Debates between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

There have been 10 exchanges between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

1 Mon 16th January 2017 Brexit: Fisheries (EUC Report)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (2,339 words)
2 Tue 15th September 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
5 interactions (1,674 words)
3 Thu 23rd July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
5 interactions (2,185 words)
4 Tue 21st July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (394 words)
5 Thu 16th July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (667 words)
6 Tue 14th July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (1,304 words)
7 Wed 11th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (552 words)
8 Mon 9th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (1,978 words)
9 Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (523 words)
10 Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (1,010 words)

Brexit: Fisheries (EUC Report)

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 16th January 2017

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Grand Committee

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and his sub-committee on their excellent and wide-ranging report. I fear that I will not heed his advice at the outset of this debate as, in common with other speakers, I will stray into the territory of future arrangements. I agree with many of the comments made by my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas in his excellent speech, which set the scene for those future negotiations so well.

The UK became a net importer of fish in 1984, a year after the common fisheries policy and its quotas were introduced. The industry has been shrinking ever since, from 948,000 tonnes at the end of the 1970s to 451,000 tonnes in 2014. Although it is, perhaps, a small industry in terms of its 0.5% contribution to the UK’s GDP, it is still one of significant value to the 11,800 UK fishermen and the communities in which they live.

Brexit represents an opportunity to rebalance the industry back in favour of UK fishermen. While the UK will act as a single coastal state in its negotiations with the rest of Europe, domestic fisheries management activity is, as others have said, a devolved matter. It is therefore crucial that a co-operative management regime is established between the four states: Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. Any new post-Brexit domestic regime should reflect the needs and interests of all coastal communities, while ensuring the sustainability of a valuable, renewable, but—by definition—very mobile resource.

There will be significant differences between the needs of the four countries. Scotland lands the greatest tonnage of fish, generally from the largest vessels in the UK fleet. Fish constitute 3% of all Scottish exports. Wales, however—my home country—has the smallest fleet and the smallest number of fishermen in the UK, but the seafood sector is disproportionately important to many of its coastal areas. Professional sea fishing is worth millions to the Welsh economy. It was worth £7.6 million in 2015, up from £4.9 million in 2012.

Despite the huge diversity of species caught by the Welsh fishing fleet, whelks, scallops and lobsters account for some 70% of the value of landings. Indeed, I am told that many of the lobsters caught in north Wales are flown to China each Wednesday from Manchester airport. Equally, the Spanish are keen importers of Pembrokeshire lobster and the French of spider crabs. Mussels constitute 44% of landings by weight, but less than 1% of the total value. The reason for the focus on non-quota shellfish stocks is related to the value of the fish and the small size of the vessels. The industry in Wales is characterised by a large proportion—more than 90%—of small fishing vessels under 10 metres. When devising a new regime, it is vital to support local concerns operating smaller boats, the very sector that has been damaged most by EU regulations and legislation and by the current method of allocating quotas within the UK.

The UK is responsible for international negotiations. As a result of successful talks at the meeting in Brussels in December 2016, the EU Fisheries Council agreed a deal with Wales allowing the retention of selective netting within the sea bass fishery, a roll-over of the arrangements for recreational sea bass fishing and a 5% increase in the total allowable catch of commercially important skate and ray in the Bristol Channel.

I hope that as all devolved Administrations facilitate joint working with Her Majesty’s Government on the regimes to be put in place once we leave the EU due regard will also be given to the importance of recreational sea angling to the Welsh tourist industry. Studies by Bangor University in 2015 reported some 76,000 sea anglers resident in Wales, with approximately 6% of all tourists to Wales engaging in sea angling. The total annual expenditure of all sea anglers in Wales was estimated to be an average of more than £100 million, and total employment directly created from sea angling spending was estimated at 1,706 full-time equivalent jobs. Many regular tourists who visit coastal villages own small boats and lobster pots—including me, the proud owner of a 10-foot fishing boat and two lobster pots—operate in accordance with Defra regulations and are actively policed by the local fisheries authorities. In contemplating the new, post-Brexit world, it is vital that we create a regulatory framework that allows professional and recreational fishermen to continue their significant contribution to their local economies.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for introducing this report with such clarity. I am also grateful to all members of the committee, who have worked hard to produce a timely and authoritative piece of work. I echo a number of noble Lords’ comments about the usefulness to this House and the wider parliamentary process of the work that the committee has done.

