New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 13th October 2020.

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‘(1) A sea fish licensing authority may make arrangements for—

(a) any of its fisheries functions, or

(b) any of its product movement functions that are not fisheries functions,

to be exercised on its behalf by another sea fish licensing authority.

(2) Arrangements made by a sea fish licensing authority under subsection (1) in relation to a function do not affect that authority’s responsibility for the exercise of the function.

(3) A sea fish licensing authority that exercises functions on behalf of another sea fish licensing authority under subsection (1) may charge that other authority such fees as it considers reasonable in respect of the cost of doing so.

(4) Subsection (1) does not authorise the making of arrangements in relation to any function of making, confirming or approving subordinate legislation.

(5) The power of a sea fish licensing authority to make arrangements under subsection (1) does not affect, and is not affected by, any other power of the authority to make arrangements relating to the exercise of its functions by other persons on its behalf.

(6) In this section—

“fisheries function” means a function relating to fisheries, fishing or aquaculture;

“product movement function” means a function relating to the movement of fishery products—

(a) into or out of the United Kingdom, or

(b) within the United Kingdom.’—(Victoria Prentis.)

This new clause confers powers on the sea fish licensing authorities to arrange for another such authority to exercise any of their fisheries functions or product movement functions.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clauses 9 and 10.

New clause 1—Sea Fish Industry Authority: powers in relation to parts of UK—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 2(1) (duties of the Authority)—

(a) after the third “of”, insert “(amongst other things)”,

(b) delete the words “as a whole”.

(3) After section 3 (powers of the Authority), insert—

“3A Exercise of functions in relation to different parts of the UK etc.

The Authority may exercise its functions separately and differently in relation to—

(a) the sea fish industry in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(b) sea fish and sea fish products landed in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(c) sea fish and sea fish products trans-shipped in different parts of the sea within British fishery limits adjacent to different parts of the United Kingdom.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority greater flexibility to exercise its functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK. It inserts a new clause into subsection 3, which will enable the Authority to do this.

New clause 2—Sea Fish Industry Authority: delegation of functions—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 3A (exercise of functions in relation to different parts of the UK etc.), insert—

“3B Delegation of functions

(1) The Authority may authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf such of its functions and to such extent as it may determine.

(2) The Authority may give to any person authorised under this section to exercise any of its functions—

(a) financial assistance (by way of loan, grant or guarantee),

(b) other assistance including assistance by way of the provision of property, staff or services, for the purposes of those functions.”

(3) The giving of authority under this section to exercise a function does not—

(a) affect the Authority’s responsibility for the exercise of the function, or

(b) prevent the Authority from exercising the function itself.”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which will allow the Authority to authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf any of its functions to the extent determined by the Authority. It will also allow the Authority to give any such person financial and other assistance to do so.

New clause 3—Sea Fish Industry Authority: accounts and reports—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 11 (accounts and reports)—

(a) after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The statement of accounts must specify the total amount of income received in the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone.”,

(b) after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) The report must include details of how income received from levies imposed under section 4 has been applied in the financial year in respect of each part of the United Kingdom by the Authority in exercising its functions including in particular details, in respect of each part of the United Kingdom, of how the income has been applied by the Authority in—

(a) promoting the efficiency of the sea fish industry in that part,

(b) promoting the marketing and consumption of, and the export of, sea fish and sea fish products relating to that part.”.’

This new clause is intended to ensure that the Authority reports how income received from the levies it imposes has been applied in respect of each part of the United Kingdom.

New clause 4—Sea Fish Industry Authority: plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 11 (accounts and reports), insert—

“11A Plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies

(1) Before the start of each financial year, the Authority must—

(a) prepare a plan setting out—

(i) an estimate of the total amount of income that the Authority expects to receive during the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone (“Scottish levies”), and

(ii) a description of how the Authority proposes to apply that income in the course of exercising its functions, and

(b) refer the plan to the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1 (“the Scottish committee”) for approval of the Authority’s proposal mentioned in paragraph (a)(ii).

(2) If, as a result of relevant regulations, the Authority estimates that the total amount of income that it expects to receive from Scottish levies during a financial year is greater than the total amount of income that it received from Scottish levies during the previous financial year, the Authority’s plan prepared under subsection (1) for the financial year must include a statement describing how the Authority proposes in particular to apply the additional income from Scottish levies in the course of exercising its functions.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

(a) “relevant regulations”, in relation to a financial year, means—

(i) regulations made by the Authority under section 4(2) during the previous financial year, and

(ii) regulations which the Authority expects to make, and to be confirmed by the Scottish Ministers, under section 4(2) during the financial year,

(b) the total amount of income received by the Authority from Scottish levies during a previous financial year is the total amount of such income as recorded in the Authority’s accounts kept under section 11(1) in respect of that year.

(4) The Authority—

(a) must publish a plan prepared under subsection (1) as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving the Scottish committee’s approval as mentioned in subsection (1)(b), and

(b) may publish the plan in such manner as it considers appropriate.

(5) The Authority must, as soon as reasonably practicable after publishing a plan under subsection (4)—

(a) send a copy of the plan to the Scottish Ministers, and

(b) lay the plan before the Scottish Parliament.

(6) The Authority must have regard to each relevant plan—

(a) in the exercise of its functions, and

(b) in particular, in authorising any other person under section 3B to exercise any of its functions on its behalf.

(7) A person who is authorised by the Authority under section 3B to exercise any of the Authority’s functions must have regard to each relevant plan in the exercise of those functions.

(8) In subsections (6) and (7), “relevant plan”, in relation to the exercise of a function, means—

(a) the latest plan published under subsection (4), and

(b) any earlier plan published under that subsection in so far as it contains a proposal mentioned in subsection (1)(a)(ii) (or, as the case may be, in subsection (2)) to apply income during the financial year in which the function is being exercised.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to ensure the Authority sets out an annual plan that outlines how it intends to apply the levy income it expects to receive. This plan must make comparison to the levy income of the previous year and where the levy income is expected to be higher detail how the Authority proposes to apply the additional income from Scottish levies.

New clause 5—Sea Fish Industry Authority: committee for Scotland—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In schedule 1 (the Sea Fish Industry Authority), in paragraph 16—

(a) before sub-paragraph (1) insert—

“(A1) The Authority must appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.

(A2) The committee is to consist of or include persons who are not members of the Authority.

(A3) The Authority must consult the committee on the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.”,

(b) in sub-paragraph (1), before “committees” insert “other”,

(c) in sub-paragraph (2), for “such committees” substitute “committees appointed under this paragraph”.’

This new clause’s new provisions require the Authority to appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland. They additionally require the consultation of this committee on the exercise of the Authority’s functions in relations to Scotland.

New clause 6—Sea Fish Industry Levies: powers in relation to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 4 (levies)—

(a) in subsection (2), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) in subsection (7), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(c) after subsection (8) insert—

“(8A) In this section, ‘appropriate Ministerial authority’ means—

(a) in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone, the Scottish Ministers,

(b) in any other case, the Ministers.”,

(d) in subsection (9), after “order” in both places where it occurs insert “of the Ministers”,

(e) after subsection (9) insert—

“(9A) Any order of the Scottish Ministers—

(a) under subsection (2) is subject to the negative procedure,

(b) under subsection (7) is subject to the affirmative procedure.

(9B) Before laying a draft Scottish statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (7) before the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Ministers must consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.”.

(3) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), in the definition of “the Ministers”, in paragraph (c), after “with” insert “(except in the case of an order under section 4(2) or (7))”.

(4) In schedule 2 (Sea Fish Industry Levies)—

(a) for “Ministers” in each place where it occurs substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) after paragraph 3 insert—

“4 The Scottish Ministers must, before making an order confirming any regulations, consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.

5 In this schedule, ‘appropriate Ministerial authority’ has the same meaning as in section 4 of this Act.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to devolve, to the Scottish Ministers, the control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by the Authority. Currently, levies imposed by the Authority require confirmation by the relevant Ministers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers. The new clause intends to ensure that levies imposed in relation to Scotland require confirmation by Scottish Ministers.

New clause 7—Sea Fish Industry Levies: definitions relating to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), after the definition of “the Ministers” insert—

“‘Scotland’ and ‘the Scottish zone’ have the same meanings as in the Scotland Act 1998 (see section 126(1) and (2) of that Act);”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which makes consequential new clause to section 14 (interpretation of Part 1) of the 1981 Act by inserting definitions of “Scotland” and “the Scottish zone”.

New clause 11—Safety Regulation Within the Exclusive Economic Zone

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall, after consultation, develop a regulatory regime for fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone with regard to—

(a) adherence to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels 1993 and Cape Town Agreement of 2012

(b) regulation of safety of navigation by fishing vessels within the EEZ

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) the regulatory regime shall be agreed with devolved administrations, whose consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, and shall come into force no later than 31 December 2022.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) “regulation of safety of navigation” shall include, but not be limited to, regulation of acts by a person in charge of a fishing boat which causes or attempts to cause a collision or risk of collision with another vessel within the EEZ

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), a “person in charge of a fishing boat” shall include the master, the owner and the charterer (if any) of that vessel.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under regulations made under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—

(a) imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years,

(b) a fine, or

(c) both.’

The purpose of this new clause is to give the Secretary of State power to make regulations governing the safety of fishing vessels working within the EEZ in accordance with existing treaty obligations.

New clause 12—Safety of Fishing Vessels in the Exclusive Economic Zone—

‘(1) A person in charge of a fishing boat commits an offence if that person uses the vessel to—

(a) harass or impede another vessel within the EEZ, or

(b) endanger the safety of another vessel and/or those crewing it within the EEZ.

(2) For the purposes of this section (1), a “person in charge of a fishing boat” shall include the master, the owner and the charterer (if any) of that vessel.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) shall be responsible for—

(a) monitoring the conduct of vessels within the EEZ, and

(b) passing information to a prosecuting authority.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—

(c) imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years,

(d) a fine, or

(e) both.

(5) The court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence under this section may award compensation for loss of earnings or damage to property caused as a consequence of the offence.

(6) Where a fisheries protection officer, an official of the Maritime Coastguard Agency or a Police Constable has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed under this section, he shall have power to detain in port any vessel or equipment used in the commission of that offence.

(7) Any property detained under subsection (6) shall not be held for longer than seven days unless authority to extend that period is granted by

(f) a Sheriff in the Sheriff Court in Scotland; or

(g) a judge in the Crown Court in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

(8) Any property held under subsections (6) or (7) shall be liable to forfeiture at the conclusion of any criminal proceedings brought under this section.’

The purpose of this new clause is to give the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) appropriate powers to enforce safety within the limits of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone. A person guilty of an offence shall be liable to criminal prosecution and civil proceedings for damage, loss of earnings and injury.

Amendment 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) The “sustainability objective” is that—

(a) fish and aquaculture activities do not compromise environmental sustainability in either the short or the long term, and

(a) subject to subsection (a) fishing fleets must—

(i) be managed to achieve economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of food supplies, and

(ii) have fishing capacity that is economically viable and does not overexploit marine stocks.

(2A) The sustainability objective is the prime objective.’

This amendment makes the sustainability objective the prime fisheries objective and alters the definition of the “sustainability objective” to make other objectives subject to environmental sustainability in the short and long term.

Amendment 57, in clause 1, page 1, line 14, after “the” insert “short and”.

This amendment would change the ‘sustainability objective’ to require that fish and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in both the short and long term.

Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 2, line 32, at end insert—

‘(b) seafood landings into United Kingdom ports are increased and maximised; and

(c) that an average of not less than 65% of seafood caught in English waters, across all relevant species, should be landed in English ports.’

This amendment would amend the “national benefit objective” to include a commitment to increase seafood landings into the United Kingdom and create a specific target for English ports.

Government amendments 4 to 11, 36 and 12 to 24.

Amendment 3, in schedule 3, page 53, line 24, at end insert—

‘Prohibition on fishing boats greater than 100 metres in length in English waters

1A (1) Any sea fishing licence issued by the sea fish licensing authority for England must include a condition prohibiting the use of a fishing boat greater than 100 metres in length in any of the protected areas specified in subsection (2).

(2) The protected areas to which the prohibition in subsection (1) applies are marine conservation zones and marine protected areas as defined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations add to the list of protected areas in subsection (2).’

This amendment would include in the sea fishing licence conditions a prohibition on using a fishing boat longer than 100 metres in protected areas in English waters.

Government amendments 25 to 35 and 37 to 56.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This Bill marks a really important step forward as we leave the inflexibilities of the common fisheries policy. It puts in place the framework necessary for the UK to operate as a responsible, independent coastal state. It allows us to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries to provide benefits for future generations.

The Bill’s fisheries objectives place sustainability front and centre. Six out of the eight objectives relate to protecting the environment. It is critical that we are able to balance those objectives as we need to. Additional quota we receive following the negotiations will be allocated in a new way, and I am pleased that two consultations on quota distribution were published today. That makes good our commitment in the 2018 White Paper, of which my Secretary of State is particularly proud, having put a lot of work into it himself.

This Bill is the product of collaborative and constructive working across all four Administrations of our nation and I am pleased that all the devolved legislatures have consented to the Bill. It was, unfortunately, however, important to wait until we had that consent before we brought forward further amendments on their behalf and that is why I am slightly embarrassed to say that the Order Paper is full of very technical Government amendments. Many are amendments that the devolved Administrations could have made themselves, but given the pressures on all the parliamentary timetables in the run-up to the end of the transition period, we felt that in a spirit of co-operation we should, if possible, make these changes for them.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I understand the position with regard to the devolved Administrations, but I do not understand the position with regard to Government amendment 36 and the Channel islands. Why has that been brought to the House at this stage in proceedings?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will, if I may, come to that very shortly. It is an important point and one that I personally am very interested in, having been on the Select Committee on Justice and written a report on that very subject.

The most substantive changes in the amendments cover provisions that make clear the ability of the devolved Administrations and the Marine Management Organisation to delegate functions between each other, the extension of schedule 10 marine conservation powers to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and amendments to Northern Irish and Scottish statutory instruments to bring them in line with UK and Welsh SIs under schedule 2. The final amendments are needed to implement the international treaty with the Faroe islands.

Government amendment 36 includes a permissive extent clause that will allow the UK Government to legislate for the Crown dependencies to ensure compliance with our international obligations. That follows a great deal of discussion with the Crown dependencies and I recognise that they take their international obligations seriously. This is a subject I personally have long been very interested in and I have discussed the matter with the Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill, as well as other Members across the House.

I reassure Members and, indeed, the Crown dependencies, that activation of the permissive extent clause would only ever be used as a last resort and I am looking forward to continuing discussions with the Crown dependencies on that in the next few days and weeks.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

My hon. Friend does know this, because she was a great servant of the Justice Committee when she was a member: it is not just a question of continuing discussions. As things stand, the Governments and legislatures of both Jersey and Guernsey object. It is not just that they do not think a permissive extent clause is necessary; they object to its inclusion in the Bill. It is truly unprecedented for the Government to insist upon a permissive extent clause without the agreement of the relevant Crown dependencies. Why, even in an emergency, go down this rather provocative step? Why not wait until such time as an emergency arises and let them legislate, as they have indicated they would?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have nothing but the greatest respect for the Chairman of the Justice Committee, on which I was very proud to serve for so many years. He and I have discussed this very issue before. The Government feel that it is important, given that these are significant matters of international law, that we retain the ability to legislate for the Crown dependencies if they do not show the inclination to do so when needed. We very much doubt that this will be necessary. I am sorry that they are upset by this stand, but I do feel that it is the right thing to do in the circumstances at the moment.

