Debates between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester

There have been 19 exchanges between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester

1 Wed 3rd February 2021 Electricity Supply 3 interactions (237 words)
2 Mon 11th January 2021 National Grid: Capacity 3 interactions (204 words)
3 Tue 8th December 2020 Heat and Building Strategy 3 interactions (253 words)
4 Mon 30th November 2020 Hydrogen Sector 3 interactions (284 words)
5 Tue 3rd November 2020 Electricity (Risk-Preparedness) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 2 interactions (1,804 words)
6 Tue 27th October 2020 Infrastructure Planning (Electricity Storage Facilities) Order 2020 2 interactions (1,449 words)
7 Tue 27th October 2020 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Order 2020 2 interactions (2,379 words)
8 Tue 22nd September 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (1,498 words)
9 Thu 17th September 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
5 interactions (1,477 words)
10 Tue 15th September 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (977 words)
11 Tue 21st July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (985 words)
12 Thu 16th July 2020 Agriculture Bill
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (216 words)
13 Wed 24th June 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
8 interactions (2,875 words)
14 Mon 22nd June 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
5 interactions (2,312 words)
15 Wed 11th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (371 words)
16 Mon 9th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
3 interactions (648 words)
17 Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (1,335 words)
18 Wed 4th March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (998 words)
19 Mon 2nd March 2020 Fisheries Bill [HL]
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (842 words)

Electricity Supply

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Wednesday 3rd February 2021

(3 weeks, 5 days ago)

Lords Chamber

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an interesting point. He is right that we should take all costs of the energy system into account when making choices about our generation mix. The latest departmental modelling does this. It is not as simple as calculating firm power equivalence. A system’s cost depends on what is available across the sector, rather than focusing on each type of generation separately.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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The energy White Paper stated that, at Hinkley Point C, EDF

“expects that 64% of the construction contracts, by value, will go to UK-based companies.”

Can the Minister confirm that this will continue to be the case, despite the delay and increased costs of that project? Can she translate this into the number of jobs? How widespread or, alternatively, how concentrated, are their location? What is the multiplier effect on local jobs? Will this be reflected in a similar fashion at Sizewell C, at the reduced cost now agreed?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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Our aim is certainly to replicate the mix of local construction costs into the UK economy. Hinkley Point has indeed invested £12 billion into the UK economy, which represents 64% by value. I cannot comment on the multiplier effect, but Hinkley Point C has generated 10,300 jobs to date and has had knock-on effects, such as the co-operative group of farmers who now produce food for the entire Hinkley Point estate. I understand that a couple have gone on to supply other local businesses too.

National Grid: Capacity

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Monday 11th January 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I cannot give a specific answer on how many designs will be expected to be announced, but we are currently finalising arrangements to open the generic design assessment. We will provide more information in due course. Our aim is to invite applications to BEIS in quarter 2 of this year. In the meantime, the Government have announced £40 million for developing regulatory frameworks and supporting the supply chains for SMRs in the United Kingdom.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab) [V]
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SMRs have the potential to help reach the UK’s net zero targets. How many SMRs are typically needed to be operational by 2050 to make a meaningful contribution to net zero? What are the cost savings, as well as UK job creations, of SMRs and current nuclear reactors?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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Analysis in BEIS released alongside the energy White Paper demonstrates that in a low-cost system, the UK could need between 5 and 15 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. However, it is for the market to determine the best solutions for very low emissions, and reliable supply at the lowest cost to consumers. On job creation, the Rolls-Royce consortium believes that a UK SMR programme could support up to 40,000 jobs, and that each SMR would be capable of providing power for 750,000 homes.

Heat and Building Strategy

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Tuesday 8th December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I think that the noble Lord is referring back to the mistakes that we made in the development of the offshore wind market. We are determined not to make the same mistakes. The profit from the technology that we develop in floating offshore wind and other green technologies, including the significant investment that we are making into hydrogen energy development, will provide, I hope, some reassurance.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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The number of unpublished plans, statutes and White Papers will soon outnumber the scattergun 10-point environment plan. With most buildings being heated by gas, solutions to a decarbonised gas system utilising the existing infrastructure point towards a hydrogen-based gas system. What emphasis or consideration are the Government giving towards a photocatalyst material that utilises more light to harvest more hydrogen from water? That was part of my question to the noble Baroness last week. Is she satisfied that sufficient investment is being directed towards new technologies that can then be commercialised by start-ups to scale them up into solutions?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The noble Lord will be reassured that the hydrogen strategy paper will come out early in the new year. In answer to his question about photocatalyst material, I believe that the Active Building Centre in Swansea is working towards achieving new building materials and coatings that generate electricity from light and, indeed, from heat. This energy could be used to power hospitals and schools as well as homes, or it could be sold back to the national grid. This is being supported by a £36 million government grant.

Hydrogen Sector

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Monday 30th November 2020

(3 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I do agree with the noble Lord. He is right that proving the safety case through rigorous testing and trials is critical to the success of any new technology or fuel source. That is why the 10-point plan sets out plans for a series of incremental trials, potentially leading up to a hydrogen village by the end of this decade. Alongside this, it also sets out plans to implement the future home standard in the shortest possible time, so that new buildings can have high levels of energy efficiency and low-carbon heating, including the aim for 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028. The truth is that we need all these technologies to be developed at scale.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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Last week’s announcement of the scattergun 10-point plan as a global template for delivering net-zero emissions, amounting to only £500 million for low-carbon hydrogen production by 2030, contrasts with the €7 billion hydrogen investment announced by the German Government. What kind of hydrogen, and the split, will this involve? The key issue is to create a UK hydrogen gas production and supply network, utilising excess wind power at times of low demand to produce green hydrogen energy-dense power. When might the Government have answers to these real questions?

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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The ambitious figures propounded by other EU countries which the noble Lord mentioned often have no actual policy underpinning. The point of the 10-point plan, and of the hydrogen strategy that will be announced in January, is to add some meat to the bones of these initiatives. The UK has already committed £240 million, and some of these carbon capture and storage and hydrogen manufacturing plants will indeed be sited near green energy sources such as offshore wind.

Electricity (Risk-Preparedness) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her introduction of the statutory instrument before the Committee today. As she said, this relates to risk-preparedness in relation to electricity failure now that the UK has left the EU, whether a deal on the future relationship with the EU is reached or not. The instrument transfers into UK law Regulation (EU) 2019/941. I will approve it, as it does not differ materially from the case that held previously, when the UK was a member state.

Great Britain will produce its own risk management plan. However, I have a few questions to ask the Minister. I have just made reference to Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom. I understand that, with the Executive now up and running again in Northern Ireland, Ministers there will be making the decisions. However, could the Minister go further and make any comments around the implications for the situation across the island of Ireland? The regulations could well be different from those in the rest of the UK for these reasons in themselves.

Risk management is a function that has to be recognised, with assessments and procedures reflected at all levels of organisational management. Can the Minister confirm that this will continue to be the situation throughout Great Britain, as before?