If anyone was in any doubt about the complexities of the negotiations ahead, a quick read of this report would quickly expose the fact that, even in this one compact policy area, huge challenges and pitfalls lie ahead. As we go on to debate other issues in the coming months, that issue will be replicated time and again. As with so many other farming, food and environmental obligations, it becomes clear that we are bound not just by ongoing EU agreements but by other agreements beyond the EU. The future is not just about exiting one organisation, as some would have us believe—we have to think about our future in terms of all the other international agreements and obligations that we will continue to have. So I do not envy the Ministers, and their officials, who carry high expectations on their shoulders, for the many competing interests that they will have to balance, as well as for the impossibly short time that they have to come up with something better than the status quo, which is what lots of people expect of them.

The report captures very well the moveable feast of fish spawning and maturing around our waters. Unlike many other aspects of our EU trade, they truly have a mind of their own and cannot be neatly counted in and out. They can travel hundreds of miles from their breeding grounds to their feeding grounds. They do not respect borders and fisherman do not stop fishing at the end of their country’s territorial waters. This presents a real challenge to the scientists who are advising the EU on the total allowable catches for commercial fish stocks. This uncertainty is being compounded by the impact of climate change on warming sea temperatures. So what used to be the case no longer necessarily is. Fish are moving out of their old feeding grounds in search of cooler waters. The species on which the old fishing quotas are based are moving north, making the scientific system and calculations increasingly outdated. On the one hand, this could provide new opportunities for us, but only if we can negotiate new multilateral quota agreements. As we have learned in the past, there cannot be just a free-for-all, which means declining fish stocks for all, so acting unilaterally cannot, and must not, be the answer. Therefore, in that context, there are a number of challenges for our negotiators.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised the important issue of the necessity for us to eat more fish, and therefore questioned where it was going to come from. Historically, the UK has not eaten the fish caught by British fishermen: 80% is exported to other countries and four of the five biggest export countries are in the EU. Therefore, if we withdraw from the single market, as appears to be the Government’s intention, there is no guarantee of preferential access to that EU market in the years to come. In these circumstances, it seems almost inevitable that some tariffs will need to be paid. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, detailed the kinds of tariffs which have to be paid under the WTO trade schedules and which are paid by others. They vary from 2% to 20% and would have a significant impact on the profitability of UK fishing fleets, as they do for the Norwegian and Icelandic fleets, for example.

At the same time, we import the majority of fish which we consume within the UK, 32% of which comes from the EU. Potentially that imported fish, of which we all want to eat more, would also be subject to EU tariffs. Therefore, the cost to us of importing and exporting fish within the EU could adversely affect profitability unless a special deal is done, which is desirable but highly unlikely given both the lack of precedent for this type of agreement and the limited timeframe we will have to negotiate it. Therefore, will the noble Lord clarify how these negotiations will be structured? Will the Government seek a comprehensive UK-EU trade agreement, of which fisheries will be only a very small part, or will there be some separate negotiations purely Fisheries Minister to Fisheries Minister, if I can put it that way? If this is the case, has the Fisheries Minister had any initial conversations with his EU counterparts in the light of the fact that we do not have many precedents on which to base the discussions? Whatever strategy is adopted, what will happen if the negotiations are not completed within two years? Does he envisage a transitional agreement being put in place and, if so, what are its likely terms?

These negotiations will need to go well beyond trade and tariff agreements. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU allocated €243 million to the UK for sustainable fishing initiatives, diversifying coastal economies and training initiatives. As we know, many of our coastal communities are blighted by low pay and high unemployment, so these subsidies have been crucial to them. What will happen to those EU subsidies that they currently receive? The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations seems to think that this funding will continue post-Brexit. But, realistically, for how long are the Government able to guarantee these funds, and what will be the process for deciding priorities for subsidy post-Brexit? Perhaps the Minister could update us on the Government’s thinking on this issue, particularly in the light of the WTO restrictions on subsidies of this kind.

We then come to the issue of where our fishermen expect to be able to fish in future. During the referendum, lots of promises were made about reclaiming our waters and giving UK fishermen open access to our seas once more but, of course, this is not as simple as it first seems. As we have heard, the exclusive economic zones, when they were first agreed, took into account historical precedent of fishing activity around our shores. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, was right when he said that these arrangements cannot simply be ignored or be unilaterally cancelled when we have other international obligations which will also come into play. There would have to be a new deal with those countries claiming those historic rights.

There is a public perception of UK fishermen as brave and hardy trawlermen, and the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, captured the perils under which they operate extremely well, but, while our trawlermen are undoubtedly hard-working, the majority of the UK’s quotas have been allocated by the UK Fisheries Minister to large commercial fishing interests, which run huge factory ships off our shores. To complicate matters further, as my noble friend Lord Hanworth described, over a period, some of those vessels have been sold and are now owned by EU-based companies, giving them access to UK quotas—so-called quota hopping. I echo the question of several noble Lords to the Minister: can he clarify what will happen to those quotas post-Brexit? Will they be redistributed among UK-owned fleets, with an emphasis on supporting smaller enterprises, or will the Government continue to respect the current multinational ownership and involvement?

