Examination of Witness

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Phil Haslam gave evidence.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 2:30 pm, 4th December 2018

Good afternoon, Mr Haslam. For the benefit of the Committee, could you introduce yourself and your organisation?

Phil Haslam:

Good afternoon. My name is Phil Haslam and I am the operations director of the Marine Management Organisation, which is an arm’s length body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with the competence to deliver marine planning and licensing and, in this context, fisheries management, control and enforcement regulation.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q I am sure that the Committee will have noticed from your biography that you have long experience in the fisheries protection fleet and the Royal Navy, and most recently at the MMO. Before getting on to the work we have done on future enforcement, I wonder whether you could describe to the Committee what the MMO control room in Newcastle does, how we monitor fishing vessels and how many fisheries protection vessels we currently have access to.

Phil Haslam:

The mechanism we use to conduct fisheries control and enforcement is risk-based and intelligence-led. The mechanism by which we do that ashore is to have up to 75 warranted officers who can be deployed—routinely, circa 50 are able to be deployed—and we are situated at 14 offices around the coast of England. The MMO regulates only within English waters. That is one element of our business: shore-based inspections of landing, marketplace inspections and the like. The risk-based, intelligence-led description is basically what it says. We understand where risk may arise and we have a level of intelligence that we apply to that, which can make our operations targeted.

At sea, our surveillance is conducted by vessels from the Royal Navy fishery protection squadron, which we contract on an annual basis for a set number of hours. They conduct patrol and inspection routines on our behalf on the direction of the Newcastle fisheries monitoring centre ops room. The way that works operationally is that we direct them to conduct a patrol in a certain area, we direct the outcomes we wish to see, and then it is down to the commanding officer in the vessel to deliver them. On the number of ships that are available to us, both because of budgetary restraint or constraint within the MMO and the availability of Royal Navy vessels, the Royal Navy is this year providing 2,000 hours of patrol time within English waters.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q I understand that at the moment there are three offshore patrol vessels, two of which are normally on duty in English waters. Could you explain what has taken place, as part of your planning over the last year for enforcement after we leave the EU, to get additional offshore patrol vessels from the Royal Navy? What discussions have been had and what work has been done with Border Force on the ability to redeploy some of its assets? Could you explain anything you have done by way of procuring aerial surveillance from, say, the coastguard service?

Phil Haslam:

As a result of the referendum and the fact that we will be becoming an independent coastal state and taking back control of our waters in the future, a risk-based analysis has been done of what could happen after that exit moment, and based on that analysis we have identified increased risk across the piece. Our work has driven us to look at our current surveillance levels and to judge what we will need to effectively enforce the integrity of the exclusive economic zone from the fisheries point of view. That has led us to bid for an uplift in surface surveillance and within that to move away from having all our eggs in one basket in relation to the Royal Navy, to come to a mixed economy of providers for both the inshore and the offshore element of the patrol requirement.

We have come up with a greater amount of surface surveillance that we need in the round, and the mechanism to deliver that will of course include the Royal Navy. We have dialogue with Border Force as well, to see what utility there is within its vessel fleet—it is predominantly its cutters. Similarly, the inshore fisheries and conservation authorities, which are the small English-based regional organisations that have a jurisdiction of the nought to 6 miles of inshore fisheries, have a fleet of vessels that we may be able to get some utility out of. Also, we are speaking with colleagues in the devolved Administrations to see what utilities are there. We are trying to get a blended provision of surface surveillance.

Aerial surveillance is a capability that is being reintroduced. The idea is to have routine overflight of our waters so that, should there be vessels that should not be there and are not discernible through remote location devices, we have, basically, a set of eyes in the air that can see them. In terms of monitoring vessels at sea at present, there is a system called the vessels monitoring system, which gives us the position statement of vessels of 12 metres or longer.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q Finally, the Ministry of Defence recently announced that it had delayed the decommissioning of the existing three offshore patrol vessels, and it intends to introduce four new ones, I think. How much difference will having that extra capacity in reserve make, should it be needed?

