All Victoria Prentis contributions to the Fisheries Act 2020

Tue 13th October 2020
Fisheries Bill [Lords]
Commons Chamber

Report stage
3rd reading
3rd reading
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage
Report stage: House of Commons
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
32 interactions (5,026 words)
Tue 1st September 2020
Fisheries Bill [Lords]
Commons Chamber

2nd reading
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
2nd reading
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
7 interactions (1,642 words)

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(Report stage)
Victoria Prentis Excerpts
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Brought up, and read the First time.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clauses 9 and 10.

New clause 1—Sea Fish Industry Authority: powers in relation to parts of UK—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 2(1) (duties of the Authority)—

(a) after the third “of”, insert “(amongst other things)”,

(b) delete the words “as a whole”.

(3) After section 3 (powers of the Authority), insert—

“3A Exercise of functions in relation to different parts of the UK etc.

The Authority may exercise its functions separately and differently in relation to—

(a) the sea fish industry in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(b) sea fish and sea fish products landed in different parts of the United Kingdom,

(c) sea fish and sea fish products trans-shipped in different parts of the sea within British fishery limits adjacent to different parts of the United Kingdom.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to give the Sea Fish Industry Authority greater flexibility to exercise its functions separately and differently in different parts of the UK. It inserts a new clause into subsection 3, which will enable the Authority to do this.

New clause 2—Sea Fish Industry Authority: delegation of functions—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 3A (exercise of functions in relation to different parts of the UK etc.), insert—

“3B Delegation of functions

(1) The Authority may authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf such of its functions and to such extent as it may determine.

(2) The Authority may give to any person authorised under this section to exercise any of its functions—

(a) financial assistance (by way of loan, grant or guarantee),

(b) other assistance including assistance by way of the provision of property, staff or services, for the purposes of those functions.”

(3) The giving of authority under this section to exercise a function does not—

(a) affect the Authority’s responsibility for the exercise of the function, or

(b) prevent the Authority from exercising the function itself.”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which will allow the Authority to authorise any other person to exercise on its behalf any of its functions to the extent determined by the Authority. It will also allow the Authority to give any such person financial and other assistance to do so.

New clause 3—Sea Fish Industry Authority: accounts and reports—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 11 (accounts and reports)—

(a) after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The statement of accounts must specify the total amount of income received in the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone.”,

(b) after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) The report must include details of how income received from levies imposed under section 4 has been applied in the financial year in respect of each part of the United Kingdom by the Authority in exercising its functions including in particular details, in respect of each part of the United Kingdom, of how the income has been applied by the Authority in—

(a) promoting the efficiency of the sea fish industry in that part,

(b) promoting the marketing and consumption of, and the export of, sea fish and sea fish products relating to that part.”.’

This new clause is intended to ensure that the Authority reports how income received from the levies it imposes has been applied in respect of each part of the United Kingdom.

New clause 4—Sea Fish Industry Authority: plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 11 (accounts and reports), insert—

“11A Plan relating to allocation of Scottish levies

(1) Before the start of each financial year, the Authority must—

(a) prepare a plan setting out—

(i) an estimate of the total amount of income that the Authority expects to receive during the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone (“Scottish levies”), and

(ii) a description of how the Authority proposes to apply that income in the course of exercising its functions, and

(b) refer the plan to the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1 (“the Scottish committee”) for approval of the Authority’s proposal mentioned in paragraph (a)(ii).

(2) If, as a result of relevant regulations, the Authority estimates that the total amount of income that it expects to receive from Scottish levies during a financial year is greater than the total amount of income that it received from Scottish levies during the previous financial year, the Authority’s plan prepared under subsection (1) for the financial year must include a statement describing how the Authority proposes in particular to apply the additional income from Scottish levies in the course of exercising its functions.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2)—

(a) “relevant regulations”, in relation to a financial year, means—

(i) regulations made by the Authority under section 4(2) during the previous financial year, and

(ii) regulations which the Authority expects to make, and to be confirmed by the Scottish Ministers, under section 4(2) during the financial year,

(b) the total amount of income received by the Authority from Scottish levies during a previous financial year is the total amount of such income as recorded in the Authority’s accounts kept under section 11(1) in respect of that year.

(4) The Authority—

(a) must publish a plan prepared under subsection (1) as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving the Scottish committee’s approval as mentioned in subsection (1)(b), and

(b) may publish the plan in such manner as it considers appropriate.

