(3 days, 13 hours ago)Commons Chamber
I commend the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) for leading the debate excellently and for the hard work that she does in this House to bring attention to these issues; whatever party we belong to, we all recognise that. It is not only the hon. Lady who brings my attention to such issues. My constituents tell me every week the issues that matter to them, so I am not quite sure why some Members have said that this is not a big issue. Actually, it is a massive issue for my constituents and they regularly contact me to tell me that.
As the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) mentioned just a moment ago, global temperature rises have been a consistent problem worldwide and this issue needs to be at the forefront of the COP26 discussions. It has been estimated that, to have at least a 50% chance of keeping the global temperature below 2°C throughout the 21st century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited. But in this year—2021—the greenhouse gas emissions contained in certain estimates of global fossil fuel reserves are about three times higher than they should be. That gives us an idea of the importance of the issue.
I want to mention some of the good work that is happening. One company that got in touch with me was ADS Northern Ireland, which has previously worked closely with Bombardier Aerospace back home. It outlined how the aviation industry is helping to reduce emissions to net zero. The UK aerospace industry supports what the Government call their jet zero ambitions, and states that the realisation of these goals will present the UK with huge opportunities to boost clean growth, level up and create green jobs across the whole UK. We need that in Northern Ireland, and we can do that. With that in mind, the devolved institutions will aim to deliver the jet zero ambitions, strengthen the supply chain, create green jobs and enable the UK aerospace industry to become a world leader in sustainable aircraft technology.
The UK must be at the forefront of persuading others to commit fully to the nationally determined contributions and the Paris agreement, and our actions must speak louder than our words. This year’s COP26 gives us a real opportunity to engage with those who have been less vocal on the climate change front. I commend the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) for saying that it will give young people a chance to raise the issues that are important to them. That is really important, because we are leaving this situation for those who come after us.
I look to the COP26 President to lead us through the conference with realism and consideration for our futures. Although we have achieved much and are travelling in the right direction, it is estimated that some £100 billion is still needed. I thank him for the work that he has done. We look forward to working hard together for the future.
We in this place have a duty to ensure that the burden is not felt by one income base. I urge the Government to spread what will be an incredibly costly initiative appropriately, and not to squeeze the middle class any further. This must be done and it must be done right, and now is the time to do just that.
It is a pleasure to respond to this debate, and I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing it and her powerful opening remarks. It has, as expected, been a wide-ranging debate with a large number of thoughtful and passionate contributions. Hon. and right hon. Members on both sides, particularly my own, will forgive me if I do not mention every one of them, but I feel I need to make an exception—perhaps put it down to old habits dying hard—to mention my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown), who brought home very early on in the debate the importance of the matter we are discussing.
Many critical issues need to be resolved at COP26, from finalising the Paris rulebook to essential specific side deals on such issues as the phasing out of coal, reductions in methane emissions and deforestation. However, given the prominent themes of this afternoon’s debate, I will focus my remarks on two key areas where decisive progress must be made at COP26, if it is not to be deemed a failure. The first is whether sufficiently ambitious near-term climate commitments can be secured to at least keep alive the hope of limiting global heating to 1.5°C. The second is whether the developed world will finally deliver for the developing in terms of climate finance and other forms of support.
Turning first to near-term climate commitments, in his speech in Paris last week the COP President argued that
“the world must deliver an outcome which keeps 1.5 degrees in reach.”
He was right to set himself and the world that test. Opposition Members have long called for delivering on the upper ambition of the Paris agreement to be the overriding priority for the conference. Anything else would send a clear signal that the UK was content to aim for an outcome that puts at risk, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) said in his remarks, the very survival of vulnerable states on the frontline of the climate crisis.
The problem is that the Government have not done enough to explain what they mean by “keep 1.5 alive” or to initiate an open and transparent debate on the scale of global ambition required to achieve that outcome. As a result, we are heading into Glasgow with no real collective understanding of what is necessary to keep a limit of 1.5° within reach and every chance that the outcome will therefore fall far short of the expectations that have been generated.
That failure is all the more perplexing given how clear the science is. We know that for a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°, we need to halve global emissions by the end of this decade. We know that as a world, we are alarmingly off track, with the nationally determined contributions synthesis report published by the United Nations framework convention on climate change last month making it clear that, far from slashing emissions as required, current country pledges would lead to an increase in emissions of around 16% on 2010 levels by 2030, putting us on course for a disastrous 2.7° of heating, as many Members have said. I say to the Minister that the Government must now be open and honest with the country and the world about how much of the gap needs to be closed at Glasgow to keep 1.5° alive and what individual countries must do, in particular those major emitters who have yet to submit updated pledges, for that happen.