The EU directive included a provision that the UK’s plans were published and circulated with neighbouring countries, with the EU as a whole and with the EU co-ordination body ENTSO-E. Can the Minister inform the Committee whether Great Britain will publish and share its plans in the future? Will that be partially answered by whether a deal is struck with the EU before 31 December 2020 or not?

There are interconnectors for grid access to the continent that I am sure will continue, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for identifying the importance of interconnectors and their future development, especially to Ireland, and how they could reshape the UK energy market. Will Great Britain publish the risk management plans and share them within the UK, including Parliament and the devolved Administrations, or would that make the plans vulnerable to terrorist attack in some way different from the way plans were published prior to circulation under the EU? Will plans be published merely to necessary electricity authorities? Who might those authorities be in the new Great Britain context? Ultimately, is it the responsibility of the Secretary of State? I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for his questioning of future intentions to share plans with members of the EU, and on what basis.

I have some more questions. The Explanatory Memorandum makes reference to the Downstream Gas & Electricity Resilience and Energy Resilience and Emergency Response units at the department. Can the Minister confirm any different role in risk management terms of these units and how they co-ordinate effectively in the risk management plans? It was a little difficult to hear her introduction with the noise interference of the Division bell, and I apologise.

Finally, can the Minister say who is responsible for auditing these plans now that the UK has left the EU? There must be some transparency in regard to the risk preparedness of Great Britain in the event of failure in the electricity system. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, that future resilience in terms of climate change and renewables needs to be recognised. These risks are more likely to be identified and challenged with management at the audit stage. Any further clarity that the Minister may be able to provide would be most helpful.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I thank noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, which has widened out considerably—as indeed it should—from the rather dry statutory instrument that we are faced with.

The noble Lord, Lord Stephen, raised an important point about the transformation of our energy system. As we transition towards net zero, maintaining energy resilience will continue to be a priority for the Government. The electricity system operator has a plan in place to transform the operation of Great Britain’s electricity system and put in place the innovative systems products and services to ensure that the network is ready to handle 100% zero-carbon by 2025. I hope that this provides some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, that this is our goal that we are working towards. This statutory instrument will ensure the continued security and resilience of the electricity system by identifying and mitigating new risks to the system.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raised the issue of additional interconnector arrangements, and in particular the proposed Icelandic interconnector. Although I cannot comment on specific projects, I can assure the noble Lord that interconnectors will continue to play an important part in our energy system. There are currently six interconnectors between the GB electricity market and near neighbours, with a total capacity of 6 gigawatts. In 2019 net imports accounted for 6.1% of total supply. There are further plans for the delivery of a large number of electricity interconnectors, adding 11.9 gigawatts to the existing operational 6 gigawatts by 2023. These interconnectors provide significant benefits, including lower consumer bills as well as security of energy supply and, after the end of the transition period, our energy system will still be physically linked to the EU. Further interconnection is in the mutual interest of the UK and the EU, and we have continued to see new interconnector projects progress.

Going back to the Iceland interconnector, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, that it sounds like an appealing project until you get into the weeds of it. While you can build a 1,500-kilometre interconnector for up to 1.2 gigawatts between Iceland and the UK, there are a number of barriers under the water, thrown up by the seabed survey, which, while not showstoppers, would make it extremely difficult to do. From what I remember of the project, the main stumbling block was that most of the energy—geothermally and hydro-generated—comes from the south-west corner of the country, yet the best place to build an interconnector is the north-east. Getting over that terrain, much of which is bedrock, would have meant that the interconnector itself could not be buried. The effect on the environment of pylons or overland HVDC cables would have been enormous. Björk is the least of the issues there, I think; the entire environmental lobby would be very exercised by the prospect. Given that tourism is such a huge part of Iceland’s economy—and has been until the pandemic—I wish the project well, but there are a lot of difficult problems to overcome.

The Government are committed to achieving a smooth end to the transition period for our energy system. We have brought forward a package of legislation to ensure that retained EU law is workable and free of deficiencies by the end of the transition period. This draft instrument falls within this category of legislation. The Government retain their obligation to produce these resilience plans on the same basis as before; this statutory instrument merely removes our obligation to circulate these plans among the EU, but it remains very much in our interest to carry out these studies—in fact, it is now set in law that we should do so. The failure to address the deficiencies of the SI would have caused uncertainty and inefficiency in the operation of Great Britain’s market regulation, the role and functions of domestic and EU bodies in the markets, and requirements on market participants.

I must stress that this draft instrument and the UK’s departure from the EU as a whole do not, and will not, alter the fact that our energy system is resilient and secure. In Great Britain, the Government have been working closely with the electricity system operator, the national grid, and the regulatory body, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, to ensure that measures are in place to deliver continuity of supply and confidence in the regulatory framework in all scenarios. The Government are therefore confident that the UK’s electricity system is able to respond to any challenges, whether these are as a result of leaving the EU or other challenges facing the UK, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Our energy system will still be linked to the EU after the end of the transition period through these interconnectors. The UK, as a result, has one of the most secure energy systems in the world and the industry has well-placed contingency plans to keep energy flowing and to ensure that our energy supplies are safe. This draft instrument will support this by ensuring that the sector is well prepared for a variety of risks that could impact the system. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, referred to the plans that were published previously, and asked whether these will be published in the future, and to which parties. We will publish the risk preparedness plans in 2022.

This draft instrument will help maintain a robust framework for electricity risk management, with continuity for the market and certainty for market participants. It will do this by retaining relevant functions to ensure the electricity risk preparedness regulations work properly and, where necessary, revoking provisions that will no longer be relevant after the transition period.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, also asked how the SI affects risk preparedness planning with Ireland. We are working very closely with Northern Irish colleagues to determine what is in the scope of the Northern Ireland protocol, and how they will comply with their obligations under the risk preparedness regulation after the end of the transition period, which they will be obligated to continue by virtue of the Northern Ireland protocol. For example, this includes the reporting function to the EU and the more difficult issue of nominating a competent authority that would feed into the EU processes.

In conclusion, this draft instrument is required to ensure continuity for our energy system, and certainty for both market participants and consumers. In doing so, it will form an important part of the GB framework for preparing, preventing, and managing electricity crises. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, raised some very important points. Apart from the broader points he raised about the investments we are making in new forms of energy and, indeed, in battery technology, I was very interested to hear of the reports of new types of energy he mentioned, and I will look at Hansard. I will write to him on the other specific points he raised on the SI, so that his detailed questions receive the detailed answers they need.

On the emergency response, BEIS is the lead department for electricity emergencies, working closely with industry partners to consider risks to the supply and ways to effectively manage these risks. BEIS leads the emergency response, working closely with industry, with plans clearly set out in the National Emergency Plan: Downstream Gas and Electricity.

I commend these draft regulations to the Committee.

Infrastructure Planning (Electricity Storage Facilities) Order 2020

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Tuesday 27th October 2020

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her clear explanation of the order before the Committee. This simple order, which corrects an error from the Energy Act 2016, will make a key difference in the development of much-needed battery storage for the development of renewables and the pursuit of net zero. I am happy to approve the order in that respect.

