Duties to ensure fishing opportunities not exceeded

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Labour/Co-operative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport 4:15 pm, 13th December 2018

I beg to move amendment 107, in clause 21, page 12, line 5, at end insert—

“(4) The relevant national authorities must publish, on at least an annual basis, a comparison of the number of each species of sea fish caught and—

(a) the catch quota for that species for that year, and

(b) the FMSY reference point for that species for that year.

(5) The publication under subsection (4) must, where the number of sea fish caught in a calendar year has exceeded the figures in paragraphs (4)(a) or (4)(b), note the impact on fish stocks that exceeding that figure is thought to have had.”

This amendment would require the publication of the quantity by species of fish caught to enable the impact on the sustainability fish stocks to be assessed.

This amendment continues the theme of transparency and freedom of information. Under clause 21, the fishery authorities have a duty to ensure that fishing opportunities are not exceeded in any year, whether by catch quota or by effort quota. To be able to hold the authorities to account for the exercise of that duty, we will need to have access to full, accurate and robust information. The amendment will also ensure that we have the necessary data to improve our scientific understanding of the seas, what is in them and how to ensure that we protect and conserve them for future generations.

The amendment, which is supported by various organisations, seeks to ensure publication at least annually of the number of species caught compared with the quota for that species and the reference points for fishing mortality at maximum sustainable yield. We want the publication to include an examination of the impact on stock for that species. I am sure the Minister already has plans for the publication of some of that data, but will he set out what information will be published and what the timescale will be?

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

It is important to note that, as drafted, this amendment cuts across the devolved settlement, because it would oblige not only the UK Government but the devolved Administrations to publish the data mentioned. Before accepting an amendment of this sort, we would need to seek the views and the consent of the devolved Administrations. It would also require the collection of data for each species of fish caught. With the landing obligation, that would include many species for which we did not have catch quotas or FMSY reference points, so comparisons could not always be made.

I invite the hon. Gentleman to take some weekend reading away with him. When it comes to statistics, we have incredibly detailed documents, including one from the MMO, which I have in my hands, and another from Marine Scotland. I urge the shadow Minister to read them on his train back to Plymouth this weekend and to then consider on Report whether he has an appetite for even more statistics than those that are already available in published form.

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

I wondered what the Minister’s little table was for, and now I understand it is to keep his reports on. I am grateful for the additional reading material. Transparency in this new fisheries management system is important. I am happy to take the Minister’s word that he already publishes a fair amount of data. We will look at this matter again and, if that turns out not to be sufficient, he should expect us to make a return trip to this amendment on Report. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

Sale of English fishing opportunities for a calendar year

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

I beg to move amendment 5, in clause 22, page 12, line 28, leave out paragraph (h) and insert—

“() requiring or permitting rights to be sold, or not to be sold, to a person who meets such conditions (whether relating to the price offered for the rights or otherwise) as may be specified in or in accordance with the regulations;”.

This amendment would enable regulations to require or permit issues other than price to be taken into account when deciding who to sell fishing opportunities to.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment 6.

Clause stand part.

New clause 20—English Fishing Opportunities—

“(1) The English fishery shall vest in the Secretary of State and be held subject to the duties set out in this section.

(2) The powers exercisable by the Secretary of State in the management of the English fishery shall not include the power to borrow money against the English fishery.

(3) The Secretary of State, or the Marine Management Organisation or an Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority duly authorised by the Secretary of State, shall have the power to dispose of English fishing opportunities—

(a) for consideration;

(b) on the terms of a licence for a period of no more than 1 calendar year;

(c) in compliance with the criteria set out in section 20.

(4) Any licence of fishing opportunities granted pursuant to subsection (3) shall not create or transfer any proprietary right, title or interest in such fishing opportunities or in any fish before such fish are harvested by the holder.

(5) It shall be the general duty of the Secretary of State in any disposal of English fishery opportunities (whether by the Secretary of State or by the Marine Management Organisation or an Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority duly authorised by the Secretary of State) pursuant to this section to achieve appropriate consideration for any such disposal having regard to the criteria for disposal set out in section 20 and any JFS and SFSS.

(6) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision for the disposal of English fishing opportunities, which may include—

(a) for rights to be sold by competitive tender or auction,

(b) for a competitive tender process or auction to be run by such person as the regulations may designate,

(c) such fishing opportunities to be rented and an appropriate royalty charged,

(d) conferring functions (including functions involving the exercise of a discretion) on a person running a competitive tender process or auction, or on any other person,

(e) for terminating a competitive tender process or auction where there has been, or appears to the person running the competitive tender process or auction to have been, a failure to comply with the regulations,

(f) about how and when—

(i) payments for rights are to be made, and

(ii) payments received are to be dealt with,

(g) about appeals relating to eligibility for, or the outcome of, a tender process or auction,

(h) requiring a person running a tender process or auction to issue guidance.

