Moved by Lord Grantchester
29: After Clause 25, insert the following new Clause—“Reservation of English fishing opportunities for new entrants and boats under 10 metres(1) Before making a determination under section 23 for the first time, the Secretary of State must establish a baseline allocation of English fishing opportunities (“minimum quota”) for—(a) new entrants to the sector, and(b) boats whose length is 10 metres or less.(2) Unless the condition in subsection (3) is satisfied, the minimum quota must not be less than an average of the opportunities allocated to these groups over the previous three years.(3) The condition in this subsection is that, to meet the sustainability objective, the Secretary of State deems it appropriate that fishing opportunities for certain species be reduced.(4) When making a determination under section 23 each calendar year, the Secretary of State must—(a) consider the case for increasing the minimum quota above that of the preceding year, and(b) lay a statement outlining the outcome of this consideration before both Houses of Parliament.(5) In the event that the Secretary of State believes there is no case for increasing the minimum quota, the statement under subsection (4)(b) must outline the reasons why.”Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause would require the Secretary of State to establish a minimum quota for new entrants to the sector and boats whose length is 10 metres or less. Thereafter, the Secretary of State would have to consider the case for increasing this quota each year and lay statements before Parliament.
I thank the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Teverson, for adding their names to Amendment 29. I congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Lansley and Lord Cameron of Dillington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on the redrafting of Clause 25, which rewrites Article 17 into UK law and will avoid any further confusion should Article 17 be amended later in the EU. This sits better with Clause 23, the objectives criteria in Clause 1 and the joint fisheries statements in Clause 2. Amendments 29 would follow neatly on from this by putting a duty on the Secretary of State to consider the case for allocating further fishing opportunities—that is, quota—to new entrants and to the under 10-metre fleet against the background of the sustainability criteria or the environmental, social and economic factors.
In Committee we debated two amendments—Amendment 106 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and Amendment 107 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch—that proposed reserving a portion of English fishing quota to these two categories. Having considered the Minister’s response to these amendments, and given that there are very similar arguments in favour of preserving a portion of quota for both groups, we have chosen to combine the two previous amendments into a single, more comprehensive text. With the new Clause 25 and the consequential government amendments, a minor technical adjustment is now needed to proposed new subsection (4) in Amendment 29, where “each calendar year” would need to be consequentially amended as well to the relevant quota period.
I will briefly outline the system we envisage, as well as reminding noble Lords that it would extend to England only and therefore have no implications for the devolution settlements. Before making the first determination of fishing opportunities under Clause 23, the Secretary of State would have to establish a baseline allocation for each group, the under-10 metre fleet and any reserve for future new entrants. When doing this, they would have to consider historical fishing opportunities through an average of the last three years.
However, and crucially, the Secretary of State could alter this level on the grounds of sustainability under Clause 1(1)(c), which we debated at length on Monday. To all intents and purposes, this would set a minimum benchmark of quota that could be allocated to either new entrants or the under-10 metre fleet. Once the baseline has been established, the Secretary of State would have to consider the case for increasing it with each period’s determination, before laying a statement outlining the outcome of their deliberations before Parliament. If they chose not to increase the reserve quota, the statement would have to outline the reasons.
We believe that such an approach strikes the right balance between providing the Government with flexibility to implement their own policy once the UK is an independent coastal state while affording new entrants and the under-10s a degree of certainty about their current market access and potential for future growth. As I said, if Ministers chose not to prioritise new entrants or the under-10s as part of the overall distribution of fishing opportunities, this system would act as a fail-safe to protect what the two groups already have. In that sense, it upholds the principle elsewhere in the Bill that fisheries plans should consult and consider historical catch data. Conversely, if we wanted to provide significantly more quota to either target group, Ministers would be free to do so.
This amendment merely requires the establishment of a minimum which is then kept under review. There is nothing to prevent that minimum being exceeded in any given year without it necessarily becoming a permanent arrangement. This approach would not be overly burdensome on the Minister’s department and could have significant benefits for the vitality of the sector. This was something that the Minister emphasised as a priority when responding to the amendments in Committee.
