Dead Crustaceans (North-East Coast)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:13 pm on 28th June 2022.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:13 pm, 28th June 2022

Yes. The point I was making is that we have shared all these findings; they are not in any way being kept secret. I completely accept why the local community is very distressed; it was an extremely distressing event. I understand that there are further crustacean deaths taking place from time to time. People locally are extremely worried by that, and that is understandable. However, it is important that we look at this with an open mind, and that scientists are able to share the evidence and work together to try to establish why on earth it has occurred.

I also understand that the local fishing industry has been put under enormous pressure during the last eight or nine months. It is not our normal practice to pay compensation when natural events occur, as they do annually all around the country. For example, very sadly, we have to close fisheries from time to time when stocks become unavailable. We are not currently considering compensation, but I am very willing to work with colleagues—I have extended this offer to my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar already—to see whether there are items or infrastructure bids in the UK seafood fund that would be suitable for the local communities. Members may wish to work together, as a group, to see whether there is something that we can do through that considerable fund to help the local community.

If I might slightly correct the hon. Member for Stockton North, the UK seafood fund was not in any way meant to compensate for the trade and co-operation agreement; instead, it was to get the industry ready for the fishing opportunities of the future and for the increased quota that has come our way following Brexit. It is very much a fund that looks to the future, and I would be very keen to meet any of the hon. Members present to discuss how best we can look into how that works for their area.

Last month, I visited Hartlepool and met my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool, the MMO, the inshore fisheries and conservation authority and a very helpful representative from the local fishing industry. Together, we looked at some dead crustaceans and spoke about the recent reports and the future of the investigation. My officials have been meeting the various agencies weekly to share intelligence and assess the situation, and the officials with me today would be delighted to speak to any hon. Member after the debate, to allay fears wherever possible.

Clearly, this situation has not yet been put to bed; we need to continue to monitor and assess. The report was a substantial and serious piece of work but I know that concerns remain locally—I hear and understand colleagues when they say that that is very much the case. I will therefore convene a meeting to update MPs when more of the evidence that I described earlier is available to us. I reassure all colleagues present that we keep this issue very much at the top of our agenda.

Question put and agreed to.