Fisheries Act 2020 (Scheme for Financial Assistance) (England) Regulations 2021

Wednesday 21st July 2021

(3 days, 9 hours ago)

Grand Committee

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon
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That the Grand Committee do consider the Fisheries Act 2020 (Scheme for Financial Assistance) (England) Regulations 2021.

Relevant document: 7th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Lord Benyon Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Benyon) (Con)
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My Lords, this statutory instrument will provide the long-term legal foundation for the payment of grants to the English seafood sector. It has been specifically designed to support the needs of the sector and to give full control and accountability for the delivery of financial support. It expands the previous domestic fisheries financial assistance powers, which were a domestic implementation of European funding provisions, and forms part of our commitment to replace European funding in this area. It is also in line with government policy to, where possible, utilise specific spending powers for long-term public spending in specific areas.

The passing of this instrument will allow us to finalise our transition towards the powers of the new Fisheries Act. The Act gives the UK full control of its fishing waters for the first time since 1973 and provides the legal framework for policies to be tailored to the needs of industry while still protecting the marine environment. Now that we have left the EU, this will ensure a more responsive and autonomous scheme that better supports our newly independent coastal state.

Leaving the EU has also empowered us to develop as a world leader in fisheries management. Global leadership in this space means placing sustainability and innovation at the forefront of government policy-making, ensuring healthy seas for future generations of fishers. These regulations, by utilising the powers in the Fisheries Act, support that ambition. They ensure that the framework for delivering financial support to the fisheries sector is in line with Act’s objectives, and they empower the Government to deliver a new fisheries management plan to benefit both the fishing industry and the marine environment. They also support the delivery of the Government’s manifesto commitment to maintain the level of financial support provided to the fisheries sector.

Fisheries is a devolved policy area and the Fisheries Act 2020 provides corresponding financial assistance powers to each of the four fishing administrations of the UK. This has empowered each administration to develop schemes that are tailored to the needs and characteristics of their sectors. In line with the devolution settlement, this instrument will provide a legal foundation specifically tailored towards our English scheme to give much-needed financial support under Section 33 of the Fisheries Act 2020.

The instrument sets out the regulations for the payment of grants by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to the seafood sector in England, including the provisions and payment conditions that must be adhered to. This approach will ensure clarity for both applicants and grant delivery managers. One point to note with the establishment of these new funding powers is that funding may now be provided, under the scheme established by this instrument, to recreational sea fishers—an important area to support the levelling-up agenda that previously has not been able to receive support.

We have also extended the types of funding that can be provided to include activities such as training and business diversification. The instrument has been carefully developed to ensure that future grant schemes have the flexibility to meet new policies and the needs of the English seafood sector as they change over time. The passing of this instrument will not make any significant policy changes to the scope of grant funding for the seafood sector. It will ensure that we are using regulations specifically designed to support the English seafood industry.

I turn now to how the instrument will be used to deliver support to England’s seafood sector through the fisheries and seafood scheme. The scheme opened on 6 April 2020 to provide financial assistance to projects that enhance the marine environment and support sustainable growth in the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors. At present the scheme is using the wide-ranging spending powers in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 which, unlike this statutory instrument, does not set specific conditions on activity restrictions.

This SI will provide a more detailed framework for the scheme to operate within and allow more certainty for applicants and administrators about the legal scope of the scheme. This scheme replaces funding previously available to the UK through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The subsequent European fund is not yet available to our European counterparts as the details are being developed, whereas in England we ensured there was no gap in funding and the scheme was available in early April.

The scheme will provide £6.1 million of funding for the current financial year. In the short term, this will provide stability and continuity to industry by supporting businesses to take advantage of opportunities outside the EU and recover from the impacts of Covid-19. In the longer term, the scheme will drive meaningful change to increase sustainability, provide world-class fisheries management, and deliver a significantly decarbonised sector and a thriving marine environment. The scheme will develop flexibly over time to accommodate the development of new policies, data and emerging priorities.

The scheme has been developed to be consistent with wider governmental objectives to support the levelling-up agenda, clean growth and carbon net zero. It addresses the current needs of the sector by supporting the development of new domestic markets and the diversification of businesses to support new income streams. The scheme has been informed by stakeholder engagement and aims to support the issues highlighted by industry, including investments to enhance mental well-being. The opening of the scheme has been welcomed and demand for financial support has been high.

