All 7 Baroness Young of Old Scone contributions to the Fisheries Act 2020

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
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Tuesday 11th February 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, this is a really historic Bill. For the first time in 50 years, we can design our own fisheries policy; it will be one of the few silver linings of Brexit, if we get it right. It will be a real test of the Government’s approach to the UK-EU negotiation. There will be lots of pushing and shoving between now and December, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, rightly pointed out that there are big shares of quota at stake for other EU states and a big share of markets for us. We need to watch that the needs of sustainable fisheries do not get traded away for other trade-deal requirements

The Bill is an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate that, in totally rethinking how we manage our fisheries, we can ensure a sustainable future for the marine environment, the fishing industry and coastal communities, as the Minister said. Current fisheries policy, of course, is in no way sustainable. Government assessments have shown that we are not on track to meet the commitment to reach good environmental status and healthy seas by 2020. That is particularly so for fish stocks, shellfish, birds and benthic habitats. Last year, only 59% of UK fish stocks were fished at or below sustainable levels, down a whole 10% on the previous year. North Sea cod stocks have declined to critical levels, due to lax setting of quotas and failure to manage effectively. North Sea cod has lost its Marine Stewardship Council certification, with an impact on valuable market share. This is bad not only for the fish and the environment but for fishers and fishing communities.

The UK Government are currently challenging the global community to increase protection of the world’s oceans to 30% by 2030. If we are to do that without being laughed at, we need to demonstrate world-leading fisheries management and to measure this by recovery of nature and recovery of stocks. The Bill is a welcome improvement on the Bill in the previous 2017-19 Session, but it is very much a framework Bill, whose implementation raises many questions. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, called it a picture frame without a picture and I very much appreciate that analogy. I hope the Minister can give us some assurances about painting in the picture frame at the end of this debate, and I shall raise some of the issues on which I think further answers are needed.

I welcome the new climate-change objective in the Bill. We must ensure that it is about not just low-carbon fishing technology but the importance of recovering fish populations and restoring marine habitats, such as kelp forests, deep sediments and coastal seagrass meadows, as effective natural solutions to tackling the twin emergencies of climate change and biodiversity together.

My second anxiety concerns future trade deals with the EU and other states, where the Government are saying that fisheries negotiation will be a separate annual bilateral agreement. I thoroughly endorse that approach: we must avoid the overall UK-EU negotiation sliding into a link between access to UK waters for the EU states and other states and access to EU markets for us.

The Bill is very much a framework Bill, leaving a lot to the devolved Administrations and secondary legislation. I urge the Minister to let us see the secondary legislation in draft before it is laid or, even better, produce co-management arrangements involving all key stakeholders to ensure that the painting in of the picture that secondary legislation will represent suits all stakeholders.

Many of the objectives listed at the beginning of the Bill are to be applauded: the sustainability objective, the precautionary principle, an approach that involves ecosystems, the climate change objective and the importance of science and evidence-based decisions. However, somewhere in the mix we need a legal duty on relevant public authorities to achieve these objectives and be accountable by publishing specific regular reports on their achievement of the objectives, not just on their activities.

The Conservative manifesto promised

“a legal commitment to fish sustainably”,

but in the Bill there are no legally binding targets or timeframes for bringing unsustainable fisheries stocks to sustainable levels. I am sure the Minister will say that there will be fisheries management plans, but there is nothing in the Bill to say when these plans will be made, what they will cover and when the actions outlined in them will be achieved. I will talk about that in a moment.

There needs to be a legal commitment in the Bill not to fish above independent, scientifically recommended, sustainable levels. Even the rotten old common fisheries policy set catch limits in article 2 to be within maximum sustainable yield by 2020. In the Bill we simply have an aspirational objective to achieve a healthy biomass of stocks, a rather woolly objective that is neither legally enforceable nor subject to any deadline, to be taken forward by way of a policy statement that the Bill says can be disregarded in a wide variety of circumstances. All that represents a potential regression in environmental standards.

There is also no firm commitment to ensure that the stocks we share with other countries are managed sustainably. The Bill needs to set an objective for the Secretary of State in his or her negotiations with the EU and other countries to be directed by clear sustainability criteria, including a commitment to agree catch limits in line with scientific advice. We need to learn from past situations such as the interminable disputes over mackerel between the European Union, Norway, Iceland and the Faroes, which resulted in 35% overfishing and loss of MSC status for that catch. We share over 100 stocks with the European Union, so an effective, evidence-based process is important.

We used to call those the mackerel wars. I turn now to other potential wars. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, is not in his place—I am sure he would have relished this. We need to think about monitoring and enforcement of our new approach, which the Minister touched on in his introduction. I hope the cod wars will not return; the circumstances are different now that territorial waters have been delineated, but can the Minister say exactly what resources—by way of ships, technological kit and monitoring offices—the Government envisage either to have been recently provided or to be provided in future?

In his response to the committee report of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the landing obligation six months on, the Minister of State cited some interesting figures on Marine Management Organisation inspections annually since 2016. Inspections of onshore vessels and premises have greatly increased, but the number of inspections at sea, which are vital, has stayed completely flat. Can the Minister tell us the exact scale of additional resources for monitoring and enforcing under the new arrangements, at least in England, if he cannot speak for the devolved Administrations?

The major feature of the Bill is that it is a high-level framework—the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about it being a picture frame with no picture is rather good. There are lots of stages that will follow the Bill and many a slip between cup and lip. The devolved Administrations will be in the driving seat in many cases and we need to see what proposals they will bring forward to paint this picture. The negotiation of a joint fisheries statement will, I suspect, be fraught and there is no guarantee that the joint fisheries policy statement will achieve the objectives outlined in the Bill or by when.

The national authorities have a “get out of jail free” card. The Bill specifies that they can disregard the policy statement where evidence changes. That might be regarded as admirable flexibility but it risks meaning that the fisheries objective will take priority, especially where the interests of the UK fishing industry are at stake. It can shout at the expense of fish stocks and biodiversity, which of course cannot shout.

Fisheries management plans will be important and much will hang on them, but they are optional. The only requirement on authorities in the legislation is to issue a statement explaining how they intend to use fisheries management plans. I suspect they will not come out with a statement saying that they do not think they will use fisheries management plans much. However, they could, given the way the Bill is framed. There must be a legal requirement for authorities to introduce fisheries management plans where stocks are currently fished above sustainable levels or for data-deficient stocks. There are no timescales for laying out or achieving the plans. We need statutory timescales. National authorities have a similar “get out of jail free” card on fisheries management plans, which could mean caving into socioeconomic pressures at the expense of environmental protection.

I started off thinking that this was rather a good Bill but, having thought about it for some time, the fact that it leaves so much unanswered is worrying. It needs to be a tougher framework and I hope the Minister can assure us that the Government’s manifesto commitment to sustainable fishing can truly be guaranteed through the mechanisms outlined in the Bill, especially where the devolved Administrations are concerned. We need that to work for the benefit of fish ecosystems, the fishing industry and coastal and fishing communities.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
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Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Again, I will probably need to take some advice, possibly legal. The management of fisheries is devolved. The great thing about what has happened—I had no part in the discussions, so I can say this—is that the fisheries administrations of the four parts of the United Kingdom have come together with these objectives. I have the privilege of taking this Bill through the House, but it is at the request of, and the work of, all four Administrations.

