Discard prevention charging schemes: supplementary provision

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 17 December 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

Clause 27 is about supplementary provisions. It includes provisions for a discard prevention charging scheme to include provisions for unpaid charges to be recovered as a debt, for masters of fishing boats to be jointly liable with licence holders for charge payments, and for how charge collectors must manage the receipt of charges. It also allows the Secretary of State to exercise discretion in the functioning of the scheme and to delegate any of their functions under the scheme. The clause provides necessary detail on the scheme to ensure its proper functioning.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water)

I am grateful to the Minister for setting that out. I have a question for him on this scheme, in relation to equal access and shared access to waters. He is setting out a scheme for English fisheries, but could he set out what happens in the event of a fishing boat leaving English waters and travelling through to Scottish waters, for instance, and there being discards en route at some location between? Is there a way of meshing this together perfectly with what happens with a Scottish discard scheme to ensure that there are no loopholes because of the transition between two national fisheries areas?

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

The shadow Minister makes an important point. As I have said all along, this Bill tries to sit within our somewhat complex devolution settlement. I will make two points. First, Scotland is facing exactly the same challenges that we in England are facing, with regard to making the discard ban work in practice as well as in theory. From discussions with officials, I am aware that the Scottish Government are interested in looking at a similar scheme for fishermen in Scotland. It may be that this is something we can work on together across the UK.

Secondly, to answer the hon. Gentleman’s specific point about how we would deal with catches, some of which might have been caught in Scotland and some of which might have been caught in England, we have quite a detailed system of catch reporting. They have to log catches. We have vessel monitoring systems so that we know where vessels are catching fish. We have trained operators in our control room in Newcastle who monitor fishing patterns and can identify suspicious behaviour, such as a fishing vessel fishing in one area and then driving around to pretend it has fished in another, and we have ways of reconciling fishermen’s landing records with their catch records to ensure that we can manage this as an England-only scheme, should that be necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28