COP26: Limiting Global Temperature Rises

Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Thursday 21st October 2021

(3 days, 13 hours ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I thank the Backbench Business Committee and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) for securing this debate, and everyone who has taken part in it this afternoon.

We are days away from the start of COP26—one of the most important gatherings of world leaders ever to have taken place. They are coming to Glasgow with one job: to make good on the promise to cut global emissions and restrict global warming to 1.5°C, and to give the world a fighting chance in the war against climate change, because right now it is a war that we are losing. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out just last month that the national determined contributions that have been submitted so far put us on track for 2.7°C. That is not nearly enough.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of COP26. Glasgow is possibly our last chance, because the world has not lived up to what it promised in Paris. We should be in absolutely no doubt that, if we are to make up for that lost decade, it will require leadership, it will take courage and it will mean sacrifice on the part of us all. But there is no alternative. There are no other options. It has to be done and it has to be done now. As we have heard, the code red for humanity was absolutely clear: global climate change is accelerating, and human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the overwhelming cause of that climate change. The UN Secretary-General said of that report—and who could disagree?—that this

“must sound a death knell”

for fossil fuels. Of course, he is not the first UN leader to highlight the issue of climate change. In 2016, his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon addressed the Arctic Circle Assembly and described the Arctic as the ground zero of climate change, highlighting that a temperature increase of 2° worldwide could well mean a temperature increase of 4°, 5°, 6° or even more in the Arctic. Last week I attended the most recent Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik. Not surprisingly, the alarming rate of climate change experienced in the Arctic and the effects that it will have there, here and across the world were high on the agenda, with scientists confirming that, with just 20% of the Greenlandic ice sheet melting, global seas will rise by 2 metres.

Earlier this week, I attended yet another excellent meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on the polar regions, at which UK and US scientists working on the colossal Thwaites glacier in Antarctica spoke in detail of the evidence they have of that glacier melting and the billions of tonnes of ice that fall into the ocean every single year, with the inevitable rise in sea levels that will follow. That is a stark reminder that, although the Arctic and the Antarctic can sometimes seem remote, they are not, and what happens at the poles has huge consequences for the planet as a whole. We are in a critical situation whereby the poles are melting, sea levels are rising and great swathes of the planet are rapidly becoming too hot for human habitation. Across the rest of the planet, already this year we have witnessed wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and unparalleled levels of rainfall in Europe, Asia and Africa. Given what we have seen, surely no one could disagree with the Secretary-General of the United Nations when he said that we are “on a catastrophic path” and:

“We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.”

That is why COP26 has to succeed.

Last night I met my constituents who had organised a meeting through Time for Change Argyll & Bute. They wanted to make sure that I, as their MP, knew exactly what they expected of me, of the Scottish Government and of the UK Government ahead of COP. That included telling the UK Government and the Prime Minister that they must now live up to what was promised in Paris and guarantee to restrict global warming to 1.5°—that there can be no more horse-trading and trying to fudge this issue, and that Glasgow has to be the turning point for the world that Paris should have been; now, tragically, it has to be seen as a squandered opportunity. I know I am not alone in engaging with constituents on this issue. Last week my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), who has just escaped the Elections Bill Committee—taking one for the team to allow me to speak in this debate—spoke to his constituents in an online forum about exactly these issues.

COP26 cannot be Government to Government or business to business; as much as it possibly can, it has to be a people’s COP. Whether in Argyll and Bute or Glasgow North, the indigenous people of the rain forest, the Inuit people of Greenland and Canada or the people of the low-lying Pacific islands, the people of the world who are going to be most affected by this have to be heard, and not just heard but listened to, because for far too long the people who have least responsibility for creating this emergency are bearing the brunt of its consequences.

