All 5 Debates between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington

Mon 12th Dec 2022
Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage: Part 1
Tue 9th Nov 2021
Environment Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 28th Jun 2021
Tue 28th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 4th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 31 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch; I thank her for introducing both this amendment and the other one in this group so eloquently. Amendment 31 makes a modest and perfectly reasonable request. As I said at Second Reading and intend to go on in boring detail about, precision breeding has the potential to be an important tool in the toolbox for creating a doubly green revolution, producing more food with less impact on the environment. If we accept that proposition, we should be in favour of taking into account the wider effects of gene editing.

I do not need to repeat what the noble Baroness said so clearly, but we know without doubt that many of the changes in agriculture that arose during the green revolution were bad for their environments. Loss of habitats, overextraction of water, water and air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, loss of soil health, loss of biodiversity—those are just a few of the adverse effects of the agricultural revolution that we have enjoyed over the past 60 years or so. Amendment 31 makes the modest request that the advisory committee should take into account these kinds of effects so that, when we create precision-bred organisms, we do not inadvertently make things worse for the environment rather than better. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 31. First, for the purposes of this Committee, I declare my interests: I am still involved in a family farming enterprise, growing crops and rearing livestock; I chair the board of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; and I am the president of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

Amendment 31 is similar to the two amendments that I put down in a later group on animal welfare, stressing the importance of following new strains of wheat, grass and maize—in my case, cows, pigs, sheep and dogs—down through many generations on to the farm, even into the home. As has already been said, the point is that we need to watch for the good effects, hopefully, but we must also look out for the possible unintended consequences that might arise. To be honest, I would hope that this already happens because, obviously, unintended consequences were even more likely to happen in the past under the random mutations of traditional breeding; if not, such measures should certainly be introduced now. It would be good to be reassured of that by the Minister.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Secretary of State, the Minister and the Bill team for the very helpful discussions that I have had with them throughout, and particularly during the last week. In spite of this, here I am with a further amendment, and I feel slightly embarrassed to be pressing yet again on the matter of the independence of the OEP. However, the strength of opinion across this House was clear at the first stage of ping-pong, when my amendment passed with a majority of 51.

The Government clearly have an umbilical attachment to the guidance powers in Clause 22, and my amendment makes a major concession in that it does not seek to remove the guidance power. I expect that there will be some noble Lords who believe that this concedes too much. However, the proposed new subsection (2) in the amendment would introduce a specific constraint on the Secretary of State in issuing guidance, namely that guidance cannot be issued on

“matters relating to the enforcement of environmental law against the Secretary of State”.

The aim of this subsection is to prevent the Secretary of State having a conflict of interest. Without it, he or she could, in effect, mark their own homework.

The proposed subsections (1) and (2A) of my amendment state that, in spite of any guidance, the OEP

“has complete discretion in the carrying out of its functions”,

and that, while it

“must have regard to the guidance”,

the OEP does not have to follow it if

“there are material considerations that indicate otherwise.”

These subsections are designed to ensure that the OEP has the operational independence that we all want, in spite of the guidance power.

I turn to the Minister’s opening speech and quote back two key sentences. The first is:

“It would also be inappropriate for the Secretary of State to issue guidance on specific matters relating to the enforcement of environmental law against the Secretary of State for Defra, given that there would be a conflict of interest.”


The second is:

“the OEP would be expected to have regard to any guidance issued, but it retains the ability and discretion to make its own decisions and is not bound to act in accordance with the guidance where it has clear reasons not to do so.”

Although the wording is slightly different from my amendment, the implications of the points made in the Minister’s speech are more or less identical. I hope that, later in this debate, the Minister will confirm that my interpretation is indeed correct. The only piece that is left out is the OEP setting its own budget, but there are some other safeguards in other parts of the Bill.

I consider it a great pity that the Government were not prepared to accept my amendment, as the Minister’s speech implies that its intent has indeed been accepted. However, as the Minister stated at the start of his speech, ministerial statements in Hansard could be used by the courts in future as an aid to statutory interpretation. I look to the lawyers, because it is well above my pay grade to judge the value of that statement and, therefore, whether what we have heard is a sufficiently robust protection for the OEP’s independence.

