Moved by Lord Teverson
94: Clause 23, page 15, line 27, at end insert—“( ) Any rise in the total quantity of an annual quota in England shall be disproportionately allocated to the under-10-metre fleet.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment aims to gradually increase the viability of smaller fishing vessels and protect coastal communities.
My Lords, I come to two amendments; I cannot imagine there is any way the Government could disagree with them, but we will see how we do. They are entirely in line with government policy, as I understand it. In fact, I have given credit before to the Secretary of State. When he was Minister, he managed a redistribution to the under-10-metre fleet, despite the resistance of the English legal system, for which I give him credit.
Amendments 94 and 106, to which I will speak as well, state that we are in a situation in which it is the Government’s intention, through their negotiations later this year, that we will move to a system of zonal attachment, or whatever you want to call it. The outcome is that we should have more entitlement and shed the straitjacket of relative stability, and there should be more fishing opportunities for the UK fleet. That is the bottom line. Amendment 94, which I am perfectly happy to write in future as an English as opposed to a UK amendment, says that as we increase those harvesting opportunities for the UK fleet, the local fishing fleet’s proportion, which is estimated at between 2% and 5% of quota, should increase. Those are the fishers in this industry under greatest pressure. They are part of local communities, and the ones the fisheries campaign around Brexit focused on, if we are honest. Let us deliver on that and make a commitment that the redistribution strongly biases the under-10-metre fleet.
In the agriculture and farming sector, we often concentrate on and hear the question: how do we make sure we get new entrants into the agricultural industry? Yet, we talk about this only infrequently in fisheries, where the barriers are equally high. Here is another opportunity, through the increased harvesting opportunities which the UK—or English—fleet will have, to have a scheme for new entrants and younger people. This industry, on the whole, has a fairly aged profile and not a lot of new entrants. Here is an opportunity for new entrepreneurs and people with new ideas to come into the industry and start to thrive.
Having said that, as the amendment states, if people move out of the industry or are not able to succeed for whatever reason, their quota cannot be sold on. It has to come back to the authorities or to the state. These propositions make the Bill almost mildly exciting for the industry. I hope the Minister can grab that opportunity.
I also support, in general, Amendment 105 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. As in my amendment, with which we started Committee, this all comes down to who owns the stocks. The noble Baroness introduces the interesting concept of those stocks being held in trust. I am concerned that we are stuck in a straitjacket at the moment in the way quota is distributed. The Minister said earlier, on one amendment, that FQAs are staying as they are, so we will still be in a situation where almost half—40%—of English quota is effectively owned by foreign vessels. I put this question to the Minister: even if we increase our quota, largely get rid of relative stability—or at least move towards that—and increase UK catch opportunities, and I am a Danish, Dutch or French corporate that owns fishing rights in the UK, what will I do? Am I going to be excluded from UK fisheries? No, I will just use my deep pockets to buy more UK quota; rather than having my Dutch, Danish or Spanish-flagged vessels fishing extra UK quota, I will have a British flag on my boats. So the status quo is maintained.
It comes down to this: even if we have the additional catch limits, I see no reason why there will be any difference in the structure of the industry; it will be completely open to foreign individuals to buy British companies that own British quota. What is going to change? Companies on the other side of the Channel or the North Sea, or in Ireland, have the deep pockets to do this. Moving slightly away from my amendments, I bring the Minister’s attention to who owns the quotas and fish stocks, and the possibility of bringing them into public trust. At the moment, FQAs are effectively owned by well-off and profitable companies, individuals or families. They pay no rent or income whatever to the UK, the taxpayer or British citizens. I am very interested in the Minister’s response to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington.
My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendment 104. Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I am concerned about historic fishing rights. One of the supposed benefits of taking back control of our fisheries policy—in fact, of taking back control of everything—was that the opportunities could be used to develop a common-sense fishing policy that would benefit our left behind coastal communities.
My Amendment 104 seeks to make good on that promise, by ensuring that fishing rights are allocated to the greatest benefit of local economies, rather than continuing to be based on historic catch levels. If the Government support my amendment, it will level up our coastal fishing towns and spur on a wave of new entrants to the industry. It removes reference to historic catch because historic catch levels have little or no relevance to decisions about future fishing rights. There is a lack of clarity about them, and this is an opportunity to make things much clearer and fairer. These decisions should be based on an assessment of economic and social benefit, along with all the other environmental and ecological factors set out in the Bill, which should not perpetuate an existing flawed system.