We are all aware of the high proportion of UK quota owned by foreign firms and of the predominance of the larger boats. While this new provision would not immediately challenge the dominance of such firms, it would allow the Government slowly to rebalance the sector in favour of smaller domestic fishers, who enjoy close links with their communities, and would reinvigorate the workforce and expand coastal economies. The Government claim to be committed to helping new entrants and smaller vessels but, despite warm words there is little in the Bill for them. This amendment would provide an opportunity for those commitments to be pursued.
While we will listen carefully to the Minister’s response, the guidance for Hybrid Proceedings compels me to say that we are minded to test the opinion of the House on this matter. The amendment provides a very good starting point for supporting new entrants and the under-10-metre fleet. There is nothing in the Bill as it stands. Having reclaimed our ability to set fisheries policy, it would be a tremendous shame if we were to pass up this opportunity to support our home-grown talent. I beg to move.
My Lords, I strongly endorse the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and I have added my name to the amendment. I shall speak very briefly on behalf of under-10-metre boats. As we all know, under-10-metre boats make up 80% of the UK fleet, and surely deserve a better deal than they get at the moment. When I served on the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the EU Committee, under the excellent chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, we carried out an inquiry into Brexit and fisheries. We heard that the under-10s do not have annual quotas but instead fish against a monthly allocation from the MMO. This is in contrast to larger boats, which can swap quota via producer organisations and thereby mitigate the risk of choke. Let me quote from an under-10 fisher who gave oral evidence to our inquiry. He said:
“The monthly quota system implemented by the MMO does not work. In the winter, we can catch a lot of pollock and we never catch it for the rest of the year … We have been explaining since 2013 that we need to catch pollock earlier in the year because there is none at the end of the year … They have taken no notice whatever”.
Surely the Government should seize the opportunity to accept an amendment that could make the system fairer for 80% of our fleet and make provision for new entrants. Along with the earlier amendment on the national landing requirement, this amendment will surely help to secure the economic health of struggling coastal communities, many of which rely on small fishing vessels. I urge noble Lords to support this amendment if it is taken to a Division.
I will keep my remarks short. First, I remind the House that I have an interest as co-chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. Some years ago, I had the privilege of visiting New Zealand to meet fish companies and fleet operators there. Coming back to our debate on the previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, talked about efficiency and that sort of thing. If we want a really efficient fishing industry, we need completely transferable quotas, to get rid of the small vessel fleet altogether and to have large trawlers that are absolutely efficient. In New Zealand, three companies dominate the market outside recreational fisheries. They look after their fish stocks, and they keep an eye on each other. It is an incredibly efficient business, very profitable, very good for conservation—and zero coastal communities depended on fisheries. It was completely industrialised.
We can go down that route, or we can go down a much better route, which is to protect our coastal communities and have smaller new entrants being able to come into the fishing industry so that we have a much more diverse and locally important industry that supports not just our coastal communities but the whole food processing industry on a smaller scale as well. That is the right way to do it. The great thing about this amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, is that it concentrates on those objectives and would achieve them. What we need are new entrants. The way into this business is so difficult at the moment because, although there are a number of non-quota species, the value is in those quotas and it is almost impossible to afford to buy your way into them. There is also the cost of the fishing vessel. That is why I am very supportive of this amendment.
Additionally, to be an entrant, you have to be in that under-10-metre sector. Although the vast majority of our fishing vessels are, I think they account for only a small proportion of the total quota. I give the Government credit—I have said this before—for trying to expand that percentage, but they were prevented by the courts at the time. Let us now make sure that that happens regularly. This is a very intelligent amendment in that it gives a good basis. It sets a baseline and then has an annual consideration, so it is completely practical. I cannot think of a better way for the Bill to promote real change in our coastal communities and our fishing industry than by doing those two things. A gradual increase in quota for under-10-metres does not have to be at the expense of any other sector because we are expecting, through our Brexit negotiations, to make sure that we have much larger quotas through being an independent coastal state. That will allow new members to rejuvenate this industry, which at the moment suffers from the fact that very few young entrants can come into the business to be the next generation who farm our seas.
