Power of Marine Management Organisation to impose charges

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 17th December 2018.

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Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

I will speak briefly, because this amendment covers the issues that I addressed in my previous two amendments, and which the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport also referred to. As far as the future funding of science is concerned, I was reasonably content with the response that the Minister provided. I look forward to seeing the further details, to which he referred, on Report. I acknowledge and take on board his explanation that it is not appropriate for IFCAs to be funded in this particular way. On that basis, I will not be moving the amendment.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

In that case we will move on to an amendment that will be moved. I call Luke Pollard potentially to move amendment 70.

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

I beg to move amendment 70, in clause 29, page 17, line 42, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

I am definitely moving the amendment, which seeks to remove the negative procedure in relation to clause 29 and replace it with the affirmative procedure. The amendment reflects concerns expressed by fishers about the increasing powers of the MMO, which is developing the ability to impose charges without sufficient accountability and scrutiny of that work.

The amendment is designed to catch the Minister’s eye so that he can reassure us that the MMO will use any powers it is given wisely, to ensure that charges are proportionate and, importantly, that before any charges are imposed, there is sufficient consultation with fishers to ensure that those charges are correct and proportionate.

Given the considerable amount of concern expressed by fishers, it is important that there is sufficient parliamentary procedure, which is why we suggest the affirmative procedure. However, if the Minister can give a good answer as to why that should not be required, I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

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

We have had a number of discussions about the use of the negative procedure. As I have pointed out before, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee considered the procedures for all delegated powers in the Bill and commented:

“Of the Bill’s 15 delegated powers that have a parliamentary procedure, only four are solely governed by the negative procedure, and justifiably so.”

It is usual for fees and charges imposed by arm’s length bodies to be set out in regulations made under the negative procedure. A recent example is the power of the Secretary of State to charge fees through regulations under the Ivory Bill, which will also use the negative procedure. We have considered the issue, but we think we have struck the right balance between the need for parliamentary scrutiny and the need to update MMO charges through secondary legislation.

If we were to accept this amendment and do use the affirmative procedure, every change made to the charges would have to go through an affirmative parliamentary process. We think that is excessive. We already have strict and tight Treasury guidance on when one can and cannot charge, and how one can charge for such charges that are passed on, and that is very much on a cost-recovery basis. That provision is set out in detail in other Government rules and guidance.

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

I invited the Minister to provide reassurance that the MMO would use the charging powers proportionately and subject to consultation. Could he say something about his approach to that?

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

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to clause 29(7), which makes provision for consultation. I confirm that we would consult the industry before introducing such charges.

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

I appreciate that clarification. It is important that the Minister takes on board the concerns of fishers about the role and remit of the MMO in relation to the new powers that the Bill gives him. On the basis of the reassurance that he has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 5