The Government also need to be clear about what more the world will have to do in the next few years, post COP26, to close the gap entirely. It is now abundantly clear that we cannot wait four years, or even until the global stocktake in 2023, to increase global ambition still further, if the world is to be put firmly on a 1.5° pathway. The Climate Vulnerable Forum recently proposed an emergency pact that would see states agree to return at each of the next three COPs with more ambitious targets, rather than waiting until 2025. It was telling that the COP President alluded to that proposal in his speech in Paris last week. When she responds, will the Minister confirm whether the COP President will be actively seeking agreement in Glasgow on a more regular ratchet mechanism to ensure that we make the requisite progress on mitigation in this decisive decade?
On the developing world, as Opposition Members have said many times in the last 18 months, it is vital that the voice of the global south is heard in Glasgow and that climate justice be prioritised. That is not just because it is morally right but because the negotiations are almost certain to break down if high-ambition developed countries do not retain the trust of, and thus secure buy-in from, climate-vulnerable states.
As my hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome), for Leeds East and for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), and others, said, more than anything, solidarity with those states is dependent on the developed world finally honouring the 2009 promise of $100 billion in climate finance annually to help developing nations to transition and adapt. Yet, with just 10 days left, a staggering $14-billion shortfall remains, and there is no sign of the promised German-Canadian delivery plan. We need clarity from the Government as to what progress they now expect on that issue before delegates arrive in Glasgow, and I urge the Minister to update the House on that.
As important as that $100 billion is, it is not the extent of the finance and support that developing countries will need. The world also needs to agree a significant increase on the $100 billion for the period up to 2025; to begin the process of establishing a post-2025 climate finance goal; to make tangible progress on ensuring that at least half of all climate funding is allocated to adaptation and that the balance shifts away from loans towards grants; and to deliver meaningful support, including financing, to address loss and damage and get the Santiago Network up and running, as the hon. Members for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) and for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) mentioned. Demands for progress in each of those areas have been made at COP after COP after COP, and Glasgow must be the occasion when the developed world finally acts to deliver on them.
Finally, I will touch briefly on the domestic situation, which has been a prominent theme of the debate. Of course the summit’s outcome will be shaped by prevailing geopolitical headwinds and any agreement that emerges will be the product of a phenomenally complex international negotiation, but it would be wrong to portray the role of the COP President as merely a convener or neutral broker. Those are key aspects of the role, but being the host state also confers on us a duty to set the pace on all aspects of the net zero transition and so maximise our influence in the negotiations and the chance of a successful outcome.
Opposition Members do not deny that the UK has set an example in several important areas, including publishing a detailed, albeit flawed, net zero strategy. One need only look, however, at the Treasury’s failure to lock in a genuinely green economic recovery by decisively closing the net zero investment gap to see that the Government have patently not been an exemplar across the board on climate policy and that there is much more they could do.
COP26 is our last best chance to show that the Paris agreement and climate multilateralism more generally work. Whether it is convincing G20 countries to do more, delivering for the developing world, or revisiting what exemplary climate action might be taken in the Budget and the comprehensive spending review here at home, the Government must now do whatever it takes to ensure this critical summit is the “turning point for humanity” that the Prime Minister has declared it will be.
(3 months, 1 week ago)Westminster Hall
The schedule makes various changes to a number of articles in the common fisheries policy regulations. Amendments to these regulations have already been made by statutory instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. However, under that Act we were unable to make changes to policy; we can make those changes only now under this Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Schedule 10, as amended, accordingly agreed to.
Regulatory enforcement and data collection scheme
Concerns were raised on Second Reading and in the other place about a lack of progress on remote electronic monitoring, and I agree that we need to take that forward. That is why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be launching a call for evidence on REM for English-registered boats and for boats fishing in the English fishing zone within the next few weeks.
It is important that we continue to work with the devolved Administrations to build a robust policy that works for all parts of the UK and respects devolution settlements. I recognise that these amendments attempt to address some of the devolution issues with the clause that came from the other place, but they still tie us into a prescribed and rigid approach, where we would have no choice but to end up with a system that is not unlike the inflexible system that we used to suffer from under the common fisheries policy.
I remind the Committee that we already have the powers to mandate a roll-out of REM under clause 38(4)(h) and (q), and so do the devolved Administrations, under schedule 8. The roll-out of REM was in the SNP manifesto, so I am sure that it can happen if it is considered politically expedient. The amendment does not give us any more powers beyond those that we have already. It simply gives us less scope for innovation. We have been clear from the start that we support the principle of the clause, but we must do so in conjunction with the four nations, and bring the fishing industry along with us. I ask the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move amendment 108, in clause 48, page 31, line 23, leave out
“the UK Exclusive Economic Zone”
“England or the English zone”.
