It is a great honour to be able to speak in this very important debate. As has previously been said, this is the first time for many decades that this Chamber has been able to debate primary legislation relating to our fisheries.
The fishing communities that I have the honour of representing have a long-standing and proud tradition of fishing that goes back many, many generations. In fact, many of today’s fishermen are the sons and grandsons of fishermen. I have two primary fishing communities in my constituency: in Newquay and in Mevagissey. The fishing port of Mevagissey is the second largest in Cornwall and, in many ways, is doing well and is growing. The age of its fishermen is younger than average, and those fishermen are active and looking to the future. I remind the Secretary of State again that he did offer to meet the fishermen of Mevagissey. Virtually every time I speak to them, they remind me that this offer was made, so it would be incredibly good if he could come sooner rather than later.
It is a sad but well-established fact that our fishing communities have not fared well under the common fisheries policy. The industry was sacrificed in the 1970s as a bargaining chip when we joined the Common Market, and that sense of betrayal still runs very deep within our fishing communities. We should not under- estimate how strongly those feelings are still felt today. Therefore, it is understandable that many fishermen in Cornwall are still suspicious of the Government. Although some good commitments have been made to our fishing communities in recent months, it is absolutely vital that we see those words turned into actions and firm decisions and that we do not let down our fishing communities once again.
The CFP has failed effectively to manage our fish stocks and has all but destroyed the economic competitiveness of our UK fishing industry. Around two thirds of all fish caught in UK waters are now caught by non-UK vessels, and, of some fish stocks, around 85% of the quota is awarded to non-UK boats. By taking back control of our fishing waters and by taking back control of our quotas, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put right the wrongs that have been imposed on our fishing industry.
I welcome the clear commitments made by the Government and by the Prime Minister personally when she came, infamously, to Mevagissey last May, at the very start of the election campaign, before our manifesto was launched. She met the fishermen and made some very clear commitments to them, and that was welcome, but it is absolutely vital that we do not again sell out our fishermen.
We are an island nation, and being an island nation presents a number of big challenges. One of the huge opportunities that we have as an island nation should be access to our fishing waters and to reap the rewards that that provides for our nation. That is what leaving the EU and leaving the common fisheries policy will enable us to do. I therefore very much welcome this Bill. It is essential that it is enacted so that we have the mechanism in place to manage our own fishing waters once we leave the EU. This will mean that we will have everything in place to do that if we do end up with a clean global Brexit come the end of March.
We need to look carefully at the matter of discards, which is the most common concern raised by my local fishermen. Discards are an utter and shameful waste of our fishing stocks. As other hon. Members have said, those rules mean that we are not able to know exactly what the stocks are, so it is important that we get it right and put the mechanisms in place to deal with the issue.
I have great admiration for both the Secretary of State and the fisheries Minister, and I know that they are very much on the fishermen’s side, so I would say to them that we have to ensure that we see through the commitments we have made to our fishing industry, that we do not sell it out again for access to markets, and that we give it the fair and right opportunity that it should have to reap the rewards of our UK fishing waters.