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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 Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee 2:45 pm, 24th June 2020

My Lords, what interesting speeches. I get the impression that almost all those who supported us leaving the European fisheries policy would have had their speeches applauded by Michel Barnier, a previous French fisheries Minister, whom we spoke to in the European Union Committee, particularly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. I do not want to take away the fire of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, on some of this, but let us go through some of the points.

First, the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, asked in Committee about facilities: could we actually cope with landing more fish in UK ports? What a question. During Committee stage, one of the people I spoke to—I did not know he was coming but he happened to be here—was the chairman of the harbour commissioners of Newlyn, one of the largest fishing ports in England, although still dwarfed by the Scottish ports. He said to me, “If I had just one or two more of these foreign-owned, British-flagged vessels into my port, it would make a huge difference to me and what I am trying to achieve”. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that if we could give the UK fishing ports, particularly the English ports, that challenge, they would love to have those vessels here.

The point was made about this Bill being a framework Bill. I am sorry, but it does not say that. Surely, as parliamentarians we want to be able to affect the key issues, to make changes and to have policies that are better and amendments that improve Bills. We are not here just to have framework Bills. If we think something is of crucial national importance—and this is—then we should be able to debate those amendments and decide whether we accept them.

On devolution, yes, there is an argument there, but if the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, really feels that there should be complete devolution of fisheries issues, he should have voted against the Bill at Second Reading, because the whole Bill is completely concerned with devolved issues; therefore, some of the amendments will be as well.

As for the landing obligation, yes, we have one, but what have the Government done about it over the last few years? It has not changed and there are a number of opt-outs, so some of those economic links will still be there. However, it is vital, surely, that we look at the most important ones, those that actually protect or improve our coastal communities and our fishing industry. We can ask ourselves why the fishing industry has not strongly campaigned for this. I remember going, soon after the Brexit vote, to a fisheries conference elsewhere in London where I raised this point with the main fishing trade associations, and they did not really want to discuss it. Why? Because their members are primarily owned by foreign owners, so it is not particularly in the interest, certainly in England and Wales, of the main fisheries representatives to argue this.

Let us remember that some 55%, by value, of our fisheries are fished by foreign vessels owned primarily by Spain, Iceland and the Netherlands. Those interests are there; what we are trying to do here is to defend all those people who are excluded: the coastal communities we are talking about do not have a vote and do not have a piece of the action at the moment. We are trying to improve that. That is why this amendment is so important and why I back it. In Wales, the by value figure is 85%. One foreign-owned vessel, as I understand it, has 85% of Welsh quota. This is a real issue and it is absolutely appropriate to deal with it in the Bill. What I particularly like about the amendment is that it actually says that something has to come out of this consultation—the 65% or more—but it allows the fishing authorities to make exceptions, such as where the long-distance fleet has to land, perhaps.

Interestingly, Norway has been particularly mentioned. What are the statistics on Norway? Norwegian interests own 100% of Norwegian-flagged vessels, so Norway does not have this problem; indeed, Scotland hardly has it either. In many ways—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, on this—we are being global Britain: we are claiming back, as an independent coastal state, rights over our economic zone and our fish stocks. We are putting them out for sale to the world and the world is enjoying the benefits of our biomass and our marine stocks.