The threshold of 50 megawatts for determining the avenue of planning requirements was always an impediment to progress. It is disappointing that the Government had to wait for the outcome of linked strings of 49.9 megawatt facilities to appreciate the position— a lesson that took the Government four years to appreciate.

The government consultation also highlighted industry’s concern that the pumped hydro storage threshold needs to be increased to 200 megawatts. The Government rejected that on the grounds of a lack of evidence. Does the industry need to repeat the experience for the Government? Is the Minister convinced that there is no lack of vision in this respect, and that faster progress could not be achieved by raising both thresholds above the 50-megawatt level? What evidence would the Minister’s department need? Would consistency across the devolved Administrations always be considered the more important aspect? However, avoiding the considerable extra burden of the NSIP regime is of great importance to the technology.

During the passage of the Energy Act 2016, there was a lot of general debate on battery storage, underlining the clear necessity of its development to capture greater benefits from renewable and low-carbon technologies. The key element of support for the development of battery storage revolves around how to categorise it under the regulatory framework. The case was made for the creation of a separate licensing regime, either as a subset of generation or as a stand-alone regime.

The smart systems and flexibility plan, and its follow-up in 2018, set out the intention to make changes to both arrangements as well as to the threshold arrangements. Can the Minister give the Committee any information on when further progress will be made with the battery licensing part of that intention? I understand that the department has completed preparatory work to define storage in primary legislation. Will the energy White Paper, which is now long overdue, include these aspects within its appraisals of future plans? Will there be answers in time for COP 26? What indications can the Minister give on that today?

The importance of energy storage’s linkage to the grid through different microtechnologies and the inclusion of schemes to small businesses and households were highlighted by other speakers. We all await the necessary technology improvements to make further progress and will wait to hear how the Government may enhance this with complementary schemes for local communities.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I thank your Lordships for their valuable contributions to this debate. I conclude by emphasising the importance of the changes contained in this SI. The Government are committed to removing barriers to the deployment of electricity storage. The Government and Ofgem’s 2017 smart systems and flexibility plan sets out a range of actions that will be taken to enable the transition to a smarter and more flexible energy system.

This SI will remove electricity storage, except pumped hydro, from the national planning regime in England and Wales. It will result in an appropriate planning treatment for electricity storage. Sizing and investment decisions will be based on a project’s economic potential or capability to store renewables, rather than whether it falls under the NSIP threshold. We estimate that this legislation could save the industry between £0.5 million and £7 million annually.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about pump storage in England—actually, in all places—offshore. To clarify, we are applying this onshore and offshore for legal consistency. We are not aware of any developments of offshore storage. However, storage located offshore, should it be developed, would need to seek planning permission. In Wales, it would need a marine licence from either the Marine Management Organisation or Natural Resources Wales, so there is an element of future-proofing this legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked whether, given the enormous demand for storage in the future, this will be sufficient in meeting the demand for storage. We are taking a number of steps to remove barriers, reform markets and invest in innovation through the 2017 smart systems plan, including ending double payment of network and policy costs and making it easier to connect to the grid. We have made good progress in improving the regulatory and investment landscape for storage, and we are working closely with industry to develop the next phase of work under the smart systems plan.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, also asked about promoting household batteries. I wholeheartedly endorse her enthusiasm for these—and indeed for solar panel roof tiles. We have made good progress in improving the regulatory and investment landscape for storage, and we are working closely with industry to develop the next phase of work under the smart systems plan, including addressing barriers to domestic storage. The noble Baroness also made the point that saving energy is at least as important as generating it, which we should all keep in mind.

My noble friend Lord Robathan asked about the progress of battery storage development. There is currently about one gigawatt of battery storage in the GB system; the majority of this has been deployed since 2015. There are about nine gigawatts of storage in the planning pipeline, six gigawatts of which is battery storage and three gigawatts of which is pumped hydro.

My noble friend also asked about investment in new types of battery technology. We have launched a range of innovation competitions as part of our £70 million innovation funding for smart systems. This included a £20 million competition for demonstrating innovative storage technologies. As well as this, we have allocated £317 million to the Faraday battery challenge.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury asked what additional funding will be given to local authorities. They already have experience of dealing with storage projects below 50 megawatts. We expect, with this legislation, to encourage projects to deploy at a larger scale rather than bring forward new projects. We are working with MHCLG to update the planning practice guidance to refer to storage. I will write to the right reverend Prelate on the possibility of future opportunities to discuss the Environment Bill. He also asked about support for rooftop solar generation; I will write to him with further detail on the actions that we are taking to support this.

In response to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering’s question about making electricity storage flood-proof, although her point is also applicable to other energy infrastructure, the planning system requires developers and decision-makers to consider the impacts of flooding on the projects in question. This will require consultation with the Environment Agency and other relevant bodies to ensure that any risks to infrastructure are thoroughly considered at every stage of the decision-making process. Following Sir Michael Pitt’s recommendations, guidance for local authorities in relation to this matter is now set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

My noble friend also asked that local communities be involved in these decisions. These changes mean that storage facilities will generally be consented by the local planning authority, involving local communities in such decisions.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked about the threshold for pumped hydro storage. There is no evidence to suggest a higher threshold is needed here. The analysis shows that the planned impacts of pumped hydro will be in an order of magnitude higher than other storage technologies, meaning that the NSIP regime is the most appropriate planning route. A 50-megawatt threshold is consistent with hydro generation, which has similar planning impacts.

The noble Lord also asked about our commitment to define storage in primary legislation. This is an important commitment, and one that we will honour when parliamentary time allows.

Several noble Lords asked about the development of pylons. I am afraid that I cannot give a detailed answer now; I will write to them on this.

To achieve net zero at the lowest cost, we will need significant levels of flexibility to integrate high volumes of low-carbon power, heat and transport. This will require a significant increase in the deployment of electricity storage. The changes contained in this order help to unlock the potential for large-scale storage facilities critical for meeting net zero.

To close, I will once more emphasise the importance of this order in removing a key barrier to the deployment of large-scale storage facilities. Approval of this order will help to bring forward such facilities, supporting low-carbon jobs and enabling us to maximise the output of our renewable generation and progress towards meeting net zero.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Order 2020

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Tuesday 27th October 2020

(4 months ago)

Grand Committee

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her introduction to the order and welcome her to the duties of responding for the Government on energy and climate change. As she explained, it is important that the UK continues with an emissions trading scheme, having left the EU scheme, as it covers 33% of UK emissions. It is an essential element of decarbonisation policies to encourage cost-effective emission reductions along the pathway to the net-zero target. I approve of the order very much on that basis, and on the basis that the clear preference is for the UK ETS to be linked to the EU ETS post the implementation or transition period. I am glad that the CBI agrees with that position, as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. Paragraph 6 of the Explanatory Memorandum states this in terms of the Government being

“open to considering a link between a future UK ETS and the EU ETS … to establish a much larger carbon market”,

creating more opportunities for emissions reductions, greater cost efficiencies and increased flexibility.