Phil Haslam:

It will make an enormous difference. As you stated earlier, at the moment the fishery protection squadron is relatively constrained in the number of vessels it can put to sea, and that matches our constraint in being able to contract them. Having more vessels available to us to police a very large EEZ gives us that flexibility to deploy ships to the right place at the right time. By keeping the batch one offshore patrol vessels in service for longer and introducing the batch twos incrementally, as they come off the build, there will be a larger hand of cards to be played with.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q I have one other final point. Enforcement is obviously devolved, so what you have described is what is taking place and what is planned for in England. Could you describe how the challenge differs, for instance in Scotland, where we obviously have a large interest? What work do we do with Marine Scotland and its enforcement vessels?

Phil Haslam:

Fisheries enforcement is devolved, as you state. The way the Scottish do it is to have three vessels that conduct enforcement up to 330 days a year within their waters. They contract two aircraft as well, to provide oversight. At this moment, they have the kind of surveillance capability and control and enforcement capability that we are building up to.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q A moment ago you gave the figure of 2,000 hours of surveillance. Could you give us a sense of how the number of hours that have been deployed for enforcement has changed since 2010?

Phil Haslam:

Yes. Royal Navy vessels used to be contracted on a 24-hour-day basis. That was always non-exclusive, so they were not passed to the MMO, where we would have command and control of them; they would conduct our business but always with the risk of higher priority national tasking taking them away. But we did have more of them in 2010, and over time, with reductions in the MMO budget, we have had to roll back the number of hours, or days, we can contract, moving from 24-hour days to 12-hour days and then to nine-hour days.

When I came into this job we were relatively constrained regarding where we could deploy them for that part of the day. The idea of going to hours was to give us the flexibility to deploy them where the need was, rather than where they were shackled. So there has been a reduction, but on the other side of that, with the vessel monitoring system we have an understanding of what is going on in our waters. We have a picture against which we can patrol. So it was risk-based.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q The figures I have seen suggest that in 2010 there were 16,000 hours, and now we have 2,000. That trajectory, that path, that reduction of enforcement, at a time when we will probably, based on risk assessments, need to protect and enforce our waters to a greater extent than in the past, concerns me. It seems quite a challenge. What is your assessment of whether we will see more things like the scallop wars, not in French waters but in UK waters, after Brexit? Do you think sufficient resource is provided to ensure that UK waters are kept safe and protected and that our regulations are properly enforced?

Phil Haslam:

There is always a risk of tensions unearthing themselves within a fishing thing, but I must say that what we saw with the baie de Seine scallop wars was an expression of discontent based on using fishing vessel rather than on non-compliance with fisheries regulation, which is what the MMO does. There is a risk—that is the risk we have analysed—and against that risk we have built a bid for increased surveillance to meet and mitigate it.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q The Batch 2 River class that you are getting as part of the fishery patrol vessels are very capable ships, and not having the Batch ones retired is a good move. That total fleet, though, relies on numbers of people to put them to sea and we know that there is huge pressure within the Royal Navy to provide people. Given your former experience with the Fishery Protection Squadron, could you enlighten us a little bit? Having more hulls is a good thing, but is there a sufficient number of people to man those hulls to ensure that we have the necessary enforcement capacity?

Phil Haslam:

We have to be careful. The vessels the Royal Navy deploys to meet any MMO contract that is signed in the future is within its gift. It may be Batch 2s or Batch 1s, but that is the call of the commander of the squadron. In terms of manning the ships, it is similar. If the demand is there and it is required, the Royal Navy, being as innovative as it is, will come up with manning solutions to meet what it needs to do.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q Finally, you mentioned the consultation on inshore vessel monitoring systems. It seems to be a good thing to switch from an automatic identification system. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fishermen turn their AIS off if they find fish so as not to alert their friends as to where there is a good catch, but I-VMS does not come with that switch. Is that right? Can you explain what difference that would make to vessel monitoring with regard to enforcement and safety?

