Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist contributions to the Fisheries Act 2020


Thu 12th November 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Ping Pong (Minutes of Proceedings): House of Lords
7 interactions (1,010 words)
Wed 24th June 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
11 interactions (2,087 words)
Mon 22nd June 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
11 interactions (2,911 words)
Wed 11th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
11 interactions (349 words)
Mon 9th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
29 interactions (3,285 words)
Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
16 interactions (1,239 words)
Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber)
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
7 interactions (1,522 words)

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Ping Pong (Minutes of Proceedings): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Thursday 12th November 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

6: Clause 39, page 27, leave out lines 5 to 8

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that we have worked closely with the devolved Administrations in the development of the Bill. This has led to various requests from them for additions to the Bill, many of which could otherwise have been made under their own legislation. The department’s preference is to be collaborative and constructive when working with the devolved Administrations. Given the pressure that parliamentary timetables are facing it was felt that, in this spirit of co-operation, the Government should make these changes for them. These amendments support a collaborative approach to fisheries management across the UK.

We have waited until now to make these changes as we wanted to ensure that the devolved Administrations’ legislative consent processes had been successfully completed before tabling some of these amendments. It was not until Report in the other House that all three DAs consented to the Bill, allowing for the other place to agree a package of amendments relating to the DAs. The amendments relating to the devolved Administrations’ functions can be divided into seven themes, and I shall explain what each theme does.

At the request of all three Administrations, Amendment 10 and consequential Amendments 23 and 40 will enable a sea fish licensing authority to exercise fisheries and related product movement functions on behalf of another such authority. This would facilitate arrangements for one Administration to become a single point of contact for the fishing industry, or to deliver a speedy process on behalf of the other Administrations. This could be used, for example, in relation to verifying catch certificates. Consequential Amendments 6, 15 and 16, 18 to 20, 41, 69, 71 and 75 move definitions so that they apply across the whole Bill.

Turning to technical SI extensions to foreign boats, the Scottish Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, or DAERA, requested that we extend technical fisheries management measures in some of their secondary legislation to foreign boats, as provided for in Amendment 39. Amendments 29 to 38 make consequential changes to Schedule 4 as a result of Amendment 39. These regulations help protect vulnerable stocks, for example by prohibiting the catching of undersized fish. This is in line with our policy of ensuring that any foreign boats given access to UK waters comply with restrictions that apply to UK boats. Similar provisions have been made in Schedule 2 for England and Wales statutory instruments. Noble Lords will understand the pressures of getting the statute book updated in readiness for the end of the transition period. It would have been very challenging for the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to have delivered these changes to secondary legislation themselves.

As for procedural changes, at the request of the Scottish Government, Amendment 43 and consequential Amendment 25 confirm that orders made under Section 22A of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 can be made under the negative procedure, which is not clear under the current drafting. At the request of Scottish Government lawyers, and following advice from UK Government lawyers, these changes are applied retrospectively to remove any uncertainty about the effect of existing Scottish statutory instruments.

Turning to Wales, the definition change and Senedd competence, Amendments 12 and 24 reflect a change requested by the Welsh Government to the definition of “Wales” in primary legislation, consequential on the extension of Welsh competence provided by the Bill in relation to the offshore zone. Additionally, Amendments 7 and 73 clarify that where the Senedd has legislative competence, subject to the consent of a Minister of the Crown, Welsh Ministers will also have equivalent executive competence, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State. Amendment 72 clarifies that the scope of the Welsh Ministers’ powers to make regulations under Clauses 36 and 38 is specific to sea fishing.

Regarding DAERA marine powers and other technical changes to Schedule 10, Amendment 85 and consequential Amendments 86 to 88, 90, 91 and 93 to 96 provide DAERA with the power to manage fishing activity in the Northern Ireland offshore region for the purpose of conserving the marine environment. Similar provision for England and the other devolved Administrations is in Schedule 10. At their request, we are also making minor changes to the powers of the Scottish and Welsh Ministers in Schedule 10 in government Amendments 80 to 84, 89 and 92. These include changes to the parliamentary procedure for some orders and adding time limits to emergency orders made by Scottish Ministers.

In conclusion, I am pleased that the devolved Administrations have now consented to the Bill, which is an excellent example of collaborative working. I hope noble Lords will appreciate the need for this package of amendments agreed to in the other place, which supports the alignment of fisheries management across the UK. I beg to move.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her introduction to this hefty group of amendments. These amendments deal with requests from the devolved Administrations, as she said. Most are consequential on four main amendments. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, I am interested in the way the devolved Administrations have amended the Bill, when during our debates in Committee and on Report we were told that there could be no amendments that might affect the devolved Administrations.

The main amendments are Amendments 10, 12, 39 and 85, alongside a raft of minor drafting amendments. Amendment 10 and the amendments consequential on it—Amendments 15 and 16, 18 to 20, 23, 40 and 41, 69, 71 and 75—provide arrangements for a sea fish licensing authority, which is the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, the Northern Ireland department and the MMO. We support these. Amendments 12 and 24 are consequential on Clause 43 and relate to the interpretation of the Welsh legislation, in both English and Welsh, and to the offshore zone, subject to the Secretary of State’s approval.

Amendment 39, which is extremely important, inserts legislation relating to several regulations affecting shellfish, scallops, sharks, skates and rays, razor clams, et cetera, in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Amendments 29 to 38 are consequential on Amendment 39. The fish and shellfish in the list in this amendment are nearly all endangered in one way or another, and it is important that there is transparency over their protection and that they are not overfished or taken undersized, as the Minister said. The list is extensive; as it is at the request of the devolved Administrations, we are happy to support these amendments, but we make the point that these fish and shellfish need to be sustainable and their stocks carefully monitored.

Amendment 85 and consequential amendments insert new powers into the Schedule for the Northern Ireland department relating to exploitation of sea fishery resources in its offshore region. This also includes consultation with the Secretary of State, the MMO, and Scottish and Welsh Ministers. Consultation has risen rapidly up the fishing agenda on a range of matters, and consultation with the devolved Administrations is essential. The sheer number of amendments we are debating today indicates that some of this can be very last minute—that is a bit of a danger. However, there are legitimate reasons for these amendments and for them being so late, so we support them, albeit at a somewhat late stage of the process.

Break in Debate

I ask the Minister to confirm that this was just a one-off and is not intended to be a regular occurrence. As I say, I have a sense of unease about what has happened here. I am not going to say any more about it. I am pleased that constructive discussions are taking place, but just wanted to raise a note of caution. Perhaps the noble Baroness could respond.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, there has been much debate on the challenges posed by devolution in previous stages of the Bill, and the amendments made for the devolved Administrations in the other place demonstrate opportunities that will be open to us in the future to work positively across the four nations of the UK. I acknowledge the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, but genuinely feel that this was a timing issue. As the Fisheries Bill was introduced in this House, it gave us more time to introduce them at this stage, when it came back to us, once conversations had concluded and after it became clear that there would be no time for the devolved Administrations to pass their own legislation, and we would therefore be in a position to do so on their behalf.

I am grateful for the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and for her support. I am particularly grateful for her comments on Amendment 39. The whole intention of extending this list is for us to preserve stocks from an extensive list of species. I am glad that, through constructive and collaborative working with the devolved Administrations, we have been able to deliver a Bill that is truly for the whole UK. I beg to move.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have received a request to ask a short question of elucidation from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. Lord Adonis?

I have to inform the House that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is proposing to speak in Grand Committee and his request has arrived, somewhat erratically, at the wrong Chamber.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for this amendment. She has proposed three conditions that the Secretary of State should meet when making regulations to permit the sale of fishing opportunities in England. The noble Baroness speaks with great authority, having chaired the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee in the other place. She has made a powerful case against potential abuses under proposed new paragraphs (a) and (b). For example, large quota holders could mop up quota as a quota trader and then later resell unused quota, or the other case is where a sofa fisher—that is, a non-active fisher—could trade quota. Incidentally, I cannot quite believe the scurrilous gossip that football clubs would be interested in such activities, especially as they are not registered fishers.

Be that as it may, the amendment might appear to be in difficulty where there might need to be emergency provisions in a given situation. Furthermore, there might be unintended consequences. The amendment does not provide a definition of a non-active fisher. Would someone who inherited a family member’s business and its vessel potentially find themselves frozen out of the bidding process because that vessel had not gone to sea in a previous year? Would this provision exclude those whose boats had been undergoing extensive maintenance, or even new entrants with no previous catch quota?

We support the third provision in the amendment in relation to prioritising the sale of rights to the under-10 metre fleet. This ability is enshrined in our Amendment 29 which we debated earlier. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide detailed assurances that the noble Baroness is clearly looking for in identifying this potential abuse.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her amendment, which seeks to place additional requirements were the Government to introduce schemes for the sale of rights to use fishing quota in England. These include requirements that rights must not be sold to non-active fishers and are prioritised for sale to under-10 metre vessels. As noble Lords will be aware, Clause 27 relates to the sale to English boats of rights to use fishing quota for set periods of time. It provides the necessary powers for the Government to make regulations in the future allowing the auction or tender of such rights in England. It is important to note that such rights may be sold for only a fixed period and do not give rise to any long-term rights to quota, which will impact on their tradability.

The Bill as drafted provides flexibility for any scheme to be tailored to future needs. This includes broad powers for the Secretary of State to specify persons or descriptions of persons who are eligible or ineligible to buy these fishing opportunities. This includes all of the criteria set out by my noble friend in her amendment. Clause 27(3)(d) allows any scheme to specify the persons or descriptions of persons who are eligible or ineligible to buy rights. Clause 27(3)(h) allows a scheme to permit rights to be sold or not to be sold to a person who meets certain conditions. Clause 27(3)(k) and (l) allow any scheme to permit or to prohibit the transfer of rights.

In England, we will tailor any auction scheme to our marine environment and fishing industry. The criteria to be applied to any future auction or tender could address concerns raised in relation to the under-10-metre fleet. Measures could be introduced to limit the lots being tendered, the amount of time they are tendered for and the groups they are targeted towards. The Government would fully consult on the scheme and any allocation criteria before it was introduced. It would be unhelpful to restrict the scheme before we had competed that consultation.

With regard to my noble friend’s point about whether fishing rights could be sold after purchase, that would be determined when developing any such scheme. The Government could place restrictions on this, including restricting the onward sale of certain stocks upon which different parts of the English fleet place more importance. However, it might be appropriate to allow the onward sale of rights to use some stocks. This could provide flexibility to the industry and allow rights to be exchanged throughout the year in response to market conditions, weather patterns and suchlike. Fishing is not always a predictable business and it is important that the industry can adapt to changing circumstances.

To summarise, under the current drafting in the Bill the Government can already introduce the provisions set out in the amendment. It is also right that the specific arrangements or criteria for any auction scheme are developed in consultation with stakeholders, rather than being prescribed in advance. The scheme will be consulted on and will be brought forward under the affirmative procedure, so noble Lords will have the chance to debate the structure at that point. The consultation and parliamentary scrutiny processes should ensure that stakeholders’ views are fed into the setting up of the scheme.

With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to those who have contributed to this short debate, and I thank my noble friend Lady Bloomfield for her remarks.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, under whom I have the honour to serve on the EU environment sub-committee, rightly identified the comparison with milk quotas and explained why that would be regrettable. I thought that the scheme that he described for Cornwall was a good one and would not trade the quota for use by anyone other than active fishermen.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for his kind remarks. He pointed out the slight deficiency in the amendment, which at this stage I tabled more for the purposes of debate. I congratulate him on potentially securing the position of under-10-metre vessels through the adoption of his amendment earlier this afternoon.