This amendment turns the UK-wide requirements around remote electronic monitoring systems into England-only requirements.
Seafish is a UK body, and Ministers in each Administration have a shared and equal responsibility for it. These new clauses affect the interests of three other fisheries administrations, so I have corresponded with my colleagues across the devolved Administrations about them.
My colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland and I agree that Seafish is undertaking valuable work, and do not agree with the new clauses. The current model works well, in that it has the ability to deliver or fund bespoke services in each Administration, but in many cases it delivers UK-wide work. That is partly because of efficiencies of scale, but also because the supply chains across the UK are similar and have similar challenges and opportunities. A particular concern is that the new clauses do not consider the impact that the changes would have in each region on the viability of Seafish, given the additional and costly burdens they would add. I am not convinced of the need to legislate on all these matters.
It is open to all the fisheries administrations to consider how Seafish serves us across the UK and across the UK industries, but I feel that the new clauses pre-empt the findings of the reviews that we are about to undertake. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute to withdraw them.
On a point of order, Sir Charles, which I raised with the Minister prior to the sitting, I believe that she may have inadvertently misled the Committee in one of her earlier remarks. She was responding after I had raised the issue of Seafish issuing faulty and unsafe guidance on personal locator beacons and lifejackets. When replying to me, the Minister said that those difficulties did not exist, but Seafish officials have subsequently confirmed that the video in question, which advised faulty lifejacket practice, should not have been produced or issued, and has now been removed.
As that is a safety issue, I would be grateful if the Minister, who I believe was given incorrect guidance through no fault of her own, could correct the record and, in particular, work with colleagues in the Department for Transport to issue a maritime information note, to ensure that any fishers who heard that faulty guidance will know that it has been corrected.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
New clause 20 addresses the impact of covid-19 on the fishing industry. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly caused immense disruption across different sectors of our economy, but the fishing industry has been affected by a particular set of challenges. They include a significant hit to demand for fish in key domestic and overseas markets, with the closure of the restaurant sector and many supermarket fresh fish counters during lockdown; the challenge of getting fish to market; a collapse in prices, with falls of as much as 85%; and disruption to supply chains.
Alongside those challenges, many fishers have faced labour shortages caused in part by overseas workers leaving the UK. Many small fishers were unable to adapt to these challenges, as throughout the lockdown period their quota allocation and the fish they catch remained unchanged. All of that has been exacerbated by what happened earlier this year, when many boats were grounded by storms and high winds.
The difficulties are well known to the Government. On 24 April, the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs heard from experts in the fishing industry, who highlighted some of the challenges. We have broadly welcomed the Government’s economic support measures during the pandemic. However, in many cases, the measures have not addressed the particular challenges faced by the fishing industry, where smaller businesses often have very tight profit margins, continually reinvesting in their businesses and vessels. As Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said, “broad brush” Government support left many smaller fishing businesses struggling.
The Government’s £10 million fund for England’s fishing and aquaculture sectors came too late, while the bounce back loan scheme, capped at £50,000, did not cover fixed costs, from maintaining boats to funding berths for charter boats in marinas and ports, which were necessary to ensure the long-term viability of businesses when they were not operating during lockdown. Cash-flow problems and ongoing costs have impacted not only fishers, but fish processing businesses and ports, with the British Ports Association finding that only 36% of UK ports are confident about their business outlook over the next 12 months.
The Government have made support for the fishing industry one of the key elements of their programme, and that has taken on even greater importance in the context of coronavirus. The new clause presents an opportunity to provide greater certainty for an important industry in uncertain times. It would require the Secretary of State to lay before the House a review of the impact of coronavirus and the coronavirus disease on the fishing industry within six months of Royal Assent.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. If the Government are willing to accept the new clause, it might be an area that can be improved om, but the point is to try to give greater certainty and greater information to the sector as it struggles to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Under the terms of the new clause, the report would assess and address the effects of coronavirus on the fishing industry workforce and on the supply availability of fisheries products. The new clause places no obligation on the Government to adopt any particular approach to supporting the fishing industry through these difficult times. It simply requires the Secretary of State to report to the House on the challenges that the industry faces as a result of the pandemic.
I hope the Minister will agree that the covid-19 pandemic has placed a great strain on our UK fishing industry. I hope she will support our new clause to ensure that the Government commit to monitoring the impact of covid-19 on small and big fishers across the country.