As climate change and the ETS are devolved matters, the tussles of the scheme at EU level will be replaced with tussles to which any UK scheme may give rise with the devolved Administrations. Would the Minister care to comment on which set of tussles she considers may be the more intractable? I will not widen discussion into the dispute-resolving mechanisms of the common framework and how effective they may or may not be. However, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is correct to be anxious that dialogue with the devolved Administrations is constructive.

The subject gives rise to my first question regarding whether the UK will resolve the remaining difficulties in negotiations with the EU and include the preferred option of linkage with the EU ETS. Does the Minister have any important news on that? It is understood that the order envisages the UK emissions trading scheme as a fallback position, and that this will by and large shadow the EU ETS. Can the Minister say whether development of the UK’s ETS will take place with a view to future linkage, or will a carbon emissions tax be set up instead? Time is now becoming critical to provide leadership and credibility in the run-up to COP 26 next year. A separate carbon emissions tax would become more open to political intervention, and more institutional safeguards would be needed to ensure that pricing would remain consistent with the pathway to net zero. Can she now rule out the possibility of a carbon tax regime? I understand that the question still has to be settled with the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is also concerned with that continuing uncertainty.

Regarding the shape of the proposed UK ETS, there are some curious figures. In paragraph 7 of the Explanatory Memorandum, it is proposed that the initial cap

“be set at 5% below the UK’s expected notional share of the EU ETS cap for Phase IV of the EU ETS”.

First, is that 5% lowering of the cap ambitious enough? Secondly, are the figures that the Government calculate the correct ones? The figures given are that 156 million allowances be set for 2021. However, I understand that carbon emission reductions are progressing at a faster rate, and that 129 million allowances would be more likely as the expected figure. Can the Minister explain why the latest data is not being used?

We can agree that the moving target of reduction percentages remain in line with the EU scheme. However, as the Government concede that the cap progression will be assessed against the trajectory towards net zero as advised by the Committee on Climate Change and its sixth carbon budget, this could amount to quite a demanding correction, as the Government have not maintained compliance with the fourth or fifth carbon budgets. Given how important the climate emergency is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, explained, and how ambitious we must be in continuing to set the pathways to the future, why do the Government consider that they have the luxury of delaying the correction until at least 2023 or even January 2024? This may need to be considerably more than setting a cap lower than the 5% level, and with more realistic figures. Can the Minister explain more fully the rationale behind the proposals outlined, and commit to giving more urgency to the matter in the long-delayed energy White Paper?

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked whether the UK emissions trading scheme would set any more net cost on consumers. My understanding is that it would not, but the Minister may know whether that answer will still be correct in relation to any emissions tax alternative, and whether the 5% cap below the UK’s share of the EU scheme would also be commensurate with that understanding. What more stringent level below the 5% would still be consistent with the same net costs to the consumer, should a more radical correction be required in either 2023 or 2024?

Many more elements still need further clarity, such as the amount of free allowances and details of carbon auctions, and I welcome any further detail that the Minister may be able to give the Committee today.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this short debate, and for their broadly supportive comments on carbon pricing and this SI. I recognise the strength of feeling about the carbon emissions tax and reassure noble Lords that no decisions have been taken about it; I shall certainly make sure that their voices are heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, raised the need to ensure that our heavy industrial emitters receive free allocation to ensure competitiveness. Free allocation of allowances will continue to be the main policy instrument through which carbon leakage risk and competitiveness impacts are addressed in the UK emissions trading scheme. Our initial UK ETS free allocation approach will be similar to that of the EU ETS period 2021-30, to ensure a smooth transition for participants for the 2021 launch. In 2019, the value of those free allowances given to the UK installations was over £1 billion, taking an average EU allowance price of £22. The Government also compensate some energy-intensive industries for the indirect cost of the ETS and other climate policies passed on to electricity prices.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, also mentioned the CBI’s heat commission report. I welcome his commission’s thoughtful recommendations on how to decarbonise this too often forgotten sector, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, described as a Cinderella sector. As he will know, industrial heat processes are within the UK ETS, but heating in domestic and non-domestic buildings is not. The Government plan to publish a heat and building strategy in due course that sets out our immediate and long-term actions for decarbonising heating in buildings. An industrial decarbonisation strategy will be published in the spring.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised a series of important and detailed questions. Given time constraints, I will be happy to respond to them in writing, but she also raised the impact of Covid on the aviation sector, as did other noble Lords. Our absolute focus in government at this time is combating Covid-19. We recognise the challenges that Covid-19 has caused the aviation sector and are working closely with the industry to provide support, but it is important that we continue to work on our longer-term priorities, including tackling climate change. There should be a minimal impact on the sector, as the UK ETS will ensure that aircraft operators continue to face obligations for emissions on UK routes that will no longer be part of an EU ETS.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, rightly said that we should question whether we are going far enough. That is the right question to ask and why we are committed to consulting within nine months of receiving the Committee on Climate Change’s sixth carbon budget advice, to ensure that the cap is net-zero consistent.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria, Lord Bradshaw and Lord Grantchester, all raised linking a UK ETS with the EU ETS and the status of negotiations with the EU. As noble Lords will appreciate, negotiations are still ongoing and it would clearly be wrong of me to prejudice the outcome of those discussions. We are continuing discussions with the EU on carbon pricing, and we have also been clear with the EU that we are open to considering a link if it is in both sides’ interests. We have been clear that, whatever decisions we take on carbon pricing and whatever the outcome of those negotiations, we will ensure that the UK will have an ambitious carbon pricing system, in line with our net-zero commitments.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked why the cap, while 5% lower than the EU ETS, has been set at 156 million tonnes above current emission levels. The cap we are setting at the start will enable a smooth transition from the EU ETS to the new UK ETS to provide certainty for business. Demand for allowances is expected to come from the banking of allowances for future years or as a hedge against price increases. As such, some headroom is crucial to allow for these behaviours to continue without risking price spikes in the early years of the system. This has been acknowledged by the Committee on Climate Change in its advice to us. This initial cap is already more ambitious than the UK’s notional share would have been if we had stayed in the EU ETS. I reassure the noble Lord that once we have received the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the sixth carbon budget, we will consult next year on a net-zero consistent cap. It would not be right to set the level of the cap before we have received this advice, but I reassure him that we are seized of the urgency of making this decision once this advice has been received.

I confirm to my noble friend Lord Moynihan that international credits cannot be accepted for compliance with the UK ETS. This is the same as would have applied in the EU ETS during the same period. With the UK ETS we will continue to lead the world in carbon pricing, which is why we plan for the UK ETS to be the first truly net-zero consistent emissions trading scheme.

My noble friend asked how the devolved Administrations will be actively involved in the decision on the eventual carbon pricing mechanism. This concern was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. We have worked closely with the devolved Administrations throughout the development of the UK ETS. Their views on the ETS and the potential carbon emissions tax have been communicated clearly and are understood by the UK Government. The final policy decision will be made collectively by the UK Government, but with full consideration given to the devolved authorities’ views. We will of course work with them to ensure that they have the support needed to implement either policy option.