Phil Haslam:

The automatic information system, which is fitted to vessels of 300 gross tonnage and above is predominantly an anti-collision device. It is to create situational awareness at sea. It is an open-source mechanism by which you can find out information about any given ship, where it is going and what type it is. In fishing, a fisherman’s mark of where he is fishing and what he is getting from it is commercially sensitive and we would not wish to openly display that. I-VMS—the inshore vessel monitoring system—is a similar system to the one on smaller vessels. It gives us a picture of what is going on within the fishery. To conduct a fishery, you need to know what the input is so that you can control the output. That is not something we have at the moment. Also, it covers off that commercial sensitivity. We are not transmitting where a fisherman is. There is a point-to-point transmission of that data, which we will take into a hub so that we have a picture of what is going on in our waters, but that is not widely accessible.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Q Could you give us a brief insight into the kinds of enforcement actions you have to take now and whether they are likely in future to be different in type or in quantity, or in both?

Phil Haslam:

The enforcement action we take now is that we enforce the requirements of the common fisheries policy. In a routine inspection, when you board a fishing vessel you check the paperwork. Is the vessel licensed, in the first instance? Does it have quota for its catch? Then you would go into the mechanics of, “What have you caught? How have you caught them? Which area have you caught them in?” Then you do an inspection to see whether what is reflected in the logbook is manifest within the fishing vessel. That is what we do at sea in terms of inspection. It is everything from paperwork, to gear inspection, through to the actual catch. Ashore it is similar: it is about taking data from the logbook and then inspecting to see whether what is being landed matches that, and then goes through to the marketplace as well. All of it is in pursuit of assuring sustainable practice, but also the traceability of fish. That underpins the sustainability.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Q Would you envisage it to be similar in future or different in the nature or quantity of inspections?

Phil Haslam:

I would expect it to be similar in future. We do controlled enforcement now. There may be a requirement to do much more of it in the future, and there may be additional complexity, such as different permissions to be able to access our waters and the like. All of that will just become another thing that we have to understand, inspect and ensure compliance with.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Q Finally, what percentage of inspections result in you finding that rules have not been complied with?

Phil Haslam:

At sea, it can be as much as one in three where you find some level of non-compliant behaviour. Not all of that ends up in a court room. Some of that can be covered off with a verbal re-brief, because it is a genuine misunderstanding. At the other end of the spectrum is known behaviours. That is where we will have prosecution.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society)

Q Following on from what Mr Lefroy was saying, in planning for a no-deal Brexit or a much-changed situation, what analysis has been carried out by your department about the different nature of the increased threat post-Brexit? Based on that, what assessment has been made of how your capability is going to have to grow to meet that increased threat?

Phil Haslam:

The project that I am driving has basically considered several options, one of which is no deal. Access would no longer be guaranteed; therefore, a risk that comes off that would be illegal incursion to the EEZ. There are others options where access is permitted and there is non-compliance with the conditions of that access, so something has to be done about that. The other thing is that there could be a risk of non-compliance from home fleet, based on difficulties with the outcome of the negotiations or whatever. However, from a purely regulatory enforcement perspective we have weighed those risks, and that is the way we have built the additional capability.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society)

Q Do you have the capacity, the capability and the funding to meet the worst-case scenario that we have talked about?

Phil Haslam:

That is where our judgment has been made, and that is where the bid has gone in. We are building that capability in order to be able to deploy it within the timescales, so by March.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

Q Still on the subject of fisheries protection, you mentioned airborne surveillance earlier. One of the questions that fishermen in my constituency keep asking is: how does the eye in the sky seeing something wrong—somebody shooting their nets where they should not be shooting their nets, or whatever it is—turn into some kind of enforcement or some kind of actual protection, particularly in the future when there is no automatic equal access to our EEZ?

Phil Haslam:

The intent of redeploying aerial surveillance on a more routine basis is to cover off any risk that we do not continue to receive data that we receive now through the vessel monitoring system and the like. We would need a mechanism to build a picture of what was happening in our waters. If it is not derived remotely from a location device on board a vessel, we will have to actively go out and build that picture.

What the aerial surveillance does in the first instance is build situational awareness of what is going on in the water. If, once you have that, you see in among it non-compliant behaviour, it can operate as a queueing platform. Either it can queue in a surface vessel to come and take subsequent action, or you can warrant the air crew so that they can issue lawful orders, whether it be, “You are required to recover your gear and exit our waters,” or whatever it is. That can be passed from the aircraft.

