UK Fisheries — [Sir George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall 9:30 am, 12th February 2020

My right hon. Friend speaks with great authority. I congratulate him on the Green Paper that he produced. I cannot remember how long ago that was, but I congratulate him on his expertise and on his record as shadow Fisheries Minister. I concur completely with what he just said.

Will the Minister please meet fishermen’s representatives and fish auctioneers to ensure that the app is operated in a way that reassures fishermen? Something that could benefit UK fishermen is being interpreted as a tool to use against them because of the complexity of the app and the worry that it will be used as a tool for prosecution.

There is also an opportunity to introduce a new registration and licensing regime, and to reintroduce the terms of vessel ownership and associated conditions that were first introduced by the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. That Act was introduced to stop other nations from benefiting from UK fish quota by registering their vessels on the UK fishing vessel register. People who did that were commonly described as “quota hoppers”. Although the European Court of Justice ruled that that Act of Parliament was contrary to the treaty, the fact that we are now not members of the European Union provides us with an opportunity to ensure that those so-called quota hoppers comply with UK law.

I acknowledge that some measures have been introduced at EU level to provide that an economic link must be shown, but, as is often the case, those measures are at best weak. By restoring the terms of the Merchant Shipping Act, we could require individual owners, or 75% of the registered owners of a company, to be UK citizens. We could couple that with a requirement to land all catch in UK ports. That would not only bring economic benefits but allow us to enhance the enforcement of UK catch rules on vessels. Will the Minister speak to the Minister with responsibility for shipping to explore that? I have been considering introducing a private Member’s Bill based on the Merchant Shipping Act.

In summary, I thank the Minister both for his Department’s commitment to UK fishermen and for the Prime Minister’s commitment. I am sure I speak for all wives, husbands and partners of fishermen, present and former, when I say that we have seen the price they have paid while operating under the disastrous common fisheries policy. All they were doing was trying to provide an honest living for their families—fishing provided a comfortable living for my family for 25 years—and that is a tribute to those men and women who put to sea to put fish on our table.

Some of us have seen our husbands pay the ultimate price, but we have never lost hope. I look forward to seeing us adopt a strong stance in the forthcoming negotiations, and I urge the Minister and the Government to never surrender to the unacceptable demands of the European Union. We must not allow the pillaging of UK waters to happen ever again.