Finally, I hope that it goes without saying that we should continue to enforce genuine environmental and sustainability standards. The UK has played an important role in EU negotiations to strengthen the use of scientific evidence on the sustainability of fishing stock. Although that is not perfect, I believe that we have made progress in that area. I hope that we will continue to champion this approach and adopt it for our own total allowable catch limits and ensure that we continue the enforcement of a ban on discards. However, there may be other EU legislation that may no longer apply but is equally essential to sustainability in the longer term: for example, the EU’s marine strategy framework and the water framework directives, which act to keep areas where fish live in high-quality condition. I hope that the Minister can assure us that continued environmental protection in the broadest sense will be a priority for this Government and that the associated directives will be transposed unamended into UK law.

In conclusion, this report and today’s debate have once again underlined the complexities of the negotiating task ahead; the financial threat to our economy, if we are unable to secure favourable tariffs; and the fact that, whatever happens, we will need to be part of an ongoing international community if our global fish stocks are to be managed successfully. Sadly, I suspect that many people living and working in coastal communities will be unhappy with the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, because it simply will be unable to match the promises made during the campaign. In particular, this is why it is important that we do not hit a cliff edge, with all the detriment that could flow from that. It is also why it is important for everyone, including those coastal communities, to be kept informed of the progress of those negotiations.

I hope that, in responding, the Minister can indicate how the Government intend to keep us and those stakeholders with a direct interest in the loop as the discussions continue, so that there are no horrible surprises at the end of the process. I look forward to his response.

Agriculture Bill

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Young for moving this amendment and making the case so persuasively. She is raising an important point about what will happen when the environmental standards, which are currently required through cross-compliance, no longer apply when we leave the EU and the existing payments regime is phased out. We agree that it is vital that the standards that apply, such as to hedgerows and buffer strips to watercourses, should not be lost by accident or intent.

It all forms part of the promise made when we left the EU that our environmental standards should be at least on a par with what went before. It is also part of the bigger promise of the Government that they will leave the environment in better shape than when they inherited it. So we cannot afford to go backwards on this issue.

As my noble friend has made clear, these issues are part of a bigger project to review standards and develop a new regulatory regime. This is fine as far as it goes, but the clock is ticking and we know that these reviews take time. The review will be taking place against intense activity to get the new ELMS regime up and running, with all the supportive secondary legislation that will be required to make that happen.

So there is a real danger that the provision of new regulations will be delayed, and a regulatory gap will occur. My noble friend’s amendment provides a neat solution to ensure that those standards not yet required by UK law will be safely assured for the future.

To be honest, as other noble Lords have said, we do not understand why the Government have not put something similar in the Bill, and there is still an opportunity for them to accept this amendment today. But if the Minister is not so minded, I would be grateful if she could provide sufficient reassurance that the review and its outcomes are on a fixed timetable. Can she also guarantee that our environmental standards achieved by cross-compliance will not be compromised in the meantime? I look forward to her response.

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

The primary effect of this amendment would be to provide a new lever to oblige recipients of financial assistance under Clause 1 to meet cross-compliance requirements. This includes parts of the cross-compliance regime where there is no backing in domestic legislation.

A large proportion of the rules currently contained in the cross-compliance regime are replicated in domestic legislation. Rules such as those in the Wildlife and Countryside Act, the Control of Pesticides Regulations and the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations will continue to provide protection for our valuable wildlife, soils and watercourses. It will remain mandatory for individuals to continue to comply with all domestic regulation, irrespective of whether they qualify for financial assistance.

We understand the important role that regulatory standards play in trade, in protecting our environment and in protecting the health and welfare of animals. That is why the Government will take a proactive approach to engaging with industry. Responses to our landmark Health and Harmony consultation, our wide-reaching review led by Dame Glenys Stacey, and our discussion document on the ELM scheme have informed, and will continue to inform, our regulatory framework. This autumn, we intend to launch an engagement package—the intensive consultation to which the noble Baroness referred—which will provide an update on the thinking around the future regulatory system. We want to use this to start a co-design process with industry, opening the conversation with stakeholders on the best approaches to designing a future regulatory system.

The Government are exploring other possible levers that we could use to encourage more effectively industry compliance, which would deliver improved environmental outcomes. The ELM scheme will cover a range of environmental outcomes to ensure that farmers and land managers improve their practices and are rewarded for doing so. We are considering a range of measures to ensure that we deliver these outcomes, including, for example, requiring individuals to meet certain requirements as a condition of entry within the scheme itself.

