Clause 48 - Regulatory enforcement and data collection scheme

Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution) 10:15 am, 15th September 2020

I beg to move amendment 92, in clause 48, page 31, line 21, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.

This amendment is to ensure respect for devolved competence on this issue by giving regulation making powers to appropriate fisheries policy authorities.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 93, in clause 48, page 32, line 2, after “made” insert “by the Secretary of State”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 92.

Amendment 94, in clause 48, page 32, line 3, at end insert—

“(3) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.”

This amendment enables appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of the proposals by each respective Parliamentary Body and is consequential on Amendment 92.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution)

As we have throughout the Committee, I am moving amendments in an attempt to make the Bill respect the devolution settlement, and recognise that fishing regulations and management are not the preserve of this place.

It is frustrating that, once again, I have to rise to make the point, particularly to those in the other place, that fishing is wholly devolved. It is not for a UK Secretary of State to ensure, in this instance, that all vessels over 10 metres in length, regardless of nationality, be fitted with remote electronic monitoring systems, such as cameras, while fishing the UK’s exclusive economic zone. As much as we, on these Benches, might agree with the good intentions of clause 48 and support them, it is important to recognise that it is the job of the relevant fishing authorities, whether they be in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, to put the changes into place. It is not the job of the UK Secretary of State and therefore, in the spirit of devolution, I move amendments 92, 93 and 94.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Concerns were raised on Second Reading and in the other place about a lack of progress on remote electronic monitoring, and I agree that we need to take that forward. That is why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be launching a call for evidence on REM for English-registered boats and for boats fishing in the English fishing zone within the next few weeks.

It is important that we continue to work with the devolved Administrations to build a robust policy that works for all parts of the UK and respects devolution settlements. I recognise that these amendments attempt to address some of the devolution issues with the clause that came from the other place, but they still tie us into a prescribed and rigid approach, where we would have no choice but to end up with a system that is not unlike the inflexible system that we used to suffer from under the common fisheries policy.

I remind the Committee that we already have the powers to mandate a roll-out of REM under clause 38(4)(h) and (q), and so do the devolved Administrations, under schedule 8. The roll-out of REM was in the SNP manifesto, so I am sure that it can happen if it is considered politically expedient. The amendment does not give us any more powers beyond those that we have already. It simply gives us less scope for innovation. We have been clear from the start that we support the principle of the clause, but we must do so in conjunction with the four nations, and bring the fishing industry along with us. I ask the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I beg to move amendment 108, in clause 48, page 31, line 23, leave out

“the UK Exclusive Economic Zone” and insert

“England or the English zone”.

This amendment turns the UK-wide requirements around remote electronic monitoring systems into England-only requirements.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 143, in clause 48, page 31, line 29, at end insert—

“(iii) monitoring compliance with personal flotation device regulations;”.

For boats over 10 metres in length, this amendment would require the on-board cameras to be used additionally to monitor compliance with regulations about lifejackets.

Amendment 109, in clause 48, page 31, line 30, leave out

“British vessels fishing outside the UK Exclusive Economic Zone” and insert

“English vessels fishing outside England and the English zone”.

This amendment turns the UK-wide requirements around remote electronic monitoring systems into England-only requirements.

Amendment 110, in clause 48, page 31, line 43, leave out

“the UK Exclusive Economic Zone” and insert

“England or the English zone”.

This amendment turns the UK-wide requirements around remote electronic monitoring systems into England-only requirements.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The amendments are in my name and that of the shadow fisheries Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East. Although the amendments are grouped, there are a number of issues here that I wish to deal with in turn. They have partly come from conversations with our Welsh colleagues to ensure a clear devolution angle on the Bill. I do not always agree with everything the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, says, but on the matters before us, it is important that the Bill respects devolution. I think the Minister shares that view. I commend the Welsh Government’s leadership and clarity on fishing.