My noble friend also asked for the likely date of the first UK ETS auction in 2021 and about the operation of a market stability reserve. The current proposed timing for introducing UK emissions allowance auctions is the second quarter of 2021. We will not bring in a supply management mechanism like the MSR from day one because an SAM cannot be operational in a stand-alone UK ETS until approximately mid-2022. This is due to the requirement for at least one year of verified UK emissions data. We will have a transitional auction reserve price in place to prevent very low allowance prices and ensure minimum price continuity. We will consult separately on the design of a stand-alone SAM if it is required in due course.

The noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Bradshaw, and others asked questions about whether the Government will proceed with the UK emissions trading scheme or a carbon emissions tax. We understand businesses’ need for policy certainty and will provide it as soon as we can. This instrument is required to establish a UK ETS, either stand-alone or linked. It is critical to ensure that this can be delivered for the end of the transition period.

I think I have answered most questions. I will read Hansard and, if I have not, I will reply in writing.

This Order in Council, laid under the Climate Change Act 2008, establishes a UK-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, which will drive cost-effective emissions reductions across our intensive industries, and our power generation and aviation sectors. As we reach the end of the transition period, this legislation will ensure that the UK has a domestic carbon pricing policy fit for the net-zero future that we have led the world in committing to. The UK was a pioneer in carbon pricing and trading almost 20 years ago and has taken a leading role in the continued development and improvement of the concept through our participation in the EU ETS. We have therefore designed the system with the benefit of that knowledge and experience.

In this way, many features will be familiar to businesses. We will fulfil our promise of a smooth transition to our future carbon pricing policy. At the same time, launching a UK ETS will allow us to have autonomy to pursue our climate goals in the way that works best for UK. In some areas, we have already taken the opportunity to make the system work better for the UK and we will continue to do this as the UK ETS evolves over time. Most crucially, we will consult on aligning the emissions cap of the UK ETS with our net-zero commitments. We will seek to implement changes by January 2023 and no later than January 2024.

Alongside the UK ETS, the Government have an ambitious range of policies in place to help industry to reduce cost and decarbonise while supporting a clean, green recovery from Covid-19. These schemes must of course be supported by an effective carbon pricing policy. With the EU ETS having covered around a third of UK emissions between 2013 and 2020, carbon pricing is a key tool for achieving our carbon emission reduction targets at the least cost to business.

Agriculture Bill

(Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lords who have returned with these amendments from the debates in Committee on provisions in Part 5, Clauses 35 to 37, on marketing standards. Regulations around marketing, labelling, traceability, country of origin and GI schemes remain critical to providing accurate and appropriate information to the consumer.

The complexities behind the list of EU Commission delegated directives cover various product sectors, including wine, and are the subject of Amendment 89A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. These regulations under the withdrawal Act also include country of origin, protection of designations of origin and geographical indicators, and traditional terms are important to facilitate frictionless trade with the EU and enhance the future of UK exports, which have been established so successfully.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, return with their Amendment 92A on the importance of geographical indicator schemes not only for fantastic products for Cornwall but for many artisan food products, such as Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and Melton Mowbray pies. The House also discussed these schemes on the Trade Bill proceedings in the last Session, as spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. The adding of value to local specialisms is a crucial element in encouraging skill, pride and prestige in rural entrepreneurship. We agree that it is of considerable importance that a successful trade deal is concluded with the EU. It is also great that my noble friend Lord Foulkes is able to be with us in the Chamber; his words were gin-clear on the merits of Scottish produce.

These regulations will be subject to the affirmative approval procedure, which should not only contain an impact assessment but be subject to consultation. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry, for highlighting the importance of a widespread and exhaustive consultation on their Amendment 91. Alteration of existing requirements should proceed only on the basis of proper and widespread consultation with producers, the supply chain and the consumer to ensure an appropriate balance.

I am sure that the Government appreciate the merit behind these amendments and that the Minister will provide additional reassurances to satisfy the House.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I will start with Amendment 89A. Marketing standards establish detailed rules on the quality of agricultural products and the provision of product information to consumers. They are intended to make sure that products offered to consumers are accurately and consistently labelled and of acceptable quality, and that unsatisfactory products are kept off the market. They are overall in the interests of producers, traders and consumers. They encourage high-quality production, improve profitability and transparency and protect consumer interests. At present, certain agricultural products marketed in the EU must conform to marketing standards and associated labelling requirements set out in EU law. The marketing standards apply at all marketing stages, including import and export.

The noble Lord, Lord Holmes, asked why we could not do nothing. We all despise unnecessary bureaucracy, but VI-1 forms are needed until the end of the transition period under the terms of the withdrawal agreement. We will be looking at these rules again at the end of the transition period. I reassure him on digitalisation: the administration of maintaining marketing standards of imported wine products, including the digitalisation of VI-1 forms, is included in the current scope of Clause 35(1). These provisions do not therefore need to be explicitly added into the clause. The scope to replace VI-1 forms with an electronic document is also covered under retained EU law, specifically Article 27 of retained EU delegated regulation 2018/273. Therefore, the purpose of this amendment is already covered. The Government cannot digitalise unilaterally, but it is already an option under retained EU law, and we are looking at introducing it. It is likely that South Africa will be the first partner we seek to do this with at the end of the transition period.

I turn to Amendment 91. Clause 35 will give the Secretary of State the power to make regulations and amend existing EU and domestic legislation concerning marketing standards to ensure that they are tailored to meet the needs of domestic farmers, retailers and consumers. A full review of the marketing standards is going to be undertaken. As part of this, detailed policy thinking, stakeholder engagement and consultations will need to take place. Any changes would be made with the purpose of tailoring the marketing standards to fit the needs of the domestic farming sector.

I can confirm unequivocally that any use of the powers in Clause 35 would be covered by an existing duty to consult. As for the question about the bias towards consultation, I say that the Government’s preference is to consult the public on these matters. We would never rely solely on the views of representative bodies, and we will not bias our consultations towards one group.

Marketing standards are covered by food law, and a duty to consult is contained in Article 9 of regulation 178/2002. This regulation states that

“There shall be open and transparent public consultation, directly or through representative bodies, during the preparation, evaluation and revision of food law, except where the urgency of the matter does not allow it.”

This regulation will become retained EU law via the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

One of the principles of good law making is not to repeat law which already exists, in order to protect the coherence of the statute book. We are aware that there is an exemption for urgent situations in Article 9 of Regulation 178/2002 and I place on record that there are no plans to make any urgent amendments using the Clause 35 power. Urgent changes would usually be made under food law instead. There are specific regulations which cover food information and safety and there is no future intention to broaden the powers in Clause 35 to cover any such areas.

It is standard procedure that a summary of the responses to a consultation be published on GOV.UK within 12 weeks of it closing. Further to this, any statutory instruments made using the power will also be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum and a proportionate analysis or full regulatory impact assessment where the net direct cost to business is above £5 million. The Explanatory Memorandum will include details on the outcome of any consultations which have taken place. A more detailed analysis of the consultation outcome will also be published on the departmental website at the time the statutory instrument is laid before Parliament. The impact assessment will provide the rationale for government intervention, details of all the options considered and the expected cost and benefits, particularly for businesses. Clause 35 is subject to the affirmative procedure. Any statutory instruments which are introduced must be actively approved by both Houses of Parliament. This procedure ensures that Parliament can properly scrutinise the statutory instrument before it comes into force.