(5) The Authority must, as soon as reasonably practicable after publishing a plan under subsection (4)—

(a) send a copy of the plan to the Scottish Ministers, and

(b) lay the plan before the Scottish Parliament.

(6) The Authority must have regard to each relevant plan—

(a) in the exercise of its functions, and

(b) in particular, in authorising any other person under section 3B to exercise any of its functions on its behalf.

(7) A person who is authorised by the Authority under section 3B to exercise any of the Authority’s functions must have regard to each relevant plan in the exercise of those functions.

(8) In subsections (6) and (7), “relevant plan”, in relation to the exercise of a function, means—

(a) the latest plan published under subsection (4), and

(b) any earlier plan published under that subsection in so far as it contains a proposal mentioned in subsection (1)(a)(ii) (or, as the case may be, in subsection (2)) to apply income during the financial year in which the function is being exercised.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to ensure the Authority sets out an annual plan that outlines how it intends to apply the levy income it expects to receive. This plan must make comparison to the levy income of the previous year and where the levy income is expected to be higher detail how the Authority proposes to apply the additional income from Scottish levies.

New clause 5—Sea Fish Industry Authority: committee for Scotland—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In schedule 1 (the Sea Fish Industry Authority), in paragraph 16—

(a) before sub-paragraph (1) insert—

“(A1) The Authority must appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.

(A2) The committee is to consist of or include persons who are not members of the Authority.

(A3) The Authority must consult the committee on the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland.”,

(b) in sub-paragraph (1), before “committees” insert “other”,

(c) in sub-paragraph (2), for “such committees” substitute “committees appointed under this paragraph”.’

This new clause’s new provisions require the Authority to appoint a committee for the purpose of assisting the Authority in the exercise of its functions in relation to the sea fish industry in Scotland. They additionally require the consultation of this committee on the exercise of the Authority’s functions in relations to Scotland.

New clause 6—Sea Fish Industry Levies: powers in relation to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 4 (levies)—

(a) in subsection (2), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) in subsection (7), for “Ministers” substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(c) after subsection (8) insert—

“(8A) In this section, ‘appropriate Ministerial authority’ means—

(a) in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone, the Scottish Ministers,

(b) in any other case, the Ministers.”,

(d) in subsection (9), after “order” in both places where it occurs insert “of the Ministers”,

(e) after subsection (9) insert—

“(9A) Any order of the Scottish Ministers—

(a) under subsection (2) is subject to the negative procedure,

(b) under subsection (7) is subject to the affirmative procedure.

(9B) Before laying a draft Scottish statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (7) before the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Ministers must consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.”.

(3) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), in the definition of “the Ministers”, in paragraph (c), after “with” insert “(except in the case of an order under section 4(2) or (7))”.

(4) In schedule 2 (Sea Fish Industry Levies)—

(a) for “Ministers” in each place where it occurs substitute “appropriate Ministerial authority”,

(b) after paragraph 3 insert—

“4 The Scottish Ministers must, before making an order confirming any regulations, consult—

(a) the committee appointed under paragraph 16(A1) of Schedule 1, and

(b) such other persons as they consider appropriate.

5 In this schedule, ‘appropriate Ministerial authority’ has the same meaning as in section 4 of this Act.”.’

The primary purpose of this new clause is to devolve, to the Scottish Ministers, the control of the Scottish aspects of levies imposed by the Authority. Currently, levies imposed by the Authority require confirmation by the relevant Ministers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the agreement of the Scottish Ministers. The new clause intends to ensure that levies imposed in relation to Scotland require confirmation by Scottish Ministers.

New clause 7—Sea Fish Industry Levies: definitions relating to Scotland and the Scottish Zone—

‘(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 14 (interpretation of Part 1), after the definition of “the Ministers” insert—

“‘Scotland’ and ‘the Scottish zone’ have the same meanings as in the Scotland Act 1998 (see section 126(1) and (2) of that Act);”.’

This new clause inserts a new clause which makes consequential new clause to section 14 (interpretation of Part 1) of the 1981 Act by inserting definitions of “Scotland” and “the Scottish zone”.

New clause 11—Safety Regulation Within the Exclusive Economic Zone—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall, after consultation, develop a regulatory regime for fisheries in the Exclusive Economic Zone with regard to—

(a) adherence to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels 1993 and Cape Town Agreement of 2012

(b) regulation of safety of navigation by fishing vessels within the EEZ

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) the regulatory regime shall be agreed with devolved administrations, whose consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, and shall come into force no later than 31 December 2022.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)(b) “regulation of safety of navigation” shall include, but not be limited to, regulation of acts by a person in charge of a fishing boat which causes or attempts to cause a collision or risk of collision with another vessel within the EEZ

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), a “person in charge of a fishing boat” shall include the master, the owner and the charterer (if any) of that vessel.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under regulations made under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—

(a) imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years,

(b) a fine, or

(c) both.’

