Committee Minutes

JNCC 04 M03
September 2004
 

CONFIRMED MINUTES OF THE SIXTY-FOURTH MEETING OF THE JOINT NATURE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE, HELD ON 29 SEPTEMBER 2004 AT MONKSTONE HOUSE, CITY ROAD, PETERBOROUGH, PE1 1JY

 

Present:

Professor Dodgshon
Professor Doyle
Dr Faulkner
Professor Ingram (Acting Chairman)
Mr Lloyd-Jones
Dr Markland
Dr Moser
Professor Pentreath
Mr Scott

In attendance:

Miss Bigger (secretariat)
Professor Galbraith
Dr Duff
Dr Fleming (item 10)
Mr Geairns (item 7)
Miss Littlewood (item 10)
Dr McLean (item 9)
Mrs McQueen (items 5 and 6)
Mr Thomas
Dr Vincent
Mr Yeo
 
 
 

Content

 

Decision papers

11 IUCN World Conservation Congress 2004 (JNCC 04 N05) – moved to decision papers
 

Discussion papers

 

Information papers

 

1      Chairman's Opening Remarks

                               
1.1     Chairman advised Committee that a new Chairman, Mr Adrian Darby, had been appointed and would start on 1 October 2004.  Chairman had contacted Mr Darby to discuss various matters and looked forward to serving under him.  Chairman thanked Mr Steer, Dr Vincent, Mr Yeo and other staff from the Support Unit for their kindness and support during his tenure as acting Chairman.
                               
1.2     Apologies were received from Sir Martin Doughty, Dr Blakiston-Houston, Rev Dr Stuart Burgess, Mr Steer, Dr Brown and Mr Jardine.  Chairman sent best wishes on behalf of Committee to both Sir Martin and Mr Steer, who were suffering from illness, and wished them a speedy recovery.
                               
1.3     Chairman welcomed Dr Duff to the meeting, who was representing Dr Brown.
                               
1.4     Chairman noted that it was Professor Dodgshon's last meeting as a Committee member and thanked him for his valuable contribution to the work of the JNCC.  Chairman presented Professor Dodgshon with a card and a gift as grateful thanks on behalf of Committee.
                               
1.5     Mrs McQueen updated Committee on recent progress with the FMPR relating to the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) and the pay remit.  There had been positive news about the progress of the RRO which would be considered by the legislative scrutiny Committee after the Parliamentary recess.  Work had already been done to prepare responses to any questions that might arise during the scrutiny process.  The pay remit had been approved by the Defra Minister and was now with Treasury for consideration. 
                               

2      Declaration of interests

                               
2.1     With respect to agenda item 9, Dr Duff noted his membership of the. Science and Innovation Strategy Board of the Natural Environment Research Council.
                               

3      Amendments to the minutes of the sixty-third meeting (JNCC 04 P13)

                               
3.1     The minutes were approved subject to the amendments already received.
                               

4      Matters arising (JNCC 04 P19)

                               
4.1     Dr Vincent introduced these items noting that since the publication of the Review of Marine Nature Conservation (RMNC) the Secretary of State had made an announcement of the Government's intention to introduce a marine bill.  The exact contents of the marine bill were still to be decided, but three main issues were likely to be covered:  measures needed in relation to spatial planning and development consent arrangements; measures needed to implement the RMNC recommendations adopted by Government; and fisheries regulation and enforcement reforms in England and Wales.
                               
4.2     With respect to the incidental take of small cetaceans, the Government had announced the intention to take forward UK unilateral action to prohibit trawling for seabass within 12 nautical miles and the licensing of vessels.  British vessels in the 12 – 200 nautical miles zone will require the use of mitigation measures.  Professor Pentreath added that the Minister, Ben Bradshaw, had recently announced that trawling for seabass would be banned from the beginning of November 2004.
                               

5      FMPR – future corporate governance arrangements (JNCC 04 P17A)

                               
5.1     Mrs McQueen introduced the paper, reminding Committee that the general corporate governance model had been considered previously by Committee.  The Support Unit had recently been notified that the Secretary of State would like the ability to impose a number of conditions on the company.  The FMPR sub-group had considered these conditions in their meeting that morning and wished to clarify some of them.
                               