I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lady Bloomfield for confirming that this issue will be set out in more detail through the affirmative procedure. With those few remarks, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for her amendment and pay tribute to her determination and dedication in tabling amendments to reinterpret the Bill and seize the opportunity to create new arrangements. Already in Committee the noble Baroness proposed a new Clause 27, and after deliberation has now proposed a slightly different approach in her Amendment 35B. This proposes a key task for the disposal authority of fishing opportunities and nominates the Crown Estate commissioners in a new role as representatives of the Crown who would now hold fishing opportunities in trust for the nation and would have to report on their performance in discharging their duties. While the current Clause 27 would give Parliament a role in approving regulations prior to the sale of fishing opportunities, I do not believe that there is currently any role for Parliament in reviewing the successes or otherwise of this process. The idea of an end of year review is therefore an interesting proposition and I hope that the Minister will address this in her response.

This new proposed approach seems to outsource responsibility for selling fishing rights in England, severely curtailing the opportunities for Parliament to be involved in any meaningful way. Have the Crown Estate commissioners the necessary experience and expertise? There does not appear to be a role in this amendment for the Marine Management Organisation and others under the drafting of new Clause (2)(c). There remain other real questions about how this process will work in practice and how we would ensure that this system would be better than the one we currently have. I believe that the Minister has previously committed to consulting on this—can she set out in any more detail what this process might look like and when it will take place?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Baroness’s amendment, which seeks to establish how English fishing opportunities will be managed. This includes stating that English fishing opportunities are vested in Her Majesty and establishing the Crown Estate commissioners as the disposal authority for English fishing opportunities. I have already spoken on a number of points within this amendment on Report and I will not labour them but will instead focus on the other parts of this amendment.

The first is a technical point: there is no such thing as an English fishery. There are very many fisheries within the English fishing zone and it is not clear whether the amendment is intended to catch fisheries across UK waters, some of which will be managed by the devolved Administrations. It is unclear what the amendment would invest in Her Majesty.

I have already said that the Government are clear that there is a public right to fish in the sea. Indeed, case law has demonstrated that the Crown, through the Government, has the right to regulate the use of fishing rights, as well as other natural resources such as water and oil.

As noble Lords will be aware, most UK and English fishing opportunities are managed through fixed-quota allocations. I have spoken before about FQA units, which have been held by the High Court to be a form of property right, and it is the Government’s current policy to maintain the FQA system for existing quota.

It is unclear how the amendment would work in relation to the disposal authority allocating English fishing opportunities. The Marine Management Organisation is the existing English fisheries administration and is responsible for allocating fishing opportunities and managing vessel licences. As read, the amendment would place some of these responsibilities with the Crown Estate commissioners instead. Replacing the Marine Management Organisation and part of the role that it performs with the Crown Estate commissioners would require significant restructuring of both organisations.

I make it clear that the Crown Estate commissioners are a statutory corporation set up to manage the Crown Estate on a commercial basis. That includes managing the seabed around England and other parts of the UK, and it is very different from managing fisheries. The powers, expertise and operational assets needed to manage these fisheries reside with the Marine Management Organisation. It is not clear what benefit restructuring these two organisations would bring, but it is clear that it would cause upheaval and confusion.

As noble Lords will be aware, Clause 27 currently relates to the sale to English boats of rights to use fishing quota for set periods of time. I have spoken before about the provisions for the Government to make regulations in the future allowing the auction or tender of such rights in England. This amendment would replace the detailed provisions set out in Clause 27 on how such a scheme would work. This would make the Secretary of State’s functions unclear, and any such future scheme in relation to the sale of English fishing opportunities less transparent.

As discussed on Monday, I emphasise that we are in agreement that fish are a public resource held by the Crown for the benefit of the public, and that no individual may own either the fish themselves or any permanent right to fish for them. Equally, let me be clear on why the Government cannot accept the amendment. Although FQA units do not represent a permanent right to quota, the High Court has recognised them as a property right and we do not want to undermine the current regime. I emphasise to noble Lords that, although we are looking at developing a new system for additional quota negotiated during the transition period, the Government want to maintain certainty and stability for the fishing industry and have made it clear that we do not intend to change the FQA system.

The amendment also raises significant concerns around changing the responsible authority for allocating and managing English fishing opportunities, which the Government believe to be unnecessary.

Finally, the Government believe that the amendment would make any future scheme to sell English fishing opportunities less transparent.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked how we would guarantee that some of the auction quota supported the under-10 metre fleet and smaller vessels. In England, the decision about whether to tender any quota is still being considered. Clause 27 of the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations to auction or tender quota in future, and the criteria to be applied to any auction or tender could address concerns raised in relation to the under-10 metre fleet. Measures could be introduced to limit the lots being tendered, the amount of time they are tendered for and the groups that they are targeted towards.

The noble Baroness also observed that a lot of very wealthy fishermen already own the vast majority of quota. All I can say is that auctioning is being considered as a possible allocation, but price would not be the sole criterion. We would consult on any scheme, including the allocation criteria, which could include sustainability criteria, and we would also explore running trials first.

I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, if I have not answered all her questions. The line was not very good. I will read Hansard after we finish here and, if there are any other issues that I have not addressed today, I will write to her and place a copy in the Library.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Apologies if my contribution was not clear. I thank the Minister for her reply, but I am afraid my specific questions were not answered about the legal position of what allocates from the Crown to the Government the right to distribute fishing rights—so I would welcome further explanation.

This is fundamental to the Bill. We understand that we have a system that at the moment is dominated by a handful of very powerful vested interests, and that is distorting our ability to reinvent our fisheries legislation. I feel strongly that we need a new approach. The Minister stated that this would be an upheaval. I agree; it is exactly the sort of upheaval that we should be seeking to enable.

The current system is not working for the benefit of the many; it is working for the benefit of a few. We need to find a better system and ensure that a public asset is being properly managed, not simply handed out for free on the basis of historical allocation. We need a new—[Inaudible.]

This was not intended to be taken to a Division; it was to stimulate thinking and debate. I hope that, through the process of consultation outlined by the Minister, we can continue to explore options to improve the status quo. We have a unique opportunity—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, most likely—to try to do this differently. There are good examples of how the Crown manages complex issues to do with allowing economic development while, at the same time, balancing environmental considerations and long-term thinking. The current system is not fit for purpose, but it would be great to use this opportunity to introduce something new. An upheaval, to my mind, is a good thing, but at this stage I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for proposing the amendment, which would require Ministers to

“have regard to the fisheries objectives”

in all relevant international negotiations, not just those relating wholly to fisheries. That is a welcome approach, particularly given the added emphasis that we have sought to place on sustainability and climate issues throughout the Bill’s passage.

Just as Ministers have to account for commitments set out in domestic climate change legislation and international treaties, it seems appropriate that they should also have regard to the fisheries objectives that we have spent so much time debating over recent months. I agree with the noble Lord’s argument that fisheries and trade cannot be separated into distinct propositions.

We know from previous ministerial responses that the Government are committed to upholding their international obligations, and that such obligations will feature heavily in the discussions that Ministers and their officials have with neighbouring coastal states. The Minister will no doubt have reasons why this matter does not have to be addressed in the Bill, but it would be all the more convincing to coastal communities to see this commitment enshrined for posterity at this opportune moment. I need not remind the House that the new trading relationships with the EU have yet to be concluded.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend Lord Lansley’s amendment, which would require any Secretary of State and other Ministers of the Crown to have regard to the fisheries objectives in Clause 1 when negotiating international agreements relevant to fisheries. I note his concerns and appreciate his usual analytical approach in supporting his arguments. I support my noble friend’s desire to ensure that relevant international agreements support the achievement of the fisheries objectives. I reassure noble Lords that there are already provisions in the Bill, along with cross-Whitehall processes, that achieve this. I therefore think that this point is already covered.

As the House heard on Monday in relation to the amendments discussed then, policies on international negotiations on fisheries will be included in the joint fisheries statement, as international co-operation will be essential to achieving the objectives defined in Clause 1. Clause 10(1) requires fisheries authorities to exercise their functions in accordance with the policies in the joint fisheries statement, unless a relevant change of circumstances indicates otherwise.

As a matter of collective responsibility, all UK Government Ministers are required to abide by decisions on government policy. The joint fisheries statement will therefore be binding across government. In exercising their functions with regard to international negotiations, Ministers would have to do so in accordance with the policies in the joint fisheries statement, and thus the fisheries objectives.

My noble friend will also be aware, from his time in government and in the other place, that a proposed negotiating position is subject to government write-round as a matter of course. This ensures that, as part of collective responsibility, the interests of all Ministers are represented and incorporated into decisions, and collective agreement must be obtained.

If a negotiating position on a matter relevant to fisheries was proposed by another department which was contrary to the achievement of the fisheries objectives, the Defra Secretary of State would therefore have the opportunity to resolve this through Cabinet committee discussion. This established process provides a further safeguard to ensure that international negotiations undertaken by other departments, and which may have an indirect impact on fisheries matters—for example, negotiations relating to product labelling and product standards—have due regard to the fisheries objectives.

Further, it is the intention of the Bill to focus on fisheries management and fisheries policies. There is a risk that this amendment, as worded, would significantly broaden that scope, requiring any Minister in any department, during any negotiation, to consider the impact on fisheries, however tangential this might be. The combination of the provisions in the Bill regarding the joint fisheries statement, and the existing collective responsibility obligations on Ministers, ensures that Ministers involved in international negotiations will have regard to the fisheries objectives.

My noble friend mentioned the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s Statement in the other place, on 19 May. He said that:

“The EU, essentially, wants us to obey the rules of its club, even though we are no longer members, and it wants the same access to our fishing grounds as it currently enjoys while restricting our access to its markets.”—[Official Report, Commons, 19/5/20; col. 503.]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was actually setting out the EU’s position, not advocating it as the UK Government’s position.

I would also like to mention at this point that we have had several rounds of discussions with Norway about our future fisheries relationship. Those discussions have been very constructive, and we look forward to concluding an agreement with Norway in the coming weeks. As my noble friend also observed, there are indeed grounds for optimism, about both pace and compromise, in our negotiations with the EU.

With this explanation, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am most grateful to all noble Lords who participated in this short debate. It was an important one, not least for the assurances that my noble friend has given us in response. That was very helpful in making it clear how government processes will ensure that while the fisheries policy authorities might apply to the Secretary of State, they will be treated as the responsibility of government as a whole in any international negotiations relevant to fisheries policy.

In customary times, my noble friend Lord Naseby and I are neighbours on the Benches back here. In best “Yes Minister” fashion, I shall say that, in future, I will always have regard to his views and take them into account.

I completely understand what my noble friend said about the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s remarks. He was describing the European Union’s position, and he was also describing the reality of negotiations. In these negotiations, trade, market access and quota will all be leveraged, one against the other; we have to understand and accept that, and deal with it. But that is a matter for the negotiations; what we are looking for in this debate is that the fisheries objectives are not pushed to one side. I am heartened by my noble friend’s response and her assurances. On those grounds, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Monday 22nd June 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, raise interesting points on the economic benefits that we want fishing-related activities to generate. This is an area that was touched on by several groups of amendments and it is the core focus around Amendment 22, tabled in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch. Fishing might be a small sector when compared to other parts of the economy, but that should not diminish its importance, particularly at the local community level, where it is key to many people’s sense of identity as well as their employment opportunities.

The measures in this Bill are supposedly designed to help fisheries flourish. It therefore struck me as slightly perverse that the original version of the Bill included employment as part of the sustainability objective but not as part of the national benefit objective. I cannot believe that the Government, who have so often claimed to be on the side of coastal communities, do not believe that boosting employment in the fisheries sector is in the national interest and that fishing activities have to be so managed as to contribute to economic well-being.