Turning to Amendment 92A, I assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, that we fully expect all 88 geographical indications from the UK to remain protected in the EU after 31 December this year. I understand the point made by the noble and learned Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, about the relevance of these to the Scottish economy, particularly whisky and smoked salmon. I am not sure I got the reference to potatoes. Geographical indications do not have to originate from EU member states to be protected under the EU’s geographical indications scheme. The EU currently protects products from many non-EU countries such as Japan and China.

If the EU wanted to remove UK geographical indications from its register, it would have to go through the burdensome process of changing its rules. Of course, the Government cannot guarantee what the EU will do, but it has given no indication whatever that it is considering such changes. It would be, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, “capricious” of the EU to try to do so.

If the UK does not secure a new trade agreement with the EU, we will, under the withdrawal agreement, continue to protect EU GIs in the UK. There would therefore be no incentive for the EU not to reciprocate. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked me to be more specific on that point. I cannot, because we are in the process of negotiating these issues. The UK is definitely not seeking to loosen its GI rules. GIs are very important to the UK and the Government will establish robust GI schemes at the end of the transition period. All UK GIs will continue to be protected in the UK from 1 January 2021. The Government’s objective in trade negotiations with the EU will be to secure the best outcome for UK GIs and, obviously, the UK economy as a whole.

I hope that I have given enough reassurance, and that the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Agriculture Bill

(Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Thursday 17th September 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for returning to the subject of crisis management in his amendments. The clauses in Chapter 2 bring further into domestic legislation the powers that the European Commission exercised to provide emergency assistance in extreme market circumstances. The Secretary of State may modify the retained direct EU legislation from the withdrawal Act. This would usually involve intervention on storage. At this stage, once again, as I join another day’s proceedings on the Bill, I declare my interest as recorded in the register as being in receipt of funds from existing systems derived from the CAP.

We noted the Minister’s reply in Committee that

“farmers already manage the effects of fluctuating everyday weather conditions”,

and that the existing powers contained here and elsewhere

“are sufficiently broad to ensure that agricultural producers will be covered”

should it be necessary to provide emergency financial assistance

“due to exceptional market conditions”—[Official Report, 21/7/20; col. 2184.]

brought about by unforeseen economic, environmental or welfare factors.

The term “chronic conditions” is interesting, as this would suggest exceptional circumstances becoming endemic and longer lasting. This would suggest that the market would need to adapt on a wider basis after any exceptional market disturbances caused by economic or environmental factors had been provided. It would suggest that the adverse effect on the price achievable for agricultural products may not return to normal. This circumstance would become subject to far more extensive dialogue and analysis, and when such a situation may warrant the actions wanted by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, needless to say it would be controversial and subject to much debate.

We understand that Welsh Ministers are aware of these details and have not drawn attention to any aspect with which they are uncomfortable. The Minister has advised the House that the Welsh Government have agreed to these provisions; that would be our position also. We are generally content with the current drafting. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for her remarks, which reflect many of our thoughts.

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

I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate.

I recognise the concern to ensure that farmers in England and Wales are protected against acute and chronic disturbances, including those caused by natural phenomena. The exceptional market conditions powers could be used to address acute and severe market disturbances caused by natural phenomena, such as extreme weather, so long as there is an adverse effect on the price achievable for one or more agricultural products. I hope that that reassures my noble friend Lord Northbrook.

The UK Government and Welsh Ministers are confident that the existing powers are sufficiently broad to ensure that agricultural producers will be covered should they need financial assistance due to exceptional market conditions caused by economic, environmental or other factors. The current Covid-19 pandemic is a disturbance caused by environmental factors and is exactly the type of exceptional circumstance that these new powers are intended to address. We could not have foreseen that this pandemic would be as wide-ranging or prolonged as it has been, and farmers could not have been expected to prepare for the disturbances in daily life that it has caused. I feel confident in saying that if these exceptional market conditions powers were at our disposal now, the Government could have used them to support farmers during these difficult times.

The particular powers in respect to England, in Clauses 18 and 19, and in respect to Wales, in paragraphs 6 and 7 of Schedule 5, are framed to deal with unforeseen short-term shocks to agricultural markets rather than chronic conditions. These powers allow Ministers to act swiftly to deal with a crisis situation. These amendments would lower that bar and risk creating open-ended powers that allow the Secretary of State to make payments to farmers in much wider and undefined circumstances.

In most cases, farmers already manage the effects of fluctuating weather conditions. There are also powers in existing legislation that allow the Government to act in exceptional circumstances to support farmers in the event of extreme weather conditions. For example, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 could be used to make one-off payments to farmers affected by extreme weather. In response to recent flooding, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh acknowledged, the UK Government launched a new farming recovery fund for England, using powers under the NERC Act.

I have some details about the fund because I was interested to find out why some claims were not being met. I am afraid that I do not have the numbers here for my noble friend but I commit to writing to her with the details of the scheme, which are quite complex, and to furnish the numbers on how many grants have been made available. When I write, I will of course let noble Lords have a copy.

The Government want to encourage farmers to manage their own risk and become more resilient to foreseeable and longer-term disturbances. Elsewhere in the Bill, there are provisions to support farmers to improve their productivity, as well as to provide financial assistance for the delivery of public goods. For example, the Government will help farmers to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure, and will support high-quality research to promote innovation and productivity in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Part 3 also sets out powers to strengthen fairness and transparency in the supply chain. This will enable food producers to respond more effectively to market signals, strengthen their negotiating position at the farm gate and seek a fairer return.

I hope that I have given sufficient reassurance and that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Empey, for his amendments, for the significance in which he holds them as necessary for the Bill, and for leading the House in returning to Clause 27 on fair dealing obligations. I am sorry he has not been able to stay tonight to make his case due to personal circumstances, and I hope all continues well. Nevertheless, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for stepping in and moving his amendment. I concur with much of what she said. The distribution of market returns from food between the primary producer and the rest of the supply chain, especially in regard to the retail sector, certainly appears unbalanced. The proportion returned to the farmer has steadily declined over many years.

That regulation is needed to ensure further provision to introduce a greater measure of fair dealing obligations on the supply chain is recognised in Clause 27. Following the establishment and workings of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, the specific task of monitoring relationships between the UK’s largest supermarkets and their direct suppliers has proved very effective. I would go so far as to say it has proved critical in delivering effective change down the supply chain.

We would not be able to support the noble Lord should he wish to press his amendment. The specific details of each statutory code are being developed in consultation with industry and will be set out in secondary legislation. It will be extended across all sectors of agriculture. This is already in progress.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh for introducing this amendment on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Empey. I confirm that my noble friend Lord Gardiner has agreed to meet the noble Lord, Lord Empey, at the earliest opportunity.