We all know about international agreements. This is a domestic agreement between the four fisheries administrations, working collaboratively in the interests of fish stocks and of the communities, which are very important. If there is any flavour of ambiguity in what I have said regarding the legal position, I will put this information in the letter. This is absolutely the work of the four Administrations, seeking to do the right thing for fish stocks and for the communities that harvest the fish for us.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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There are still some things to answer in respect of the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. It seems to me that the ability to deliver on the objectives in this clause depends almost entirely on the joint fisheries statements and the fisheries plans. There are quite a few loopholes that enable the fisheries administrations to wriggle around the requirements in the joint fisheries statements and the fisheries plans—extenuating circumstances, as it were.

We are in a strange position. Although the objectives may well be shared by each of the four fisheries administrations, because of the way they are implemented —through the joint fisheries statements and the plans that have to adhere to the statements, except where there are extenuating circumstances—we might find that these are very delegated, very devolved decisions. We may be lost between the devil and the deep blue sea, if that is not the wrong thing to say about a Fisheries Bill.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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This piece of work is an honest endeavour. Yes, the issues are devolved unless they are internationally related. All objectives must be interpreted proportionately—that is a requirement of the Bill. Interestingly, I have come across a number of noble Lords who would have been wholly in favour of devolution but, now that this actually is devolved, think that there may be problems. We are working very collaboratively with the devolved Administrations. Of course, there are a lot of totemic issues for many of those communities—indeed, in England this is also a totemic matter.

I think the noble Baroness has one or two amendments on this matter in later groups. We have to be frank: these are devolved matters and that is why the coming together of the four fisheries administrations for this Bill is really important. We should see that achievement as a positive, rather than a negative.

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Secondly, my Amendment 49A provides that, rather than concentrate as it does at the moment on sustainability objectives—to which we are all signed up, as we have said on both days in Committee—the plan should refer to consideration of the precautionary objective as set out in Clause 1(3). By excluding that, I am not sure that we can achieve maximum sustainable yield. In my humble submission, if you look only at maximum sustainable yield, you actually reduce the potential to achieve that maximum sustainable yield. I would like a phrase about the precautionary requirement to be inserted here in the clause related to fisheries management plans, because that should help the Government to achieve what it would be. That is the purpose of Amendment 49A: just to introduce a precautionary approach there.
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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My Lords, I speak to my Amendments 45, 49, 50, 53, 54 and 55, all of which are aimed at making a good thing better. We agree that fisheries management plans are a good thing, but they are a bit of a moveable feast as currently structured in this Bill. They are optional; there are a range of circumstances in which authorities can simply opt out of plans and out of the joint statements placed around the plans. These amendments focus on the need for plans to be obligatory—to have timescales associated with them and to have more teeth if they are to deliver in practice the Government’s manifesto commitment to introduce a legal commitment to fish sustainably.

These amendments are aimed at plugging a number of gaps that could mean that the authorities could opt out of preparing fisheries plans at all for some stocks. These amendments taken together introduce provisions to ensure that fisheries management plans must be introduced for all commercially exploited stocks and any other stocks that fall below sustainable levels. They also introduce timeframes for preparing and publishing fisheries management plans. The Bill says that authorities are to prepare a statement explaining the use that

“the authorities … propose to make of fisheries management plans”

and what fisheries management plans they

“propose to prepare and publish”,

together with their reasons for deciding not to introduce a fisheries management plan for a particular stock. There is a rather perverse phraseology in the Bill, which seems to imply that finding an excuse for not having a fisheries management plan is pretty legit. We need to turn it around and set out a very clear requirement for a fisheries management plan to be prepared in the circumstances that I just described. Indeed, with the way the Bill is drafted, we could have a situation where a stock in a depleted state would not be subject to a fisheries management plan. That seems perverse.

I go back to a point that has been made several times—that what we are trying to achieve with the Bill is effectiveness, because ineffective fisheries management plans, for example, would be bad for fish stocks, and that would be bad for the fishing industry as well as bad for the fish.

To take my amendments in turn, Amendment 45 would remove the discretion over whether authorities have to produce a plan. Instead, it states that

“authorities must prepare and publish fisheries management plans for all commercially exploited stocks … and … other stocks … that fall below”

sustainable levels. It is absolutely vital to introduce this accountability into the Bill. Far too many of our stocks are still overfished through setting fishing limits above sustainable levels year on year. It is vital that the Bill reverse that through the introduction of effective fishery plans for all stocks currently below sustainable levels. It is also important that we have plans for all commercially exploited stocks, even if they are currently fished at sustainable levels. Those plans need to be in place to ensure stock levels remain at or above sustainable levels.

Amendment 49 would ensure that fisheries management plans actually maintain stocks at or restore them to the sustainable level, rather than merely “contributing” to the stocks’ restoration. Amendment 50 would ensure that authorities are required to establish policies that will return data-deficient stocks to an equivalent proxy of maximum sustainable yield, rather than just having a vague commitment to increase stock levels without specifying any limit.

Amendment 53 would introduce additional requirements for fisheries management plans introduced for stocks that fall below sustainable levels, defined as BLIM. In particular, it would introduce timelines for restoring stocks that have not been fished sustainably. It would introduce catch limits and conservation measures to increase or return the biomass of each stock to sustainable levels within 10 years. It would also require authorities to prepare and publish a fisheries management plan within 12 months of a stock falling below sustainable levels.

If we do not introduce timelines for recovering stocks we could see many more stocks depleted, possibly beyond levels from which they can recover. The Minister talked about 59% of our stocks being fished at sustainable levels, but that figure is actually going down rather than up: in 2018, 69% of our stocks were being fished at or below sustainable levels. We still have a long way to go, so it is important that these timelines are included so that authorities can be held to account if they do not achieve them. It would be bizarre to abandon the common fisheries policy’s target, which requires all stocks to be fished at or below MSY by 2020. I know that it is unfashionable to hark back to the common fisheries policy, but it was right to have that clear target. In a wider ecosystem context, the marine strategy review found that we were failing 11 out of 15 marine indicators, one of which was fishing.

Amendment 54 would ensure that where stocks are shared with another coastal state, the Secretary of State must engage with that state to try to put in place a joint fisheries management plan for shared stocks. This is pretty key, given that the UK shares more than 100 stocks with the European Union alone.

Amendment 55 would simply define BLIM as the reference point at which additional measures need to be introduced to fisheries management plans to ensure stocks are returned to sustainable levels. If fish stocks fall below this level, their ability to reproduce might be reduced and stocks might be in serious danger of collapse. This is the measure used by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, which provides annual scientific advice on and assessment of the state of fish stocks used by authorities when making decisions about catch limits.

I know the Minister will tell me that there will be guidance on fisheries management plans, but many of these issues are so important that they should be in the Bill rather than simply in guidance. Although the flexibility that the Bill currently allows on fisheries management plans might be admirable in some respects, it raises another question about the whole issue of consistency. If our fisheries and access to them becomes a material matter in negotiations with the European Union and other states on a variety of trade and international relations issues, the fact that we could be widely—perhaps even wildly—divergent across the four nations must raise interesting questions for the Secretary of State.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville
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My Lords, I will speak briefly to Amendment 34 and other amendments in this group that relate to sustainable fish levels being included in the fisheries management plans. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said, we are going around in circles—perhaps like some fish.