This instrument is one of the first regulations proposed under the Fisheries Act 2020 and will ensure that a responsive and autonomous scheme can be delivered within England which better supports our seafood sector. This support is vital to deliver our vision for clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the regulations and would like to pay personal tribute to my noble friend for all he has achieved for the country during his many years conducting fisheries negotiations when we were a member of the European Union. I particularly welcome the fact that, as he highlighted, there will be no gap in funding in the UK. That is greatly welcomed by the recipients, and by all of us as legislators.

I would like to press the Minister on a number of issues. As he said, this is one of the first set of regulations made under the Fisheries Act 2020. Will the total received be the same as under the previous funds administered through the EU scheme? Does my noble friend think that it might be expanded in due course? He is aware of my particular interest in and concern for inshore fishermen. Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that, as my noble friend said:

“There will be benefits for coastal communities across England”.

I am sure that many, particularly in Whitby, will be keen for the recreational sea fisheries to which my noble friend alluded to be helped in this way.

The Minister is aware of my interest in inshore fishermen, who were disadvantaged under the previous fisheries policy. They hope to be advantaged greatly under the new arrangements not just by having more scallops but by having a quota for fish such as cod. I would be delighted to hear if that will be the case.

I welcome my noble friend’s saying that sustainability and innovation measures will be supported under the regulations. In the debate we had on fisheries in the previous EU Sub-Committee—my noble friend will doubtless have read the report—we looked at innovation and sustainability in some depth and reached a conclusion regarding the benefits of remote electronic monitoring. Will fishermen be able to apply for these funds and use them to install and operate remote electronic monitoring equipment on their boats?

We are obviously grateful to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which broadly welcomes the instrument, for its report. It received a submission from ClientEarth criticising the instrument for not including provisions to make the payment of financial support conditional on the sustainable management of fisheries. I am slightly perplexed by the response from Defra, which is very general and not entirely specific. Exactly how will the Government deliver on their policy to drive meaningful change to increase sustainability, provide world-class fisheries management and support thriving marine management? My noble friend is better equipped than anyone else I can think of to deliver on that, and I would just like a little more meat on the fish bones this afternoon. I am grateful to him for bringing this instrument before us, so that we can ensure its safe passage before the Recess.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I thank the Minister for his introduction, which was very clear. However, I do have some problems with this whole process. I support the idea of the funds going to remote electronic monitoring; that is very sensible and might be the only way that some smaller fishers are able to manage.

I would like to be able to say that UK fishing is in good health, and I would like to believe that the Government are world-leading on this, but I am afraid that that is a rather tired and overused phrase at the moment. This is not world-leading. Admittedly, I do not know much about what other countries are doing but I can say that, from a green point of view, this is not sustainable.

Fishing is an important part of our economy, particularly for coastal areas and for our food supply. Really, what we should have been hearing by now is that the potential environmental disaster on the horizon is going to be fixed. Quite honestly, this situation is tolerated only because it is largely unseen; most people do not know what goes on. For example, disturbance of the bottom ecosystem, caused by beam trawlers, is disastrous. I would be interested to hear whether there is any recognition of that. Then, there is marine plastic pollution from the sacrificial ware of beam trawlers—a huge issue that I have yet to hear be discussed. Moreover, turning to fuel consumption, a typical large boat averages about 2 litres per kilo of fish landed, making it two or three times worse than airfreighting vegetables from Kenya, which we all know is a very bad thing.

I am curious as to why day-boats get so little of the quota; that really does not seem fair. For example, in the south-west the huge majority of beam trawlers are owned by just two companies—Carets in Brixham and Stevens in Newlyn—and I just do not understand how that can possibly help smaller, local companies. Are the Government thinking about them at all?

I am also interested in what is really meant by a marine reserve and what is banned there, because sometimes it does not seem like very much. Reserves are obviously incredibly important. Of course, this is all without taking into account the sustainability or otherwise of the catches. That is why the remote electronic monitoring will be so valuable.

Turning to the regulations, I want to thank Green Alliance and ClientEarth for pointing out their concerns, which I share. While I welcome the exclusions set out in Regulation 5, including that grants may not be used to increase the fishing capacity of a boat, there is a missed opportunity to transform the way we support the fishing industry financially to deliver climate-smart fishing. These technologies are available and should be very high on the Government’s “to do” list. It is about more sustainable fishing practices and ocean recovery.

