Giles Watling, MP for Clacton introduced the Marine Activities (Licensing) Bill.
In introducing the Bill, Mr Watling said:
"The Bill seeks to put in place a pilot to devolve many of the Marine Management Organisation’s functions to local authorities... The MMO is a group that I have increasingly come to see as not fit for purpose in its current form. As a Member for a coastal area, and a boating man for over half a century, I like to think that I speak with some authority on this subject. Few people know about the vital role of the MMO.
"It manages some 90,000 square miles of hugely diverse seas and coastal areas, which is roughly the same size as the United Kingdom’s land mass. To give some context, 95% of our imports and exports come by sea, around 20 million tonnes of aggregates are taken from our seas for construction projects each year and the UK is working towards a third of our electricity being produced from offshore wind by 2030. Our seas are also home to 175 marine protected areas. At the same time, our seas and coasts are the backbone of our fishing and seafood industries, with a combined gross value added to the economy of almost £2 billion per year. This little-known group has tremendous control over all those activities.
"It seems rather odd that we allow the MMO so much centralised power. We have seen planning and licensing become core parts of local authorities’ action plans. Councils are accountable and, by their very nature, have a deep understanding of local issues and their local scene. I think we need to look to a slimmer MMO with more devolution and with a non-executive directors board of experts with real-life experience holding it to account. I have held talks with my own district council in Tendring, the chief executive officer of which is the very capable Mr Ian Davidson, and it has expressed an interest in finding out how it could take on many of these functions—with, of course, centralised oversight. The council is prepared to carry out a pilot scheme and to spearhead this much-needed change. It is merely a case of local knowledge for local issues. You do not need to be a maritime expert to run the MMO, any more than you need to be a constitutional scholar to be a Member of this place. However, given the problems I have outlined, I feel it is time to say that localism has merit. We often speak about bonfires of quangos. Well, I think I have just found another log for that fire!"
The next stage for this Bill, Second reading, is scheduled to take place on Friday 3 February 2023.