I know that the industry bodies are briefing heavily against changing this, but the Government seem perfectly willing to tackle industry bodies when they want to; it is just a question of political will. As with so many amendments to so many Bills, my amendment seeks to change the discretion to a duty, by changing the “may” to a “shall”. This is important because the “may” is weak and unenforceable, whereas this should be a duty on the relevant authorities to ensure that fishing rights maximise the economic and social benefits, within the environmental and ecological limits.
Finally, my amendment recognises the core principle that our fish stocks are an asset held on trust for all the people. I hope the Government agree with that; it is a point that has already been made. This seems like a missed opportunity to reinvigorate fishing communities. The Minister just talked about vibrant communities, and the heart of this amendment is that we should be seeking to create them.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 105 in my name. We are getting to the heart of the Bill in this discussion and amendment grouping. The advice I sought when seeking to amend Clause 25 was: “Don’t bother; rewrite it.” It has been hastily drafted and gives little clarity to legislators, hence the desire to present a different Clause 25. At the heart of that lies the insertion of the basic principle that the right to fish is held in public trust, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said.
To clarify, in coming out of the CFP we are establishing a new legal system in the UK. That is a tiered approach which takes back control of our waters, and creates a clear process which establishes the concept of a legal fishing right, held in trust for the public. We are dispensing with business as usual, carrying on as we were, and tinkering at the edges. We are fundamentally trying to make it clear that the Secretary of State holds in trust for the public the right to give out the property right to fish.
The reason we need this in the heart of the Bill is that, by being silent on this issue and not clarifying it, we are in danger of allowing the courts to continue to make precedent that will determine how these rights are viewed. In one case, the Association of Fish Producer Organisations took the Government to court over an attempted reallocation of the FQA. Mr Justice Cranston at the time found in favour, essentially conferring a property right on a representative body of private interests to the detriment of the public interest. It is crucial the Bill addresses this, and Amendment 105 is my best attempt, with the assistance of expert legal advisers, to redraft this clause to be crystal clear.
As drafted, Clause 25 is confusing. I urge the Minister to ask his officials why the clause starts with reference back to something that we are leaving. We are supposed to be writing fit-for-purpose legislation to determine our own future, yet here we are, referencing the common fisheries policy. The clause as drafted is therefore unclear, obscure and hard to follow.
The proposed new clause tries to introduce the very important principle that this is
“public property held on trust for the people”.
That must be the basis on which we go forward. The criteria we use for the transferal of this publicly held trust into private hands must be completely transparent and objective. The Minister will, I am sure, point me towards Clause 1, which sets out a lot of lovely objectives. Those objectives are fantastic, but what links them to the fundamental process of the allocation of rights and of fishing opportunities? There is no link, except in the plans, which we have yet to see and will not be able to scrutinise. This proposed new clause would require that we set out transparent objective criteria for the process of moving the allocation from public to private ownership.
Proposed new subsection (5) sets out that we should have the ability to reward selective fishing gear and the use of techniques that reduce environmental impact. I am not in any way saying that it is perfect to include this here, but it is an important principle that when allocating these rights we should attach conditions, as we have done in the agricultural debate, to something that is being transferred from public trust to private ownership. It is simply not good enough to say that they employ people and make a small contribution to GDP; they have to be responsible for helping restore our natural environment to the point at which it can be fished sustainably and we can see a more vibrant industry as a result.
I was reflecting on the Minister’s comment on the previous group that we cannot be overly onerous or restrictive in our rights-giving, because others will not do that, so there is no point. I am afraid that is a bit of a weak argument, and I hope I have misunderstood the Minister. The field I am most experienced in is climate change; another tragedy of the commons. Exactly the same argument was played back to us by various parts of government when we were trying to pass the Climate Change Act, which restricts the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases: “What’s the point in the UK going further? If others are going to cheat the system, we need to be allowed to cheat too.” Clearly, that is a race to the bottom; we need to inspire a race to the top. The only way to trigger such a race is to grasp this opportunity and set out world-class legislation. If we say that we have to cheat because others are cheating, we will not get anywhere; it will be a continuation of where we are today. And where we are today is dismal for everyone, fishers included.