5.2     With respect to the documents annexed to the paper, three related to the public sector environment (the management statement, financial memorandum and accountability framework) and two to the company (the memorandum and articles of association).  Each of the public sector documents had been the subject of consultation with the country agency Resource Directors and there were only some minor issues and presentational items to resolve.  If endorsed by Committee, the next stage would be to circulate the documents to Defra and the country agencies for formal adoption.  The draft memorandum and articles of association were at an early stage of development and were provided for context – Committee were asked to comment on the company documents.
                               
5.3     Not all of the original principles agreed for FMPR implementation (such as simple and straightforward lines of accountability) had been met in full because of the complex relationship between the JNCC, the country agencies and Government.  Clearer lines of accountability had been developed but they were not completely straightforward.  However, the proposed arrangements were workable.
                               
5.4     Committee recognised the huge package of work and thanked the staff for developing the documentation.  They recognised that there were some minor issues to be resolved with the Resource Directors and Committee agreed that the Chairman could then have final sign off.
                               
5.5     It was important to ensure that the definitions within the documents, particularly in respect of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee were consistent and clear and that they also matched legal references to the Committee in statute.
                               
5.6     Committee noted that following on from the schedule of delegations presented to Committee at their meeting in June 2004, further work was underway to develop accountability statements to outline in more detail the roles and responsibilities of Committee members, company members and company Directors.  In addition to this there would also be a document which bridged the link between the public sector requirements of the Committee, and the company.
                               
5.7     It was recognised that Directors of the company would have responsibility for health and safety in relation to employees.
                               
5.8     Committee agreed that the conditions imposed by the Secretary of State on the governance of the company seemed reasonable but it would be necessary to clarify in particular the item relating to winding up the company.  Whilst the principle behind this was endorsed by Committee, Directors of the company needed to understand their powers with respect to this issue.  Committee reiterated their view that Committee members should be Directors of the company.
                               
5.9     Committee noted some minor drafting points:  as the relevant department in the Welsh Assembly Government had changed name a number of times in the last few years it might be preferable to insert 'or appropriate' after the reference to this department in the document.  In addition, the reference on p36 to the annual budget might be better explained with the insertion of the work 'recurrent' before 'annual budget' to indicate the nature of planning and budgeting.
                               
5.10   Committee endorsed the draft framework document, management statement and financial memorandum as the JNCC's proposals for the governance of the JNCC, subject to the comments raised above, and noted the draft memorandum and articles of association.
                               
5.11   The Committee noted that the FMPR Sub-group had considered the FMPR recommendations requiring primary legislation in the context of the drafting of the Natural Environment (Delivery) Bill.  The Sub-group had agreed that the Bill was an appropriate vehicle for taking forward the issues on which agreement had been reached previously, and the Chairman would inform Defra accordingly.  Any other issues would be brought back to the Committee for further consideration.
                               

6      FMPR – the JNCC Audit and Risk Management Committee (JNCC 04 P17B)

                               
6.1     Mrs McQueen introduced this item noting that the paper set out the proposals for the JNCC Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC), prior to and after 2005.  The general principles outlined in the paper were based on standard and well established best practice with some unique points particularly relevant to the JNCC's arrangements.  The ARMC would be established by the company but its scope would cover matters not only related to the company but also those reserved by the Committee.  The ARMC would be accountable to the company board but would also have a direct route to the Committee.
                               
6.2     As the country agencies are still accountable for the JNCC's business it will still be necessary for the country agency ARMCs to incorporate JNCC matters into their business, with English Nature taking the lead role, in line with the general accountability arrangements.  From April 2005 most items would be delegated to the JNCC ARMC with the ARMC reporting back to the country agency ARMCs to provide assurance.  It was proposed that the JNCC ARMC be set up immediately as a shadow body, working in parallel with the country agency ARMCs, but concentrating on the new arrangements as opposed to current operations.  Following April 2005, the company would then be able to set up the ARMC formally.  Committee were asked to agree membership of the ARMC.
                               
6.3     CCW and SNH both agreed that it would be sufficient for their respective ARMCs to see only annual and risk management reports on a routine basis rather than seeing all reports issued to the JNCC ARMC.
                               