My Lords, in any business it is important to ensure that the industry is constantly refreshed by new blood and thus new ideas and new ways of working. The difficulty of acquiring a fishing quota is one of the very obvious reasons why we now have so few young people entering the fishing industry, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said. If you couple that fact with the statistic that under-10-metre boats currently represent some 74% of the UK fishing fleet and employ some 50% of the workforce with only 6% of the quota, it is obvious that any spare quota should disproportionately be allocated to the smaller inshore fleet and to new entrants. Denmark has run a very successful fish fund for several years now, which is used to help young fishers get started and to act as an environmental buffer. Equally, the Shetland Islands Council owns a substantial amount of quota, which it leases to local fishers. Thus we have two very good but different examples to follow, one a national scheme and one a local scheme. In might be possible, in England at any rate, to combine the two and have a national reserve scheme in which grants of quota could be administered on a more local basis by, say, the local inshore fisheries and conservation authority—the local IFCA.
One of the important purposes of such a national reserve, as far as I am concerned, is perhaps not emphasised enough in the amendment. It is to create an environmental buffer for the Government to help manage the landing obligation to deal with the problem of choke species and the deficiencies in the maximum sustainable yield system.
With that in mind, I note that the Secretary of State, when he was Fisheries Minister and spoke in Committee in the other place, spoke about putting in place just what we are talking about—that is, creating an inshore pool to give extra fishing opportunities to our smaller inshore fleet while at the same time creating a national reserve.
I look forward to the Minister’s response to this amendment. I hope that he will be able to follow in the footsteps of his Secretary of State and give us this important dividend that we hope to achieve from being in control of our fisheries.
My Lords, the question is, what does being in control mean? This amendment gets into the choices available to the country and to the Government when it comes to Brexit. Are we to have a Brexit for shareholders, hedge fund investors and the Stock Exchange, or are the opportunities from Brexit to be in rejuvenating jobs, skills and industrial restructuring? It is salutary to compare the Scottish fishing industry, with more than 98% Scottish ownership, to the English fishing industry, with 50%. That says “great opportunity” to me. Great opportunity will come only from those small entrepreneurs—the people building up skills and starting anew—rather than how things were done in the past.
The question for the Government is: will we look to the past and negotiate deals based on it, or will we look to the future and have confidence in the skills of our people—not least those in coastal areas who have suffered excess deprivation compared to most parts of the country? It seems that this amendment gives that opportunity to those people. It is certainly the kind of Brexit I want to see, so I am minded to support the amendment.
My Lords, for better or worse, I read economics at Cambridge. I remember the lectures on competition policy—I looked them up prior to this debate.
It seems that we are lacking in evidence at the moment. Presumably, we need to establish the capacity of the current under-10-metre fleet to take up the extra quotas that will be available. Sitting here, I do not know what proportion of the new quotas that will come to UK fishing can be met by the current under-10-metre fishing fleet; perhaps the Minister can tell us. That is important, really. People cast aside the idea of super-efficient shipping, but at any level, you must have a viable shipping and fishing industry. It does not matter whether it is under 10 metres or over 10 metres. The last thing that any of us would want to see—perhaps that is a little too sweeping but I do not think that many of us would want to see it—is a situation where we have to subsidise 10-metre fishing boats from general taxation.
What ought to happen is that there should be an opportunity for new entrants and perhaps we should give priority to under-10-metre fishing boats. However, I want to see them pitch for the business and tell those who are to adjudicate why they are going into the industry, what they think they can bring to the industry and whether they are able to fish successfully. We do not want a quasi-monopoly without looking at the economics of the thing. I hate the word subsidy. One of the great things that we have gotten rid of in this country is subsidising parts of British industry.
For me, there is an opportunity for Brexit, obviously. Perhaps a proportion of the new quotas should go to the under-10-metre new entrants, but whoever comes forward must make a pitch to the authorities as to why and how they will succeed. At the moment, I do not think that that needs to be written in hard wording after Clause 25, but I will listen with great interest to what my noble friend on the Front Bench says on this amendment.
My Lords, this is an excellent amendment, focusing as it does on the need for fair quotas for smaller vessels of under 10 metres.