The Minister also made three other important points that respond to earlier concerns expressed about the guidance power. First, the guidance power could not be used to preclude the OEP from investigating a broad category of cases. The example I used in an earlier debate was new nuclear power stations. Secondly, it is up to the OEP to decide whether cases have national implications. For instance, a case that has specific and local implications, such as the destruction of a unique habitat, could also be of national significance. Thirdly, the Secretary of State will not issue guidance to the OEP before the initial setup and before the OEP has had a chance to develop its own enforcement policy.

I thank the Minister for his speech. I believe that we have converged on a way forward that protects the operational independence of the OEP. The solution may not be perfect, but it gives me some reassurance on this absolutely central plank of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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My Lords, it appears that there has been some sort of rapprochement—albeit, I suspect, reluctant. On the one hand are us, from all sides of the House of Lords, who wish to see a strong and independent OEP; on the other side is the current Defra team, which still, I get the impression, wishes to guide its activities as far as is politically possible. It would appear that we are gradually getting closer together. Sadly, however, we are not seeing a total volte-face by the Government, as we have over sewage and CSOs—or, for that matter, on breaches of parliamentary rules on lobbying.

Unfortunately, the independence of the OEP, a body that has yet to exist, is a concept too esoteric for the public to even know about, let alone to get hot under the collar about. If they knew about it, bearing in mind the Government’s behaviour in recent weeks, I should have thought that they would be concerned that future Secretaries of State could be exercising guidance over this body, whose primary function, let us face it, is to hold the Government, its Ministers and their quangos to account.

As my noble friend Lord Krebs said, his Motion A1 is very much in line with what my good friend Rebecca Pow, the Minister in the other place, has already said on the Floor of that House, as echoed by the Minister in this House today. It would have been good to get it on the face of the Bill to make the sentiment more certain and, above all, more durable, because that is really what matters. Bearing in mind that we are unlikely to get another environment Bill for some decades, I for one would have preferred us to move beyond just the commitments of this excellent team of Ministers and to a properly constituted, independent OEP that will stand the test of time. However, although I strongly support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Krebs, I recognise that the rapprochement we have achieved is now probably as far as we are going to get.

Environment Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, in speaking briefly in support of this group of amendments, I refer back to the budget of Natural England. I seek absolute assurance from the Minister that the OEP will not suffer the same fate as Natural England has.

Between 2010 and 2020, Natural England’s budget was cut by almost two-thirds. In a letter to the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee in another place, dated 2 November 2020, the chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper, wrote:

“Natural England’s current funding is below the level required to deliver all of our statutory duties to a good standard. That in itself presents several key risks including increased legal challenge, lost opportunities for environmental enhancement and the wider effect that presents on wellbeing.”


He went on to list the areas of work that had been curtailed or reduced as a result of the funding cuts. These included land use planning, species recovery, wildlife licensing, national nature reserves, SSSIs, landscapes, agri-environment, evidence gathering and partnership funding, for instance for community-based initiatives with parish councils.

The Secretary of State acknowledged to the Environmental Audit Committee that the cuts had been severe and, in May this year, Natural England had an increase of 47% in its budget. In spite of this increase, Natural England’s budget for 2020-21 of £198 million is still below the £265 million it received in 2008-09. In going into this example in some detail, my point is that we certainly do not want to find the OEP, in five or 10 years’ time, in the same state as Natural England has found itself, with the consequent damage to our environment.

To repeat what I started with, I very much hope, therefore, that the Minister will confirm that the OEP, with a long-term settlement, will have sufficient resources to carry out its job; and, importantly, that when there are cuts to government expenditure across the board, which there will no doubt have to be to pay the huge bill that we have racked up as a result of the Covid pandemic, the OEP will be one of the protected areas and will not just take a salami slice along with everybody else.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB) [V]
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My Lords, after my remarks a moment ago on the independence of the OEP, it will come as no surprise to your Lordships that I strongly support the principle that the OEP should have as much financial independence as possible and that I therefore support these amendments.