Section 33 of the Fisheries Act permits the Marine Management Organisation to place conditions on the payment of grants. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, pointed out, there are no environmental conditions on payments. That seems astonishing, given that the climate emergency is a very urgent issue.

In order for financial assistance to promote positive fishing practices, the regulations should be amended to include conditions on the provision and use of grants—for example, to encourage investment in more sustainable fishing gear that does not damage the wider marine environment, to help fishers adapt to technologies for efficient data collection, and for restoration schemes and the collection of marine waste by fishers.

The Minister talked about clean, healthy, productive biodiverse activity, but it has to be sustainable as well. At the moment, sustainability cannot be predicted or guaranteed through these measures.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes Portrait Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome the introduction of these regulations and their first use as the fisheries and seafood scheme. Although I fully support the intentions behind them, I have several issues to raise that I hope the Minister can address.

When the regulations were debated in the other House last week, concerns were raised about the transparency and openness of decision-making by the Marine Management Organisation, which determines these applications, and the absence of any mention of an appeals process. The Minister referred to the fisheries and seafood scheme guidance, but on reviewing it, I can see no mention of an appeals process. Section 7 of the guidance simply states:

“We will assess your application within 8 weeks of its receipt and notify you if any further information is required. Once we have all the required information to make a decision, we will contact you to tell you if your application has been successful or not.”

This seems remarkably vague, and I suspect I am not alone in worrying about how many cases get to seven or eight weeks, only to be told that information is missing and a decision has been delayed. In fact, the guidance does not actually say that a decision will be made within eight weeks, merely that the application will be assessed within that time.

Given the challenges that the fishing industry has been enduring following Brexit, with many people seeing their catches go to waste due to red tape, and given the financial impact on them and their livelihoods, I hope that the Minister can presume on the MMO to ensure that all applications for grants, particularly those for smaller businesses, are expedited in the current climate and not left until eight weeks or beyond. Also, could the decision-making process be made clearer and timelier, and reference to this and to the appeals process be added to the guidance?

Finally, it appears that applications can be made only through the FaSS E-system. Given the digital divide that still exists across generations, sectors and even the provision of the internet, can the Minister reassure us that this scheme and applications for grants will not solely rely on advertising and applying online?

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD) [V]
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My Lords, first, I very much welcome the Minister to his post; I have not been in a debate or Question Time with him since his appointment. I congratulate him on his work on highly protected marine areas, which I hope we will see progressed quickly through this Parliament.

I have a few brief questions for the Minister. First, can he confirm that this is just a one-year commitment at present? How long do the Government intend the scheme to last? On finance, the EMFF for England was £92 million over seven years, which comes to a round number of about £13 million per annum, whereas this scheme, as he said, provides only £6.1 million. I do not understand where the idea of equal funding, as before, comes from. I should be interested to understand that.

We are all used to the old European match-funding schemes, and I am interested to understand what the rules for this one will be. We should remember that the larger fisheries sector has been extremely profitable and does not necessarily need public money. That is not true of many of the smaller boats and operators. One of the good, well-tried parts of the old EMFF, as it was rolled out in England, was the so-called fisheries local action groups. They were a way to disburse money in relatively small amounts—and quickly, to come back to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—to the smaller fishing operators and owners. I very much hope that that system will be replicated in distributing funds for this programme. It would be interesting to know the answer to that.

One thing I do not get at all is Regulation 12, which states:

“The Marine Management Organisation may, at any time before the grant has been paid in full, suspend or revoke the approval, or vary a condition of the approval.”

That seems completely unfair. If such a regulation were in consumer law, it would be struck out. It graciously then says that the MMO has to let the person know if it is going to do that—great, but they might already have spent money under the scheme, only to find that the MMO has decided to revoke approval. I do not understand why Regulation 12 is there and why it is so draconian. I would certainly be concerned about that if I were applying for funding.

I welcome the Minister’s constant referral to decarbonisation, but perhaps he could give us some examples from the fisheries and seafood scheme, which has been in operation since April last year under a different category. Can he give us one or two examples of decarbonisation awards, so we can understand a little more about what those applications might be?