In England and Wales, and in smaller communities along the west coast of Scotland, fishing is dominated by the shellfish sector. This is led by smaller vessels, which still constitute 80% of the UK fleet in number and often use traditional methods, earning low incomes. These boats are also particularly important for remote coastal communities with limited employment opportunities. There is no doubt that, because of Brexit, media coverage of the UK’s fishing industry has increased. However, this may have given undue prominence to the views of representatives of larger fishing enterprises, such as those in north-east Scotland, at the expense of representatives of smaller vessels.
This amendment therefore deserves our support in relation to the need for future allocation of quotas by the UK Government to include smaller vessels. However, the fact is that such fishers will not have a future at all if there is a no-deal Brexit because they will lose access to the EU markets on which they depend. For example, most Welsh fishing boats specialise in shellfish, with 90% of their catch currently exported to the EU in overnight frictionless trade. In addition, as most fish consumed in the UK is imported, this trade within the single market is also vital for our fish processing industry. Even some large British boats depend for access to Norwegian waters on EU-agreed quotas, which will no longer apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Within the UK industry, therefore, there are many competing interests between England and Scotland, deep-sea and inshore, industrial and small-scale boats and fishermen and fish processing. Without doubt, the balance of advantage for the industry as a whole lies in an amicable agreement with the EU, which will guarantee the continuation of frictionless trade. The Brexiteer narrative encourages us to believe that it was the EU that first allowed foreign boats to fish in UK waters. However, the common fisheries policy, established in 1983, enshrined historic fishing rights that went back centuries.
Not surprisingly, EU Governments are legitimately concerned to protect an economically precarious sector whose finances have been hit hard by the pandemic lockdown. It is not just access to UK waters that is important for European Union countries—many rely on the supply of UK fish both for consumption and processing. In 2017, for instance, just under two-thirds of UK mackerel was exported, the vast majority to the EU and more than a third to the Netherlands alone. Of course, this merely serves to illustrate yet again how easy access to these EU markets is key for UK fishers.
Authoritative analysis has shown that the most likely outcome of attempting to close the UK’s sea borders—the last I heard, fish are no respecters of political boundaries—would be higher prices, less choice for consumers and lower earnings for fishers on both sides. Of course, an agreement will involve compromise, including some continued access for EU boats from coastal communities across the channel.
Common sense would surely suggest that such continued access for EU boats to UK waters could be traded for continuation of the frictionless access to European markets currently enjoyed by UK catches, but Brexiteer Ministers have repeatedly claimed that these two issues have to be kept entirely separate. Why, when so many players in the UK’s fishing industry have everything to lose from a hard Brexit, and an agreement on fishing may provide the key to a new EU trade deal? That would benefit not only UK fishers but all sectors of the UK economy, which is ill-prepared for the ravages of a no-deal Brexit on top of the devastation caused by Covid-19.
If this Government are concerned about “left behind coastal communities”, as they should be, they should accept this amendment, which will give priority to increasing the tiny quotas for the thousands of British inshore vessels under 10 metres long. They should also have the courage to recognise that, contrary to their tribal Brexiteer dogma, smaller vessels and the rest of the industry have everything to gain from either an amicable deal on fisheries or, better still, an extension to the transition period to allow this and all the other complex dimensions of Brexit to be fruitfully and fully negotiated to the benefit of all parties.
“Britain’s fish will still belong to Europe after Brexit—because Spain, Holland and Iceland have bought up nearly 90% of the entire fishing quota of Wales and more than half the quota assigned to England”?
I have a concern about the word “entrants” in the amendment. We are talking about a fishing industry which comprises both crew and owners. In 2018 the Seafish review put the average age of crew at about 38 and of owners at about 50. Surely we are trying to get more boats and therefore more owners, who will then employ more crew, into our fishing fleet. I particularly welcome the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, of focusing on helping boats of under 10 metres, but that will all depend on the economic viability of fishing. If fishing is not a viable, sustainable industry, there will be no owners wanting quotas and, as a result, no crew employed. That will have a detrimental effect on coastal areas, as we have already discussed.
The quota system, which is how the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, is attacking the issue in this amendment, is perhaps not as beneficial for increasing the overall ability for new entrants to come into the industry as another way might be. I do not know quite what that way is, and I will rely on my noble friend Lord Gardiner to help me with that, but focusing on the new entrants will not be as beneficial because the quota belongs to the boat owner.