Fisheries management plans are key to the Bill’s implementation and success, but they will be ineffective if fish stocks are not maintained at or above sustainable levels. The Bill’s thrust is to promote sustainable fisheries management—that is how I have interpreted it, anyway. This aim in endorsed and welcomed by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations. The UK is already well ahead in sustainable fisheries management and has much to build on to become a world leader. For the fishing industry to maintain its current position and go from strength to strength, it is vital that fish stocks are preserved, enhanced and sustainable. It would be unacceptable to promote short-term gain at the expense of fish stocks for future generations.

Decisions on fisheries management must be informed by science, data and information gathering. We welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring this happens and to an “ecosystem-based approach” to fisheries. This should minimise any harmful effects on fishing activities within the broader environmental, social and economic context. It is therefore essential to manage fish stocks, not only to maintain them at a sustainable level, but to go beyond that. As is clear, climate change can have a dramatic effect on water levels and temperatures. It is paramount that fish stocks are truly sustainable and can adapt to changes over time. It is incumbent on us all to ensure that this happens.

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This is not the beginning of a promise of something further but if the mood in the Committee is that it would be helpful to talk through the fisheries management plans around a table—perhaps, after checking our diaries, once we have finished the Committee stage—so that everyone can see the bona fides of what we are seeking to do, I shall of course be prepared to do that. We will come on to this but this is not about us finding loopholes; it is about having a statement and management plans which will go out for consultation and receive parliamentary scrutiny. Wherever we all are, these are areas that we will return to constantly. However, for the moment, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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I thank the Minister for his offer to meet to talk about management plans, and I would very much like to take that up. Perhaps before that meeting he might ponder on whether something can be inserted into the Bill. I am trying to be kind here and am choosing my words very carefully. I absolutely do not doubt his commitment, at a UK level, to the intent of the Bill and to the sustainability issue being entirely at the forefront. However, devolution is quite a long arm and I suspect that there will be occasions when one or more of the devolved fishing authorities have other priorities in mind. I would be searching for something much more specific about what fisheries management plans there need to be. The provisions of Clause 7 allow a little bit of coming and going at a devolved level and could mean that very significant stocks do not have plans applied to them. I would very much like to explore the ability to plug that hole.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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We might perhaps incorporate that if there is a more general desire to talk through fisheries plans. The truth is that the four fisheries administrations have worked very constructively and positively, with sustainability at the heart of that work. We have all been saying that there is no point in overextracting or overexploiting fish stocks anywhere in UK waters. We need to work on restoring all our stocks, and that is absolutely what these plans are designed to do. I shall of course be very happy to have further discussions on that.

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Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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My Lord, perhaps it is as well that I should speak to my amendments, in view of the fact that my noble friend has done it already. These amendments are an attempt to deal with the point that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, referred to earlier.

Amendments 57 and 58 which I have put forward—my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering has also signed up to the first one—would require the fisheries management plans to explain how they are implementing, or taking account of, the objectives in a way that we can understand. I think that that is a reasonable obligation. It is not a legal obligation in quite the sense that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, was talking of in the earlier amendment, but I think that these objectives are intended to form part of the structure of the management plans. Therefore, the test is whether, on a proper examination of the management plans, we can see how these objectives have been implemented.

Amendment 58 would require the Secretary of State to set out procedures for arriving at these management plans, including consultation on how this should happen. He would then be able to go forward with a procedure which will implement the objectives within the management plan.

My other amendment in this group, Amendment 125A, would require the Secretary of State to make a statement about the economic benefits of this system to the United Kingdom in pursuance of the national benefits objective. Management under that objective requires social and economic benefits. I venture to think that it would be right for the Secretary of State to apply his mind in time, just at the end of the first year, to explain how he hopes to achieve economic benefits as a result of the arrangements made under this Bill for fishing in United Kingdom waters.

I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said about the need for co-operation with other authorities that have responsibility for stocks which we share with them, for the obvious reason that, unless there is such co-operation, there is no real management of the whole stock. As the noble Lord said, it is absolute common sense to do that. It is not quite a matter for the negotiations over Brexit; it is about practical arrangements for ascertaining what is required in respect of these stocks.

Coming back to a point that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made earlier about equal access arrangements, as I understand the Bill, the equal access arrangements are about the actual movement of fishing boats. The quota system controls the catch. If one looks at what the Bill says about equal access, it is pretty plain that, for example, you are not tied to your home port; you can go somewhere else. If you think that there is a better bargain in Peterhead than in Grimsby, you can go there. Conversely, of course, if you fish in Scotland and think there is a better bargain in the south, you can go there, but you cannot drop your line to bring fish out of the water as you go through English waters if you do not have a quota for that. If you are licensed for Scotland, you have to exercise your quota rights there. That is the way that I have understood it. I may be completely wrong, but it looks to me as though that is the way the Bill is framed. That goes back to a previous discussion.

So far as my amendments are concerned, they are intended to incorporate the objectives into the plan in a way that anybody can reasonably understand. That obligation would be a practical obligation in respect of these objectives. We cannot expect any authority to implement all of them; it will depend a bit on the nature of the arrangements. Incorporating them in a way that is explicable and explained in the management plans is the way forward. I would like to know in due course what the Government think about these amendments.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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My Lords, I will speak to my Amendments 51 and 52, which are about data-deficient stocks. I was very pleased to hear the Minister say earlier that there is a real commitment to know more about stocks in order to improve them. Amendment 51 strengthens the drafting of the Bill to ensure that authorities “will” take steps to obtain the scientific advice and data necessary to enable an assessment of a stock’s maximum sustainable yield. This would replace the rather loose drafting in the Bill at the moment, which says that authorities will specify the steps, “if any”, that they propose to take. That seems to imply that they may choose to remain deficient in data. It would be an improvement to lay that stronger requirement.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
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My Lords, we come now to one of the most important groups of amendments. I was interested in the reply given by the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, to the fourth Oral Question earlier, which was about what the Government are doing to make this country an environmental leader. He went through a number of Bills which are going through at the moment, including the Agriculture Bill and the Environment Bill, before mentioning the Fisheries Bill. He is right on the first two. Under the Agriculture Bill, there is ELMS, a very radical policy to ensure that farmers who are paid a subsidy produce public goods. A lot of those are going to be focused on the environment. As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said, as part of the Environment Bill we have net gain and nature recovery networks, both of which I applaud. They will add greatly to the environmental growth of the United Kingdom.

What does the Fisheries Bill do to enhance the UK’s environment? The withdrawal Act gave us control over the EEZ, but all the Fisheries Bill does is change one set of administrators to another, replacing a lot of objectives in the common fisheries policy with similar ones. There is nothing in this Bill that enhances the marine environment. I cannot think of anything in it, as it stands, that does that.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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It is a rare event when I chide the noble Lord on his own Front Bench, but the fisheries management plans, if properly carried out, are quite a major step forward.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
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I think quite the contrary, because they do not co-ordinate with other adjacent EEZs. They account only for fisheries in our EEZs, not the rest of the circulation of those stocks. As they stand, they are substantially inferior—they are unable to carry out their mission. The one area where we can change this is remote electronic monitoring. That is one of the most important challenges. The Government believe in remote electronic monitoring in terms of making the discard ban effective and in terms of much better data, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, stresses far better in his amendment than I do in mine. I fully endorse what he is trying to do.

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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who has expressed so eloquently many of the points I want to make. I shall try to avoid repeating them; nevertheless, I want to extend the argument. I agree with the noble Lord that if the Government are to make only one change to the Fisheries Bill, this should be it.

