New Clause 3 - Sea Fish Industry Authority: powers in relation to parts of UK

Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 15th September 2020.

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

(2) In section 2(1) (duties of the Authority)—

(a) after the third “of”, insert “(amongst other things)”,

(b) delete the words “as a whole”.

(3) After section 3 (powers of the Authority), insert—

“(none) The Authority may exercise its functions separately and differently in relation to—

(a) the sea fish industry in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(b) sea fish and sea fish products landed in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(c) sea fish and sea fish products trans-shipped in different parts of the sea within British fishery limits adjacent to different parts of the United Kingdom.”.’—

The primary purpose of this new clause is to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority greater flexibility to exercise its functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK. It inserts a new clause into subsection 3, which will enable the Authority to do this.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 4—Sea Fish Industry Authority: delegation of functions—

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

(2) After section 3A (exercise of functions in relation to different parts of the UK etc.), insert—

“3B Delegation of functions

(1) The Authority may authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf such of its functions and to such extent as it may determine.

(2) The Authority may give to any person authorised under this section to exercise any of its functions—

(a) financial assistance (by way of loan, grant or guarantee),

(b) other assistance including assistance by way of the provision of property, staff or services, for the purposes of those functions.”

(3) The giving of authority under this section to exercise a function does not—

(a) affect the Authority’s responsibility for the exercise of the function, or

(b) prevent the Authority from exercising the function itself.”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which will allow the Authority to authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf any of its functions to the extent determined by the Authority. It will also allow the Authority to give any such person financial and other assistance to do so.

New clause 5—Sea Fish Industry Authority: accounts and reports—

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

(2) In section 11 (accounts and reports)—

(a) 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.”,

(b) after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) The report must include details of how income received from levies imposed under section 4 has been applied in the financial year in respect of each part of the United Kingdom by the Authority in exercising its functions including in particular details, in respect of each part of the United Kingdom, of how the income has been applied by the Authority in—

(a) promoting the efficiency of the sea fish industry in that part,

(b) promoting the marketing and consumption of, and the export of, sea fish and sea fish products relating to that part.”.’

This new clause is intended to ensure that the Authority reports how income received from the levies it imposes has been applied in respect of each part of the United Kingdom.

New clause 6—Sea Fish Industry Authority: plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies—

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

(2) After section 11 (accounts and reports), insert—

“11A Plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies

(1) Before the start of each financial year, the Authority must—

(a) prepare a plan setting out—

(i) an estimate of the total amount of income that the Authority expects to receive during 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 (‘Scottish levies’), and

(ii) a description of how the Authority proposes to apply that income in the course of exercising its functions, and

(b) refer the plan to the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1 (‘the Scottish committee’) for approval of the Authority’s proposal mentioned in paragraph (a)(ii).

(2) If, as a result of relevant regulations, the Authority estimates that the total amount of income that it expects to receive from Scottish levies during a financial year is greater than the total amount of income that it received from Scottish levies during the previous financial year, the Authority’s plan prepared under subsection (1) for the financial year must include a statement describing how the Authority proposes in particular to apply the additional income from Scottish levies in the course of exercising its functions.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

(a) ‘relevant regulations’, in relation to a financial year, means—

(i) regulations made by the Authority under section 4(2) during the previous financial year, and

(ii) regulations which the Authority expects to make, and to be confirmed by the Scottish Ministers, under section 4(2) during the financial year,

(b) the total amount of income received by the Authority from Scottish levies during a previous financial year is the total amount of such income as recorded in the Authority’s accounts kept under section 11(1) in respect of that year.

(4) The Authority—

(a) must publish a plan prepared under subsection (1) as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving the Scottish committee’s approval as mentioned in subsection (1)(b), and

(b) may publish the plan in such manner as it considers appropriate.

(5) The Authority must, as soon as reasonably practicable after publishing a plan under subsection (4)—

(a) send a copy of the plan to the Scottish Ministers, and

(b) lay the plan before the Scottish Parliament.