My Lords, I am minded to support this amendment, as it addresses an issue I have raised ever since we had the informal briefing with the then Minister for Fisheries, now Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am slightly concerned because, in spite of what we hear about various schemes for new entrants, I have not identified a great rush for new entrants over and above what the current provisions allow. I raised this at the informal briefing and was given an assurance on it; currently the under-10 fishermen—I had the privilege of working with them most recently in Filey, but also in other parts of the country—rely very heavily on shellfish, but, as was said previously, are given scraps of other whitefish under the table through the very complicated system of top-slicing discards which are then gathered into a pool from which the under-10s can benefit.
We were led to believe in the informal briefing that an official mechanism would be put in place to ensure a stricter, clearer, more transparent situation in which the under-10s would benefit from any remaining quota on an annual basis. My noble friend the Minister may well be able to put my mind at rest here, that that provision is somewhere and I am not immediately seeing it, but that promise was made and I invoke it here: that under the provisions of this Bill, under-10s will benefit from a higher and more regular quota going forward.
My Lords, like all industries, a vibrant fishing industry relies on a rotating workforce. Many families around our coastlines have been engaged in fishing for generations. Sons and occasionally daughters learn from their fathers and become part of the team. However, as we have heard, it is becoming increasingly difficult for new entrants and the under-10s to get a toehold in the industry and an allocation of quota to get started. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, also pressed the case for fresh young blood in the fishing industry. The examples of Denmark and the Shetland Islands prove that it is possible to encourage new entrants.
For new entrants to feel confident that they can make a living out of fishing and for the under-10s to be able to put a roof over their heads in the much sought-after properties around fishing ports, quota will need to be reserved and increased to be allocated to this vital sector. The noble Lord, Lord Mann, asked whether the Government are happy for the profits of fishing to go to pension funds and shareholders or whether they want to support our coastal communities and young people waiting to move into fishing.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said in his introduction that this is a minor amendment for England only. When making amendments, the Secretary of State would consider the previous three years’ quota; it would provide a degree of certainty to new entrants and the under-10s. Fisheries plans should consider historic catch. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, gave a graphic description of how the monthly quota system disadvantages the under-10 fleet. It is time for a change.
My noble friend Lord Teverson spoke about protecting our coastal communities. This amendment allows that to happen. Putting all our eggs—or fish—into the one basket of larger fishing vessels does nothing for our coastal communities. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, has drawn attention to the shellfish fisheries around our shores. These are largely small vessels, and most of their catch is sold to EU countries. He gave an excellent synopsis of how the Bill is likely to play out if no deal is agreed on Brexit.
If the fishing industry is to survive, it must be vibrant and have new entrants. The under-10 fleet must be a consideration in quota distribution and not be fobbed off with the scraps left by the deep-sea fishing fleet. I could not follow the logic of the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness; there will be no rush of new entrants unless they can be assured of receiving a quota to live on. I look forward to the Minister’s response, but if it is not sufficient, I will join others in the virtual Lobby.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment, which seeks to ensure that, before making a UK determination, the Secretary of State must reserve a minimum quota in England for new entrants into the sector and for boats whose length is of 10 metres or less, commonly referred to as the under-10-metre pool.
The Government recognise the importance of encouraging new entrants into the fishing industry and are working on how best to work with industry to encourage new entrants as part of our future fisheries management regime when the transition period ends. I am particularly mindful of what the noble Lords, Lord Teverson, Lord Cameron of Dillington and Lord Krebs, said about this and of their experience in their Select Committee work.
We understand that the amendment is to be targeted at crew members who may wish to purchase their own boat or become a skipper. The Government recognise that if we want our fishing industry to flourish, we need it to be capable of regenerating and maintaining a succeeding generation of skilled and experienced skippers and crews. I think that is exactly what the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, was referring to.
However, it is important to understand that the challenge of encouraging new entrants is not just about the availability of quota. Depending on what they need to catch, new entrants may not even need quota, as not all species are covered by the quota system. This includes what in normal times are profitable species, such as shellfish, which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. While a quota may not always help, these new entrants would need capital investment to meet the costs of vessels and fishing gear. They would also have to secure a fishing licence, the numbers of which are limited as we must manage fleet capacity in tandem with managing quota and effort. We acknowledge that getting investment and securing a licence are significant challenges, and holding back a minimum share of quota would not help to overcome these. That is why, to answer the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, Clause 33(1)(f) provides the powers to fund training for those who intend to become involved in commercial fishing or aquaculture activities. Obviously, that is important.