Government amendment 55 repeals provisions of retained EU law concerned with the catching of cod in the North sea, which, as drafted, do not achieve what they were put in place to do.

Seafish is a fantastic UK-wide organisation that promotes the efficiency of the UK seafood industry.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

Many fishermen, including those in Hastings and Rye who manage the under-10 metre fishing fleet, voted to leave the EU to regain total control over our territorial waters. They are seeking clarity and reassurance on clause 12, and that no foreign vessels will be permitted to fish or be granted licences to fish in the 12 nautical miles off the UK coast. Can the Minister give that reassurance and clarity?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I would be delighted to. The Government have been clear throughout that access to the UK’s territorial seas is out of scope for any fisheries framework agreement with the EU. Any access negotiated with the EU will cover only the UK’s exclusive economic zone, and not the 0 to 12-mile zone. That remains the case.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Education)

I have had a fair bit of correspondence with the Minister’s Department and I wonder if she will look again at funding for the enforcement vessel. The reply I had from her states was that no funding is available for the enforcement vessel, but surely if she wants to support her hon. Friend Sally-Ann Hart in taking back control of our waters, we must ensure that that is enforced.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Enforcement is very important and I will look out for the hon. Lady’s correspondence and ensure she gets a full reply. In our view we have sufficient vessels to control our waters. We cannot reduce risk levels to zero. The size of our EEZ, the potential number of EU and third-country vessels that fish in our waters, and the potential lack of electronic data, mean that this is not feasible. However, we are confident that sufficient capacity is in place to prevent illegal fishing. We take this matter extremely seriously and I would be delighted to work further with her on that.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

If I may I will make a little progress because I know my hon. Friend is speaking later.

Seafish is a fantastic UK-wide organisation that promotes the efficiency of the UK’s seafood industry, and neither I nor—importantly—my counterparts in Wales or Northern Ireland support the amendments on Seafish. Seafish has provided excellent support and information to all the Administrations regarding the impact of the covid pandemic on the seafood supply chain. Seafish delivers the hugely popular national fish and chip shop of the year awards, which this year was won by The Cod’s Scallops—what a name—in Wollaton in Nottinghamshire.

Seafish is able to tailor its work to different priorities. For example, it works to trial new types of sustainable fishing gear for the Scottish fishing industry. It has established and run the well-respected Northern Ireland fishing industry safety group and supported the industries to establish the Aquaculture Industry Wales group. Seafish supports the fishing industry across the UK, regardless of how much each Administration contributes. However much the Scottish Government may protest and dispute it, the Scottish industry receives far more than its fair share in monetary terms of support from Seafish. The amendments pre-empt the findings of a review of Seafish and do not address the impact there would be on the valuable services that it provides for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I remain unconvinced of the need for these amendments.

Amendment 2 seeks to make environmental sustainability the Bill’s prime objective. This version of the Bill has significantly more focus on sustainability than its predecessor, and its objectives are unquestionably much stronger than those of the common fisheries policy. Unlike the CFP, and importantly, those objectives are legally binding on the fisheries administrations through the joint fisheries statement. We have also added the vital and world-leading climate change objective, which has been well received by non-governmental organisations. The bycatch objective addresses the root cause of discarding, rather than just focusing on the symptoms, as the CFP’s discard objective did.

The Government have a proud record on the marine environment. The global target is to protect 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020; we have exceeded that. Some 25% of UK waters are currently protected, and we are pushing internationally for new global targets to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. It is no accident that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Rebecca Pow, is present listening to the debate. Her side of the Department and mine work extremely closely to ensure that environmental sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.

The Bill’s fisheries management plans will revolutionise how we manage our fisheries more sustainably by setting out targets and actions for specific areas, stocks and types of fishing. This is a holistic approach that will take the whole ecosystem into consideration.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 6:30 pm, 13th October 2020

One of our fears, which perhaps the Minister can allay, relates to amendment 42. Wales and Scotland have complete control of those decisions through their devolved Administrations; Northern Ireland does not. Northern Ireland will be guided by the Secretary of State, who will make those decisions. I understand that the Government may consider making the Northern Ireland Assembly at some stage accountable for that issue, which means that they will have control. Is that the intention of the Government, and of the Minister?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am afraid it is too early to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I look forward to future discussions with him about that. Some of tonight’s amendments do relate to Northern Ireland, but I do not think that he will be surprised by any of them.

I am concerned that those who support the sustainability amendment are losing sight of the importance of the precautionary objective, which will ensure that we maintain and rebuild healthy fish stocks, and indeed the ecosystem objective, which is critical to allow us to take a joined-up approach to protecting our precious marine environment. Those objectives will together help to deliver for sustainable fishing much more than were we to have only the sustainability objective. I am concerned that those who support the amendment would see the other objectives deprioritised.

I am keen to be able to balance environmental, social and economic needs. I am worried that if the amendment is passed, it would mean that, for example, infra- structure projects in ports that might cause a short-term environmental detriment could not be built, which would in turn deprive coastal communities of future economic benefits. Another example is the issue of choke—when one fish quota is set so low that all other fishing in a mixed fishery is effectively prohibited. Over the past two years, if we had not been able to agree with the EU a small quota above scientific advice for cod in the Celtic sea, for example, the choke issue would have led to the closure of many valuable fisheries in the south-west that aim at other species, some of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

With coastal communities in mind, let us move to amendment 1. As we have said, we must have the flexibility to support the social and economic wellbeing of our coastal communities. Again delivering on a commitment in our White Paper, I am really pleased to announce that the Government have launched a consultation on proposals to strengthen the economic link licence condition for English-registered vessels.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It may well be a Labour party policy now, but it was in our 2018 White Paper. The economic link is the route through which we ensure that there is a benefit to the UK from quota fished by UK boats. I am glad to see consensus across the House on this issue; it is clearly a sensible policy. Our consultation proposes a more sophisticated approach than amendment 1 would deliver, and one that I believe will bring higher value benefits to the UK and its coastal communities.

The consultation proposes increasing the landing requirement to 70% for quota species, strengthening the quota donation requirement, or using a combination of the two to meet the economic link requirement. Quota donation directly benefits the under-10-metre fleet, and that brings great benefits to their local ports and communities. Under amendment 1, our vessels would lose the flexibility to land where it is most suitable for their business. That might not always been an English port. Fishermen want to land where they can get the best prices, where it is most convenient or where there is the most appropriate port infrastructure. For example, the Voyager, which is registered in Northern Ireland, is too big to land in any Northern Irish ports and must instead land into Ireland.

Turning to amendment 3, I know that my colleagues and their constituents—indeed, all our constituents—feel strongly about supertrawlers. There is only one UK- registered vessel in the category of over 100 metres in length, but I recognise that there are considerable concerns, for example, about the Lithuanian registered vessel, the Margiris. The Fisheries Bill provides powers to attach conditions, such as the areas that can be fished and the type of fishing gear that can be used, to fishing vessel licences. Foreign vessels permitted to fish in UK waters will have to follow UK rules—including, of course, our conditions. When vessels do not comply with the conditions of their licences, action can be taken to restrict or prohibit their future activities.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

I was under the impression that supertrawlers were registered and agreed by our own Ministry at the moment; I did not realise that they were not. The Minister implies that they are not.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Part of the problem is that there is no officially agreed definition of a supertrawler, but it is fair to say that we have one UK-registered vessel that is over 100 metres in length.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Is it not the reality that many of the issues that the Minister is talking about now will ultimately be decided during the trade negotiations with the European Union?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

No, I do not think that is the case. When we pass the Fisheries Bill, as I very much hope we will do shortly, there will be no question but that we will be able to impose licence conditions at the end of the transition period.

Pelagic fishing is the main method used by vessels that are over 100 metres in length. This takes place within a water column, and so is unlikely to affect the seabed features, such as reefs and sediment habitats, that most marine protected areas are set up to conserve. Prohibiting these vessels will not protect MPAs from fishing activities such as bottom-trawling, which we know damage them. As such, I am concerned that this amendment would not deal with the most important issues concerning MPAs. Instead, we should focus on preventing damage from the types of fishing that we know effect MPAs, which involve the trawling of nets on the seabed. More than 90 inshore MPAs are now protected from destructive fishing methods.

To date, the common fisheries policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures in offshore MPAs. To do that, we have required the consent of all the EU member states who fish there. Once we get to the end of this year, we will be free of that restriction and we plan to use the powers in the Bill to put measures in place very quickly. The House will welcome the fact that the Marine Management Organisation will shortly be launching a call for evidence on its assessment of the management measures needed in one inshore and four offshore MPAs. This is the start of engagement in advance of our new policies being put in place early next year. It is important that we develop these policies in conjunction with the industry. Fishermen want to work in partnership with us on this, as was demonstrated by the fishermen who raised concerns about the scallop fishery on the Dogger Bank, which we were then able to close.

Turning to new clauses 11 and 12, on safety, we all recognise that fishing remains a dangerous occupation. We are agreed that it is important that all fishermen have a fair and safe working environment. I would like once again to pay tribute to all those who work at sea and who are at sea now, and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about this important matter again today. And of course I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mrs Murray, who has worked so hard in this area, and to the other Members who have, too.

The Government strongly condemn any aggressive actions taken at sea that make safety worse, particularly when this is done deliberately. We have had appalling instances off Shetland, which I think we may be hearing about later, with German-Spanish gillnetters, and in the Baie de Seine with French vessels very recently, over the weekend. Videos of those incidents are truly horrifying, and the fact that there have not been real injuries recently is, quite frankly, a miracle.

I know this is a probing amendment, but I would say that the UK already has the powers to prevent unacceptable or dangerous practices within our territorial waters that cover all UK vessels anywhere in the world. We, like other coastal states, rely on flag states being responsible for the conduct of their vessels in our EEZ. We will explore what further action can be taken with the Marine and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and other interested parties. We will continue to raise issues with the flag state of any vessels concerned, as the MCA did with the German Government in June after the incident in the Shetlands.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The question is not about territorial waters; it is about operation within the exclusive economic zone, from 12 miles to 200 miles. The incidents off Shetland demonstrate beyond peradventure that there is no meaningful protection for our fishermen in those areas. Yes, the Minister is right that fishing is a dangerous industry, but it should not be made more dangerous by the sort of recklessness that we keep seeing, and if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has no powers to enforce that, it is only going to get worse. And by the way, it is not a probing amendment.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification and I look forward to working further with him on the important issue of safety. The MCA raised the particular issue that affected his constituency in June with the German Government and will continue to do so as hard as possible. We have also raised concerns with the French Government following the incidents in the Baie de Seine—perfectly lawful fishing activity by, I think, Scottish vessels—that took place on Sunday night.

In conclusion, this is a good Bill that learns the lessons of the common fisheries policy, and I know that that is recognised across this House. It puts in place a framework to develop sustainable fisheries, which will benefit the nation as a whole as we become an independent coastal state.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I rise to speak to the amendments that stand in my name and the name of the shadow Environment Secretary, my hon. Friend Luke Pollard. I begin by paying tribute to the six fishers who went to work last year and tragically did not return home.

For the Opposition, today’s debate is focused on two simple questions. First, how committed are this Conservative Government to sustainable fishing, and secondly, do this Government really care about jobs in coastal communities? I believe Labour’s amendments to this Bill make it stronger. Amendment 1 increases seafood landings into UK ports and calls for the majority of fish caught in English waters to be landed in English ports. Amendment 2 makes the sustainability objective the prime objective of the Bill and means that environmental sustainability will be considered in the short and the long term. Amendment 3 bans supertrawlers from vulnerable marine habitats and conservation zones.

Our amendments close the gap between what the Conservatives have promised to do and this Bill, because right now the Fisheries Bill does not make good on the Government’s commitments to fishers, coastal communities or voters concerned about the environment. Today, the Government have announced three consultations into how to split additional quota from EU negotiations, the allocation of quotas for new entrants to the sector and attaching licensing additions to vessels so that British fish is landed in British ports. Those are matters that have been repeatedly voted against in the Bill Committee. We do, of course, welcome their apparent adoption of Labour policy today, but consulting on something is not the same as taking action. We want the Government to make good on their promises to voters, not simply to pay lip service by announcing consultations on the day this Bill is considered on Report.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

The hon. Lady is talking about that economic link, but does she not recognise that it was a Conservative Government in 1988 that passed the Merchant Shipping Act and the European Court of Justice that overturned it? It is not Labour party policy; it was originally a Conservative policy many decades ago.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I know that the hon. Lady speaks with great experience as chair of the all-party fisheries group, and I am sure that, like me, she will be aware that for every one job created at sea another 10 are created on land—

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Eight—I stand corrected. Eight jobs are created on land to every one job at sea. The hon. Lady will see that there is a clear benefit. That is what amendment 1 speaks to.

I would like to speak in more detail about amendment 1, which will help bring investment back to seaside towns and ports. In recent years, coastal communities have faced declining wages and job opportunities. The statistic that I have just quoted is really important, which is that for every one job at sea, eight to 10 jobs are created on land. Labour’s jobs in coastal communities amendment takes this statistic and makes it into policy. Our amendment would bring much needed investment and job opportunities to areas that have struggled under the common fisheries policy and 10 years of austerity.

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Education) 6:45 pm, 13th October 2020

I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent speech and say that, like me, she probably doesn’t recall 1988 that well. At one time Hull was one of the world-leading areas for fishing ports and industry, so does she agree that Labour’s amendment could bring some much needed jobs to areas such as Hull?

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I absolutely agree. My hon. Friend makes an important point. I know that she is a hard-working campaigner for the fishing industry that benefits her community in Hull. That is why we believe that landing seafood caught in British waters in British ports will help to level up our coastal community. It will support jobs not just on boats, but in landing, processing and onward transportation.

With the sustainability objective, there is still time to seize the chance offered by amendment 2 to put in place fisheries legislation that begins to reverse biodiversity decline. In the Conservative election manifesto, voters were promised

“a legal commitment to fish sustainably”.

By the Government’s own admission, we will not be able to achieve the 2020 target for the good environmental status for many years

“unless there are further improvements to fisheries management measures.”

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the important things we must do to sustain our fishing communities is to ensure that our ports and landing areas are improved? There should be additional support for those areas so that we really can benefit from an increase in our seafaring catch.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his important point. I am sure he will be interested to know that the British Ports Association does indeed support Labour’s amendments this evening. That is because Labour’s amendments would ensure that fisheries management decisions are made through the lens of environmental sustainability, which will result in long and short-term benefits. It will result in a more resilient and productive marine ecosystem and lead to increased long-term catches, industry profits and benefits for coastal communities. Will the Minister give an assurance tonight, on the Floor of the House, that decisions made in relation to fisheries management will not compromise environmental sustainability in the short and long term, which, as she knows, is set out in the Bill?

Let me move on to amendment 3, which prohibits vessels greater than 100 metres in length from marine conservation zones and protected areas in English waters. These were defined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that, last year, supertrawlers, industrial vessels longer than 100 metres that hoover up hundreds of tonnes of fish a day, spent nearly 3,000 hours fishing in parts of UK waters that are supposed to be protected. These areas were created with the purpose of safeguarding vulnerable marine habitats and iconic species such as dolphins, yet in the first six months of 2020, supertrawler activity in marine protected areas was almost double that of the whole of last year.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West

Will my hon. Friend join me in asking the Minister why the UK Government have called for the global community to increase protection of world oceans by up to 30% by 2030 when they have shown a reluctance to follow through with their commitments by supporting a ban on supertrawlers fishing in marine protected areas?

