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.