UK Fisheries — [Sir George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:04 am on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 10:04 am, 12th February 2020

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mrs Murray not only on securing this debate, which is so important, timely and relevant, but also on getting elected to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday—so well done.

I also enjoyed that privilege, so I look forward to working with her in keeping our friend the Minister on his toes.

There is no way to measure the enthusiasm and appetite in Newlyn, the port that I represent, and right around the coast of my constituency, for the end of the CFP madness. There are some asks from west Cornwall fisheries. What they really want is a fair share. No fisherman has ever said to me that they want exclusive access to all the fish in UK waters. What they want is a fair share of quota and fisheries resources. The Government have said all the right things so far, but fishermen are clear about trade and fisheries—arrangements must be kept separate—and about resisting the EU. We hear from a few individual member states that they will exercise a veto, and so on; but not many of the 27 are that concerned about our waters, and perhaps we should stick to our guns. We should hold our position and not give in to any sort of nonsense from people in, say, France.

However, fishermen are also clear about safeguarding access to the zero to 12 miles. I remember the day when the Minister came down to Newlyn and declared that we were revoking the London convention, which meant that we could restrict access to the 12-mile limit. With the end of the common fisheries policy, that is completed. That is valuable to my inshore fleet and to fishermen around west Cornwall. Fishermen and their representatives are asking for co-management, and they welcome indications from the Government about that. They do not want decisions made in Brussels just moving to Westminster or somewhere else. They want, as the Government have indicated will happen, to be involved in decision-making about the future, so that as those involved in the industry contribute to the discussion, debate and decision-making, unintended consequences of the kind we have seen up to now can be avoided

I want to touch briefly on two matters that are particularly relevant to west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. If the intention is to maintain the effectively two-tier system of inshore and offshore fisheries, at some point we need to understand the definition of inshore, but today I am talking about the small-scale, low-impact fisheries—the small fishing boats that go out and do their work each day, land fish in the local port and then sell it, often quite locally. I believe that there is a real opportunity—a hunger and thirst—for a new chapter for that inshore fleet post-London convention and post the common fisheries policy.

There is already a natural restriction on that part of the fishing industry. For example, it is limited simply because of the weather—particularly the weather that we get around our coasts. I am sure that is true around Northern Ireland and Scotland as well. Days at sea are limited because of the weather that fairly small vessels can go out in. There is also the question of the capacity of the vessels and the types of gear they use. Already, before quotas and all sorts of other restrictions and legislation are introduced, there is a limit to what those vessels can catch and to the potential harm they can cause to quota, so I would like to think that we can be really ambitious about what can be achieved within the 12-mile limit for our small-scale, low-impact fisheries. They have an opportunity to provide good food for local communities and to see local coastal communities revived. We should not underestimate the frustration within the inshore fleet, especially since the introduction of registration of buyers and sellers legislation, as my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall mentioned. UK fisheries policy must deliver a new chapter for our fishing industry.

I will briefly mention infrastructure spend. In Newlyn we could spend £50 million to bring our port really up to where it needs to be. That would deliver an extra quay with deeper drafted vessels, boat lift, boat repair facilities and engineering—all the things that would deliver the kind of fisheries that the UK wants, and that would help to secure skills and revitalise our coastal communities.