Funding is vital. I note that the correspondence from Natural England that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just read out could equally be replicated in correspondence from, I suspect, the Environment Agency to Defra, because the same incredible cut—up to 70%, I believe—has happened to the Environment Agency. So funding is absolutely vital for the proper operation of all these NDPBs. In my view, the OEP’s budget should not be at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Defra.

I believe that the public at large will take a great deal of interest in the work of the OEP—if not, they certainly should do—so anything that makes the OEP’s finances more transparent to the public, more long-term and more the business of Parliament rather than at the whim of the department gets my approval.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington
Committee stage & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 28th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (23 Jul 2020)
Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington [V]
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My Lords, in introducing this amendment I declare an interest as chair of the advisory board of the Government’s Global Food Security programme. On this board we look at all UK research relating to food. We cover not plough to plate but one stage further at either end—soils to stomach—thus tracing a chain from the billions of bacteria in soil that convert sunlight and water into crops, all the way through to the billions of bacteria in our stomachs that convert those crops into human energy.

The first thing to say about crop research in the UK is that the days when it was all about yield per hectare are long gone. If there is a primary target in present research objectives it is nutrition per hectare but, most importantly, without any degradation of ecosystems and natural resources. This has been the case in the research community for the last five to 10 years. Actually, there are many objectives in crop and animal research these days, and there could be many more as the world changes. Crops that have resilience are often better than crops that have high yields.

The questions being asked include: how do you breed plants that can resist the many different diseases and pests present in every country without having to put chemicals into the environment? We have already debated the problem of agricultural sprays in this country, but it is even more important in the developing world, where literacy is a problem among farmers and chemicals therefore tend to get used far too liberally, often to the detriment of the farmer’s health. The other thing about gene resistance to pests is that it is better for biodiversity. Why? Because, unlike sprays, it does not kill the pest; it just protects the crop from the pest.

Next, how do you breed a plant that can resist droughts brought about by climate change? Irrigation schemes are expensive and use valuable water. Seeds are much cheaper, so you can breed either a plant that requires less water or, more often, one that comes to fruition—that is, to harvest—two or three weeks earlier, during which time its older counterpart might have shrivelled and died.

How do you breed a plant that resists flooding—either one that can stay alive underwater for several days or one that, when threatened, spurts upwards to keep its head above the floodwaters? How do you breed plants that are salt-tolerant or that produce crops less susceptible to the dreadful post-harvest losses you get in Africa, or plants that have a longer shelf life for our supermarkets and thus reduce the need for plastic?

How do you breed a wheat that minimises its gluten content to help coeliacs? How do you reduce the major allergy features of peanuts? That would surely save a few lives. How do you produce plants, such as tomatoes, that can be grown in an urban context—small plants that are covered with fruit but can grow on walls or in window boxes—or a cassava plant that does not have to be dried and processed within 24 hours, or a cocoa plant resistant to mildew or phytophthora? Finally, turning to yield, can you breed a wheat or rice that produces a much larger grain?

The answer is that all of the above are part of gene-editing research programmes at different stages of development in different parts of the world. We are not talking only about wheat, maize and rice here but sweet potatoes, cassava, cowpea, sorghum, millet, coffee, cocoa, fruits and vegetables, et cetera. Let us face it: we are too dependent on wheat, rice and maize, from the point of view of both resilience and, above all, nutrition. More work needs to be done urgently on these so-called orphan crops.

My point is that the opportunities and urgent needs are there in their thousands. If we are to meet our sustainable development goals and keep up with our exploding world population, speed is of the essence. Speed is the essence of what this amendment is all about —but not reckless speed. I want to make this absolutely clear: we are not asking or wishing for any reduction in the stringent regulatory requirements or supervision of all forms of breeding techniques of plants or animals. Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency insists that all new varieties must undergo at least two years of official tests and trials. Furthermore, the Home Office animal experiment regulations also license and test every stage of gene editing, over many years, so we already have a well-functioning UK regulatory system, with an impeccable track record of food safety, animal husbandry and environmental protection. This will continue and can easily embrace these new breeding techniques. But, as with traditional breeding, once the crops have passed all the tests and we know they are safe to grow, farmers should be allowed to grow them for sale.