The Government need to answer key questions. What measures, if any, will they take to provide more sector-specific support to the fishing industry? What actions will they take to support jobs in coastal communities impacted by covid-19? How will they support British ports? What will the Government do to ensure that more fish caught in UK waters are landed in UK ports, providing important foods to communities hard hit by covid-19? Those are important questions. We hope that work to address those issues will take place in any case, but I am sure the House, the fishing industry and the public would appreciate its being as transparent as possible.
Given the difficulties that the coronavirus pandemic has caused for the fishing industry, if the Government are to oppose the new clause, will the Minister clarify how they will assess the impact of the pandemic and provide support for the industry? What mechanisms will they adopt to ensure that the House, the industry and the public are updated on this work?
Well, we have had kind words from the hon. Member for Barnsley East, and it has been a pleasure to debate this excellent Bill with her. It gives me enormous pleasure to move it to the next stage. It sets out how we will move forward to promote sustainable fishing as we become an independent coastal state at the end of this year.
To that end, I would like to thank you, Sir Charles, and the other Chairman. I would very much like to thank the Clerk, who has managed extremely well. That is very difficult without the normal Box arrangements and without any back-up for the Clerk. I appreciate everything that he has done for us. I thank those on the Opposition Front Bench. I thank particularly all the Committee members, who have not done other things that they wished to do, because they were so determined to give this Bill their full consideration. I thank the Whips, who are both here, and who have kept us in order.
I particularly thank my private office and the Fisheries Bill team for their great work on the Bill. The Bill passes to its next stage in top-notch form, and I look forward to its becoming law very shortly.
(1 year, 1 month ago)Public Bill Committees
We in the SNP are concerned about Government amendment 5, which would possibly remove clause 18 from the Bill in its entirety. We oppose that in the strongest terms, and I encourage right hon. and hon. Members to do likewise. If they respect the sentiments of devolution, they will support the amendments we have tabled, which we do intend to put to a vote.
A landings target is currently the policy of the governing party in Scotland, and it is a policy that Scottish Ministers are keen to progress. The UK Government, on the face of it, have simply refused to engage in any way—far less in a meaningful way—with the reasonable and rational intent of the amendments from the other place. The Conservatives, in my opinion, are again showing their true colours: they have no respect for devolved national parliamentary matters, and it is highly disappointing that ensuring the economic value and benefits of sea fishing for coastal communities, and for labour markets and livelihoods in constituencies such as mine, is not high enough on their agenda.
The amendments made in the other place that the Government are seeking to remove are relevant and considered. They would have aided the delivery of the aims in clause 1, and would also have followed through on the Government’s pledge of levelling up. However, we now know—if some of us did not beforehand—that a pledge by this Government or their Ministers means virtually nothing when they can break laws left, right and centre, willy-nilly. The amendments would have safeguarded employment in the processing and distribution sections of the sector, which are so important to my constituents in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, and to Scotland as a whole.
One job at sea is widely regarded as being equivalent to 10 on dry land, and coastal communities are crying out for investment and support. They currently have higher rates of unemployment and lower wages than other parts of their countries; they face the additional challenges of social isolation; they have fewer training and apprenticeship prospects; and ultimately, they are in poorer health. A minimum landings requirement for fish caught in our own waters could have provided a long-overdue stimulant and a renaissance for these communities. It could have breathed new life into many of the smaller or less used ports and harbours across Scotland and the other countries of the UK. The opportunity to do so is being passed up.
The other major concern we have—I cannot emphasise this enough—is the tampering with, and erosion of, devolution. I will not often agree with folk draped in ermine cloaks, nor will many of the folk I represent, but those in the other place identified the flaws in the original drafting of this Bill when it came to respecting the devolved Administrations. It was both striking and disappointing in equal measure that this was not reflected in the original amendment and is something we seek to remedy.
I am not sure why the Government have refused point blank to engage with the amendment with any good faith, and I seek answers from the Minister about that. She may claim that the Government already have powers to do this, but where are those and in what legislation? Why will they not use this legislative opportunity to update those measures?
The Scottish Government are already creating a voluntary monitoring approach to vessels under 12 metres participating in inshore Scottish waters, and have plans in place to extend that pilot to larger vessels in different fisheries too. Again, the devolved nature of the responsibility was not reflected in the original drafting, which is why the other place sought the amendment. It is a matter that needs to be remedied so that the power to make regulations on the matter is devolved to the fisheries public authorities.
I urge colleagues to safeguard our fisheries, to support the position of the devolved Governments and to allow opportunities to revitalise our coastal and sea-linked communities by supporting our amendments, which are designed to do that. I commend them to the Committee.