I encourage the Minister to question his officials, even further than he already does, on the principle of our not going further than the perceived lack of action overseas. We are taking back control and it is incumbent on us to use it wisely and not, in the passing of the Bill, tie our hands by stating in any way that we will continue with the system of handing out quota according to current perceived property rights. We must start with a fresh slate.
I do not want to rehearse arguments we have had before on the devolution issues, but it ought to be crystal clear that we are taking back the ability to set our own fishing management plans. That is of course subject to negotiation, but we go into those negotiations in the spirit of levelling up and inspiring better behaviour, not of descending to the level we have seen in the past through the CFP. With the UK Secretary of State conducting those negotiations on behalf of the four devolved nations, the outcomes should be clearly passed through to them. I do not believe that anything in the proposed new clause goes against the devolution settlements. Devolved matters can be respected but, at the same time, we need to be really clear about how UK negotiations on allocations will go out to the four devolved countries.
I would hate to think that some sort of deal has been negotiated, outside the scrutiny of Parliament, in which an agreement has been reached and the allocation of the pie already settled, and that all we are doing now is arguing over what we might get more of through the repatriation of quota currently used by foreign vessels. If that is all we are doing, we have missed a massive opportunity. We must start from the basis of making fishing more sustainable across the piece. That requires us to have conversations with the devolved nations about whether the effort is correct at the moment, or whether there needs to be a redistribution.
I note the other amendments in the group on redistribution to the under-10-metre fleets and on allowing new entrants. Those are hugely important measures, but if all we are doing is squabbling about the imagined repatriation of some small extra quota, we are missing the opportunity to look again at whether we are distributing in the right way what is essentially a public asset.
I apologise for getting rather out of breath, but I am very passionate about this. I will allow other noble Lords to come in on these issues, but I will say this. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, noted, this is complex, and as we get into the details it gets ever more complex. But Clause 25 as drafted does not help us and does not offer clarity. We need to link the objectives set out at the start of the Bill with the mechanics of the Bill in a much more rigorous way. We need the ability to question and review, and to come forward with a transition—no one is saying that there will be a revolution overnight. We cannot tie our hands legally by accidentally continuing the status quo: that must be our guiding principle as we scrutinise this legislation. I am delighted to take part in this debate.
My Lords, I put my name to Amendment 105 because I think that this group of amendments, around Clause 25 and the overhaul of the fishing opportunities, is a really important part of the Bill. I do not think that Defra and the devolved authorities have yet given it quite enough thought. As the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, has said, it is an opportunity and we must not let it slip.
When we discussed the sustainability objectives on day 1 of Committee, the object was to put in place a framework that put sustainability at the forefront of the objectives. We will no doubt come back to that on Report. During the discussion, the Minister emphasised that sustainability included social and economic sustainability, as well as environmental. During the discussion, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, suggested that we could mimic the Agriculture Bill, where public good by farmers is to be rewarded. I think that it is in Clause 25 where we can put all that into practice: where we can take the ethereal objectives in Clause 1 and put them into practice.
Like the noble Baronesses, Lady Worthington and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, I considered putting down a comprehensive clarification of article 17 of the common fisheries policy. But already having a reputation for rather badly worded amendments to this Bill, I decided to desist; I thought that I would ride on their coat-tails instead. In the end, I do not necessarily think that either amendment is right, but this is an area where we might take advantage of the Minister’s well-earned reputation for discussion and compromise and, I hope, persuade him and the Government to bring forward their own amendment on the subject, spelling out in detail exactly what the allocation of the fishing opportunities should be.
Perhaps I could spell out where I stand. First of all, we have to take it for granted that the total allocation of quota in each fishing area is well within the levels of sustainability and actually encourages the growth of the fishing stock. I have assumed that the existing borderline harvesting of many stocks will not just continue; a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington.