The purpose Amendment 124, in my name and those of my noble friend Lady Worthington and the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is to ensure that all boats fishing in UK waters are fitted with remote electronic monitoring. My amendment focuses on data collection as opposed to the discard ban, but the two are not incompatible and REM would support both. If we introduce it on a phased basis and with consultation, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggested, it could be achieved in a way that does not disrupt the industry. It will be accepted internationally as the way to collect accurate data on what is being taken from the sea, to inform the scientific analysis of sustainability.

As the Minister said last Wednesday,

“One of the things that we must all wrestle with is that currently, we do not have adequate scientific information on all stocks and we need a better assessment”.


This will help to achieve that. The Minister also said:

“Where we cannot make such an assessment, we will gather scientific data so that such an assessment is possible”.—[Official Report, 4/3/20; cols. 652-53.]


Well, here is a method of contributing to that. Without direct on-board monitoring of fish catch, there would be a crucial gap in the scientific data on which to assess sustainable harvests. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already said, while we were in the CFP it was argued that compelling our boats to deploy REM would put them at a disadvantage compared with fishers from other countries. That in itself tells you something about fishers’ behaviour. But now we have taken back control, we can set our own rules to require all boats in UK waters, whether or not they are UK-registered boats, to operate on a level playing field with REM fitted to their boats.

It was also argued that it was unaffordable and not suitable for smaller boats—the under 10-metre fleet. However, a recent report on the San José gillnet fishery in Peru, concluded that

“small-scale fishing vessel remote electronic monitoring offers potential for affordable at sea monitoring costs in coastal fisheries.”

I am told that there are also new technologies—the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to this—such as Shellcatch, which is cheap and easy to use. Is the Minister aware of Shellcatch and similar technologies, the use of which would be a very appropriate step for the Government to take?

The proposed new Clause in Amendment 124 would also require all boats to have GPS, so that their location is known, and it would require the establishment of a framework for monitoring and enforcement to prevent illegal fishing. The accurate collection of data is always important in fisheries management, but even more so as the Government are intent on pursuing the mistaken notion that maximum sustainable yield is the right way to manage sustainable fisheries. At Second Reading, I pointed out the folly of this proposition, but my warning did not seem to elicit a warm response, so I am going to repeat it at greater length now, for the record.

I am delighted that the notion of experts seems to be coming back into fashion, because I will refer to a number of experts in fisheries science. I first quote from two of the leading fisheries scientists of the 20th century. Canada’s P.A. Larkin, one of the leading fisheries scientists of his generation, wrote in his 1977 paper An Epitaph for the Concept of Maximum Sustained Yield:

“In many ways, it is a pity that now, just as the concept of MSY has reached a world-wide distribution and is on the verge of world-wide application, it must be abandoned.”


J.A. Gulland, who wrote the world-standard FAO manual on fisheries science, said:

“It is very doubtful if the attainment of MSY from any one stock of fish should be the objective of management except in exceptional circumstances”.


I also consulted two colleagues who are fisheries experts: Professor Marc Mangel from the University of California, arguably the top fisheries scientist in the United States, and Professor Sir John Beddington, former Government Chief Scientific Adviser and adviser to the UK Government in international fisheries negotiations. Both confirmed that MSY is not a desirable tool for fisheries management. Professor Mangel said:

“MSY as a management tool simply won’t go away, regardless of evidence that ‘managing for MSY’ has not been effective”,


and

“MSY is a very dangerous fishery management target unless one knows lots about the stock, about fishing mortality, and has the ability to really control fishing effort (particularly shut it down if needed). MSY is generally not used as a target in North America.”

Sir John Beddington is even blunter in his assessment that there is complete consensus among fisheries scientists that to set harvest levels at MSY is not appropriate. I apologise for going on at some length about MSY, but also note that I could have gone on a lot longer. Instead, I commend to those who would like to follow up my points a book entitled Quantitative Fisheries Stock Assessment, by Hilborn and Walters.

Sadly, the Government are committed to a misguided fisheries policy. I am not an expert fisheries scientist, but I have looked carefully at the issue and consulted experts, and the consequences of this misguided policy will be felt by UK fishers in the years ahead. I urge the Minister to listen to world fisheries experts and consider whether the Bill needs to be changed accordingly. However, I am not optimistic that the Government are prepared to do that, so, at the very least, they should agree to record properly what is being caught and where, so that when things go wrong—as they certainly will—they can change the policy. This amendment would enable the Government to do just that.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked why the amendment refers to phasing in REM rather than introducing it straight away. I have talked to people involved in this in the Chilean fishery, where REM is required on boats over 15 metres long. I was told—as was the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson—that a culture change has to go with the introduction of REM. Consultation and phasing in would therefore enable the Government to achieve buy-in from the fishing industry, particularly the important, smaller boats under 10 metres long.

That does not undermine the fundamental objective: to gain accurate data to enable us to manage our fisheries, in spite of our aiming for the undesirable target of MSY. We can manage the fisheries with good data, and change the plan when the data demands it.

Viscount Hanworth Portrait Viscount Hanworth (Lab)
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My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend for jumping in here, but I would like to go on for a bit to address exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has said. I could not concur more strongly with the aspersion that he made against the mantra of fishing at the level described as the maximum sustainable yield. I reiterate that it is absolutely perilous to do so.

The MSY represents an unstable equilibrium. It is akin to the equilibrium of an egg balanced on one of its ends; it is almost impossible to achieve even for an instant. One small disturbance will topple the egg, which is liable to fall on the table and break itself on a hard surface. In the case of fish stocks, that hard surface is total species extinction.

It is by an unfortunate misuse of terminology that the maximum possible harvest has acquired the misleading description of “maximum sustainable yield”. The words “maximum” and “sustainable” have specious connotations, which are spurious in this case. For a start, as I have emphasised, this level of harvesting is not sustainable. Moreover, if it could be sustained, it would not correspond to an economic optimum. To achieve this level of harvest requires an uneconomic expenditure of effort.

A vision of fish-stock ecologists is that we could harvest an ample supply of fish from an abundant stock with the least expenditure of effort. This would require the fish stocks to have an opportunity to regenerate themselves by the suspension of excessive harvesting. Such circumstances prevailed in the years immediately following the two world wars, during which fishing in European waters had been largely suspended. This did not last for long. Soon, fishing fleets armed with technological innovations were chasing an ever-diminishing supply of fish through marine deserts of the fleets’ own making.

In the face of the depletion of fish stocks, British fishermen have adhered to the myth that they have been robbed of fish by the depredations of foreign fishing fleets. They now urge the Government to give them exclusive access to our supposed national waters and to allow them to substantially increase the size of their harvests. This is a recipe for disaster. I thank my noble friend for allowing me to jump in.

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

My Lords, I thank my noble friend and speak to Amendment 112 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to which I put my name—although I may now regret it, since he poked me in the eye. I will also speak to Amendment 124 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I will not repeat the arguments, which both noble Lords made so eloquently and passionately.

What is the Government’s stance on remote electronic monitoring with cameras being brought on to all vessels fishing in UK waters? Noble Lords have heard the reasons: we need to capture data on non-target and protected species and on the bycatch and discards regime, as well as better data on fish stocks to inform scientific assessments; there needs to be effective monitoring and enforcement of fisheries measures and legislative requirements; and it would provide very useful information on vessel location. The current fisheries management system is lacking in effective measures for accurately collecting data on what is caught, and lacks robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. That seems really strange in the context of the UK priding itself as a global leader in technological progress.

