? Seeking direction from the Speaker is not the only method.
It seems appropriate to me that Members seek rulings and guidance from the Speaker inside and outside the Chamber. The Member is entirely right about Members being able to move motions or take other action. However, it is always preferable, before an action of that kind is taken, for a matter to be raised by way of - I was going to say a warning shot across the bows, but perhaps not - seeking advice. Sometimes I have to do that with Members to indicate that certain consequences are attached to certain conduct. Of course, whether or not matters are dealt with in that way is not a matter for me.
Mr P Robinson:
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. This issue of presence at North/South or, indeed, British-Irish Council meetings is not as straightforward as some seem to believe. In fact, the legislation quite clearly provides for circumstances in which it is possible for a Minister to refrain from attending without breaching his pledge.
I think that the Member is simply pointing out the advisedness of my own stance, which is to take advice and study a matter before giving a ruling in the Chamber. I will endeavour to do this in response to the point of order raised by Mr Maskey.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Member now wants to put down a motion to exclude the DUP from government, as he clearly will, can you advise him when to submit his motion and how to go about that?
I think the Member is well aware of the procedure. He will also know that unless he has sufficient support, motions for exclusion may not even be debated. The Member who asked the question knows that well, but I think we can accept with some confidence that Mr Maskey is familiar with these procedures also. As the Whip of his party, he has had to address them on a number of occasions.
We look forward to that debate.
Members are becoming a little naughty, and I should not like to facilitate their avoiding their responsibility to consider the legislation about to come before us.
Some Members may not be familiar with our procedures. Members have a copy of the Marshalled List of amendments detailing the order of consideration, and a grouping list of amendments. Members will see from the grouping list that amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be considered together, followed by amendment 5 and then amendment 6. When I call a Member to move the lead amendment in a group - in this case, amendment 1 out of the group 1 to 4 - he or she, and any subsequent Members, may address that amendment and any other amendments in the group. I hope that Members will take the opportunity to do that, since it is best for us to have a coherent debate. I advise Members that they may return to various questions in a way that is not possible with other motions.
Clause 1 (Regulation of sea-fisheries in or on the foreshore)
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (Ms Rodgers):
I beg to move amendment 1: In clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out
"or on the foreshore"
"Northern Ireland inshore waters".
The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:
No 2 (clause 1): In page 2, line 2, after "offence." add
"(5) For the purposes of this section -
(a) 'Northern Ireland inshore waters' means the area adjacent to the coast of Northern Ireland and to the landward of a limit of 6 miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, up to the mean high- water mark of ordinary spring tides; and
(b) 'sea-fisheries' includes any fishery within that area." - [Ms Rodgers]
No 3 (clause 2): In page 2, line 13, after "on" insert "or using". - [Ms Rodgers]
No 4 (clause 2): In page 3, line 3, leave out subsection (5). - [Ms Rodgers]
It may be helpful for Members if I recap briefly on the purpose of the Bill. The Bill proposes to amend the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Both Departments have powers under the Act, given the post-devolution split in fisheries functions. Broadly speaking, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has retained responsibility for sea fisheries and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is now responsible for inland fisheries. As the proposed amendments to the Bill were proposed before devolution, it has been agreed that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will take the lead in bringing one Bill to the Assembly on behalf of the two Departments instead of each Department bringing separate Bills.
Clause 1 proposes to provide the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with the power to regulate the collection of wild shellfish, which are a natural resource, from the intertidal area and to use fisheries' regulatory powers to conserve and enhance the environment.
Clause 2 proposes to make it an offence to contravene regulations made under these powers and provides authorised officers with the necessary enforcement powers to enable the Department to enforce such regulations.
Clauses 3 to 7 are the responsibility of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. Clause 3 proposes to lift the restrictions that prohibit trade in salmon roe taken from fish farms and to allow trade in spawn produced at a fish farm for salmon production for human consumption or for stock enhancement. It also gives powers to the Fisheries Conservancy Board (FCB) to control the removal of materials such as gravel from river beds.
Clause 4 proposes to streamline the administrative process through dispensing with the requirement for the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to obtain agreement from the Department of Finance and Personnel each time it varies the amount it charges for fishing permits for fishing in the public angling estate.
Clause 5 proposes to provide the FCB with powers to issue angling licences at reduced rates to certain classes of person.
Clause 6 proposes to amend the Act to enable the FCB to make by-laws relating to the management and protection of fisheries and to regulate salmon fishing for environmental purposes.
Clause 7 proposes to strengthen the powers of the FCB to reinstate polluted waters and to recover the full costs from the polluter. Reinstatement will include restocking, restoration and enhancement of the fish habitat to its pre-pollution level.
In my comments on amendment 1, I will also be referring to amendments 2, 3 and 4. As originally drafted, the Bill provides the Department with the power to regulate fishing by means of vehicles and equipment in the area between the sea and high water mean median tide.
The use of the term "foreshore" in the Bill will extend the Department's power only to that area between high water mean median tide and low water mean median tide, because the commonly accepted definition of the foreshore refers only to that area. This leaves a potential loophole in that the commonly accepted definition of the term "foreshore" does not cover that part of the intertidal area between low water mean median tide and low astronomical tide. This area is less often, but still regularly, left uncovered by the movement of tides, and the Department wants to ensure that any regulations made will apply to this area as well as to the foreshore because this area is fertile in wild shellfish.
The purpose of amendments 1 and 2 is to replace the term "foreshore" when used in the Bill with the term "Northern Ireland inshore waters" and to define the term "Northern Ireland inshore waters" as all waters up to high water mean median tide.
Moreover, as a consequence of using the term "Northern Ireland inshore waters" in the Bill, the term "sea-fisheries" is being amended to include any fishery within Northern Ireland inshore waters. This will ensure that any fisheries within Northern Ireland inshore waters are covered by references to sea-fisheries in the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966.
Clause 2 of the Bill, as originally drafted, provides authorised officers with the power to require the attendance of persons in charge of, and any other persons in or on, any vehicle or equipment that is or has been involved in fishing for the purposes of enforcing regulations. However, a person may use a vehicle or equipment that is or has been involved in fishing, but who is not in charge of the vehicle or equipment and who is not in or on the vehicle or equipment. As the Bill stands, an authorised person would have no power to require the attendance of such a person to assist the officer in the performance of his duties, so amendment 3 proposes to extend the enforcement powers of authorised officers in the Bill to provide them with the power to require the attendance of any person using a vehicle or equipment to assist the officer in the performance of his duties.
As a consequence of the removal of the term "foreshore" from the Bill, the redefining of the terms "sea-fish" and "sea-fisheries" to include fish and fisheries in or on the foreshore in the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 is no longer necessary. The Department therefore no longer wishes to redefine the term "sea-fish" and "sea-fishery" to refer to the term 'foreshore' in the Fisheries Act 1966.
A redefinition of the term "sea-fisheries" to take account of the use of the term "Northern Ireland inshore waters" in the Bill is provided for by virtue of amendment 2 on the Marshalled List. Amendment 4 ensures that these terms are not redefined.
These amendments are necessary to enable the Department to regulate the collection of wild shellfish in the entire intertidal area up to high water mean median tide and to ensure that authorised officers have the appropriate powers to enforce any such regulations. I ask the Assembly to approve these amendments to the Bill.