I agree that any landing requirement should not apply to foreign vessels, which will need to demonstrate a link to their own flag states. We would not want to see reciprocal measures put in place against UK vessels that fish outside UK waters—I very much agree with that. The Government believe, however, that the clause should be removed from the Bill because it is inflexible, does not respect the devolution settlements, and will not achieve what its supporters believe. A landing requirement already exists for all UK vessels as part of the economic licence condition. The power to attach such conditions to vessel licences is provided in schedule 3, as I said earlier. Ensuring that vessels that use UK fishing opportunities bring benefit to the UK is of course very important. That is why we have included the national benefit objective in clause 1. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I wish to speak against the Government’s ambition to remove clause 18.
The clause makes job creation a major priority. Labour’s “jobs in coastal communities” clause was part of the laws to ensure that at least two-thirds of fish caught in UK waters must be landed at our ports. As we hurtle ahead into a no-deal Brexit situation, it is imperative that we give our coastal communities a chance to recover and thrive. That is most important in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic.
The successful amendment, which the Government now seek to reverse, protects jobs at sea, creates numerous jobs on land and at sea, and will provide a much-needed and anticipated boost to our coastal communities. As hon. Members know, such communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequently locked down, and they have been decimated by austerity over the past 10 years.
The British Ports Association was right to say that the Fisheries Bill
“should be strengthening the economic link between our fisheries and our ports and coastal communities”.
There is currently no requirement for boats exploiting UK fishing quota opportunities to land fish caught in our waters in the UK. As a result, 40% of UK quota is landed in Europe, where much of the economic value is realised. That leaves our own British fishing businesses sidelined, unable to benefit from the fish caught in our own seas. That is not right. Increased landing in the UK would mean that our coastal communities would benefit from fish caught in the UK seas. That would mean more jobs and more prosperity and would provide better and increased benefits to our coastal communities.
I understand the reasoning of those who support the clause. However, British fishermen land fish abroad because that is the market for which it is destined; the majority of fish caught by British fishermen is exported to those lucrative markets. While that is not an option for those catching crab and lobster off Scarborough and Whitby, when that is landed it is put on trucks—more often than not French or Spanish trucks—that transport it back there. I worry that the provisions in clause 18 would result in fishermen getting less for their fish because they have to add transportation costs. It would create jobs for French lorry drivers and for ferry workers and those who work on the tunnel, but it could have a negative consequence in terms of the income for our fishers.
The UK intends to establish itself as a global trading nation, and part of that global trade is trade with the European Union, our most important neighbour in terms of trade. Many of the most valuable species that fishermen catch are valuable because they have such a premium in markets abroad. We are once again seeing the law of unintended consequences. When we look at our carbon footprint, we need to look at the carbon cost of a ship in, say, the channel that was intending to land in France having to steam back to the UK, put that fish on a truck and then take it back, possibly to the same port where it intended to go for that market. While I understand the sympathies behind the clause, the unintended consequences, both for value for our fishermen and the carbon footprint of the fishing industry, are both very negative.
The right hon. Gentleman highlights a good topic, which I did not touch on, but am happy to, about the optionality of safety. My view and that of the Labour party is that safety should be a minimum standard, not an optional extra. Under the clause 35 financial assistance powers, the Secretary of State has the ability to arrange financial assistance for
“maintaining or improving the health and safety of individuals who are involved in commercial fish or aquaculture activities”.
He has the ability to do that: there is not a minimum standard that insists on it.
If the right hon. Gentleman suggests that clause 35(1)(e), on which we can still table amendments as we have not reached it yet, should be a compulsory measure—that the Secretary of State should ensure that there is always funding to create a minimum standard—I would agree. In the absence of a minimum standard, clause 35(1)(e) solely suggests that the Secretary of State can fund such provision if he or she wishes. That is a very different point from a minimum standard, and that is why it is so important that there should be a safety and workforce objective that establishes at a high level the belief that there should be minimum standards.
I appreciate the intention behind both amendments 71 and 72. However, as anticipated by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, I feel that the law is already clear on both those points. I do not think it is necessary to amend the Bill in this way and I will go into some detail about why that it is.
As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport gets to know me better, he will learn that I am never happier than when discussing older laws. My personal university and legal background make the Magna Carta a fascinating document to me—indeed, I was discussing with the Fisheries Bill team yesterday. He should not set me down trains of thought unless he wants to hear the responses.