The speed that is necessary comes from the scientific precision of breeding plants and animals using gene editing. Let me explain. Genetic changes used by traditional plant breeders are mutations that arise randomly in crop plants. Normally, a breeder will select for a handful of beneficial changes, in a background of thousands of other mutations that are either neutral or sometimes even negative. At a plant-breeding station, the greenhouses are full of hundreds of hybrids, of which probably only one or two are desirable. The removal of undesirable off-target characteristics, by back-crossing and selection, is what breeders have been doing for thousands of years since the domestication of crops and livestock.

In gene editing, the genetic changes are the same as those used by traditional breeders, but targeted more precisely. There is only a small or non-existent background of trial and error, so the precision of the breeding technique is the clue to its safety for the environment and the world around it.

One of the problems with a recent EU court ruling on this, which is raising concerns even among the most conservative member states, is how you can tell a gene-edited plant from a naturally bred one. There is no way of telling unless you were present at its conception. Some members of the German Green Party have also questioned the ruling. Their point is that, if the technique is regularly used in human health—to genetically manipulate antibiotic clusters, for instance—why should it not also be used to benefit the wider world? I agree with them. With the strong backing of more than 100 EU scientific organisations, the Commission is now looking carefully at the rules on precision breeding, with a view to reporting next April. I strongly suspect that the EU rules will change.

So we seek both precision and speed. Instead of taking 10 to 12 years or longer to develop a new seed, we are talking about two to three years. This allows the development to be driven by a wider range of research organisations, mostly led by small businesses and public research organisations, not just large multinationals. It allows some of the world’s best agricultural research stations, which we have in this country—places such as Rothamsted, John Innes and James Hutton—to team up with smaller research stations in developing countries, which have special crops, often with special local problems. By working with these poorer countries, as well as with UK agriculture, we can help farmers everywhere produce the food that their local population requires.

Another important point is that this proposed amendment would not affect, in any way, the control or current status of genetically modified crops, in which entire genes or even groups of genes can be transferred between species. This would remain strictly outside this law, with even their controlled experimentation, in government research stations, having to be licensed in exceptional circumstances. This amendment, however, would bring our rules into line with most other countries, apart from the EU, where precise improvements are made within the same species—improvements that could have occurred naturally or through traditional breeding methods.

Another final issue I will touch on quickly is the possibility of unintended consequences of gene editing. I have already commented on the greater likelihood of risks from traditional breeding techniques, both in plants and animals, but the main point to emphasise—and this applies to all scientists, whatever techniques they are using—is that modern scientists are always wrestling with the effects of their work on the wider environment. How will this affect the soil, the air, the local flora and fauna, including humans, and even the landscape? The idea is that their work should benefit the world in all its aspects. If they do not think like that, in this country at any rate, their regulators certainly do.

As we emerge from this Covid disaster, it is vital that our scientists are able to employ the precision and speed needed to breed the best and most useful crops with safety. I urge the Government to accept this amendment, which empowers them to consult and act on the possibility of making changes to the Environmental Protection Act 1990. I beg to move.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, it is a privilege to follow my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington, who has so beautifully set out the basis for this amendment. I am sorry that, on this occasion, I part company with a number of Peers whose views I hugely respect and with Greener UK, whose support, on this and other Bills, I have much appreciated. I speak as a career academic scientist whose specialism is ecology and the environment.