Finally, I assure noble Lords and emphasise that we should take the time to get this right—and we have the opportunity to do so. Individuals will be expected to continue to comply with all current cross-compliance regulations until we delink payments from the land or direct payments end, and until not before 2022. The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell, and the noble Earl, Lord Devon, worried about the regulatory gap, but we are striving hard to ensure that this does not occur. Through our engagement process and the development of our ELM policy, we will ensure that our high environmental and animal health and welfare standards continue to remain world-leading.

I hope that I have given sufficient reassurance on this important matter, and that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Break in Debate

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

On Amendment 31, I reassure the noble Baroness that the Government will fully take into account the proposed steps and goals of environmental improvement plans, including the 25-year environment plan, when they determine the strategic priorities that will sit within the multiannual financial assistance plans, so the amendment is simply not necessary.

The Government are absolutely committed to achieving their aim of leaving the environment in a better state than when they found it. That is why they are seeking to legislate for environmental improvement plans in the Environment Bill that is currently in the other place in order to drive forward long-term improvements to our natural environment. The 25-year environment plan will be adopted as the first statutory environmental improvement plan and the Government expect it to set the benchmark for future EIPs.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked a characteristically cogent question about the lack of a proper system of measurement, as identified by the Natural Capital Committee. We are engaging with stakeholders, scientists, economists and environmentalists, including the Natural Capital Committee, to develop comprehensive indicators to measure progress towards the goals set out in the 25-year environment plan.

The planned introduction of the ELM scheme under Clause 1 of the Bill clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment to look at wider environmental objectives when setting their strategic priorities for funding under their multiannual financial assistance plans. Indeed, the ELM scheme will be a key mechanism for delivering the environmental goal set out in the 25-year environment plan by providing farmers and other land managers with public money for the delivery of multiple public goods.

There are six key public goods that the ELM will help to deliver that correspond directly with goals set out in the 25-year environment plan: namely, clean air, clean and plentiful water, thriving plants and wildlife, a reduction in and protection from environmental hazards, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment. Defra’s ELM team is currently working on understanding the full range of actions that the scheme could pay for in order to deliver across all the goals in the 25-year environment plan.

Should there be any changes to the plan or a future environmental improvement plan, the Government will review the ELM scheme to ensure that the public goods that it is funding remain in line with delivering the priority goals and commitments that the Government have set out in the plan. The Government will be publicly accountable for the delivery of the strategic priorities in both its multiannual financial assistance plan and the environmental improvement plans. This House will of course have the opportunity to scrutinise the drafting of provisions for the environmental improvement plans when the Environment Bill reaches this House.

I had hoped that with this reassurance I would be able to persuade the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, to withdraw her amendment. However, I cannot make the commitment that she seeks to table a government amendment at Third Reading.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have added their support today. As the evening gets later, we seem to be finding more and more consensus around the Chamber, which is very welcome.

I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who rightly reminded us that, as the Natural Capital Committee flagged up, proper systems of measurement are absolutely crucial in terms of the future of environment plans and the crossover with our agricultural activities. We have to have proper measuring systems to measure outcomes and to measure success, but at the moment those links are not obviously made through legislation.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, for reminding us of the State of Nature report and the RSPB report. They make very depressing reading but show the scale of the task ahead and why the sorts of measures that are in our amendment are so important.

I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. He is absolutely right that we do not know what the future holds, but we need to get farmers more guarantees and security for the future, and that is why we are attempting to build in those long-term connections. I am also grateful to him for pointing out that the amendment would not cost the Government anything; indeed, there is a very strong case for saying that the integrated policies that we are suggesting should be introduced might actually save the Government money. That should be a welcome outcome.

I say to the Minister that the Government can make commitments but, as noble Lords have often been reminded on other occasions and in other debates, the Government cannot commit future Governments. We are trying to build in a long-term connection between these two separate arms of Defra’s activity. Yes, I absolutely agree that ELMS will be a crucial part of delivering the 25-year environment plan, which is why it is important that that is in the Bill and that it has long-term resonance to it. The Minister was right to anticipate that I would not be happy with her response. I am sorry to say that I am not. I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.

Agriculture Bill

(Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I shall speak briefly. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and my noble friend Lord Hain for raising these issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has made an interesting point about extending the levy, but I would like far more detail about the economic and perhaps unforeseen animal welfare consequences of broadening the levy via some kind of impact assessment. I would also like to see the proposal underscored by a commitment to consult on the proposals in advance.

We have touched on the benefits of diets based more on plants and less on meat on several occasions. I believe that measures like this should be introduced as part of a wider national food strategy, rather than in isolation. To the noble Viscount, Lord, Trenchard, I say that there are plenty of sources of vegetable protein; we do not have to rely on eating meat.