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank my hon. Friend for making that important point. She is right: the Government like to call themselves a global ocean champion, but we want that same commitment back home, because at present our MPA network is nothing more than lines on a map. Our amendment 3 does just that.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Independent, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

I strongly support amendment 3, but I am sure the hon. Lady will understand why, as a Welsh MP, I cannot vote for an England-only amendment, although I understand why it is England-only. May I implore her to ask her colleagues in Cardiff to bring forward similar measures for Wales, to protect Welsh waters?

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. We have tried to make our amendments devolution-friendly, but we hope that our colleagues in the devolved Administrations will see merit in them.

Labour’s amendments are backed by Greenpeace, the Marine Conservation Society, Greener UK and the British Ports Association, to name but a few. I urge every Member of the House to think very carefully before they vote today about whether they will be voting to support more jobs in coastal communities, to protect marine habitats and to ensure the longevity of our fishing industry, because that is what the Labour party will be voting for.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

It is a great pleasure to speak in this historic debate. After 40 years, we can now look at a fishing policy for the United Kingdom, and it is a great moment. I sat in the European Parliament for 10 years, and I do not think many in this House, whether they liked the common agricultural policy or not, would stand up and support the common fisheries policy, because it was not a great success. This is the moment to rectify many of the wrongs that happened. As I have said before in the Chamber, there is no doubt that when we went into what was the Common Market back in the 1970s, the fishing industry paid a heavy price, and it is time to put that right. Not only was the share of fish wrong for United Kingdom fishermen, but the policy also saw millions of tonnes of healthy fish being discarded over the years. We now have the opportunity to put that right.

I very much welcome the Bill. The Government will probably be delighted that I am fully supporting them tonight; I will make no further comment on that. I support Government new clause 8, because we need to bring back control of our waters, so that we can catch more fish and manage it more sustainably. We also need to remember that many fish stocks move between national waters, and because there is common access to them, they are at risk of being over-exploited. We can do much more to manage this as an independent coastal state than we could when we were part of the common fisheries policy.

I think we can all agree that the common fisheries policy was not ideal. It was cumbersome and slow, and getting 26 member states to agree to any changes in policy was almost impossible. Outside the common fisheries policy, we can shut down places that are being overfished more quickly, like Norway, and open up other fishing grounds that can be exploited. I am glad that Ministers have been closely following the way that Norway approaches its agreements. We have signed an agreement with the Norwegians, which shows that this can be done; there is only the mere detail of signing the agreement with the EU, but that is proving a little difficult at the moment. Each year, our UK fishing fleet lands £32 million-worth of fish from Norwegian waters, so this is an excellent start.

We eat a great deal of cod in this country, some of which we catch and much of which we import. We have to ensure that we keep our export markets, because we export much of the fish we catch. In coastal communities like mine—we have a little coastline in Seaton, Branscombe and Beer; it is not massive, but it is there—people expect to see great benefits from leaving the common fisheries policy, and we need to see that turned into a physical reality. The Government are right to drive a hard bargain on fishing in these negotiations, because it is something that people really care about. We said in our manifesto that we would bring back our sovereign waters and the fish that come with it. It is socially and economically important to see the regeneration of our coastal communities after Brexit.

Our fishing sector employs over 25,000 people. Around 18,000 work in the fish-processing industry, which is important. It is important to enhance the fish processing industry and we have a great need to market this great fish that we catch. We have the opportunity to improve our dietary habits and eat a little more different fish. Many of those can be caught in Cornwall, and even those of us who live in Devon would be very happy to buy some Cornish fish.

Most of our fisheries are small family businesses. Over 80% of them employ fewer than five people. We can grow the sector with access to more fish and good reciprocal deals. Lots of people say that the fishing industry is not important, but I believe that it is very important to this country because we are a coastal nation. It is interesting that we can and will eat more fish. The more we have control over our fishing waters, the more interest there will be in eating fish. People are becoming more and more interested in the food they eat, and fish will be very much part of that.

The UK has a large fishing zone compared with many of our continental neighbours. Under the common fisheries policy, EU fishermen benefit hugely from reciprocal access to UK waters. In 2015, for example, EU vessels caught some 383,000 tonnes in UK waters, raising some £484 million in revenue. In the same year, UK vessels caught only 111,000 tonnes in EU member states’ waters, raising £114 million, so there is a great benefit to leaving the common fisheries policy. EU vessels benefited by a ratio of 6:1 under the CFP. I do not think anyone could believe that that is fair. We need to rebalance this and reduce EU vessels’ access to a more sustainable level. We are an independent coastal state. We reclaim our waters, we reclaim the fish and then we sit down and negotiate, under our rules and regulations, what access there may or may not be to European vessels.

When we leave the common fisheries policy at the end of this year, we will have control over our waters. This will be good for our marine environment and good for local fishing industries and coastal communities, who will benefit from a greater catch, especially for our under- 10 metre fleet.

The Government have been wise to look at the Norway model when it comes to fisheries because Norway has far greater control over its waters and acts quickly to shut them down if they are being over-fished. The Fisheries Bill is therefore a great opportunity to ensure that we can operate a more dynamic fisheries management system. The Bill is also a significant opportunity to deliver a much needed reversal of the fortunes of coastal communities and small-scale fishers, and I greatly welcome the direction of travel of our DEFRA Ministers. I also look forward to being able to help the sea anglers of this country and make sure that they have access to fish, because they are a huge economic benefit to the fishing industry but also to recreational fishing.

I welcome the Bill tonight.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I rise to speak to new clauses 1 to 7 and amendment 57 tabled by the Scottish National party.

It is notable that when Brexit negotiations ran into trouble recently the first concession that the Prime Minister’s hand-picked negotiator reached for was fishing. Straight off the bat, fishing was first to be sacrificed. It will be for a few years at first, but there will be more, step after step, until the promises that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made to foreign fleets will be realised. Their access to our waters will be assured.

The fact that the PM picked this negotiator and, one has to assume, gave him his instructions, shows that the attitude that the fishing industry is expendable goes right to the top of the Tory party and right to the heart of the UK Government. Given the impact a no-deal exit would have on the industry, getting a deal is essential, but in order to get a deal, this Government look willing to sell out the industry. Heads and the fishing industry loses; tails and the fishing industry loses also.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 7:00 pm, 13th October 2020

Does the hon. Lady accept that under the Scottish nationalist policy of staying in the EU, she would take Scottish fishermen back into the common fisheries policy against their will?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I think the hon. Lady is well aware of the SNP’s policy towards the re-entry of an independent Scotland into the EU, but I remind her that the Scottish Government have called the CFP

“the EU’s most unpopular and discredited policy”,

so we would certainly be starting negotiations from that point.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations sent out a briefing in advance of the Second Reading debate in which it said:

“If the Government backs down on its promises to the UK fishing industry, many of the objectives that the Fisheries Bill is aiming to achieve will be impossible.”

I do not share the optimism about the Bill in the first place, but I do share the concern about the impact on the fishing communities being sold out by a UK Government once again—sold out to get a deal on the way in and sold out to get a deal on the way out.

Brexiteers relied heavily on the fishing argument during the referendum, promising that leaving the EU would produce a “sea of opportunity”. That was only ever going to be for some of the fleets, and I fear that it will turn out to be nonsense for all of them. The repeated promises of this Government to our fishing communities over years that Brexit meant taking back full control of the seas have turned out to be as empty of delivery as the emergency Brexit ferry companies were empty of ferries. Chief negotiator David Frost confirmed that the UK Government were offering a three-year transition period for EU fishers in UK waters on top of the four and a half years since the referendum, but we still do not know what follows that. It beggars belief that we are in the closing months of the transition period and we are still negotiating terms with our nearest and most important seafood export market. We still have no outline of what those negotiations look like or what the possible deals might be. Fishing communities that rely on exports for the finances to keep their communities alive are being left hanging, with no deal or no prospect of a deal, massive bureaucracy if they now want to export, and huge queues at the border posts with only some vague promises that their product might be prioritised by customs. As an Ealing comedy, it lacks the humour and the humanity but it certainly has the farce in spades.

At the very least, we once again ask the Government to take this opportunity to give some assistance to our Scottish fishing communities and right an injustice that has been hanging around for a very long time and where they might do a little to make amends. New clauses 1 to 7 make the case effectively for devolving control of the Scottish aspect of levies imposed by Seafish to Scottish Ministers. It has long been the view of the Scottish Government that the current arrangements for the Seafish levy are not fit for purpose in Scotland and have had an ultimately detrimental effect on the promotion of our fine Scottish seafood. The inequity of the red meat levy has taken years to be resolved. It is more than time that the issue was finally resolved and management transferred to the Scottish authorities, as would be consistent with devolved competencies.

The new clauses would enable Scottish Ministers to further support the industry and promote the quality and excellence of our Scottish seafood products. While we will press only new clause 3 to a vote, I urge the Secretary of State and the Minister to revise their opposition to these very reasonable processes. New clause 3 brings transparency to the levy finances and the details of their distribution across the UK. Transparency seems to me to be a good thing. Surely no one could argue against that, and I can see no reason why the Government continue to resist it. After all, the Minister knows that a commitment was made at the time of the Smith commission that the Scottish and UK Governments would work together to explore whether to revise arrangements in respect of levy-raising using the specific examples of red meat and seafood. Now the red meat levy problem is finally on its way to being sorted, but I am afraid that the commitment to properly explore arrangements for seafood has not been followed through on. There has been no such work and no such exploration to date of those legal and practical arrangements, which is why I would like to see on the record today a commitment to do that, with a timeline to follow shortly thereafter for the long-promised internal and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs review of sea fish, which would take on board all the matters covered in my amendments.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General)

One point that I think is important to many in the Scottish fleet, as it certainly is to the Welsh fleet, is to see an increase in the reserve quota that would allow greater flexibility for our fleet. We are keen to see a provision in the Bill that would seek assurance that in the future that will be the case.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

All from the devolved authorities would like to see that, and the hon. Lady will recall that at the recent roundtable discussion between the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation the Minister said that a consultation will be taking place on the distribution of quotas between the devolved authorities. We are certainly looking forward to that. [Interruption.] And it has been launched today—good to hear.

New clause 3 would also mark a useful first step—long overdue—to giving effect to the agreed commitment in the Smith commission report. Fiscal transparency and accountability and a proper and thorough review of current arrangements would help determine whether an equitable share is being received and how to address any issues. This Tory Government may have forgotten the commitments made as part of that process to bolster devolution and strengthen Scotland’s powers, but we have not.

The Secretary of State made it clear the last time we debated this Bill that the involvement of the devolved nations had greatly improved it, but as that example shows, and as Liz Saville Roberts has mentioned, the Bill is simply still not good enough. It is a hastily cobbled-together mess, as we see when we look at the dozens of technical amendments tabled by the Government in a frantic attempt to tidy it up. I feel sorry for the civil servants who have had to operate under these conditions. We are left simply wishing that the Government had listened to the devolved Administrations when they were saying that we needed an extension before leaving the EU or, even better, when they argued against leaving the EU altogether. Here we are being asked to agree skeletal framework legislation simply to cover this Government’s intransigence and their British exceptionalist view—it is a fig leaf for the absence of a realpolitik attitude in Whitehall, and a failure to appreciate the situation that the UK found itself in before the pandemic arrived or the massively worse situation that unfortunately it finds itself in now.

We do know, but I will remind the House, that the law of the sea will be the fall-back position if, as looks increasingly and disturbingly possible, we end up in the worst of all possible worlds, with no deal. I know that some people have laid heavy bets on that scenario and stand to make a lot of cash from it, but massive wealth in the hands of some is no substitute for a decent living for many.

The Prime Minister, in his best Bertie Wooster chant, wants to, “Get Brexit done”, as if there is a crock waiting for us at the end of a rainbow, but even if we get a deal done, we have no certainty of the position for fisherfolk. As I mentioned, the Minister has announced just now that a consultation is being launched that will debate how any additional quota will be divided between the four nations, but that is if any additional quota is there to be shared. As the scientific advice and information from the Marine Stewardship Council makes clear, stocks are not in the best of health, so there may not be extra quota to share over that three-year extension to the transition period. Equally, the Government have not outlined what they intend to do about the large chunks of England’s quotas vested in foreign vessels or what they think might be a sensible way forward for reallocating those quotas over the next few years. Will it be the fishing equivalent of a Government land grab, or will things just be left well alone, so that the “sea of opportunity” remains nothing more than a “Narnia” tale to be recounted in years to come. The referendum was a couple of Tory Prime Ministers and two snap elections ago, but there still has not been anything worked out about how to deal with the fall-out. The light is dimming on our EU membership and only now, after this painfully long journey, is the question being asked about what to do. We recognise that some sort of legislative framework is needed; I should speak here to amendment 57 before I conclude. We propose inserting the word “short” before “long term” to ensure that sustainability is not an objective that can be kicked down the road and not dealt with until later, but must be worked on at all times. The UK, it must be admitted, is not achieving a sustainable fisheries management, so the amendment would encourage the UK Government to take into account sustainability when carrying out their duties. Our hope is that this will be seen as the constructive proposal that it is meant to be.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

If the hon. Lady has such a concern about sustainability, will the SNP start addressing the Scottish salmon fishermen?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is something the Scottish Government are taking in hand at the moment.

We recognise that some sort of legislative framework is needed and we have all heard the fears that there might not be time, even now, to put in place all the fishing legislation that is required, but my view is that the Bill is not what is needed. There is a shortfall between the great expectations that fishers and producers were fed by this Government and the deliverables. It is not enough, it is not in time and it does not do what it says on the tin.

Scotland is ill served by this Tory Government and their failures, but so is England. There was a time when Ministers would resign for getting it so badly wrong, but these days it seems that the default position is finding someone to blame, preferably someone in Brussels.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

It is an absolute pleasure to follow the spokesperson for the SNP, Deidre Brock. I have got some news for her: she said the light was going out on our EU membership, but as far as I am aware, we are in a transition period and the light switch has already been turned off. It is also a pleasure to speak during consideration of this historic Bill on Report. The Bill does provide a framework for fisheries management after sovereignty of this valuable United Kingdom resource is, rightfully, restored to this House.

I want to address some of the amendments. It is disappointing that the SNP has tabled such a divisive set of new clauses, using the valuable platform of the Sea Fish Industry Authority to peddle its nationalist agenda. Perhaps we should remember that Seafish is based in two locations, Edinburgh and Grimsby. Board meetings may be held at either office, or at other locations in the UK. Seafish covers the whole UK and has served the fishing industry well through its current structure. I urge every hon. Member to reject these divisive new clauses.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

No, I will not. Other people want to speak.

Other new clauses have been tabled by Mr Carmichael. I apologise for speaking to them before he has done so, but he is after me on the call list. I know he is well intentioned, given his interest in promoting safety aboard fishing vessels. He has been a strong voice for fishing safety for many years. Owners of UK-flagged fishing vessels are responsible for basic health and safety on board their boats, safe working practices and safe equipment. The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 include measures to encourage improvement in safety and health of workers at sea. As far as I understand it—the Minister will correct me if I have got this wrong—licensing will be able to control the terms on which vessels from other member states, or other nations, because there will not be member states as far as we are concerned, can access the UK 200-mile or median line limit. It will also ensure that the boats that fish in those waters are responsible, as is the behaviour of the skippers and crew of those vessels.

The amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland are really well intentioned, but I will not be able to support them, because we already have such provisions in place. The Bill provides the structure for the UK to manage fisheries responsibly after we have restored control over our 200-mile or median line limit—our exclusive economic zone. As someone who has suffered the direct consequence of a fatal accident at sea, and who, as a result, has a real interest in fishing vessel safety, I gently say to him that I do not believe that this is the right place for his amendments; perhaps he would like not to move them this evening.

I turn to the official Opposition’s amendments. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations says:

“The NFFO supports the sustainability objective” but believes that this should not be given

“primacy…over all other fisheries objectives”,

as this would be

“a fundamental impediment to practical and effective fisheries management.”

Paul Trebilcock from the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation says that

“our fishermen have no interest in bankrupting the fish stocks upon which the next generation will depend. As an industry, we have been proactive in seeking a Bill that recognises the real demands of modern fisheries management. This includes supporting conservation priorities such as bycatch reduction and managing stocks under climate change, as well as advocating for a system that can allow for the flexibility and adaptations required to deliver on these goals.”

The NFFO believes that a national landing requirement, although well intentioned, would cut across the ability of fishing vessels to land on to the most profitable market, and potentially generate unintended consequences. It welcomes the Government’s commitment to launch a consultation reviewing the economic link conditions. I genuinely feel that British fishermen will want us to ensure that the flagships that were allowed to stay on the British fishing vessel register through the Factortame case are gradually removed.

Industry representatives have welcomed the removal in Committee of the amendments made to this Bill in the other place. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has agreed to consult on these matters, as it will enable genuine fishermen to give their views. I urge this House to reject these amendments in any vote tonight. Although well intentioned, they were introduced in the other place and the fishermen felt that they were unnecessary.

I look forward to the moment when we take back control of UK waters, for which I have been campaigning for almost 40 years—and, yes, I am an old lady. I pay tribute to the late Tom Hay and John Ashworth, who campaigned alongside me at that time, as well as David Pessell from Plymouth Trawler Agents and his wife Alison. I genuinely believe that the future is bright for the fishing industry that I have been so close to for many years.

I urge our negotiators again—as I did on Second Reading—to hold firm in the negotiations. We must not accept anything less than annual negotiations and priority access to fish for our fishermen. I would like to point out that what people tend to misconvey when they talk about what was reported in the press as three years’ transition is the period of reducing quotas for other member states and gradually increasing quotas for UK fishermen. That is an important fact that I think the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith selectively missed out.

I had the privilege of naming the first electric passenger vessel, e-Voyager, in my local boatyard yesterday. The owner of Plymouth Boat Trips started out more than 20 years ago as Fish ‘N’ Trips, a small business founded on a lifelong passion for fishing. His name is Ben Squire, and with a £1,000 loan and a £500 grant from the Prince’s Trust, at the age of 21, Ben purchased a boat and took the first mackerel and deep sea fishing trips from Plymouth. He now has a sizeable fleet of fishing boats and passenger vessels. I look forward to the future for this great UK-wide industry, and I hope to see many more people like Ben proudly taking the fishing industry from strength to strength in the years to come.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 7:15 pm, 13th October 2020

I rise to speak to new clauses 11 and 12, standing in my name. It is a great pleasure to follow Mrs Murray. I listened very carefully to her remarks, as I always do on matters related to the fishing industry, and I absolutely understand her background and family history, which has brought her to a very close interest in fishing safety over the years. I am grateful to her—enormously grateful to her—for accepting that I am well intentioned. I would hope, as I am a vice-chair of the all-party group on fisheries, of which she is the chair, that she would have expected nothing less.

I am afraid I was not entirely persuaded by the hon. Lady’s reasoning, however, and on this occasion I will stick with the views of the representatives of the fishing industry, who say that amendments such as new clauses 11 and 12 are necessary. I say to the Minister, who has obviously been told that they are probing amendments, that they are no such thing. Unless I am able to hear any reason or persuasive arguments as to why I should not push them to a vote, then with your agreement, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will certainly seek to test the views of the House on new clause 12 at least.

The hon. Lady’s proposition was an interesting one. She said that we should rely on the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and also on the licensing provisions. I am actually a great fan of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. It is legislative poetry. A whole body of case law and regulations have been born and grown up out of it, of which I am not always a great admirer, but the Act itself is very simple.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I will just explain this to the hon. Lady, and then I will give way to her.

The Act creates an obligation to provide a safe system of work for those who come into contact with it. It is a measure that has to be applied in a way that is reasonable and proportionate. I cannot imagine that any safe system of work would deal with the sort of piracy we have seen off the west coast of Shetland in relation to Pesorsa Dos, which I will speak about in a second or two. With all due respect to the hon. Lady, it seems to me that, in seeking to rely on the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and licensing conditions, she is in effect saying—or advancing an argument that would be akin to saying—that we do not require the Road Traffic Acts and the offences of dangerous or careless driving simply because we license cars, but if the hon. Lady wishes to intervene, I will give way.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

I think the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said. I actually mentioned the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997, under which a massive number of M notices—merchant shipping notices—are published, meaning that vessels have to be kept and operated in a safe way. If we license other vessels from other nations, we could insist, as part of their licencing, that they behave in a responsible way and that the vessels meet the same requirements as UK vessels.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Lady advances an excellent argument in support of my new clause 11, but as it happens, I am going to press new clause 12. The difficulty she has is that I do not hear any argument from her about enforcement, so when we are in the exclusive economic zone, if these regulations or licensing requirements are breached, how do we enforce them? At present, there is no power for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to do that, but that would be a sensible and reasonable thing to do, and it would, I suggest, be entirely appropriate given the stated aim of taking back control.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

I think it is the Marine Management Organisation that enforces licensing but in his area, the Scottish fisheries protection agency goes out on board the vessels.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

There will be no provision in licensing that will deal with the dangerous and reckless conduct that we have seen west of Shetland, and that we will see in other territorial waters, I think, in the next few months as the political heat is turned up in relation to fishing and the changes that are going to come in on 1 January.

I want to make a couple of points before dealing in detail with the reason why new clauses 11 and/or 12 are necessary. The first is on Government amendment 36, which I raised with the Minister in her opening comments. I understand the reasons why a lot of late Government amendments to the Bill have come and I have sympathy with them, knowing the to and fro that there has been between the Minister’s Department and the various devolved Administrations, but the Bill is not new. We had the Bill go through all its stages in this House—certainly the Public Bill Committee—once already. It started then in the other place and it has been through Committee here, so introducing at this late stage—when, frankly, there is little opportunity for meaningful scrutiny of it—a provision that strikes at a fairly important constitutional point in relation to the Channel Islands as dependent territories requires further explanation from the Minister.

Essentially, the difficulty is that saying that this is just a backstop power is one thing, but the Government giving themselves a backstop power that can be used unilaterally—possibly without any consultation, although I accept that that is unlikely—takes us down a very difficult and dangerous constitutional path. I think that this requires greater scrutiny than this House is able to give it today, because once I have given way to Sir Robert Neill, I will not say much more about it.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

The right hon. Gentleman is making an important point.

Is there not a further difficulty in that the Crown dependencies have jurisdiction over their territorial waters, so for us to legislate unilaterally for something that they have indicated since the summer that they do not wish us to do would be a most dangerous and, frankly, entirely novel precedent? It is difficult to see how that could ever by justified.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. My experience of Government is that there are issues that sometimes just dot around the civil service waiting for a Minister who is prepared to pick them up and give them a go. This issue is not new. I know that the Minister’s predecessor, Mr Goodwill, faced a similar dilemma and reached a very different conclusion. I strongly suspect that this has been slipped in at the last minute because officials somewhere wanted to advance it. The Minister should have resisted this. I say to her gently that this will not just be nodded through when the Bill gets to the other place. It will require and get more substantial scrutiny there.

As Deidre Brock, who spoke for the Scottish nationalists, said at the start of her speech, there is a lot of uncertainty around the fishing industry at the moment, and that uncertainty is very damaging. It is worth reminding the House that the reason for that uncertainty was the decision by the former Prime Minister, and the current Prime Minister, to enter into a withdrawal agreement that put an agreement on fishing into the political declaration. When that decision was made by the former Prime Minister, I remember that the hon. Members for South East Cornwall and for Moray (Douglas Ross), and others, were rather unhappy about it, as was I, and we are now reaping the whirlwind of that somewhat ill-advised decision.

I will now turn to new clauses 11 and 12. One of the things that still delights me about speaking in this place is the opportunity to make the Chair feel very uneasy when we discuss matters to which the sub judice rule might apply. I know that the Speaker and the Deputy Speakers would get very excited, and if I were to do that they would be jumping up and down as if there were springs in their shoes. You may sit easy, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I will not be speaking tonight about something that is sub judice, although it absolutely should be. Indeed, if we had right the balance between law and justice, it certainly would be sub judice, and the skipper of the Pesorsa Dos, a Spanish gillnetter that was operating 30 miles to the west of Shetland in June, would be awaiting trial for an offence such as the one that I have put before the House in new clause 12.

Constituents of mine were crewing the Alison Kay, and they were operating in grounds that have long been used as fishing grounds for the Shetland fleet, close to an area where the skipper of the Spanish trawler had just shot his gillnets. Gillnets run to several miles long and are left in for a long time, and they are a particularly unsustainable mode of fishing. The skipper of the Pesorsa Dos saw the Alison Kay trawling nearby, and because it is a much bigger vessel, he essentially tried to muscle the Alison Kay out of those fishing grounds. That was bad enough in itself, but what followed was utterly culpable and reckless. The skipper shot a rope into the water in a deliberate attempt to foul the propeller of the Alison Kay. Goodness only knows what might have happened to that boat and its crew if he had been successful.

That was not the first instance of that sort—there had been tension in those fishing grounds for a long time—but it was the first time that it got videoed, and those videos were then posted online, and people were able to see it for themselves. I suggest that all right hon. and hon. Members look at that video, because it is absolutely chilling.

As the local Member of Parliament I raised the issue with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which said, “This is dreadful, this is dangerous, but we can do nothing about it. It happened outside our jurisdiction, which stops at the 12-mile limit.” The case was then passed to the German Government, because the Spanish trawler was flagged in Germany.

I have a letter from 1 January from the Dienststelle Schiffssicherheit in the German Government, and as an exercise in legal adjudication, it fails some of the most basic tests. It gives the other side of an argument, but the German Government enforcement authorities have looked only at the case put to them by the owners and operators of Pesorsa Dos, and they made no effort to hear the case from the Alison Kay. As far as they are concerned, the matter is closed. The Minister said that the Department had been in correspondence with the German Government, but the letter I have is from 1 July. If the Minister would be prepared to, I invite her to publish the correspondence between our Government and the German Government, because I think that a bit of transparency and daylight is needed.

These vessels are commercial operations. It goes without saying there is a lot of money involved, and I am pretty sure that the answer to the question, “How is this allowed to happen?” is a simple one: the skipper of the Pesorsa Dos did what he did because he knew that he could and that he could get off with it. When he tried the same thing—or something similar; I do not know exactly what the case was—in Irish waters, they detained the vessel, took it into court, and it was tied up. That is what really concentrates the mind, because if the ship is tied up in the harbour it is not out on the sea earning money for its owners. That is the sort of power and control that we need to have and to exercise on behalf of our fishermen and our fleet in our exclusive economic zone.

That is why I hope the Minister will have something more positive to say when she comes to reply to this debate. We know that this is a problem. It has been a problem for a long time, it will continue to be a problem and it will get worse. Eventually, a Government Minister will stand at that Dispatch Box to table a clause of the sort that I have tabled tonight, but he or she will be doing that because there has been loss of life or serious loss of property, because the things that we know can happen will have happened. Let us not wait until that point. We know what the problem is. Let us act on it and let us sort it now.

Photo of Andrea Jenkyns Andrea Jenkyns Conservative, Morley and Outwood 7:30 pm, 13th October 2020

If I may take a few moments, Madam Deputy Speaker, I have just received a text message alerting me to the news that a good friend of mine, a guitarist and former band member, has just died following a two-day battle with coronavirus. I send my love and prayers to his wife and pay tribute to a gentle giant, an awesome guitarist and a true family man. Rest in peace.

More than four years have passed since the referendum vote that set out the future of our nation as a full, sovereign Union. That has dominated the political debate in this Chamber and outside the Westminster bubble. One only has to take a look at the map of the leave vote to understand the impact of the coastal communities in deciding the future of our nation.

The sea and our insularity as an island have always been fundamental traits of our history and our identity as British, English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish. Because of our geography, we have always had to find a way to connect with other nations by crossing the seas and the channel, to boost our trade with nearby nations and to attract the best projects and talent from around the world. We had to navigate. We would not be such an outward-looking nation if we were not an island. While my constituency is not directly on the sea, I was born just a few miles away from the beautiful Yorkshire coast, and my granddad Walter Naulls was a fisherman over in Hull. I am sure if Walter were alive today, he would be cheering on and welcoming this Bill and the opportunity to take back control again of our waters.

In Yorkshire, whether in Whitby, Morley and Outwood or the dales, we all know the importance of fisheries to our economy. Our seafood sector is worth £1.4 billion per year and employs 12,000 people. British ships land around 400,000 tonnes of fish in UK waters, while EU states’ vessels annually land almost double that in our waters. Thanks to Brexit, we will have access to and be in full control of our waters on our own terms, able to regulate access by third countries. Our fishing communities will not be left behind and we will grow thanks to this legislation.

This is an extremely ambitious deal, which offers only a glimpse of what we were able to do when leaving the EU. As a strong advocate for animal rights, I would like to commend my hon. Friend the Minister and her predecessors for the strong environmental approach that they have taken to this Bill. Adding references to the national benefit objective, along with the powers to make further provision on aquatic and animal health and the Government’s commitment to high standards, are extremely encouraging changes. The Bill will not only protect our fishermen, their families and the communities that rely on them but protect our marine fauna, creating a strong and legally binding framework that can leave the environment in a better state than we inherited, thanks to the quota levels set for fishing.

The objectives set out by the Bill for the fisheries policy authorities, particularly on sustainability, the ecosystem, the bycatch and the scientific evidence, are a sign that leaving the EU does not mean compromising, but rather enhancing, our environmental and animal welfare standards. Taking back control of our waters means maintaining the health of our seas, and the Bill offers a unique opportunity to be world leaders on sustainability, which is vital for our oceans and for future generations. I was pleased to read this positive feedback from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations:

“The Bill is an important and necessary step towards managing our fisheries in ways that can bring real advantages to our coastal communities.”

The Bill not only enables us to take back control of our waters as a sovereign nation but gives control back to the fishing communities, with a strong focus on devolution. Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh boats will be licensed by Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh Ministers. The Bill gives more powers to the devolved Governments, who will be responsible for the positive trickle-down effect on coastal communities. I believe that, outside the EU, the Government are paving the way forward for others to follow. With its focus on communities, no compromises on animal welfare and the protection of our economy and, importantly, our sovereignty, the Bill is a clear indication of what taking back control really means.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

It is a pleasure to be able to speak in this important debate. I would like to offer my condolences to Andrea Jenkyns on her loss. I would like to speak in support of the amendments in the name of my hon. Friend Luke Pollard and the shadow Front Bench, and I want to focus my remarks on the opportunity for supporting coastal communities and the importance of protecting the vulnerable marine environment.