We can hardly stand as a world leader in the white heat of technology if we cannot see a better way of producing that data, that monitoring and that enforcement without the current stone-age solution of human observers going on to vessels and monitoring only 1% of what vessels catch—and of log books, and of surface and aerial patrols. It is really not a 21st-century solution. What improved system do the Government intend to introduce for all these purposes, which are absolutely vital in the context of our running an effective fisheries management policy, if not remote electronic monitoring with cameras on board all vessels fishing in our waters?

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

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

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

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Moved by
121: Clause 41, page 27, line 42, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) Before making regulations under section 36 or 38, the Secretary of State must—(a) prepare a draft (“the consultation draft”) of such regulations,(b) publish the consultation draft in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate,(c) take such steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate to secure that the consultation draft is brought to the attention of interested persons,(d) specify a period (“the scrutiny period”) for scrutiny of the consultation draft by Parliament, and(e) on or before the first day of the scrutiny period lay a copy of the consultation draft before both Houses of Parliament.(1A) In this section “interested persons” means—(a) the Scottish Ministers,(b) the Welsh Ministers,(c) the Northern Ireland department, and(d) any persons likely to be interested in, or affected by, the consultation draft.(1B) Subsection (1C) applies if, during the scrutiny period—(a) either House of Parliament passes a resolution with regard to the consultation draft, or(b) a committee of either House of Parliament makes a recommendation with regard to the policies contained in the consultation draft.(1C) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a statement setting out the Secretary of State’s response to the resolution or recommendation.(1D) The Secretary of State must, in making regulations under section 36 or 38, have regard to any representations made to the Secretary of State about the consultation draft under subsection (1) or any resolution or recommendation made under subsection (1B).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides an additional requirement for authorities to lay the draft regulations before Parliament. It also requires the Secretary of State to “have regard to” any responses to the consultation, including any Parliamentary resolutions or recommendations.
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 121 in my name, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. Better scrutiny of secondary legislation is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine. I hope that this is a good example of how we should look to improve methods of scrutiny of secondary legislation across the board but let us focus on this one for now.

When the various statutory instruments were going through the House, transposing European legislation into UK laws as part of the withdrawal process, we all bore the scars of quite restricted consultation and no publication of the statutory instruments in draft. The only real remedy available for those dissatisfied with the statutory instrument was to blow the whole thing out of the water, even under the affirmative procedure, a nuclear option that would have left us with no legislation in place at all.

The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, was excellent in talking to people about the statutory instruments he was responsible for. However, it still left us with the ability to talk about them but not to change them, because by that time they had been laid. This amendment reflects the fact that in this Bill a number of provisions give the Secretary of State powers to create secondary legislation, including for fishing industry or conservation purposes in Clause 36, and for aquatic animal disease purposes in Clause 38. These could be seminal and result in major changes to fisheries management measures. It is important that any changes are subject to a more extensive scrutiny process by stakeholders and the legislature.

Of course, the Bill requires the Secretary of State to consult before making new regulations, but this amendment provides an additional requirement for authorities to lay regulations before Parliament at the draft stage, while it is still possible to change them, and for the Secretary of State to have regard to any responses to consultations, including any parliamentary resolutions or recommendations. This reflects the super-affirmative requirements for scrutiny of secondary legislation in the Public Bodies Act 2011 and the existing consultation requirements for the joint fisheries statement, the Secretary of State fisheries statement and the fisheries management plans in Schedule 1, so it would not be out of line with other measures currently in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support the noble Baroness in her amendment; she spoke very eloquently about the need for it. Having been in the other place for some considerable time, I know that it is always easier to change legislation when it is in the draft form. I have found that Governments of all colours are more loath to change once they have laid the actual regulations. Some of these are of sufficient importance that interested parties, including Parliament, should have a good look at anything being brought forward. That is the way forward and it will allow us to improve not just regulations. I am very keen to see this type of amendment in this Bill and others.

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As previously highlighted, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has twice looked at the delegated powers in the Bill. The committee did not raise any concerns about the scope of the powers under Clauses 36 and 38, or question the parliamentary procedures proposed for them. There has therefore been careful analysis of the powers and the affirmative process is required in many, appropriate, cases. Given these assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone
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I thank the Minister for her reply. I did not really hope or dare to dream that the Government would roll over on this one. I take the point that flexibility and improvements are important and that many of these pieces of secondary legislation will be about technical issues. But the question of ambition in this Bill comes into play here. The reality is that there could be instances where consultees would want to see more rather than less ambition in some of these technical solutions. When there is no ability to look at these statutory instruments in draft before they are laid, it becomes impossible to insert anything at that stage of the process. I am distraught and disappointed as usual when I talk about scrutiny of secondary legislation.

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

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

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

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

Amendment 121 withdrawn.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 22nd June 2020

(4 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 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 Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as previous speakers have said, this is a fundamental part of the Bill, and I feel very strongly that environmental sustainability is the crux of this matter. I heard the arguments of my noble friend Lord Blencathra, and as always, they are very strong. I do not doubt the Government’s intentions on the environment and on the sustainability of stocks, but it should be on the face of the Bill. If you do not have environmental sustainability, it is obvious that the other issues we are talking about are irrelevant, because there will be no fish, and no economic advantages. It is absolutely fundamental. I urge my noble friend the Minister to accept this amendment, otherwise I will find myself having to support it in the Division Lobby.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

I support Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. The end of our participation in the common fisheries policy is a real opportunity, which we must not miss if we are to ensure that this self-determined fisheries policy for the first time has a firm foundation in sustainability. I too was rather unconvinced by the account by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, of how balance needs to be achieved in these discussions and decisions. So often the environment does not get a fair shout in these questions of balance. Fisheries, aquaculture, economic and social interests all rightly have a voice, but in some cases those voices are disproportionately loud, and this amendment ensures that environmental sustainability also has a voice. This is fundamental, as many noble Lords have said, not only for our seas but to prevent overfishing and to support sustainable fisheries and coastal communities. In the truest sense, it would be a real shame if we did not ensure that this opportunity was enshrined on the face of the Bill.

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Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. As the UK shares more than 100 stocks with the EU, it is critical that a clear and robust approach is developed to the management of shared stocks, to perhaps avoid another mackerel war, where coastal states set their own unilateral catch limits above scientifically recommended levels. If accepted, this amendment, along with Amendments 12 and 13, would ensure that the joint fisheries management statement and fisheries management plans were drawn up jointly with any coastal state that shares stocks with the UK, recognising that the management of shared stocks must be co-ordinated at a supranational level.

As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, co-operation in this matter is inevitable, as has already been stated by the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations. Only this morning, I was talking to the chief executive of the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation, and he too agreed with the sentiment. He also suggested, as I now suggest to noble Lords, that that is possible if you follow the scientific advice, which I have no doubt that the quota arrangements will be based on.

I look towards the Irish Sea, which is adjacent to me. It is managed on a joint basis already, as it was prior to our membership of the European Union, through the Wassenaar agreement between the old Northern Ireland Parliament and the then Government of the Republic of Ireland. That has since been implemented through legislation, because a Supreme Court judgment required it. Having said that, with the UK leaving the EU, I was pleased that the Minister provided me with an undertaking at Second Reading that that agreement would still stand and that the outworking of that agreement would still enable that joint working and joint management plan between the two jurisdictions that covers the Irish Sea in terms of fisheries to continue.