My noble friend Lord Hain is right to raise the issue of the repatriation of levies raised to the point of slaughter, rather than where the animals were raised. This is particularly concerning in the case of Welsh lamb, as he very eloquently pointed out, and it will become more of an issue as smaller slaughterhouses close down and animals are forced to travel greater distances for slaughter. This point was made well by my noble friend Lord Blunkett.

It has been good to have this short debate. A number of useful issues were raised, but if we are serious about it, a great deal more work would need to be done. In the meantime, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for Amendments 211, 213, 214 and 216. Perhaps I could tell her at the outset that we have the red meat levy; it was established in 1967 under the Agriculture Act.

The term “red meat”, or “cig coch”, is written into Welsh legislation to describe the cattle, sheep and pig industries and has been used regarding the levy for those sectors for many years. Changing the name of the red meat levy in the Bill would necessitate amendments to related legislation across the UK and risk confusion and complications with the existing provisions. A further levy extending to all meats and carcasses of animals slaughtered in the UK would probably require a new levy body to be established, or the scope of the existing levy bodies to be broadened, to cover the additional species, such as goats and deer, that do not fall within the remit of the existing levy bodies. Consultation to determine the need for, and the benefit of, such a levy would also be required. This is set out in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. More importantly, agriculture is a devolved matter, as are these industry levies. It would therefore be for the devolved Administrations to choose to take forward their own regulations in this area, should they wish to do so.

Turning to Amendment 215, plant-based food production already benefits significantly from the UK levy system. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board collects levies that are used to fund activities in this area, valued at approximately £27 million. Legislation providing for our levy bodies clearly sets out the collection of these levies and that they are to be spent to benefit the industry from which they are collected.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering also asked some questions about how they are collected, and I should say that the red meat levy collected in one country can be spent only to benefit the contributing industry in that country. For example, any pig levy that is collected in England must be spent to the benefit of the pigmeat industry in England. Currently, levy cannot be spent for the sole benefit of producers in another jurisdiction.

Clause 33 addresses an acknowledged unfairness in the GB red-meat levy system that has existed for a number of years. It is not intended to change the way these levies are collected or spent. The Government wish simply to right the wrong that has been identified in the red-meat levy system. My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering also asked when we would have the government response to the AHDB consultation. The government response to the request for views on this was published in April 2020.

Turning to Amendment 212, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, Clause 33 was introduced to provide for a scheme that allows for the redistribution of red-meat levy between the levy bodies of Great Britain. It will provide a fair approach to resolving an inequity that has been acknowledged by the Governments of these Administrations for several years. The provision in this amendment is based purely on the origin of the animal, rather than where it has gained economic value. It will allow for the repatriation of levy to the devolved Administrations themselves, whereas the scheme established using the provisions in Clause 33 would allow for the redistribution of levy between levy bodies in the three Administrations. By widening the provision of the scheme from that of Great Britain to that of the United Kingdom, the amendment extends the repatriation of red-meat levy to Northern Ireland. However, the scheme is to be made jointly by Ministers of England, Scotland and Wales, and is not needed by Northern Ireland.

In addition, the repatriation of levy is restricted by this amendment to the devolved Administrations. This could create a disparity between the devolved Administrations and England, as the devolved Administrations will be allowed to repatriate levy dependent upon origin, but England will not.

The noble Lords, Lord Blunkett and Lord Wigley, also brought up the question of small abattoirs, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, made the point that slaughtering animals close to the point of production is an important consideration in animal welfare. I am delighted to say, since they may not have heard my earlier response to this issue, that they are included in Clause 1(5) of the Bill, which provides for small abattoirs, under “preparing” and “processing”.

With this reassurance, I ask that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, withdraw her amendment.

Break in Debate

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

My Lords, I have tabled Amendment 226 in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Randall and Lord Greaves. I also support Amendment 221, which was expertly introduced by my noble friend Lord Whitty. I remind noble Lords of my Rothamsted connections in the register.

Our amendment would require the Secretary of State to monitor the effects of pesticides on livestock and the land, conduct research into alternative methods of pest control and consult on a target to reduce their use. It complements the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty, which focuses more on the impact of pesticides on human health, which is, rightly, also a great cause for concern. As I mentioned in an earlier debate on the agricultural workforce, there are nearly half a million people working on the land who have immediate and worrying exposure to pesticides and herbicides on a daily basis. It is right that that should be properly regulated.

My noble friend Lord Whitty also raised the concerns of those living in rural areas adjoining fields where crops are being sprayed, sometimes indiscriminately. They come with health warnings that are rarely shared with the local population. Clearly these practices can cause substantial pollution, not only to the individuals concerned but to the air quality in nearby areas. It was notable that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, rightly pointed out the irony that water courses seem to be better protected than human beings. As my noble friend Lady Henig said, it is a sad fact that the health impacts of these chemicals often become clear all too late in the day. This is certainly the case with glyphosate, a widely used agricultural and domestic weedkiller.

