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Amendment 22

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 2:45 pm, 24th June 2020

It is a great pleasure and a bit of luck for me to follow two such powerful speeches from my noble friend Lord Blencathra and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I agree very much with what they said. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, that this is a devolved matter. For the UK Ministers to consult but then set regulations in this Parliament would be quite contrary to any devolution settlement. I was very surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, did not pick that up as she is a stalwart defender of the rights of Northern Ireland.

I agree with my noble and learned friend about the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, that this is merely consultation. It is not—this is hard regulation. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that the fishers in Wick 110 years ago remember Grimsby and Yarmouth without much pleasure, as they suddenly introduced bigger and faster boats than the Wickers had. The fishing industry in Wick suffered horribly from the activities of Yarmouth and Grimsby, but that is history.

The noble Baroness who moved the amendment, which has good intentions but is very faulty, gave no real justification for why 65% should be the figure. I think she woke up one morning and thought, “That’s a good idea; we’ll try that one.” There is no justification for 65%. It made me wonder what I would I do if I were the French Fisheries Minister. I see that the Brits are now getting very protectionist; they want 65% of their catch. How would it affect our fishing fleets if the Europeans said to all their boats, “You can land your catches only in EU ports—you can’t land them in UK ports”? That would do huge damage to our fisheries, reducing their flexibility and the economic benefits that they currently produce for all our coastal towns, which we all want to see improve and provide better economic opportunities than they currently do. It is quite clear in Clause 16(1), covered by this amendment, that this relates to non-UK boats.

Another thought that struck me was: if this clause comes in, will we return to something like the klondykers of the 1980s and 1990s? When I was Fisheries Minister, I remember going up to Ullapool and seeing those big Russian klondyke boats in Loch Broom. We would potentially return to a situation where you have one big British fishing tanker taking fish from all the smaller boats, bringing that back to the UK and claiming it as the landing of the catch. That would be a retrograde step.

All my other points have been covered, but I want to stress one briefly mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. She said that, besides the 50% landing at the moment, there are other economic links. This amendment does not cover any other economic links. It takes out just one of the economic links that currently exist and distorts it. Huge difficulties could result from that. It is worth remembering that the vast majority of UK vessels already meet the landing requirements; I think the current figure is 99%. But, as my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern said, it is so variable; it depends on weather conditions and on the sea—and the fishermen require that flexibility. I cannot support the amendment.