My Lords, I have the great pleasure of speaking to the amendments standing in my name and that of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. Unfortunately, he is delayed. He had hoped to arrive in time, but I have the pleasure of moving the amendment anyway. Together, the two amendments call for collaborative working on the Bill. While in our earlier discussions we asked whether 10 objectives were plenty, here we are calling for one extra. To a certain extent we will understand if, standing alone, it is not accepted. However, the point behind collaborative working is very important.
“the fisheries policy authorities receive guidance on fisheries management from the fishing industry, scientists and other relevant stakeholders.”
That engagement has not been as close as it could have been over the years. The amendment would provide the opportunity to establish a proper common base on which these decisions can be made. Proposed new subsection (9B) says that guidance under proposed new subsection (9A)
“must be formally established and shared by a consultative group”— in other words, there will be a direct link to make sure that it is established and that working together happens. Proposed new subsection (9C) states:
“Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must issue a consultation on the establishment of a consultative group under subsection (9B) or an alternative vehicle for producing guidance under subsection (9A).”
I am very grateful to the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations for its help in putting this amendment together. If my noble friend the Minister cannot accept it, I hope he will look carefully at what is being suggested, which is the need to make sure that we bring together all those who work in the fishing industry to come up with positive suggestions for future sustainability. The consultative group would guide and advise on policy; promote collaboration between central government and the devolved Administrations; allow ongoing dialogue on the viability of the industry; and channel the fishing industry’s knowledge and experience, about which I spoke earlier, into the design and implementation of management measures. This would be hugely helpful.
The consultative group would play a leading role in the use of secondary legislation—as we all know, the Bill will set up systems, but a lot of the detail will come in the secondary legislation—to ensure that we have an agile and responsive approach to future fisheries management. The inclusion of the consultative group of fishery experts would guarantee that sustainability issues are fully considered. It would also play a valuable role in the development and operation of the management plans proposed later in the Bill.
As I said, we might be adding an 11th objective—I still think number one, sustainability, is the most important overall—but it is important that those who work on the sea, those who plan for what is happening, the scientists and the data collected should work together. I have great pleasure in moving the amendment.
My Lords, I agree that there needs to be far more collaboration. It is the big missing thing in the Bill in many ways. We have a Bill that covers the whole of the United Kingdom. We have devolution in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but I am concerned that we have no devolution in England despite the fact that the English fishery is diverse—as are those of the other nations—and I have amendments later in the Bill that seek to tackle that in a sensible and not too radical way.
I welcome the spirit of the amendments. They are the basement of what we need but I hope the Minister will take strongly the message that there needs to be consultation and working with not only the industry but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said, the larger stakeholders to make this sector work. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s response to this proposal.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for tabling these amendments, and I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said.
The noble Baroness raised an important point about consultation, although, as we discussed in the earlier amendments, I am not sure—I think she acknowledged this—that adding it to the list of objectives is the right way to go about it. But the sense of what she is trying to achieve certainly has merit.
A number of the delegated powers in the Bill contain consultation requirements with devolved Ministers and/or representatives of the fishing industry. However, in that respect, the need for consultation is reserved for specific purposes and is envisaged as a one-off, whereas this amendment proposes a more regular and longer-term consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said he thought it was at the basement of the types of consultation we should have but, nevertheless, we agree that there should be more comprehensive regular engagement with relevant stakeholders.
Moving further than the noble Baroness’s amendment, we need to make sure that the different sections of the UK’s fleet—the trawlers and the 10s and so on—are all effectively represented in the process. We need to make sure that the spread of stakeholders is right.
We are not doing very well with this Bill because we keep having to revisit and go back and forth to parts that we have already discussed. We have amendments later in the Bill which deal with the issue of consultation, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has said that he has more detailed proposals with regard to the establishment of advisory boards and so on.