It is not an entire panacea. It cannot stop non-compliant activity, because it is clearly airborne, but it gives you, first and foremost, that picture. It has a very clear deterrent capability, and it can start a compliance regime by queueing.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Although it is encouraging that the Royal Navy is making contingency plans with the River class, there is still concern about the differential in policing standards to which foreign vessels will be held relative to domestic vessels. I am just looking at what the planning is for that and at how you address the 80% fall in boardings in the past six years, from 1,400 to 278. That indicates a clear reduction in capability. Would it be helpful if the Bill defined that the Royal Navy has to provide a statutory capability, along with the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, to deliver that enforcement in UK watersQ ?

Phil Haslam:

Taking the first point, we work, as I said, on a risk-based, intelligence-led basis, so refining where we deploy our assets is based on that outlook. That is how we would deploy it. In terms of the differential between inspection rates of foreign vessels and UK vessels, I think that comes under the same cover. Where we perceive that there is risk and intelligence, we will take action on where it needs to go.

I am sorry, but I missed the second point about including something in the Bill.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Q I was asking whether there should be a specific capability defined in the Bill about what our asset should be for fisheries protection.

Phil Haslam:

No, because I think it involves over time the introduction of technology that may come downstream. At the moment, the reason we do what we do in the manner that we do it is to get evidential quality, should we need to take compliance activity. We still need inspectors to step on board fishing vessels.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q I want to come back to a couple of points that were raised earlier. Could you tell us what work has been done in terms of personnel to identify people who have recently served in the Fishery Protection Squadron and who, if you needed a surge in capacity, might be able to be deployed again and already have the required training?

Phil Haslam:

We have spoken about increased surveillance as part of the package to deliver an enhanced control enforcement capability. People are central to that. In the first instance, we are recruiting additional people into the MMO, so I will go from the cadre of warranted officers I have now to an increased number. That is actively under way. Also, to provide contingency planning, we have looked within the Royal Navy at who is currently qualified to conduct warranted fisheries business and who has recently been qualified. There has to be a cut-off, because obviously you will time out. There is a cadre of people still within the Royal Navy who could, should the need arise, be deployable to carry a warrant and conduct the inspection capability.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Q Secondly, in terms of managing access, additional access is sometimes granted in fisheries agreements. We do this in Scotland now; for instance, we allow the Faroes to catch 30% of their mackerel in UK waters. Could you explain how that process works? How does Marine Scotland enforce that process of managing conditional access?

Phil Haslam:

Basically, if you allow access to your waters you have to control who is coming in and who goes out. There is quite a sophisticated way of checking in and checking out: a vessel has to declare its catch on entering and its catch on exit. Indeed, the point of exit and point of entry is conditioned as well, so you can establish gates at sea where people have to actively come through, so you can understand who is in your waters at any given time. I know that within Scottish waters quite a dynamic mechanism has to be in place to manage the inflow and outflow of vessels.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Q You have a tremendous range of experience. To what extent do you think that non-compliance can be driven in the mismatch between quota and stocks? Let me give you an idea of my thinking. Some 20 years ago I used to make modest sums of money in Banff sheriff court defending constituents of Mr Duguid who had caught their monkfish one side of the 4 degree line when all the quota was on the other, which led to misreporting. That was just a classic mismatch between where the quota was and where the stock was. To what extent do you think that that sort of mismatch drives non-compliance?

Phil Haslam:

It provides an opportunity for non-compliance, provided you are minded to do that. I would not want to perceive something adversarial, with the regulator running around trying to catch fishermen out. The way this works best is that the rules work for the industry. We, as an enabling regulator, support them in the pursuit but within the bounds of the regulation. As I understand it, that is what we are working towards—that is rather more of a strategic partnership.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Q One proposal that has come from the NFFO is for the establishment of formal advisory councils, so that you would be bringing scientists, conservationists, industry representatives and perhaps even those responsible for enforcement around the table. Do you think that would be effective in terms of delivering a management system that would be less reliant on enforcement?

Phil Haslam:

Personally speaking, yes, because anything that increases the dialogue between the cadre of people you have mentioned can only help. This has to be a process of shared understanding and pursuit of common objectives.

Phil Haslam:

Yes.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

Good afternoon, Mr Haslam. You said earlier that the MMO budget has been cut. How much has it been cut by since 2010 in cash or percentage terms? Secondly, related to that, you put in a big bid for an increase in resources in order to deal with a no-deal scenario. How much extra have you asked for and has the Minister indicated that he is going to provide itQ ?

