Fisheries Bill [HL]

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Excerpts
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(4 years 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-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs [V]
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who set out the issue so clearly. I have little new to add but would like to echo three points that he made. First, on the role of data, we have heard repeatedly in earlier debates that there is a deficit of good data on which to base our fisheries management models and quota allocations. We cannot fish sustainably if we do not know what is being taken out of the sea. Secondly, as the noble Lord said, we want to ensure, as part of managing our fish stocks and the marine environment for the long term, that there is full compliance with the landing obligation. Thirdly, one argument we have heard is that requiring REM would be too burdensome or costly. I am not convinced by that argument. As the noble Lord said, new technologies are coming on stream that are bringing down the cost of REM. For instance, in Committee I referred to a system called Shellcatch, which is being adopted for fisheries management by small vessels in Puerto Rico and Chile. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are exploring these new technologies?

The main objection to REM seems a bit like the objection to speed cameras: it is not fair to have someone spying on me to check that I am complying with the law. Fishers who comply with the law have nothing to fear and should support REM to guarantee a level playing field.

It is also worth considering what consumers want. We know that all the major food retailers support REM because they do not want to sell illegal fish and know that their consumers want to buy and eat genuinely sustainable fish. Their joint statement says:

“Fully documenting fisheries is an essential tool for successful fisheries management and the attainment of healthy fish stocks … Properly documenting and accounting for catches should not be sacrificed because there are implementation challenges in some fleet sectors … we are willing to support initiatives that will be necessary to support this outcome. These include … Comprehensive and cost-effective monitoring and enforcement of measures, for example the use of remote electronic monitoring.”

I support this amendment as perhaps the single most important change that this House could make to the Bill. It will help to protect our fish stocks and our marine environment, protect our food industry from inadvertently breaking the law, and protect our consumers from eating illegal fish.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I am happy to have put my name to this amendment, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, this is probably the most important amendment that we can make to the Bill.

I congratulate the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, on the various measures coming forward: the Agriculture and Environment Bills— and indeed this Bill—which show a commitment to improving our environment, both terrestrial and marine, although we may want to change a few little things in both of those. However, this amendment, as the two noble Lords preceding me said so well, is incredibly important.

First, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, just said, it is important to realise that this is not just being pushed by environmentalists: business also wants it. Therefore, you have a very holy alliance between business and environmentalists. It is important to collect the data. I think the Minister would be disappointed if I did not say something or other about birds. For example, the Government’s own estimates of bycatch in fulmars is between 4,500 to 5,700 annually, and in guillemots 2,300 to 2,700. But this is in fact inadequate data, because those figures are purely an estimate. We need more information if we are to protect these species and see what is actually happening, and the same is of course true with cetaceans.

The other important thing is that we will be able to monitor changes in species as the climate changes. I have just finished reading a very interesting article in the latest issue of the Marine Conservation Society’s journal, on the new species that are now attracted to warmer waters as those who like the colder waters move further north. This data would be extremely important in finding out what is happening in our oceans. It is very difficult to see without a lot of expensive equipment, so this would be a very useful tool for scientists.

I have heard this item about the devolved Administrations. First, I ask my noble friend: has this been discussed with the devolved Administrations and, if so, have they rejected the idea? I also know, from my time trying to develop policy for the previous Prime Minister, that very often the devolved Administrations, particularly the one north of the border, like to get one step ahead of us. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, had an idea about it being for England only. I would prefer to see it for the whole of the United Kingdom, but if that cannot be done, and if the other Administrations are slow in taking this up, it would be admirable if we did this just for England.

I am afraid that, unless I hear something very encouraging from my noble friend, I shall once again find myself at odds with my Government—which always grieves me in many ways—and will support the amendment.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the previous three noble Lords. They, and I, demonstrate that support for this amendment comes from all over the House.

It is an incredibly annoying amendment for the Government; I understand that, but it is sensible and the right thing to do. The Government, however, seem absolutely unable to accept any amendments that they have not thought of first. I realise that the Minister is very emollient and tries hard to be helpful. The fact is, however, that the Government must understand that they are not very good at writing legislation at the moment. This is one of the amendments that has to be accepted.

This is another time when I shall be incredibly annoying, because I am going to quote the Government’s own manifesto, which they delivered to us only six months ago, to them. On page five, they say that Brexit will allow us to

“raise standards in areas like workers’ rights, animal welfare, agriculture and the environment.”

This amendment will raise those standards drastically. Page 54 says:

“We have a long tradition of protecting animals in this country, often many years before others follow. Under a Conservative Government, that will continue”.

I really hope it does, and I hope the Government will accept this amendment. By rejecting it, the Government will ensure that we continue to fall behind other countries. Australia, for example, found that reporting improved massively after CCTV was installed on a fishing fleet, and that interactions with sea birds and mammals were reported seven times more often when the cameras were there keeping an eye on things.

This amendment will help to save the lives of many marine creatures, such as dolphins and porpoises. It will spur a cultural change in the fishing industry and help to protect our oceans. I look forward to the amendment being pushed to a vote, so that your Lordships’ House can show the strength of feeling on this and reflect the huge public support for improving animal welfare.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for bringing forward these two amendments. I had the opportunity, just out of personal interest, to meet the scientists at ICES in their Copenhagen offices on two separate occasions. I was very amused to learn that they have annual visits from the Scottish fishermen, who try to massage some of the research figures; I am delighted to say that the ICES scientists have managed to bat these away—they are leading independent scientists in this field.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has done the House a great service this evening by identifying why MSY is possibly outdated and no longer fit for purpose and pointing to the basis on which ICES relies, which is an ecosystem-based management. Recognising that MSY might be moving forward and given the fact that climate change is changing the nature of fisheries—the waters are warming in certain parts and the fish are moving to cooler waters—I support the sentiments behind these two amendments and indeed have lent my name to them. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has pointed out, ICES is the leading marine scientific base of research. These amendments give my noble friend the Minister an opportunity once again to confirm that we will continue to take its research going forward, at the very least—he could not commit to five or 10 years —for the next year or two. I do lend my support to these two little amendments.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge [V]
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My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long. I support completely the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. He has stated the reason for them admirably. Given that we have just been having a debate about the importance of data, I cannot understand why we would then look at theoretical information—how we can base judgments on theory when we should be looking all the time to base them on data and science.