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Amendment 29

Part of Fisheries Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:00 pm, 24th June 2020

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.