The purpose of this new clause is to give the Secretary of State power to make regulations governing the safety of fishing vessels working within the EEZ in accordance with existing treaty obligations.

New clause 12—Safety of Fishing Vessels in the Exclusive Economic Zone—

‘(1) A person in charge of a fishing boat commits an offence if that person uses the vessel to—

(a) harass or impede another vessel within the EEZ, or

(b) endanger the safety of another vessel and/or those crewing it within the EEZ.

(2) For the purposes of this section (1), a “person in charge of a fishing boat” shall include the master, the owner and the charterer (if any) of that vessel.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) shall be responsible for—

(a) monitoring the conduct of vessels within the EEZ, and

(b) passing information to a prosecuting authority.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to—

(c) imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years,

(d) a fine, or

(e) both.

(5) The court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence under this section may award compensation for loss of earnings or damage to property caused as a consequence of the offence.

(6) Where a fisheries protection officer, an official of the Maritime Coastguard Agency or a Police Constable has reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed under this section, he shall have power to detain in port any vessel or equipment used in the commission of that offence.

(7) Any property detained under subsection (6) shall not be held for longer than seven days unless authority to extend that period is granted by

(f) a Sheriff in the Sheriff Court in Scotland; or

(g) a judge in the Crown Court in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

(8) Any property held under subsections (6) or (7) shall be liable to forfeiture at the conclusion of any criminal proceedings brought under this section.’

The purpose of this new clause is to give the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) appropriate powers to enforce safety within the limits of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone. A person guilty of an offence shall be liable to criminal prosecution and civil proceedings for damage, loss of earnings and injury.

Amendment 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) The “sustainability objective” is that—

(a) fish and aquaculture activities do not compromise environmental sustainability in either the short or the long term, and

(a) subject to subsection (a) fishing fleets must—

(i) be managed to achieve economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of food supplies, and

(ii) have fishing capacity that is economically viable and does not overexploit marine stocks.

(2A) The sustainability objective is the prime objective.’

This amendment makes the sustainability objective the prime fisheries objective and alters the definition of the “sustainability objective” to make other objectives subject to environmental sustainability in the short and long term.

Amendment 57, in clause 1, page 1, line 14, after “the” insert “short and”.

This amendment would change the ‘sustainability objective’ to require that fish and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in both the short and long term.

Amendment 1, in clause 1, page 2, line 32, at end insert—

‘(b) seafood landings into United Kingdom ports are increased and maximised; and

(c) that an average of not less than 65% of seafood caught in English waters, across all relevant species, should be landed in English ports.’

This amendment would amend the “national benefit objective” to include a commitment to increase seafood landings into the United Kingdom and create a specific target for English ports.

Government amendments 4 to 11, 36 and 12 to 24.

Amendment 3, in schedule 3, page 53, line 24, at end insert—

‘Prohibition on fishing boats greater than 100 metres in length in English waters

1A (1) Any sea fishing licence issued by the sea fish licensing authority for England must include a condition prohibiting the use of a fishing boat greater than 100 metres in length in any of the protected areas specified in subsection (2).

(2) The protected areas to which the prohibition in subsection (1) applies are marine conservation zones and marine protected areas as defined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations add to the list of protected areas in subsection (2).’

This amendment would include in the sea fishing licence conditions a prohibition on using a fishing boat longer than 100 metres in protected areas in English waters.

Government amendments 25 to 35 and 37 to 56.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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This Bill marks a really important step forward as we leave the inflexibilities of the common fisheries policy. It puts in place the framework necessary for the UK to operate as a responsible, independent coastal state. It allows us to ensure that we have sustainable fisheries to provide benefits for future generations.

The Bill’s fisheries objectives place sustainability front and centre. Six out of the eight objectives relate to protecting the environment. It is critical that we are able to balance those objectives as we need to. Additional quota we receive following the negotiations will be allocated in a new way, and I am pleased that two consultations on quota distribution were published today. That makes good our commitment in the 2018 White Paper, of which my Secretary of State is particularly proud, having put a lot of work into it himself.

