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Amendment 22

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:00 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) 3:00 pm, 24th June 2020

I thank a number of noble Lords from around the Chamber for their support of this amendment. I find it ironic that we are being ambitious about the consequences of Brexit, perhaps more than the Government are. A number of noble Lords said, in essence, “Don’t rock the boat because of the ongoing Brexit negotiations”. My response would be that that is what the whole of the Bill is about. It is about setting out what we think the future of the fishing sector should be, so if we were going to take that line—“Let’s wait until we know the outcome of the Brexit negotiations around fisheries”—then we really should not have the Bill in front of us in the first place. We should have written the Bill once we knew the outcome of all that. This is our opportunity to state what we feel are the fundamental principles and framework that the future of fishing in the UK should adopt.

The Bill is therefore not about retaining the status quo. There has been an awful lot of caution in the comments made, but what is the point of doing this if we are just going to steady the ship and carry on as we were? We do not want to retain the status quo; this is about seizing the opportunities that taking control of our own waters can bring. Our amendment is a contribution to a particularly important element of that.

Many noble Lords have shared our concerns about the regeneration of coastal communities and quite rightly made the point that it is not just about the jobs within the fleet but jobs on land, particularly those which could arise in the processing sector. There are obviously very important economic benefits. As my noble friend Lord Kennedy said, what would the Brexit dividend otherwise be if not about these sorts of new jobs?

Perhaps I may touch on the issue of devolution. I would urge noble Lords to look again at the wording of our amendment, because all that it requires the Secretary of State to do is to

“make regulations establishing a national landing requirement”.

It then goes on to refer to the consultation details and has a subsection (4) about the potential for exemptions to the landing requirements. The framework—the essence of our amendment—is a very slight obligation. Of course we expect it to be implemented, as all other fishing developments are, on the basis of a concordat or consensus about how we should go forward.

The Minister said that we already have an economic link for 50% of fish landed in the UK. We do not feel that we are going much further than that, and that 50% economic link is something that has been agreed across the devolved nations. It is important to get back to the basics of what our amendment is saying. It puts no obligation or particular burden on the devolved nations, and I very much hope that they would all welcome and embrace it. It is a very modest change: an average 15% increase in the landing requirement is not rocking the boat, by any means. As I say, it allows for a number of exceptions should the appropriate authorities desire to do that.

The Minister said that he already has this matter under review and that the Government are looking at the licensing agreement and the current arrangements. I take it from that that the Government clearly do not think the current arrangements are as robust and worth while as they would want them to be. All our amendment would do is to take it one step further. Rather than the Minister just saying that the review is taking place, it would effectively put that review into legislation. It says that there should be a review, that we should draw up new regulations and that there should be a consultation—not just with the devolved nations but a much wider one. We feel that that is, in itself, a fairly modest aspiration.

Sorry, I should pick up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, about “the Northern Ireland department”. I accept that, in an ideal world, the amendment would have referred to Northern Ireland Ministers. It was probably drafted before that event occurred; I am sure that it could be tidied up at Third Reading. We could take that point on board but, on that basis, I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 281, Noes 263.