6.4     The Audit and Resources sub-group of Committee had recently discussed membership of the JNCC ARMC and Committee endorsed their recommendation that composition should be four non-executive members of Committee and an independent external member (who would be appointed once Committee membership had been agreed, to complement the scope of competencies).  Committee agreed the appointment of the following members to the ARMC:  Professor Ingram (Chair), Professor Pentreath, Professor Sprent and Mr Riddleston.  Professor Sprent's appointment was subject to her confirmation as Mr Scott's replacement on the JNCC.  As Professor Dodgshon's successor on the Committee was still to be confirmed, CCW suggested that Mr Riddleston (Chair of the CCW ARMC) might be an appropriate alternative appointment.  Committee noted that it would be important for the ARMC to meet prior to December 2004 in order to agree audit arrangements for the new organisation and therefore endorsed the appointments subject to further review in April 2005 when the company board would need to appoint members formally.  Committee agreed that should Professor Sprent's appointment not be possible before April 2005, Mr Scott should sit on the JNCC ARMC up to this time.
                               
6.5     Committee acknowledged that it would be important to clarify the access of country agency Chief Executives to the ARMC, particular in the case of the English Nature Chief Executive as lead Accounting Officer who should have access to the ARMC and be able to attend meetings when necessary.  However, Committee also recognised that the ARMC could summon Chief Executives to answer certain questions should the need arise.  Accounting Officers meant all the country agencies Accounting Officers acting together, with Andy Brown as the lead Accounting Officer, the reference on P6 should be clarified to explain which Accounting Officer this referred to.
                               
6.6     Committee endorsed the principles and arrangements set out in the paper and agreed the terms of reference for the JNCC Audit and Risk Management Committee.  Four members of Committee were elected to serve on the JNCC ARMC, subject to the points raised above.
                               

7      The options for the future corporate identity of the JNCC (JNCC 04 P18)

                               
7.1     Chairman introduced this item, advising Committee that the FMPR sub-group had discussed the issue that morning and had reached a consensus that there was a need to seek some potential new names to be considered by Committee at their next meeting.  The group had recognised the difficulties inherent with changing the organisation's name, such as the possibility for confusion at a time when the Integrated Agency was being formed in England and the ability to choose the right words to represent the organisation.  However, the group had recognised the value in continuing to explore the process.
                               
7.2     Committee noted that there were a number of reasons why a change to the corporate identity was being explored.  The new strategy signalled a new direction for the JNCC and it would be appropriate in line with that to examine how the organisation is presented.  Additionally, it was recognised that the current name did not represent clearly the remit of the organisation and this often made it more difficult to explain the work of the organisation when meeting new contacts.
                               
7.3     It was important to recognise which audience the JNCC was aiming to reach, i.e. not only those in the conservation family and Government but also other organisations in and outside of the UK.  The results of the staff survey indicated that staff often found the name of the organisation a constraint when dealing with external contacts and the research relating to external partners showed that although they were aware of the organisation's work in their specific area of interest, they were not aware of the JNCC's wider remit.  The capital stored in the current name needed to be considered but evidence indicated that this might not be high.
                               
7.4     In terms of the cost of examining the corporate identity of the organisation, Mr Geairns advised that around £50k had already been saved by using staff from the Support Unit to conduct the research.
                               
7.5     Committee agreed that the Support Unit should commission work to draw up a short list of potential new names and assess these (together with the current name) against agreed criteria, bringing the analysis back to Committee in December 2004.
                               

8      JNCC Corporate Plan 2005 – 2008 (JNCC 04 P16)

                               
8.1     Mr Yeo introduced this paper highlighting that the corporate plan 2005 – 2008 was important as it was transposing the new strategy into a workplan for the organisation.  The paper summarised the changes to the planning and performance system, outlining that a programme structure would be introduced, with fourteen programmes linked to the eight strategic objectives (Annex A).  The programmes represented major components of the organisation's work and signified a more top-down approach to budgeting.  A programme leader would be responsible for each programme, and projects would be examined on a full-life cost basis, as opposed to yearly.  Annex B outlined the indicative programme budgets, relating to grant in aid only and on a constant price basis, with assumptions having been made about likely levels of Government funding from 2005 onwards.  The indicative figures had been agreed by the executive Management Board and represented a gradual shift in priorities since money was already tied up in long term commitments.  Decreases were planned in areas such as standard setting and support services and increases in areas such as international influencing.  It was recognised that there would be a need to do full reviews of some work over the next three years. The paper also requested Committee to consider their involvement in consultation with Government on the corporate plan.
                               
