Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:36 am on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 9:36 am, 13th July 2021

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate arranged by Mr Carmichael, for which I thank him. I am standing right next to the Minister, so I will try to be nice to her. It is not an easy job being a fisheries Minister at the moment, because there are many problems to sort out. I will get through all the problems as quickly as I can, and I hope that there may be some solutions.

First, on fishing in Norway, can we apply a temporary trade remedy with Norway to try to get our boats access to these waters? Naturally, we fish for cod in Norwegian waters. As far as shellfisheries are concerned, we still have major problems on the west coast, Wales and others, where we are still unable to trade from class B waters. We have been trying to sort out the different waters, but that seems to be hitting the buffers as well. This really needs to be sorted. It is not all the Minister’s fault. The European Commission could have been, and needs to be, much more amenable to get this to work. We must not be held up as an example to others that may leave the European Union. I rather fear this is where we are with shellfishing.

On international quota swaps, the lack of international swapping has left some companies with less quota than they had before Brexit, and it has left all companies with less flexibility over their quota management. Quota swapping is a key tool in compliance with landing obligations. English fish producer organisations collectively would like, believe it or not, a system that stays as close as possible to the previous one, so that swaps brokered by the producer organisations can be checked and signed off by all devolved Administrations and the swaps can occur at any point during the year. Otherwise, they cannot land the fish they catch. We have worked so hard on this over the years to try to ensure that we stop discarding fish.

The key principles are that whichever devolved Administration donates the quota should receive the incoming quota, and the organisation donating the quota should receive the full incoming quota, so that the levels of quota are kept where they are. There is no fisheries Minister for England, which means that English viewpoints are under-represented in the fisheries discussion. The process for Scotland should not necessarily be adopted for England if other processes would be better for management of English quota.

There are many things for the Minister to do. My final point is probably more for the Chancellor, and I have talked about this before. We must make sure that we give new fishing boats the same capital allowances of 18% a year so that our fishermen can have new boats, new gear and much better safety. That would be much better for the environment and much safer for our fishermen. At the moment, they get only 6% on a new boat and 18% on an old boat. The boats could be made in the north of England. We could have a north-south divide in so far as we could provide the north of England with great employment, and we could have fishing boats all around the country. It is up to us to now develop our fisheries, and I believe that we can.

Once the Minister has flattened out all the little local difficulties with the European Commission, we can get on and actually benefit from leaving the common fisheries policy, because environmentally it was disastrous. We will need to get stuck in so that our fishermen can get back to being able to fish and land what they catch.