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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Chapter 3: Agreements involving the MMO for the exercise of function
Power to enter into agreements
Section 14: Agreements between the Secretary of State and the MMO

79.This section allows the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with the MMO authorising the MMO to perform marine functions currently performed by the Secretary of State.

80.The type of functions that these agreements would cover includes work currently undertaken by the Marine and Fisheries Agency under the Common Fisheries Policy or under EU Regulations which are directly applicable in the UK.

81.Over time the MMO may need to take on new functions and this section also provides the necessary flexibility in relation to any future functions to enable Ministers to delegate these to the MMO.

82.The functions that the MMO may be authorised to perform in the context of the Act are limited to marine functions. The MMO may be authorised to carry out a particular function generally or only in specified cases or areas.

83.The existence of an agreement between the Secretary of State and the MMO does not prevent the Secretary of State continuing to exercise the function that has been delegated. The Secretary of State may cancel the agreement at any time.

Section 15: Agreement between the MMO and eligible bodies

84.This section enables the MMO, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to make agreements with bodies listed in section 16 authorising those bodies to perform the MMO’s functions on its behalf. This is to enable the MMO to make arrangements for the most effective discharge of its functions as these bodies may be better placed (because of their resources, expertise or other such reason) to carry out the MMO’s function in a particular area.

85.Under such an agreement a body may be authorised to carry out the function generally or only in specified cases or areas. Any such agreements may be altered only by agreement between the MMO and the relevant body, and with the approval of the Secretary of State.

86.The Secretary of State must review any agreements between the MMO and eligible bodies every 5 years and may, if appropriate, cancel an agreement. Section 21 also provides that any agreement under section 15 must be in writing and published in order to bring it to the attention of people likely to be affected by it.

Section 16: Eligible bodies

87.Bodies listed in this section are those with which the MMO may enter into an agreement. The MMO will need the ability to delegate certain activities to eligible bodies where, for example, such bodies would be better placed (because of their resources, expertise or other such reason) to carry out the MMO’s function in a particular area. Examples of functions the MMO might want these bodies to carry out are as follows.

  • The MMO is taking over the licensing function under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, but there are a few applications each year relating to seals in freshwaters. Those applications will be dealt with by Natural England and the function will therefore need to be delegated to that body by the MMO by agreement under section 15.

  • The Environment Agency will be responsible for freshwater fisheries and migratory species out to 6 nautical miles, as it is now. IFCAs will be responsible for marine species management out to 6 nautical miles – as Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs) are now – with the addition of estuaries as far as the tide flows. The MMO will be responsible for enforcement of marine nature conservation and national and EU fisheries provisions out to 200 nautical miles and for British vessels on the high seas. The MMO will take action in the inshore area where national measures are required and in cases where nature conservation is at risk from non-fisheries threats, and it may be that the MMO will wish to delegate certain functions in this area to IFCAs or the Environment Agency.

88.The Secretary of State may add a body, or a description of a body, to the list by Order, and may also remove bodies or descriptions of bodies from the list. The list is likely to change over time to take account of bodies being created, merged or disbanded, or to reflect a change of name. An example of such a change is that local fisheries committees (commonly known as Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs)) will need to be removed from the list of bodies once IFCAs have been established; however, SFCs still need to be included in the list to cover the period between Royal Assent and the establishment of IFCAs. As the MMO evolves in future and takes on additional functions, further bodies may need to be added to the list.

89.The Secretary of State must be satisfied that a body which is to be added to the list has at least one purpose or function relating to or connected with a marine function. The power to add bodies to the list is not limited to public bodies because private bodies may be better placed to provide some functions or provide better value for money.

Section 17: Non-delegable functions

90.This section sets out functions that the MMO or an eligible body may not be authorised to perform under an agreement.

Section 18: Maximum duration of agreement

91.The maximum amount of time that an agreement between the Secretary of State and the MMO or an agreement between the MMO and an eligible body may last is 20 years.

Supplementary provisions
Section 19: Particular powers

92.Subsection (3) of this section provides for various cases where the body being authorised to carry out a function under an agreement is already involved with the function in some way. It may, for example, be a consultee or it may be required to give its consent to the exercise of the function or it may already exercise the function jointly with the body delegating the function. This section provides that an agreement may still be entered into with that body.

93.Subsection (6) ensures that the lack of a specific power to carry out a function does not prevent a body performing the function if that body has been authorised to do so under an agreement. It also provides that a body may delegate performance to a specially-formed body corporate or to a committee, sub-committee, member, officer or employee (except if the agreement itself prohibits this). However, subsection (8) provides that delegation of the performance of the function to anyone else is generally not permitted.

Section 20: Agreements with certain harbour authorities

94.This section makes additional provision in relation to agreements with harbour authorities which are local authorities. This provision is consequent upon the changes made to local government decision-making under the Local Government Act 2000.

95.Under that Act and subordinate legislation each function of a principal local authority is administered either directly by the full council or through executive arrangements, depending on the function. Detailed arrangements for the performance of the functions are specified in regulations made under section 13 of the 2000 Act.

96.Where, by agreement, a function is to be discharged on behalf of the MMO by a local authority exercising the functions of a harbour authority, the allocation of responsibility for the performance of that type of function under the 2000 Act and subordinate legislation (whether full council or executive) will apply. The full council (or executive, as applicable) of that authority may use various usual powers of delegation (for example to committees and officers of that same authority) to perform the function.

97.This section also enables local authorities which are also harbour authorities to work together jointly to carry out functions delegated to them by the MMO.

Section 21: Supplementary provisions with respect to agreements

98.Subsection (1) of this section requires agreements, and approvals for them, to be in writing and subsection (2) states that any such agreements must be published.

99.Subsection (3) provides that no power of a Minister of the Crown (under the Act or any other legislation) to give directions to a statutory body may be used to require that body to enter into an agreement or to prohibit it from doing so.

100.Subsection (4) applies Schedule 15 to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 (relating to the disclosure of information)  to bodies exercising functions under an agreement. This imposes requirements on each contracting body concerning the handling of confidential information and the situations where sharing of information between the contracting bodies is permitted.

Section 22: Interpretation of the Chapter

101.This section sets out how certain terms used within Chapter 3 of Part 1 should be interpreted.

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