This amendment would ensure that regulations establishing a national landing requirement for the devolved nations are made by the devolved administrations rather than by the Secretary of State.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.
Amendment 89, in clause 18, page 13, leave out lines 41 to 43, insert “, and” at the end of line 40.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.
Amendment 105, in clause 18, page 13, leave out lines 41 to 43.
This amendment removes the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before determining the national landing requirement.
Amendment 90, in clause 18, page 14, line 1, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.
Amendment 91, in clause 18, page 14, line 2, leave out “the UK fishing industry” and insert “their respective fishing industries”.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.
Amendment 106, in clause 18, page 14, line 16, after “limits”, insert
“and outside of Scotland, the Scottish zone, Wales, the Welsh zone, Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland zone”.
This amendment changes the definition of ‘landing requirement’ into an England-only one.
Amendment 107, in clause 18, page 14, line 17, leave out
“the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey” and insert “England”.
This amendment changes the definition of ‘landing requirement’ into an England-only one.
We in the SNP are concerned about Government amendment 5, which would possibly remove clause 18 from the Bill in its entirety. We oppose that in the strongest terms, and I encourage right hon. and hon. Members to do likewise. If they respect the sentiments of devolution, they will support the amendments we have tabled, which we do intend to put to a vote.
A landings target is currently the policy of the governing party in Scotland, and it is a policy that Scottish Ministers are keen to progress. The UK Government, on the face of it, have simply refused to engage in any way—far less in a meaningful way—with the reasonable and rational intent of the amendments from the other place. The Conservatives, in my opinion, are again showing their true colours: they have no respect for devolved national parliamentary matters, and it is highly disappointing that ensuring the economic value and benefits of sea fishing for coastal communities, and for labour markets and livelihoods in constituencies such as mine, is not high enough on their agenda.
The amendments made in the other place that the Government are seeking to remove are relevant and considered. They would have aided the delivery of the aims in clause 1, and would also have followed through on the Government’s pledge of levelling up. However, we now know—if some of us did not beforehand—that a pledge by this Government or their Ministers means virtually nothing when they can break laws left, right and centre, willy-nilly. The amendments would have safeguarded employment in the processing and distribution sections of the sector, which are so important to my constituents in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, and to Scotland as a whole.
One job at sea is widely regarded as being equivalent to 10 on dry land, and coastal communities are crying out for investment and support. They currently have higher rates of unemployment and lower wages than other parts of their countries; they face the additional challenges of social isolation; they have fewer training and apprenticeship prospects; and ultimately, they are in poorer health. A minimum landings requirement for fish caught in our own waters could have provided a long-overdue stimulant and a renaissance for these communities. It could have breathed new life into many of the smaller or less used ports and harbours across Scotland and the other countries of the UK. The opportunity to do so is being passed up.
The other major concern we have—I cannot emphasise this enough—is the tampering with, and erosion of, devolution. I will not often agree with folk draped in ermine cloaks, nor will many of the folk I represent, but those in the other place identified the flaws in the original drafting of this Bill when it came to respecting the devolved Administrations. It was both striking and disappointing in equal measure that this was not reflected in the original amendment and is something we seek to remedy.
I am not sure why the Government have refused point blank to engage with the amendment with any good faith, and I seek answers from the Minister about that. She may claim that the Government already have powers to do this, but where are those and in what legislation? Why will they not use this legislative opportunity to update those measures?
The Scottish Government are already creating a voluntary monitoring approach to vessels under 12 metres participating in inshore Scottish waters, and have plans in place to extend that pilot to larger vessels in different fisheries too. Again, the devolved nature of the responsibility was not reflected in the original drafting, which is why the other place sought the amendment. It is a matter that needs to be remedied so that the power to make regulations on the matter is devolved to the fisheries public authorities.
I urge colleagues to safeguard our fisheries, to support the position of the devolved Governments and to allow opportunities to revitalise our coastal and sea-linked communities by supporting our amendments, which are designed to do that. I commend them to the Committee.