This morning I attended a meeting organised by Christian Aid to talk about loss and damage and what has to be a core principle of climate justice. We were joined by people from Bangladesh and Nigeria who spoke about exactly that—how the global north has created a problem that the global south is now having to live with, every single day. Between them, historically—it is important that we think in historical terms—the global north of the UK, Canada, Russia and the United States has produced 50% of the world’s harmful emissions, while Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Chad, Niger, Malawi, Zambia and Madagascar, combined, have contributed 0.08% of harmful emissions. Yet today Madagascar is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and is facing a catastrophic famine. It is a major problem for the global south, and we as the global north have to take responsibility for it. Since 2020, Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, has suffered damages estimated at around $2 billion because of natural disasters, including cyclones, floods and rising sea levels. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) in congratulating the Scottish Government on being so determined to make this a people’s COP and for setting up the world’s first climate justice fund to support vulnerable communities in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to address the impact of climate change. It would send a wonderful message to the rest of the world if the United Kingdom Government set up their own climate justice fund ahead of COP26.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Fisheries Management

Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Tuesday 13th July 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is plenty of time for them to reconsider that, though, isn’t there?

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Sir Charles, for this morning’s important debate. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) on securing it.

Since 2016, the Government have repeatedly told fishing communities that there is a post-Brexit bonanza waiting for them, famously describing it as a sea of opportunity. In preparing for today’s debate, I contacted four fishing businesses in four different parts of my Argyll and Bute constituency to ask them exactly what that sea of opportunity had delivered to them. I spoke to Jonathan MacAllister, a trawler owner and skipper who fishes out of Oban; Connie Macaskill, the office manager of Easdale Seafoods; Fiona McFarlane, director of Islay Crab Exports; and Jamie McMillan, the owner of Lochfyne Langoustines. From Oban in the north to Islay in the south, they all tell a story of an industry struggling with falling prices and loss of markets, an industry drowning in bureaucracy and red tape, and one struggling to cope with labour shortages and facing huge transport and logistical problems. That is an existential threat to the industry in the west coast of Scotland.

Jonathan MacAllister has seen the price he gets for his catch fall by a third since 2019. The routine of landing his catch at Kilkeel in Northern Ireland is now time consuming and wrapped up in customs paperwork and red tape. That is assuming he can get a crew to go in the first place, as the new skilled worker visa is actually more of a hindrance than a help in recruiting non-domestic crew. He now struggles to get spare parts for his boat. The engine is American, it is distributed via Holland, the refrigeration unit is German, the condensers are Italian and the boat’s electronic control unit is manufactured in Denmark. He can no longer get vital spare parts quickly and cost- effectively, while the cost of delivery has soared too.

A few miles down the road at Easdale Seafoods, Connie Macaskill’s office manager job now requires a forensic knowledge of French customs and VAT regulations. Like so many other small exporters, Easdale Seafoods has had to adapt quickly to change its practices and has spent an awful lot of money just to stay afloat in this sea of opportunity. Although fish are zero-rated for VAT, Easdale Seafoods still has to pay VAT in advance and then reclaim it from the French authorities, which use the single euro payments area business-to-business scheme. However, very few banks in the UK are set up to use SEPA B2B and currently, this very small Scottish company has thousands of euros tied up with the French VAT authorities and has no idea when it is getting them back.

Like many Scottish seafood exporters, the shortage of qualified heavy goods vehicle drivers has added another layer of complication for Easdale Seafoods. It is the same on Islay. Fiona McFarlane’s company, Islay Crab Exports, is suffering from the lack of qualified HGV drivers, but that is just one of the Brexit-related problems facing the business. More pressing is a shortage of workers. Jobs that were once filled by EU nationals now lie unfilled and the business needs double the number of processors that it currently has. Fiona told me yesterday: “We have worked hard building our business and have invested in the future. I desperately need people to work. There are people who want to come and work, but it is just not possible.”

We live in an economically fragile constituency, and the situation is unsustainable. It was laid out starkly by Jimmy McMillan of Lochfyne Langoustines. He employs 23 people in the village of Tarbert. He exports about 40%, the cost of getting that to market has soared and three hours of every day is spent dealing with Brexit-related paperwork. His costs are £300 to £500 a day in customs fees alone. That is the reality of Brexit for the fishing communities of Argyll and Bute. That is the reality of the “sea of opportunity”. That is why we voted against Brexit.

