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Distribution of fishing opportunities

Part of Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 3:45 pm, 13th December 2018

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out why this is what he wants to do, but that it is too difficult to do it in the way that we have set out. That is how I have interpreted his response. The important thing is that we are talking about setting a fairer framework for smaller boats in particular. I know the Minister seeks to label this as a Greenpeace initiative, and indeed Greenpeace is one of its supporters, but so is the organisation that represents small boats.

The amendment makes real the promises of the leave campaign. If we do not find a way of giving powers to the national fishing authorities to reallocate the existing quotas, what happens if no quotas come back at the end of the negotiations with the EU? What happens if people, admittedly above the Minister’s pay scale, come back with no additional quotas whatsoever? That is a very real risk at the moment. What happens if there are no unicorns in the nets of our fishers? That is the problem that we face.

The Minister cannot have it both ways. He says that he wants to reallocate FQAs. So do we, and there is an opportunity to do that. It is about asking, “How will we make a fairer system if no additional quotas come back?” If they do, I agree with the Minister that we need to reallocate them in a fairer way. Economic, social and environmental criteria are the ones that we agree on—there is commonality on both sides of the Committee Room in that respect.

If no additional quotas come back, because there is a real risk that our fishers will be betrayed in the upcoming negotiations, no matter how many reassurances Ministers give them, what then? The amendment gives Ministers the power to signal, and suggests that Ministers signal, that they wish to reallocate quotas based on those sound economic criteria.

That relates to the point that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland made regarding the notice period that someone is given. The Minister has answered that question by setting out from the legal judgment that it is a period of seven years. A proper period should be determined, via consultation with the industry and other stakeholders, for when those allocations should have their value reset. It should be set in the public’s best interest, as fishing is a public good.

It is important to set that notice period. That is why the amendment is so important: it encourages Ministers to signal their intention that they will reset FQAs and redistribute them in a fairer way. It might well be that there are whole areas and whole species that we would not want to redistribute. It might also be that there are zones and particular fisheries that we would want to prioritise, as the Minister has said in terms of the small amount of redistribution that his Department has done.

I am not asking the Minister to learn the words of “The Red Flag”, including the difficult second verse, nor to embrace socialism in a way that would offend his sensibilities; I am suggesting that he embrace an amendment that would make real the promises of the leave campaign to our small fleet and our coastal communities. Give the powers to the national authorities to redistribute, if they wish to—in effect, that is what this says. There is no compulsion on them to do so, but the strong indication is that that is the right thing to do.

That is why the amendment is so important. Without it, there is no focus either on redistributing existing quota or on correctly redistributing the quota that is coming over—if we get any. I caution that we should not presume that we will get any, because I fear that decisions made by pay grades far above those of all in this room—including yours, Mr Hanson, unbelievably—might be for quotas to stay as they are. No matter what amendments the Government make, I fear that those decisions are out of our hands. That is why the amendment is so important and why we will put it to a vote.