(6) The Authority must have regard to each relevant plan—

(a) in the exercise of its functions, and

(b) in particular, in authorising any other person under section 3B to exercise any of its functions on its behalf.

(7) A person who is authorised by the Authority under section 3B to exercise any of the Authority’s functions must have regard to each relevant plan in the exercise of those functions.

(8) In subsections (6) and (7), ‘relevant plan’, in relation to the exercise of a function, means—

(a) the latest plan published under subsection (4), and

(b) any earlier plan published under that subsection in so far as it contains a proposal mentioned in subsection (1)(a)(ii) (or, as the case may be, in subsection (2)) to apply income during the financial year in which the function is being exercised.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to ensure the Authority sets out an annual plan that outlines how it intends to apply the levy income it expects to receive. This plan must make comparison to the levy income of the previous year and where the levy income is expected to be higher detail how the Authority proposes to apply the additional income from Scottish levies.

New clause 7—Sea Fish Industry Authority: committee for Scotland—

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

(2) In schedule 1 (the Sea Fish Industry Authority), in paragraph 16—

(a) before sub-paragraph (1) insert—

“(A1) The Authority must appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.

(A2) The committee is to consist of or include persons who are not members of the Authority.

(A3) The Authority must consult the committee on the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.”,

(b) in sub-paragraph (1), before “committees” insert “other”,

(c) in sub-paragraph (2), for “such committees” substitute “committees appointed under this paragraph”.’

This new clause’s new provisions require the Authority to appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland. They additionally require the consultation of this committee on the exercise of the Authority’s functions in relations to Scotland.

New clause 8—Sea Fish Industry Levies: powers in relation to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

‘(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.

(9B) Before laying a draft Scottish statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (7) before the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Ministers must consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.”.

(3) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), 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))”.

(4) 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 The Scottish Ministers must, before making an order confirming any regulations, consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.

5 In this schedule, ‘appropriate Ministerial authority’ has the same meaning as in section 4 of this Act.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to devolve, to the Scottish Ministers, the control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by the Authority. Currently, levies imposed by the Authority require confirmation by the relevant Ministers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers. The new clause intends to ensure that levies imposed in relation to Scotland require confirmation by Scottish Ministers.

New clause 9—Sea Fish Industry Levies: definitions relating to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

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

(2) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), after the definition of “the Ministers” 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);”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which makes consequential new clause to section 14 (interpretation of Part 1) of the 1981 Act by inserting definitions of “Scotland” and “the Scottish zone”.

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

I cannot hope to compete with the excitement of new clause 2 with new clauses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, which are in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock).

The main purpose of the new clauses is to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority far greater flexibility when exercising its functions separately and differently in different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. The long-held view of the Scottish Government and of many in the sector is that Seafish, because of how it is constituted, is not sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the entire sector. It therefore requires radical reform.

I believe that Seafish has an intrinsic flaw in attempting to represent the entirety of the United Kingdom while operating in a policy area that is wholly devolved. In trying to represent the whole UK fishing industry, Seafish is viewed by many as providing insufficient support for the sector in Scotland, which all too often results in poorer and unsatisfactory marketing and promotion of Scottish seafood.

The main objective of this group of new clauses is to devolve control over both the funding and the executive powers of Seafish to Scottish Ministers. The new clauses would also devolve control over the Scottish aspects of the fishing levy, giving Scotland a key role in deciding how that share of the money is spent. We believe that that new model would provide much greater flexibility to Seafish and enable it to exercise functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK. The new clauses would also increase transparency in requiring Seafish to report the income of receipts from the levies it imposes and how those are applied in each part of the UK.