Our coastal communities have been neglected for far too long. Austerity and long-standing regional inequality have hit these communities hard. Last year, residents in coastal areas, shockingly, earned £1,600 less than people inland. The Labour amendment recognises these issues and calls on the Government to support those communities. As my hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock said earlier, landing more fish in UK ports will generate significant new jobs inland. One million pounds of fish landed in UK ports can create up to 76 new jobs, which is a significant gain in many areas. Surely, at this time when the Government are saying that they want to “build back better”, this amendment is worth further consideration. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis will consider this approach and take some time to mull it over. It is important that the Government listen to the needs of all our communities, including those facing real economic challenges, both inland in seats such as mine and in coastal areas.

I would like to turn to the serious economic and environmental issues that have been raised in today’s debate. It is important to consider the sheer scale of some of the boats that we have heard about. These supertrawlers are more than 100 metres in length and they pull huge nets that can stretch out over a mile across the sea. These boats have been found to be fishing in vulnerable protected areas with fragile marine ecosystems containing rare flora and fauna. I want to pay tribute to the work that has been carried out by Greenpeace to uncover the full scale of this issue. These boats have been seen to present a severe risk, and it is now time for us to consider its full impact. In the first six months of 2020, supertrawlers spent more than 5,500 hours fishing in protected areas. This is a significant issue, and I hope that the Minister will consider it fully.

Given this evidence, and given the Conservatives’ own manifesto commitments in this area, it is now time for further consideration of these environmental risks, and I urge Ministers to take some time to rethink their position and to look at the amendments from the Labour Front Bench. As was said earlier, the environmental and economic issues in fishing sit together. There is a long-term interest in preserving our valuable and very vulnerable coastal waters, and it is time for the Government to listen, consider the evidence and think again. I urge Ministers to take a reasonable approach to this issue.

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

I will keep my remarks short. I am getting quite used to having debates on fishing and fisheries policy—we seem to discuss it here every week or every couple of weeks at the moment, and long may that continue. This Bill is in a much better place than it was when it entered the House, and I support all the Government’s amendments.

I would like to focus my remarks on three specific areas, to which I hope the Minister can respond. The first is the fisheries management plans. There is a lot of discussion about what they might look like, who will implement them, what powers they will have and, more importantly, whether they will have flexibility to diverge in different parts of the country where we have different fish species and to adjust to them. I ask the Minister to consider that.

The Government are collecting evidence on remote electronic monitoring, which they are considering. Will they also look at the possibility of having a slick fisheries app that logs catches as they are caught, to support sustainable fishing and promote quick turnaround, so that our restaurants and pubs can benefit from having food directly out of the sea and on the plate that very evening?

Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall


I welcome the package of three consultations launched by DEFRA today. The first is on strengthening the economic link for English licensed fishing vessels, to help ensure economic benefits for many of our coastal communities, including plans for an increased landing requirement of up to 70%. That is very welcome news for many people in North Cornwall. The second consultation is on proposals for how the new fishing opportunities that the UK secures in negotiations will be split between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England in a way that is fairer and much more profitable for fishing communities across our four nations. Finally, I congratulate the Department on its proposals for how England’s share of those new opportunities will be distributed across communities. I hope that we will see greater benefits for many of our coastal communities and our hard-working fishermen and fisherwomen.

Concerns have been raised over the past few weeks that the scallop wars we saw a couple of years back in the English channel seem to be resurfacing, with many of our boats being targeted by the French. There is concern in the fishing community in Cornwall that, as we get to the crunch point in negotiations, much of their gear might be towed off and dragged due to the realisation that, if we do not reach a deal, there might be challenges for some continental fishermen.

Finally—it would not be a fisheries debate if I did not mention it—I want to talk about recreational angling. I know that I probably bore the Minister when I talk about this, and I promise that I will not talk specifically about bluefin tuna, although the conversation we had with the shadow Secretary of State on that recently was very productive; I am hopeful that we might reach a point where we have a catch-and-release bluefin tuna fishery around the coast of the country. I am grateful for the work that DEFRA is doing with the Angling Trust on developing a vision statement for recreational angling in the UK. The Minister will know that I have an ambition to create a world-class fishery and wide recreational opportunity for fishing off the north Cornwall coast. I look forward to working with her on the vision statement. Can she confirm that the statement will include policies that further support the interests of the UK recreational sector?

It is a pleasure to be in the House on this historic night. I have heard on many doorsteps in North Cornwall that we need to repatriate our territorial fishing waters, which were slayed on the altar as we entered the European Union. It is a pleasure to be here this evening to give a green light to the great opportunities that are coming to coastal communities. I ask the Government to continue to be robust in the negotiations, and they will continue to have my full support.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann

Yesterday, in the debate on the Agriculture Bill, Members heralded a new dawn for UK farmers. Likewise, today, with this Bill, we see a new dawn for our fishing industry, breaking free from the over-regulation of Brussels.

In Northern Ireland, we have a resilient and innovative fleet. They see Brexit as an opportunity. Therefore, as we chart this new course, it is incumbent on our Government to ensure that the approach taken is not simply a mirror image of EU regulation. This Bill indicates that that will not be the case, which is welcome.

Like most MPs here today, I read the briefing from Greener UK, which highlighted the fact that 58% to 68% of fish stocks in UK waters are now at sustainable levels. That signals an improving trend and is good news. The sustainability principle is already at the core of our fisheries policy. There is no need to give it precedence over other pillars of UK fisheries policy.

The top-down command and control approach of the common fisheries policy has failed. The UK must resist the temptation to begin this new era by prescribing draconian solutions across the board, as represented by remote electronic monitoring. On 29 September, the Fisheries Minister in Northern Ireland, Edwin Poots MLA, told the Assembly that

“it is important that we have that devolved flexibility to choose from the range of management tools and measures, and pick those that are best suited to our fleet.”

I agree with our devolved Minister because I do not support the amendment that would see REM prescribed. Rather, REM should be something to be considered with the fishing community, rather than imposed upon them.

Our fishermen in Northern Ireland are custodians of the sea. The principle of sustainability is written into their DNA. I hope the EFRA Minister will acknowledge that, in recent years, the total allowable catch in ICES Area VIIa has been managed according to the principles of maximum sustainable yield. The ICES advice for 2021 indicates more challenges and opportunities in the area. In the main, these are within natural fluctuations, but there continues to be debate among fisheries scientists and fishermen around some of the stark figures.

Northern Ireland’s fishermen have worked with members of the Greener UK alliance to develop and agree proposals for marine protected areas in the Irish sea. It is no secret that these measures and other similar plans within Northern Ireland’s territorial waters are causing economic harm to local fishermen. Nevertheless, what this shows me is that legislation at a national and a devolved level does work to achieve our marine sustainability goals. I wish to hear from the Minister about what legislative route she intends to use to devolve responsibility to the authorities in Northern Ireland for the designation and management of marine protected areas throughout our maritime zone, as is the case with Scotland and Wales. Amendment 42 offers more power to Northern Ireland, and we welcome that, but we support more devolution of these powers to Northern Ireland, similar to that in Scotland and Wales.

The Public Bill Committee reviewing this Bill did not have any representative from Northern Ireland. The written evidence submitted by the Northern Ireland industry, specifically by Alan McCulla from the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation, referred to the marine protected area process, as well as the discrimination faced by all UK fishermen in the Irish sea, especially those from Northern Ireland because of the application of the Hague preference. We presume that, come 1 January 2021, this discrimination will end when the rightful share of annual total allowable catches is repatriated to the UK. That will then be shared among UK fishermen.

I want to make it very clear here that, within the UK, Northern Ireland fishermen expect nothing more than their share of the UK’s old and new fishing opportunities across all waters and quota species, based on the methodology used today. Based on established international law, zonal attachment is the principle that this Government have used to claim an increased share of the available catches. Within the UK, the established principle of fixed quota allocations should be used to apportion any new quota.  It should then be left to the devolved Administrations to decide how to allocate that quota.

It is time to seize the opportunities that arise from our escape from the common fisheries policy and Government must ensure that that happens.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

I congratulate Carla Lockhart on an excellent speech. She spoke on behalf of not just her constituency but fishermen across Northern Ireland. She put her case and their case across very well in the House tonight. I echo what my hon. Friend Scott Mann said. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be in the Chamber tonight, as we debate such an important piece of legislation for our own constituencies, the communities we represent, the whole of Scotland and the United Kingdom. They are looking to this Parliament to finally take back control over our fishing industry. It has for too long been dominated by decisions in Brussels, rather than here in our Parliament in the United Kingdom.

This is very much a framework Bill. It is supported by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and it allows us to do far more back here in the House of Commons or in the devolved Administrations. This legislation and the proposals put forward by this UK Conservative Government respect devolution. It looks for and enhances the sustainability in our seas, but also the sustainability in our fishing communities. For so long—decades—fishing communities in Moray such as Cullen, Findochty, Buckie and Burghead have suffered from a reduction in fishing right across the country through the straitjacket of the common fisheries policy. It has done so much harm to our industries, which were crucial to towns and villages right across the country. Many of those areas have been decimated, but now we can start to build back again: build back our fishing industry, our fleet, our crews and our catches, and what they mean to individual communities, what they meant decades ago, and what we can do to revitalise those areas when this industry gets back up and running because of the legislation that this UK Government and this Parliament are looking at, debating and taking through now.

Positive as I am about the Bill, I have to pause for a moment and stop that positivity to discuss the contribution from Deidre Brock. [Interruption.] She laughs about her contribution. I wish I could laugh at it. I really wish I could find it funny. I watched part of her speech on the screens outwith the Chamber and, when I was able to come in, I listened to it further. Watching it on television I thought it was bad enough, and then I looked in. Sometimes we say things in the Chamber and we reflect, because we are not reading a pre-prepared, scripted speech, that maybe we could have said something different and put it a better way. I watched the end of the hon. Lady’s speech and she was reading it out. I thought, “What kind of individual sits at a computer and types such a bitter, twisted and misleading statement, reviews it”—I presume she writes it herself, but I cannot guarantee that—“and stands up in the Chamber of the House of Commons and reads out such a poorly crafted argument that does not represent what Scotland is looking for from this Bill and does not represent what fishing communities right around the country are looking for from this Bill?”

I do not believe the hon. Lady’s speech represents the Scottish National party position on this. If you listen to her, there is nothing good in the Bill being brought forward by this Government, but her own party in the Scottish Parliament has given a legislative consent motion for it. So just once I would ask her to look beyond her blinkered vision of separatism, assuming everything done in this UK Parliament is bad, and consider for a moment that the 1 million people in Scotland who backed Brexit and the almost 50% of voters in my Moray constituency who backed Brexit, might actually look at this as an opportunity—an opportunity for this UK Government to take control back from the European Union over fishing and devolve further to our devolved Administrations right across the country. She would do herself, her party and Scottish politics in general a service if she looked at that and that argument from a more positive angle just once—to look at the positivity, rather than always the negativity.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

I think I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly when he said that there was almost 50% support for Brexit in his constituency, so he lost the Brexit argument in his constituency. Is that right?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

When 122 votes separate the difference between tens of thousands of votes in the Moray constituency, I think it is fairly legitimate to say that almost 50% of the people in Moray voted for Brexit. I cannot split an individual voter in half, or in quarters or segments, so when 122 votes was the difference out of tens of thousands, I think it is fair to say that almost one in two people in Moray voted for Brexit.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 8:00 pm, 13th October 2020

I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels better for having got some of that off his chest. May I invite him, though, to return to the paths of positivity? He says that he wants to follow the wishes of fishing communities. Look at my new clause 11, which is supported by fishermen, doubtless in his own constituency as well. There is a real need to act on this. Will he join me in urging his own Front Bench to take this seriously, and come forward with serious proposals on it?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

I was not in the Chamber when the Minister made her opening remarks. I think she may have thought that it was a probing amendment, but I am sure that she listened to the points made. The right hon. Gentleman has now suggested that he will at least press either new clause 11 or 12 to a vote, and I am sure that she will respond to his points. I also listened closely to the heartfelt speech by my hon. Friend Mrs Murray on not only her own experience of a tragic family bereavement but the representations that she has heard from fishing communities in her long career advocating on their behalf. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say, but I accept the constructive way in which the right hon. Gentleman has put his case.

Since the right hon. Gentleman has intervened, I can now mention Shetland. An organisation in Shetland has today published the opportunities for the United Kingdom to race up the global rankings in terms of what we can do as a country regarding our share of catch from UK waters. At the moment, about 70% of the fish caught and landed in our waters is caught by foreign vessels. If we compare that with Norway, 84% of the fish and shellfish caught in its waters are caught by Norwegian vessels. I think it is 95% in Iceland.

That is the opportunity that is available to Scotland and the United Kingdom, and that is why many of us in this Chamber are excited about the opportunities for this country, our fishermen and our fishing communities. That is why I had to briefly take a moment to call out the, yet again, negativity and pointless point scoring from the Scottish National party on this issue.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

I will gladly give way to the hon. Lady, and hope that she has listened to my constructive criticism, will look at this afresh and suddenly decide that the SNP Members are not here just to be bitter and twisted, and for petty point scoring; they are here to work for Scotland’s fishermen.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

There are always conditions attached to interventions when the hon. Gentleman allows them—very male, Madam Deputy Speaker. He clearly has ambitions to one day lead in the Scottish Parliament and become the First Minister of Scotland. He always references his constituency and the fact that a large percentage of his constituents voted for Brexit, but when will he accept that Scotland voted 62% to remain, and rejected Brexit? If he has ambitions to be the First Minister, how will he reflect that when he is making his pitch to voters?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. We will be rather careful here. This is a narrow Bill, specifically about—

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have just had to endure a personal attack from Douglas Ross. I was making the point that if he wants to make those sorts of attacks, he has to be prepared to take it.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

That is not a point of order for the Chair. I assume that every Member can take it when they are having an argument. Let me just take a step back to the hon. Lady’s intervention. It was an interesting political point, but I want to ensure that in answering it the hon. Gentleman does so in terms of the Bill that is before us tonight.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

Of course I will, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I will make a couple of points, if I may. The hon. Lady said that my allowing her to intervene, or her taking an intervention from me, always comes with conditions. I hope that she goes back and looks at the previous debate we had in this Chamber about fishing, because I was sat about a couple of metres along from where I am now, and on 12 occasions I tried to intervene on her but she would not let me in once. So I have to say that my generosity is far more generous than hers.

The hon. Lady seeks to criticise me for mentioning Moray. I am from Moray. I am proud of my roots. I was born and bred in my constituency, which I now have the honour to represent in the House of Commons, so I will never shy away from mentioning Moray and what a great place it is—Moray with its great coastal communities and great coastline, a little unlike Edinburgh North and Leith, which has neither.

I will now get back to the point of the debate.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I just want to check, in order to keep within my rules, that Moray does have fishing.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

The coastal communities on the coastline of Moray provide great opportunities for fishing in my constituency and, indeed, right around Scotland and the United Kingdom. In case I have potentially misled the House, I think there is some coastline in the hon. Lady’s constituency, so before the tweet goes out, I have corrected the record and I apologise for that. We all come to this House to represent our constituents and the areas for which we are elected in order put forward their views. I think it is right that the representative for Moray is able to outline how important this Bill is, and how important it is that the Lords amendments, which could cause some difficulties and troubles for the Bill, are not taken forward, because they would be wrong for the industry both in Moray and right across Scotland.