Now we come to the all-important criteria for the allocation of this quota. This is sustainability in practice and is as important as the framework of objectives set out in Clause 1. I will list my criteria, which the Government and others may wish to amend or add to.
First, the allocation must take account of the impact of the boat’s fishing on the environment. This would involve taking account of any damage to the vegetation on the seabed, for instance, with beam trawling and pulse trawling coming to mind. It also means taking account of the impact of fishing on the wider environment, for instance the seabird population. How do the boats in question mange the recovery of lines, hooks and, above all, plastic fishing equipment? There would be other aspects of this environmental criteria, but that is probably enough for starters.
Secondly, on the vessel’s history of compliance, I know this is already included in article 17, but I would like to see every part of the allocation process set out clearly for all to understand.
Thirdly, with historic catch levels, I do not want to go back to the relative stability and the allocation of quotas in the 1980s but, clearly, for the purposes of a stable fishing industry and for the encouragement of reinvestment, it would be sensible if a boat’s quota did not change too dramatically, up or down, from year to year.
Fourthly, the use of selective fishing gear is part of the reinvestment we should be looking for. I know that the Minister mentioned last week that it was already part of the criteria, but I do not think that sales of selective fishing gear are booming. If it can be proven by invoices that the boat in question is genuinely doing its best to catch only what it is allowed to or intending to catch—and thus avoiding discards or catching fish that are sensitive—then the quota allocation should be biased in its favour.
Fifthly, and importantly, there is the boat’s contribution to the local economy and community, which we have been over many times in our debates. Are the fish being landed locally? How many full-time jobs are being created by the boat’s fishing activities, both at sea and, probably more importantly, on shore? Also coming under this category is whether the boat has a recognised apprentice scheme for encouraging local youngsters. I think that is important.
That is probably enough of a stab at some of the more important criteria. To some extent, this amendment is tied up with the “under-10” amendments, such as Amendment 94 and the “new entrants” one, Amendment 106, in this group, both of which I support. I would like to have the seen the new entrants amendment added to slightly because I always compare this with water rationing in Australia. In the Murray-Darling river basin, for instance, when the Australian Government allocated the quota for abstracting water, they took quite a substantial amount into a government reserve. I would like to see us do that. In Australia, they wanted to cater for environmental disasters and mistakes in water distribution, but I think the same thing applies to us. We should not be fishing on the limit. We should try to make certain that there is some reserve, and that would be best held by the Government.
I return to Amendment 105. If, indeed, quota is a national commodity—and that has been mentioned by several speakers—and if we manage to negotiate a little extra, then I believe the principles of allocation should be set out very clearly so fisherman are aware of the standards they should aspire to. I would like the Government to give more thought to Clause 25 and, as I suggested earlier, perhaps have a conversation with interested Peers to ensure that the general principles of sustainability from Clause 1 are firmly embedded within the principles for future allocation of what will be our quota.
My Lords, I apologise for my late arrival at the Committee. I believe my noble friend Lady McIntosh very ably excused me for being late and introduced the amendment in an earlier group—for which I am grateful. I was at a memorial service for a good friend, Professor Ian Calder, who was not only a distinguished forensic pathologist but also a great pleasure to be around.
Noble Lords who have put forward amendments in this group have got to the heart of the issue. I will particularly pick up from the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. One of the central processes following any international negotiations is the determination of fishing opportunities and their allocation. However, we suddenly lapse into a reference to Article 17 of the common fisheries policy. I thought we were escaping from that and setting out for ourselves.
Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, does us a service in her amendment by reminding us what is in the second sentence of Article 17, which otherwise is not referred to in the Bill. It would not have been onerous on the Government’s part for Clause 25 to replace Article 17. Then we could have seen the Government’s intentions. I am looking for the Bill to be very clear about the sequencing and the processes. If I understand correctly, and I may entirely be wrong because I think the Bill does not tell me, under Clause 23 the Government will make a determination following international obligations and must consult the devolved authorities, as Clause 24 tells us. Therefore, by extension, I assume, although it does not say so, that the determination under Clause 23 will include the allocation of fishing opportunities between the national fisheries authorities of the United Kingdom. Is that the case?
