Amendment 94

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 9th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee 6:30 pm, 9th March 2020

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.