New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses) 7:30 pm, 13th October 2020

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.