That having happened, Clause 25 then says by what process the national fisheries authorities should distribute those fishing opportunities. I gently say to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, that I think there is a problem with Amendment 105 because although it refers to the United Kingdom allocating fishing opportunities between relevant national authorities and using transparent and objective criteria for that purpose, it does not remove Article 17 and, subsequently, refers to “English” fishing opportunities and “English” fisheries authorities. Unless I am very much mistaken, we are legislating here not only for England but on behalf of national fisheries authorities across the United Kingdom. Therefore, Clause 25 must say how the national fisheries authorities in the other parts of the United Kingdom should allocate their fishing opportunities. We need to know whether they have criteria distinct and different from those that will be applied by the English authorities. As drafted, I think they can use different criteria and the joint fisheries statements are likely to reflect different criteria where those apply.
I just want to clarify things. We see the need for two tiers of transparent objective criteria: one on the allocation of the pie out to the four devolved nations and then a subsequent set of similarly transparent criteria for the allocation to the English fisheries. I think we get on to that in Clause 27 on fishing opportunities in England. The noble Lord is right that we have to be consistent in the two levels.
Happily, I think we are in agreement about this. There are two tiers of allocation: the determination of fishing opportunities between the national fisheries authorities and the process by which each national fisheries authority is to do its own task.
That brings me back to the point I was not able to make in a previous group for Amendment 100. However, listening to the bulk of that debate none the less persuaded me that I may, in any case, have directed my amendment at the wrong place and that Clause 25 is where it really matters. This is the point at which if we move away from historic catch levels, for example, things such as the extent to which we do—we may or may not do so, I do not know—immediately become of relevance to the British fishing boats as they are affected by it. For them, that must be the point at which they are consulted. As far as I can tell, Clause 25 and Article 17 which it amends do not say anything about any process of consultation for those affected by the allocation of fishing opportunities. It would be a good idea if they did. None the less, the purport of Amendment 100 is still an argument in relation to Clause 25. I am making the point now, but we may to return to it at a later stage.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for tabling his amendments, which address the issue of enabling new entrants to come into the sector, giving priority to the under-10 fleet. That is an issue which we will cover in our own amendments in the next group.
The amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Worthington, explore the criteria used to allocate new fishing opportunities. They stress the importance of using transparent criteria and the economic and social contributions that the new allocations will make to local communities. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, goes one step further and identifies the need for incentives to fishers to use selective fishing gear and techniques which will reduce environmental and habitat damage. I am very grateful to her for her considerable efforts in rewriting Clause 25, which clearly is flawed and inadequate in its current form. We all feel that she has done a sterling job in having a go at that, although as this process goes on we are all discovering that it is not as easy as it first appears.
I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for his efforts to add his list of improvements that could be made in that clause. In that melting pot, we have enormous agreement for all the arguments being put. These are important principles; we spoke about many of them at Second Reading. We must just find the right place for them in the Bill. We are still struggling with what the Bill’s final architecture should look like.
All noble Lords who have spoken are keen for this Bill to create a fairer distribution of quotas. That is what is needed if we are truly to regenerate our coastal communities. It follows from the debate that we had earlier in this Bill about the principle that our fishing stocks are the property of the nation rather than a select few individuals. The point has been echoed today. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that we should recognise that the current system of quota allocation is broken; I agree. Half the English quota is held by companies based overseas, the small-scale fleet holds only 6% of the quota, and the five largest quota-holders control more than a third of the UK fishing quota. We can all see what is wrong with that. These disparities did not happen overnight. They have historic roots which may not easily be dismantled, but this should not stop us from aspiring to deliver a more fundamental change; we could use the Bill as a vehicle for it.
A number of noble Lords are, like me, still unclear about the extent to which the new licensing regime will enable action to be taken on the ownership of the existing UK quotas. In his letter of
The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was anxious to be clear on the sequencing and the processes for landing many of these issues. We are all trying to find the sequencing and the processes. I know that we are just talking of principles at this level so I will not go into enormous detail, but he felt that it was set out in Clause 23 but now we are discovering that it is not Clause 23. We are chasing the holy grail and will carry on doing so. Clearly the new quota allocations provide an opportunity for change. We can and should use this Bill to lay down a more equitable system for distributing them in the future.