Finally, I reiterate what others have said, not least the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, about remote electronic monitoring. I should be delighted if the Minister could nudge his department to support my amendment to the Environment Bill requiring that REM be applied, just to make sure that we get much more and better data and information about marine ecology.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this SI today and for the helpful briefing beforehand. The new scheme is welcome as far as it goes, as it will put extra funds into a sector that has been badly impacted by the loss of the EU markets. While I appreciate that this is not primarily what the funds are for, any extra cash is welcome, clearly. However, I have some specific questions about how this scheme will be administered and the rules applied, which I would be grateful if the Minister could address.

First, the SI and the guidance note on the fisheries and seafood scheme use the phrase “sustainability” on a number of occasions. For example, the Explanatory Memorandum states in paragraph 7.2 that

“the scheme will drive meaningful change to increase sustainability”.

However, as we discovered during consideration of the Fisheries Bill, the word sustainability is often used to mean economic sustainability of the industry rather than sustainability of the fish stocks. This seems to be the use here, and the truth is that this can run counter to the objective of increasing the environmental sustainability of the fish stocks in our waters. This is why we tried to argue, unsuccessfully, during the debates on the Fisheries Bill that environmental sustainability should take precedence over other objectives.

As noble Lords have said, and as the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee reported, ClientEarth wrote in to challenge why the SI does not make financial support conditional on more sustainable management of fisheries—in other words, more environmental sustainability. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that Defra’s reply as reported to the committee really did not address that question or give a detailed answer. So I ask the Minister again why greater environmental sustainability is not made a precondition of grants under the scheme? I understand that the scheme will be finessed and improved over time, as the Minister said, so will he agree to take this proposal away and consider introducing it for future years?

I agree with other noble Lords that using some of the money for remote electronic monitoring would be a good step forward, and I echo the bid from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson: it would be helpful if the Minister agreed to support the amendment to the Environment Bill that would deliver support for REM. Perhaps he could reflect on that. Furthermore, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that we need to have climate-smart fishing, which needs to be financially supported.

Secondly, paragraph 5(c) of the SI specifically excludes applications for activities which the applicant has a statutory duty to undertake. Can I ask the Minister to clarify what is meant by this exclusion? For example, fishers have a statutory duty to uphold health and safety standards, and indeed to comply with the powers on conservation of stocks under the Fisheries Act. So why are grants to provide better health and safety equipment, or more selective fishing gear, specifically excluded? Perhaps the Minister could clarify that wording in the SI.

Thirdly, the total sum allocated to this scheme in this financial year is £6.1 million. This seems a very small sum for the rather grand ambitions set out in paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum:

“it is hoped the scheme will contribute towards the Government’s levelling up objectives in order to increase the economic prosperity of coastal and rural communities”.

That sum of money is not going to go very far in bringing the vital regeneration money which coastal communities urgently require, and this claim seems to be a mockery of the seriousness of this challenge. I hope the Minister can reassure us that significantly larger sums of money are in the pipeline that will genuinely raise coastal communities out of the poverty and unemployment they currently endure.

Like other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, we are interested in the sums available in the longer term, and I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance on that matter. As my colleague Luke Pollard said in the Commons debate on the SI, according to paragraph 12 of the Explanatory Memorandum, no impact assessment has been carried out as there is

“no, or no significant, impact on business”.

In that case, what is the point of an initiative of this nature?

Furthermore, I ask the Minister for more details on the separate £100 million which was announced earlier this year by the Secretary of State. As I understand it, since that announcement no more has been said about when it will be available, how it will be deployed or what impact it is expected to have on the fishing sector. The fishers are anxious to have more information about this, so perhaps he can use this opportunity to clarify when that money will be available.