This is why we argued emphatically that we should retain the precautionary principle when we transpose EU law into UK law. In response to noble Lords who have been critical of these amendments, my noble friend’s amendment calls not for a ban but for a minimum distance between spraying and homes and schools. That is a reasonable prospect, on any measure. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, not everybody operates to the high standards to which he referred and aspires. We cannot just assume that human nature will operate to the best and highest standards.

The amendment in my name concentrates more on the effects of pesticides on the land and its biodiversity. The objectives in Clause 1 place a welcome emphasis on managing land to improve the environment, to protect it from environmental hazards and to embrace agroecology. If we are serious about land management schemes that deliver for the environment, we have to be serious about a review of our pesticide use. As we have debated before, this needs to be based on an integrated pest-management principle which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said, understands the interrelationship between insects and the need to keep their presence in balance, rather than wiping them out indiscriminately with pesticides. A few months ago, I talked to a farmer who described the success of the beetle banks that had been laid in rows between his crops. The beetles come out in the daytime; they roam around the field eating aphids; and then they return to the bank at dusk, and everyone is happy. These are surely the kinds of innovations that we should be supporting, along with precision application where pesticides are absolutely necessary.

We also need to be aware of the threat from imported foods with lower restrictions on the use of pesticides which might flood our market post Brexit. We need specific measures to ensure that UK farmers cannot be undercut by cheap food from non-EU countries with less strict controls, which might be contaminated by pesticide residues. Will maintaining pesticide standards and the precautionary principle apply to all imported food post Brexit?

When a similar amendment was put forward by my Labour colleagues in the Commons, the Minister, Victoria Prentis, agreed that the use of pesticides should be minimised and their usage and effect carefully monitored. She argued that further details would be included in the 25-year environment plan. But I see no reason why this issue cannot be progressed as part of this Bill. All we are asking for is up-to-date research on the impact of pesticides and alternative methods of pest control. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lilley; it is happening at Rothamsted and a number of other research institutes. But we need to pull that evidence together in one place, so that we have a strategy for alternative and better use. This is necessary if we are to have the good practice that the environment land management in the Bill desires. If we are serious about this, the future is about alternatives to pesticide use. All we are asking is that we capture that and put it in the Bill in a constructive way.

I urge noble Lords to look closely at the wording of my noble friend Lord Whitty’s amendment and mine. They are both very modest in their aspiration and scope. They do not ask for a great deal, but they do ask for practical solutions for the way forward. I hope that noble Lords will support both amendments.

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

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for Amendment 221, which I will take together with Amendment 226 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. The Committee has heard a number of heartfelt speeches, most notably from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, when he moved his amendment. A number of noble Lords also mentioned the thoughtful and considered contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, on day three of Committee, when soils, pesticides and nature-friendly farming were debated in the first group of amendments. The Government understand these concerns and recognise the importance of ensuring that the use of pesticides is minimised, that alternatives are developed and that there is monitoring of pesticide use and its effects.

The Government agree that pesticides should not be used where they may harm human health. A robust regulatory system is already in place to deliver that objective. Pesticides are authorised only if scientific assessment shows that their use will not harm human health and will not have unacceptable impacts on the environment. The assessment is carried out by experts at the Health and Safety Executive, with independent input from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides. The assessment of risks is therefore rigorous, and authorisation is frequently refused—but at this stage I take on board the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, about sensible signage.

Monitoring schemes report on the level of usage of each pesticide and on residue levels in food. They also collect and consider reports of possible harm to people or to the environment. These controls ensure that people are properly protected, and they are based on risks. They allow pesticides to be used where this is safe and will help UK farmers to provide high-quality, affordable food.

Agriculture Bill

(Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will also speak briefly. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for raising this issue. I had not considered it before so I am grateful to him for drawing our attention to it. I agree that we need provisions in force in the special circumstances of the use of common land; he made a very good case for the need for a multilateral approach to it. On that basis, I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

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

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greaves for his amendment. He is absolutely right: our commons frequently provide some of the richest opportunities for the provision of environmental public goods and they are an important part of our cultural landscape. The Government are designing future financial assistance schemes to be accessible to as many farmers and land managers as possible. This includes tenant farmers and those who work on common land.