We remain concerned about how quota auctions could work in the future. In his letter, the Minister says that it is not intended for an auction scheme to be used to sell fishing opportunities exclusively based on price. I hope that they would not be based on price; this would perpetuate the discredited schemes that we have already, and there would be no real benefits from leaving the common fisheries policy.
We have amendments in a later group about the need to boost the small-scale fleet. Our aim would be to redistribute the new quotas proportionately in favour of the under-10-metre fleet, the backbone of our coastal communities and ports. We will set out the arguments when we come to that group. In the meantime, we support the general principle of broadening quota ownership and rewarding those vessel owners who demonstrate good practice and a commitment to our sustainability objectives. We therefore support these amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for bringing forward Amendments 94 and 106, which seek to secure the position of the under-10-metre fleet and for new entrants. We all want to achieve the same thing. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, just said, often putting this into the Bill is more complicated.
The Government recognise the importance of the under-10-metre fleet as a cornerstone of our local coastal communities. However, managing our inshore fisheries is a complex task. The fleet is diverse; they catch an assortment of quota and non-quota species using a variety of boats and gear in conditions that differ considerably around the country. Non-quota species are particularly important to the inshore fleet. In 2018, around 77% of the weight and 78% of the value of their landings were from non-quota species such as brown crabs and lobster.
The Government want to support all fishermen, including the under-10-metre fleet, to fish more sustainably, improve our collective understanding of stock health and adapt to technological innovation. That is why they were fully supportive of last October’s Future of Our Inshore Fisheries conference, organised by Seafish. Themes discussed by fishermen and stakeholders included greater collaboration, responsibility sharing and devolution of decision-making responsibility.
Turning specifically to quota allocation, in England we have already taken action to increase the quota the under-10-metre fleet receive. Since 2012, we have realigned fixed quota allocation units from the sector to provide a 13% increase to the under-10-metre quota pool. In 2018, the under-10-metre fleet was allocated an extra 1,281 tonnes of quota uplift, which equated to an additional £3 million. These combined actions have helped the under-10-metre fleet to land 36,000 tonnes of fish in 2018.
In England, we are already exploring new methods to allocate any additional quota we may secure. Last summer, Defra ran a call for evidence to seek views on the values and processes which underpin good quota management. As may be expected, views expressed were very broad-ranging and there was no overall consensus. More work is needed with industry and other stakeholders to further develop this approach throughout 2020.
The quota needs of the under-10-metre fleet will be a key consideration here. It is right that we wait until this further engagement is complete before deciding how to allocate any additional quota in England, to ensure that we are allocating it fairly, proportionately and in support of the fisheries objectives, and—to address the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—considering the needs of the community.
This amendment particularly concerns English quota allocation, and amends Clause 23, which relates to the determination of fishing opportunities at a UK level. These are two separate matters and it is potentially confusing to link them in this way. I will address Amendments 104 and 105 together. The UK Government share the desire of the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Worthington, to see improvements in sustainability. We have already set out a range of key commitments to achieve this. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, asked why Article 17 of the common fisheries policy started off Clause 25. It might be helpful if I read out what the Explanatory Memorandum says:
“This clause amends what will be provisions in retained EU law setting out criteria for the distribution of fishing opportunities. Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy Basic Regulation requires that Member States distribute fishing opportunities domestically according to transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature. The effect of the amendments is to maintain the existing requirements in UK law and to apply them to the Fisheries Administrations and the MMO.”
The Bill ensures that Article 17 of the common fisheries policy basic regulation works in UK law as retained EU law. Article 17 requires the allocation of fishing opportunities on the basis of transparent and objective criteria. The Secretary of State follows these criteria when distributing quotas to the fisheries administrations, using the methodology set out in the publicly available UK quota management rules. Each administration is then responsible for distributing its quota share to industry. In England, the methodology is set out in the publicly available English quota management rules. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also publish their own quota management rules. Changes to these rules are normally consulted upon. In fact, Defra recently ran a consultation on the options for allocating reserve quota which is the uplift in quota we get to account for the reduction in discarding within England.