My argument is if that can take place at the moment, as it has over many years, why can it not take place in other discussions about joint management plans with other nations within and without the European Union? As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, fish migrate, mate and multiply in waters, and do not respect territorial boundaries, so there is a need for the joint management plans to be discussed with other coastal states to ensure that we achieve what is in the best interests of our fishing industry and our fishers.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I too support Amendments 8, 12 and 13, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and others, which take account of the fact that, as he said very vividly, many fish stocks swim across the boundaries of UK waters and need to be planned for in conjunction with other fishery states. I am aware that these considerations are normally included in coastal state negotiations as they are currently conducted, but there is a need for the Bill to have a simple reinforcement that would be met by putting these amendments on the face of it.

Amendment 51, also in this group, is a rather neat amendment, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. It aims to ensure join-up across Government when negotiating international arrangements other than fisheries to ensure that the fisheries objectives are not forgotten or traded away in other international negotiations. Alas, we already see examples of this emerging in the US trade deal, impacting not fisheries but agriculture. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Deben—we do not know whether or not he is in his place—when he was Minister for agriculture and then for the environment, used to come back from international negotiations and report to the environmental NGOs in a somewhat crestfallen manner that one of his aspirations had bitten the dust in the negotiations as a trade-off for some abstruse automotive deal or in a backdoor pact on an immigration issue. This amendment would at least ensure that our UK negotiators across departments would by law have to respect the fisheries objectives—as amended, I hope, by this evening’s overarching sustainability objective from the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

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Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Portrait Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick [V]
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My Lords, I find that I have a certain sympathy with Amendments 9 and 28. Like the noble Lord, Lord Lansley—who moved Amendment 9—and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, I think that it is important to link the fisheries objectives to the practicalities of the Bill in terms of outworking, effort quotas and quotas generally. Can the Minister clarify whether those will be based on the science in terms of historic catches?

For a long time, fishermen, the fishing industry and fishers generally were concerned that quotas did not always relate to what was in the sea—that is, the volume of particular species of fish. They felt that the science was not necessarily always accurate. I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide in his winding-up speech an update on how the outworking of the Bill, including the intentions of this amendment, will reflect the requirements regarding gear and the science, as well as how the science will direct and fuel the quota arrangements and allocations, so that fishermen do not feel that they are penalised in future.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for sorting me out on Amendment 51 when I jumped the gun on the groupings. I also commend him for his two amendments in this group.

One regret with this Bill is that we did not have an opportunity to see a completely brand spanking new Fisheries Bill that codified all the legislation, irrespective of whether it came from Europe or was domestic. That would have been a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has done that for this particular element of the common fisheries policy and has translated it into a brand spanking proposed new clause for the Bill. I very much support him in that. Perhaps we should have got him to write the fisheries legislation in its totality, but I remember what happened when we let him loose on the NHS legislation—we did not much like what he produced—so perhaps that is not such a good idea after all. Well done to him on this piece of redrafting. I hope that the Government accept that this particular piece of this patchwork Bill has been codified successfully.

Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, does not wish to speak on this amendment so I call the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.

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Lord Randall of Uxbridge Portrait Lord Randall of Uxbridge [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I am attracted to the amendment and agree with the point, which he made very clearly, that there is a need for ambition. However, as I have looked at it more and more, I have not been convinced that this could be achieved in this manner. I do not see what “or above” actually means. Sustainable level surely means a minimum level, but if you then said that you were going to have the stocks higher, in order to fish higher, then they become sustainable. I agree 100% that we must be ambitious in restoring those stocks to previous levels as best we can, but I am not sure that this is the way forward. I wait to hear what the Minister says; I hope she will reassure me that the Government have every intention of helping the ambition to do more than just keep at sustainable levels.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
- Hansard - -

On Amendment 10, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, talked about having ambition beyond simply restoring stocks. This is also an issue of practicability. Fisheries management plans will, I hope, be science-based, but on occasion the management of stocks with a precautionary approach will mean that the stocks recover above sustainability levels. Under the Government’s proposed arrangements, fisheries management plans might not have that flexibility and would not envisage going above those levels. Therefore, this amendment is required to give the flexibility of fish not obeying science in every jot and tittle.

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

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

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

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

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

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Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendment 11 relates to the question of whether, if there is an inconsistency between the fisheries policy authorities in the preparation of a joint fisheries statement, there should be what has been described as a dispute resolution mechanism—some means by which that dispute between the authorities can be resolved so that the joint fisheries statement presents a consistent view across the United Kingdom. When we debated this in Committee, there were some deficiencies in the drafting of my amendment at that point, so I have come back with something that remedies at least those points, but it does not, of course, meet the Government’s objective. They believe that the existing mechanisms are sufficient, including the scrutiny of this Parliament and the other Parliaments and Assemblies in other parts of the United Kingdom, as well as the consultations leading to a joint fisheries statement.

However, I remind noble Lords that I tabled the amendment because of a briefing from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which said that, under the existing concordat, which we are seeing a development from, the apparent nature of the agreements sometimes obscures the fact that there are differences and inconsistencies in the approaches taken between, in particular, Scotland and England. It cites two examples. It sees the transfer of fixed quota allocation units out of Scotland as a one-way valve: it is possible for fixed allocation units to be transferred into Scotland, but the Scottish administration makes it difficult for them to go to England. Likewise, it says that the transfer of vessels and licences out of Scotland has been made more difficult by obstacles presented by the interpretation of the rules in Scotland. I do not want to debate those details—they are matters for the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations—but it wants to be clear that, if the joint fisheries statement betrays a lack of consistency in the application of the rules, it wants there to be a mechanism by which an independent reviewer could be brought in to provide some means of resolution.

I am asking for an assurance from my noble friend about the vigilance that will be given to the process of achieving consistency, because the joint fisheries statements will begin to fall down if people believe that they are a cover for inconsistency under the surface. On something such as, for example, the equal access objective, it is stated in the fisheries objective that it must not be narrowly construed and that what we must be looking for is something that ensures that there is literally equal treatment, if I can put it like that, not just equal access, of English-based vessels and English-based owners in relation to Scottish waters and Scottish opportunities in the same way that there are opportunities for those based in Scotland in relation to English quota and the like. So, in moving Amendment 11, I am looking for that kind of assurance from my noble friend in response to this short—I hope—debate. I beg to move.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
- Hansard - -

When I originally read this amendment, I thought I supported the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for an independent review if there was disagreement among the fisheries policy authorities. However, the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. The problem with independent reviewers is that the selection of them does not always do the business, especially when environmental, economic and social considerations need to be balanced within a requirement for sustainability. Independent reviewers are often identified as having come from one or other of the sectors involved, and their background is deeply suspected by people from the other sectors.

We have just had a perfect example of that in the recent so-called independent review of HS2 costs and benefits, with the result that ancient woodlands are being comprehensively trashed along the length of England. So I hope that the Minister will meet the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and come up with some other good idea for working through disagreements between the fisheries policy authorities that does not involve independent review.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will be very interested in the Minister’s reply.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Old Scone 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 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for his explanation of Amendment 55. It was slightly mystifying when Schedule 10, which was brief and pithy and revoked four articles and one annexe of the common fisheries policy regulation, suddenly spanned eight pages of the Marshalled List. Some of this is tidying, as the Minister says—although I am not wholly convinced that tidying needs to be done at this moment.