The amendments would adjust the well-meaning and positive additions made to the Bill in the other place to reflect the devolution agreement. They would make a number of those additions England-only, while affording the devolved Administrations the ability to make their own powers. In the areas we are dealing with, I think we are able to flex those powers, and afford the devolved Administrations different powers.

Amendment 143 makes provision for personal flotation devices to be monitored to ensure they comply with regulations. The Minister knows my passion for safety. The fact that six fishers died last year, and that Seafish gave out incorrect advice on how to refit some personal flotation devices over the summer, proves that the measure is needed more than ever.

Amendment 109 makes a distinction between British fishing vessels and English fishing vessels. The Bill has an English problem, as do a number of Bills in the post-devolution world, where “England” and “Britain” are frequently used interchangeably, although they are different and represent a very different approach. We are seeking to clarify in the wording the Minister’s dual role as the English fishing Minister and the British fishing Minister.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Is it not the case that many English boats fish in Scottish waters? Many of the boats based in Whitby fish in Scottish waters, landing in Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Would having different rules for different devolved areas not cause confusion for those vessels?

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the former fisheries Minister for raising that. Those boats would have difficulty only if they did not read the equal access objective in clause 1 of the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, that deals with the ability of any English boat to fish in any other waters, and of Scottish boats to fish in any other British waters, and so on. I do not share his concern, but it is important to place that on the record.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

So if an English boat was fishing in Scottish waters, would it need to comply with the English regulation or the Scottish regulation?

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I think there is different regulation for enforcement; this is on access. Amendment 109 seeks to clarify the difference between a British fishing vessel and an English fishing vessel. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the devolution agreements enable the fisheries authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have a slightly different view from the one we hold in England—and I mean England, rather than Britain, because Britain and England are different things. As an English MP, I find it frustrating that “England” and “Britain” are used interchangeably. They represent different geographies and identifies, and we should be unafraid of speaking about England more frequently. The Bill has an English problem, because it makes a distinction between Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and UK fishing boats, but it does not deal with English fishing boats. That is an issue of identity that we need to come to.

Amendment 109 seeks to set out clearly that clause 48 applies to English fishing boats. It would thus deal with the devolution concern expressed by our SNP colleague, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, which the Minister will no doubt address. These amendments teach us all the lesson that devolution-compliant amendments are much more complicated to draft, but it is important that we take time to draft them in such a way that they respect the devolution agenda. That is not just about making sure that our friends in Cardiff, Belfast and Holyrood are comfortable; provisions must work for the English as well, which is what the amendment seeks to ensure.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

“English fishing boat” and “British fishing boat” are already defined in clause 51, so we feel that the amendments are unnecessary. The Bill already contains powers to take necessary action, such as introducing the mandatory roll-out of REM, for English vessels and in English waters.

I will answer a few others points raised by the hon. Gentleman. On the introduction of regulations for monitoring compliance of personal flotation devices, as we discussed last week, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has fully implemented the legislation relating to the International Labour Organisation’s work on fishing conventions. Among other things, that makes the use of personal flotation devices necessary.

I am aware of the Seafish issue, but I reassure the hon. Gentleman that Seafish has worked collaboratively with the MCA on this matter, and the MCA is satisfied that Seafish has taken all necessary steps and did not promote unsafe or incorrect practices. There are other opportunities for checking whether flotation devices are being worn, and worn correctly: the MCA uses aircraft that can now identify vessels on which the crew are not wearing personal flotation devices, and take appropriate enforcement action.