Given that these documents and evidence are already publicly available, it is unnecessary for the Bill to explicitly set out that it will not be exempt under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as Amendment 105 would provide. The Bill would not be the correct vehicle to seek to exempt the Freedom of Information Act in this way. It is also likely that such information would be covered by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. The Fisheries White Paper made it clear that we will continue to allocate existing quota on the basis of FQA units. This ensures stability and provides certainty to those who have invested in such units. However, we also said that we will work with the devolved Administrations, industry and other stakeholders to develop a new methodology for the allocation of additional or new quota. These criteria will also be published in the relevant quota management rules.
The amendment would put into statute the principle that fisheries are public property held on trust for the people of the UK. This risks further complicating the legal regime. International law, through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, recognises the rights of coastal states over resources, including fish, in their waters. There is a public right to fish, but this right has been restricted as the regulation of fisheries has been added to over the centuries. The last century saw a significant increase in the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This Bill seeks to ensure as joined-up an approach across the UK as is appropriate. It contains a set of shared fisheries objectives which have been developed by the fisheries administrations and which will be used to ensure that fisheries are managed sustainably.
Imposing a further principle on this regime will complicate things and could undermine this agreed approach. It is not clear what public property held on trust for the people of the UK would mean and what it would add to the sustainability and national benefit objectives. I am concerned that any lack of clarity over the criteria which can be used to distribute fishing opportunities could result in uncertainty for parts of the industry which have invested significant amounts of money in fixed quota allocation units. We recognise that fish are a public asset which should benefit the country as a whole.
I have heard that phrase before that fish are somehow held on trust. Fish are considered to be wild animals and cannot be held by anyone as a property right. We are talking about the allocation of the right to fish, not the fish themselves. They cannot be owned by anybody, but fishing rights can. I want to make sure that that is well understood.
It is understood.
The issue of public property would, we believe, be covered by the socio-economic and other criteria which the Secretary of State is already required to consider. I have just asked for a reply to the question on how the future quota will be dispersed.
Additionally, while I recognise that quota allocation in England is complex, we need to proceed carefully given that, as we have discussed, fisheries management has been plagued by unintended consequences. For example, quota for the Crown dependencies is allocated from the England quota pot. Therefore, the statement about the English fishery as public property held on trust for the people of England could restrict the Crown dependencies’ rights. I am sure that the noble Baroness would not intend to do this.
In terms of the bodies involved in allocating quota, Amendment 105 considers inshore fisheries and conservation authorities as English fisheries administrations for allocations. However, inshore fisheries and conservation authorities do not have a role in quota allocation, so we do not support moves to make them so, for reasons we have articulated when we discussed that amendment. So this may inadvertently cause confusion. Further, Amendment 104 would remove the link to a history of compliance. This is a useful and positive tool which could be used to support our strong commitment to sustainability. Removing it would weaken our ability to achieve these aims.
The proposed grant-making powers in the Bill will enable us to support projects that, among other things, protect the marine environment and develop commercial fishing. Financial assistance could therefore be given as part of a future funding scheme to help fishermen move to more selective and less environmentally damaging fishing techniques. We therefore believe that we should continue to rely on the fisheries objectives in the Bill, as well as existing and well-established mechanisms and criteria, which have proven effective and respect the devolution settlements.
Amendment 106, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, addresses new entrants. We are aware of concerns—
Before moving on to the next amendment, I just wish to clarify that the main objection to this redrafting is that it would reduce clarity and lead to more ambiguity. I really do not think that is the case. I think this is much clearer. If the Minister is saying that the current situation is so clear, can she say categorically who holds the right to give out a fishing quota? There is clearly a financial benefit, so who is responsible for assessing the value of that right and for managing it for the public in perpetuity? Precisely, in legal terms, where do those fishing rights reside?
I shall write to the noble Baroness on that detailed point.
On Amendment 106, which addresses new entrants, we are aware of concerns about shortages in crew and an ageing demographic within the fishing industry. The average age of fishers in the UK is 42. To address this in England, we are working closely with the Seafood Industry Leadership Group, whose work has highlighted the importance to a thriving seafood industry of training, skills development and workforce retention. I take on board the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, on apprenticeship training, which is very much in line with our own intentions. A number of fishing organisations have tried to develop schemes for new entrants, and apprenticeships. They have had varying degrees of success and many lessons have been learned. It is not easy, but it does not mean that fishing organisations should not continue to try. We must also ensure that there are fish for new entrants to catch, which means balancing the environmental, social and economic objectives.