Many of the provisions are in reference to the fisheries objectives. Can the Minister confirm whether the schedule would need to be amended further if your Lordships’ excellent amendment on the sustainability objective, which we voted for on Monday, were upheld in the other place or—dare I say—accepted by the Government? He also mentioned provisions relevant to the landing obligation and to multiannual plans for stocks, which give the Secretary of State powers to make decisions that depart from some of the requirements of the Bill as a result of a “relevant change in circumstances”. I understand that flexibility is required owing to relevant changes of circumstances, but can the Minister tell us what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that those powers are not overused?

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have just a couple of questions. Can my noble friend the Minister reassure us that this is not a change of policy? It is good to have the opportunity to discuss these amendments as part of our discussions on the Bill.

My noble friend said that under the review, particularly when a calendar year is being replaced by

“such year or other period as may be specified in the determination”,

this would be based on scientific evidence. In order to be absolutely clear, may I ask what that scientific evidence will be? Will it include not just the home scientific evidence that we have from England, Scotland and other parts of the UK but scientific evidence from ICES?

I have two anxieties. As my noble friend explained, changing the period from a calendar year could be eminently sensible, but would it not be better to say something like “such year or part-year as may be specified in the determination”? The amendment as drafted is quite open-ended. I would like some reassurance that we are not looking to set, for example, a 20-year value. The ability to use a non-calendar year, or a part-year, seems useful, and I could support that. I just want reassurance that we are not going to see 20 years’ catch allocation being taken in the first year, which would obviously lead to a disproportionate result. I hope my noble friend can reassure me on that.

Amendment 33 is about issues involved in setting the quota of catch or effort for English purposes. Are those issues affecting the setting of the quota of catch or the effort for English purposes only? It suggests that only the EU quota will count as quota that can be overfished, but can my noble friend explain the position of quota that the UK sets for whatever reason? Surely, we in the UK need to know what is happening to stock for which we are responsible. If overfishing is not recorded, how can we address the issue? This is a matter of taking the scientific evidence and the actual recording over whatever time period, whether it is part of a year, and to rule out a 20-year period in the first instance. That is what I am particularly concerned about. Lastly, I would like a reassurance that this is not a change of policy.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on bringing forward this debate on a key topic in the Bill. I agree entirely with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy: the key to coastal community economic success is processing activities. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, put so eloquently how these have been devastated in communities such as Grimsby.

There is another side-effect. If we do not have a national landing requirement, as set out in this amendment, I struggle to see how we can apply Clause 28, in which the Government hope to introduce a discard prevention charging scheme. My noble friend will recall my disappointment that we have moved away from discard being an objective in Clause 1, but we are now going to have a discard prevention charging scheme. A bycatch objective has now been added to Clause 1. How can we police the bycatch and impose a discard prevention charging scheme if we do not have a national landing requirement?

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
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My Lords, I support this amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch. The situation reminds me of what used to happen with EU structural funds, which were intended to promote regional development and often funded roads and railways into remote rural areas. These promptly allowed all primary agricultural and other products and skills to be sucked out of those rural areas and processed elsewhere, which resulted in more impoverishment of the very areas the investment was intended to help. We do not want an example in the Fisheries Bill of inadvertent consequences of this sort.

Bearing in mind that we are repatriating and setting forth towards a brave new world of our own fisheries management independence, it is highly appropriate that this amendment aims at ensuring that our new fisheries regime will make sure that UK producers, processors and coastal communities play a full role in a thriving and sustainable fisheries market, and at the promotion of UK jobs and skills. This is a highly appropriate amendment.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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I call the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale.

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Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, as I did on Monday, I draw attention today to my interest in a company that essentially operates in Brussels but is in partnership with another agency, which, in turn, has UK Fisheries Ltd as a client. It is not our client but the client of the other agency.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for adding his name to Amendment 51. Its purpose is to provide that where the Secretary of State, although for these purposes it says:

“The Secretary of State and Ministers of the Crown”


to make it clear that it encompasses all members of the Government, is engaged in international agreements that could be “relevant to fisheries policy”, they should have regard to the fisheries objectives. Clause 10 makes it clear that if the fisheries policy authorities are exercising functions relevant to fisheries, fishing and aquaculture, they must do so by reference to the joint fisheries statement, the Secretary of State’s fisheries statement or the fisheries management plan. To that extent, in exercising any function—including, presumably, annual negotiations on fisheries, for example—the Secretary of State would do so by reference to and with regard to the fisheries objectives. That is not the issue.

The issue in my mind, which is why my amendment is here, is that there are agreements which would not necessarily be confined to fisheries but would be relevant to them and have impacts on fisheries negotiations. For example, if one were to look at the subsequent Clause 23, the power to determine fishing opportunities derives from international obligations. Those may be in international law but, more particularly, they may be derived from negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union—or, for that matter, between the United Kingdom and other states such as Norway or Iceland, the Faroe Islands or Greenland. My contention is that those international agreements would not necessarily be confined to fisheries.

While I might like to agree with the Government’s proposition in this respect, I have to say that it is unrealistic. The Government’s assertion is that fisheries, trade and market access must be kept separate. If that were indeed true, the problem that I perceive would not eventuate. But it is not true—there is a connection between the two.

I pray in aid the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who, on 19 May in the other place—I believe he was physically in the other place, although it was a Hybrid Proceeding—made a Statement on the state of EU-UK fishing negotiations. He said of the EU’s approach:

“The EU … 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.]


So I have it on the strength of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that trade, market access and fisheries quota are linked—and they are linked in these negotiations. The Government have to acknowledge that their hope is wrong; they are not wrong to hope, but wrong to think that it will actually happen.

The Government’s position is very interesting. They say that they want to keep fisheries and trade issues separate. They also say that they want us, as an independent coastal state, to be like Norway. These are two perfectly reasonable propositions, but the trouble is that Norway does not keep trade and fisheries issues separate. So, the Government’s two propositions do not work. Why do I believe this to be the case? The House of Commons Library briefing from only some six weeks ago, in reference to Norway’s entry into the European Economic Area, said—I apologise that it is a longer quote—that

“at an early stage in the European Economic Area agreement negotiations, the European Community”—

as it then was—

“made it clear that the quid pro quo for any trade concessions it was prepared to make in respect of imports of fishery products from EFTA states would be increased access for EC fishing vessels to the fishery resources found in the waters of EFTA states.”

So market access and fishing quota are linked, and they have been linked even by the Norwegians.

Of course, the truth is that Norway and other states like it, including even Iceland, are surprised that we have not linked the two. As far as they are concerned, there is leverage on the UK’s part in that we are a very substantial market for the fishery products of the fishing fleets of Norway and other such states. They are expecting that leverage to be used to secure continuity arrangements for the United Kingdom fishing fleets in relation to the quota that we presently enjoy, not in Icelandic waters but certainly in Norwegian waters. More to the point, they are expecting us to seek additional access, and they are expecting these two things to be linked. I think they are surprised that the United Kingdom has not already proceeded down this path; perhaps the Government do not have the bandwidth to think beyond the EU negotiations to realise that it is perfectly possible to have these negotiations in a substantive way—with Norway, for example, or even with Iceland—before the point at which we have concluded our EU negotiations.

My contention is that there are negotiations that are not strictly fisheries negotiations—the EU-UK negotiation on a free trade agreement is a present and substantial example—being conducted by a Minister other than the Secretary of State and where this Bill, were it an Act, would not bear upon those negotiations. So, I am looking for the fisheries policy objectives—as stated, not least by the Secretary of State in the Secretary of State fisheries statement—to be reflected in the objectives of the Government in international negotiations. That is the message that I want to hear from my noble friend on the Front Bench.