I thank my hon. Friend for laying out clearly why we think these amendments are important. I will add a few thoughts, particularly those that relate to remote rural communities such as my own, in Argyll and Bute.
It is surely common sense to want to encourage as many vessels as possible to land as much catch as they can in UK ports. I know, because we have talked about it often enough in this place, that it is often our remote, rural, poor communities that get left behind when there is talk of regeneration and investment. Across the UK, formerly thriving fishing communities are losing population and are struggling to see a long-term future for themselves. Those communities are exactly the ones we can seek to help, in some measure, by supporting this amendment.
Landing more catch in UK ports will attract investment, help create jobs and encourage people not just to stay but to actively come and live in those communities. Areas such as Argyll and Bute, with its dependence on shellfish, have been particularly badly hit by the impact of coronavirus. There was a 68% decrease in the value of the shellfish catch in March 2020 compared with March 2019, and I understand the figures for April were even worse. Communities need our help.
There is a direct link to what we discussed in the Committee on Tuesday, about fishing being a national asset. Surely, if it is—
Mr O’Hara, I am sorry to interrupt you, but I want to make this clear to everyone. I have already allowed some latitude to Mr Bonnar because it is his first time moving an amendment in Committee. At this stage, people should be speaking specifically to the amendments. There will be space for a clause stand part debate on clause 18 if people have wider observations that they want to make. Can I draw you back to the amendments?
Thank you, Mr McCabe. I will take your advice and catch your eye at the stand part debate.
Our amendment 87 makes this clause devolution friendly and recognises that the Government should, by now, understand and accept devolution. Amendment 87 would allow the devolved Administrations to establish their own national landing requirements, rather than having those set by a UK Secretary of State. Throughout the debate, we have returned to the idea that the person in political charge of English fisheries is also the Secretary of State, and that it cannot be left to a UK Secretary of State to apply laws and rules where there are clearly devolved areas of competence. Yet again, the Government have missed that and our amendment 87 seeks to resolve that.
Mr McCabe, I apologise again, and I will seek to catch your eye in the stand part debate.
Those listening to this debate will need to listen to the stand part debate and then the amendment debate separately so that this part of the debate makes sense to those not following parliamentary procedure.
The amendments tabled by the SNP and those tabled by the Labour party seek to make the clause devolution-friendly and devolution-compliant. That means respecting the devolution agreements. The amendment drafted by our friends in the House of Lords was intended to put the concept within the Bill. Again, it enjoyed cross-party support. However, the precise wording of the amendment did not take into account the devolution settlements in the way that I think we need to at this stage. The Welsh Labour Government support it as a concept. However, they have some concerns about the precise wording proposed in the amendments. Labour Members therefore cannot support the SNP amendments, although we are aligned with the principles of them. It is important that the devolution settlement is baked into the clause. The devolved Administrations are willing, and perhaps even desire, to judge by the words of the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, to use the powers currently in the Bill—and which we hope will remain in the Bill—while respecting the devolution settlement in each devolved nation. I hope that in the stand part debate we will speak about the wider importance of the national landing requirement and how that could work in each devolved nation.
I will try to deal with the amendments now and discuss wider matters later, although I accept it is very confusing for everybody.
The amendments are unnecessary. Clause 18 was added by our friends in the other place. I will set out my concerns about it in detail later. First, I would like to reassure the Committee. We said in the fisheries White Paper that we would reform the economic link. The Government intend to hold a public consultation very shortly that will seek views on proposals to strengthen the economic link licence condition in England. The proposal will look to increase the benefit, from the current 50%, to the UK of fishing by English-registered foreign vessels.
In answer to the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, who asked where the powers for any change come from, schedule 3 allows us to place conditions on licences, including conditions about an economic link, so that we need no further regulation-making powers. If the Bill is passed, it is there in the Bill. I acknowledge that amendments 87, 89, 90 and 91 seek to address one of the issues with the new clause, which was raised by the Government in the other place. The clause as a whole retains an inflexible and narrow approach to ensuring that the UK benefits from fish caught in its waters.