As part of the planned three-year pilot for ELM, the Government will be ensuring that it tests how best to enable commoners to participate and to provide those environmental benefits. To support the development of ELM, we are undertaking a number of tests and trials, working with farmers and land managers to co-design the new schemes. They will help us understand how the scheme could work in a real-life environment. Two of our tests and trials, on Dartmoor and in Cumbria, are looking at issues concerning common land.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves was correct to identify the particular difficulties that can arise when administering payment schemes on common land. The general powers given by the Bill in Clause 1(1) and (2) will enable us to develop agreement terms which work for common land. I can add a bit more detail. The Federation of Cumbria Commoners, and partners, aims to develop and trial a delivery model for creating common-specific land management plans. These plans will support the pastoral economy and maintain the balance of the delicate ecosystems found on commons. The delivery model will encompass a commons toolkit, including baseline data gathering, producing maps, health checks for agreeing and enabling public good delivery, developing commons management plans and commons-proof recommendations for ELM.

If I can add any more detail to that brief answer, I will write to the noble Lord and put a copy in the Library. With that, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Agriculture Bill

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 16th July 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I was pleased to add my name to this amendment, and I will speak briefly in support of it.

Many local farmers have trusted and long-standing relationships with their local abattoir, and it is therefore very distressing when they have to close. As we have heard, it means longer and more stressful journeys for the animals concerned and clearly has a negative impact on their welfare. It also means that the Government are failing in their stated objective to reduce travel times for slaughter.

For farmers wanting to sell their meat as a specified farm product, through so-called private kill arrangements, it also means a more complicated process for retrieving the carcass and ensuring that it is properly labelled. Yet we are all in favour of local food production with specified provenance, which is really appreciated by consumers and can help to add value and boost the rural economy.

Of course, it is important that local abattoirs meet our high slaughterhouse standards and are properly supervised and certified, and this amendment would do nothing to undermine that important principle. I therefore hope that the Minister will feel able to support this small but significant amendment. It is not the total answer to the fate of our small abattoirs, but it would represent a small step forward.

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

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Trees, for his amendment, which highlights the many activities associated with the production of food along the supply chain. In doing so, I acknowledge the fine work of the APPG for Animal Welfare, which he chairs so ably. The Government are committed to addressing the issues raised by its recent report on small abattoirs.

Given his detailed work as chair of that group, I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that the issues faced by small abattoirs are complex and unlikely to be resolved through intervention alone. I know at first hand the advantages of small local abattoirs from the days when I used to deliver my Black Welsh Mountain sheep to the Witney abattoir on the school run—actually, it was on the return from the school run, as I was a little squeamish for the children.

I am delighted to say that we have had it confirmed that the definition of ancillary activities in Clause 1(5) covers slaughtering under either “preparing” or “processing”.

Noble Lords asked a number of questions, which I would like to address. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, asked why micro-abattoirs are not listed as a public good. They are an important part of the agricultural supply chain, but they operate on a commercial basis and therefore do not directly meet the principles of public good. Public goods that may be derived from small abattoirs, such as improved animal welfare or environmental impact, are obviously already covered by Clause 1.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger, ably asked many questions about religious slaughter. The Government encourage the highest standards of animal welfare. Although our policy is to prefer that animals are stunned prior to slaughter, we accept the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat killed in accordance with their religious beliefs. No regulations require the labelling of halal or kosher meat, but where any information of this nature is provided voluntarily, it must be accurate and must not be misleading to the consumer. The Government expect the industry, whether food producer or outlet, to provide consumers with all the information they need to make informed choices. The Government have committed to a serious and rapid examination of the role of labelling in promoting high standards and high welfare across the UK market and will consult on this at the end of the transition period. I should also say that farm assurance schemes apply standards of production that include slaughter requirements; for example, Red Tractor and RSPCA-assured schemes require stunned slaughter.

I hope that I have given noble Lords sufficient assurance that this issue has already been dealt with. With that, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Trees, to withdraw his amendment.

Agriculture Bill

(Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare an interest through my involvement with the Rothamsted agricultural research institute. We have covered a wide range of issues in this group and I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate last week and again today. The amendments explore in more detail what we will need to deliver environmentally sustainable agriculture. We have had reference to nature-friendly farming, to agroecological systems, to agroforestry, to organically and ecologically sustainable systems, to the improved nutrient content of crops, to integrated pest management and to the importance of soil health. I agree with all those concepts, but also with my noble friend Lady Quin that we need to be clear about the definitions of these phrases when we use them.

All these systems have detailed research behind them, which reinforces the evidence that harnessing nature can improve farm outcomes, as well as enhancing the environment. Many noble Lords will have seen at first hand the positive impact on farmland productivity that can occur when these techniques are embraced. At the same time, we know that nature-based measures to reduce emissions can make a substantial contribution to tackling climate change while preserving or restoring habitats. We agree that natural ecological processes and agroforestry techniques should lie at the heart of the Bill. When adopted on a whole-farm approach, they will reduce the use of agrochemicals, encourage biodiversity, improve soil health, recycle nutrients, energy and waste and generally create more diverse, resilient and productive agroecosystems.