Finally, I want to ask about oversight of the MMO’s activities, an issue about which the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, also asked. These proposals give the MMO complete authority to allocate these funds. Will the Secretary of State take responsibility for monitoring the performance of the MMO in administering these grants? How transparent will the allocation process be? Will there be an appeals mechanism—another point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner—and can we be assured that it will be independent of the MMO? Will small-scale fishers in particular be encouraged to apply, and will there be a presumption in favour of their applications, since they are the ones who have suffered most since we have left the EU? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Benyon Portrait Lord Benyon (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed today, and I will respond to all the questions as best I can. I apologise if the order in which the answers come does not reflect the order in which the questions were asked.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked some important questions, which were echoed by other noble Lords. Remote electronic monitoring is very important. Defra-funded trials are ongoing; they are funded through the data control framework and are separate to this. As a former Fisheries Minister, and having returned to the department, I am impressed by how this has moved forward. I first saw cameras being placed on vessels in Scotland back in 2008, I think, as part of the cod recovery fund. We have come a long way since then. Now, we can manage some of our most remote marine protected areas around our overseas territories with a network system called Catapult, which is a remarkable way of assessing exactly what a vessel is doing at any one time, using satellite technology.

Our domestic fishing fleet now has vehicle monitoring systems: a skipper can receive a text from the MMO automated text system to say when they are approaching the boundary of a marine protected area. Others have been developed—in conjunction with the fishing sector, rather than being imposed on it. Things are working very well in that respect.

My noble friend and others also asked about the benefits to coastal communities, particularly the inshore fleet. The historic bias against the inshore fleet arose because, when it was unregulated, the offshore sector snaffled most of the quota under the EU. That gave rise to the very unfortunate circumstance whereby some 96% of the quota was in the hands of the over-10-metre fleet, while the inshore fleet, on which many coastal communities depend, had to make do with very small or still unregulated areas of fishing capacity. That has been changed. The Government were taken to the Supreme Court by certain fishing sectors when we tried to reallocate some of that, and the Government won. This has now been further changed, with new fishing opportunities being offered to the inshore fleet. It is hoped that this statutory instrument will assist some of the smallest fishing businesses to access the funds they need not just to be sustainable, but to reflect the changing world in which we are demanding that they operate, and the Government’s determination to hit, for example, net zero by 2050.

The Marine Management Organisation ensures that small-scale fishers are supported through the application process—this also addresses the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Preferential funding rates have also been put in place to lower the match funding required from them. The FaSS application process has been simplified and clear guidance has been provided to encourage and support applications from a diverse range of applicants. Defra is looking to make further improvements to streamline the application process in future.

In line with best practice and better regulation principles, an assessment was made that the costs of applying to the scheme would be outweighed by the benefits of receiving funding. This was assumed to be the case for all businesses applying for funding. An impact assessment was therefore not necessary in this instance.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the MMO is an NDPB of Defra. It is monitored, its performance is rated and how it delivers the Government’s marine policies is carefully monitored. The role of the MMO was challenged by some in respect of delivery. It is responsible for processing all funding applications and we want to make sure that its decisions are transparent. Higher-value projects of over £150,000 are assessed through a full financial and economic appraisal before a panel comprising third-party economists and the MMO finance team.

We have defined the objectives of the scheme and developed the robust eligibility criteria used to make funding decisions. I have the scars on my back from assessing the old EMFF, whereby vessel owners from countries such as Spain and France were able to buy newer and better vessels that harvested the seas in much more efficient ways. Our taxpayers’ money was being put towards unsustainable fisheries; that has changed in this country—it has also changed in the EU—through the development of this system of funding.

The £6.1 million being delivered through the FaSS this financial year is equivalent to the average annual amount delivered through the English portion of the European maritime and fisheries fund over its seven-year timeframe. I think that addresses the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The FaSS will support the Government’s levelling-up agenda by providing financial assistance to projects that support the resilience and sustainable growth of the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors. This will benefit coastal businesses and the wider communities that depend on them.

In addition to the FaSS, the Government are providing financial support to the sector through the £100 million fund which will support investment to modernise and rejuvenate the seafood sector across the UK. I will give some more statistics on that now. On 24 December, the Prime Minister announced this sum to develop the seafood sector and help rejuvenate an industry that has suffered from underinvestment and which is working towards both having sustainable businesses and fishing sustainably. I understand that the dual use of that word could cause some confusion, but it is vital to recognise that we are moving as fast as we can towards some degree of sustainability.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, asked about highly protected marine areas. I can speak on this issue with some authority as before entering the Government, I chaired a review—embarrassingly referred to as the “Benyon review”—published last June, which recommended the inclusion in the suite of spatial measures the Government have introduced, such as marine conservation zones and other European designations, of a highly protected marine area network. The Government are taking this forward and piloting schemes. It would be embarrassing if they were not, as then I would have to stand at the Dispatch Box, under ministerial co-responsibility, and defend their intention not to follow the recommendations of a report which I wrote. Luckily, they are taking it forward, and it is very long overdue.