In Amendment 4, there is a case for looking at the revision of the national benefit objective, and for including something on economic and employment benefits in relation to licensing conditions. I am sure that the Minister will say that employment is implicitly included under the socioeconomic heading. If that is the case, why did the Government include explicit reference to it elsewhere in the Bill?

While these amendments are important, I believe the later amendments will have a more significant impact when it comes to strengthening the social, economic and employment benefits of fisheries and aquaculture activities.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for Amendment 4, which seeks to make sure that fishing and aquaculture activities contribute to communities around the UK. I share his optimism with regard to reaching an agreement soon.

These are indeed very important sectors. This is in part due to the role they play in the communities in which they are located, largely in coastal areas, but also because of the wider contribution they make in providing a vital source of food for the nation. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity my noble and learned friend has provided for me to highlight that the Government have already included provisions in the Bill to address these matters and so to illustrate why this amendment is not required.

One limb of the sustainability objective in Clause 1 already seeks to ensure that fish and aquaculture activities are managed so as to achieve economic, social and employment benefits. The Bill requires the fisheries administrations to set out their policies for achieving this objective and the other objectives in the legally binding joint fisheries statement. I suggest that this regime already provided for in the Bill is more appropriate for the development and implementation of socioeconomic policies than is the use of vessel licence conditions. Vessel licence conditions are more commonly used for matters relating to where a vessel can fish, how it can do so and where it must land fish. In England the Marine Management Organisation is the licensing authority. While it may be appropriate for the MMO to impose conditions relating to fishing activities, policies on socioeconomic and employment matters are for Ministers.

Amendment 23 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lansley sets out an approach very much in line with the Government’s general policy on the economic link, in that it seeks to clarify that the sea fish licensing authorities have the power to ensure that an economic link exists between the vessels they license and the United Kingdom, or parts of the United Kingdom. I reassure my noble friend that the licensing provisions in Schedule 3 to the Bill reproduce but give greater clarity to the licensing powers provided for in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. Lawyers have confirmed that these powers already provide sufficient scope for the sea fish licensing authorities to include in all licences issued to UK fishing vessels an economic link that ensures that economic benefits accrue to the United Kingdom.

As I have explained previously, this condition can be met by vessels fishing against UK quota through a variety of ways: landing at least 50% of their quota stock catch into UK ports; employing a crew at least 50% of whom are normally UK resident; spending at least 50% of operating expenditure in UK coastal areas; or demonstrating an economic link in another way, usually through the donation of quota to the under-10-metre pool.

I hope it will reassure my noble friend that the Government have been clear that they intend to review the economic condition in England this year, with a view to it following the end of the transition period. This was noted in our fisheries White Paper, and I have restated this intent in earlier debates on this Bill. Vessel licensing is a devolved matter, and the Scottish Government carried out their own consultation on proposed changes to economic link conditions in their licensing in 2017.

I would like to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, that the Government fully intend to encourage the regeneration of coastal communities and that this is the purpose of the economic link. Indeed, this Bill reflects the Government’s vision for a thriving, vibrant fishing industry in all four nations. The noble Baroness also asked about the Home Office adjudication on migration and people who could be employed by the fishing industry; I believe we have been able to provide some reassurance in that regard.

In answer to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, the Government have worked closely with all the devolved Administrations to establish the fisheries objectives for the whole of the UK, including the setting of the sustainability objective. Economic and social benefits are the key pillars of these objectives, and policies in these areas will be set out in the joint fisheries statement. As I have said already, vessel licensing is a devolved matter and the Scottish Government have already carried out their own consultation.

In summary, this Bill provides the powers necessary to continue including the existing economic link in vessel licences. It also provides powers to introduce other measures for ensuring that economic and social benefits accrue to the UK from the fishing activity of the UK fishing fleet. I hope that this will assure my noble and learned friend that this is an area that has already been carefully considered by the Government and provided for within the Bill and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am highly satisfied with that answer and with pleasure I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, for tabling these amendments. My noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch tabled similar elements in Committee following discussions with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, and we welcome the opportunity for the Minister to elaborate on the earlier response.

As was said on the last group of amendments, there are clear benefits to promoting jobs in fisheries and aquaculture. If we want to encourage new entrants into the sector, as my Amendment 29 seeks to do, we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support that. Amendments 5 and 6 outline steps that may help to move things forward. The new clause of the Bill proposed in Amendment 6 would require the Government to publish a strategy outlining steps to enhance the safety of crew and provide better training opportunities that will surely be needed in activities to adapt to climate change. The Minister assured the House in Committee that all these points are covered and that responsibilities exist across various departments and agencies, as spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. That may be the case on one level, but the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations would not have felt the need to push for such amendments to the Bill if it felt that the current system was working properly and producing results.

The Minister said in Committee that this is an area where we have a duty to coastal communities to show that we are on their side. I hope that the Minister can do that by going further in response today, including acknowledging that demands for safe working practices need to be reflected here and that there is always more that can be done.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay’s proposed amendments on two crucial aspects facing the fishing industry—namely, making it safer and more attractive to work in. As my noble friend Lord Lansley said, we can all only agree with the spirit of these two amendments.

I will address the issues in turn, but first I want to clarify my comments to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. I will write to her specifically on the question of Filipino crew, but on 28 January this year the Migration Advisory Committee published its report to the Home Secretary on a points-based immigration system. The Government are currently considering the report’s recommendations before setting out further details on the UK’s future immigration system. As I have said, I will write with further details and put a copy in the Library.

I will address in turn the issues raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay. As we reflected at Second Reading, commercial fishing is without doubt one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. The industry still loses too many lives and fishermen suffer too many often life-changing injuries. I think we all agree that more needs to be done. However, I am not convinced that more legislation, or indeed yet another strategy, is the way forward here. What is perhaps needed is better implementation of the existing and extensive framework of legislation and training and, above all, behaviour change from within the industry itself.

I am pleased to see how innovation has also helped in the design of personal flotation devices, which are much better designed and interfere less with what is often a very manual job. These modern PFDs, as they are known, can include personal locator beacons, which can speed up the search in the unfortunate event of someone going overboard. Technology and innovation are helping, and attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. However, I am afraid there are still pockets where the wearing of personal flotation devices is ridiculed or where, perhaps through habit or poor judgment about risk, they are not worn at the most appropriate times—for example, when getting on and off vessels.

It is perhaps helpful to again set out briefly that extensive support and material are already available. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency publishes a guide to fishermen’s safety, which is updated regularly. This comprehensive guide covers over 100 pages of responsibilities, obligations, risk assessment, vessel safety, personal safety, fishing operations, health and welfare, emergencies and training, and this helps to navigate through the comprehensive legislation already in place. On top of this, the Sea Fish Industry Authority collaborates closely with the industry, with government and with other organisations to help reduce the number of fatalities and accidents that involve fishermen, and to improve overall safety at sea. Working closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the RNLI, this work includes the development and delivery of safety training courses for fishermen. I am pleased that the industry itself is taking the issue seriously, with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations having a dedicated safety and training officer. The NFFO and Scottish Fishermen’s Federation have both produced a wealth of material on the subject, and also represent the sector on a number of boards and committees relating to safety.

Clearly, Covid-19 has created new challenges for the fishing industry to remain safe while working at sea. The Government’s outdoor working guidance provides guidelines for businesses to conduct risk assessments and to create a working environment that is as safe as possible in these difficult circumstances. The Government have also set up a safer working group for the English industry, with representatives from across the different sectors of the fishing industry, local government, the MCA and the MMO to help industry bodies collaborate with each other and with enforcement bodies on safer working practices and materials. We will continue to support the industry to disseminate messages on safer working from the existing Government guidance and industry-led initiatives.

Turning now to the issue of ensuring that the infrastructure for a sustainable work force is in place, Seafish has a fishermen’s training team which again produces a plethora of material and co-ordinates training opportunities, and which works very closely with the industry. I am pleased to note that Seafish and the training providers have adapted this, given the Covid-19 situation. In answer to the question from my noble friend Lord Lansley about our work with Seafish, both the Department for Transport and the MCA have funded almost £3 million-worth of safety training for free since 2008, and this has been matched by Seafish using European funding schemes, delivering nearly 4,000 training courses and over 26,000 training places.

I would also point to the very good work of the seafood industry leadership group, again established by Seafish, to deliver Seafood 2040, a strategic framework for England. This initiative will deliver a single cross-sector seafood training and skills plan, aiming to support businesses in the seafood supply chain to recruit workers with suitable skills. The industry has to take responsibility, too, for the sustainable development of the sector, thinking about how it can make itself more attractive to new entrants, perhaps through pay and different contractual and employment practices, and also looking to the future, thinking about automation and technology. With this explanation, I hope that my noble and learned friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very happy to withdraw Amendment 5, and not to move Amendment 6. I thank the Minister for her very helpful comments on both groups of amendments I have spoken to this evening, and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I am glad to think that I am going to be silent for a little while now.

Break in Debate

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 14 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and I apologise to him that I did not add my name to it. Somehow, in my muddle of the various sheets of amendments, I managed to miss this one until I saw it on the Marshalled List.

When I made my plea in Committee for the need for much firmer links between the aspirational objectives in Clause 1 and the more practical implementation details in the rest of the Bill, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, was sympathetic to the principles that I tried to set out but, rightly, with his superior expertise, was not in favour of the way that I approached it or, for that matter, the wording of my amendment.

This, of course, is a much better amendment, which is why I should have added my name to it. Instead of starting from the objectives and looking forward to the various plans and statements, as I did, it takes the fisheries management plans and ties them in and back to the objectives, which is a much more sensible way of doing it. The same applies to Amendment 51, which we will come to on Wednesday and which ties international agreements on fisheries back into the fisheries objectives. Therefore, rather than repeating myself then, I announce now my support for that amendment.

In the same way as the Government have just accepted that the principles inherent in the objectives should be spelled out in the new Clause 25 with reference to the distribution of fishing opportunities, it seems to me that Amendment 14, tying the fisheries management plans back to the objectives, would be a very useful improvement to the Bill and worthy of government support.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving Amendment 10 and I welcome the opportunity to clarify how the Bill already meets its aims.

I reassure your Lordships that the Bill already enables fisheries managers to ensure that stocks are restored to MSY levels, and it is flexible enough for that to be future-proofed. Sustainable levels are at MSY or better, and this is made clear in the definition of “sustainable level” in Clause 48. Therefore, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, or my noble friend Lord Randall that we are not being ambitious enough. Indeed, where scientific evidence indicates this, the provisions would allow more ambitious alternatives to be used, and that is the direction of travel in which we are taking fisheries management in the UK.

The potential prize here is high. Hake stocks in the north-east Atlantic are an example of how stocks can be rebuilt when managing fisheries to maximum sustainable yield principles. Between 1985 and 2003, these stocks were in continual decline owing to overfishing. As a result of international action, supported and encouraged by the UK, we have successfully reversed the decline in the stocks. They are now around five times larger, and the value of hake landed by the UK has grown in real terms from £7.6 million in 2003 to £28.2 million today.

I turn to Amendment 14, tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I recognise that this amendment is intended to help provide assurance that fisheries management plans complement the policies of the joint fisheries statement and are proportionate and balanced in their pursuit of the objectives contained in the Bill. I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for giving me the opportunity to explain how the Bill already seeks to address this aim.