(7) Fishing opportunities disposed of in accordance with this section are exercisable in relation to such fishing boats, by such persons, in such manner, and subject to such conditions, as may be specified in the terms of that disposal. In particular, the Secretary of State, or the Marine Management Organisation or an Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority duly authorised by the Secretary of State, shall have the power to, inter alia—

(a) specify persons, or descriptions of persons, who are eligible or ineligible to buy opportunities;

(b) require any person to pay a deposit, or do any other thing, in order to be eligible to buy opportunities;

(c) set limits on the opportunities that may be bought by a person or a description of persons;

(d) set a minimum price for fishing opportunities;

(e) prohibit or permit the transfer of fishing opportunities by the purchaser or the exercise of such fishing opportunities by someone other than the purchaser of those opportunities;

(f) extinguish or limit opportunities sold where any amount due in respect of them is not paid, or any condition attached to the exercise of the rights is not met;

(g) provide for the forfeit of fishing opportunities that are held by a person following a disposal under this section but not used, and for payment of compensation to that person.

(8) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

(9) In this Act—

‘English catch quota’ means so much of a catch quota as would (if not disposed of in accordance with this section) be available for distribution by the Secretary of State, or the Marine Management Organisation or

‘English effort quota’ means so much of an effort quota as would (if not disposed of in accordance with this section) be available for distribution by the Secretary of State, or the Marine Management Organisation or any Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority on behalf of the Secretary of State, for use by English fishing boats;

‘English fishing opportunities’ means the right to use English catch quota and English effort quota.

‘Fixed Quota Allocation Units’ shall have the meaning ascribed to them in the UK Quota Management Rules 2015 in so far as they apply to England.”

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

In the fisheries White Paper, we made it clear that, on leaving the EU, any additional quota we may receive during the negotiations will be distributed using different methods from the current FQA allocation system. That will be done using a range of different mechanisms. We are amending the Bill to make it clear that quota will not necessarily be put up for sale to the highest bidder. We may allocate it on a range of other criteria, such as sustainability, the needs of coastal communities and the reliance of certain sectors on specific stocks.

Amendment 6 simply includes a duty to consult stakeholders prior to making any regulations governing the distribution of additional quota. That demonstrates transparency and supports our commitment to work with stakeholders to shape a new future for the UK industry.

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

I am grateful that the Minister has clarified that additional quota will not be auctioned to the highest bidder. Does he feel that that is sufficient to ensure that small fishers and new entrants to the sector will not be discriminated against? There is a real fear in the fishing sector that the auction function in the Bill will mean that if either this Government or a future Government want to earn some quick cash from the sector, they will seek to auction any additional fishing opportunities to the highest bidder, further cementing the huge monopoly that the large fishing organisations already have in the sector.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his brevity in making an important point. I have been very clear that one of the ways of allocating new fishing opportunities that we are considering is a competitive tender process, but the tender is not just about the price to be paid. We want to judge producer organisations on their compliance track record and what they are doing to improve selectivity and reduce their environmental impact; to encourage new entrants into the industry; and to put economic benefits back into coastal communities. I believe that is the right approach. I can confirm that, as amended, the clause will make that explicit and broaden it out to ensure that we can have the type of competitive tender process that I have talked about at many stages during the passage of the Bill.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

I shall speak to new clause 20. The distribution of fishing quota to the commercial sector is one of the Government’s most important functions. As we have heard, it will, to a very large extent, determine the success or failure of the fishing industry post-Brexit. It is generally acknowledged that the current system is dysfunctional as it encourages the over-concentration of ownership and has permitted the foreign dominance of the UK fishing business—something that other EU member states have managed to avoid.

There is a concern that the current regulations do not go far enough, as there is the matter of creating a disposal mechanism of English fishing rights as well as a regulatory mechanism. The new clause seeks to address that concern. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

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

My hon. Friend has tabled a very long new clause. In essence, I think it seeks to do two things. First, it talks again about a national asset. It is an aspect of quota allocation that we have discussed many times before, so I will not repeat what I have said about our common law tradition and the fact that it goes without saying that it is a national asset.

Secondly, underlying the new clause is a concern that the new method of allocation that we might adopt might create new proprietorial rights for those who are successful in the tender. I can confirm that that is exactly what we are seeking to avoid through the Bill. That is why we explicitly talk about the use of catch quota rights for a calendar year. It would be possible to have a tender that had an entitlement to a particular right that would go to several years, but it would only ever be for the duration of that tender and would terminate at the end of that process. There will be no accumulated property rights in the tender or auction process that we set out in clause 22. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend will accept that, although a great deal of work has gone into drafting his very detailed and comprehensive new clause, it is in fact unnecessary.

Amendment 5 agreed to.

Amendment made: 6, in clause 22, page 13, line 7, at end insert—

“( ) Before making regulations under this section the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.”.—

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult before making regulations about the sale of fishing opportunities.

Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned.—(Iain Stewart.)

Adjourned till Monday 17 December at half-past Four o’clock.