Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:54 am on 13th July 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 10:54 am, 13th July 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr Carmichael on securing the debate. He and others have outlined the challenges faced by the industry, which impact communities across the UK, including the East Neuk of Fife in North East Fife, which I represent.

There is no doubt that fishing has faced and is facing a number of issues. Some of them are longer term, such as changes in consumer taste, the impact of overfishing and the climate emergency. I echo the comments of Liz Saville Roberts, expressing her faith in the expertise of the industry to help tackle that climate impact. We know that the short-term and more acute factors are covid over the past year and a half and Brexit. If we look to future management—the topic of the debate—it is clear that those two are the most critical and acute.

Alongside my hon. Friend Deidre Brock, who will speak later, I serve on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which has had three sessions, since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, specifically focused on food and drink and fishing. At the first session, in February, attended by Neil Parish in his role as Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, representatives of the industry outlined a profound sense of disappointment, anxiety and betrayal about how the Government had handled the UK’s departure from the EU in respect of the industry.

The only hope for the future expressed by those representatives at that first session was for the negotiations in 2026 to be handled differently. It was clear that the impact on the industry was now acute and distressing, and that the Government are wholly to blame for that position. Export areas such as groupage have been impacted, which suggests that there has been no assessment of the impact, and that the fishing industry has been made lots of promises but left to fend for itself. No grace period was granted, despite requests. The industry had less than two weeks to respond with a plan related to the EU agreement.

At the second session, in April, I asked Donna Fordyce whether the Scottish and UK Governments were doing enough to progress electronic transmissions—to help move bulk market exports—and streamlining, which would reduce those errors. We again raised the issue of longer-term plans, particularly around funding. I echo the request to the Minister by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney for more detail on what funding might look like. Elspeth Macdonald pointed out at that session that 60% of landings are in Scotland, and that that needs to be reflected in funding.

As others have outlined, having left the common fisheries policy, the industry still seems to be impacted by that, plus further restrictions brought about by our third-country status in relation to the EU. For example, regarding the haddock quota that we had under the common fisheries policy, the 57% that the Government obtained during the Brexit deal as a result of in-year quota swaps was a 5% cut in quota for that type of fish. We clearly need progress on in-year quota swaps, not just for this year but moving into 2022, so that the industry does not make further losses.

Although agreement has been reached in 2021, it is clear that a lack of progress for future years is critical. What is the progress for 2022? The likely risk is a knock-on effect. Will negotiations for that start next month, as discussed and expected at the Scottish Affairs Committee?

Hon. Members will have often heard a famous quotation by the American poet Maya Angelou, which is usually very motivational:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I would ask the Minister and the Government to reflect on how the fishery industry is feeling as a result of the past 18 months.