This Bill is the product of collaborative and constructive working across all four Administrations of our nation and I am pleased that all the devolved legislatures have consented to the Bill. It was, unfortunately, however, important to wait until we had that consent before we brought forward further amendments on their behalf and that is why I am slightly embarrassed to say that the Order Paper is full of very technical Government amendments. Many are amendments that the devolved Administrations could have made themselves, but given the pressures on all the parliamentary timetables in the run-up to the end of the transition period, we felt that in a spirit of co-operation we should, if possible, make these changes for them.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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I understand the position with regard to the devolved Administrations, but I do not understand the position with regard to Government amendment 36 and the Channel islands. Why has that been brought to the House at this stage in proceedings?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I will, if I may, come to that very shortly. It is an important point and one that I personally am very interested in, having been on the Select Committee on Justice and written a report on that very subject.

The most substantive changes in the amendments cover provisions that make clear the ability of the devolved Administrations and the Marine Management Organisation to delegate functions between each other, the extension of schedule 10 marine conservation powers to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and amendments to Northern Irish and Scottish statutory instruments to bring them in line with UK and Welsh SIs under schedule 2. The final amendments are needed to implement the international treaty with the Faroe islands.

Government amendment 36 includes a permissive extent clause that will allow the UK Government to legislate for the Crown dependencies to ensure compliance with our international obligations. That follows a great deal of discussion with the Crown dependencies and I recognise that they take their international obligations seriously. This is a subject I personally have long been very interested in and I have discussed the matter with the Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), as well as other Members across the House.

I reassure Members and, indeed, the Crown dependencies, that activation of the permissive extent clause would only ever be used as a last resort and I am looking forward to continuing discussions with the Crown dependencies on that in the next few days and weeks.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I would be delighted to give way to my former Chair.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
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My hon. Friend does know this, because she was a great servant of the Justice Committee when she was a member: it is not just a question of continuing discussions. As things stand, the Governments and legislatures of both Jersey and Guernsey object. It is not just that they do not think a permissive extent clause is necessary; they object to its inclusion in the Bill. It is truly unprecedented for the Government to insist upon a permissive extent clause without the agreement of the relevant Crown dependencies. Why, even in an emergency, go down this rather provocative step? Why not wait until such time as an emergency arises and let them legislate, as they have indicated they would?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I have nothing but the greatest respect for the Chairman of the Justice Committee, on which I was very proud to serve for so many years. He and I have discussed this very issue before. The Government feel that it is important, given that these are significant matters of international law, that we retain the ability to legislate for the Crown dependencies if they do not show the inclination to do so when needed. We very much doubt that this will be necessary. I am sorry that they are upset by this stand, but I do feel that it is the right thing to do in the circumstances at the moment.

Government amendment 55 repeals provisions of retained EU law concerned with the catching of cod in the North sea, which, as drafted, do not achieve what they were put in place to do.

Seafish is a fantastic UK-wide organisation that promotes the efficiency of the UK seafood industry.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Many fishermen, including those in Hastings and Rye who manage the under-10 metre fishing fleet, voted to leave the EU to regain total control over our territorial waters. They are seeking clarity and reassurance on clause 12, and that no foreign vessels will be permitted to fish or be granted licences to fish in the 12 nautical miles off the UK coast. Can the Minister give that reassurance and clarity?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I would be delighted to. The Government have been clear throughout that access to the UK’s territorial seas is out of scope for any fisheries framework agreement with the EU. Any access negotiated with the EU will cover only the UK’s exclusive economic zone, and not the 0 to 12-mile zone. That remains the case.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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I have had a fair bit of correspondence with the Minister’s Department and I wonder if she will look again at funding for the enforcement vessel. The reply I had from her states was that no funding is available for the enforcement vessel, but surely if she wants to support her hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) in taking back control of our waters, we must ensure that that is enforced.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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Enforcement is very important and I will look out for the hon. Lady’s correspondence and ensure she gets a full reply. In our view we have sufficient vessels to control our waters. We cannot reduce risk levels to zero. The size of our EEZ, the potential number of EU and third-country vessels that fish in our waters, and the potential lack of electronic data, mean that this is not feasible. However, we are confident that sufficient capacity is in place to prevent illegal fishing. We take this matter extremely seriously and I would be delighted to work further with her on that.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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13 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

If I may I will make a little progress because I know my hon. Friend is speaking later.

Seafish is a fantastic UK-wide organisation that promotes the efficiency of the UK’s seafood industry, and neither I nor—importantly—my counterparts in Wales or Northern Ireland support the amendments on Seafish. Seafish has provided excellent support and information to all the Administrations regarding the impact of the covid pandemic on the seafood supply chain. Seafish delivers the hugely popular national fish and chip shop of the year awards, which this year was won by The Cod’s Scallops—what a name—in Wollaton in Nottinghamshire.

