Fisheries Management — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:05 am on 13th July 2021.

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Photo of Anthony Mangnall Anthony Mangnall Conservative, Totnes 10:05 am, 13th July 2021

It is a pleasure to be able to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. Let me start by congratulating Mr Carmichael; we have a good tradition of following one another in debates, and it is always a pleasure to hear him speak with such knowledge on this issue.

I recently arrived at Westminster and am privileged to represent Brixham, Salcombe and Dartmouth, which have fine fishing fleets and a fine fishing tradition, which I hope I will ably represent in this place. I also pay tribute to David Linkie; I did not know him, but I did see his work and I know how much he meant to the industry. On that note, I also pay tribute to Jim Portus, who has stepped down as the head of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation, and I wish Juliette Hatchman the best of luck in taking on that new role. She will certainly have a number of us to deal with in the south-west.

I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point that there is an opportunity for the fishing industry and there must be political will. At the same time, we must ensure that we are not playing party politics with this issue, because there are opportunities in leaving the European Union, one of which has recently been recognised. The Minister knows that all too well because I have been knocking on her door almost daily about it. It relates to bivalve molluscs and the gradations of our waters, and the fact that the Food Standards Agency has moved significantly in the last eight months to allow us to challenge anomalous results. Each of our constituencies will be impacted differently by that, but it is extremely welcome to see how we can move at pace. After organisations have been asking for those changes for 30 years, we have managed to see some of them come through in eight months. I hope we might see a little bit more of that approach. We can never give certainty, but we can look at reforming our domestic legislation and providing opportunities for the fishing fleets in our coastal communities.

The second point I would like to make is about highly protected marine areas and the Benyon review. I understand the point that Lord Benyon is making in the review, but we must also have faith in our fishermen to look after their waters. They want future generations to be able to make money and have a business and a livelihood; they want to look after their waters and their coastlines as much as we do. Whatever we do with highly protected marine areas, we must make sure it is in conjunction, co-operation and discussion with the fishing fleets.

I hope the Minister and the team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will engage with as many people in this place and outside Westminster to find the right balance, so that we can operate in highly protected marine areas in a way that will work. There is also a move on the environmental side of offshore wind farms, which are also heating up.

In a rare moment of cross-party unity, I find myself in agreement with the Chair of the International Trade Committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil about the maritime fisheries fund, which I believe has now been replaced by the fisheries and seafood scheme—FaSS—about the £100 million. DEFRA has been generous about that, but it does not mean anything until it is produced. I appreciate that the Department has to jump through hoops with the Treasury, but a lot of people have been waiting close to seven or eight months to hear when that will happen.

Speaking of certainty, we have a transition period. We have an opportunity to provide a degree of certainty to the industry about what our future relationship with the European Union will be after 2026. I hope we can begin that process of reassurance, build up the opportunity to develop our fleet in our coastal communities and ensure that people understand where we are going and why the trade and co-operation agreement we have now is what it is. There is room for opportunity.

The Minister was very kind and gracious to come down to Brixham; unfortunately, I was not able to be there, but I know she met a number of my constituents. She will have heard a great deal about non-total allowable catch species. We need further discussions about what goes beyond 2021, because right now there is uncertainty. The disparity between what EU vessels can catch in our waters and what we can catch in their waters is of grave concern. There is a lot more we can do.

Two specialised trade committees have been established that will be linked to fishing: the first is on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and the second is on just fishing. How will those committees be set up, who will be put on them and what representation will there be from Westminster and DEFRA? The committees offer us an enormous opportunity to streamline the process of ensuring that we can get our exports up to where they need to be, which so many other Members have raised as a point of concern.

To end on a positive note, I received the statistics this morning from Brixham fish market. It is now earning £800,000 per week. In previous years, it was £300,000 to £400,000. It is selling 40% up on previous years. It is looking forward to a very prosperous summer. I know that is not the case universally across the United Kingdom, but it is worth noting that my fishermen in Brixham, England’s most valuable fishing port, are painting a very positive picture. I was asked the other day what they were doing on 5 November and they said: “We built the effigy of you, but we are just deciding whether to burn it.” I have been told they are not intending to quite yet.