There is no doubt that the Government will use these powers. The introduction of fair dealing obligations is vital in the creation of a more equitable supply chain. This is a point on which there is wide agreement. However, the Government believe it is equally important that these obligations are appropriate and proportionate and produce the right outcomes.

To ensure this, the Government intend to consult industry before regulations are made, to ensure that they are properly tailored for the issues at hand. In this regard, a UK-wide consultation exploring contractual issues in the dairy sector has recently been concluded. The consultation invited a broad range of views about future regulations, asking specific questions about various issues. Some of these issues, such as contractual exclusivity, are almost unique to the dairy sector. The Government intend to repeat this approach for any future exercise of the powers in Clause 27, allowing the views from industry and other stakeholders, often about very detailed sector-specific issues, to inform final decisions.

The introduction of blanket obligations across the whole of UK agriculture would hinder the ability to reflect the specific nuances of each sector and potentially fail to address the specific problems experienced by particular types of producer. Also, given that certain agricultural sectors are far better integrated than others, comprehensive obligations could ultimately lead to provisions being introduced into sectors where they are simply not required.

I hope I have given sufficient reassurance and ask my noble friend to withdraw the amendment on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Empey.

Agriculture Bill

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

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their almost universal acknowledgement tonight of the importance of advice in a time of significant change to the industry. The rules of engagement have, indeed, changed fundamentally.

I reiterate the Government’s view that expert advice and guidance is critical to the successful delivery of future schemes. As currently drafted, the Bill already gives the Secretary of State the necessary powers to fund the provision of advice, guidance and other means of support to recipients of financial assistance under Clause 1. The Government certainly intend to use this ability; advice and guidance is one of the priority areas in the 40 live tests and trials that are feeding into this theme.

I will give some examples of how this could be done. For future tree health schemes, we are looking to refresh and improve our offer of plant health advice to ensure that land managers have the information they need to manage and respond to tree health issues. For animal welfare grants, these one-off payments could cover investment in equipment, infrastructure, technology and training. For animal health schemes, we are also looking at ways to increase advice given to farmers, both from vets and other agricultural advisors, to help them improve animal health. We also want to increase peer learning between farmers through, for example, facilitated farmer groups. The Government have also stated their intention to offer advice to those applying for productivity grants to help them decide which investments would achieve the greatest improvements in business performance.

In Committee, reference was made to the ongoing ELM scheme tests and trials. We are using these to identify the most effective means of providing advice and guidance to farmers and land managers, which will enable them to deliver on their funding agreements with confidence. Since then, the number of ELM tests and trials looking at the provision of advice and guidance has increased to 40, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to designing a scheme that works for farmers and land managers. Evidence shows that, for advice to be effective, it must be trusted, consistent, credible and cost effective. The Government are considering how these principles can be embedded into advice for all schemes and working with farmers and other land managers to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, asked specifically about the availability of training schemes. The ELM trials are exploring ways in which skills and qualifications for environmental land management can be improved.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, also asked how agricultural colleges could be drawn upon to provide advice and dispense information. The Government are supporting the work of the skills leadership group in exploring ways to address the fragmented nature of the existing skills, education and advice landscape. Representatives of the agricultural colleges have been involved in these conversations.

Defra is currently running a £1 million grant funding project to explore how it could provide resilience support to farmers and land managers in England to help them prepare for reductions in direct payments in the transition period. The project, which is targeting some 1,700 farmers and land managers, aims to identify how, where and when they may need to adapt their business models and resilience as a result. Evidence coming from this project will help inform the design of a national scheme, which is currently in development for launch in early 2022.

I was asked about the availability of broadband in some areas. We are connecting some of the hardest-to reach places in the country, including through the SFB programme and the £200 million rural gigabit connectivity programme. We have also announced £5 billion of funding to close the digital divide.

I hope that I have managed to give some reassurance that advice and guidance are already considered in the scheme design, that the Government are committed to their provision and that we have the powers we need to deliver in this area. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment, especially the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for their additional reasons for supporting this amendment. As everyone has expressed, this is a fundamental change to the rural landscape and agricultural industries support.

The possible lack of an impact assessment, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, could be identified as a challenge of detail for what may be required for the successful launch and promotion of this scheme not being fully appreciated. We would want the scheme to be a success.

The amendment is not prescriptive on how the Government may go ahead and deliver that advice. The Minister’s confidence need not be at the expense of caution. My noble friend Lord Whitty drew attention to the withdrawal of advice that, as I was reminded, has reduced the level of the UK’s agricultural productivity in comparison to other EU countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, emphasised the importance of training to achieve farmers’ engagement. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, reflected on the quality of advice that could come from more commercial sources, which could be a further challenge. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned the digital divide. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, emphasised, if I am interpreting correctly, that advice must be part of participating in schemes. My noble friends Lady Young and Lord Judd also spoke of the importance of advice in expressing their support.

With all this support, I could be tempted to press this amendment. The Minister assures us that the Government have the power, under Clause 1, to provide advice. This intention should perhaps be promoted more clearly to the agricultural sector. I thank her for her remarks and wider explanations. However, in agreeing to withdraw this amendment, I call on the Government to keep it in mind as the Bill is returned to the other place for further consideration.

Agriculture Bill

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

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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I thank noble Lords for tabling their amendments to Chapter 2 of Part 2, headed “Intervention in agricultural markets” under exceptional market conditions. These clauses—18 to 20—plus their application in Wales bring into domestic legislation the powers the European Commission had to provide emergency assistance in extreme, often weather-related, circumstances. The Secretary of State may modify this retained direct EU legislation by regulations and this would usually involve intervention on storage.

I am sure the Minister would wish to have these fallback provisions included in the Bill. Can she give any guidance as to how the Government might decide whether to intervene? While a member state, the UK was not noted for being eager to apply for these powers to be exercised and assistance to be provided. Do the Government have the inclination to utilise them and can the Minister give any general criteria?

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, regarding welfare that in the wet weather period during the foot and mouth epidemic that struck the UK 20 years ago, the Government stepped in to provide welfare in buying up stranded animals that could not be moved because of the regulations. That was directly in support of welfare. I am not sure that all circumstances would pertain to the amendment she wishes to pursue.

In the past any support has been forthcoming only very late in an emergency and some considerable distance into a crisis. What assurance can the Government give about the exercise of these powers when a timely response to calls for support can be crucial to stabilise a market?

On the other hand, private storage can be notoriously difficult to bring into operation when required. Is the Minister sufficiently confident the UK has enough capacity in the various market sectors? Data on storage capacity could be included in the food security report. There was much debate and experience last year around storage in relation to stockpiling and the possibility, which still exists, that there could be no deal reached in time for the new trading relationship with the EU to be agreed. Can the Minister outline any conclusions and lessons learned regarding those circumstances?

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

My Lords, I begin with Amendments 174 and 285, in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh. I recognise my noble friend’s desire to ensure that farmers are protected against chronic disturbances such as structural market changes and disturbances caused by environmental factors such as severe weather or the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, a number of other noble Lords mentioned their concerns. The existing powers are sufficiently broad to ensure that agricultural producers will be covered should they need financial assistance due to exceptional market conditions caused by economic, environmental or other factors. In most cases, farmers already manage the effects of fluctuating weather conditions.

