Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:41 am on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade Team Member), Chair, International Trade Committee, Chair, International Trade Committee 9:41 am, 13th July 2021

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles, and to hear that we are getting an extra minute. I recall that you and I entered Parliament at the same time, so it adds to the joy. As a co-sponsor of this important debate, along with Luke Pollard, I congratulate Mr Carmichael on securing it. I associate myself with his words about David Linkie, the Fishing News editor, who seemed to be ever-present at fishing exhibitions in Glasgow whenever I went there over the years.

Before I go much further, I would like to mention the Norwegian fishing deal and UK fisheries. I have a letter from Sir Barney White-Spunner, who points out:

“The recent…deal with Norway heaps more pain on an already hamstrung distant waters fleet. At the same time that Norway removed our right to fish for cod in its waters, the UK has given them the right to sell the self-same cod without any tariff at all to UK chippies. In effect the UK government has given the Norwegians the greater part of our market overnight and achieved nothing in return for English fishermen. We are calling on the government to apply a temporary trade remedy to bring the Norwegians back to the negotiating table.”

That deserves to be highlighted and brought to the fore in this debate. Many in the fishing industry in all parts of the UK are suffering quite badly.

I do not want to mention too much—I know I have been given five minutes, but I hope I will be under that time—but I want to talk about the cost and bureaucracy involved in fisheries at the moment. Before Brexit, three quarters of Scottish fishermen’s exports went to the European Union, but there has been an almost exponential rise in costs. Barratlantic, a local fish factory in my constituency, tells me that whereas a mere delivery note used to suffice, it now needs a catch certificate, packing lists and commodity codes, scientific names on consignments, a commercial invoice and an import and export declaration form. It pays the French Government VAT at 5.5%, and it also needs a health certificate. With the health certificate and all the rest, it needs to bring to the fore about eight pieces of paper before it starts exporting, whereas a delivery note once used to suffice.

The upshot is that the export cost to get a product to the continent has trebled from 32p per kilo to around £1 a kilo. Whereas consignments could be sent in three to four pallets, they now have to be sent in pallet loads of 10 to make matters viable and economical. Obviously, that affects the bottom line of many businesses. The Government really have to look quickly at ways of streamlining.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland and I have been in touch with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on several occasions to try to get these matters streamlined so that multiple data entries and paperwork are not required. Some things could and should be digitised to enable the transfer of data from one place to the other without the onerous time. The eight pieces of paper that I have mentioned translate into a lot of hours and cost for people who need to get their product to the important markets where we export three quarters of our product.

The final thing I will mention is the £100 million scheme that was promised in January, although apparently the Scottish Government are still waiting for details of that compensation for fishing. Hopefully, the UK Government will be awake and quickly moving on that, because six to seven months has passed and things in Government often move slowly. However, the big promises were there and the big promises should be delivered. The promises were there because of the incompetence that was rained upon those selling fish produce to continental Europe as a result of Brexit and the deal that was struck, which meant all that bureaucracy had come into play.