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.