We must all be open to innovation as times move, and we should take steps to find better ways of doing things. The upcoming call for evidence on REM is a first step in opening that dialogue. It is right that we wait for the results of our call for evidence and consultation before we commit to one approach. That will ensure that we have an approach that suits the fishing industry as well as our marine environment. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On the basis that we will revisit this matter when the consultation concludes, as well as in later amendments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We feel that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. The CFP imposed very inflexible measures that quickly went out of date, and we now have the opportunity to change that. It is important that we do not prescribe one specific action in the Bill, when we very much hope that science and technology will move on and enable us to deal with the problem in a variety of ways. I urge the Committee to agree that the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Remote electronic monitoring and cameras on boats are a practical and cost-effective fisheries management tool that brings many benefits. The Lords’ addition of the clause improves the Bill considerably, and I will explain why. Robust and verifiable data helps to inform scientific modelling. Many times, fishers have told me that they know that there are more fish out there than the science says, and we need to ensure that the data deficiency, gap and lag between collection and utilisation is reduced as much as possible. Providing assurances to seafood supply chains that seafood is being supplied and sustainably and legally sourced is an important part of that, which the clause seeks to address. It has the potential to transform UK fishing by providing the data needed to unlock the economic, environmental and social benefits of well-managed and sustainable fisheries, which will in turn help our fisheries and coastal communities to thrive.

The Secretary of State commented on Second Reading that the Government would be able to

“increase the use of remote electronic monitoring, which we will be able to do once we have a greater understanding of how it would be deployed.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 69.]

Trials of REM have been under way in the UK for some time, including voluntary schemes run by the MMO since 2011. It has been successfully implemented in other countries, particularly Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Scottish Government have indicated support for REM, and said that they would support the REM amendment if it were devolution-compliant, as we spoke about when debating the previous set of amendments. The Government need to show leadership and commit to introduce REM via the Bill. It will set a clear direction of travel and a level playing field for all fishing vessels fishing in UK waters. It is important that it be for all fishing vessels, so that British boats are not, as I mentioned, held to a higher and therefore more expensive standard than foreign boats that are allowed to fish in our waters.

REM will also make our regulatory obligations as a coastal state, under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, much easier. We have an enforcement problem and an enforcement gap. The Minister might not use those words, but she is aware that we have a problem enforcing our fisheries rules in the UK. There are insufficient resources focused on enforcement at present, let alone to deal with territorial disputes or access difficulties that might arise after 1 January next year. Remote electronic monitoring could help reduce the problem for Ministers.

I am concerned that the resources provided to the Royal Navy—for example, for English enforcement in English waters—will be insufficient. I support what the Minister has said about additional aerial methods. Indeed, one of the counterintuitive aspects of increased enforcement is that we might not need more boats, but we will definitely need more aerial assets. The combination of those assets is what makes the enforcement a key part of this endeavour.

It is recognised by all involved that REM provides an important and powerful tool in supporting fisheries enforcement. The question is how that is implemented and included in the Bill. Indeed, the UK is leading in the use of satellite technology to support fisheries enforcement through the satellite applications catapult project. Given that we are aware of problems and gaps in enforcement capacity, and that we have a solution, there is a strong argument for requiring such measures to form a part of the enforcement framework under fisheries law in the UK, and to be part of the framework setting. That is why it is important that that be in the Fisheries Bill. The UK could demonstrate leadership in fisheries regulation and be world leading in this area.

I am in favour of strong data protection regulations to stop remote electronic monitoring being exploited, as I know the Minister is, and the concerns of fishers are understandable. One of the concerns that I hear is about how REM sits with automatic identification systems and some monitoring systems, especially those that show a fishing boat going back and forth on its track, which shows that it has found fish. That encourages other fishers to try to locate the fish found by the boat. We are aware that some of our fishers sometimes turn their systems off to prevent their location being tracked. In the previous iteration of the Fisheries Bill, and certainly in subsequent Delegated Legislation debates, the Minister gave commitments that although the new vessel monitoring systems would prevent fishers having their position shared, authorities could still pick up on the sharing of those positions to ensure that enforcement action took place.

