Royal Navy Fisheries Protection

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 2018.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney 12:00 am, 11th June 2018

What assessment he has made of the level of fisheries protection to be provided by the Royal Navy after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

What assessment he has made of the capacity of the Royal Navy to protect UK fisheries after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

The Royal Navy plays a crucial role in patrolling the seas around the United Kingdom. As we leave the European Union, the needs and level of activity will change, and we are working with other Departments to assess what is required. The Royal Navy will continue to play a vital role in protecting UK waters.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Given that fisheries protection will be an important component of a sustainable post-Brexit UK fishing policy, has the Secretary of State liaised with his counterpart at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about what funds will be available to the Royal Navy for fisheries protection and whether the number of operational days will be increased?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

The Department received an extra £12 million from the Treasury that we prioritised for that area. We are in dialogue with our DEFRA colleagues to ensure that we have the right levels of policing and support in our territorial waters. The Royal Navy is absolutely committed to delivering that, and we will work with DEFRA to ensure that it happens.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

Will the Secretary of State consider basing the Type 26 and Type 31e frigates in Devonport to protect Cornwall and Devon, and to support the great inshore fisheries and conservation authorities that currently protect the waters?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend is a great champion of the fishermen of the north Cornwall coast, and I imagine that the deployment of the Type 26 would certainly see off the French and Spanish swiftly. He will be pleased to know that Plymouth will shortly be receiving an extra Type 23 frigate, which will be based at Devonport, and while I am sure that she will do some fisheries protection work, she will also be doing other work right around the globe.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Industries for the future)

Concerning the Royal Navy, SNP Members are most interested to hear whether the modernising defence programme will be grounded in the vacuous “global Britain” speak of Brexiteers, or if it will actually acknowledge the UK’s geostrategic location? Will the Secretary of State assure SNP Members that, unlike the 2010 and 2015 strategic defence and security reviews, the modernising defence programme will explicitly mention the north Atlantic and the high north, and their centrality to the assumptions made therein?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

The programme will mention fisheries, the high north and everything else that I am sure the hon. Gentleman would love to see in it.

Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury

The Fishery Protection Squadron is the oldest established unit in the Royal Navy, but does my right hon. Friend agree that technology is moving on and that a combination of data analytics, satellite imaging and the protections that we are now able to deploy around the Pitcairn Islands marine protected area, for example, are the sorts of technologies that we can add to save costs?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to consider new technologies to assist the Royal Navy and its work. It is a large ocean and there are many threats involved in ensuring that it is properly policed, so we need to embrace new technology, working hand in hand with the Royal Navy, to ensure that our waters are safe from foreign fishermen intruding into our territory.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

I am encouraged by what I hear from the Secretary of State about extra resources being made available. We anticipate an increase in the fishing fleet post-Brexit, so will he assure me that the fisheries protection fleet will expand accordingly?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Defence

We will be examining what capability our fisheries protection fleet needs. Three offshore patrol vessels are currently engaged in this work, so we will be considering whether that needs to be expanded and how to fund it properly.