UK Fisheries — [Sir George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:13 am on 12th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes 10:13 am, 12th February 2020

I apologise to hon. Members, as I have to step out at 10.30 am to chair an all-party parliamentary group meeting. I thank my hon. Friend Mrs Murray for securing this debate and for her work as chair of the all-party parliamentary fisheries group.

I am extremely fortunate that in my constituency I have Salcombe, Dartmouth and Brixham, making it unquestionably the most beautiful coastline in the country—as hon. Members will all agree. However, within my constituency lie three particularly prominent towns that benefit from our leaving the CFP. In Salcombe and Dartmouth, we have a shellfish industry that is booming, which is looking at exports both within the European Union and further afield, and I hope to be able to support that. I think my hon. Friend has raised some of the issues and concerns with the under-10-metre fleet vessels, especially with the recent introduction of the app. In Brixham, I have the highest-valued port in England in terms of catch.

I will use this opportunity to add my thoughts about the future of the UK’s fishing industry and how we might be able to support it. There is no doubt that the feeling in this Chamber has been that our fishing industry has been let down over the past 40 years and that we now have an opportunity in 2020, 2021 and the years ahead to reignite the relationship that we have with not only with our fishermen, but those waterside businesses, of which many are dependent on a vibrant coastal community infrastructure and economy. It is time that this House, this Parliament and this Government showed their dedication to those fishermen and those businesses.

That potential can be unlocked in a number of ways, first and undoubtedly by securing free and independent coastal waters, ensuring that we are not just talking about the freedom and right of navigation, but the freedom and right for us to fish those waters to the full extent, and allowing us to negotiate and renegotiate on an annual basis. We had colleagues from Norway in this room recently, discussing their arrangement with the European Union; I think that is something we would all like to echo, especially to the Minister, as something that the UK might seek to replicate and enhance in the coming years.

We must also ensure that we create a flexible working model that relies on co-management. Having a variety of multiple voices from different areas across the country feed into how we enact policy across our coastline would be of enormous importance and extremely useful. Having a ministerial representative for our English fishing fleet would be in line with what the devolved Administrations have, and something that I know my fishermen in Brixham are extremely supportive of.

Last year, to much applause, the Government introduced the maritime and fisheries fund. I welcome that for the communities that can bid, but my own port in Brixham—I repeat, the largest fishing port in England—has been unable to bid for that fund because it is a local authority port. I do not believe that it sends the message that we are supporting our fishermen when a Government-announced fund restricts their being able to bid. I hope the Minister and his team will work with me to help me to find a way in which we can support that port and other coastal communities.

As I have mentioned, there are a number of waterside businesses that I would like to explore in the years to come, whether that is boat building, dry dock facilities, fish processing plants, the restaurant trade, tourism or environmental conservation, many of which are included in the Fisheries Bill that is coming before this House. Those are all really welcome opportunities, but we must explore how we can increase infrastructure across the country to allow us to exploit the enormous benefit that they will have for our communities. Our fishermen are the stewards, and their success will breed success for other industries.

Mention has been made of the under-10-metre fleet, and I will touch on that briefly. First, there seems to be a problem for those under-10-metre vessels about where they are registering their catch. The lists are based on EU port data, which means that in my constituency a number of ports are not registered. We are unable to put in applications for bids because those ports are not registered on the EU data app, so when we would like to request funding for, say, winches or any equipment for those ports, there is an inability to do so.

The second thing revolves around digital connectivity: an app that is unable to connect—especially in my constituency, which lags some 9% behind the rest of the country in terms of digital connectivity—makes it near impossible for any fisherman coming in to be able to connect and register that catch before landing. That is something that I would very much like to see delivered.

Finally, Scotland is home, I believe, to a skipper training school, but there is not one within England that I have recognised, although I am very happy to be wrong on that. I am working with my own fishing roundtable, which held its first meeting two weeks ago, to see how we can explore opportunities to create a skipper training school, to encourage people into the industry and to ensure that people can see the vibrancy and opportunity within it. I hope we can explore the different avenues and potential for expanding that.

I will end on this: the Prime Minister is often quoted as saying that he is in favour of “oven-ready” deals or opportunities. It seems to me that there is a perfect opportunity for us to deliver for our coastal communities and to expand on an industry and a trade in which we have a long and fruitful history. I look forward to working with hon. Members across the House in doing so.