Clause 2 integrates fisheries management plans into the structure of the JFS, requiring that the JFS contains a statement setting out how the fisheries authorities intend to make use of fisheries management plans to achieve the objectives. Each individual plan must then comply with this overarching statement. Fisheries administrations will also be bound by the provisions in Clause 2(2)(c) to explain how the objectives of the Bill have been interpreted and applied proportionately in relation to not only the joint fisheries statement but fisheries management plans. I think that that demonstrates the discipline that my noble and learned friend requires.

I turn now to Amendments 15 and 17, which deal with consultation matters. As your Lordships are aware, the Government will be under a statutory duty to consult on the draft joint fisheries statement, including on details of the Government’s proposals for fisheries management plans. Furthermore, there is a statutory duty to consult on those plans. Given that the JFS will set the policy framework that the fisheries management plans will help implement, it would not be desirable or practical to consult on the plans separately from, and potentially ahead of, consulting on the JFS. Using different timeframes would risk creating unintended consequences from a lack of consistency between the content of the plans and the statement.

The Government are committed to working in close collaboration with the fishing sector. We already regularly meet stakeholders from across the spectrum to discuss matters of interest. For instance, we are active participants in the Future of Our Inshore Fisheries project, as well as in industry-led groups, such as the scallop industry consultation group and the newly created shellfish industry advisory group. We have a monthly external advisory group, and meet stakeholders and industry on specific issues, ranging from the landing obligation to the impacts of Covid-19.

I very much agree with the principle that local stakeholders and industry representatives will often have the best understanding of their area and can offer more practical solutions to tackle pressing local issues, but I believe that the existing consultation requirements in the Bill are actually wider than those mentioned in the amendments. Schedule 1 to the Bill makes it clear that all the fisheries administrations must consult

“any persons appearing to the fisheries policy authorities to be likely to be interested in, or affected by, the policies contained in the consultation draft”.

This is true both in respect of the joint fisheries statement and individual fisheries management plans.

I can therefore confirm that the Bill already requires the Government to consult with all those parties listed in Amendment 17 on fisheries management plans and on policies in the joint fisheries statement. Furthermore, the provisions in the Bill would include other interested parties where relevant, such as environmental NGOs, recreational anglers or other sea users.

On Amendment 16, I reassure the noble Lord that the Government are committed to using the best available scientific advice. However, the drafting of this clause was a conscious and considered choice, and not an oversight. It is intended to ensure that we are able to take a flexible approach, and that includes considering all the available scientific evidence that can be turned into best advice. For example, if evidence suggested that a fish stock was suddenly in steep decline, the precautionary approach might necessitate that we take urgent action based on available evidence, even if, in parallel, we sought to commission new research to improve our evidence base. In these circumstances, we would not want uncertainty to lead to inaction.

Finally, turning to Amendment 54, we discussed a very similar amendment previously, and I welcome the opportunity to reiterate how the Bill, as drafted, with the objectives carefully balanced, will help us secure economic and social benefit for our fishermen and for the country. Economic benefit is already integral to the fisheries objectives and will be a key element of the joint fisheries statement. The sustainability objective explicitly includes an ambition to ensure that fisheries activities are managed to achieve economic and social benefits, and economic benefits are also explicitly recognised in the national benefit objective.

As my noble friend the Minister outlined earlier in this debate, the Government are committed to a balanced Bill, in which economic, social and environmental benefits are considered collectively. As your Lordships know, the Government believe that the joint fisheries statement is the right mechanism through which to balance these three equally important pillars of sustainable development. I am concerned that a statement on economic benefits, so early, and by the Secretary of State alone, would undermine the balance between the objectives and the consensus that we hope to achieve through the JFS. Furthermore, with the Bill not likely to receive Royal Assent before the autumn, the requirement to produce a statement by January 2021 would leave very little room for considered policy development in any event.

This is not to say that the Government cannot act in the meantime. For instance, as your Lordships will be aware, they have provided £10 million to support and sustain the industry through the current difficult times. That said, in setting out something as important as our longer-term policies to realise the environmental, economic and social benefits that the Bill enables, the Government believe that these belong in the joint fisheries statement.

With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that reply. I have looked at Clause 48 and I have to admit that she is right. There we are: I am wrong; the Minister is right. It is unfortunate that the Bill reads so unambitiously, but I accept entirely that the definitions in Clause 48, which I have used in other amendments, are right.

I thank the Minister for responding to Amendment 17, which I entirely forgot to talk to because I did not turn over the page of my brief. In many ways it is the most important of the amendments I tabled because consultation is really important. I was reassured, to a degree, by the various organisations that she mentioned. As we know, government consultation can sometimes be just to avoid a judicial review and other consultations affect policy. I thank the Minister for stressing the positive side, rather than the other. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone for moving Amendment 121, which allows the Committee to probe into the consultation process, the input consultation and from where it comes, in relation to the regulation-making process powers in the regulation concerning fisheries and aquaculture, and to the devolved Administrations and the joint fisheries statements.

This proposed amendment to Clause 41 widens the consultation process to include Parliament in a quasi super-affirmative, as well as wider industry bodies under proposed subsection (1A)(d). The drafting of subsection (2) makes the resolution affirmative—that is, with the express approval of Parliament—in certain fundamental aspects only. Yet this does not include the wider industry. Can the Minister confirm whether the affirmative procedure necessitates a wider industry consultation in this respect only?

As my noble friend has said, this wider consultation allows for ideas and concerns to be fed into the system and duly considered before a final instrument is laid. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for his remarks. The Committee, over the past three sessions, has expressed disappointment at the lack of ambition in the Bill: it does not take UK fisheries much further than replicating the CFP. It is vital that forthcoming regulations have the full scrutiny that this wider consultation would demand.

Should the Minister consider that there are adequate opportunities for scrutiny and consultation in this clause—and the Bill in general—I hope she will provide additional assurances by specifying how this would work.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone; I understand her desire to support better scrutiny of secondary legislation.

Amendment 121 would add a new enhanced parliamentary procedure for regulations made under Clauses 36 and 38. Under this amendment,

“The Secretary of State must … have regard to any representations”

made during the consultation period, and respond to any resolutions of either House and any recommendations made by the Select Committee. The powers under Clauses 36 and 38 will, among other things, allow us to continue to meet our international obligations as members of the regional fisheries management organisations, make amendments to technical requirements in retained CFP measures and keep our aquatic animal health regulations up to date.

I would like to give some examples of the technical regulations that we might make using this power. We could specify new avoidance measures that fishers should take to minimise the risk of by-catch of fish or of marine mammals, marine reptiles, seabirds, and other non-commercially exploited species: provision for this could be made under Clause 36(4)(d). Clause 36(4)(e) could be used to amend measures on mesh sizes and minimum landing sizes in several EU technical standards regulations which will become part of retained EU law in the future. These are important matters, but I am not convinced that we need an additional layer of parliamentary scrutiny for these types of technical regulations.

Break in Debate

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her reply. I did not really hope or dare to dream that the Government would roll over on this one. I take the point that flexibility and improvements are important and that many of these pieces of secondary legislation will be about technical issues. But the question of ambition in this Bill comes into play here. The reality is that there could be instances where consultees would want to see more rather than less ambition in some of these technical solutions. When there is no ability to look at these statutory instruments in draft before they are laid, it becomes impossible to insert anything at that stage of the process. I am distraught and disappointed as usual when I talk about scrutiny of secondary legislation.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I reiterate what I said about the amendment. It also replicates a duty in Clause 41(1) to consult the devolved Administrations and all other interested parties before making regulations.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that clarification. I shall read Clause 41 more closely and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will speak very briefly. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Randall, for proposing these amendments.

As the noble Lord said, Amendment 123 seeks a consultation exercise on how fisheries regulation activities can be rationalised or better shared. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made a very good case for better co-ordination, particularly between the IFCAs and the MMO. Again, we all acknowledge his considerable experience in this regard. We would hope that this is something that the department is doing anyway, particularly as part of the repatriation of policy from the EU. However, I agree very much with the noble Lord that there is further work to be done on this and that this information should be made available to Parliament for further consideration and debate. Therefore, it would be helpful to have this as a requirement in the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall, has made a very simple proposal about changing the Short Title of the Bill to “Fisheries and Marine Conservation Bill”. It is a simple idea, but we very much support the amendment. It encapsulates many of the preceding debates we have had. It is clear that we do not want to put an artificial divide, with marine conservation being dealt with in the Environment Bill rather than as part of the Fisheries Bill, as we think it should be. This is important and it is a central principle here. As the noble Lord, Lord Randall, made clear, this Bill is not just about the industry; the decisions we are making have all sorts of wider ramifications and knock-on effects.

We have so much more to do in delivering the rollout of the blue belt of marine conservation areas. The amendment underlines the importance of marine planning in the conservation of our fishing stocks. As the noble Lord said, changing the title of the Bill would send an important message in this regard, so we share the hope that the Minister will see that this simple and helpful suggestion is something that the Government could support. Therefore, we add our support to the noble Lord’s suggestion.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful for Amendment 123, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I welcome the opportunity to set out the arrangements already in place for ensuring such co-ordination, because I believe the Bill supports the aims of the noble Lord’s amendment. I will address the amendment as two parts.

First, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine Management Organisation have distinct and separate regulatory functions. The MCA is responsible for providing a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast, as well as producing legislation and guidance on maritime matters, and certification for seafarers. The MCA is sponsored by the Department for Transport, as its responsibilities relate to vessels and infrastructure. By contrast, the MMO licenses, regulates and plans marine activities in the seas around England to ensure they are carried out in a sustainable way.

Notwithstanding this distinction, there are areas of shared interest where these organisations already co-ordinate and work jointly to achieve their regulatory purpose effectively. This includes the operation of aerial assets for monitoring and surveillance, the collocation of personnel in the Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre, and intelligence sharing. Opportunities for further collaboration and efficiencies are still being identified.

Turning to the second part of the proposed amendment, I do take on board the concerns referred to by the noble Lord, particularly given his experience, and I will take those back to the department. The MMO and inshore fisheries and conservation authorities, or IFCAs, are working collaboratively increasingly well. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to which the noble Lord referred, enshrines consistent and co-ordinated co-operation in the general objective and duty to co-operate provisions.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Monday 9th March 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I add my support for Amendment 81 on the equitable treatment of British and foreign-licensed boats. I would have added my support to the previous group of amendments on remote electronic monitoring, but the mood of the House was not for another person to stand up and agree. But I will do so now.

We will be in close negotiations with the European Union, and—we have been looking into this on our Select Committee—equitable treatment of our boats and foreign boats will be an important part of those negotiations. The point that this might involve the enforced application of REM can be made to the European Union. As I said in the debate on discards a week or so ago, the prevention of discards is European Union law. It is its policy; the EU passed it, not the British. So it cannot, in all equity, claim that having cameras is an ask too far, because it is its law we are trying to enforce.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to noble Lords for this short debate, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. He is right to emphasise the need for proper safety regulations for all vessels fishing in our waters.

Amendment 81 seeks to ensure that all vessels, regardless of nationality, follow the same technical conservation measures when operating in UK waters. Schedule 2 to the Bill extends domestic legislation containing technical measures, such as restrictions on the size of velvet crab that can be caught, to foreign vessels. Under the common fisheries policy, this legislation has been able to apply only to British boats, so this change provides for the first time the level playing field between British and foreign vessels sought by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. Further, Schedule 3 provides the powers to set conditions on licences and to extend those conditions so that they also apply to foreign vessels. I make it clear that our intent is to ensure that equitable approaches for licence conditions apply to both domestic and foreign boats in the future.

This amendment seeks to mandate additional licensing criteria for foreign vessels. We regard this as unnecessary, as measures to achieve equitable treatment are already provided for by the Bill.

Finally, the amendment does not take into account the devolved competence of the fisheries administrations to set their own licence conditions in their waters, where they do not conflict with delivering what has been agreed internationally.

