Amendment 3 is the same as an amendment that Ted Brocklebank lodged but did not move at stage 2. Having considered the remarks that the minister made at that stage, Ted Brocklebank decided to lodge the amendment again at stage 3, and I am glad to speak to it.
Section 29 merely allows for compensation to be paid to fish farmers who lose their stock as a result of a ministerial action—in the event of slaughter, for example. In such circumstances, fish farmers should, however, be entitled to compensation. Amendment 3 would make compensation compulsory rather than its being at the whim of the minister. After all, fish farming is every bit as much farming as terrestrial farming and some 10,000 jobs in Scotland depend on it. Some people do not like fish farming, but it is only right that it be on a level playing field with terrestrial farming. Amendment 3 would help to ensure that that was the case.
In the interests of fairness and equity, I move amendment 3.
Ted Brocklebank's amendment 3 would convert a discretionary power into a mandatory power. We do not believe that that would be appropriate, and I note that only 17 per cent of the aquaculture companies that responded to our consultation stated a preference for mandatory, rather than discretionary, payments.
At present, the fish farming industry is free of any disease that would require the destruction of stock—long may that continue—so there is no pressure to introduce a scheme in the short term. The power is discretionary for the good reason that no provision for a scheme exists in current spending plans and because the Scottish ministers would have to consider whether and to what extent the Executive could afford such costs.
Does the minister acknowledge that, although there are no diseases at this moment, there have been diseases that required slaughter in recent years, such as infectious salmon anaemia? Does she also agree that they brought havoc to the fish farming industry, particularly to producers of eggs and small fish?
Yes, but we are now introducing a discretionary power in the bill. We expected some acknowledgment of the fact that that is a big step forward. It will give the Scottish ministers powers to set up a scheme for such payments if they feel that there is a need for one. We have kept our options open. Should there be a need to take powers for a payment scheme for aquaculture under the bill, we will be able to do that. Such a scheme would, of course, be designed in consultation with the aquaculture industry and would be set up by order under the affirmative procedure, which means that Parliament would have the chance to scrutinise the order in detail.
That is a step forward. The Executive responded positively to calls for payments for the destruction of fish for disease control purposes. The proposed discretionary provision is unprecedented in
Division number 12
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Abstentions: Byrne, Ms Rosemary