We have left the European Union. When we leave the transition period at the end of this year, we come out of the straitjacket of the common fisheries policy—the hated CFP that has done so much to damage our industry over the past 40 years. Our fishing communities have decided to leave the European Union and have voted to come out of the common fisheries policy. Why would the Scottish nationalists ever say that, having taken the decision to leave, we should go back into a policy that has done so much damage to our communities and to our industry? I relish the bright future that is ahead of us now with this Bill and look forward to developing it further with communities in Moray, right across Scotland, and across the UK. This is a positive time to be in the fishing industry. This is a positive Bill from the UK Government—one that will deliver right across the country and one that I am pleased to support.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

I am very happy to follow Douglas Ross.

I am extremely fortunate to represent Angus, the garden of Scotland. Our bounty extends well beyond our exceptional farmland, over our cliffs, and into our abundant seas—the North sea. After all, we have in Arbroath the home of the Arbroath smokie—a taste sensation that I know for a fact the Minister regularly enjoys. Not only that, but in Ferryden and Arbroath harbours we have a thriving inshore fleet fishing creel for crab and lobsters primarily for the EU market. This is where my concern lies. The shellfish trade in Angus is an outstanding success story supporting many jobs and underpinning the thriving buzz in Arbroath and Ferryden harbours. These boats have little to gain from Brexit in their fishing operations, but much to lose if the Government will not or cannot secure a deal for unfettered and tariff- free access to their EU markets.

I remind Ministers that livelihoods and jobs depend on these last-minute negotiations, and fishing businesses, like any other, need clarity over future trading conditions. Even with a deal, fishermen from Angus exporting into the EU will be subject to a regime from 1 January that threatens cost and delay for their businesses. These burdens include the requirements for an export health certificate, a validated catch certificate sent to the importer hours before the lorry arrives, a storage document if the catch was stored, and a processing statement if the product has been treated. They must import their product through an EU border control post and the importer must be notified in advance of the arrival. Notification periods vary so they will need to check with the border control post in question to find out how much notice they can give.

This is a far cry from the seamless process undertaken currently by crews and hauliers supplying markets in the EU today. I seek the Minister’s assurance that due consideration will be given to those lorries loaded up with live catch from multiple vessels in respect of the effect of this new bureaucracy on my constituents in Angus.

There exists a seemingly simpler process for UK vessels landing directly into UK ports. They must land into a North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission-designated port with a prior notification form, a catch certificate and a pre-landing declaration. That is onerous, but not insurmountable. Direct landings into the EU should be seen as a sub-optimal opportunity. It seems clear that we need to secure as much value add in the commodification of marine product in Scotland, and the rest of the UK of course, as possible, thereby exporting a higher value product to market rather than exporting the unprocessed product to have the value added abroad. National landings will deliver that, and to that extent I have some sympathy with amendment 1 tabled by the shadow Minister, Stephanie Peacock. However, as she will be aware, it is England-only so I will be unable to support it. I encourage the Minister, if not in this iteration of the Bill then in future policy, to consider the ambition of a national landing requirement. I know that that is an important element that all devolved Administrations will be taking forward.

We heard the hon. Member for Moray speak at length about the importance of coastal communities and reversing the attrition that was wrought on them in recent decades. This is an element that we may seek to exploit to achieve that. Ridding our fishing fleets of the thoroughly discredited CFP will of course have an upside for crews and skippers, but we need to ensure that we are more ambitious than that. We need to maximise and disaggregate the dividend as far and as wide onshore as possible. To do so will benefit precisely those coastal communities that we have heard discussed earlier this evening, with consequential benefits to local services, driving greater investment through higher populations in rural schools, and increased use of transport and connectivity.

A new future based on zonal attachment holds much promise for our fleets and for the gross value of the industry going forward. This will do much to correct the basic fairness of access to marine harvest. We should feel duty bound to attach any new prosperity widely to coastal communities and exploit every opportunity to secure marketing, processing, fuel supplies, services, installation, plant sales and haulage jobs on these shores and in our coastal communities rather than elsewhere. This is not protectionism, it is pragmatism.

I understand very well the need to ensure the most profitable and expedient routes to market for crews, but let us be clear that the damage that Brexit will do to our broader economy and economic prosperity outside fishing will be severe and in so far as fishing will benefit from Brexit, the industry should maintain an obligation to support the onshore economy as much as possible in management, processing and the wider supply chain.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He just said that fishing would benefit from Brexit—those are the words that came out of his mouth, and I absolutely agree with that. Can he explain how fishing would benefit from the SNP policy, which is to go straight back into the European Union and the common fisheries policy?

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

I am happy that the hon. Member for Moray is so quick to tell me what SNP policy is. Perhaps he will yield to my knowledge of such matters. I think I am probably on fairly solid ground as an SNP politician in saying what our policy is. I will be taking no lectures from a Conservative politician on how to access the EU in the interests of fishing. We have seen how badly it was done by the Conservatives in the early 1970s. We will not be making any similar mistakes with Scotland’s reaccession to the EU after independence, but I do not want to fall foul of Madam Deputy Speaker.

Home landings have their limits, such as with the pelagic catch, which can be so vast and so rapid as to overwhelm the local capacity to process, and there can be no argument with that reality. However, the principle of shared benefit remains intact if domestic capacity is by default exhausted first. I am confident that my colleagues in the Scottish Government are sighted on the national landings priority. The best interests of our Scottish fleet in coastal communities will be served by that devolved Administration, but we should in all four nations work in support of this ambition as maritime neighbours, where we remain subject to the same jurisdiction.

In general, there are substantial opportunities for fishing in the new reality that our fleets face and for our coastal communities, and I look forward to witnessing that renewal, although in closing I remind Ministers of my concerns over inshore fisheries in Angus and across these isles. I will be supporting the SNP’s new clause 3.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means 8:15 pm, 13th October 2020

Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I explain something, because there seems to be some confusion, perhaps among new Members who do not know how normal Chamber procedure works? If I impose a time limit, this debate will end at 10 o’clock and there will be several votes at 10 o’clock and Third Reading after that. Anyone can work out how late that will be. If I do not impose a time limit but appeal to Members, for the sake of all their colleagues, to speak for about three to four minutes, and thereby prove that brevity is the soul of wit, the debate will finish earlier, and those who are taking part will have the eternal gratitude of those who are waiting to vote.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

I will try to speak clearly with my new self-imposed time limit. It is a pleasure to follow right hon. and hon. Members, particularly Dave Doogan, and here we are going straight back down the line to Cornwall, which just shows what an important issue this is for the whole United Kingdom.

Despite being the great-great-granddaughter of a Scarborough fisherman, I had no idea as a young girl that I would grow up to become a Cornish fishwife, but here I am. Actually, I am very proud to be so. It is a privilege to be married to a fisherman, because it gives a great understanding of what a scary but wholesome living it is. It is absolutely necessary for the health of our nation. I mentioned in my maiden speech some time ago how precarious a living it is, especially when one is on the end of the phone and the weather turns and they cannot get back, so I will not go into that again.

One thing I have to say is that the fishing industry does not speak with one voice, and that is important to remember. To stand up for the fishing industry means giving our fishermen their voices back, and that is what this Bill absolutely does. It takes a first important step, and that is what we have to remember about this framework Bill.

I will speak briefly to the amendments. I do not think that the Bill is the right place for them, but I understand why they have been tabled. I believe they are well intentioned, and I know that Ministers are listening. In terms of amendment 1, I welcome the Government’s consultation, and I urge anybody involved to make their representations known before the closing date, which I believe is 10 November.

I would like to see more support from Ministers for direct-from-the-boat sales. When people go to London and eat a nice plate-sized piece of fish in a restaurant, the price can be eye-watering. Let me tell the House that at the other end of the scale, when the fisherman gets his price from market, that can also be eye-watering, but for a different reason. Somewhere along the way, somebody is making a lot of money out of it, but it is not the fishermen, and we need to put that right. I know there are voices in the Treasury who are sympathetic to that, and I make a plea to urge those conversations forward. A business in Falmouth that has just opened has as one of its unique selling points the fact that it wants fish that has never touched land. That sort of business should be encouraged, particularly in Cornwall.

Amendment 2 is about sustainability. One of the main reasons I came to this House was for the sustainability of our oceans and sustainability on land, but when we talk about sustainability in the fishing industry, we cannot talk just about the oceans; we have to talk about the coastal communities as well. Take bass, for example. My hon. Friend Scott Mann and I have spoken at length about bass and recreational angling versus the commercial fishermen, and I want to try to bridge the gap tonight if I can.

I absolutely get the reason why we need to have a sustainable bass fishery. The angling economy in Cornwall is growing and is worth a lot of money, but if that bass fishery is suddenly taken away from an under-10 metre boat, that fisherman cannot feed his family. We cannot just expect these fishermen one day suddenly to have to go out to fish for something else—it does not happen like that. I am not prepared to make people suddenly do that, so we have to have a long consultation with the industry, the fishermen and the conservationists before we come up with a plan. That is why this amendment is misplaced. We have to go with the framework and see where we go from that.

Amendment 3 deals with supertrawlers. Again, I understand why it has been proposed, but I am reassured by Ministers who say that we now are in control of those licences, and pressure will be on our Front Benchers to make the right decisions there. I will not go on for too long, I promise, but let me deal with a couple more things that I want to see, if we can do them.

Mr Carmichael is no longer in his place, but I have sympathy with him on the enforcement argument, and not just on the outrageous incidents to which he refers. We see daily off the Lizard Point that French fishermen are within our waters and they should not be there. Even in the spawning grounds in the estuaries we need to make sure that anglers are not going up and taking undersized fish. There should be enforcement from one scale down to the last, and we need to make sure we are properly prepared to have enforcement here.

I am a big advocate of labelling—everyone in Devon knows how I feel about that—and it is vital that we get some clear labelling on our fish. The technology is there now to put the boat name on anywhere that that fish ends up, be it in an expensive fancy restaurant or in one of our supermarkets; we can see what boat that fish has come off and how it was caught. The fisherman who is fishing hook and line should get a better price than the one who is using the nets. The fisherman will then suddenly become responsible for his catch, in the same way as farmers are responsible for the high standards of their animals. That is important and it means that the consumer starts to become king—I hope that Ministers are listening.

We have a great opportunity for a culture change in this country about what we eat and why we eat it—that was mentioned earlier. The new Cornish residents, our TV chefs, who have moved down to the south-west have an important role to play in this. If we suddenly start eating wrasse, which they do in Japan, in sushi, or whatever else it might be, we can start making this a good thing to eat and consumers will follow.

I will conclude because I do not want to take up too much time. This Bill is a great first step, from which we have learned lessons from the CFP. We are finally starting to release our fishermen from the shackles of the CFP, which is vital. What we can achieve for the industry is endless because we are now an independent coastal state. I am reassured that future consultations will benefit our industry and I look forward to plans that come forward next year.

Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

I will speak to new clauses 1 to 7, which we tabled to try to improve this legislation. I spent 15 years in the European Parliament, alongside Neil Parish, working largely on fisheries reform, among lots of other issues. It is safe to say that the CFP is not the Scottish National party’s favourite policy and a number of things need to be done to improve it. It is the primary reason why Norway and Iceland are not EU members, although they are proudly part of the EU single market, for reasons also largely to do with fisheries and fisheries products.

If I learned anything in my time in Brussels, it was particularly about the marine ecosystem: everything is connected to everything else, and if one does not look at the whole picture, one makes poor conclusions. This Bill really is only part of the picture and it leaves the big questions—the existential questions for all our fishing communities and the people employed in fisheries—unanswered. Passing this Bill tonight, as I suspect Conservative Members will, is the easy bit; making good on the fine promises we have heard this evening will be an awful lot harder. Four years after the vote to leave the European Union and a year after we left the European Union—a fact that I regret deeply—we have yet to see the much vaunted advantages of that Brexit. It is a poor state of affairs that we are this stage in this stage of the proceedings.

The fishing industry is complex. It is not just about boats going to sea and catching fish. In Scotland, it is even more complex. We have a structurally different set-up to our industry in Scotland from that UK-wide. As we have heard throughout the debate, for every one job at sea, there are—depending on how one counts them—seven to 10 jobs on shore.

Stirling—by way of a counterintuitive point, as it is a generally landlocked constituency but for the tidal Forth—is one of the biggest UK producers of farmed prawns. The aquaculture department at Stirling University is engaged in world-leading, planet-saving research that is crucial to our economy. Tens of thousands of people are employed in aquaculture: in the prawn sector, the salmon sector and the inshore fishery, catching scallops and langoustines, and in the wider processing sector. All those thousands of jobs and all that GDP are utterly dependent on access, by which I mean tariff-free and frictionless access to the EU single market. That really does bring us to the nub of our scepticism about this Bill, which, as we have heard, the Scottish Government and Parliament have consented to because it is necessary, given that we have left the European Union. There is a need for a new legislative framework; we just do not think that this Bill answers the big questions.

The Norwegians joke that there is nothing in such a hurry as a dead fish on the back of a lorry. There are going to be lots of dead fish on the back of lorries wondering where they are going if we do not get a deal that ensures tariff-free and frictionless access. The vast chunk of fisheries’ economic activity is in grave danger in these ongoing talks, and this Bill answers none of their concerns and takes account of none of their interests.

This Bill is a framework for catching fish, and it is meaningless unless there is a deal for market access for all the other fish and fisheries products. The big questions are unanswered, so we have tried to make the legislation better with new clause 3 on the sea fish authority. We believe that more transparency in that structure would very much help the evolution of the organisation in the new challenges ahead. I urge Members to support the new clause, much though we have heard of the Minister’s scepticism this evening.

I am struck by the tone of this debate, as I was struck by the tone of the debate back in December, when I made my maiden speech, on the withdrawal agreement—the withdrawal agreement that so many Members on the Government Benches are now lining up to trash and the Government are looking to resile from in a “limited and specific way”, barely nine months later. The promises that have been made this evening are cheques that will not be cashed in the real world. When Government Members fail to deliver on their grand rhetoric—or, indeed, sincere hopes, genuinely held—they will have nobody to blame but themselves.

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes

It is always a pleasure to be asked to speak briefly; brevity is one of my strengths, I am sure.

I have four points to make, and I feel that this may be—for those who were here on Second Reading—something of a rehash of my previous speech, not least because I want to speak against two amendments tabled by the Labour party, notably amendment 1 on UK landings. The Opposition talk about the need for specifying percentages for what our fishermen should be required to land. Rather than restricting where our fishermen can go and where they can land their catch, is not the answer to develop our ports to make them competitive with European ports, so that we can attract not only our own fishermen, but fishermen from Europe to land their catch here? That is a more efficient way of building and sustaining the processing plants across the United Kingdom, and building the ports such Brixham in my constituency. That is what we need to be doing—not restricting where our fishermen go.

My second point is on the sustainability principles and amendment 2. The first page of the Bill talks about the principles of sustainability; it is sustainable at its core. This is a finely tuned balance between the economic values and the sustainable values. The Opposition need to have a little bit of faith in the fishermen who fish our waters, who are determined to look after that stock, and to see their children and grandchildren go into the sector. That really matters.

A point that has been touched on by a number of people is how we develop and encourage our own “buy local” campaign.

I spoke during my maiden speech about the idea that the best of British—that British local seafood—should be on every menu across the country. That remains the case and we have a great opportunity to be able to create that campaign. I hope the Government will look carefully at how we can do that with cross-party support.