As I have often said, not only is fishing devolved, but there is no standardised version of fishing across the UK. With an aggregated coastline of 20,000-plus miles, the UK contains a whole host of different fishing interests and practices. From England’s south coast to the most northerly point of Shetland, the industry is multi-layered, complex, nuanced and often localised. Given that there is no single fishing industry pursuing a common, clear set of shared objectives, and no fewer than four separate and distinct national Governments looking after the industry in their respective jurisdictions, it seems absurd that we have a one-size-fits-all fishing authority charged with securing a sustainable, profitable future for all parts of the industry. How can Seafish practically offer regulatory guidance and service to the industry for catching, aquaculture, processing, importers, exporters and distributers of seafood, as well as looking after restaurants and retailers in such a complicated, differentiated and entirely devolved industry?

This Bill gives us the perfect opportunity to reform the current system and ensure that the levy is better used to promote the range and quality of Scottish seafood, both at home and abroad. If Scotland were able to take investment decisions, we would be able to support the industry properly by promoting the quality and excellence of Scottish seafood products. It would also allow us to maximise the benefits of Scottish provenance, which is vital when marketing abroad. Whether it is our salmon, oysters, scallops, langoustines, crab or whatever else, the promotion of the product as Scottish gives it added value, and its provenance is a guarantee of quality, which is exactly what our producers need.

With these new clauses, we are not seeking to undermine Seafish—far from it. We are seeking only to improve how it works and ensure it works better in the future for the huge variety of Scottish fishing industries. By supporting this change, the Government would allow Seafish to promote all of Scottish fishing, from the east to the west and the north coasts and the northern islands. We believe it would work. Right now, Seafish does not work well for Scotland, and it should. With your permission, Sir Charles, I will seek to push the new clause to a vote.

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

Seafish is a UK body, and Ministers in each Administration have a shared and equal responsibility for it. These new clauses affect the interests of three other fisheries administrations, so I have corresponded with my colleagues across the devolved Administrations about them.

My colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland and I agree that Seafish is undertaking valuable work, and do not agree with the new clauses. The current model works well, in that it has the ability to deliver or fund bespoke services in each Administration, but in many cases it delivers UK-wide work. That is partly because of efficiencies of scale, but also because the supply chains across the UK are similar and have similar challenges and opportunities. A particular concern is that the new clauses do not consider the impact that the changes would have in each region on the viability of Seafish, given the additional and costly burdens they would add. I am not convinced of the need to legislate on all these matters.

It is open to all the fisheries administrations to consider how Seafish serves us across the UK and across the UK industries, but I feel that the new clauses pre-empt the findings of the reviews that we are about to undertake. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute to withdraw them.

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

Division number 10 Fisheries Bill [Lords] — New Clause 3 - Sea Fish Industry Authority: powers in relation to parts of UK

Aye: 1 MP

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 1, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

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

On a point of order, Sir Charles, which I raised with the Minister prior to the sitting, I believe that she may have inadvertently misled the Committee in one of her earlier remarks. She was responding after I had raised the issue of Seafish issuing faulty and unsafe guidance on personal locator beacons and lifejackets. When replying to me, the Minister said that those difficulties did not exist, but Seafish officials have subsequently confirmed that the video in question, which advised faulty lifejacket practice, should not have been produced or issued, and has now been removed.

As that is a safety issue, I would be grateful if the Minister, who I believe was given incorrect guidance through no fault of her own, could correct the record and, in particular, work with colleagues in the Department for Transport to issue a maritime information note, to ensure that any fishers who heard that faulty guidance will know that it has been corrected.

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

The hon. Gentleman raised part of his point of order with me earlier, and I said that I would write to him when I have got to the bottom of the situation. As I said earlier, I was aware of the issue and that Seafish has worked collaboratively with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on it. I was told that the MCA is satisfied that Seafish has taken all necessary steps. I am also aware, however, that the MCA is issuing a safety bulletin to alert all marine users to the importance of following manufacturers’ guidelines, particularly when retrospectively fitting a personal locator beacon into a personal flotation device. I will write to the hon. Gentleman further, but I would like to make clear that that is the current position as I understand it.