Amendment 82 seeks to address two very serious issues. As my noble friend the Minister noted in his opening speech at Second Reading, and as we have discussed previously in Committee, fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations. I regret that too many deaths and injuries still occur in our waters. However, safety at sea—for all vessels, not just fishing boats—falls within the remit of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—the MCA—which has powers to enforce safety regulation.

Under the Fishing Vessel (Codes of Practice) Regulations 2017, a non-UK fishing vessel must not enter UK waters unless,

“if its registered length is 24 metres or over, it has been certified by its flag State as complying with the requirements of the Torremolinos Protocol”

on the safety of fishing vessels,

“or … if its registered length is less than 24 metres, it has been certified by its flag State as complying with the requirements of that State applying to vessels of that length”.

If a foreign vessel does not comply with these requirements in the future, it will not be granted a licence to fish in UK waters.

The MCA is also working to implement the International Labour Organization’s work in fishing convention into UK law. Its aims are for all fishermen to have decent living and working conditions, regardless of employment status. It entitles all fishermen to written terms and conditions of employment, decent accommodation and food, medical care, regulated working time, regular payment, repatriation, social protection, and health and safety onboard. It also provides minimum standards relating to medical fitness.

Lastly, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, mentioned discards and European law. This will be covered at a later stage.

With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very convinced by the Minister. However, coming back to the fact that this is devolved, I must admit that the thought of Scottish waters insisting on it and English waters not doing so rather boggles the mind. But I am very happy to withdraw the amendment, given those assurances.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I shall move Amendment 88 and speak to Amendment 89. These are the subject of this group. Clause 19 provides for penalties to be imposed for offences under various other clauses. I am using these amendments to probe the sentencing regime in relation to offences and the relevant merits and parity between the UK Administrations.

Clause 19(1) deals with having a licence and licence conditions, as well as the part of Schedule 3 concerning complying with information. It specifies that, on conviction, the penalty will be a fine in England and Wales. The amount is not specified. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, information penalties can be up to the statutory maximum but do not exceed £50,000 for any other cases.

It may be that this is a little confusing—merely a fine being given in England and Wales and that fine being a maximum of £50,000 or, in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the statutory maximum for information breaches. Can the Minister explain these discrepancies across the Administrations? It may be that each have their own powers that they wish to defend certain aspects of, or it may signify that there are certain fundamental differences in approaches between the Administrations in their penalty schedules. Can the Minister also explain why fundamental licence breaches receive only a fine rather than any other sanction? I beg to move.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this amendment had me a little puzzled. I wondered whether the noble Lord had, like me, been a magistrate prior to 2012, when the law changed in England. That is at the root of the differences.

Amendment 88 would bring fines in England and Wales for offences committed under Clauses 12(3), 14(6) or 16(6) or paragraphs 1(4), 3(2) or 3(3) of Schedule 3 in line with those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It would similarly limit fines on conviction on indictment to the same amount through Amendment 89.

In England and Wales, the fines for offences align with the provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Section 85 of that Act removed the statutory maximum fine on summary conviction and replaced it with a fine of any amount. This gave magistrates, who impose the vast majority of fines, greater flexibility to identify the most effective and proportionate punishment appropriate to the offences and offenders before them. These are not custodial offences in other areas of fisheries legislation, so this is the only penalty that can be imposed. The approach that we have taken on penalties in the Fisheries Bill is consistent with Section 85 of the 2012 Act and other existing fisheries legislation, and ensures a consistent and coherent sentencing framework in England and Wales. The reason for the difference in Northern Ireland and Scotland is that they are separate jurisdictions and the changes made by the 2012 Act applied only to England and Wales.

The reason no limit is placed on fines for conviction on indictment in the Bill, as Amendment 89 probes, is that the enforcement provisions mirror those in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The offences under that Act and other fisheries legislation provide that, where someone has committed an offence and been convicted on indictment, the court has the discretion to impose a fine without a limit. Not only is this consistent with the approach taken in other fisheries legislation, it is consistent with the underlying policy that the Crown Court should not be constrained in its ability to set a fine, in order that it may take into account both the seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender. Finally, this amendment would change the position in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which would cut across devolved competencies.

With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for her complete explanation. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for tabling his amendments, which address the issue of enabling new entrants to come into the sector, giving priority to the under-10 fleet. That is an issue which we will cover in our own amendments in the next group.

The amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Worthington, explore the criteria used to allocate new fishing opportunities. They stress the importance of using transparent criteria and the economic and social contributions that the new allocations will make to local communities. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, goes one step further and identifies the need for incentives to fishers to use selective fishing gear and techniques which will reduce environmental and habitat damage. I am very grateful to her for her considerable efforts in rewriting Clause 25, which clearly is flawed and inadequate in its current form. We all feel that she has done a sterling job in having a go at that, although as this process goes on we are all discovering that it is not as easy as it first appears.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for his efforts to add his list of improvements that could be made in that clause. In that melting pot, we have enormous agreement for all the arguments being put. These are important principles; we spoke about many of them at Second Reading. We must just find the right place for them in the Bill. We are still struggling with what the Bill’s final architecture should look like.

All noble Lords who have spoken are keen for this Bill to create a fairer distribution of quotas. That is what is needed if we are truly to regenerate our coastal communities. It follows from the debate that we had earlier in this Bill about the principle that our fishing stocks are the property of the nation rather than a select few individuals. The point has been echoed today. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that we should recognise that the current system of quota allocation is broken; I agree. Half the English quota is held by companies based overseas, the small-scale fleet holds only 6% of the quota, and the five largest quota-holders control more than a third of the UK fishing quota. We can all see what is wrong with that. These disparities did not happen overnight. They have historic roots which may not easily be dismantled, but this should not stop us from aspiring to deliver a more fundamental change; we could use the Bill as a vehicle for it.

A number of noble Lords are, like me, still unclear about the extent to which the new licensing regime will enable action to be taken on the ownership of the existing UK quotas. In his letter of 25 February, the Minister makes it clear that the Government do not intend to alter the allocation methodology for existing quota, but as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, what does this mean in practice? For example, will we ever be in a position to challenge the overseas ownership of some of our quotas, even if they are not seen to operate in the national interest? Can we reset the dial on who owns what? Is this something that could be covered in the trade negotiations? It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify some of this.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was anxious to be clear on the sequencing and the processes for landing many of these issues. We are all trying to find the sequencing and the processes. I know that we are just talking of principles at this level so I will not go into enormous detail, but he felt that it was set out in Clause 23 but now we are discovering that it is not Clause 23. We are chasing the holy grail and will carry on doing so. Clearly the new quota allocations provide an opportunity for change. We can and should use this Bill to lay down a more equitable system for distributing them in the future.

We remain concerned about how quota auctions could work in the future. In his letter, the Minister says that it is not intended for an auction scheme to be used to sell fishing opportunities exclusively based on price. I hope that they would not be based on price; this would perpetuate the discredited schemes that we have already, and there would be no real benefits from leaving the common fisheries policy.

We have amendments in a later group about the need to boost the small-scale fleet. Our aim would be to redistribute the new quotas proportionately in favour of the under-10-metre fleet, the backbone of our coastal communities and ports. We will set out the arguments when we come to that group. In the meantime, we support the general principle of broadening quota ownership and rewarding those vessel owners who demonstrate good practice and a commitment to our sustainability objectives. We therefore support these amendments.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, for bringing forward Amendments 94 and 106, which seek to secure the position of the under-10-metre fleet and for new entrants. We all want to achieve the same thing. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, just said, often putting this into the Bill is more complicated.

The Government recognise the importance of the under-10-metre fleet as a cornerstone of our local coastal communities. However, managing our inshore fisheries is a complex task. The fleet is diverse; they catch an assortment of quota and non-quota species using a variety of boats and gear in conditions that differ considerably around the country. Non-quota species are particularly important to the inshore fleet. In 2018, around 77% of the weight and 78% of the value of their landings were from non-quota species such as brown crabs and lobster.

The Government want to support all fishermen, including the under-10-metre fleet, to fish more sustainably, improve our collective understanding of stock health and adapt to technological innovation. That is why they were fully supportive of last October’s Future of Our Inshore Fisheries conference, organised by Seafish. Themes discussed by fishermen and stakeholders included greater collaboration, responsibility sharing and devolution of decision-making responsibility.

Turning specifically to quota allocation, in England we have already taken action to increase the quota the under-10-metre fleet receive. Since 2012, we have realigned fixed quota allocation units from the sector to provide a 13% increase to the under-10-metre quota pool. In 2018, the under-10-metre fleet was allocated an extra 1,281 tonnes of quota uplift, which equated to an additional £3 million. These combined actions have helped the under-10-metre fleet to land 36,000 tonnes of fish in 2018.

In England, we are already exploring new methods to allocate any additional quota we may secure. Last summer, Defra ran a call for evidence to seek views on the values and processes which underpin good quota management. As may be expected, views expressed were very broad-ranging and there was no overall consensus. More work is needed with industry and other stakeholders to further develop this approach throughout 2020.

The quota needs of the under-10-metre fleet will be a key consideration here. It is right that we wait until this further engagement is complete before deciding how to allocate any additional quota in England, to ensure that we are allocating it fairly, proportionately and in support of the fisheries objectives, and—to address the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb—considering the needs of the community.

This amendment particularly concerns English quota allocation, and amends Clause 23, which relates to the determination of fishing opportunities at a UK level. These are two separate matters and it is potentially confusing to link them in this way. I will address Amendments 104 and 105 together. The UK Government share the desire of the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Worthington, to see improvements in sustainability. We have already set out a range of key commitments to achieve this. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, asked why Article 17 of the common fisheries policy started off Clause 25. It might be helpful if I read out what the Explanatory Memorandum says:

“This clause amends what will be provisions in retained EU law setting out criteria for the distribution of fishing opportunities. Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy Basic Regulation requires that Member States distribute fishing opportunities domestically according to transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature. The effect of the amendments is to maintain the existing requirements in UK law and to apply them to the Fisheries Administrations and the MMO.”

The Bill ensures that Article 17 of the common fisheries policy basic regulation works in UK law as retained EU law. Article 17 requires the allocation of fishing opportunities on the basis of transparent and objective criteria. The Secretary of State follows these criteria when distributing quotas to the fisheries administrations, using the methodology set out in the publicly available UK quota management rules. Each administration is then responsible for distributing its quota share to industry. In England, the methodology is set out in the publicly available English quota management rules. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also publish their own quota management rules. Changes to these rules are normally consulted upon. In fact, Defra recently ran a consultation on the options for allocating reserve quota which is the uplift in quota we get to account for the reduction in discarding within England.

Given that these documents and evidence are already publicly available, it is unnecessary for the Bill to explicitly set out that it will not be exempt under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as Amendment 105 would provide. The Bill would not be the correct vehicle to seek to exempt the Freedom of Information Act in this way. It is also likely that such information would be covered by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. The Fisheries White Paper made it clear that we will continue to allocate existing quota on the basis of FQA units. This ensures stability and provides certainty to those who have invested in such units. However, we also said that we will work with the devolved Administrations, industry and other stakeholders to develop a new methodology for the allocation of additional or new quota. These criteria will also be published in the relevant quota management rules.

The amendment would put into statute the principle that fisheries are public property held on trust for the people of the UK. This risks further complicating the legal regime. International law, through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, recognises the rights of coastal states over resources, including fish, in their waters. There is a public right to fish, but this right has been restricted as the regulation of fisheries has been added to over the centuries. The last century saw a significant increase in the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This Bill seeks to ensure as joined-up an approach across the UK as is appropriate. It contains a set of shared fisheries objectives which have been developed by the fisheries administrations and which will be used to ensure that fisheries are managed sustainably.