I understand that putting into an Act of Parliament a duty for Ministers to have regard to specifics in international agreements is somewhat prejudicial to the prerogative power of Ministers in those negotiations. It happens sometimes, but it is generally avoided by Governments because, down that path, we arrive at the point where Ministers are mandated in international negotiations and are unable to reach the conclusions and comprises that they have to reach.

What does that compromise look like in the EU negotiations? It is interesting. It bears directly on the implementation of this Bill when it becomes an Act. I may be wrong but, in my view, what were originally apparently incompatible positions—those of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government—have moved, in the sense that the European Union has said that it is willing to accept the principle of annual negotiations. As I understand it, it has even accepted that zonal attachment may have a role to play in future, but its starting point, of course, is that there must be maintenance of the relative stability mechanism and adherence to historic catch levels.

If I understand the United Kingdom Government’s position and the EU’s position, there is clearly room somewhere for a compromise. That compromise is that, starting from our position now and in a process of annual negotiations with some movement beginning in the first year, we move away from historic catch levels and the RSM and moving toward zonal attachment. The question is: at what pace? Finding that compromise and the pace of movement will be key because neither side will be happy. Of course, that is often the essence of comprise: nobody is entirely happy but, equally, nobody is entirely disappointed.

I use that as an instance. These are important negotiations. They will have significant impacts on the fisheries industry, clearly. They are being conducted not by the Secretary of State but by the Government and led by a Minister other than the Secretary of State who is not a fisheries policy authority. I therefore want to know from my noble friend that the Government will —in these negotiations and in those that they conduct internationally, such as with Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and others—have regard in future to the statements made about how they and the devolved Administrations propose to implement and achieve the fisheries objectives. I beg to move.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
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My Lords, this feels a bit like Groundhog Day because I jumped the gun yesterday and set off in support of Amendment 51 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, only to discover that it had been degrouped. Nevertheless, what was worth saying yesterday is worth saying today. I commend the noble Lord on a rather neat amendment. As he eloquently outlined, it aims to make sure that important elements that we are trying to deliver through this Bill are not traded away as a result of negotiations being run by people other than Fisheries Ministers.

Yesterday, I said that I remember vividly successive occasions when the noble Lord, Lord Deben, was Secretary of State—first for agriculture and then for the environment—and he used to come back and tell me and other NGOs in a rather crest-fallen voice that he had not been able to get what he wanted because a side deal had been done on something totally unconnected to the agricultural or environmental issue that he was trying to pursue. It could be as strange as an automotive deal, a backdoor pact on an immigration issue or whatever.

I support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley: there is absolutely no point in having a Fisheries Bill that talks about fisheries and sustainability objectives if in fact they can be traded away in other negotiations elsewhere. I very much support this amendment.

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Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington [V]
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My Lords, remote electronic monitoring will be hugely important to the future management of our fisheries, for a variety of reasons.

First, we do not have the resources to police all our waters. We will soon have the largest independent national fisheries area on the continent. If no one can fish our waters without REM, both home boats and foreign boats, at least we will know, in real time, what is going on and whether boats are fulfilling their obligations under their licences.

Secondly, it is said that 40% of all catch taken in Europe is currently caught in what will become British waters, so if we can strictly manage and police that catch all around the UK, we will have a chance of leading the field and becoming an example to others in managing a sustainable fisheries regime.

Thirdly, we all know that discards are still happening, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned. While sympathising with the problems of choke species, we have to be firm about this, while of course helping and encouraging the industry to find its own non-discard solutions—one of which is the intelligent use of REM, which I will come to.

The main reason for REM, which I would like to focus on, is data, as the title of this amendment highlights. Data is vital to the proper management of our fisheries and is in relatively short supply. That is why there are often disputes between scientists and fishers about the accuracy of the data on which MSY figures are based, and whether this data is sufficiently up to date, et cetera. Now we have the chance of every single fishing boat becoming a scientific research vessel, sending back data on an hourly basis.

The Government have announced that they would like to change the basis of the quota system from relative stability to one of zonal attachment. For that you need a lot more data analysis, because the main idea behind zonal attachment is that you look at the entire life cycle of the fish, where they live at any particular point in time and where and when they are of the right size and in the right quantities to be caught. You need an awful lot of data to make the right assessment, and, of course, that data will vary for each individual species.

We must remember that the seas are always changing, and so are the habits and population development of the fish within them. So it is only right that the industry should play a major part in the data gathering needed for modern fisheries management. Furthermore, as I mentioned in Committee, one of the tools for avoiding the overcatch of choke species is giving the fishing boats real-time knowledge of what is being caught and where, so that they can more easily avoid the choke problem areas. Again, for fisheries authorities, real-time data is vital to help them control the problem of overfishing. Norway and Iceland already impose real-time closures of areas of water where sensitive species are suddenly being overfished, but the key to this policy is detailed and open data, provided by REM.

Eventually, all boats, including the under-10s, will have to have REM on board. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, touched on, I cannot believe that supermarkets will—or should—continue to allow sales of fish from their counters which have come from boats of whatever size that are not totally open about what they have caught and where. So the supermarkets, too, should be insisting on REM.

The national administration in the USA has recently taken the decision on REM that there is no need for further piloting; they just need to get on and do it. New Zealand has also taken the decision to roll it out across the whole of its fleet. I believe that we should do likewise.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
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My Lords, we talked a lot about REM in Committee, and it remains the case that, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson’s Select Committee report stated, without REM there will be no real way of establishing whether discards are still happening and whether catch limits are being observed. Universal REM would mean better data for fisheries management, as the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, has just outlined—and of course, for enforcement.

At the moment about 60% of the UK’s shellfish stocks have unknown status, and not much is known about several vulnerable bycatch species. Enforcement is patchy, with the current at-sea inspections regarded as just bad luck by some operators, since less than 1% of trips are independently monitored. REM would vastly increase the level of enforcement in a cost-effective way.

In their response to the Committee’s report, the Government recognised the effectiveness of REM in monitoring fishing activity and bringing full compliance with the landing obligation. We know that many other countries have adopted or are adopting REM—New Zealand, British Columbia, part of the US—and in this post-Covid period of digital leaps forward, it seems sensible for us to adopt a modern methodology for the collection of data and for monitoring and enforcement. So let us just do it—and if it is for England only, let us still start there.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern [V]
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My Lords, the matter of REM is of the utmost importance. Of course, it already exists in the industry. For example, vessels over 12 metres carry transponders which provide data on vessel location, being satellites at sea. This is a strong aid to effective monitoring, control and enforcement in relation to the work that the boat does. Likewise, electronic logbooks for vessels over 10 metres in length and a mobile phone catch app for vessels under 10 metres, have strengthened the flow of information necessary for the effective management of our fisheries.

CCTV cameras have already been used successfully on a voluntary basis in the United Kingdom and Denmark in projects to provide assurance that cod catches, for example, are kept within permitted limits. Other initiatives using CCTV in a similar way have helped scientists understand specific catch patterns, and provide useful advice to fisheries managers. REM undoubtedly has an important role to play in the future management of UK fisheries.

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Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone [V]
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My Lords, there has been much toing and froing between Committee and Report about the virtues and downsides of maximum sustainable yield. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has not fully abandoned the concept as he was first minded to, and has tabled these two amendments to strengthen the position. I support them for all the reasons that he outlined and which I will not reiterate at this hour. I do hope the Minister can confirm that the Government would intend to move forward on both the use of real data and the whole ecosystem approach.