Fisheries Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 21st November 2018.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 4:14 pm, 21st November 2018

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. In relation to Norway and the EU, access to resources is negotiated on an annual basis and Norway has tariffs attached to its fish. There is no link there, and it is completely wrong for people to say otherwise.

I see that my Cornish colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend George Eustice, is in his place. I was going to ask the Secretary of State this question, but I shall ask my hon. Friend instead. Will he please ask the Secretary of State to categorically reaffirm that British fish will not be used to buy a trade deal with the EU? Will he also ensure that only the fish that United Kingdom vessels—I do mean United Kingdom vessels, because Scottish vessels will benefit from this as well, as will those from Wales and Northern Ireland—cannot catch will be made available to other nations? Can he also assure me that, because the catch levels of the UK fleet have been artificially deflated since 1983, allowance will be made for UK fishermen to realise their total catching capacity?

The NFFO would like the Government to establish a formal advisory council to guide policy, promote collaboration between central Government, the devolved Administrations and the industry, and allow an ongoing dialogue in what is a naturally variable industry. An advisory council could play a leading role in the use of secondary legislation to ensure an agile and responsive approach to fisheries management.

It is understandable that the Bill refers to maximum sustainable yield as an approach to sustainable fisheries management. However, if maximum sustainable yield is set as a rigid, time-bound objective, it will prove unworkable. We have seen that happen time and again, and the CFP is the prime example. Setting quotas for sustainable fisheries management in mixed fisheries must take into account a number of different, and sometimes competing, factors. In an earlier intervention I mentioned zonal attachment, which is an important new way of looking at fisheries management and the assessment of stocks.

Where agreement between fisheries administrations cannot be reached, some sort of approach is needed that allows appeal. It would be useful if the Minister considered putting in place a dispute resolution system that would not impact on fisheries.

I have a few asks for the Minister. Will he look at clause 42, particularly subsections (3) and (5). We need a date for when the provisions come into force, because the fishing industry needs to be able to plan. It has accepted that the implementation period will not end until 31 December 2020, but it would be reassured if we inserted the words “no later than 31 December 2020” into those two subsections.

To sum up, setting aside the complex and controversial questions surrounding parliamentary approval for the withdrawal agreement, much still hinges on the negotiations ahead. The UK’s legal status has altered and its leverage in fisheries negotiations has changed dramatically, but unless that new status is used to address the distortions in quota shares, fishermen will question what it has all been for. English fishermen in the channel have struggled with a 9% share of the cod quota, compared with France’s 84% share—it has been exactly the same for haddock, which my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson mentioned.

To deliver the fair share of fishing opportunities that they rightly see as theirs, British fishermen, in this second round, will expect our negotiators to be as tough, astute and hard-nosed as they need to be to realise the benefits of our new status as an independent coastal state. I really hope that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have got that message from fishermen today.