I will leave the final word to Fiona MacFarlane:

“If people had all the information and knowledge of what Brexit really meant, they would have voted differently. Someone should be held accountable to the country for misleading the people.”

She is absolutely right.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last but not least from the Back Benches, Mr Jim Shannon.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Clause 48

Regulatory enforcement and data collection scheme

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move amendment 92, in clause 48, page 31, line 21, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.

This amendment is to ensure respect for devolved competence on this issue by giving regulation making powers to appropriate fisheries policy authorities.

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

As we have throughout the Committee, I am moving amendments in an attempt to make the Bill respect the devolution settlement, and recognise that fishing regulations and management are not the preserve of this place.

It is frustrating that, once again, I have to rise to make the point, particularly to those in the other place, that fishing is wholly devolved. It is not for a UK Secretary of State to ensure, in this instance, that all vessels over 10 metres in length, regardless of nationality, be fitted with remote electronic monitoring systems, such as cameras, while fishing the UK’s exclusive economic zone. As much as we, on these Benches, might agree with the good intentions of clause 48 and support them, it is important to recognise that it is the job of the relevant fishing authorities, whether they be in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, to put the changes into place. It is not the job of the UK Secretary of State and therefore, in the spirit of devolution, I move amendments 92, 93 and 94.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 108, in clause 48, page 31, line 23, leave out

“the UK Exclusive Economic Zone”

and insert

“England or the English zone”.

This amendment turns the UK-wide requirements around remote electronic monitoring systems into England-only requirements.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 2:02 p.m.

I cannot hope to compete with the excitement of new clause 2 with new clauses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, which are in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock).

The main purpose of the new clauses is to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority far greater flexibility when exercising its functions separately and differently in different jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. The long-held view of the Scottish Government and of many in the sector is that Seafish, because of how it is constituted, is not sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of the entire sector. It therefore requires radical reform.

I believe that Seafish has an intrinsic flaw in attempting to represent the entirety of the United Kingdom while operating in a policy area that is wholly devolved. In trying to represent the whole UK fishing industry, Seafish is viewed by many as providing insufficient support for the sector in Scotland, which all too often results in poorer and unsatisfactory marketing and promotion of Scottish seafood.

The main objective of this group of new clauses is to devolve control over both the funding and the executive powers of Seafish to Scottish Ministers. The new clauses would also devolve control over the Scottish aspects of the fishing levy, giving Scotland a key role in deciding how that share of the money is spent. We believe that that new model would provide much greater flexibility to Seafish and enable it to exercise functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK. The new clauses would also increase transparency in requiring Seafish to report the income of receipts from the levies it imposes and how those are applied in each part of the UK.

As I have often said, not only is fishing devolved, but there is no standardised version of fishing across the UK. With an aggregated coastline of 20,000-plus miles, the UK contains a whole host of different fishing interests and practices. From England’s south coast to the most northerly point of Shetland, the industry is multi-layered, complex, nuanced and often localised. Given that there is no single fishing industry pursuing a common, clear set of shared objectives, and no fewer than four separate and distinct national Governments looking after the industry in their respective jurisdictions, it seems absurd that we have a one-size-fits-all fishing authority charged with securing a sustainable, profitable future for all parts of the industry. How can Seafish practically offer regulatory guidance and service to the industry for catching, aquaculture, processing, importers, exporters and distributers of seafood, as well as looking after restaurants and retailers in such a complicated, differentiated and entirely devolved industry?

This Bill gives us the perfect opportunity to reform the current system and ensure that the levy is better used to promote the range and quality of Scottish seafood, both at home and abroad. If Scotland were able to take investment decisions, we would be able to support the industry properly by promoting the quality and excellence of Scottish seafood products. It would also allow us to maximise the benefits of Scottish provenance, which is vital when marketing abroad. Whether it is our salmon, oysters, scallops, langoustines, crab or whatever else, the promotion of the product as Scottish gives it added value, and its provenance is a guarantee of quality, which is exactly what our producers need.