In the mix of all that there is the fundamental issue of consultation, and all these proposals have merit. We will listen carefully to what the Minister has to say on this issue and, when we have dealt with all the amendments we have tabled, we will try to pull together a considered view about the best wording and the best way forward. We would like to get this element of the Bill right and we may well have to come back to it on Report. As I say, we will listen to what the Minister has to say but we may need to pool our ideas to take this issue forward, and we should do so.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend and my noble and learned friend—I am sorry he is not able to be present—and wholeheartedly agree with the principle that fisheries management should be informed by the best available evidence and that there should be close working between the UK Government, the devolved Administrations, industry, scientists and interested parties. All noble Lords who have spoken in this shortish debate have referred to that.
It is a long-established approach for the Government to engage widely on the implementation of policy. We have an expert advisory group considering issues relating to fisheries policy and, because the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised one or two points, I would like to indicate which organisations are part of that to show the spread: the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the United Kingdom Association of Fish Producer Organisations, the Scottish Association of Fish Producer Organisations, the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, Greener UK, the British Retail Consortium, the Association of IFCAs and the UK Seafood Industry Alliance/Provision Trade Federation.
Additionally, we have a Marine Science Co-ordination Committee, bringing together bodies across government, together with senior scientific advisers. I mention in particular Professor Mike Elliott, director of the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies and professor of estuarine and coastal sciences at the University of Hull, and Professor Michael J Kaiser, professor of marine conservation ecology at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University. I mention this because it is important that your Lordships understand the range of the expert advice we are receiving.
The UK Government are also supporting initiatives from the industry—
All the organisations that I have referred to are organisations rather than statutory bodies. Clearly, bodies such as Natural England have statutory functions and interests, and obviously are part of the work. The Environment Agency, Natural England and other such bodies would all have an interest in marine areas and so on. As to the part they will play in the expert advisory group—I will try not to mislead your Lordships—clearly all such statutory organisations and bodies would have a locus in this.
As to the initiatives from the industry itself that the UK Government are supporting to manage fisheries, these include, for example, the work of the Scallop Industry Consultation Group and the newly created shellfish industry group. We have also held a call for evidence on how we allocate additional English quota.
In addition—the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to this and we shall have discussions about it—the Bill includes statutory provisions requiring consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of proposals in the joint fisheries statement, any Secretary of State fisheries statement and fisheries management plans. The provision for consultation in these three areas—particularly when we get down to the fisheries management plans, which are about each and every stock—shows the level of ability and the importance of consultation. Its purpose is to get these matters right and to have sustainable fishing.
Given the complexities of fisheries management, the different interests and the different levels at which advice and engagement need to take place—be it at national, administration or local level—a one-size-fits-all body is unlikely to work. Consultation and collaboration will need to flex and adapt as we improve our fisheries management.
In addition, I am advised that, as drafted, the amendment would present some challenges given the devolution settlements. Officials in the UK Government have worked very closely with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations to develop and draft this new set of fisheries objectives. We appreciate the level of engagement that the devolved Administrations have shown in this work. The objectives are truly shared ambitions for our future fisheries management. I am pleased to report that the devolved Administrations already collaborate and consult widely in developing their own future fisheries management policies.
As I say, we will come to discussions on consultation at a later stage but I hope it has been helpful to my noble friend that I have set out in slightly more detail than I might have intended the organisations that are part of the expert advisory group. As we all know, we need to base what we do on scientific advice—and we are seeking the best scientific advice we can.
With those extra words, I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response, and the two other noble Lords for supporting—in principle, I think—the ideas behind this amendment. Obviously, we look forward to looking at theirs in greater detail as well.
The one thing that slightly concerns me, as the Minister rightly said, is that there is no one size that fits all. I understand that but, on the other hand, if we have lots of little bits doing different things, surely you need something overall, like an umbrella, which brings it together. This is the thought behind the amendment. It is an ongoing consultation: it is not that you go out to consult on one issue, but that it would be something that goes on into the future. As my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay could not be here tonight, I say at this stage that I will obviously read Hansard very carefully, as I know he will. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 5 withdrawn.
Amendments 6 to 10 not moved.