On the proposed public access objective, the United Nations convention on the law of the sea—UNCLOS—establishes that the UK has sovereign rights to manage the marine resources within our exclusive economic zone, which obviously includes fish. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that UK case law, which is slightly more recent than the Magna Carta, recognises clearly that those fish are a public asset, held by the Crown, for the benefit of the public. The public right to fish was confirmed most helpfully in a case called Malcolmson v. O’Dea in 1863. Legally, it is well established that no one individual can own the fish.
In terms of the rights to exploit and fish the fish, most UK fishing opportunities are managed, as the hon. Gentleman set out, through fixed quota allocation units. As he said, the High Court has held those units as a form of property right. Fixed quota allocation holders do not own the fish in the sea, but the FQA units entitle those holders to a share of whatever quota is available in that particular year. That is quite clear in the legal cases.
It is always a pleasure to give way to the former fisheries Minister, who has knowledge of areas of law I can only dream of.
Fixed quota allocation units do not confer a permanent right to quota, but Government policy, as set out in the fisheries White Paper—a document particularly beloved of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—is to maintain the FQA system, which has provided certainty to the industry for many years. That is important to those who have invested money in FQA units and very important to those who have borrowed money in mortgage form using FQA units as collateral.
I believe very firmly in the rule of law, and I would never accept that the legal system and reality are in any way in divergence. The Government have made it clear that the current quota system needs to stay in place for the reasons that I am in the middle of giving. However, for future quota allocation we will—and probably should—look at very different ways of doing that. I will go on to explain why that is the case.
To go back to FQA units and the existing law, which is reality as far as I am concerned, this method of allocation has its detractors across the House and in the industry. However, FQA units confer benefits, such as creating a sense of stewardship of the resource and enabling quota to be traded to get into the hands of those who want to fish against it. If amendment 71 were passed, I am concerned that it could undermine the FQA regime and that that would undoubtedly cause instability, prevent investment and, ultimately, have a damaging effect on the jobs and coastal communities that we all want to thrive. For example, I know that in the constituency of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, Interfish is one example of those that fish to FQAs. We propose to keep the existing quota system broadly as it is, while looking at the future system for the extra quota that we will be able to allocate.
One of the difficulties of having so many amendments grouped together is that we cannot get into each one individually. That is a probing amendment to find out what the plan is. I will return to species in a moment, but to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question on bycatch, the discard ban was introduced with good intentions—to borrow the Minister’s phrase from earlier.
There is a real crisis of fish being discarded over the side of boats because people do not have the quota to catch that fish. Fishers are being put in a difficult position by existing regulations—regulations that Ministers themselves may decide on, even if under an EU directive on how things work. In mixed fisheries—which I believe is what is around Scotland, and is certainly around the west country, which I represent—for fishers to target specific species is difficult, resulting in an inevitable bycatch. The difficulty is that the discard ban states that a fisher cannot catch that, discard it or land it.
That poses questions about how a reformed discard ban would work under the new freedoms that the Minister has set out. Greater quota pooling, for instance, might be one way, especially for smaller boats, to make sure there is sufficient quota within a pool to ensure that bycatch is adequate there. There needs to be a greater understanding of the need to allocate more quota for some of those things, especially in mixed fisheries, to cope with that. The fundamental point—which I think the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute was getting at, and to which I hope the Minister will respond in the spirit in which the amendment was tabled—is that the discard ban currently does not work for our fishers and certainly does not work for our environment. The intention behind it is good. We need to preserve that intention, but also ensure that the fish our fishers are catching get a good price and are preferably landed at their local port.
The hon. Gentleman also noted at the start of his intervention, in relation to the difference between commercial fishing and recreational fishing, that there is a real challenge, which we will come to later, in applying restrictions to recreational fishers who are not taking the volumes of fish out of the water that some of our commercial friends are. There is a tendency to regard the two slightly differently, which I think he hinted at in his intervention.
To briefly return to the amendments, I am grateful to hear the Minister say that the Government have declared a climate emergency. That is very welcome news. My recollection of the debate is that the Government did not oppose the declaration but did not support it either. I am very happy to hear that the climate emergency declaration is now Government policy and not just parliamentary policy. The subtle distinction is important, because if it is a Government declaration of a climate emergency, the Minister has made a bigger announcement today than perhaps she wanted to. It is important, because we are in a climate emergency and there is a climate crisis that affects our fish stocks.