Seafish is able to tailor its work to different priorities. For example, it works to trial new types of sustainable fishing gear for the Scottish fishing industry. It has established and run the well-respected Northern Ireland fishing industry safety group and supported the industries to establish the Aquaculture Industry Wales group. Seafish supports the fishing industry across the UK, regardless of how much each Administration contributes. However much the Scottish Government may protest and dispute it, the Scottish industry receives far more than its fair share in monetary terms of support from Seafish. The amendments pre-empt the findings of a review of Seafish and do not address the impact there would be on the valuable services that it provides for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I remain unconvinced of the need for these amendments.

Amendment 2 seeks to make environmental sustainability the Bill’s prime objective. This version of the Bill has significantly more focus on sustainability than its predecessor, and its objectives are unquestionably much stronger than those of the common fisheries policy. Unlike the CFP, and importantly, those objectives are legally binding on the fisheries administrations through the joint fisheries statement. We have also added the vital and world-leading climate change objective, which has been well received by non-governmental organisations. The bycatch objective addresses the root cause of discarding, rather than just focusing on the symptoms, as the CFP’s discard objective did.

The Government have a proud record on the marine environment. The global target is to protect 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020; we have exceeded that. Some 25% of UK waters are currently protected, and we are pushing internationally for new global targets to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. It is no accident that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), is present listening to the debate. Her side of the Department and mine work extremely closely to ensure that environmental sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.

The Bill’s fisheries management plans will revolutionise how we manage our fisheries more sustainably by setting out targets and actions for specific areas, stocks and types of fishing. This is a holistic approach that will take the whole ecosystem into consideration.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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One of our fears, which perhaps the Minister can allay, relates to amendment 42. Wales and Scotland have complete control of those decisions through their devolved Administrations; Northern Ireland does not. Northern Ireland will be guided by the Secretary of State, who will make those decisions. I understand that the Government may consider making the Northern Ireland Assembly at some stage accountable for that issue, which means that they will have control. Is that the intention of the Government, and of the Minister?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I am afraid it is too early to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I look forward to future discussions with him about that. Some of tonight’s amendments do relate to Northern Ireland, but I do not think that he will be surprised by any of them.

I am concerned that those who support the sustainability amendment are losing sight of the importance of the precautionary objective, which will ensure that we maintain and rebuild healthy fish stocks, and indeed the ecosystem objective, which is critical to allow us to take a joined-up approach to protecting our precious marine environment. Those objectives will together help to deliver for sustainable fishing much more than were we to have only the sustainability objective. I am concerned that those who support the amendment would see the other objectives deprioritised.

I am keen to be able to balance environmental, social and economic needs. I am worried that if the amendment is passed, it would mean that, for example, infra- structure projects in ports that might cause a short-term environmental detriment could not be built, which would in turn deprive coastal communities of future economic benefits. Another example is the issue of choke—when one fish quota is set so low that all other fishing in a mixed fishery is effectively prohibited. Over the past two years, if we had not been able to agree with the EU a small quota above scientific advice for cod in the Celtic sea, for example, the choke issue would have led to the closure of many valuable fisheries in the south-west that aim at other species, some of which are certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

With coastal communities in mind, let us move to amendment 1. As we have said, we must have the flexibility to support the social and economic wellbeing of our coastal communities. Again delivering on a commitment in our White Paper, I am really pleased to announce that the Government have launched a consultation on proposals to strengthen the economic link licence condition for English-registered vessels.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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13 Oct 2020, 6:34 p.m.

It may well be a Labour party policy now, but it was in our 2018 White Paper. The economic link is the route through which we ensure that there is a benefit to the UK from quota fished by UK boats. I am glad to see consensus across the House on this issue; it is clearly a sensible policy. Our consultation proposes a more sophisticated approach than amendment 1 would deliver, and one that I believe will bring higher value benefits to the UK and its coastal communities.

The consultation proposes increasing the landing requirement to 70% for quota species, strengthening the quota donation requirement, or using a combination of the two to meet the economic link requirement. Quota donation directly benefits the under-10-metre fleet, and that brings great benefits to their local ports and communities. Under amendment 1, our vessels would lose the flexibility to land where it is most suitable for their business. That might not always been an English port. Fishermen want to land where they can get the best prices, where it is most convenient or where there is the most appropriate port infrastructure. For example, the Voyager, which is registered in Northern Ireland, is too big to land in any Northern Irish ports and must instead land into Ireland.