With these new clauses, we are not seeking to undermine Seafish—far from it. We are seeking only to improve how it works and ensure it works better in the future for the huge variety of Scottish fishing industries. By supporting this change, the Government would allow Seafish to promote all of Scottish fishing, from the east to the west and the north coasts and the northern islands. We believe it would work. Right now, Seafish does not work well for Scotland, and it should. With your permission, Sir Charles, I will seek to push the new clause to a vote.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

Not specifically, but I seek to press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

Once again, I rise to speak about devolution, of which the new clause betrays a lack of understanding. There are four Governments, four Parliaments and four countries of the UK who are taking what steps they think best to tackle the coronavirus and to mitigate the economic damage from it, including in the fishing industry. Again, we have a new clause that thinks it appropriate to ask the person in charge of English fishing to make a report on the economic wellbeing or otherwise of the fishing industries in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I just make the helpful suggestion to the hon. Lady that the Labour party should consider the impact on the devolved Administrations when it puts amendments together.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 1:55 p.m.

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?

--- Later in debate ---
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
- Hansard - -

May I add my thanks to you, Sir Charles, and to Mr McCabe for chairing these sittings? I also add my thanks to the Clerk of the Committee for keeping us all on track in what were sometimes very tricky situations. I am sure I am not alone in hating a double negative, and trying to vote accordingly, so I thank him.

The Minister and I did not agree on much, but she was courteous throughout, and there is no doubt that she is across her brief; I thank her for that. I thank all Members on both sides of the Committee for the way the debate was conducted: it was co-operative and constructive; no one can doubt that it was speedy; and we conducted the business successfully. I said in my opening contribution, which feels as if it was many moons ago, that it was like getting a band back together. I trust that, like Sinatra, this will be the last time we do it.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)

(Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Steven Bonnar Portrait Steven Bonnar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:24 p.m.

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for laying out clearly why we think these amendments are important. I will add a few thoughts, particularly those that relate to remote rural communities such as my own, in Argyll and Bute.

It is surely common sense to want to encourage as many vessels as possible to land as much catch as they can in UK ports. I know, because we have talked about it often enough in this place, that it is often our remote, rural, poor communities that get left behind when there is talk of regeneration and investment. Across the UK, formerly thriving fishing communities are losing population and are struggling to see a long-term future for themselves. Those communities are exactly the ones we can seek to help, in some measure, by supporting this amendment.

Landing more catch in UK ports will attract investment, help create jobs and encourage people not just to stay but to actively come and live in those communities. Areas such as Argyll and Bute, with its dependence on shellfish, have been particularly badly hit by the impact of coronavirus. There was a 68% decrease in the value of the shellfish catch in March 2020 compared with March 2019, and I understand the figures for April were even worse. Communities need our help.

There is a direct link to what we discussed in the Committee on Tuesday, about fishing being a national asset. Surely, if it is—

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr McCabe. I will take your advice and catch your eye at the stand part debate.

Our amendment 87 makes this clause devolution friendly and recognises that the Government should, by now, understand and accept devolution. Amendment 87 would allow the devolved Administrations to establish their own national landing requirements, rather than having those set by a UK Secretary of State. Throughout the debate, we have returned to the idea that the person in political charge of English fisheries is also the Secretary of State, and that it cannot be left to a UK Secretary of State to apply laws and rules where there are clearly devolved areas of competence. Yet again, the Government have missed that and our amendment 87 seeks to resolve that.

Mr McCabe, I apologise again, and I will seek to catch your eye in the stand part debate.

--- Later in debate ---
Steven Bonnar Portrait Steven Bonnar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wish to press the amendment to a vote.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

I beg to move amendment 85, in clause 18, page 13, line 36, leave out “or 16(1)”.

This amendment would mean that regulations establishing a national landing requirement would not apply to foreign boats.

