Sea Fish Industry Levies

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 pm on 17th December 2018.

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“(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 4 (levies)—

(a) in subsection (2), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) in subsection (7), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(c) after subsection (8) insert—

“(8A) In this section, “appropriate Ministerial authority” means—

(a) in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone, the Scottish Ministers,

(b) in any other case, the Ministers.”,

(d) in subsection (9), after “order” in both places where it occurs insert “of the Ministers”,

(e) after subsection (9) insert—

“(9A) Any order of the Scottish Ministers—

(a) under subsection (2) is subject to the negative procedure,

(b) under subsection (7) is subject to the affirmative procedure.”.

(3) In section 11 (accounts and reports), after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The statement of accounts must specify the total amount of income received in the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone.”.

(4) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1)—

(a) in the definition of “the Ministers”, in paragraph (c), after “with” insert “(except in the case of an order under section 4(2) or (7))”,

(b) after that definition insert—

““Scotland” and “the Scottish zone” have the same meanings as in the Scotland Act 1998 (see section 126(1) and (2) of that Act);”.

(5) In schedule 2 (Sea Fish Industry Levies)—

(a) for “Ministers” in each place where it occurs substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) after paragraph 3 insert—

“4 In this schedule, “appropriate Ministerial authority” has the same meaning as in section 4 of this Act”.”.—(Alan Brown.)

This new clause seeks to devolve control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by Seafish to the Scottish Ministers to ensure inter alia that levies imposed in relation to fish or fish products landed in Scotland, or trans-shipped in Scottish waters, require confirmation by Scottish Ministers, and that Scottish Ministers may by order increase the rate of such levies.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I will try to brief. The new clause would effectively devolve control of the Scottish aspect of levies imposed by Seafish to Scottish Ministers, ensuring that levies imposed on fish or fish products landed in Scotland, or trans-shipped in Scottish waters, require confirmation by Scottish Ministers. It would also mean that Scottish Ministers may, by order, increase the rate of such levies.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute touched on, it is a long-held view of the Scottish Government that the existing Seafish levy is not fit for purpose, providing inadequate support to the sector in Scotland, resulting in insufficient marketing and promotion of Scottish seafood. Levies should not be uniform across the UK and should be placed in the hands of devolved Ministers to determine best procedure and practice in their own nations and regions. This issue is similar to the red meat levy, which was also a long-running sore. The UK Government accepted changes to the Agriculture Bill to resolve that to the satisfaction of the Scottish Government. I hope the Minister will see fit to do likewise with these proposals.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I support new clause 3, which seeks to devolve control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by Seafish to Scottish Ministers. Inter alia, it would require confirmation from Scottish Ministers for levies imposed in relation to fish or fish products landed in Scotland, or transhipped in Scottish waters, and allow Scottish Ministers to increase the rate of such levies by order.

It seems that the new clause makes sense and would allow Scottish Ministers to determine the rate of levy that best suits the industry in Scotland. The purpose of devolution is to allow for degrees of variance to best suit that country’s interests, and the new clause achieves that. We will support it.

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

As with the earlier amendments, I disagree with new clause 3. It goes beyond what was recommended by the Smith Commission, which looked at this issue as recently as 2014. There is no industry support for devolving the Seafish levies. Scottish Ministers already have responsibilities towards Seafish, including with regard to appointments to the board, which are agreed across all four Administrations of the UK. As I said earlier, there is already a Scottish advisory committee to Seafish. It is not appropriate to start to have different levies when parts of the fleet will land fish in different ports around the UK. That would create an unacceptable level of bureaucracy for a relatively small organisation such as Seafish.

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

Did the Smith Commission really look at this and the likes of the red meat levy in detail? What recommendations did it make about the red meat levy?

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

It did look at the issue in detail. The then Scottish Minister, Richard Lochhead, made strong representations about it. In particular, I remember that he wanted to introduce a levy on salmon producers in Scotland. That was one of the thoughts behind the change that he advocated. Those suggestions were considered by the Smith Commission, but rejected. I believe that we should accept that decision, as it looked at the suggestions in detail, and I oppose new clause 3 for that reason.

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

I was hoping for a more conciliatory tone from the Minister when I raised the example of the red meat levy, where the UK Government changes were very welcome.

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

The position with the red meat levy is different. Scotland and Wales feel that they do not get a fair share of the levy because the animals come from there and travel across the border to be slaughtered, and the levy is collected at the point of slaughter. That is not the case with the way that the seafood levy is collected. This is a different issue, about whether it is appropriate to devolve those particular levy charging functions. We do not believe it is.

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

I take the Minister’s point about the geographical nature of the red meat levy, and there were concerns that my new clause was about only Scotland, so I accept that. Nevertheless, I will press the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division number 17 Fisheries Bill — Sea Fish Industry Levies

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

New clause 8 relates to the West Lothian question set to fish, which we debated in some detail last Tuesday on amendments 15 to 19. I tabled the new clause as a probing amendment at that stage, and at this stage I do not wish to move it.

New Clause 11