Last year, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission report set out the case for bringing agroecology systems out of the shadows and into the mainstream of farming practice. It argued that farmers need to be helped to make that transition and recommended a 10-year programme to provide more research, training and capital grants to make this a reality. This would be an excellent use of the financial assistance in the Bill.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who talked about the need for a long-term programme of soil monitoring. We face a fundamental eradication of soil fertility that will be difficult to reverse. Our APPG on science in agriculture had an excellent evidence session last year on the numerous research projects taking place on this issue, but what we really need is to bring the evidence together in one place. While I am on the subject, will the Minister update us on the work of the Sustainable Soils Alliance, launched by Michael Gove, that was meant to do just that?

The noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, specifically mentioned the transition to organic farming. I agree that this also has an important role to play. Organic farms have 50% more wildlife than conventionally farmed land and healthier soils, with a 44% higher capacity to store long-term soil carbon. Clearly, if the soil is more fertile, it increases productivity, so organic farming can make a real difference to biodiversity while sustaining food production.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and others talked about agroforestry. We agree that this system of planting has huge benefits over traditional forestry techniques. We know that the pressure is on to plant more trees. The Committee on Climate Change has set a target of between 30,000 and 50,000 hectares of new planting a year, but so far the Government have fallen well short of that target. It is important that trees are planted in a way that is sympathetic to the countryside and to the environment, rather than the monoculture plantations we have seen in the past. Agroforestry supplies the answer to this. Mixed plantings of trees and shrubs grown around crops can reduce erosion, increase biodiversity and create complex habitats, so we very much hope that financial assistance will be available to help farmers to create this mixed planting economy.

Finally, the amendments in the name of noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Finlay, highlight the need to reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in particular, highlighted the potentially damaging impacts of pesticides on health, and recommended looking at the evidence and producing an annual report. These views were echoed powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and the very moving examples he gave. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also rightly raised the need to avoid contaminated products being imported into this country. We agree with these objectives and have our own amendments, Amendment 226 on pesticides and Amendment 173 calling for a national food plan that addresses the problem of pesticide residues. I hope that the debates on these amendments will enable us to set out our position in more detail.

This has been a good discussion and I hope the Minister has heard the collective call for a funding priority for nature-based ecological farming. I am sure we will start to narrow down our priorities in this regard as we continue to consider the Bill, but in the meantime I look forward to her response.

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

I thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for his Amendments 29 and 217, with which I will also discuss Amendment 224 in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness. Soil is indeed one of our greatest natural assets and the Government are committed to having sustainably managed soils by 2030, as set out in the 25-year environment plan. Providing financial incentives for protecting and improving the quality of soil will help to protect and improve all the properties that contribute to healthy soil. The 25-year environment plan sets out the Government’s ambition to have sustainably managed soils by 2030. A healthy soils indicator is being developed as part of a framework of indicators under the plan.

My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about spending commitments in the plan. This spend has been allocated to developing a robust and informative soil health indicator and monitoring scheme, and the Government are currently in the process of confirming actions for their work programme to protect and improve soil quality. The Government will develop a definition of soil health with stakeholders. To ensure that it captures the complete picture of soil health, this definition will be a balance of biological, chemical and physical characteristics, and could therefore include characteristics that help define the biodiverse nature of the soil, such as earthworms and fungi, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Lucas.

To help achieve this target, the Government are considering the development of a soil monitoring scheme informed by natural capital approaches. As such, this scheme will recognise the relationships between soil properties and the ecosystem services that soil provides, such as clean water and carbon storage. A new soil monitoring scheme would provide a baseline national-scale picture of the state of our soils. This will enable the Government to quantify targets for improvements and then monitor progress towards these targets. These metrics could directly feed into ELM to incentivise better management approaches. Maintaining the metrics of measure across national and localised schemes will enable shared data collection, storage and analysis to further inform impacts of management actions.

There are a number of key vehicles through which the Government are working to address soil quality. These include: this Bill, which will provide financial assistance for the protection and improvement of soils; the Environment Bill, which will allow a future soils target to be set; the 25-year environment plan, through which a soil indicator is being developed; and the new ELM scheme, which could act as a lever for incentivising sustainable soil practices. Protecting and improving our soils will involve a wide variety of actions, reflecting the wide diversity in soil quality, soil types and land uses in England. This would include actions to protect our best grade 1 and 2 lands as well as actions to improve the poorer-quality grade land—in the words of the father of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, farming within the grain of nature, cropping not quarrying.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 9th March 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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.