One area that the Minister hinted at, which is important and why Government amendment 1 needs to be looked at again, is the changes in fish and where they reside. As the Minister knows, fish do not follow international boundaries. Laws that seek to govern fish to follow international boundaries are problematic. The Minister set out how she hoped to ensure that those fish with high survivability are returned to the sea and not landed dead —I think she mentioned that in relation to amendment 78. I agree with her, but the Minister’s statement is at odds with DEFRA’s decision not to grant the bluefin catch-and-release fishery in the south-west, because bluefin tuna, bless them, have very high sustainability and can be caught time and again. The experience for the fish might not be one that many of us would like, but a fish in the sea is worth so much more to our recreational fishing sector that charters boats to recreational anglers than it is from being landed and eaten in our food supply chain. I agree with the Minister when she talks about high survivability and hope she will respond to that point.
The bluefin catch-and-release fishery was something that I mentioned in my remarks, and the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) also made a powerful case in support of it. The catch-and-release bluefin fishery would not only enhance our scientific understanding of the changes causing these wonderful creatures to enter more of our British waters, or to return after a great absence to our British waters, but could create an enormous number of jobs across the west country, and they could in due course appear in the North sea, where tuna was present before the decline of fish stocks.
I have taken up enough time on this. Suffice it to say that Labour Members disagree with Government amendment 1. We would like to see sustainability as the primary mover of sustainable fisheries. The message that removing that sends to all those that care about our oceans is a poor one. Fishing should be sustainable economically and environmentally, and we should be unafraid of saying that sustainability is the primary driver of fisheries management. If we do not have sustainable fisheries, we will not have jobs in fishing or the fish in the sea that we need. To pre-empt what you might be about to say, Mr McCabe, the amendments sandwiched between that and amendment 73 are designed to probe the Minister for an explanation of the position on each of those points—which she has done in part, with the challenges that I have posed. However, amendment 73, which concerns net zero and decarbonising our industry, is absolutely critical to the future of the sector. I hope the Minister will set out the Department’s, and indeed the Government’s, plans to decarbonise the industry. She needs to be under no doubt about how seriously we take the importance of hitting net zero for fishing.
I would like to add my objections to the Government’s decision to remove the sustainability objective as the Fisheries Bill’s main objective. I will speak briefly and focus on Government amendment 1. Healthy fish stocks have been proven to create a more resilient and productive marine environment and ecosystem, which leads to increased long-term catches and greater industry profits. For the sake of our coastal communities, which rely on the UK fishing industry and the thousands of jobs that it creates, not just on the boats but in processing, logistics and food services, we must ensure that sustainability is at the heart of our fishing policy.
I am concerned that the Government are paying lip service to their election promise, as set out in their manifesto, to
“a legal commitment to fish sustainability”.
The Lords amendment put a lens of environmental sustainability over all fisheries management decisions. It required fisheries authorities to consider and demonstrate the impact of their decisions on environmental sustainability, in both the short and long term.
I would like to make it clear that the Lords Bill still granted authorities a degree of flexibility. They could still opt out of the joint fisheries statements in certain circumstances. I refer the Committee to clause 7, which we will come on to later. It states that authorities can amend or replace joint fisheries statements if they can show that there has been a change in circumstances relating to
“available evidence relating to the social, economic or environmental elements of sustainable development.”
The sustainability objective, before it was limited by the Conservative Government, simply required fisheries authorities to put an environmental lens across all decisions, demonstrating that they had put in place provisions intended to avoid any compromising of environmental sustainability in the long and short term. It would have incentivised best practice and ended the type of short-term decision making that we have seen in recent years, whereby, as has been said already today, just for this year quotas are set above scientifically recommended sustainable levels to address short-term economic concerns.
The Government have so far failed to make progress in terms of sustainable fishing, barely scratching the surface of what is needed to achieve environmental targets. Right now, the UK cannot meet 11 of the 15 indicators of marine health that were set out in its marine strategy, and the recent review of the strategy concluded that the 2020 target for good environmental status
“may not be achieved for many years unless there are further improvements to fisheries management measures”.
If we want to protect both our marine environment and the long-term sustainability of our fishing industry—in many ways the two go hand in hand—we cannot stay with the status quo. The Government need to act. Putting sustainability at the heart of the Bill would have meant that we could start to redress the balance towards restoring the health of our fish stocks and helping our marine environment to recover. We should have taken this opportunity to strengthen the Bill and change the way we manage our fisheries going forward, to the benefit of both the industry and the marine environment. Labour Members are disappointed that instead the Government have shown their disregard for environmental sustainability and the health of our seas, the marine environment and our fishing industry.
Amendment 73 sets out the net zero target about which my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport has already spoken. It would have placed a requirement on fisheries authorities to ensure that
“fish and aquaculture activities achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030”.
That is particularly important in the context of the UK’s environmental sustainability targets, which the Government have already committed to. We need action on all fronts and across all industries to deal with the climate and nature emergency.