Turning to amendment 3, I know that my colleagues and their constituents—indeed, all our constituents—feel strongly about supertrawlers. There is only one UK- registered vessel in the category of over 100 metres in length, but I recognise that there are considerable concerns, for example, about the Lithuanian registered vessel, the Margiris. The Fisheries Bill provides powers to attach conditions, such as the areas that can be fished and the type of fishing gear that can be used, to fishing vessel licences. Foreign vessels permitted to fish in UK waters will have to follow UK rules—including, of course, our conditions. When vessels do not comply with the conditions of their licences, action can be taken to restrict or prohibit their future activities.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
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13 Oct 2020, 6:35 p.m.

I was under the impression that supertrawlers were registered and agreed by our own Ministry at the moment; I did not realise that they were not. The Minister implies that they are not.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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Part of the problem is that there is no officially agreed definition of a supertrawler, but it is fair to say that we have one UK-registered vessel that is over 100 metres in length.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (Ind)
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Is it not the reality that many of the issues that the Minister is talking about now will ultimately be decided during the trade negotiations with the European Union?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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13 Oct 2020, 6:36 p.m.

No, I do not think that is the case. When we pass the Fisheries Bill, as I very much hope we will do shortly, there will be no question but that we will be able to impose licence conditions at the end of the transition period.

Pelagic fishing is the main method used by vessels that are over 100 metres in length. This takes place within a water column, and so is unlikely to affect the seabed features, such as reefs and sediment habitats, that most marine protected areas are set up to conserve. Prohibiting these vessels will not protect MPAs from fishing activities such as bottom-trawling, which we know damage them. As such, I am concerned that this amendment would not deal with the most important issues concerning MPAs. Instead, we should focus on preventing damage from the types of fishing that we know effect MPAs, which involve the trawling of nets on the seabed. More than 90 inshore MPAs are now protected from destructive fishing methods.

To date, the common fisheries policy has restricted our ability to implement fisheries management measures in offshore MPAs. To do that, we have required the consent of all the EU member states who fish there. Once we get to the end of this year, we will be free of that restriction and we plan to use the powers in the Bill to put measures in place very quickly. The House will welcome the fact that the Marine Management Organisation will shortly be launching a call for evidence on its assessment of the management measures needed in one inshore and four offshore MPAs. This is the start of engagement in advance of our new policies being put in place early next year. It is important that we develop these policies in conjunction with the industry. Fishermen want to work in partnership with us on this, as was demonstrated by the fishermen who raised concerns about the scallop fishery on the Dogger Bank, which we were then able to close.

Turning to new clauses 11 and 12, on safety, we all recognise that fishing remains a dangerous occupation. We are agreed that it is important that all fishermen have a fair and safe working environment. I would like once again to pay tribute to all those who work at sea and who are at sea now, and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk about this important matter again today. And of course I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), who has worked so hard in this area, and to the other Members who have, too.

The Government strongly condemn any aggressive actions taken at sea that make safety worse, particularly when this is done deliberately. We have had appalling instances off Shetland, which I think we may be hearing about later, with German-Spanish gillnetters, and in the Baie de Seine with French vessels very recently, over the weekend. Videos of those incidents are truly horrifying, and the fact that there have not been real injuries recently is, quite frankly, a miracle.

I know this is a probing amendment, but I would say that the UK already has the powers to prevent unacceptable or dangerous practices within our territorial waters that cover all UK vessels anywhere in the world. We, like other coastal states, rely on flag states being responsible for the conduct of their vessels in our EEZ. We will explore what further action can be taken with the Marine and Coastguard Agency, the Department for Transport and other interested parties. We will continue to raise issues with the flag state of any vessels concerned, as the MCA did with the German Government in June after the incident in the Shetlands.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Carmichael
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13 Oct 2020, 6:41 p.m.

The question is not about territorial waters; it is about operation within the exclusive economic zone, from 12 miles to 200 miles. The incidents off Shetland demonstrate beyond peradventure that there is no meaningful protection for our fishermen in those areas. Yes, the Minister is right that fishing is a dangerous industry, but it should not be made more dangerous by the sort of recklessness that we keep seeing, and if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has no powers to enforce that, it is only going to get worse. And by the way, it is not a probing amendment.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification and I look forward to working further with him on the important issue of safety. The MCA raised the particular issue that affected his constituency in June with the German Government and will continue to do so as hard as possible. We have also raised concerns with the French Government following the incidents in the Baie de Seine—perfectly lawful fishing activity by, I think, Scottish vessels—that took place on Sunday night.