There are also powers in existing legislation that allow the Government to act in exceptional circumstances to support farmers in the event of extreme weather conditions. For example, the National Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 could be used to make one-off payments to farmers affected by extreme weather conditions. As we saw in response to recent flooding, the Government successfully launched a new farming recovery fund for England using powers under this NERC Act.

The particular powers in Clauses 18 and 19 are framed to deal with unforeseen short-term shocks to agricultural markets rather than chronic conditions. The Covid-19 situation is exactly the type of exceptional circumstance that these new powers are intended to address. Another example would be the dairy crisis in 2015, when the ending of EU dairy production quotas led to increased production, global dairy prices being low and rationed sanctions on imports of dairy products from the EU significantly reducing demand. This caused a sudden and significant drop in the price of dairy products across the EU. This event was unpredictable and caused a severe market disturbance, which had an effect on prices, and future circumstances such as these could be considered exceptional market circumstances.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked what we could do to support farmers when more long-lasting difficulties appear, including the after-effects of flooding. The Government want to encourage farmers to manage their own risk and become resilient to foreseeable disturbances. The Government will help farmers to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure, which will support high-quality research to promote innovation and productivity in agriculture, horticulture and forestry to make farms more resilient. The Bill also sets out powers to strengthen fairness and transparency in the supply chain, enabling food producers to respond more effectively to market signals, strengthen their negotiating position at the farm gate and receive a fairer return.

The second aspect of the amendment seeks to ensure that disturbances caused by environmental factors will be covered by this clause. These powers are triggered by the effects of disturbances rather than by what has caused them. The exceptional market conditions powers could be used to address severe market disturbances caused by economic or environmental factors, so long as there is an adverse effect on the price achievable for one or more agricultural products.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked what is meant by “prices achievable” under Clause 2(b). The price achievable is to be given its ordinary meaning, and includes not having a product available to sell; in that case, the price achievable on the market would obviously be zero. The current Covid-19 pandemic is a disturbance caused by environmental factors and is exactly the type of exceptional circumstance that these new powers are intended to address. We could not have foreseen that this pandemic would be as wide-reaching or prolonged as it has been, and farmers could not have been expected to prepare for the disturbances in daily life it has caused. I understand that Welsh Ministers are content that the existing powers are sufficiently broad to ensure that agriculture producers in Wales will be covered should they need financial assistance due to market conditions.

Agriculture Bill

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

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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As I think I said in my speech, we have built flexibility in to the planning stage, although it does not need to be five years, and in all cases there will be no gap between one plan and another.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all contributors to this debate for speaking to the various amendments. Even the negative comments were interesting.

If the Government commit to having multiannual plans, as stated in the Bill, it would seem conceivable that they would honour a package that financed the plan ahead in its entirety from the start through to the finish. The amendments scrutinise the Government’s plans around financial assistance in delivering outcomes that are sufficiently robust in their application—with the necessary oversight, as stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.

I thank especially the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, for her amendment in sympathy with mine and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, for her emphasis on a robust implementation plan being adopted by Defra. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for adding his support.

As with so much in every group of amendments, the Minister has been exhaustive and considerate in responding to the many points raised. Along with other noble Lords, I will consider her reply carefully, but at this stage I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

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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)
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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.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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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
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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.

Break in Debate

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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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.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
(Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Monday 22nd June 2020

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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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)
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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.

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.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

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

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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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.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

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

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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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
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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
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I am grateful to the Minister for her complete explanation. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

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

Fisheries Bill [HL]

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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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)
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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.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist and Lord Grantchester
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise briefly to support the thrust behind Amendment 15, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which seeks to add a reference to appropriate international co-operation to the scientific evidence objective—an extension to the debate on a previous grouping. I am sure that we will return to the point about science and international co-operation throughout Committee—and, depending on the Government’s clarifications, perhaps on Report as well.

As your Lordships’ House has observed and debated on numerous occasions in recent years, fisheries management is complicated not only by the fact that fish have no knowledge of, or respect for, the boundaries of national waters, but that each species’ habitat shifts as ocean temperatures and conditions fluctuate—a phenomenon that is likely only to increase with climate change. This was the thrust of the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.

The Government are committed under international law to co-operation with neighbouring states. They have indicated that they want annual negotiations with the EU on access to UK waters and quota, although on the premise that a fishing deal has been concluded by 1 July. While commitments to work with neighbouring states exist, such co-operation is important particularly for the gathering and analysis of scientific data. We are lucky to have world-class scientists and conservationists in the UK, but that does not mean that we cannot engage with and learn from others from wherever they come, and with organisations that the UK may also wish to co-operate with long into the future.

I hope therefore that the Minister will be able to offer assurances that his department will engage with international partners as appropriate, not just to agree high-level terms on access but to share science, practical knowledge and best practice, and that this will be included in the Bill.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering for her amendment in relation to international co-operation and for her indicating that it is a probing amendment. I agree with the sensible recognition that international co-operation will be important in the collection of scientific data.

The UK currently works closely with international bodies, particularly through our membership of ICES—the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea—which advises on the status of fish stocks. I am delighted to confirm that the UK is in the process of establishing a further agreement with it. This will ensure that the advice that we require is in place so that the UK can continue to meet its international and domestic commitments and obligations on sustainability. The UK’s share of funding for ICES will be a matter for the Budget and the spending review.

The UK will continue to make a strong contribution to international co-operation on data collection and related fisheries science. The scientific evidence objective stipulates that the management of fish and aquaculture activities is to be undertaken on the basis of the “best available scientific advice”. The best advice can be obtained only by co-operation. The UK also has obligations through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to co-operate with other coastal states in relation to shared stocks. Such co-operation includes the sharing of scientific research and data.

The UK is also a contracting party to a number of multilateral environmental agreements that have a remit within the marine environment and for marine species. These include the International Whaling Commission and the convention on migratory species and its sub-agreements. Working with a variety of parties, both domestic and international, is therefore covered within the existing objective.

To ensure that we are able to fulfil these obligations and to co-operate with international parties, including in the scientific space, the Bill gives us a power under which regulations can be made relating to specific technical matters as long as they are for a conservation purpose or a fish industry purpose.

One leg of the conservation purpose means that regulations can be made for the

“purpose of conserving, improving or developing marine stocks”.

This will allow the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, for whom equivalent powers are provided at their request, to make regulations to meet these international obligations for scientific and research purposes.

My noble friend also asked about the forums for dispute settlements. These are covered by Article 287 of UNCLOS. They are: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice, an Annex VII arbitral tribunal and an Annex VIII special arbitral tribunal. I hope that answer her question. As for other international organisations, we have prioritised joining five regional fishing management organisations now that we have left the EU on the basis of where the UK has a direct fishing and/or conservation interest. They are: the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. In addition, we shall want to join the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization—NASCO—where our interests are focused primarily on conservation. With this explanation, I ask my noble friend to consider withdrawing her amendment.