Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 17 December 2018.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 7:00, 17 December 2018

I beg to move amendment 67, in clause 39, page 23, line 30, at end insert—

“(4A) Before making any regulations under this Act, the Secretary of State, Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers or the Northern Ireland department (as the case may be) must consult with affected stakeholders”.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State Scottish Ministers, Welsh Ministers or the Northern Ireland department to consult with affected stakeholders before making regulations.

The Minister is keen to say that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consults constantly and does not need legislation to help make sure that it does so. However, there are already some requirements in the Bill to consult, and Government amendment 6 added another duty to consult in clause 22, in response to a recommendation from the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Our amendment 67 simply seeks to put in place consistent duties to consult on all regulations provided for in the Bill.

As we have discussed, this duty is particularly important for regulations that receive less parliamentary scrutiny, or none at all, to make sure that affected individuals, businesses and communities have an adequate opportunity to make their views known before the law is put in place—especially when laws are introduced afresh after we leave the European Union. I am sure that the Minister will have spotted other duties to consult in clauses 19, 29, 36, and schedule 1, which requires an element of consultation on the joint fisheries statement, as well as schedules 5, 6 and 7. Our amendment seeks to make sure that, before any regulations are made, there is sufficient consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

The amendment refers to Scottish Ministers. Will the hon. Gentleman explain how it would work in practice? Who would decide whom Scottish Ministers had to consult? If they were somehow deemed not to have consulted the relevant stakeholders, what would be the repercussions? Would the matter be reported back to the Westminster Government? Clearly the Scottish Government are responsible for their own legislation.

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

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to suggest that the Scottish Government would make any regulations without consulting Scottish communities.

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

Therefore the point should be moot. The important thing is how disputes are regulated and managed in the Bill. We need to ensure that it gives confidence to environmental stakeholders operating in the sector, whether they are businesses, fishers or coastal communities, that they will be adequately consulted before any regulations are made under clause 39. It is an important principle to enshrine in the Bill that there must be sufficient good-quality consultation before any regulations are made.

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

As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport points out, we have included an explicit requirement in some clauses to consult where appropriate, generally in cases that raise specific issues that have a bearing on cost recovery, on the proposed sale of fishing opportunities—as in our new clause 22 —or on devolved Administrations. However, I do not think it appropriate to have a statutory requirement to consult on every single measure that might be introduced under the Bill. Such a requirement would be very unusual; the Department’s existing statutory obligations to consult relate predominantly to issues of food safety and food standards. As I have said before, we generally do not need encouragement to consult. Many consultations come across my desk; I often ask officials whether a consultation is really required, but our very strict internal Government guidelines and Cabinet Office guidance mean that we consult regularly on most issues.

I envisage that most of the issues covered by the Bill would be subject to a consultation. We have chosen to introduce a statutory requirement to consult on very significant matters—those that have cost implications for industry or potentially serious implications for the relationship with devolved Administrations—but that does not mean that we will not consult on many, many other provisions in the Bill. Indeed, I anticipate our doing so, but I do not believe that it would be appropriate to put that in the Bill.

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

I thank the Minister for his response, but it is a bit disappointing. The principle of consultation is a fine one. I note what he says about DEFRA undertaking a range of consultations during his time as a Minister, but winning the confidence and trust of the fishing industry after Brexit will depend on any changes to the rules having its full consent and support, whether those changes relate to quota allocation, safety, licensing or any other aspect of fishing. The best way of achieving that is by following the principle of consulting. However, as the Minister has effectively committed to consulting on the key things, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 40 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 41