However, we must also remember that not all crew entrants are the same. The term “new entrants” can mean very different categories of people. In the industry, it refers not only to new boat owners, but also to new crew members for existing boats. These new entrants clearly do no need quota to enter the industry. Instead, they need training and encouragement to embark upon a career in fishing as an attractive and stable industry. Therefore, I want to spend a little time explaining what the Government and Seafish are doing in supporting this endeavour by working in partnership with a range of training partners to offer apprenticeships across the UK on a range of subjects relevant to the seafood industry and maritime occupations. For example, in England, the Government are working closely with Seafood 2040, where one of the recommendations highlights the importance of training, skills development and workforce retention to a thriving seafood industry.
While the Government recognise the principle behind this amendment, we do not think that reserving a minimum quota for new entrants is the best overall approach to resolving the raft of issues faced by new entrants which I have just set out. We also think that there may be some unintended problems with the amendment. For example, setting aside a blanket minimum quota for new entrants means that other fishers will receive less than they currently do. This could even see quotas go unused, and this is the point—[Interruption.] The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, immediately jumps at something which is not what I am about to say. This could even see quotas go unused if no new entrants were forthcoming in a given year or if stocks set aside were not useful to them. I do not think that either of these outcomes are what noble Lords intend with this amendment.
The amendment also seeks to reserve a minimum share of quota for the under-10 metre pool. Similarly, as with new entrants, the Government recognise the importance of our under-10 metre vessels and the benefits they bring to our local coastal communities. I think everyone would agree that the under-10 metre sector is vital to the production of good food and to sustaining the local seafaring communities that we all wish to work with and rebuild, as we said in an earlier debate.
I say particularly to my noble friends Lord Naseby and Lady McIntosh that we are open to considering new methods of continuing our support to the under-10 metre pool. It is important to understand that the under-10 metre pool already receives a minimum share of certain fish stocks through the quota underpinning mechanism. The details of this are set out in the relevant quota management rules. In England, this amount has been supplemented through quota realignment exercises and reserve quota policies. We consulted on the 2020 reserve quota policy from January to March of this year, asking specific questions about the amount that should be given to the non-sector, including the under-10 metre pool.
I liked the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mann. We are looking to the future, as, clearly, we need to, and we are considering this further in relation to the future allocation of additional quota in England. I say particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, that just last week, we began an exercise with industry and other stakeholders to prioritise aims for this quota and potential methods for allocating it. This builds on our call for evidence last year and will be followed by formal consultation on options later this year.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked a number of questions. Those under-10s who are not part of producer organisations that manage quota for their members have their quota managed by the MMO on a month-by-month or quarterly basis. This allows quota managers to adapt to changing circumstances. On the specific example of pollock, this was a three-month allocation from January to March which then reverted to a monthly one, allowing fishers to adapt to bad weather conditions. It is done to maintain an available catch for the rest of the year, as a point of detail.
My noble friend Lose Naseby asked how much additional quota would be available to be fished by the under-10s. Clearly, this depends on the negotiations, so I cannot say precisely, but we have been clear that we want to move to a fairer method of sharing fishing opportunities based on zonal attachment.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked a question relating to Clause 23. The Fisheries Bill provides greater transparency on how we manage and allocate quota through the publication of the Secretary of State’s determination of UK fisheries opportunities under Clause 23. We will work with other fisheries administrations and industries to revise the UK quota management rules.
I am aware that when I say that I am advised that there are further issues with this amendment, it sounds unduly critical, but obviously, we are seeking to legislate, so there are some points that I should raise. The amendment does not define new entrants or explain who would qualify, for how long or what would happen when they cease to qualify. It refers to an average three-year baseline for allocating new entrant fishing opportunities. As I highlighted, this could be very challenging to determine, given the difficulty in defining a new entrant. I understand the noble Lord’s clear desire to provide more quota for the small boats, but the phrasing of “no entrants to the sector” appears to refer to sectoral groups and producer organisations. It is therefore unclear whether the intention is that this quota be reserved for new entrants to sectoral groups only or whether it includes non-sector groups such as the under-10 metre pool, whom I understand noble Lords may be intending to target.