Imposing a further principle on this regime will complicate things and could undermine this agreed approach. It is not clear what public property held on trust for the people of the UK would mean and what it would add to the sustainability and national benefit objectives. I am concerned that any lack of clarity over the criteria which can be used to distribute fishing opportunities could result in uncertainty for parts of the industry which have invested significant amounts of money in fixed quota allocation units. We recognise that fish are a public asset which should benefit the country as a whole.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have heard that phrase before that fish are somehow held on trust. Fish are considered to be wild animals and cannot be held by anyone as a property right. We are talking about the allocation of the right to fish, not the fish themselves. They cannot be owned by anybody, but fishing rights can. I want to make sure that that is well understood.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

It is understood.

The issue of public property would, we believe, be covered by the socio-economic and other criteria which the Secretary of State is already required to consider. I have just asked for a reply to the question on how the future quota will be dispersed.

Additionally, while I recognise that quota allocation in England is complex, we need to proceed carefully given that, as we have discussed, fisheries management has been plagued by unintended consequences. For example, quota for the Crown dependencies is allocated from the England quota pot. Therefore, the statement about the English fishery as public property held on trust for the people of England could restrict the Crown dependencies’ rights. I am sure that the noble Baroness would not intend to do this.

In terms of the bodies involved in allocating quota, Amendment 105 considers inshore fisheries and conservation authorities as English fisheries administrations for allocations. However, inshore fisheries and conservation authorities do not have a role in quota allocation, so we do not support moves to make them so, for reasons we have articulated when we discussed that amendment. So this may inadvertently cause confusion. Further, Amendment 104 would remove the link to a history of compliance. This is a useful and positive tool which could be used to support our strong commitment to sustainability. Removing it would weaken our ability to achieve these aims.

The proposed grant-making powers in the Bill will enable us to support projects that, among other things, protect the marine environment and develop commercial fishing. Financial assistance could therefore be given as part of a future funding scheme to help fishermen move to more selective and less environmentally damaging fishing techniques. We therefore believe that we should continue to rely on the fisheries objectives in the Bill, as well as existing and well-established mechanisms and criteria, which have proven effective and respect the devolution settlements.

Amendment 106, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, addresses new entrants. We are aware of concerns—

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before moving on to the next amendment, I just wish to clarify that the main objection to this redrafting is that it would reduce clarity and lead to more ambiguity. I really do not think that is the case. I think this is much clearer. If the Minister is saying that the current situation is so clear, can she say categorically who holds the right to give out a fishing quota? There is clearly a financial benefit, so who is responsible for assessing the value of that right and for managing it for the public in perpetuity? Precisely, in legal terms, where do those fishing rights reside?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I go back to Clause 23, which applies to the Secretary of State setting the UK quota. Clause 25 relates to the split of UK-level quotas between the administrations and the subsequent distributions to boats within the administrations.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 23 applies only when we have an international agreement. It is clear that UNCLOS, which is the main international agreement, is not implementable in judicial review. Clause 23 is an insufficient answer, I am afraid. There are many other rights we grant that are not covered by that clause.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I shall write to the noble Baroness on that detailed point.

On Amendment 106, which addresses new entrants, we are aware of concerns about shortages in crew and an ageing demographic within the fishing industry. The average age of fishers in the UK is 42. To address this in England, we are working closely with the Seafood Industry Leadership Group, whose work has highlighted the importance to a thriving seafood industry of training, skills development and workforce retention. I take on board the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, on apprenticeship training, which is very much in line with our own intentions. A number of fishing organisations have tried to develop schemes for new entrants, and apprenticeships. They have had varying degrees of success and many lessons have been learned. It is not easy, but it does not mean that fishing organisations should not continue to try. We must also ensure that there are fish for new entrants to catch, which means balancing the environmental, social and economic objectives.

We are also looking at examples from around the world, such as the Faroes, Scandinavia, Jersey and Guernsey, to identify options to support the UK fleet now and to ensure that it has the labour force necessary for its long-term future. To ensure certainty and stability for the UK fishing industry, after discussions with industry and, as stated in the fisheries White Paper, we took the decision not to overhaul the current system of allocation for existing quota. Quota for new entrants could, therefore, be set aside only from increased fishing opportunities gained through negotiations. Part of the work that we are undertaking with industry and other stakeholders this year will include consideration of the option of using additional quota to support new entrants. We have the powers to do this.

Ensuring that fishers can fish sustainably will be an important aspect of the considerations for allocations. The amendment does not refer to any sustainability criteria and could therefore ultimately restrict our ability to set a gold standard for sustainable fishing. I have been advised that there are, regretfully, a number of other practical issues with the amendment as drafted. It is not clear which quota this allocation should be made from: the UK, English, existing or new. Further, it is not clear for how long a new entrant could keep the quota. If it is for the entire career of the fisherman, provided they continue to fish it, the requirement to always have a proportion available for new entrants could mean taking quota from existing fishermen. With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for those 101 reasons why it is difficult. My question is: do the Government want a new entrants scheme?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I think that I just said that we do, and how we could do it with additional quota.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fundamental point that we are making is: can we ever imagine a point in the future where we can have a break from the existing status quo, which is not working, to one that is working, which involves the fundamental reallocation of these rights to a different make-up of players? It is a fundamental question. Most of us came into this discussion expecting to be able to debate the fundamental principles on which we allocate these rights. What we are being told today is that the only thing open to debate is if we have a potential, additional small amount of quota that comes back to us. That is a missed opportunity. We have all said repeatedly in different ways that to lock in the status quo is to continue the faults of the common fisheries policy.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I note the noble Baroness’s disappointment, but that is the Government’s position and we have no plans.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for going through all that, but another term for stability and certainty is fossilisation. That is what we are being told. The whole Bill is in many ways on that theme, I am afraid. One fundamental question that the Minister did not answer is: what is to stop all the new fishing opportunities landing up exactly where they are at the moment, particularly with foreign-owned companies? I do not understand how anything can stop all our new fishing opportunities being taken by existing players, because they have the money, influence and experience. What stops everything that is new being exactly the same, replicated? I do not understand that.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I am assured that the economic benefit objective will have some bearing on that.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have not spoken on this amendment, but I am pretty horrified with the way that it has gone, to be frank. Earlier in Questions, the Minister said that we had legislation that was going to be world class on the environment, agriculture and fisheries, and this Bill is retrenching by the minute to being an endorsement of the status quo. It is very disappointing.

Break in Debate

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to debate this. We heard the figures earlier for the quota that is held: 29% of the UK fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families; 49% of the English quota is held by companies based overseas; and the majority of UK fishing boats—79% of which are small-scale—hold only 20% of the UK quota. It is a source of great concern to me, as I said, and it was explored at some length in the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which I had the privilege to chair for four or five years with my able deputy Barry Gardiner MP, who I know continues to take a great interest in these matters. One of the most shocking things that we discovered was that some of the boats and quotas were owned not just by foreigners but by non-active fishermen. The one that shook me most was that they were owned by English football companies. I therefore hope that the Minister, in summing up this little debate on whether Clause 27 should stand part will assure me that only active fishermen will be allowed to qualify.

My main comments relate to the work done in preparation for the Bill by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in its sixth report of this Session. The committee was particularly concerned that the power under Clause 27 to distribute extra quota envisages fishing opportunities for British fishing boats that will take effect when the UK takes back control. The report refers in particular to paragraph 153 of the Explanatory Notes, and this is what I would like to press the Minister to clarify today. The original Bill’s Explanatory Notes say in that paragraph:

“The scheme would only be used in relation to the portion of UK quota which may be allocated by the MMO or the Secretary of State to English fishing boats. The scheme could include the requirement that certain criteria are met in order to purchase fishing opportunities, for example environmental criteria.”

This is the most important part:

“It is not intended that a scheme would be used to sell fishing opportunities exclusively on the basis of price.”

That has been toned down in the revised Explanatory Notes to the Bill before us today. The last two sentences of paragraph 172 say:

“The regulations could include the requirement that certain criteria are met in order to purchase fishing opportunities, for example environmental criteria. The regulations could therefore require fishing opportunities to be allocated on criteria other than the price.”

It sums up debates held on earlier amendments relating to Clause 27, but I would like the Government to reassure us that quotas will not be tradeable. If they are going to be sold on and the main criterion will be price, we could set up a situation similar to that with the milk quota, and that is totally unacceptable. Will the Minister assure us that that will not happen? That is what the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has also asked us, and I wish to press the Minister in this regard. Will she reassure us that they will not be tradeable and not governed exclusively by price? Would the Minister, in summing up, assure us that, in accordance with paragraph 153 of the Explanatory Notes to the original Bill, it is not the Government’s intention that sales of fishing opportunities under Clause 27 should be governed exclusively by price? Will she also offer a full explanation of the Government’s intentions with regard to the application of criteria other than price? What will they be? Could she expand on the interrelationship between these other criteria and price and their relative weighting? I am particularly concerned that these quotas might be turned into a tradeable commodity—that they will be governed exclusively by price and that that might extend to people other than our active fishermen. That would be totally unacceptable.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

Clause 27 allows for the sale of rights to English fishing opportunities —quota and days at sea, known as “effort”—for a calendar year. I, too, have two copies of the Explanatory Notes, and there must be a third copy because I could not find the original one to which my noble friend referred. We could allocate quota another way, not based on price, but we do not need new legislative powers in the Bill to do that. This power just gives one option for the future approach: an additional quota for a limited period. I have asked for clarification on what other criteria could be used and their relative weighting, but it may be that I will have to write to my noble friend on that issue.

Any sales must be made in accordance with regulations that may include a range of provisions. These provisions could cover rights to be sold by competitive tender or auction, setting minimum prices, payment of compensation to anyone who holds rights but does not use them, and a range of other issues that would ensure that the sale of quota was tightly regulated. The 2018 fisheries White Paper made clear that any additional quota that the UK obtains as an independent coastal state would be allocated differently from the current distribution methods. This clause provides the Secretary of State with the mechanisms to do just that for English quota. Schedule 5 provides equivalent powers for the Welsh Government, for Welsh quota.

I have listened to noble Lords’ concerns; this clause now requires the Secretary of State to consult on the regulations, and to make clear that quota could be sold on the basis that price is not the only relevant factor. For example, a determining factor in any tender or auction could be in relation to proof of use of sustainable fishing methods or benefit to a local community. I therefore ask my noble friend not to oppose this clause.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have to say that I find it very disappointing, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, that the Bill will leave this place without the information being before us. The Minister did not reply on whether it is going to be an entirely tradeable economy or whether it will apply to non-active fishermen, and I find it very disappointing that we will not hear further clarification before the end of Committee.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I can commit to writing on the issues of tradeability of fishing rights and non-active fishermen, but I do not have the answers to hand.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think I shall get any satisfaction this evening so I shall not press this matter now, but I will return to it at a later stage.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for tabling Amendment 28, and to other noble Lords who have made comments in this short debate. I agree that, although the drafting may not be entirely correct, we must not lose the crucial point. The amendment raises an important matter, because at this juncture, as the UK becomes an independent coastal state outside the EU, there must be a signal to the whole industry, including any relevant public authority or other body, that it must make sure that its strategic objectives align with this reality and that it sets its strategic direction towards supporting the fisheries objectives included in Clause 1.

It is worth repeating that, although many of those objectives are a legacy of the UK’s membership of the common fisheries policy, they have been expanded, updated and made more relevant to the UK, with the addition of three important key objectives. On Monday I drew attention to the new climate change objective. Adding this duty for public authorities to have regard to the objectives means that they must ensure that their activities comply and that any objective is not overlooked. My noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, my colleague on the Bill, has tabled further probing amendments in the next group of amendments, which begins with Amendment 30, probing the use of the term “proportionality” in relation to the application of the objectives in future joint fisheries statements.