Lastly, I am going to sea next year for three days to see what goes on on a trawler vessel. I know that when they look at the Bill and hear us talking about it, they are proud of what the Government are trying to achieve. They are proud of the fact that it takes back control of our coastal waters, and they are proud of the fact that we will no longer be part of the common fisheries policy. I look forward to being able to report what it is like at sea and how the Brixham trawler fishermen operate —and I end my speech there.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 8:30 pm, 13th October 2020

I am no stranger to this issue—I live some 10 miles from the last working fishing village in the Province, Portavogie. I have watched this village go from hundreds of boats—and the livelihoods provided on the boats—and two fish processing factories to the loss of both factories and to having some 60 boats in the harbour. Women who could shell prawns quicker than we could pick up a hand to lift one were out of work and unable to use their skills in a different way. I have to say, the best prawns in the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are from Portavogie—I do not care what anybody says. They are sold the world over, including across Europe, and everybody says that Portavogie prawns have a special taste. I can only agree and I am very pleased to put that on record.

We are pleased that at long last we are leaving the EU and the shackles that tied down the fishing boats in my harbour in Portavogie and across Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom. They will be away and we will have the freedom of the seas, as we used to, and our fleet will hopefully grow from 60 to the 120 that it once was. The red tape and the bureaucracy will be away as well, so is it not great news that the promise of 1 January next year will see the fulfilment of the liberty and freedom of our fishing fleets across Northern Ireland?

None of what has happened is because there is no desire for fish, or a lack of fish to land—this is all down to the EU’s deliberate policy of giving the EU a living while excluding our own. These policies made sons decide it that was not worth the danger of the sea and the stress of the paperwork to continue generations of fishing, and it was heartbreaking to see. I am ever so thankful that this has to come to an end, and more than that, we have an opportunity to feed into the laws that will govern us. I am proud to stand here on behalf of my fishermen in Portavogie, as well as the fishermen of Ardglass and Kilkeel, whose MP is yet to come to this House to represent them—that is a fact as well.

I thank the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation and Alan McCulla for all their work, as well as Harry Wick from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation for all he has done. I also commend Mrs Murray; we have had a friendship and relationship with her for a long time.

I am broadly supportive of the Bill and the Lords amendments. In particular, amendment 42 is of great interest to me, as I said to the Minister. We have been pushing regarding the designation and management of marine-protected areas in the Northern Ireland zone being devolved to Northern Ireland for many years. The interpretation that we have been given on amendment 42 is that it provides the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs with powers to make orders relating to the management of fishing activities in the Northern Ireland offshore region for conservation purposes. I believe that we are disadvantaged compared with Scotland and Wales. The Secretary of State retains the power to make designations in the Northern Ireland offshore region. Consideration was given to transferring designation powers to DAERA, but it was not within the scope of the Bill. That is what I tried to raise in my earlier intervention and I seek reassurance from the Minister in relation to that.

As one of my fish producers organisations said to me regarding amendment 42, we need to seek assurances or a commitment on the mechanism and the timeline for transfer of designation powers so that we might get Government agreeable to that and ensure that the ball keeps moving. This is too important, Minister, to be lost after the Bill passes. The Secretary of State and I have worked well over the years. I have the utmost respect for him and all he does. He is not here tonight, and we know why, but the Minister is here and I am very pleased to see her in her place. I ask for a timeline by which I can see the completion of not simply this Bill but the important intention behind it: to bring fishing home for everyone in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I am pleased that the environmental factor ranks highly; I thank the Minister for that. That is the very thing that the fishing sector wants to see, and it is the way forward. Fishermen want to see a pledge for the future, because their ability to feed their family and pay their bills goes hand in hand with the need to ensure that fish are thriving. Rather than the red tape that sought to tie our fishermen while releasing other fishermen, we can and must work hand in hand to allow this industry to thrive, as it has the potential to do.

I gave you my word, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will conclude. As I have said, this Bill is not the fisherman’s dream. The fisherman’s dream is one with no more Europe. The fisherman’s dream is one where we can fish the seas around the United Kingdom of Great Britain free. The Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch and all those other EU countries think that they can come in and do whatever they want—not anymore, because we are in charge, and we are going to do it our way. We will be ever the compassionate brother and sister that we should be, and we will consider a system whereby they can also fish the seas, but it will be under our rules and our waters, and we will control that. We can look forward to finally shaking off the shackles of Europe and embracing the best of British fishing across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—better together, and that includes my comrades on these Benches.

Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Conservative, Redcar

It is always a pleasure to follow Jim Shannon; I agree with him entirely that we are better together. I welcome this historic Bill, which will enable us to keep our promise to the British people and become an independent coastal state after nearly 40 years of being part of the EU’s common fisheries policy. The benefits of the Bill are multiple, as it will both support our fishermen in regaining access to their waters and ensure that that is done sustainably, by protecting our marine environment for generations to come. It will re-establish a balanced approach to fishing, as EU vessels caught nearly eight times as much fish per year in UK waters between 2012 and 2016 as UK vessels caught in other member states’ waters during that time.

What is more, with renewed powers to set catch limits, we can finally live up to our objective of setting higher environmental standards than the European Union. Among those is our commitment to safeguarding marine protected areas from overfishing. To that effect, I wholeheartedly sympathise with the sentiment behind amendment 3, which aims to ban trawlers of more than 100 metres in length from fishing in protected areas. Coastal communities such as mine in Redcar and Marske are increasingly concerned at the sight of those gigantic fishing vessels on the horizon, hoovering up hundreds of tonnes of fish a day. According to Greenpeace, these industrial fishing vessels spent nearly 3,000 hours last year fishing in parts of UK waters that are supposed to be protected.

The Bill provides the Secretary of State with the power to ensure that fishing quotas are not exceeded. It goes further, saying that the UK and devolved Governments not only control who is licensed to fish in our waters but that licence holders will face penalties for fishing in excess. For that reason, I believe amendment 3 to be unnecessary, and I will support the Government tonight. However, I encourage Ministers to recognise the strength of feeling in the House regarding super-trawlers and to use the new powers afforded to them to prevent these vessels from operating in UK waters.

Sustainability is this Government’s priority, and we can only achieve our objectives by working with every Government across our four nations, so I welcome the flexibility introduced for devolved Administrations to have their own say on fishing. I stood on Redcar High Street in 2015 campaigning to leave the EU so that we could take back control of our laws, our borders and our waters. This Bill is a milestone on our way to becoming an independent and sustainable coastal state, and I am proud to support it today.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I am almost seduced by Opposition amendment 1. It is an admirable idea that we should land more of our own fish in our own ports, but I am probably not going to make it to their Lobby, because they lack ambition—why only 65%? We heard from my hon. Friend Douglas Ross that the Norwegians and the Icelandics, who have had control of their own fisheries for much longer or never surrendered them, have much higher percentages than that. These are small, prosperous countries that took their destiny in their own hands, and they have a much finer fishing industry than ours—crippled as it has been for too many years by the common fisheries policy.

So full marks to the Opposition for wanting, for once, to go in the right direction, but let us have a bit more passion and ambition, because it is a disgrace that, after all these years in the common fisheries policy, the overwhelming majority of our fish is taken by others, and it is a disgrace that this great fishing nation imports fish to feed ourselves. I want to see a much higher percentage than amendment 1 suggests, because I think we need the food for ourselves or we would be very good at processing it and adding value to it. I do not just want fresh fish for our tables; I also want to see us putting in those extra factories and processing plants in our coastal communities so that they can produce excellent fish preparations or derivatives of fish for our own purposes and for wider export around the rest of the world. This is crucial.

I am afraid that I am not seduced by amendment 2 either. While I and the Government, and I think everyone in this House, think that sustainability of our fishery will be most important, I do not think it is the only aim, or even the prime aim. It is a very important aim that we want to use our fishery to feed ourselves and others, and to produce much better jobs, more paid employment and factory processing. It is very important, as others have said, that we look after the wider marine environment —not just the fish stocks, but the environment in which the fish and others are swimming.

I think we need to have multiple aims, and I think that is what the Government are setting out. The Government are very much in favour of sustainability, so when we wait—desperately worried—on these negotiations, I say, “Please, Government, do not give our fish away again!” That mistake has been made too often—in the original negotiations to go into the European Economic Community and in annual negotiations thereafter. Let us hope that our fish is not given away in those negotiations. If we cannot fish enough of it in the short term, because we still do not have the boats and the capacity, let us leave it in the sea and rebuild our stocks more quickly, while we get that extra capacity. I would like to hear and see more from the Minister and the wider Government on how we are going to support the acquisition of much more capacity.

Should we not be helping fishermen and fisherwomen commission new boats from British yards, and have that combined shipbuilding capability and the fishing capability, leading on to the production capability? Many of our industries were badly damaged or demolished by our presence in the European Union. This is a prime example of an industry that was crippled. The scope for much greater prosperity for our coastal communities could be added to by the right schemes to get more boats, and by the right schemes such as enterprise zones that allow us to go right up the value chain and produce the best fish dishes in the world.

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend John Redwood. It is fantastic to be the fourth Cornish MP that has the opportunity to speak in a fishing debate. When I first got elected, we would have to wait until December, just as negotiations were taking place in Brussels, to get an hour and a half to speak about fishing, so it is fantastic, as my hon. Friend Scott Mann said, to be able to talk about fishing a bit more often, and we absolutely should.

It is a tremendous achievement by the Minister and the Secretary of State to get this far, with all those who have been involved, in delivering the UK’s first fishing policy for decades. This Bill enables Government, regions and the UK fishing fleet to work together for progressively managed, vibrant fisheries in a post-common fisheries policy landscape. I cannot believe I am an MP standing up and being able to say that—fantastic! I know, as an MP who represents one of the UK’s key fishing ports, that south-west fisheries are up for the challenge and keen to get on with it.

I want to speak briefly to the amendments of the official Opposition. I recognise that they have been hoodwinked by the environmental campaign groups, believing the Bill has been stripped of its ability to deliver real sustainability for UK fishing, but this is not the case. Frankly, I am tired of hearing the good efforts of our fishermen and women constantly undermined by the SNP and Labour Front Benchers. Their desire to install a heavy burden of regulation and bureaucracy on fishermen, because of an unfounded belief that the industry is preoccupied with greater access to fish, would be a mistake, and the Government are right to reject the pressure.

Newlyn fishermen have led the way in developing improvements in sustainability and environmental practices, including the cod-end, which has reduced fish bycatch by huge amounts and reduced massively the loss of fish that they were not able to land. Fishermen are not in the business of taking whatever they can, sparing no thought for the resources that future fishermen and women will depend on or for the natural environment. The fishermen I know support conservation priorities such as bycatch reduction and managing stocks under climate change, as well as advocating for a system that will allow for the flexibility and adaptation required to deliver on these goals.

The strong and diverse set of sustainability-focused objectives in the Bill makes this a progressive framework for our country’s rich mixed fisheries and for the communities that depend on them. That framework takes me to my next point: the UK fishing fleet is part of the solution to achieving the full aspiration of the Bill. Co-management is a route to this. I look forward to hearing greater detail from the Government regarding their plan for co-management, but as I said on Second Reading, I cannot overstate the need to maintain a close relationship with our fishing industry. The prize here is enthusiastically to include the industry in the management, design and decision-making process, and trust in the knowledge it holds.

Cornwall’s fishermen want a Bill that leaves scope for engaged and meaningful co-management of fisheries, with genuine fishing voices at the heart of collaborative decision making. As the Bill stands, it is poised to deliver on this ambition.

I hope to get some clarity on the Government’s intention in relation to what is known as the economic link. It seems entirely sensible to say that what is caught in UK waters is landed in UK ports. Most would see the attraction in that until they started to look at what unintended consequence might arise. There are Cornish boats sailing out of Newlyn that land their fish in France. Why? Because it is fuel efficient to do so, and sometimes and often, their market is favourable. UK fishing is a complex industry and my advice to the shadow Minister and the shadow Secretary of State is that what sounds popular on and on social media outlets might prove completely unsustainable and counterproductive for the very people and values they seek to represent.

In conclusion, and not entirely unrelated to the economic link issue, when fish are caught and landed in UK ports, Newlyn must not miss out. While I do not believe vessels will ever be prevented from landing in Newlyn, it would reassure local stakeholders if Newlyn could be included on the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission designated ports list. That is something the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can do, and the Minister here can do, irrespective of the Bill—perhaps a necessary tidying-up of loose ends.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Conservative, Ynys Môn 8:45 pm, 13th October 2020

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Derek Thomas. The common fisheries policy has been disastrous for the environment, fishing communities and our future generations. Those responsible in the EU have stood by and allowed chronic overfishing in British waters. That harms the biodiversity of our oceans and the economic viability of our coastal communities. It is now time to right the wrongs, and the Bill is a crucial first step.

Fishing is increasingly important to my island constituency of Ynys Môn. Sea fishing forms a major part of our tourism industry, with many chartered fishing boats operating around the island, as well as bait shops supplying those fishing off the rocks in places such as Aberffraw and Holyhead breakwater.

During the lockdown, we also saw some islanders live out their dreams of a career in Anglesey water. Sion Riley, a Royal Navy veteran, did not let a global pandemic halt his ambition of joining the fishing community. His new company, Holyhead Shellfish, is a favourite with local restaurants and wholesalers. I visited him last week, and he said to me, “Fishing is an important industry in our small but mighty island, but in order to protect the waters for future generations, we need effective management of fish stocks and investment in small businesses like my own. That is why I support the action being taken to ensure future generations can make their livelihoods off the beautiful Anglesey coast.”

The charity Môn CF in Holyhead helped Sion access funds for his boat, the Pan Arctic. Alun Roberts from Môn CF said, “Small business owners go out in all weathers to bring fresh catches to local markets, and a large proportion of produce is exported to countries all over the world.”

This historic Fisheries Bill carries many benefits for Wales. Equal access will be granted for all UK vessels to fish throughout UK waters and new powers will be granted to the devolved Administrations. The fisheries administrations will publish a joint fisheries statement setting out how common objectives will be met.

Importantly, this Government have learned from the mistakes of the common fisheries policy. Effective management is so important if we want fishing to be a viable career choice for our future generations. I had the pleasure of visiting Gary Thomas and Chris Pritchard, two Amlwch constituents who fish lobster, crab and whelks from their boat, the Boy James. They work tirelessly to provide fresh produce while also encouraging and inspiring the next generation of fishers. However, we must ensure that there are sufficient fish stocks to provide income if we want to keep those communities alive; that is why I am grateful to see the end of the common fisheries policy.

In conclusion, when I look back on my time as Member of Parliament for Ynys Môn, I want to know that I helped Sion to grow and strengthen Holyhead Shellfish, I want to know that Menai mussels have reliable stock for decades to come, and I want to ensure that those who come to our island will experience the joy of their first mackerel catch in the beautiful waters of Trearddur Bay.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Virginia Crosbie.

In 2018, a community-led group came together to produce a long-term strategy for the fishing industry in East Anglia. The REAF—that is, the Renaissance of East Anglian Fisheries—report was launched in Parliament on 17 October last year. The report concludes that there is an exciting future for the local industry, which has declined dramatically in the past 40 years, but that there is a great deal of work to do.

My interest is to ensure that this Bill provides the framework within which to deliver REAF. On the whole, it does. The Bill is by no means perfect, though it is an improvement on its predecessor from the last Parliament. It has been said by some that, at present, the Bill is a picture frame without a painting, and that there is a need for Government to articulate a compelling vision for a revitalised fishing industry, both leading the world in marine conservation and promoting the revitalisation of our coastal communities.