8.2     Committee welcomed the programme structure and noted that the priorities reflected discussions at their June 2004 meeting.  Where the current focus was light, in such areas as the Overseas Territories and the global footprint, it would be important to ensure that prioritisation ensured maximum benefit for the amount of resources.  Committee noted that two programmes accounted for a large amount of the total JNCC budget, and whilst there were complexities associated with these programmes, it was agreed that it would be appropriate to review the programmes to ensure they reflected a sensible split of components of work.  With respect to the marine mapping programme, Committee acknowledged that marine protected areas would be moving up the political agenda over the next couple of years.  The recent global earth heritage meeting in Dorset had demonstrated the importance of the Geological Conservation Review (GCR) and this should be reflected within the priorities.
                               
8.3     Other matters that Committee agreed should be considered during the planning process were the impact of the UK Presidency of the EU on the work of the organisation in 2005, and the delivery mechanisms used to achieve the strategic objectives.  The special structure of the organisation, with very close contacts between agencies and the JNCC, should be utilised to examine how the strategic objectives could best be delivered.
                               
8.4     Committee agreed that there would be merit in involving Committee members in the consultation meetings with Government.  There was also agreement that a consultation meeting to consider UK issues as a whole, and including the devolved administrations and Defra would be very desirable. 
                               
8.5     Committee noted the changes being made to the JNCC's planning and performance management arrangements, and endorsed the indicative budgets and top level priorities, subject to the points raised above.  Committee also noted that it would be beneficial for them to be involved in consultation meetings with Government.  The Support Unit would circulate dates for the meetings to Committee members.
                               

9      Proposed new contract with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology for the Biological Records Centre (JNCC 04 P14) – in confidence

                               
9.1     This item was considered in confidence and is included in a confidential addendum to the minutes.
                               

10    Review of Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (JNCC 04 P15)

                               
10.1   Dr Vincent introduced this paper advising that Schedule 4 lists birds which must be registered and ringed if kept in captivity.  Following a public consultation on the future of Schedule 4 in England and Wales, Ministers from Defra and the Welsh Assembly invited the JNCC to establish and apply scientific criteria for listing birds under the Schedule.  The paper presented the review and findings to Committee.
                               
10.2   The review made a number of recommendations, including the following;
                               
i         There should be a regular review of the Schedule (a 10 yearly basis was suggested).
                               
ii        A database of illegal activity in relation to the Schedule should be maintained.
                               
iii       Certain actions should be taken before any species is deleted from the Schedule.
                               
10.3   Professor Pentreath noted his concern that the case for deletion of some species from the Schedule had not been made clearly or strongly enough against the criteria.  Committee noted that by its very nature, there was a significant amount of uncertainty with respect to assessing illegal trade of species and some recommendations relied on the opinion of scientific experts.  Actions such as keeping abreast of the dynamics of wildlife trade informed judgements but it was recognised that it was hard to assess the exact amount of illegal trade.  It would be worthwhile reviewing the justifications made in the report to ensure that they were as clear and robust as possible.
                               
10.4   One of the other challenges in producing the report was to balance the reduction of the regulatory burden at the same time as ensuring the conservation of species.  It was noted that there were other mechanisms for supporting the conservation of many of the species considered under this review such as through the EC Regulations implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
                               
10.5   Committee acknowledged that the review and incorporated guidelines provided, for the first time, the rationale and criteria required to review the Schedule.  It was very important to engender support and belief in the Schedule to ensure that it carried the appropriate amount of weight within the bird keeping community.  There were some questions with regard to the funding of random DNA tests and the collection of blood samples as recommended in the report, but Dr Fleming advised that these processes were already undertaken by the wildlife inspectorate.  Introducing these processes also offered the opportunity for costs savings in the future by stemming any potential problems before they arise.
                               
10.6   On the question of registration of hybrids, Dr Fleming confirmed that the approach being taken was consistent with that adopted under CITES legislation.  Miss Littlewood added that there was concern about the number of some hybrid of birds escaping into the wild with the risk of genetic introgression with native species registration of hybrids also provided an opportunity to monitor this.
                               
10.7             Committee acknowledged the excellent work of the Support Unit in producing the review, endorsed the approach and approved the recommendations made, subject to the points made above.  Committee agreed that the review should be submitted to Defra and that it would be important to ensure that the JNCC is not held responsible for the listing criteria adopted at the stakeholder meeting following the public consultation. The Support Unit would examine some of the justifications for species deletion to see if a more robust case could be made and if there was any concern about certain recommendations these would be circulated to Committee via e-mail before the review was submitted to Defra.
                               

