Amendment 93

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 9th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 6:15 pm, 9th March 2020

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for tabling Amendment 93, which allows us to return to two previously debated topics: international co-operation and the need to ensure fishing at sustainable levels.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has previously spoken cogently about shared stocks and the interdependency of sustainability across nation states. The Committee has had several assurances from the Minister on both these topics yet concerns remain. Despite many challenges, especially in relation to the UK and the devolved Administrations’ activities, NGOs and stakeholders remain concerned that the legislation before the Committee does not truly give effect to the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably.

There are negotiations on trade yet to come, where there could be little transparency regarding sustainable outcomes without a commitment to produce annual reports. Instead, we see a commitment subject to caveats of fishing sustainably when circumstances allow and when the UK can strike relevant agreements at international level.

I will not repeat instances from previous Committee debates, but careful consideration must be given to how this framework can add value to the ponderous steps in that direction in the CFP, and brought back on Report. Movement in these areas would give us a level of reassurance that we are heading in the right direction.

However, as it stands, and as Greener UK points out, the objectives on biomass do not go far enough, and in any event are not fully binding. The Bill does not include legal commitments on international co-operation, with the Government falling back on their participation in existing international agreements, even though these are limited in scope.

The Committee can acknowledge that there are areas where the UK will want to diverge from the common fisheries policy. We have all been critical of the CFP for failing to achieve its targets in relation to MSY. Here, I admit to being in the kindergarten stage, having not even reached undergraduate. The fact is that these targets are recognised at international level and the Committee will need to consider how pressure can be brought in this aspect.

If we do not improve the Bill, the UK could be left with a regression in environmental standards resulting from the CFP. We will be left in a situation where the Government say they want to go further than the EU has allowed us to, but where there is no statutory duty to match what came before. This is why those NGOs, and certainly those on these Benches, are so concerned. We cannot let sustainability be left to non-binding policy statements, which can, in a number of cases, be overwritten or overridden. This is no basis for a fully independent fisheries regime; nor will it give the UK any cast-iron basis on which to negotiate with international partners.

The Minister may resist this amendment, but I ask that in the meetings which he has assured the Committee can be undertaken before Report, we might bring forward further improvements that the Government may be willing to sign up to.