Similarly, amendments 105 to 107 seek to amend clause 18 so that it is compatible with the devolution settlements, but we are concerned that they still fail to do so. The regulation of vessels registered in one Administration is largely a matter for that Administration, with each Administration licensing its vessels wherever they fish. The amended clause would allow the Secretary of State to regulate Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish vessels in English waters, and so would be regulating within areas of devolved competence.
Where previously the clause allowed regulation in devolved competence to be done without the devolved Administration’s consent but after consultation, these amendments remove even the need to consult the devolved Administrations on the regulation of their boats. This is contrary to the constructive and collaborative approach that we have taken so far. I do not recognise the hon. Gentlemen’s readout of how we have managed this; we have managed fisheries in a very collaborative way. We have sought to legislate for the devolved Administrations only in areas where we have been asked to. Again, the amendments do not reflect the other ways that boats can show an economic link to the UK and which benefit the country in different ways, not just through landing fish. I therefore ask that the amendments be withdrawn.
This is a similar argument to the one we heard before; the amendment seeks to make the clause as devolution-friendly as possible, and it is important that we have right to do so. It is really a probing amendment to ask the Minister about the licensing of foreign vessels. We are concerned that there would be tit-for-tat reprisals as a result of requiring licensed foreign vessels to land their catch in the UK. Many foreign vessels land in UK harbours already, but the clause could result in other coastal states’ requiring UK-licensed vessels to land catches in their harbours. That would defeat the purpose. We absolutely want to encourage landings in the UK to help processing and, of course, for the landing fees, but we fear that, as the clause is worded, forcing people to do so will lead to tit-for-tat reprisals and compound the problem.
I agree that any landing requirement should not apply to foreign vessels, which will need to demonstrate a link to their own flag states. We would not want to see reciprocal measures put in place against UK vessels that fish outside UK waters—I very much agree with that. The Government believe, however, that the clause should be removed from the Bill because it is inflexible, does not respect the devolution settlements, and will not achieve what its supporters believe. A landing requirement already exists for all UK vessels as part of the economic licence condition. The power to attach such conditions to vessel licences is provided in schedule 3, as I said earlier. Ensuring that vessels that use UK fishing opportunities bring benefit to the UK is of course very important. That is why we have included the national benefit objective in clause 1. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
To nobody’s surprise, I rise to argue that—at the risk of repeating myself, which I have tried not to do—clause 18 is important. It is important because it gives hope to our remote, rural fishing communities littered along the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, who need help. The clause goes some way to help them. I know the Government have indicated their desire to remove the clause, but I urge them at this stage to think again. Communities such as mine in Argyll and Bute, which depends particularly on shellfish, are being decimated. They need hope, and I ask the Government not to extinguish clause 18.
On Tuesday we talked about fishing being a national asset, and about how it can be a catalyst for change and can benefit the wider community. As a national asset, surely it should not be there just to make very rich people even richer; it should be there for the economic wellbeing of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Landing fish into communities means jobs in transport, fish processing, environmental health, retail, hospitality, tourism and construction. Hopefully, it will also mean that more and more young people will want to take advantage of working at sea on the boats.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill said, it is reckoned that one job at sea creates 10 onshore jobs. That in itself should be reason enough for the Government to encourage as many boats as possible to offload into UK ports. It is because landing fish into communities is such an important economic driver that the Scottish Government have been pursuing for a number of years a policy of landing targets, which is something that I know Scottish Ministers are keen to progress.
I implore the Government not to extinguish the hope, because our coastal communities need hope. In many places, it is all that they have. Embattled, formerly thriving fishing communities need our support, and this is one way to do it. It is not just about boats landing in harbours, but about the associated jobs in processing, construction and transport, and it becomes a magnet for tourism and hospitality. It is that important, and I implore the Government to reconsider and to give our communities a bit of hope.
Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I wish to speak against the Government’s ambition to remove clause 18.
The clause makes job creation a major priority. Labour’s “jobs in coastal communities” clause was part of the laws to ensure that at least two-thirds of fish caught in UK waters must be landed at our ports. As we hurtle ahead into a no-deal Brexit situation, it is imperative that we give our coastal communities a chance to recover and thrive. That is most important in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic.
The successful amendment, which the Government now seek to reverse, protects jobs at sea, creates numerous jobs on land and at sea, and will provide a much-needed and anticipated boost to our coastal communities. As hon. Members know, such communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequently locked down, and they have been decimated by austerity over the past 10 years.
The British Ports Association was right to say that the Fisheries Bill
“should be strengthening the economic link between our fisheries and our ports and coastal communities”.
There is currently no requirement for boats exploiting UK fishing quota opportunities to land fish caught in our waters in the UK. As a result, 40% of UK quota is landed in Europe, where much of the economic value is realised. That leaves our own British fishing businesses sidelined, unable to benefit from the fish caught in our own seas. That is not right. Increased landing in the UK would mean that our coastal communities would benefit from fish caught in the UK seas. That would mean more jobs and more prosperity and would provide better and increased benefits to our coastal communities.
Just yesterday afternoon, in the Opposition day debate on the protection of jobs and businesses, we spoke of the need to safeguard British jobs. This Government seem to feel as though British jobs at sea and other associated jobs in the sector do not deserve fair state protection and support or opportunity. Now is the time to support coastal communities to grow in jobs, which would be beneficial to the United Kingdom as a whole, as well as to those communities. Now is not the time to snatch away opportunities, as the Government’s reversing the gains made in the House of Lords would attempt to do. Now is the time to allow coastal businesses to flourish. We want more fish landed in coastal towns across the country, which will directly lead to more jobs being created in fish markets, processing and distribution. In removing the clause, the Government are indicating that job creation and job protection in coastal communities is not a priority for them, and that the survival of British coastal communities does not matter.
I am proud to represent the coastal town of Fleetwood, which is part of the fishing industry in Lancashire— or at least it was, before the last deep sea trawler left Fleetwood in 1982. After almost 40 years of fishing decline in the town, I have seen the knock-on effect on people’s earnings and on economic prosperity, and the struggles that we have in the town.
The decline of the deep sea fishing industry cannot be held solely accountable for the fortunes of the town that I am proud to represent in this House, but it is no doubt part of the wider picture, alongside other issues such as the Beeching cuts and the rise of cheaper and package holidays. The reality is that those in coastal communities have a lower wage than people who live inland—people earn around £1,600 a year less. The Bill could offer a framework by which coastal communities such as Fleetwood could really benefit from the kind of change they have been telling me they have wanted for a very long time.
My constituency voted leave. When my constituents voted to take back control, it was not just about fishing; it was also about the regeneration of coastal communities. The clause offers a framework by which we could see not just the economic benefits of fish landed in ports such as Fleetwood, but also the knock-on effects for jobs in fish processing. We still have hundreds of jobs in that sector. It would be of economic benefit to the wider town.
I represent one coastal community, but the clause would benefit isolated and rural fishing communities up and down the United Kingdom, including those communities that perhaps used to have a connection to fishing. The clause should stand part of the Bill.
I understand the reasoning of those who support the clause. However, British fishermen land fish abroad because that is the market for which it is destined; the majority of fish caught by British fishermen is exported to those lucrative markets. While that is not an option for those catching crab and lobster off Scarborough and Whitby, when that is landed it is put on trucks—more often than not French or Spanish trucks—that transport it back there. I worry that the provisions in clause 18 would result in fishermen getting less for their fish because they have to add transportation costs. It would create jobs for French lorry drivers and for ferry workers and those who work on the tunnel, but it could have a negative consequence in terms of the income for our fishers.