I will make three points. First, I will reiterate the scientific difference between gene editing and genetic modification. Gene editing is like traditional breeding, but more targeted. It involves tweaking the genes that are already there in the organism. It is roughly analogous to adjusting one of the ingredients in a recipe to improve the flavour of the dish. On the other hand, traditional genetic modification involves inserting new genes from a different organism. It is a bit like the introduction of a new ingredient into the recipe to change the nature of the dish. For example, one of the major GM crops is Bt maize, with a toxin gene from the bacterium bacillus thuringiensis that confers resistance to corn borer. Gene-edited crops, with their ingredients adjusted, could be safer, more nutritious, more productive and more resistant to climate change, as my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington so eloquently explained.

But—this is my second point—the difference between genetic modification and gene editing is not relevant to those who object to gene editing. The objection is not about science but something else. Opposition to modern genetic technology, whether gene editing or GMOs, is often presented as three worries: the food made from GM crops is not safe to eat; the crops are not safe for the environment, for instance because genes could jump into wild plants or because it is part of the intensification of agriculture, which destroys habitats and biodiversity; and genetic technologies favour big agritech companies at the expense of small farmers.

The worriers also invoke the precautionary principle, saying that we should never adopt new technologies until we are 100% sure they are risk free. Ironically, the same individuals often invoke the precautionary principle as a call for new technologies to be used, even when the science is incomplete, for example on reducing pollution levels in the environment. In reality, these arguments are all code for a different vision of the future of agriculture, one that returns to traditional low-intensity methods, such as organic farming. In fact, organic farming and gene editing should not be in opposition. Organic farmers have as much to gain as conventional farmers, if not more, from the genetic improvement of their crops to make them more disease resistant without pesticides, more nutritious, more productive and so on.

My third point is that the amendment calls for public consultation, which is key if we are to avoid the mistakes of the 1990s. Noble Lords will recall that the first GM food on sale in the UK was tomato paste made with Flavr Savr tomatoes. These tomatoes do not go squidgy on ripening, so they produce a sweeter product. The GM tomato paste tasted better, was slightly cheaper and was clearly labelled. It sold well, until the campaigning groups launched their highly successful “Frankenstein foods” campaign. Before long, the supermarket shelves were cleared of all products involving GM.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Krebs and Lord Cameron of Dillington
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II(a) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the second marshalled list - (3 Mar 2020)
Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB)
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My Lords, this amendment largely speaks for itself. It is all very well having all the noble objectives in Clause 1—made, one hopes, even more noble if some of our discussions to date bear fruit in the future—but, as they used to say in 16th-century diplomatic circles, “Fine words butter no parsnips”.

Once we are cast adrift on the post-Brexit realities of running our own fisheries, there will be numerous parties all promoting their own visions. The parties will range from the fishermen themselves to the local communities, local authorities, LEPs, the MMO and the devolved nations. They might even wiggle, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said a moment ago. They will also include the Secretaries of State at Defra and BEIS—after all, fishing is an industry and a business—and even the Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade. I suspect that at some point in the future—probably quite a long time down the line—they will have priorities that do not necessarily liaise with the objectives in Clause 1. The visions of all those bodies will be influenced by wholly separate objectives that might or might not be in line with Clause 1.

Politics in action, both local and national, has a tendency to be influenced by lobbying, usually involving specific interests, and, as Harold Macmillan was apparently wont to say, “Events, dear boy”—both of which tend, in turn, to be influenced by rather shorter-term objectives than the long-term sustainable priorities that we are all trying to achieve in Clause 1.

My amendment is hardly dictatorial, but I hope that it is a good starting point for discussion. The Minister will remember our debate last year on the then Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, in which local authorities were given a “must have regard to” obligation concerning the environment and biodiversity. What happened? In most cases, absolutely nothing. The noble words of the objectives in the NERC Bill did not enter anyone’s thinking or area of responsibility. Other problems such as roads, housing and the local economy were more pressing—that is the lobbying influence—and austerity overtook any good intentions that there might have been. That is the “Events, dear boy” bit of the equation. We must not let that happen to our sustainable fisheries objectives.

