Marine Bill heading for Parliament
The Marine and Coastal Access Bill will be brought before Parliament for approval in the next year, Gordon Brown has announced.
The programme sets out all the legislation that will be considered by Parliament during the next session, which runs from autumn 2008 to summer 2009.
The Climate Change Bill is also included in the programme, and the Prime Minister announced a draft Floods and Water Bill will be published for consultation in the next Parliamentary session after the completion of the Pitt Review.
The Marine Bill, which was published in draft form last month, would introduce a network of marine reserves around England's coast, simplify licensing of offshore wind farms and establish a centre of excellence to regulate marine activities and enforce environmental laws.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has previously raised concerns that the bill does not provide the necessary powers to prohibit damaging activities, rather than just restrict or manage them.
Melissa Moore, senior policy officer at the MCS, welcomed Wednesday's announcement, but she added: "In its present draft, [the bill] has too many flaws and loopholes to deliver on its promises.
"We have serious concerns that the measures proposed are not strong enough to actually deliver a network of Marine Conservation Zones. These need to be toughened up."
Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts - which has lobbied for measures such as marine conservation zones - was more positive.
She said: "With this Marine and coastal access bill, we've finally laid the foundations for the protection of our seas.
"The Wildlife Trusts have campaigned for many years for new laws to bring marine conservation into the 21st century and we are delighted that Government has today included the Bill in its Draft Legislative Programme."
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