We are also looking at examples from around the world, such as the Faroes, Scandinavia, Jersey and Guernsey, to identify options to support the UK fleet now and to ensure that it has the labour force necessary for its long-term future. To ensure certainty and stability for the UK fishing industry, after discussions with industry and, as stated in the fisheries White Paper, we took the decision not to overhaul the current system of allocation for existing quota. Quota for new entrants could, therefore, be set aside only from increased fishing opportunities gained through negotiations. Part of the work that we are undertaking with industry and other stakeholders this year will include consideration of the option of using additional quota to support new entrants. We have the powers to do this.
Ensuring that fishers can fish sustainably will be an important aspect of the considerations for allocations. The amendment does not refer to any sustainability criteria and could therefore ultimately restrict our ability to set a gold standard for sustainable fishing. I have been advised that there are, regretfully, a number of other practical issues with the amendment as drafted. It is not clear which quota this allocation should be made from: the UK, English, existing or new. Further, it is not clear for how long a new entrant could keep the quota. If it is for the entire career of the fisherman, provided they continue to fish it, the requirement to always have a proportion available for new entrants could mean taking quota from existing fishermen. With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for those 101 reasons why it is difficult. My question is: do the Government want a new entrants scheme?
The fundamental point that we are making is: can we ever imagine a point in the future where we can have a break from the existing status quo, which is not working, to one that is working, which involves the fundamental reallocation of these rights to a different make-up of players? It is a fundamental question. Most of us came into this discussion expecting to be able to debate the fundamental principles on which we allocate these rights. What we are being told today is that the only thing open to debate is if we have a potential, additional small amount of quota that comes back to us. That is a missed opportunity. We have all said repeatedly in different ways that to lock in the status quo is to continue the faults of the common fisheries policy.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for going through all that, but another term for stability and certainty is fossilisation. That is what we are being told. The whole Bill is in many ways on that theme, I am afraid. One fundamental question that the Minister did not answer is: what is to stop all the new fishing opportunities landing up exactly where they are at the moment, particularly with foreign-owned companies? I do not understand how anything can stop all our new fishing opportunities being taken by existing players, because they have the money, influence and experience. What stops everything that is new being exactly the same, replicated? I do not understand that.
My Lords, I have not spoken on this amendment, but I am pretty horrified with the way that it has gone, to be frank. Earlier in Questions, the Minister said that we had legislation that was going to be world class on the environment, agriculture and fisheries, and this Bill is retrenching by the minute to being an endorsement of the status quo. It is very disappointing.
Anyway, I look forward to the new entrants scheme. That is good. I misunderstood the Minister, who seemed to suggest it was possible only if it was sustainable. We have a sustainability objective so it obviously cannot happen unless it is, but the whole point of Brexit was to have more fishing opportunities. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Worthington and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for really bringing into focus the whole area of allocation of these incredibly valuable rights. We are talking about tens of millions of pounds—more than that, I am sure. I had not anticipated that this was an area that we would have to return to, but we absolutely will have to.
I understand the point about needing some degree of understanding for investment into the future. That is a dangerous argument, because it is exactly what the European Union will argue in terms of all the people from across the water who have invested in fishing in our waters, so we should expect that to be echoed by the other side in negotiations with us over fisheries agreements in the future. As I said, I look forward to the new entrants scheme and fully accept the Government’s wish to have a better allocation for the under-10-metre fleet. I fully accept the criticism of the Minister that my amendments are relatively minor in comparison with the grand plan. I am with the grand plan as well, but at this moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 94 withdrawn.
Amendments 95 to 98 not moved.
Clause 23 agreed.
Clause 24: Duties relating to a determination of fishing opportunities
Amendments 99 to 103 not moved.
Clause 24 agreed.
Clause 25: Distribution of fishing opportunities
Amendments 104 and 105 not moved.
Clause 25 agreed.
Amendment 106 not moved.
Clause 26 agreed.
Clause 27: Sale of English fishing opportunities for a calendar year