In his reply, the Minister will no doubt refer to Clause 2(1)(c), where the fisheries policy authorities have to make a statement on how “proportionately” they have applied the Clause 1 objectives—but what mealy-mouthed words are those? I totally support Amendment 30, which would remove the word “proportionately”. In spite of that, there is no legal obligation even to have a duty of care towards the Clause 1 objectives, let alone to promote and implement them, which is what I am trying to achieve.

The Government will also likely argue that the joint fisheries statements and fisheries management plans are where the policies that will achieve the fisheries objectives will be set out and that, as the joint fisheries statement and fisheries management plan will be legally binding, there is no need to have a commitment on the face of the Bill to achieve the objectives. However, there is currently too much flexibility around how the joint fisheries statements and fisheries management plans are to be drafted, and no detail about the timeframes. Moreover, there is the ability to opt out or amend the joint fisheries statement where there is a “relevant change of circumstances”, as referred to in Clauses 7 and 10. A relevant change of circumstances can include a socioeconomic change—“Events, dear boy”.

Experience in Scotland, which has a similar provision in the Marine (Scotland) Act, has shown that, where that opt-out exists, environmental considerations can get pushed to one side in favour of economic impacts, and important measures that could benefit the environment are not taken. Six years after the designation of the Small Isles Marine Protected Area, fishing continues unchecked over the protected features, because a hole in the Act has allowed the authorities to opt out. I am trying to prevent such a hole in our Bill. In his reply a moment ago, the Minister referred to this: that, while unlikely, there is a risk that a future Government might not be so committed to sustainable fisheries, and they could amend fisheries management plans or let aberrations in those plans, or in joint fisheries statements, go through unchecked.

Frankly, my Lords, without my proposed new clause inserting a legal duty to achieve the fisheries objectives, Clause 1 is merely a series of hopeful words. As I say, it will certainly butter no parsnips—nor, for that matter, sustain a long-term and profitable UK fishing industry.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, I speak in support of my noble friend’s amendment, and apologise for not being here on Monday as I was overseas and unable to join the debate. However, I read the account in Hansard very carefully, and it seems to me that, as has indeed been said this afternoon, one of the key problems that a number of us have with the Bill relates not to its apparent intent—we are very happy with that—but the amount of wriggle room that is left in the Bill.

We heard again, in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, a few minutes ago, about the wriggle room around the meaning of sustainability. We all agree that sustainability has three pillars—the economic, the social and the environmental—but there is a question of how you balance them. The Minister referred to the need to balance them, but how you do this leaves a great deal of wriggle room. I will not repeat the arguments that were rehearsed on Monday, and again briefly earlier this afternoon, about the way in which economic considerations will always tend to trump environmental considerations because the short term is here and now, and the long term is the next generation’s problem.

This amendment that my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington is proposing is attempting to narrow down a further possibility of wriggle room. As he has so eloquently explained, without a legally binding commitment on the noteworthy and honourable and desirable objectives, it is not clear whether they will be adhered to in the fisheries statements and fisheries management plans. So the question for me is: who is going to be accountable if the objectives are not met, and what sanctions will be placed on the fisheries authorities, or other bodies, if that happens? I do not wish to repeat the arguments that my noble friend Lord Cameron of Dillington rehearsed so eloquently, but I would like clarity on the question of accountability.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington
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My Lords, I have put my name to Amendment 31 in this grouping because I think it is important that we put in place agreements with other nations who host most of the stock we live on.

When I first heard that a new UK fisheries policy was one of the primary reasons for Brexit, I scoffed, because surely fish do not understand national borders. As we know, they move about and we can never have a fishing policy without close co-operation with our neighbours. But that was before I understood the absurd principles of relative stability and how our total allowable catch was based on fishing records from the mid-1970s, when our large fleet was fishing around Iceland before the cod wars and our inshore fleet kept very few records, and before climate change moved our national dish of cod into northern waters. Did your Lordships know that we are only 8% self-sufficient in cod? Furthermore, we currently consume in the UK three times the total EU quota of cod. We are no longer blessed with being—as I was taught in my childhood—an island built on coal and surrounded by cod. Climate change has changed all that. So, to some extent, our fishing arrangements with Norway, the Faroes, Iceland and even Russia are going to be as important as our fishing arrangements with the EU.

