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My Lords, I noted that in the earlier version of this Fisheries Bill, which came out over 18 months ago now, there was a clause early on that tried to define a UK fishing boat as one with at least one UK shareholder holding more than 5%. That seemed quite a low bar to me, but the thinking behind it was probably based on the 1970s attempt by the UK to apply an ownership limit to foreign investment in UK fishing boats of 75%. For the record, the UK lost its case in the courts because ownership caps at that time could apply only to EU ownership, not British ownership.
Nowadays, of course, the widespread and sometimes complicated international ownership of all businesses—in this case boats—creates far too tangled a web to unweave through legislation, which is probably why the words I referred to in the earlier version of the Bill were dropped. Anyway, maybe it does not matter who is investing money in our fisheries and boats, as long as they are creating the jobs in the UK. As others have said, we all know that for every one job on a boat, whoever owns it, there are 10 jobs on land in the processing, handling, transporting, marketing, selling, et cetera, of the fish.
So it was very sensible of the Government to drop the reference to the percentage of UK shareholding in a boat, but sadly they did not follow through with any sort of landing requirement. It seems that they understood the issue but, having realised that their solution would not work, failed to see that a landing requirement would achieve almost the same end but by a slightly different means.
This is an important amendment. Such a landing requirement could make a huge difference to coastal communities—and, believe me, they need this boost. Of the 25 local authorities with the highest rates of insolvency, 16 are coastal—and that was before Covid-19 came along to make matters worse.
I hope that the Government will accept this enabling amendment, or agree to bring in a similar amendment of their own. I accept that such a commitment might be dependent on Brexit negotiations, but I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some comfort in his reply and indicate that such a requirement is very much at the forefront of the Government’s mind.