11    IUCN World Conservation Congress 2004 (JNCC 04 N05)

                               
11.1   Committee noted that this was now a decision paper as their endorsement of the objectives for the statutory agency delegation was required.
                               
11.2   Mr Yeo introduced the paper advising that it had been prepared by Marion Hughes from Scottish Natural Heritage.  The paper described the main themes of the Congress and highlighted the elements that were likely to be of particular interest to the JNCC and the country agencies.
                               
11.3   Committee endorsed the objectives for the statutory agency delegation.  With reference to paragraph 2.1 it was hoped that the UK Government would adopt a positive approach when responding to resolutions and recommendations approved by the Congress.
                               

12    Preparing for the UK Presidency of the European Union (JNCC 04 D09)

                               
12.1   Mr Yeo introduced this paper noting that the UK would hold the Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2005.  This provided an opportunity for the UK to take forward certain policy areas, although recognising that the UK would inherit most of its work from previous Presidencies.  Groups such as the International Network (an inter-agency group of the country agencies and the JNCC) had already been considering the opportunities, and climate change and policy integration had been identified as priority issues.
                               
12.2   The UK Presidency role will require considerable input in terms of co-ordination and place a substantial burden on certain areas – extra effort will therefore be required by Government, the country agencies and the JNCC.  Indeed, Dr Faulkner noted the marked and noticeable impact on workloads created by the Irish Presidency of the EU.
                               
12.3   Committee noted a number of areas connected to the EU Presidency role.  The Minister, Ben Bradshaw, had recently announced the setting up of a network of marine reserves, which would have far-reaching effects.  This also related to the European marine strategy currently being drafted and linked to OSPAR commitments.  English Nature would be taking the lead, with support from the country agencies and the JNCC, in organising the Annual Plenary Session of the European Environmental and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils in 2005.  Once the theme had been decided, Dr Brown, the Chief Executive of English Nature, would formally approach the country agencies and the JNCC for support.
                               
12.4   Committee noted the resource implications for the JNCC of supporting Government at major meetings of international environmental conventions during the Presidency period and agreed that a proactive approach should be adopted to ensure benefits for biodiversity.
                               

13    Developing the concept of an ecologically coherent network of OSPAR Marine Protected Areas (JNCC 04 N08)

                               
13.1   This paper presented the discussion document that had been prepared by the JNCC, in consultation with the country agencies and Government (including the devolved administrations),setting out proposals for what would constitute an ecologically coherent network of MPAs
                               
13.2   Committee noted the paper, recognising the importance of phasing the work and the resource implications.  It was noted that the reference to 'geophysical' in paragraph 4.10 might better be explained by using the word 'physiographic'.
                               

14    Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species:  13th meeting of the Conference of Parties, Bangkok 2 – 14 October 2004 (JNCC 04 N06)

                               
14.1   This paper highlighted some key issues anticipated to arise at the 13th Conference of Parties to CITES.
                               
14.2   Committee noted the paper which was both informative and helpful.
                               

15    Main outcomes of the Global Flyways Conference held between 2 – 8 April 2004 in Edinburgh (JNCC 04 N07)

                               
15.1   This paper provided a brief summary of the main outcomes from the Global Flyways Conference, including the agreed Conference Declaration and indicated the next steps in relation to implementing the outcomes.
                               
15.2   Committee noted the paper which was both informative and helpful.
                               

16    Note of the Audit and Resource sub-group meeting, 27 July 2004 (JNCC 04 N04)

                               
16.1   Committee noted the paper.
                               

17    Any other business

                               
17.1   Professor Doyle updated Committee on the recent Global Earth Heritage conference hosted by the JNCC in Dorset.  The meeting had been a great success with all inhabited continents being represented and attendees demonstrating a real desire to learn and gather information.  The conference endorsed the important role for the JNCC in the global footprint area of work.  Professor Doyle thanked the JNCC staff involved for their hard work in ensuring that the conference was a success.
                               
17.2   Mr Lloyd-Jones formally thanked Professor Ingram on behalf of the Committee for assuming the role of acting Chairman.  It had been to Professor Ingram's great credit that the momentum on the FMPR and strategy changes had been maintained and this was very much appreciated by Committee and the staff within the Support Unit.