Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:07 pm, 21st November 2018

We know that coastal communities have suffered from austerity, and I will be talking about that further. However, I do not think it is appropriate to talk about individual cases.

However, having said what I have just said, we do not oppose the Bill at this stage, as it has turned out to be a mostly enabling Bill for making future decisions. It is clear that the Government have some way to go before we can all be satisfied with what is before us today. I hope that Ministers will reconsider parts of this legislation so that we can reach a consensus on the direction of travel. We intend to bring forward a number of key amendments in Committee to make those improvements.

In addition to looking at quotas, the Secretary of State also talked about the need to revitalise coastal communities, which have been badly let down by successive Tory Governments and the eight years of austerity. I represent a coastal community myself and have seen that damage at first hand. Those communities have been starved of investment. They have reduced services due to local government cuts, lower wages and stalled economies. If we look at the 98 local authorities that are on the coast, 85% of them have pay levels below the UK’s average, and, to date, the Government have done nothing to address that. Labour believes that well-managed fisheries and sustainable fishing practices can help reinvigorate many of these communities. This is a unique opportunity, as we have heard from the Secretary of State, to transform the way that we manage our fisheries to improve lives by driving economic prosperity, tourism and environmental benefits to our beautiful and unique British coastal areas.

However, if we look at the current distribution of quotas, it is clear that the system is not working in a fair or equitable way. According to research by Greenpeace, more than a quarter of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families on the rich list of The Sunday Times. We are well-accustomed to hearing about taking our fair share of quota at the European level, but many in our coastal towns and smaller fleet want to know when they will get their fair share of the existing national quota.

The Secretary of State has talked about the unfairness in quotas, but, in terms of the Bill in front of us today, the clear lack of proposals to redistribute existing and future quota can be seen only as an endorsement of the current unfair system. Labour will bring in amendments to improve that situation. Given what the Secretary of State said earlier, will he support us in those amendments?

Recreational fishing also has an important role to play in the development of our coastal towns. The Angling Trust believes that many towns could prosper by attracting anglers who would travel right across the UK and from overseas to take advantage of top-class angling in healthy, well-managed waters.