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point and I do not believe that the brunt should fall on the fishing industry. This is an issue that every sector of society and the economy has got to deal with. It does not make sense not to seize the opportunity that the Bill presents to ensure that our fishing industry can lead the charge in terms of net zero. We could be pioneers and lead the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps. We could improve the environmental performance of our fishing ports, promoting decarbonisation and phasing out fossil fuels. The end of the CFP and the passage of the Bill through Parliament does represent an opportunity to be bold and ambitious, and now is the time for meaningful change to promote the sort of greener economy that benefits both people and our environment.
I beg to move amendment 63, in clause 2, page 3, line 38, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State must by regulations establish a system to resolve disputes between fisheries policy authorities that result in no joint fisheries statement being published.
(5B) In establishing the system under subsection (5A), the Secretary of State must in particular ensure that the dispute resolution system makes provision to require the fisheries policy authorities to make use of the system if it appears that no JFS will be published by 1 January 2022 due to disputes between the fisheries policy authorities.”
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to establish a system for resolving a dispute between the fisheries policy authorities which could otherwise result in no joint fisheries statement being published.
As I am sure many members of the Committee will remember, the Second Reading debate on the Bill got quite heated in parts. Fisheries management decisions and approaches can be contentious, and it is clear that disagreements can easily arise. We have only to look at what is happening in Brussels at the moment to see evidence for that. This amendment is therefore designed to ensure that a dispute resolution process is formally established. Such a process would ensure that any disagreements over fisheries management policies could be resolved through a clear framework and in a timely manner before discussions became deadlocked to the point that a joint fisheries statement could not be produced. This provision is supported by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which regards it as essential.
The NFFO also said that it would like this provision to be implemented in consultation with each devolved Administration before policies are set out in a Secretary of State’s statement. It is my understanding that the Government are developing a memorandum of understanding with the devolved Administrations that
“aims to ensure co-operative ways of working and a mechanism for escalating and resolving disputes should they arise.”
I would like to probe the Minister further on how this mechanism would work in practice, how it would respect devolution settlements while ensuring an efficient process and how it would ensure that the joint fisheries statements were the product of an equitable and democratic process.
This amendment would provide important certainty to the industry across the UK that, should any disputes arise, a clear and fair dispute resolution process would be in place. I believe that this does have and would have the support of the wider industry.
Having been in the Second Reading debate, does the hon. Gentleman think we should have some sort of dispute resolution system in place for the Scottish National party position in Edinburgh and its position here in the House of Commons?
The reason why we discussed this mechanism in the previous iteration of the Fisheries Bill Committee was the very real fear that a dispute might arise between the Westminster Government and a devolved Administration in the preparation of the annual fisheries statement. Let me take the Westminster Government and Holyrood as an example, although it could be one of the others. A dispute could become a political game. So the purpose of this mechanism was to say, “What happens in that scenario?” It is not out of the question that there could be a disagreement between the fisheries approaches of the devolved Administrations and the United Kingdom.
This amendment was proposed in the previous iteration of the Committee to challenge the Minister, as my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East has done here, to say what would happen in the event of a dispute. The answers that were given in the previous Fisheries Bill Committee were very weak, and there is still no solution to what would happen if a devolved Administration took issue with the Secretary of State’s fisheries statement, or if the fisheries management plans, as detailed in the joint fisheries statement, were not compliant with the obligations set under the Secretary of State’s joint fisheries statement but were compliant with the devolved Administration’s approach. That is an important issue.
I am afraid that the remit of the Fisheries Bill affords us only the ability to give certain responsibilities to certain people, and the Secretary of State is responsible for the Secretary of State’s fisheries statement, so he seems to be the logical person to look at in that respect. I am pleased that the SNP wants to see a dispute resolution system in place. I say to the Minister that there is a good argument for having a plan before a dispute arises. Given that fishing is so political and important to the livelihoods of our coastal communities, as the shadow Minister said, having a dispute resolution system in place makes good sense, and it is better to design one when the Administrations are not in dispute than to cobble one together when they are.
(1 year, 8 months ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Every Member will have examples of successful local food manufacturers. In her constituency, we have of course Samworth Brothers, a highly successful large business, and many other smaller enterprises. I congratulate her on having secured for her area the status of designated manufacturing zone. Government procurement rules encourage the local sourcing of food, and the requirements of some protected food name designations will also require food to be sourced locally.
I hold regular meetings with the shellfish industry. As the hon. Gentleman will know, my constituency is in Cornwall, where we have a large crab and scallop industry. The political declaration on our future relationship with the EU envisages zero-zero tariffs on all goods.