In conclusion, this is a good Bill that learns the lessons of the common fisheries policy, and I know that that is recognised across this House. It puts in place a framework to develop sustainable fisheries, which will benefit the nation as a whole as we become an independent coastal state.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13 Oct 2020, 6:42 p.m.

I rise to speak to the amendments that stand in my name and the name of the shadow Environment Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard). I begin by paying tribute to the six fishers who went to work last year and tragically did not return home.

For the Opposition, today’s debate is focused on two simple questions. First, how committed are this Conservative Government to sustainable fishing, and secondly, do this Government really care about jobs in coastal communities? I believe Labour’s amendments to this Bill make it stronger. Amendment 1 increases seafood landings into UK ports and calls for the majority of fish caught in English waters to be landed in English ports. Amendment 2 makes the sustainability objective the prime objective of the Bill and means that environmental sustainability will be considered in the short and the long term. Amendment 3 bans supertrawlers from vulnerable marine habitats and conservation zones.

Our amendments close the gap between what the Conservatives have promised to do and this Bill, because right now the Fisheries Bill does not make good on the Government’s commitments to fishers, coastal communities or voters concerned about the environment. Today, the Government have announced three consultations into how to split additional quota from EU negotiations, the allocation of quotas for new entrants to the sector and attaching licensing additions to vessels so that British fish is landed in British ports. Those are matters that have been repeatedly voted against in the Bill Committee. We do, of course, welcome their apparent adoption of Labour policy today, but consulting on something is not the same as taking action. We want the Government to make good on their promises to voters, not simply to pay lip service by announcing consultations on the day this Bill is considered on Report.

--- Later in debate ---
Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The short answer is that the right hon. Gentleman is right. It is not the right way to do this and we should think again. That is why I ask the Minister to reflect between now and the Bill going back to the other place. In the end we came to a pragmatic compromise on the UK internal markets Bill, and we set in place certain processes, triggers and thresholds for the exercise of that power, should it be needed in emergencies. I urge the Government, between now and the Bill returning to the other place, to think hard about doing something similar, so that we do not get into a situation where our friends in the Crown dependencies find themselves obliged perhaps to seek legal redress against our own Government and, if need be, to invoke their internal arrangements in relation to a legislative referral procedure. As the Minister knows, that can be embarked on and is not the ideal way to deal with this matter.

The concern is simply that the principle of consent is thoroughly enshrined in our relationship with the Crown dependencies. The Government have always sought to adhere to that, and the Minister and I know that we have always advocated that in this House. I do not yet see the grounds for introducing this provision, other than the possibility that it might be needed at some point—again, that sounds familiar in respect of the UK internal markets Bill. Let us find another solution in much the same way, where we consult with the Crown dependencies.

Without any consultation, it seems a needless provocation to attempt to place in the Bill, at a late stage, a provision that I hope will never be needed, but that goes against the express wishes of the legislatures of two parts of the British family. One of those legislatures had a general election only last week, and it now has a new legislature and set of Ministers, with a mandate to maintain their constitutional position. I urge the Minister to use her good influence and wise lawyerly skills to cause her colleagues to draw back a little, put some safeguards in the measure, continue talking to our friends in the Crown dependencies and find a means of accommodating the legitimate concerns of both sides, without taking what might be termed a draconian step.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

13 Oct 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Well, the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), told us to eat more fish. That should not be difficult with Arbroath smokies, Strangford prawns and buying local in Totnes. Even Wokingham is very keen to eat lots and lots more British fish. Chislehurst has a fish union and Holyhead is willing to sell it shellfish—it’ll be great.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) said that she was concerned that we would not actually act—that we would just consult. I reassure her that consulting is a precursor to action. We will consult on the economic link for four weeks. We will announce our new policy by the end of the year. We will give the industry a year to adapt and the changes will come in in 2022.

The hon. Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda), who is no longer in his place, was concerned about coastal communities. I can tell him that we have invested £228 million through the coastal communities fund, supporting projects that should create 20,000 new jobs very shortly.

Let me turn now to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock). Many of the amendments to which she takes objection are at the behest of the Scottish Government. I say politely that new clause 3 is really not necessary. Seafish already publishes the information that is sought within it and lays its annual reports and accounts before this Parliament, and that information is widely available.