Fishing terminology is not always straightforward, and this is an example of the challenges of legislatively seeking to carve out specific groups in distributing quota. I am also advised that there are issues with the reference to Clause 23, and I remind noble Lords that Clause 23 relates only to the Secretary of State’s function in determining UK fishing opportunities. This pot of quota is then divided between the fisheries administrations, each of which decides how it will allocate its share of the quota pot to its industry.
As is so often the case, all noble Lords—and indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in promoting this amendment—have promoted what we all want and need, which is new entrants coming into the fishing industry, whether they are crew members, skippers or investors.
I sometimes think that one should be cautious, given the fact that British companies own a lot of interests overseas, that we do not overplay this unduly, but I do think that we need a range of people who see fishing as an industry worthy of spending a worthwhile career in. That means we need to work on all the things I have sought to describe, and we will be doing that. We have also been very clear about our desire to ensure the under-10 metres, and all that it represents in terms of how we can work with seafaring communities to have a—yes—more robust share of what we are all seeking, which is more quota. So I think we are very much on the same page.
Obviously, it is for the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, to assess the opinion of the House. All I will say on this matter is that I have sought to say “yes” to new entrants and the under-10 metre pool. This is work in hand, and it is why I would like to assure noble Lords that work on this is under way; specifically, I spoke about the consultation and the work on that, starting last week. Obviously, this a very important interest, whatever happens—it is an area that we will want to look at continuously after the Fisheries Bill. I am sure that these will be matters of considerable interest to noble Lords after the enactment of the Bill.
I very much hope that the noble Lord will give some consideration to withdrawing his amendment, because, as I have articulated, this is work in progress and the Government accept that they want to have successes on these two important matters.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I certainly feel well supported to take this to a vote. Indeed, the Minister seems to suggest that we are all rowing in the same direction, and therefore it should not cause too much complexity to him or his department. My noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch has spoken at length about our coastal communities and their importance under the last amendment. I also note the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in this regard. This amendment forms an important and parallel part of our approach to this Bill, which has been shared around the House.
Many have spoken of the Bill as a missed opportunity if we were to continue in essentially the same EU regime, without a deep reassessment and new provisions, as the UK leaves the EU and becomes a sovereign coastal state. This amendment would allow a new beginning for our coastal communities. Local councils would be keen to assemble new apprenticeship schemes to provide the future skills needed for the fishers, both existing—as members of the under-10 metre fleet in whatever capacity—and potential new entrants. It would enable dialogue between these communities and the Government as future fishing opportunities became available, following the outcome of negotiations on the new trading relationship to be defined with the EU. It would allow a new direction of policy to be assessed at each quota period and enable the Government’s warm words of commitment to be fulfilled.
In Committee, the Minister spoke of the many deliberations of the Seafood Industry Leadership Group, with varying degrees of success. The words spoken were:
“It is not easy, but it does not mean that fishing organisations should not continue to try. We must also ensure that there are fish for new entrants to catch, which means balancing the environmental, social and economic objectives.”—[Official Report, 9/3/20; col. 895.]
To the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the Minister, who have concerns over new entrants, I would refer them to the industry’s considerations when appreciating this issue.
This amendment would ensure that the situation is assessed at each quota period and consideration given to using any additional quota in support of these two options. I well agree that it would not be necessary for them to have to be given this extra quota, but consideration must be given. This amendment would make sure that is seen to happen. In response to other speakers, I contend that the amendment would allow a buffer, as may be needed—as spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington—if unallocated, and any capacity deficiencies—raised by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby—would be assessed, as specified by the amendment’s provisions.
I do not consider that the Minister’s remarks nullify the relevance and impact of this amendment, and he seemed—if I may suggest—even to misinterpret aspects of the amendment. This is in the strategic national interest, and in the interests of communities, and I would like to test the opinion of the House on the matter.
Ayes 291, Noes 249.