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Amendment 22

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:00 pm, 24th June 2020

My Lords, this proposed new clause sets out plans to consult on a national landing requirement aiming at an average requirement of 65% of quota fish caught to be landed at UK ports. We believe that such a requirement is vital to help to regenerate our coastal communities. It is an important element of the national benefit objective set out in Clause 1.

As we discussed in Committee, coastal communities are crying out for investment and support. They currently have higher rates of unemployment and lower wages than other parts of the country. They have the additional challenge of social isolation, few training and apprenticeship opportunities, and poor health. A minimum landing requirement for fish caught in our waters could provide a renaissance for these communities that is long overdue.

We know that for every job created at sea, as many as 10 times as many are created on land. It would create new local markets in many of the run-down ports and harbours. Hopefully, tourism and processing work would follow, and the policy would facilitate new investment and innovation. It would also encourage greater self-sufficiency in UK-caught fish being consumed in the UK; for example, it would build on the recent increase in sales of less well-known UK species being sold during the Covid lockdown when imported species were not so freely available.

We believe that this was what many British people were expecting to happen when we left the EU, and this is our chance to get right at least one small aspiration of life after the EU. The alternative will be catches continuing to be landed in EU ports and beyond, with all the profits and benefits draining away elsewhere. Of course, we recognise that this policy is not practical for every landing. For some fish caught by UK trawlers in distant waters it makes more sense to head to market in a local port. That is why our percentage is set at 65%.

In Committee, the Minister explained that under existing licensing conditions, agreed back in 2012, vessels must land at least 50% of their catch of quota species into UK ports or demonstrate their economic link with the UK by other means. Therefore, the principle has already been established, and what we are asking for here is a more ambitious target appropriate for the current socioeconomic times where UK jobs will be a priority. In that context, we believe that an average requirement of 65% quota fish to be landed in UK ports is relatively modest and achievable.

The Minister went on to say that the economic link and the licensing regime were being reviewed, but that this was an area where agreement with the devolved nations was important. We accept that point. We recognise the need for a widescale consultation on this policy before it can be introduced, so the amendment as worded commits us only to a consultation. It allows us to hear and take note of the stakeholder and community views on this. Most importantly, as the Minister keeps stressing the importance of the agreement with the devolved nations on the Bill, it provides a statutory requirement to consult the devolved nations before any such policy could be introduced.

We believe that there is an important principle at stake here, and huge advantages will go to deprived coastal communities if we get this policy right. But we also recognise the importance of full consultation and the need to ensure that the devolved nations share our new ambition. On this basis I beg to move the amendment, and I hope that noble Lords will support it if I am forced to move it to a vote.