But the problem for the EU fleets is that their catch, like ours, has moved north. Therefore, they catch a lot of their fish in UK waters. The European Fisheries Alliance reckons that cutting them off from our waters would slash profits for the EU fleets in half, leading to job losses for at least 6,000 people. A fish war with the EU, or at least clashes between boats, is not such a remote possibility, which is why the EU Commission has given itself the powers to command any or all EU fishing boats to return to port. They have also allocated funds from the EMFF to compensate fishermen forced to retire due to Brexit.

The EU is also gearing itself up for the possibility of tariffs or other restrictions on the 60% to 70% of the UK catch that is currently exported to Europe. I have often thought that one of the best ways we could spend the replacement for European Maritime and Fisheries Fund money would be to have a massive marketing campaign to stop us eating so much cod and persuade the great British public to eat more of the fish we produce. Sadly, I suspect that the great British public could not afford to do that, even if they were so inclined.

We all hope that it will not come to clashes at sea, but the point of this amendment is to prevent future clashes with our neighbours while at the same time ensuring that we use the best up-to-date science to sustain our fishing stocks. Zonal allocation is a far better way of distributing quota among national fishing fleets than the historically based quotas. The seas are always changing, and so are the fish within them; this amendment is an effort to take account of that fact.

However, the problem is that looking at relative stability terrifies the Europeans—opening up a whole can of worms for them, from the Black Sea to the Baltic —even if they know in their hearts that it is the right thing to do. We have to enter into very serious negotiations with not only them but our other fishing neighbours in order to achieve sustainable fisheries.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, a few years ago I had the great pleasure of serving on the Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the European Union Committee, under the very able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. In our inquiry into Brexit and fisheries, we heard very compelling evidence about the management of shared stocks and nobody, from the fishing industry to private fishermen to the Minister at the time—now the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—disagreed that any policy for the management of UK stocks has to take into account the fact that many of our stocks are shared with other European countries and, therefore, we cannot develop plans on our own.

For me, one of the more compelling anecdotes was the case of species that spend the earlier part of their life in, for example, French waters, and later move into UK waters. One could envisage a future situation in which, in this case, the French might say, “Okay, we will harvest the younger fish and leave the older ones for you.” Of course, there would not be any older ones. I just emphasise that all the evidence I heard in that Select Committee inquiry three years ago makes a very compelling case for this amendment on shared stocks.

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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly to Amendment 33, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I have to confess that it raised in my mind a thought I had not had before, and I thank her very much for it. Her amendment reflects the fact that in certain circumstances, the removal of one species from an ecological community can have a dramatic effect on the whole ecosystem. I used to teach this notion to undergraduates in Oxford. It refers in particular to the idea of a keystone species—one that might have a disproportionate effect on the balance of an ecological community as a whole. In a quite unanticipated way, fishing effort on a particular target species might disrupt and radically transform the whole ecosystem. The noble Baroness’s amendment suggests that the ecosystem objective should be built into consideration of fishing effort. Of course, we saw the ecosystem objective at the very beginning of Clause 1, which is one of the objectives that form the pillars of the Bill. Does the Minister or his officials have a clear view about the notion of keystone species and unintended disruptions to the whole marine ecosystem that might arise as a consequence of a fishing effort targeted at a particular species?

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington
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My Lords, I put my name to Amendment 34. It is obvious that setting quotas at MSY is a largely short-term approach. I realise that it is incredibly complicated, particularly for mixed fisheries—the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just introduced me to a new complication—but the point is that MSY tends to be set to allow for some harvest or return from whatever level the stocks reached, unless, of course, the scientists think that they are getting close to the point of no return or BLIM. Many conservation biologists think that MSY is dangerous and can be misused. If possible, stocks should be set above sustainable levels, so that we are not always living from hand to mouth and our children’s children have a truly sustainable fishing future ahead of them.