It is not just fisheries authorities that have a role in aquaculture activities in ensuring success. Other public authorities with responsibilities that will have an impact on the industry must play their part, be that regulating standards, carrying out inspections at ports and processing plants or whatever. There is little mention in any guidance on this matter, and perhaps that is something that should also be looked at. There is real concern that other priorities in different localities may take precedence over these national objectives, particularly in relation to the key objectives relating to sustainability and climate change. This is crucial to understanding the main reasons why the UK could make a difference to fisheries and fishing communities now that it is outside the CFP.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for contributing to the short debate on this important subject. I am particularly grateful for Amendment 28, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, which would require public authorities to exercise their functions in a manner to achieve the fisheries objectives.

While I fully support the principle that our public authorities should support the achievement of the fisheries objectives, I believe that the amendment, which would place a blanket duty on all authorities, would not be suitable, as my noble friend Lady Byford so rightly pointed out. For instance, there has been no consultation with local authorities, and the new duty could lead to them having to prioritise fisheries management over the many other responsibilities that they have. A number of noble Lords have commented on those tensions.

The role and function of each public authority is set out in its implementing legislation. Each authority will vary how it exercises its functions on a case-by-case basis, and any local responsibilities to manage the 0-6 nautical mile zone will be delivered through the inshore fisheries conservation authorities. In some circumstances, elements of an authority’s function may not accord with some of the fisheries objectives. It would therefore be impractical for the Fisheries Bill to place a legal duty on such an authority. As my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay pointed out, the local authorities and public bodies may well not have the power to achieve these objectives legally.

Key fisheries regulators—the Marine Management Organisation and the inshore fisheries conservation authorities—also already have sustainable development duties under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and other noble Lords are reassured by this. Contrary to the intention of the amendment, its effect could also be to dilute the accountability of fisheries administrations, which is clearly established by the Bill, by spreading responsibility for the objectives more broadly across public authorities.

In answer to the specific questions from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, the current scope of the functions of the relevant national authorities cover the primary fisheries management tools and activities. We appreciate that local public authorities provide an important role in the achievement of successful fisheries management. However, key activities and functions are covered by the joint fisheries statement, due to their dependency in decision-making on national authorities—for example, in confirming by-laws. The fisheries statement is also legally binding.

Clause 2(1)(c), which the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, asked about, requires a statement on how fisheries objectives have been interpreted and proportionately applied. This will ensure a clear explanation of how the policies in the JFS meet the objectives and how their application is tailored to each specific case. It is worth highlighting that noble Lords will scrutinise the JFS before it comes into effect.

By holding fisheries administrations to account for the policies that they commit to in the statutory statements and management plans that will be created under the Bill, we are providing a strong framework for accountability that also recognises that fisheries authorities cannot unilaterally deliver on all these objectives but must to varying degrees work in partnership with industry. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, rightly pointed out, fisheries administrations will be accountable for meeting the policies in the JFS, and this could be something that the Office for Environmental Protection chooses to scrutinise.

Clause 10 makes the policies legally binding. Under these objectives, all must to varying degrees work in partnership with industry, stakeholders and international partners in some cases.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Lansley for his helpful comments. The range of objectives does present a challenge, but Clause 10 makes it clear that the policies are legally binding. I hope that, with this explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I asked a question, but I do not require an answer now. In so far as the Department for International Trade, for example, is engaged in trade negotiations that might impact on fish stocks because of market-access considerations, it will do so by exercising prerogative powers. It does not have duties derived from statute. So it might be interesting to know whether the Government regard these fisheries objectives as relevant to the task that the Department for International Trade will perform.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will make a point very quickly. I was slightly disappointed in the Minister’s response when she said local authorities had not been consulted in any way on this Bill. The IFCAs—which are incredibly important vehicles for the conservation of sea fish within the six-mile limit around our coast—are very much creatures of local government. Some of their members are appointed by the MMO, but they are largely local authority organisations, and are significantly funded by local authorities. I wonder whether a consultation —at least with the LGA—might have been a good thing. So I do feel some disappointment.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

In answer to my noble friend Lord Lansley’s question, it probably would be better if I wrote about the international trade position on these objectives. I said that we have consulted with the inshore fisheries conservation authorities, which would have had their own contacts with local authorities. So while perhaps not directly, they would have been indirectly involved in all these discussions.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank noble Lords for taking part in the debate and, on the whole, for their support of the principles involved, or indeed the accountability of the fisheries authorities. I totally accept that the amendment may have been too loosely drawn up, for which I apologise to the House. The objective was to create a discussion and a response on whether the objectives in Clause 1 are worth more than the paper they are written on. I am not totally sure we received any real assurance on that point, but I will read Hansard and maybe come back to it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have a relatively simple amendment, Amendment 74, in this group. The Bill requires the fisheries policy authorities to produce periodically a report on the extent to which their policies as set out in the joint fisheries statement have been implemented. Where there is an omission, the Secretary of State is required to intervene.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State, if required to produce a report on the policies omitted from the joint fisheries statement, to consult not only the devolved Administrations but a wider group of representative bodies on the content of the report. It is a straightforward amendment which seeks to fill a gap in the consultation provisions made elsewhere in the Bill. The provision in Schedule 1 does not spell this out in sufficient detail.

On an earlier amendment, the Minister read out a list of representative bodies which the department regularly consults, which of course is welcome, and described it as an “expert advisory group”. However, that is different from a statutory requirement to consult at various stages of policy production and review. I hope that the Minister will concede that our amendment would fill a gap in the consultation proposals. Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I hope that she does not just bat it away.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for his amendments. As he said, we need mechanisms to address what happens when things go wrong, and he made a good stab at doing that. He made the useful proposal that an independent review could be sought when conflicts over policies and their application arose. I hope that the Minister agrees that those proposals have some merit. The noble Lord’s other amendments touch on the extent to which representatives of the UK fishing fleet should be consulted. Again, that is important. We agree with the proposal but, as in our amendment, would want any consultation extended to a wider group of stakeholders.

The amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, relate to the timescale for the review of joint fisheries statements. He proposed a more meaningful review period of five years rather than six. We agree that there is little logic in the six-year timescale. Given that it is assumed that international negotiations will continue to take place annually, it seems far more practical to review and update the joint fisheries statements in a more timely way in line with changes taking place scientifically and the negotiations with the international community. As he said, five years is consistent also with the parliamentary cycle, so there seems to be not much logic for six and a whole lot more logic for five. I hope that the Minister is able to take that on board.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, seeks via his amendments to build more flexibility into the production of joint fisheries statements. He may have a point, although I doubt that there would be many occasions where there would not be some need for a review every five or—if necessary—six years.

At the heart of these amendments is a need for proper statutory consultation, meaningful timeframes, the best advice and flexibility. I hope that the Minister will see the sense in the proposals and perhaps take some on board.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I congratulate your Lordships on getting through a daunting-looking group of amendments in record time. Your points have been made well and succinctly.

Any Secretary of State fisheries statement, or SSFS, would cover only reserved and UK quota matters and would be published only if such matters were not covered in the joint fisheries statement. It is our intention that the joint fisheries statement will be the vehicle which sets out the fisheries administrations’ future fisheries management policies, respecting the devolved nature of fisheries but recognising the benefits of a joined-up approach.

My noble friend Lord Lansley’s Amendment 36 relates to a process to resolve disagreements through an independent review. While I appreciate the sentiment behind making provision for disagreements over policy between fisheries policy authorities to be dealt with amicably, it is unclear exactly how he is interpreting the expression

“a statement under this Act”.

Sadly, I am advised that the amendment would create legal uncertainty.

In respecting the devolution settlements, the provision for a JFS allows for the fisheries policy authorities to set out individual policies alongside those agreed jointly. This means that an authority could publish its own policies if they would contravene its wider policies as part of the statement. Therefore, given that the statement requires administrations to set out their policies, it is hard to envisage how they could then claim that the statement was incompatible with those very policies. If the amendment related to the SSFS, the Bill is clear that this can contain only reserved or UK quota matters, so it would be inappropriate for other fisheries authorities to be able to block a decision by the UK Government in this case. The amendment also seems to allow for a review to be invoked at any time after a SSFS or JFS is finalised, potentially leading to uncertainty around the state of those documents after they are in force.

The review process could also cause problems for the fisheries policy authorities in complying with what the Bill sets out as their legal duty to produce a joint fisheries statement, because it would appear to undermine the statutory framework for co-operation that we are seeking to build, by consent, with the devolved Administrations. I appreciate the concerns that my noble friend seeks to address through the amendment, but perhaps I can provide further reassurance to him by saying that other, non-legislative elements of the framework will be set out in a memorandum of understanding which is being developed with the devolved Administrations. This will enshrine co-operative ways of working and a mechanism for escalating and resolving disputes, were they to arise. Existing governance structures and agreements such as the overarching MOU on devolution between UKG and the devolved authorities, which sets out the JMC process for managing intergovernmental disputes, will also continue to apply.

I turn to Amendment 37, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Schedule 1 states that in consulting on a draft, there is a requirement for the fisheries policy authorities to act jointly. Paragraph 4 of that schedule ensures that the fisheries policy authorities, acting jointly, must publish the JFS as soon as is reasonably practicable. I hope this makes clear to the noble Lord that the JFS is a joint endeavour.

Break in Debate

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did not understand the Minister’s response on my Amendment 37. I am specifically trying to understand how the joint fisheries statement is triggered. Forgive me, I may have misheard the Minister, but can it be triggered by any one of the authorities or does it have to be unanimously triggered by them? It is not specified, and that obviously makes a big difference to when replacements might be demanded or when they might happen. Clause 3(1) does not say how those are triggered, just that they can be at any time. It is by one, two, three or four of the devolved authorities?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

There was a part of the speech that got cut, which I think may provide some elucidation on this point. The JFS is a joint endeavour; all fisheries policy authorities must work together throughout the drafting processes, publication, and review and replacement of the statements. All authorities must agree to go consultation and to publish. I hope that answers the noble Lord.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

So, to clarify, there has to be unanimous agreement between all authorities for a replacement policy to be a triggered?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

I think I had better write to the noble Lord in response to that question.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my noble friend. There were 14 amendments in this group, so it was not easy to tackle them all, not least since we managed to introduce them all in 18 minutes—it did not leave a lot of time for the preparation of notes on amendments. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, because the point he just made in his further intervention illustrated forcefully the point I was making. This is all absolutely fine if everybody agrees; it is when they do not agree that we want the legislation to tell us what happens. I do not think it does that yet.

My noble friend has explained that there will be a memorandum of understanding and, as we have heard, there is the 2012 concordat relating to licence conditions and how the economic link requirement is implemented and so on. I do not dispute that non-legislative means may well deliver the co-ordination between the fisheries policy authorities that is required, but it is not transparent to us now; nor is it transparent yet to the industry. That is why the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations asked, quite properly, the questions and illustrated how problems could arise; for example, on the implementation of the equal access objective.

My noble friend quite rightly challenged my drafting, but we can deal with that if we need to. It could perhaps be “statements under this Section” and not “under this Act”; we can deal with that very easily. If necessary, we can make it very clear that the independent reviewer could be resorted to by any of the fisheries policy authorities before the point at which the joint fisheries statement is made—that is just to clarify; I thought it was clear but it clearly was not. We can deal with the drafting.