Phil Haslam:

The budget reduction since inception has been in the order of 60%, but that is counterweighted by the fact that the MMO can accrue income through services delivered. That has provided a relatively stable, if declining, budget. In terms of the bid for additional capability going forward, a bid has been made and we are just in the process of finessing that.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

Q Can you tell us how much more you have asked for?

Phil Haslam:

How much more in terms of actual—

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

Percentage versus current budgets, or in cash terms.

Phil Haslam:

It is basically a doubling of the budget at the moment.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

Q Has the Minister indicated that might be forthcoming?

Phil Haslam:

Support in delivering it, yes. I have not seen any resistance in terms of, “We need this capability.” The scale and volume is the bit, because it is based on judgments of risk, but nobody has said they have any doubt about the operational need.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

Q But hitherto, this Government have cut 60% of your funding.

Phil Haslam:

Under austerity, in line with all Government spending, there has been a decline.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

We have five minutes left for any further questions from the Government side. If not, Luke Pollard.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q I want to pick up on your earlier answer where you described the inshore vessel monitoring system. Will foreign boats fishing in UK waters have a requirement to have IVMS on their boats, so you will be able to track where they are when they are in UK waters?

Phil Haslam:

We have the latitude to make that a condition of the permit to enter.

Phil Haslam:

That is what we can do as an independent coastal state. Access to our waters will be granted by a permit, and the conditions we put on that permit are for the country to determine, so yes we can.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q Just so I understand, you are saying that the UK will have that power in the future. Should that power be set out in the Bill—that this should be a requirement? My concern is that UK boats might have to have IVMS, but foreign boats might not, depending on what option we decide to put in the licence. There should be a level playing field between UK boats and foreign boats in UK waters, so should all boats not have to have IVMS on them?

Phil Haslam:

The power in the Bill gives us the ability to regulate who comes into our waters by granting permission. I do not think the conditions of permission need to be explicit in the Bill, but they can be part of that, among other things that we would require any vessel within our waters to comply with.

Photo of Mike Hill Mike Hill Labour, Hartlepool

Q On the point you made about IVMS, would that extend to what I consider to be leisure fishing craft as well?

Phil Haslam:

There will be a cut-off of who actually gets fitted with it, because the point is to try to develop a picture of what is the main input into the fishery in terms of effort on vessels out there. There will be some vessels—there will be a line below which we will not need to go. At the moment we are looking to catch—not catch, that is the wrong word—fit IVMS to the active fishing vessels.

Photo of Mike Hill Mike Hill Labour, Hartlepool

To commercial vessels.

Phil Haslam:

To commercially active fishing vessels, yes.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

Q The Bill includes provision for the Secretary of State to allocate fishing opportunities based on days at sea, as well as the fixed quota allocation. How does your enforcement action differ when you are looking at a boat using days at sea versus looking at a boat fishing against an FQA?

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

Can you answer that question quickly, Mr Haslam, because one other Member wishes to ask a question?

Phil Haslam:

Okay. In terms of an effort scheme, we would just need a data flow to track how often that vessel is put to sea, and whether it is in the bounds of the effort that is available. We have effort schemes that we run now.

Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

I was also thinking about the licensing of vessels for fishing. Licensing of vessels or permits to fish in our waters may go to vessels not from within the EU 27. I assume that they can come from elsewhere in the globe; Q we are not confined to permitting vessels simply from Europe. My question is how do we ensure the seaworthiness of those vessels that may or may not receive a permit or licence to operate in our seas?

Phil Haslam:

Taking what happens now for a UK vessel or an English vessel, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency issues a certificate of seaworthiness, and that is the first thing we need to see in granting a licence to fish.

Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

Q No matter where that vessel emanates from.

Phil Haslam:

We would expect a similar behaviour. If that vessel was applying for a licence to fish in UK waters, one of the checks and balances you would have is asking, “Is it fit to conduct itself at sea? Is it seaworthy?” That would be the first check.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

On behalf of the Committee, Mr Haslam, I thank you for your attendance and your evidence.