New Clause 8 - Agency arrangements between sea fish licensing authorities

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 13th October 2020.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 8:45 pm, 13th October 2020

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.