Other important aspects of remote electronic monitoring is cameras on boats and the wearing of lifejackets. Remote electronic monitoring is not just about positioning; it is about cameras on boats. A safety aspect can be included here. If a camera, regardless of whether it is live-monitored or has its footage held in the cloud, is pointing at someone, they are much more likely to obey the regulations, wear a lifejacket and behave in a legal manner. Lifejackets are still not worn properly right across United Kingdom fisheries waters, but they need to be.

It is curious to look at what Ministers have said about closed circuit television in slaughterhouses, which is a parallel issue. Speaking in debate on the draft Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“Access to CCTV recordings for monitoring, verification and enforcement purposes is essential, and will be especially useful where the official veterinarian undertakes other duties in the slaughterhouse and does not directly witness all incidents.”—[Official Report, Second Delegated Legislation Committee, 30 April 2018; c. 4.]

Although that is in the slaughterhouse context, the fishing boat context is parallel, as is well supported.

If the Minister will not support the clause, which was added by our friends in the other place, will she set out how she intends to bring forward greater provision for remote electronic monitoring, and cameras on boats in particular? This is about not just discard prevention but safety, and enforcement of rules about wearing lifejackets.

Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West 10:45 am, 15th September 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I rise to speak against the Government’s ambition to remove the clause. Like many clauses that the Government have sought to remove, this clause would go a long way towards ensuring the health of our marine ecosystem. As Greener UK says, rolling out remote electronic monitoring on all vessels in UK waters, particularly larger vessels, would

“ensure full and verifiable documentation of catches and robust monitoring and enforcement”.

That is imperative, as it will prevent overfishing and ensure that, as I said last week, all fishers will fish responsibly and sustainably in a way that upholds the marine ecosystem.

The clause was added through an amendment in the House of Lords, where the Minister said that the Government supported fully the principle behind the amendment. The best way to support it is to support the clause, by letting it remain unaltered. By taking out the clause, the Government are indicating that they do not care about the health of the marine ecosystem. If we improve the data we receive from vessels, we will get greater insight into fish stocks, and will be able to set sustainable fishing quotas that are in harmony with scientific advice.

The clause presents us with a great opportunity to monitor all marine wildlife. By putting cameras on board all vessels, we can capture recordings of seabirds, dolphins and other marine wildlife. That is important, as it means we can be proactive in eliminating the accidental capture and dumping of different species, particularly those that are endangered. The clause has the health and protection of our marine ecosystem at its heart. In seeking to remove the clause, the Government are giving the green light to overfishing and irresponsible fishing. Implementing remote electronic monitoring would go some way to ensuring that all fishers complied with the landing obligation.

Removing the clause will weaken key gains made through the landing obligation in the common fisheries policy. If each vessel was fitted with remote electronic monitoring, we could better monitor discarding practices. As we know, discarding is a wasteful practice that specifically endangers at-risk species. The landing obligation means that catches are to be landed and counted against the fishing quota. The quotas obligation makes it clear that the discarding of prohibited species will be recorded. With remote electronic monitoring technology in place, we can better examine adherence to the rules by all fishers while supporting marine wildlife experts and agencies in their work.

The information gathered through the technology forms an important part of the science base for the monitoring of protected marine species. Will the Government not join the Opposition in our desire to keep the clause exactly where it needs to be—in the Bill?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree that REM can be an effective tool for monitoring and enforcing both the landing obligation and the safety issues raised by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. The Government believe it is important to look at new ways of innovating in the fisheries space at the end of the transition period. We see the value in REM, and indeed plan to increase its use, but it is important that we use the opportunity to work with industry and those interested in REM and other tech solutions, rather than coming up with mandatory requirements.

We are pleased to be launching a call for evidence for industry within the next few weeks to gather the widest possible range of views on REM. While I feel that is the correct approach if we are to work with the industry on roll-out, there is no doubt that REM will be a tool in our toolkit. I therefore ask that the clause be rejected.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Division number 9 Fisheries Bill [Lords] — Clause 48 - Regulatory enforcement and data collection scheme

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 48 disagreed to.

Clauses 49 and 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.