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

This is a similar argument to the one we heard before; the amendment seeks to make the clause as devolution-friendly as possible, and it is important that we have right to do so. It is really a probing amendment to ask the Minister about the licensing of foreign vessels. We are concerned that there would be tit-for-tat reprisals as a result of requiring licensed foreign vessels to land their catch in the UK. Many foreign vessels land in UK harbours already, but the clause could result in other coastal states’ requiring UK-licensed vessels to land catches in their harbours. That would defeat the purpose. We absolutely want to encourage landings in the UK to help processing and, of course, for the landing fees, but we fear that, as the clause is worded, forcing people to do so will lead to tit-for-tat reprisals and compound the problem.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for her reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

To nobody’s surprise, I rise to argue that—at the risk of repeating myself, which I have tried not to do—clause 18 is important. It is important because it gives hope to our remote, rural fishing communities littered along the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, who need help. The clause goes some way to help them. I know the Government have indicated their desire to remove the clause, but I urge them at this stage to think again. Communities such as mine in Argyll and Bute, which depends particularly on shellfish, are being decimated. They need hope, and I ask the Government not to extinguish clause 18.

On Tuesday we talked about fishing being a national asset, and about how it can be a catalyst for change and can benefit the wider community. As a national asset, surely it should not be there just to make very rich people even richer; it should be there for the economic wellbeing of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Landing fish into communities means jobs in transport, fish processing, environmental health, retail, hospitality, tourism and construction. Hopefully, it will also mean that more and more young people will want to take advantage of working at sea on the boats.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill said, it is reckoned that one job at sea creates 10 onshore jobs. That in itself should be reason enough for the Government to encourage as many boats as possible to offload into UK ports. It is because landing fish into communities is such an important economic driver that the Scottish Government have been pursuing for a number of years a policy of landing targets, which is something that I know Scottish Ministers are keen to progress.

I implore the Government not to extinguish the hope, because our coastal communities need hope. In many places, it is all that they have. Embattled, formerly thriving fishing communities need our support, and this is one way to do it. It is not just about boats landing in harbours, but about the associated jobs in processing, construction and transport, and it becomes a magnet for tourism and hospitality. It is that important, and I implore the Government to reconsider and to give our communities a bit of hope.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

On that point, the right hon. Gentleman knows we are on polar opposite sides of the Brexit debate, but if this idea is about taking back control and this sea of opportunity, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood said, who is that sea of opportunity for? Is it purely for those who own the quota? Is it purely for those who own the boats? Is it purely for those who work in the industry? Or is that sea of opportunity not meant to include the regeneration of the United Kingdom, and particularly its ports? The clause would do that, and by throwing it out, the Government are surely singularly failing to do that.

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Goodwill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure, as always, to see you in your place, Mr McCabe, as well as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. It is a pleasure to get the band back together, with a few notable extras.

We are absolutely in favour of amendments 71 and 72, and if they are put to a vote we will support them. The public asset objective for our fisheries is hugely important and runs parallel with the Scottish Government’s aim of managing Scottish fisheries as a national asset.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport was right to highlight the barriers that have been put in the way of those wishing to join the industry, through the concentration of incredible amounts of quota in the hands of a tiny number of very wealthy individuals. If the fisheries industry is to be a public asset, it has to benefit the public that it should serve. At the moment, it fails to do that.

It is correct that the safety of the workforce has to be paramount. No one in this room with a fishing community in their constituency has not felt the pain of a fishing tragedy. In my own Argyll and Bute constituency we went through something similar a couple of years ago. Every community has a tale to tell. We need to make safety a top priority, as part of the creation of an environment that will encourage more people to join the industry.

Those two issues are closely connected. If we create a safe environment in which young people believe that they can prosper and have a future in the fishing industry, through safety measures and through a change to the quota system, we can make fishing an attractive career of choice. That will help to alleviate a lot of the issues that we currently face in trying to attract people, particularly young people, into the industry.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is correct when he says that the treatment of many non-EU nationals and non-EEA nationals who have worked in the fishing industry has to be looked at, but I would not go so far. From my experience of speaking to local fishermen in my constituency, they tend to be extremely good employers, but there has to be a minimum standard set and a minimum requirement for anyone wishing to employ people, regardless of where they come from, in the fishing industry.

