New Clause 20 - Coronavirus and the fishing industry: report

Part of Fisheries Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 15th September 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:15 pm, 15th September 2020

While I understand that all Members of the House are very worried about the effects of covid-19 on the fishing industry, I want to assure the House that we are very carefully monitoring the impacts on the fishing and seafood sectors. The work that we are doing includes monitoring prices and demand, including landings, for UK seafood, as well as analysis of employment data. We are concerned that the new clause would require a duplication of ongoing engagement and monitoring work. The timeframe in the new clause means that it would not capture the effects of coronavirus after the next six months, which, given the seasonality of fishing, means that it would not capture the full effects, as not all of them will have worked through in the six-month period. We are also concerned about the devolution aspects.

It is definitely true that the coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the vital role that the food system plays in all our lives, which is why part one of the national food strategy is already looking at the food system in relation to the pandemic. We recognise that it is vital that everyone has access to healthy and affordable food, and the national food strategy is taking forward that work, in addition to work being done by Seafish in data gathering for its 2020 surveys, which are under way. The work is very detailed and the surveys include specific questions about the impacts of covid-19. Subsequent analysis of that data will, I believe, provide the information that is being sought.

The Bill is intended to frame our fisheries management for many years to come. While the pandemic has certainly not gone away in the way that we might have hoped six months ago, I do not think it is appropriate to legislate in a framework Bill for something such as this, when I am confident that the work hon. Members seek is being covered elsewhere. I therefore ask that the clause be withdrawn.