South-west Agriculture and Fishing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:31 pm on 19th October 2016.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:31 pm, 19th October 2016

I am not concluding.

I assure hon. Members that there will be opportunities to contribute to shaping such a system in due course, but I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is already working hard on it.

My hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox referred to food security. I assure him that the UK has a high degree of food security, as shown by the 2010 UK food security assessment, which analysed the different global factors impacting UK food supply. One reason for our high food security is the size and competitiveness of the industry and diversity of supply. In terms of marketing, my hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the Great British Food Unit, which was launched earlier this year to promote exports, support inward investment and champion the excellence of British food and drink at home and abroad. It will be helping more and more companies to send their food and drink around the globe—including, I am sure, the 13 protected food names with south-west heritage, such as Dorset blue, Gloucestershire cider, Fal oysters and west country beef and lamb. Just yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State launched an ambitious plan to boost our exports up to 2020 while she was at a Paris food fair. She assures me that some of what she tasted was absolutely delicious and she did not need any dinner.

With regard to fisheries, the Government are committed to supporting the fishing industry so that it becomes more economically and environmentally sustainable. I recognise the important role the fishing fleet plays in the south-west, which is home to the largest number of fishing vessels in England. In particular, I am aware of Newlyn, in the constituency of my hon. Friend Derek Thomas. The south-west has a diverse fleet, catching a wide range of quota and non-quota species, and it is an important contributor to the wider food chain. With more than £100 million of fish landed by the south-west fleet in 2015, it plays a vital role in the local economy and provides much needed support to coastal communities, including Brixham harbour, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes referred and where last summer I enjoyed a pleasant beer watching the fish being brought in, while avoiding the seagulls.

Exit from the EU presents us with an opportunity to improve the way waters around the whole of the UK are managed, although it is important to note that even after we leave the EU, we will remain members of the UN and of other conventions. The UN convention on the law of the sea has quite clear provisions on the exclusive economic zone but also clear commitments to co-operate with other countries where there are shared fisheries. Operating outside the common fisheries policy will give us the opportunity to establish a new fisheries regime that better meets the UK’s needs, including, I hope, those of the south-west.

As with agriculture, we want to set some common principles for our fisheries policy. The UK has had some success in reforming the common fisheries policy to make it more sustainable with an agreement to fish to maximum sustainable yield and to end the wasteful discarding of unwanted fish. Ensuring that we continue to fish our waters sustainably will remain a priority, but there are of course areas where we might consider doing things differently—for example, making changes to technical regulations to better suit the specific conditions found in UK waters.