It may well be that that is what lies behind the amendments put forward by the Opposition. I can understand why Luke Pollard and his colleagues have tabled them; I have some concerns of my own, which hopefully the Minister will address. However, on the whole, I do not think these amendments are necessary, and we need to get on with delivering this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalise our fishing industry, which can bring so many benefits to coastal communities all around the UK.

Amendment 2 seeks to make the sustainability objective a prime fisheries objective. I can understand the rationale for this amendment, but of the eight objectives, six already relate to the environment, one provides for equal access for UK boats to any area within British fisheries limits, and the other seeks to ensure that fishing brings social and economic benefits to UK communities. There is thus already a clear emphasis in the Bill on the vital importance of sustainability.

There is an alternative view that we are in danger of having too many objectives and that there should be just one straightforward duty to prudently manage a public asset using sound science. However, as it stands, the Bill provides a very clear direction of travel, and it should be noted that the REAF report’s recommendations, based on the feedback from those working in the industry, have sustainability at their core.

I have much sympathy with the intention behind amendment 1, as one of the main purposes of having a fishing industry is to provide jobs and to bring benefits to local communities—to support the whole supply chain, from the net to the plate, and not just to support those fishermen who sell their fish directly abroad. To address that concern, the Government should put in place policies and funding streams that will enable us to deliver meaningful social and economic benefits for coastal communities. That requires a review of the economic link, and I therefore welcome the consultation on proposals to strengthen the condition and to increase the economic benefit.

There is also the need to invest in infrastructure, in ports and in processing plants, and it is good news that the Bill contains provisions that allow Ministers to set up new grants and funding streams. But time is marching on; the transition period ends in two and a half months, on 31 December, and the industry needs to start planning for what can be a new and exciting future. We need the detail of what will replace the European maritime and fisheries fund. What will be the role of local enterprise partnerships? In Suffolk and Norfolk, the New Anglia LEP is fully engaged in REAF, but its remit needs to be clarified.

Reference has been made to the coastal communities fund and the role that it can play, but its terms of reference need to be changed. The commitment to invest in port infrastructure is welcome, but that crosses the boundaries of other Departments, including the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport. The latter is currently focusing on this issue, and I would be grateful if the Minister could advise us of what discussions her Department has had with those Departments.

Amendment 3 aims to prohibit fishing in English waters by boats longer than 100 metres—so-called supertrawlers. That is in line with the REAF recommendation, which actually went further: to ban beam trawling, including electric pulse fishing, which has caused so much devastation off the East Anglian coast. Again, I understand why the Opposition have tabled that amendment, but it should not be necessary, as with control of our own waters back in our own hands the Government are able to put a stop to that immediately.

It is good news that the Government have legislated that foreign pulse beam trawlers will not be permitted to operate in UK waters after 31 December, and that they have given notice to the four English-registered vessels that their authorisations will be withdrawn at the same time. I urge the Scottish Government to do likewise for their single pulse trawler. Studies have shown that pulse fishing has had a devastating impact on cod in the southern North sea, and thus I welcome Government amendment 55, which allows the UK to adopt its own measures with regard to the catching of cod in the North sea. That should help to restore stocks insofar as it is possible to do so, taking into account the impact of climate change.

The Bill is not perfect, in that it draws attention to loopholes that need to be plugged and provokes questions that need to be answered, but as a framework Bill it is more or less fit for purpose, and we now need to get on with putting in place the policies and initiatives that will arise out of it, which will revitalise the UK fishing industry, not just in Lowestoft or in East Anglia but all around the UK.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

The Report stage of this Bill is an historic moment for our country—one that I have long sought to see. As someone who voted no in the first referendum and leave in the second referendum, I am absolutely delighted to be here and see this happen. I will support the Government amendments and I was convinced by the Minister’s arguments that other amendments are not necessary.

Earlier in the debate, a couple of Members said that they were not around in 1988. Well, I was—I was here. My hon. Friend Mrs Murray was right to mention that piece of legislation, which was a building block. What I thought was dreadful was when, later in her speech, she described herself as an old woman. As far as I am concerned, she is in the first flush of youth, frankly. Her expertise in these matters was clear when she dealt with Mr Carmichael on safety, which is obviously a very personal issue to her. She made her points extremely well.

The Bill leaves us with a unique opportunity to prosper as a global giant in the fishing industry and to regulate the sector how we see fit, instead of just following the European Union’s directives. Support for our fishing industry must not be overlooked, as our fishing and fish processing industries employ 24,000 people and contribute £1.4 billion to our economy. More data and scientific knowledge will help us to manage the fish in our own waters more accurately. With that knowledge and new management plans, we can allow the rapid growth of our own fleet and, in time, limit access for European Union vessels. More importantly, the Thames estuary and the east coast do not have good stock levels of Dover sole, one of the main species. I therefore say to my hon. Friend the Minister that we need to improve the economic output of the industry, but we also need to be environmentally sustainable to ensure that there are plentiful stocks.

I very much agree with the remarks made by my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Jacob Young) and for Waveney (Peter Aldous) about the huge vessels that we see in our marine conservation zones and marine protected areas, which are crucial to the biodiversity of our fish. Without removing the laws allowing such big boats into these particularly fragile areas, we will undoubtedly continue to see a decline in our fish stocks and long-term pollution of our environment. A recent Greenpeace investigation reports that in 2019, 25 super-trawlers, none of which were UK-owned—[Interruption.] I think the Minister said that we owned one of them. Those super-trawlers spent nearly 3,000 hours fishing in marine protected areas of the UK coast. That is absolutely unacceptable. One of them included a Dutch-owned 142-metre vessel that was banned from Australian waters. I want the Government to watch this situation very closely and do all they can to protect our own fish stocks.

Domestic waste such as detergents and plastics that pollute our water systems decreases the water quality around the coast and poisons our future. I hope that, when the Government get some legislative slots, they will do everything they possibly can to protect our coastline.

This is a historic moment for our country because, as an island nation, getting back control of our waters is so crucial. I enjoyed the spat between Scottish Members, because that brings the Chamber alive, and I felt the arguments for and against what is happening on this particular matter. As far as I am concerned, however, this Bill and its Report stage are to be welcomed absolutely.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee 9:00 pm, 13th October 2020

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. and old Friend Sir David Amess. I think we can say that literally, being much of an age. He and I have consistently disagreed about Brexit, but we still remain friends for all that. For those of us who were staunch remainers, the common fisheries policy was about the most difficult aspect of our EU membership to defend. That is one part of our arrangements in departing that I do not regret, and I do not think that many other people will either. This is a good Bill and a necessary Bill to put matters on a proper footing going forward.

Bromley and Chislehurst is not particularly noted for its fishing industry, although I do use this opportunity to welcome and give every good wish to the establishment by local businesspeople of the excellent Fish Union Chislehurst, which will provide a direct link from the catchers to the streets of Royal Parade in Chislehurst. It is a great initiative and I am delighted that they are doing it.

In fact, as might not surprise you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am going to talk about a legal point instead, and that brings me to Government amendment 36. I listened with care to my hon. Friend the Minister in her exchanges with me and with Mr Carmichael. My hon. Friend is a very good Minister, she is a very good lawyer, and she was in the past a very distinguished member of the Justice Committee, all of which, I hope, will lead her to pause and take stock as to the wisdom of inserting a PEC—a permissive extent clause—at this late stage of the Bill. In effect, it seeks to give the Government the power to legislate, in certain matters, for the Crown dependencies.

There is a long-standing constitutional convention, as my hon. Friend will know from her time on the Select Committee, from our report in March 2017 on the implications of Brexit on the Crown dependencies, and from our visits to the Crown dependencies, that the normal process is that we legislate for the Crown dependencies only with their consent. They are not former colonies or British territories, and they are not part of the United Kingdom in the strict sense. They are possessions of Her Majesty the Queen, by right of her position as successor to the Duchy of Normandy. That is why they do not have representation here. Where necessary, their legislative dealings with the UK Government are dealt with historically through the Privy Council, and are now safeguarded by the Ministry of Justice via the person of the Lord Chancellor. So their constitutional position is different.

The Government have recognised that in the past, for example in tax transparency legislation, where this House accepted that although we have the power to legislate for overseas territories, we do not constitutionally have the power to legislate for the Crown dependencies in a like manner. I do not understand why the Government are adopting a different stance on this, compared with the one they took on the equally desirable legislation on tax transparency.

The problem is this: of the Crown dependencies, the Isle of Man has consented. Well and good—there is nothing wrong with a permissive extent clause that involves the Isle of Man. However, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which involves three separate jurisdictions—Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, all of which have their own legislative integrity—and the island of Jersey, have declined to agree to the PEC. Indeed, there were discussions going back to July and they politely said, “No, thank you. We have a good relationship with our neighbours in France”—that is where the vast bulk of their catch lands—“and if we have difficulties we have our own legislative processes, and we will work and legislate for ourselves in an emergency if need be.” So I do not see the constitutional justification for the Government taking these powers.

I had a concern—the Minister will know this—about our taking what many of us thought to be pre-emptive powers in the UK internal markets Bill. In the end that was described as a “break glass in emergency” clause. I do not know whether this is supposed to be a “break glass in emergency” clause, but it seems to suggest the possibility of the UK Government trespassing on the constitutional integrity of the Crown dependencies, in furtherance of a potential dispute between the UK Government and the Crown dependencies.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that there is no provision for consultation of any sort in the Bill? This is something that could be done unilaterally. Is that really the way we should be gearing our relationship with the Channel Islands?

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

The short answer is that the right hon. Gentleman is right. It is not the right way to do this and we should think again. That is why I ask the Minister to reflect between now and the Bill going back to the other place. In the end we came to a pragmatic compromise on the UK internal markets Bill, and we set in place certain processes, triggers and thresholds for the exercise of that power, should it be needed in emergencies. I urge the Government, between now and the Bill returning to the other place, to think hard about doing something similar, so that we do not get into a situation where our friends in the Crown dependencies find themselves obliged perhaps to seek legal redress against our own Government and, if need be, to invoke their internal arrangements in relation to a legislative referral procedure. As the Minister knows, that can be embarked on and is not the ideal way to deal with this matter.

The concern is simply that the principle of consent is thoroughly enshrined in our relationship with the Crown dependencies. The Government have always sought to adhere to that, and the Minister and I know that we have always advocated that in this House. I do not yet see the grounds for introducing this provision, other than the possibility that it might be needed at some point—again, that sounds familiar in respect of the UK internal markets Bill. Let us find another solution in much the same way, where we consult with the Crown dependencies.

Without any consultation, it seems a needless provocation to attempt to place in the Bill, at a late stage, a provision that I hope will never be needed, but that goes against the express wishes of the legislatures of two parts of the British family. One of those legislatures had a general election only last week, and it now has a new legislature and set of Ministers, with a mandate to maintain their constitutional position. I urge the Minister to use her good influence and wise lawyerly skills to cause her colleagues to draw back a little, put some safeguards in the measure, continue talking to our friends in the Crown dependencies and find a means of accommodating the legitimate concerns of both sides, without taking what might be termed a draconian step.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Well, the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend Neil Parish, told us to eat more fish. That should not be difficult with Arbroath smokies, Strangford prawns and buying local in Totnes. Even Wokingham is very keen to eat lots and lots more British fish. Chislehurst has a fish union and Holyhead is willing to sell it shellfish—it’ll be great.

Stephanie Peacock said that she was concerned that we would not actually act—that we would just consult. I reassure her that consulting is a precursor to action. We will consult on the economic link for four weeks. We will announce our new policy by the end of the year. We will give the industry a year to adapt and the changes will come in in 2022.

Matt Rodda, who is no longer in his place, was concerned about coastal communities. I can tell him that we have invested £228 million through the coastal communities fund, supporting projects that should create 20,000 new jobs very shortly.

Let me turn now to Deidre Brock. Many of the amendments to which she takes objection are at the behest of the Scottish Government. I say politely that new clause 3 is really not necessary. Seafish already publishes the information that is sought within it and lays its annual reports and accounts before this Parliament, and that information is widely available.

There were some emotional speeches, and rightly so, including from my hon. Friend Mrs Murray, who has spent 40 years campaigning for this historic moment, but is she stuck in the past? She is not. Yesterday, she launched an electric boat, which shows that there is a future for this exciting industry.

My hon. Friend Sir David Amess again spoke with experience and passion. My hon. Friend Andrea Jenkyns had a horrible experience during the debate and we send our love to her. Her defence of fishing made her grandfather and Yorkshire proud. My hon. Friend Derek Thomas also spoke emotionally. I encourage him to join in with our consultation process thoroughly.

I reassure my hon. Friend Scott Mann that clause 6(2)(c) gives him the flexibility that he seeks and I am looking forward to going fishing with him soon—if he ever asks me. My hon. Friend Douglas Ross stood up very, very soundly for the Scottish fishing industry and reminded us carefully that the Scottish Parliament has consented to this legislation. Mr Carmichael raised the very serious matter of the case that happened off Shetland. The correspondence to which he referred is part of the MCA correspondence, so I am not able to give him that, but what I would like to offer is to arrange a meeting between him, the MCA and the DFT to discuss this very important matter.

On the speech by hon. Member for Upper Bann (Carla Lockhart), DAERA asked for wider powers on conservation beyond the scope of this Bill. We are exploring the options for other appropriate routes if DAERA wants to continue to take that forward in the future—I am happy to take this offline with her. The hon. Members for Angus (Dave Doogan) and for Stirling (Alyn Smith) were concerned about the speed of lorry movements with fish and seafish on them. Seafood and day-old chicks do need priority care and access through the short straits and that is something that the Government recognise.

It was lovely to hear from the Cornish fishwife, my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory, who gave us some real-life experience and made important points about labelling. I would not mind going on the trawler vessel with my hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall if he were to ask me. My hon. Friend Jacob Young supported marine protected areas and I was glad that I could answer his concerns on super-trawlers. To my hon. Friend Peter Aldous, I can say that the REAF report contains some interesting ideas that the Government will consider as part of our ongoing work on inshore fisheries.

At the end of this year, foreign vessels will not be able to pulse trawl.

On the PEC, I will continue to consult with my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill and with the Lord Chancellor, to whom I have also spoken on this issue. I reassure the House that I will speak again to those in the Crown dependencies who are concerned by this step, which is not one I take at all lightly, but I have been persuaded that there is no other option. We are not intending to use the provision, but I think it is correct to have it in the Bill.

I thank all those who have scrutinised the Bill at both ends of this place. In particular, I thank my noble Friend Lord Gardiner. May his lines always be tight. Before today, we had spent 51 hours debating just this second version of the Bill, so I think it is fair to say that it has been well and thoroughly scrutinised. Thanks are also due to Lucy Cheeseman and Giulia Grierson, who are in the Box tonight, to parliamentary counsel, DEFRA officials and, indeed, all those from the devolved Administrations who have worked so hard on this Bill.

The Bill sets in stone our commitment to improving the health of our seas. It gives our fishermen the better future they need, and it is an opportunity to seize a once-in-a-generation chance to take back control of our natural resources and make sure we pass on healthier seas, which are abundant with life. The Fisheries Bill gives us the power we need to protect our fish stocks and help our seafood sector. It sets a gold standard for sustainability, and it allows us to bring fishing home. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 8 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.