Fishing co-operatives

Fisheries Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 pm on 17th December 2018.

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“(1) The Secretary of State must promote co-operatives within the fishing industry, and such promotion may include—

(a) offering financial assistance for the creation or development of fishing co-operatives within the following aspects—

(i) landing;

(ii) catching; and

(iii) processing

(b) establishing bodies to provide practical support and guidance for the development of new co-operatives.

(c) issue guidance on the practical steps which can be taken pursuant to the establishing a new co-operative.

(2) Financial assistance under sub section (1) may be given by way of grant, loan or guarantee, or in any other form.

(3) An organisation shall be recognised as a fishing co-operative if it meets the following conditions—

(a) it is—

(i) registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as a co-operative; or

(ii) constituted under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014; and

(b) it operates in a sector of the fishing industry described in 1(a)(i), (ii) or (iii).”—

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to provide financial assistance, establish support and issue guidance in order to promote co-operatives in the fishing industry.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

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

Members will be pleased to hear that this is the last new clause that I will move this evening, but it is an important one. The Labour party has a manifesto commitment to double the size of the co-operative sector. The UK fishing industry contains a range of co-operatives operating in the catching, landing and processing sectors. The UK fishing industry, specifically the concentration of ownership and quotas, is in need of reform.

As we have already discussed, as we seek to gain greater and more sustainable use of the vast resources in the seas that surround our islands, we need to do so in a way that spreads wealth and ownership in the UK fishing industry. Greater diversity in ownership will benefit the industry and the communities that rely on it by challenging the dominant players and giving access to new entrants.

The fishing community has a long history of co-operation and co-operatives. The benefits of co-operatives are clear: increased productivity, increased resilience and the spread of economic democracy.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Does my hon. Friend recognise that an exemplar of co-operation in the fisheries sector is the Scottish Seas co-operative, which covers numerous ports from Fraserburgh and Peterhead to all round the west coast? It encompasses 60 vessels and more than 250 fishermen, which is a huge opportunity for smaller fishermen to make a significant economic impact and to exert leverage on a market that is increasingly dominated by larger retailers and processors.

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

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The success of the co-operative sector in the fishing industry has been a hidden secret. People who advocate co-operatives, as I do as a Labour and Co-operative MP, need to speak louder about that success story.

Further encouraging co-operative ownership and ways of working is common sense in many ways. New co-operatives in the differing aspects of the industry can be the building blocks of new community wealth for communities around the coast. We believe in the co-operative model, which is an important tool for rebuilding a fairer, and therefore better, fishing industry. The Government have important role to play in encouraging that development.

The Bill provides the opportunity to place new duties on the Secretary of State to support the expansion and development of co-operative businesses in all aspects of the fishing industry. Alongside our proposed quota reallocation to extend opportunities, support should be given to existing fishing co-operatives to grow, and to new co-operatives to start up. That should be targeted at coastal towns and communities where the fishing industry has been in the steepest decline. By supporting the new duties, the Government will show that they are interested not only in the status quo but in embracing their role in reshaping the industry and spreading economic democracy.

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

I agree that co-operatives have an important role to play in the fishing industry. In many ways, the industry is already dominated by producer organisations, which are a form of co-operative. Those organisations are formed by effectively pooling the quota that was attached to individual vessels. The vessels that join the producer organisation then pool their fishing opportunities and fish against them as a co-operative movement. They already dominate.

DEFRA has supported discussions and plans on the development of producer organisations in the inshore sector. When Jerry Percy gave evidence, we heard that he was keen to progress that. Some of the inshore under-10-metre fleet seek to support one another, come together as a co-operative and manage their own quota. We in DEFRA have said that we are open to doing that and to facilitating that for the inshore fishermen who would like to join such a co-operative.

I also point out that clause 28(1)(c) creates a power for Secretary of State to give financial assistance for the

“reorganisation of businesses involved in commercial aquaculture activities or commercial fish activities”.

There is provision in that clause for the Secretary of State to give financial assistance to co-operatives or to support producer organisations, so the power is there, should it be needed.

In conclusion, I agree that the co-operative model has an important role to play, but I argue that the sector has long co-operated through the existing producer organisation structure, and that the powers exist in the Bill to support that model further.

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

I think what the Minister said at the end was, “We support co-operatives and want to further their development,” but he just chose a way to shoot down the new clause nicely

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

What I was actually saying was that we do not need the new clause because there are powers elsewhere in the Bill to support co-operatives.

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

I am very pleased that the Minister managed to end the discussion by pointing out a clause that includes the word “aquaculture”, because that is one of our favourite points. Supporting the development of co-operatives is important and something that we should be encouraging, so I encourage the Minister to take it seriously. As a result, for the final time, I will press the new clause to a vote.

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

The Committee divided:

Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Division number 20 Fisheries Bill — Fishing co-operatives

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

The issues that I sought to explore in relation to new clause 23 were well explored earlier in our proceedings, and accordingly I am not seeking to press it.

Title

Amendment made: 10, title, line 11, after “fisheries;” insert—

“to make provision about the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales in relation to fishing, fisheries or fish health in the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea;”—(George Eustice.)

This amendment to the long title of the Bill is consequential on NC5.

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

On a point of order, Mr Gray. I do not want to detain hon. Members any longer than necessary but I want to record my thanks to the Clerks and all hon. Members for their work on the Committee, and in particular for staying so late this evening when the House has long since adjourned.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I add my thanks to the Committee staff, the Clerks and all the stakeholders who have contributed so much to the passage of the Bill, and I wish it best speed.

With your permission, Mr Gray, I also wish the Minister the best of luck at the fisheries summit. As he controls the programme motion, perhaps next time he finds himself with a fisheries Bill and a fisheries summit at the same time, it might be wise to adjust one so that he can attend the other. I wish him the best of luck for the remaining sessions of that summit and hope he comes back with a good deal for our fishers.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I associate myself with those comments. It is at least eight and possibly nine years since I last sat on a Public Bill Committee. In fact, if I say that the last time I sat on a Bill of this sort it was a Standing Committee, you will understand, Mr Gray, that that takes us back to at least before 2010.

In addition to those we have already thanked, we should record our thanks to those who gave evidence to the Committee. As a neophyte in that regard, I thought that was enormously helpful. That innovation has enormously improved our procedures. Finally, I associate myself with the best wishes with which we send the Minister to Brussels. It has clearly not been an easy year but I hope he will do everything he can to bring home the best possible settlement because the sustainability we have spoken about in theoretical terms during the Committee is very much at stake in practical terms.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society)

Further to that point of order, Mr Gray. I associate the Scottish National party with the previous comments. Our sincere thanks to the Clerks and all hon. Members who have made this such an interesting, good-natured and serious Committee investigation of the Fisheries Bill. As everyone does, I wish the Minister the best of luck in his endeavours when he meets the rest of his EU counterparts. Finally, Mr Gray, thanks to you and Mr Hanson for chairing the proceedings.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

I am most grateful, Mr O’Hara. For a minute, I thought we had been forgotten. I will pass those thanks to Mr Hanson. Those were, of course, entirely bogus points of order, but they were none the less very welcome.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.