The issue that we come back to is: what happens when they do not agree? I am afraid that my noble friend lapsed straight into the problem that I think we are trying to avoid, which is that the fisheries policy authorities that have devolved responsibilities will set out their policies and the Secretary of State will set out policies on reserved matters in the Secretary of State fisheries statement. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made perfectly clear, we want and the industry needs—and it will clearly be better—all the policies to be set out in the joint fisheries statement. They can be; there is absolutely nothing in the Bill that requires the Secretary of State to publish a Secretary of State fisheries statement on reserved matters. The Secretary of State can put it all into the JFS. It would be better if it were all in the JFS, but it will all get into the JFS only if there is agreement between all the authorities to this effect. But that is pretty important: remember that the reserved matters in this context include quota functions—the catch quota and effort quota—which could, in certain circumstances, completely override what might otherwise be the licensing of fishing boats by devolved authorities. If we can get it all into the JFS, it would be a better outcome.

I will happily beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I do not think that we have concluded this conversation. We need to keep this conversation going, and I hope that my noble friend will make it clear that we will—she does not need to go back to the Dispatch Box. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Excerpts
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, one of the puzzles in this Bill is getting to grips with the relative powers of, and interaction between, the Secretary of State, Parliament and the devolved Administrations. Into this mix, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has introduced a measure of devolution for England and its regions. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, for sharing his comments with the Committee.

In his Amendments 64 and 65, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has made a strong case for creating advisory boards for major fishing ports in England, giving the power of determination for fisheries operating within the six-mile limit to the relevant local inshore fisheries and conservation authority, and ensuring consultation with local bodies on matters that will affect them. It might even be said that, subject to consideration by the devolved Administrations, similar processes should be followed in the devolved nations.

It does not seem unreasonable for us to use this Bill to examine which level of government is best suited for the various activities and how best to ensure a level of local decision-making in England. At the very least, the Bill should make sure that in formulating policies the authorities engage properly with all relevant stakeholders, including port authorities, inshore fishers and so on.

In his Amendments 91, 98 and 99, the noble Lord distinguishes between the UK’s six-mile limit and its exclusive economic zone. He quite is right to challenge the Bill on its localism provisions.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank noble Lords for this short debate on a topic of real interest, but I believe that we can cover elsewhere the concerns that have been raised.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his amendments, which would involve a proposed English advisory board and other boards in the process of preparing fisheries management plans. Such boards, as well as the IFCAs, would be involved in the determination of UK fishing opportunities. I understand the intention of noble Lords fully to involve local stakeholders in England in decisions that affect them, such as the development of fisheries management plans and determination of fishing opportunities.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked how we would achieve this. We intend to collaborate closely with local fishermen and stakeholders, who will often have the best understanding of their area. However, a statutory advisory board is not the most effective way to achieve such collaboration.

It is a long-established policy for the Government to consult widely on the use of statutory powers. Our provisions for fisheries management plans already require consultation through Clause 8 and Schedule 1. Fisheries policy authorities are required to consult with interested persons and have regard to their views when publishing the final plans. These interested persons will catch a wider range of stakeholders than those who would be required to sit on the English advisory boards according to this amendment.

I know that noble Lords are aware that fisheries management is complex. Our provisions for fisheries management plans need to have sufficient flexibility in design to ensure that we achieve our aim of fishing our stocks sustainably, wherever they live in our waters. Many stocks targeted by local fishermen in England are not restricted to their local area and, depending upon location, may be shared with devolved Administrations or neighbouring coastal states. Fisheries management plans will need to deal with specific geographic coverage of stocks. Plans must cover both inshore and offshore areas, possibly at the same time. They should not be restricted to administrative boundaries or ports.

The amendment would establish new bodies with defined formal responsibilities in the development and implementation of fisheries management plans. Public and private bodies, along with groups of individuals, would be required to field representatives to these advisory boards. The operation of the boards as set out could require a significant resource commitment from their members, and I do not think it is appropriate for the UK Government to place formal obligations on private individuals joining a board dealing in fisheries management. Local authorities would be given the responsibility to resolve any conflicts in finalising the membership of advisory boards, which seems inappropriate for a local authority.

The IFCAs already have sustainable fisheries duties under the Marine and Coastal Access Act and are required to consult formally on management measures. IFCAs produce management plans for species within their districts, working with local fishermen to achieve the best outcome. Each IFCA comprises members from relevant local authorities, general members representing local organisations, and statutory agencies. Requiring an IFCA to work with the proposed advisory board that itself will have representatives from some of the bodies on the IFCA has the potential to create conflicts of interest and operational problems. Adding this responsibility will create a further burden on the IFCAs themselves and local organisations.

The UK Government support last October’s Future of Our Inshore Fisheries conference organised by Seafish. Fishermen and stakeholders discussed themes such as greater collaboration and the devolution of decision-making responsibility. I highlight that Amendment 64 as drafted would give boards statutory responsibility to prepare and publish plans. We cannot pass the responsibility for developing statutory policy that imposes legal requirements on the Government and relevant authorities to an advisory board.

Amendments 91 and 98 would include the IFCAs in Clause 24—the clause that addresses the determination of fishing opportunities—and Amendment 99 would include the advisory body as a consultee on the determination of fishing opportunities. Clause 24 sets out the duties that will apply to the Secretary of State when determining UK fishing opportunities. It does not relate to the subsequent allocation of these opportunities to the fisheries administrations or to their distribution to the fishing industry. The aim of this clause is to ensure that, as far as possible, the interests of the whole of the UK are taken into account when the UK’s fishing opportunities are set.

I accept that the quota system is complex. However, enabling the IFCAs to determine fishing opportunities separately alongside the existing allocation methods could lead to confusion and inconsistency in allocation and put the UK at risk of breaching its international obligations and sustainability commitments.

If the objective is to enable English IFCAs to manage certain parts of the English quota pot, this is currently done by the Marine Management Organisation for vessels under 10 metres. The MMO manages a system of closures in English waters to help manage, for example, the cod effort in the eastern Channel. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said about the lack of regard in which they are held. We note what was said; we have other information.

Inshore fisheries and conservation authorities play a key role in the management of inshore fisheries and can already make by-laws under Section 156 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to limit the amount of sea fisheries resources a person or vessel may take in a specified period, and the amount of time a person or vessel may spend fishing for or taking sea fisheries resources in a specified period.

To provide reassurance around the need for statutory engagement with stakeholders in the setting of fishing opportunities in relation to Amendment 99, in England, Defra and the MMO already regularly engage fishing industry representatives, and those with a wider interest, on fishing opportunities through a number of different routes. This engagement starts when the scientific advice arrives ahead of the annual negotiations. Industry is also engaged and consulted when changes are proposed to the allocation of fishing opportunities. Engagement continues through the subsequent management over the fishing season. In the UK Government’s fisheries White Paper, we committed to additional quota gained through negotiation being allocated in a different way. Engagement with the devolved Administrations on the intra-UK allocation has begun. Defra conducted a call for evidence in relation to the allocation in England last year, with more engagement planned.

With this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is reassured that our fisheries management plans and approach to quota setting will provide sufficient opportunity for appropriate and local engagement, and so will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How do I reply to the Minister on that one? If I am really honest about it, what I hear is “We would quite like to keep it as it is at the minute, all we want to do is go through our normal consultation exercise and that will be okay.” I was quite encouraged by the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, which began to talk about regional devolution—just on quota management—but I did not really hear anything from the noble Baroness the Minister that suggested that the Government would develop that idea further.

On the arguments about forcing people to be on an advisory board, you would have a queue of people—in fact, the problem would be that the queue would be worse than a queue in a hospital at the height of the NHS crisis. Lots of people would want to participate in this, and for good reason: they want to do good for their region, they want to get this right and they want to stimulate the local economy and have greater authority over these fishing plans.

I feel severely disappointed. As I have said, this model is not perfect but, if you are going to have management plans that work, you have to base them around the industry, and the industry operates from ports. That is why you have to base this at ports. Sure, some of the same fisheries relate to different ports but, on the whole, they are adjacent. Often, even close ones—certainly the fisheries out of Brixham, Newlyn and Plymouth—are very different. I have had representations from the Cornwall and Scilly LEP for it to be sensibly and actively involved somehow, rather than in the normal run of consultation. There is a big difference between consultation and devolution. What we are looking for here is real devolution. In the model that I have put forward—perfect though it may not be—I have not made it so it has statutory power; I have tried to make it moderate and reasonable.

I would really like the Minister to develop the undertaking that was given to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, in that letter and to think about this further. This Bill could really make a difference. At the moment, I feel that all the Bill does is create more of the same. There is so much that we could do to really make a difference here. I am sure we would agree to most of that, yet we have a framework Bill that pretty well keeps everything as it is. All is does is replace the mechanisms of the common fisheries policy with something else; it does not really act to a greater good than we have at the moment. These are the sorts of things we could do but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this is a really important issue and one that we need to clarify. I am sure that there are international obligations to do this, but I would be very interested to hear what they are. The noble Baroness raises some really important points about the fact that at sea, things can get difficult and emotional. We saw the incidents in the Baie de Seine last year or the year before, so we have to be very clear and careful about some of these things.

One thing I want to point out, which the Minister will be completely aware of, is that we sometimes envision an EEZ where foreign vessels have to stay on one side and British ones on the other; but under international convention, as long as they are steaming and not fishing, they are absolutely allowed to go through international waters. It is important to remember in this debate that it is not all about keeping foreign fishing vessels out of the UK EEZ; they are perfectly entitled to be there, not necessarily in territorial waters but between 12 miles and the median line, or 200 nautical miles. They are entirely allowed to steam through there as long as they do not fish, and we should remind people of that.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her amendment. This again touches on an issue that I am sure we can all agree is of great importance. The Merchant Shipping Act 1995 has special provisions for assisting vessels in distress. These provisions allow for any UK or foreign vessel that is wrecked, stranded or in distress at any place on or near the coast of the United Kingdom or any tidal water within UK waters to receive any assistance required. In addition, Articles 17 and 18 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allow for the right of innocent passage, which applies to all ships of all states, to territorial seas——between 0 and 12 nautical miles—and to the exclusive economic zone, which is between 12 and 200 nautical miles, or the median line. Passage in this instance means navigation through the territorial sea, anchoring or stopping in territorial waters in cases of force majeure or distress or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in danger or distress.

For example, in poor weather, foreign vessels can stop fishing and shelter behind a headland to escape the worst of the wind and waves. According to the MMO, it is a common occurrence, especially in east and south-western areas and in Northern Ireland waters, to allow vessels safe navigation and passage. Through this existing legislation, we have a duty to provide shelter in our waters and in our ports so that vessels may deal with injuries, replenish their provisions and refuel; and also to allow them safe transit through our waters to reach more distant fishing grounds. Therefore, foreign vessels that need to access UK waters to get to their fishing grounds, or where there is a concern over danger to life or property, will continue to be able to do so. Any further exceptions will be agreed in international arrangements or set out in vessel licence conditions. This is already provided for in Clause 12(1).

I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation, but I regret that the second part of the amendment, which allows the Secretary of State to prescribe other reasons by regulation, is rather broad and potentially could be a catch-all. Additionally, as drafted, the breadth and ambiguity could cause challenges within the devolution settlements, depending on how broadly or narrowly the reasons were interpreted. I believe that the matter that this amendment relates to is covered in legislation already. With this explanation, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that. It is useful to have all that restated. My only other point is that things will change with the new licensing arrangement. The last thing we want is for foreign vessel owners to put their own interpretation on how this will work, so the more we restate it and communicate it very clearly to all concerned, the less scope there will be for other people to try to misinterpret it. I do not wish to pursue this any further. I thank the Minister and I therefore beg to withdraw my amendment.