We tried to introduce things called reference areas as part of the Marine and Coastal Access Act, but they did not work. Still, I learned from that process, and it was great to be able to take this forward in a detailed review using panel members from right across the marine interest sectors. This will be part of a process.

To address the point about being a world leader, what I think I said in my speech—in fact, I know I did—is that Britain wants to develop as a world leader in sustainable fisheries. We are not so arrogant as to say that we have achieved that. There are still problems of sustainability, and that factor has been the curse of northern European fisheries for decades where we have fished stocks unsustainably. The stocks that exist in our seas today are a fraction of what existed before. We want to go back to a situation where we are able to fish a harvestable surplus under proper scientific guidance that can reflect a growing biomass. That is good for all our health and well-being, it is good for our ability to lock up carbon in our oceans, which is a massive opportunity, and it is vital for the coastal communities and the people that we want to encourage to go into the sector to catch a sustainable source of protein that the country wants as part of a balanced diet.

My noble friend Lady Gardner asked how the £13.5 million fund was used in England. Grant payments to the industry account for £6.1 million, data collection £4.6 million and control and enforcement £1.9 million. The remainder of the £13.5 million will go towards scheme administration and evaluation.

I have already explained how the scheme will be delivered. I confirm that those eligible to apply include: individuals or businesses engaged in commercial or recreational sea fishing, aquaculture or processing activities—we think it is important to add the recreational sector, which is important for coastal communities; those in the sector are the eyes and ears of sustainability, they have been monitoring the areas that they have been fishing and very often they are an important part of fisheries management—a public body or local authority that has a focus on fishing or aquaculture activities; a university or research institute; and a new entrant to the industry that could benefit from developing skills in fishing or aquaculture activities.

I will move on to other points that were raised. I think I have answered the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, about us wanting to develop as a world leader, and I have talked about HPMA. Plastics from fishing are very important. There is a lot of work going on with the industry to limit the loss of plastic from vessels, usually from losing nets, and to see what can be done to improve that. Fuel consumption is also an important issue. Getting the sector to be, as the noble Baroness says, climate-smart fishers is something that the Government are very much working towards.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about the power of the MMO to revoke payments and whether that was a proportionate measure to have. The power ensures that the MMO has the legal protection to suspend or revoke funding approval in the event of a severe infringement—that is important wording. This has been brought forward from the previous EU scheme to ensure that public money is not used illegally or inappropriately. It will be used only in exceptional circumstances.

A number of noble Lords asked about the £100 million. I have covered most of that, but it is there to support investment to modernise and develop the seafood sector. It covers the whole UK, not just England, as this scheme does.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also spoke about the breadth of the scheme and its necessary need to support all fishing activities and the entire supply chain. I can confirm that the scheme will support individuals and businesses across the supply chain. This includes catching, processing, aquaculture and the marketing of seafood products.

The noble Lord asked how long the scheme will last and whether it will be maintained. The £6.1 million has been allocated to deliver grant funding through the FaSS during this financial year of April 2021-22. Given the Government’s manifesto commitment to maintain funding for the seafood sector, we are confident that the FaSS will continue to deliver financial support over the coming years. Obviously, we will monitor it and that will be available for parliamentary scrutiny.

The Fisheries Act offers comparable powers to each of the four nations of the UK to develop their own domestic schemes tailored to the needs of their sectors. As a devolved area, it is up to the relevant Administration to design and deliver their own funding scheme. Both England and Scotland have developed financial assistance schemes that are live and open to applications.

I am conscious that I am going on for a long time and we are running out of time, but I will give one final piece of inspiration that has come into my head. I thank the noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. In summary, this instrument will provide a long-term foundation to deliver the payment of grants to the English seafood sector. It has been specifically designed for this purpose and will ensure that we have full control and accountability for the delivery of the fisheries and seafood scheme, through which transformative support is being made available to the English catching sector. This instrument is key to delivering the Government’s manifesto commitments and securing a thriving and sustainable marine environment. I commend these regulations to the House.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.