If amendment 71 is pushed to a vote, we will support it as we are in broad agreement with the hon. Gentleman.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
- Hansard - -

Does the Minister accept that the legal position she is spelling out and the reality in practice are totally different? They are barely nodding acquaintances. Is she saying that she does not see any need to reform the quota system and that she is quite happy for it to continue as it is?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 10:48 a.m.

On a point of clarification, amendment 76, to which the hon. Gentleman was referring, is about the elimination of incidental catches in all circumstances. Anyone who has been a recreational fisher, or even guddled about in a pool, will know that incidental catch or bycatch is almost inevitable and almost impossible to eliminate. Surely we should be asking that commercial fishing businesses do an awful lot more to innovate and upgrade their equipment to avoid it. Is he seriously asking us to support an amendment that calls for the elimination of the bycatch in all circumstances? That seems to be an impossible ask. Surely we should be looking at a more innovative solution.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 10:49 a.m.

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.

--- Later in debate ---
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady is talking about emissions targets, which are very laudable, but would we not be applying a much stronger emissions reduction approach to fishing than to any other sector, including energy, transport, agriculture and housing? Why should the fishing industry bear the brunt? It is a genuine question; I am not trying to trip her up. It seems that this amendment would apply a much higher standard to fishing than to any other sector.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to see you in your place this afternoon, Sir Charles. As much as I can see what the hon. Member for Barnsley East is trying to do in proposing this amendment —seeking to establish a dispute resolution mechanism—and while I of course understand that it would be better for the four nations of the United Kingdom to enter into discussions in good faith and to work collaboratively to seek that joint fisheries statement, I cannot accept that this is the best way to take this forward. There should be, I agree, a mechanism to resolve any conflict that might arise between the four nations of the UK, but we do not think that giving power to the Secretary of State to establish such a mechanism is the way forward.

There has been nothing in the last few years, particularly around fishing and agriculture, to suggest that the interests of the devolved nations would be protected if the UK Secretary of State—particularly from the current Administration—was asked to establish a system in which to resolve disputes. Quite simply, we do not trust the Government to produce a mechanism that would not centralise power and decision making at Westminster. We do not think that the needs of the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish fishing industries would be adequately protected if a Secretary of State based in Whitehall was given the power to establish that dispute mechanism.

Immediately, questions would arise. What would the system to resolve these disputes look like? How independent of Government would this be? Who would appoint the members of that committee, if it were independent of Government? Would its membership be based on the nation’s fishing industry, percentage share of coastline or the size of its population? Who would ultimately decide which side was right and which was wrong, and what criteria would they use to decide that?

I struggle to see how it would be possible for the four nations of the United Kingdom to be put on a fair and equitable footing, and for a transparent dispute mechanism to be put in place, when to all intents and purposes in these matters Westminster acts as the English Parliament, and when the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) doubles as the UK Secretary of State and also the person in political charge of English fisheries.

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, midnight

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. That has taken an awful lot longer than I imagined it would. I was primed for that one at 9.35 am morning. Obviously, clearly not, but I appreciate his sentiment.

Given the circumstances in which these resolution mechanisms have been put in place, there is a massive potential conflict of interest if the UK Secretary of State, who is also in charge of English fisheries, is the person we charge to found that dispute resolution mechanism. Rather than the Secretary of State having this power, surely any dispute resolution mechanism would have to be created by all four nations, which would be bound by it. It should be something that all four nations and Administrations can agree to. I do not think anything else would work practically or politically.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, midnight

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara
- Hansard - -

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the premise that the Secretary of State is also the person who is politically in charge of English fishing, and that there would be a potential conflict of interest if that individual was charged with setting up the dispute resolution mechanism? We absolutely agree that there should be a dispute resolution mechanism, but it should not be for the Secretary of State alone to decide what it should be.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, midnight

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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Brendan O'Hara Excerpts
Thursday 6th February 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Feb 2020, 9:40 a.m.

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.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - -

6 Feb 2020, 9:41 a.m.

What is the Department doing, and what discussions has it had, about giving support to those small independent shellfish producers on the west coast of Scotland who, because of Brexit, are about to be put at a huge competitive disadvantage to their Northern Irish neighbours?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Feb 2020, 9:41 a.m.

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.