On that point, the right hon. Gentleman knows we are on polar opposite sides of the Brexit debate, but if this idea is about taking back control and this sea of opportunity, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood said, who is that sea of opportunity for? Is it purely for those who own the quota? Is it purely for those who own the boats? Is it purely for those who work in the industry? Or is that sea of opportunity not meant to include the regeneration of the United Kingdom, and particularly its ports? The clause would do that, and by throwing it out, the Government are surely singularly failing to do that.
The UK intends to establish itself as a global trading nation, and part of that global trade is trade with the European Union, our most important neighbour in terms of trade. Many of the most valuable species that fishermen catch are valuable because they have such a premium in markets abroad. We are once again seeing the law of unintended consequences. When we look at our carbon footprint, we need to look at the carbon cost of a ship in, say, the channel that was intending to land in France having to steam back to the UK, put that fish on a truck and then take it back, possibly to the same port where it intended to go for that market. While I understand the sympathies behind the clause, the unintended consequences, both for value for our fishermen and the carbon footprint of the fishing industry, are both very negative.
Government amendment 5 goes against the very heart of what was promised to coastal communities in the referendum. It is a betrayal of our coastal communities that the Conservatives are supporting jobs in foreign ports. The clause, which was a Labour amendment, was deliberately designed to create jobs in our coastal communities, in ports from Newlyn, Plymouth, Portavogie in Northern Ireland, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Fleetwood and Grimsby. It was designed to inject more energy and economic activity into those places.
I disagree with Government amendment 5, which seeks to remove clause 18, but more than that, I believe it betrays a promise made to many of those communities that Brexit would deliver more jobs and a revival of the fishing community. When I speak to fishers and the community around the fish quay in Plymouth, their model for whether Brexit is a success for fishers and fishing is whether they see more boats in our port, more fish being landed and more jobs created. That is what the clause, passed in the Lords, will do—create more jobs in our ports. The former fishing Minister, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, described it as perhaps only creating distribution jobs. At a time when our coastal communities have been hit hard by 10 years of austerity, and by under-investment for far too long, creating more jobs in our coastal communities is something that we should welcome and go for.
The debate on the clause in the House of Lords was good, with Conservative and Labour peers and those from the devolved Administrations of all parties making the case that we should be creating more jobs in our coastal communities. It was promised that Brexit would deliver that for fishing. It is bizarre that we now see the Government arguing against that very thing, supporting jobs in foreign ports and not in our own country. It is an odd reversal of a promise given to those communities, and why I cannot support the Government amendment.
The clause would create a jobs boom because, as has been said by several Members, every job in the catching sector creates 10 on shore. That is true. Those jobs are created in fish markets, in distribution—I do not pooh-pooh that at all; these are important jobs—and in processing. It will create an economic stimulus and an incentive to process more fish at the point of landing, rather than to have those processing jobs in foreign ports at the point of landing elsewhere, because it would mean fresher fish processed in our ports. It will create greater value from the processing of that fish. That is why all those are important.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if Iceland imposed a similar restriction on the processing of fish, it would decimate places such as Grimsby, which relies on processing fish imported to the UK?
Indeed, and if clause 18 were about processing fish, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would have a point, but—I am sure he has read it—it is about landing fish, rather than processing them. That is a good cul-de-sac to try to take us down, but that is not what the clause actually says. I went to Grimsby recently and spoke to people on the fish quay, and they hark back to the days when there were 800 fishing boats in their port. They want more fish to be landed in their port, so it is bizarre in the extreme that the Government are arguing against more fish being landed there.
Having more fish processed in Britain will create more jobs. Interfish in Plymouth creates an enormous number of jobs from landing the fish that it catches in Plymouth and processing them there, supplying our supermarkets. I want to see more British supermarkets buying British fish. That would be greatly helped by this clause, because more British fish would be available in our markets.
A number of points have been raised about why the clause does not work, so let me briefly address them. First, the former fishing Minister, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, mentioned the increased carbon footprint. At a point when Conservative MPs voted against the net zero objective in the Fisheries Bill, I think that does not apply in the same way. We want fishing to be carbon free, and we want more fish to be landed in our ports. I agree that it is often argued that fishers chase the higher price that is delivered in foreign markets, and that if they if they landed in a UK port, the price would be lower. I hope the same arguments are used about any departure from any regimes in the European Union that make travel across borders easy. Delays at the border put an extra focus on this. I hope the argument that has been applied to this clause is applied equally to the Government’s policy, but I fear that it will not be. None the less, it was a good attempt.
As we said in the debate on Tuesday, fish should be a public asset. The economic link between the fish in our waters and the United Kingdom should be strengthened. That is what clause 18 does: it strengthens the economic link. I fear, on this point, that the arguments of Government MPs will need to be reversed when the licence conditions change.
I welcomed the consultation that the Minister has set out, but I disagree with her that the figure is 50% currently. As she knows, landing 50% of fish in the UK is potentially one of the licence conditions, but it is not the only one, and it is important to state that if a company has a brass plaque in the UK and employs UK crew, it can get out of that. That is why many fishers catching fish in UK waters land nearly all their catch in foreign ports. One trawler in Wales lands barely any of its catch in British ports; it lands 84% in foreign ports. That fish should be supporting the Welsh economy. There are examples of that in English and Scottish waters. That is why this matters so much. We will be betraying those coastal communities if we do not support job creation.
I hope the Minister, when she comes to her consultation, cuts and pastes this clause, as Ministers did for Labour’s last set of amendments to the Fisheries Bill, and makes it her own. I am a big fan of Louis Walshisms in politics. The Government should make it their own. I hope they copy this clause and put it into their consultation, because we need to create jobs in coastal communities, and that is what the clause seeks to do.
When this clause comes to a vote—surely it will do—and Labour and SNP Members vote in favour of the jobs in coastal communities clause and in favour of landing at least two thirds of fish in our coastal ports, I hope that every single Conservative MP who represents a coastal community will be able to explain to their electorates in those communities why they chose to support ports on the continent, rather than the port that they represent, why they chose to create and preserve jobs in foreign ports, not in their communities, and why they chose not to give the young people in their communities the opportunity that would come from enhanced employment not only in the catching sector but in processing, and the engineering jobs that accompany this. I hope they have a decent argument for that, because this flies in the face of everything that has been promised to coastal communities. That is why Labour will be supporting keeping clause 18 in the Bill to protect jobs in coastal communities, and opposing the Government’s plan to continue the export of those jobs to our European friends.
The hon. Gentleman has done his job; I am now going to do mine, which is to bring us back to this Bill. I do not believe that anybody in this room is not equally passionately in favour of having more jobs in coastal communities, but this is not a jobs in coastal communities clause. It requires the Government to consult on landing a 15% higher proportion of fish in this country. My argument is that the Government are equally as passionate as the hon. Gentleman, and indeed everyone who has spoken well, about coastal communities and their needs, but the Bill already allows us to meet the clause’s aim in a more appropriate way through the objective in clause 1 and the powers, which I have already gone into, in schedule 3.
The clause as it stands is not compatible with devolution. As I have said, the Government intend to undertake a formal public consultation on economic link reform, which would have been impossible were we still a member of the EU. We will launch the consultation in England very shortly.
The clause does not deliver what its supporters believe it does, and I am concerned that it would end up damaging the part of the sector it seeks to help. The quota donation condition, for example, has brought in an average of £3 million-worth of quota per annum for use by English under-10 metre vessels in recent years. Removal of that condition without looking very carefully at the knock-on effects could harm the sector that Opposition Members seek to support. To give another example, different circumstances across the UK nations require different approaches, and it is not currently possible for Northern Ireland’s largest registered vessel to land its catch directly in Northern Ireland. I am also concerned that agreeing to the clause could result in inefficient processes that are not environmentally friendly, as the former Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, said earlier. With that explanation, I hope hon. Members will agree that the clause should not stand part of the Bill.