There were some emotional speeches, and rightly so, including from my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), who has spent 40 years campaigning for this historic moment, but is she stuck in the past? She is not. Yesterday, she launched an electric boat, which shows that there is a future for this exciting industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) again spoke with experience and passion. My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) had a horrible experience during the debate and we send our love to her. Her defence of fishing made her grandfather and Yorkshire proud. My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) also spoke emotionally. I encourage him to join in with our consultation process thoroughly.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) that clause 6(2)(c) gives him the flexibility that he seeks and I am looking forward to going fishing with him soon—if he ever asks me. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) stood up very, very soundly for the Scottish fishing industry and reminded us carefully that the Scottish Parliament has consented to this legislation. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) raised the very serious matter of the case that happened off Shetland. The correspondence to which he referred is part of the MCA correspondence, so I am not able to give him that, but what I would like to offer is to arrange a meeting between him, the MCA and the DFT to discuss this very important matter.

On the speech by hon. Member for Upper Bann (Carla Lockhart), DAERA asked for wider powers on conservation beyond the scope of this Bill. We are exploring the options for other appropriate routes if DAERA wants to continue to take that forward in the future—I am happy to take this offline with her. The hon. Members for Angus (Dave Doogan) and for Stirling (Alyn Smith) were concerned about the speed of lorry movements with fish and seafish on them. Seafood and day-old chicks do need priority care and access through the short straits and that is something that the Government recognise.

It was lovely to hear from the Cornish fishwife, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), who gave us some real-life experience and made important points about labelling. I would not mind going on the trawler vessel with my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) if he were to ask me. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) supported marine protected areas and I was glad that I could answer his concerns on super-trawlers. To my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), I can say that the REAF report contains some interesting ideas that the Government will consider as part of our ongoing work on inshore fisheries. 

At the end of this year, foreign vessels will not be able to pulse trawl.

On the PEC, I will continue to consult with my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) and with the Lord Chancellor, to whom I have also spoken on this issue. I reassure the House that I will speak again to those in the Crown dependencies who are concerned by this step, which is not one I take at all lightly, but I have been persuaded that there is no other option. We are not intending to use the provision, but I think it is correct to have it in the Bill.

I thank all those who have scrutinised the Bill at both ends of this place. In particular, I thank my noble Friend Lord Gardiner. May his lines always be tight. Before today, we had spent 51 hours debating just this second version of the Bill, so I think it is fair to say that it has been well and thoroughly scrutinised. Thanks are also due to Lucy Cheeseman and Giulia Grierson, who are in the Box tonight, to parliamentary counsel, DEFRA officials and, indeed, all those from the devolved Administrations who have worked so hard on this Bill.

The Bill sets in stone our commitment to improving the health of our seas. It gives our fishermen the better future they need, and it is an opportunity to seize a once-in-a-generation chance to take back control of our natural resources and make sure we pass on healthier seas, which are abundant with life. The Fisheries Bill gives us the power we need to protect our fish stocks and help our seafood sector. It sets a gold standard for sustainability, and it allows us to bring fishing home. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 8 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 9

Foreign fishing boats that are exclusively Faroe Islands-regulated

(1) No prohibition, restriction or obligation relating to sea fishing imposed by any enactment applies to—

(a) anything done or not done by or in relation to a foreign fishing boat at a time at which the fishing boat is in waters lying within the Special Area and is exclusively Faroe Islands-regulated, or

(b) anything done or not done in relation to sea fish that were caught by a foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area at a time at which the fishing boat was exclusively Faroe Islands-regulated.

(2) For the purposes of this section a foreign fishing boat is “exclusively Faroe Islands-regulated” if—

(a) there is in force a licence issued by or on behalf of the Government of the Faroe Islands authorising it to fish in waters lying (to any extent) within the Special Area, and

(b) the fishing boat is not on a list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of this subsection.

(3) In this section—

(a) “enactment” has the same meaning as in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and includes an enactment contained in or made under this Act;

(b) “the Special Area” means the Special Area, as defined in Article 4 of, and Schedule C to, the Faroe Islands Treaty;

(c) “the Faroe Islands Treaty” means the agreement between—

(i) the Government of the United Kingdom, and

(ii) the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Home Government of the Faroe Islands,

relating to the maritime delimitation in the area between the Faroe Islands and the United Kingdom, entered into on 18 May 1999.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This new clause exempts foreign fishing boats from UK regulation where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. It also gives the Scottish Ministers power to remove this exemption from particular foreign fishing boats by putting them on a published list. These changes are in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Interpretation of Welsh legislation

(1) In the Interpretation Act 1978, section 23B (application of Interpretation Act 1978 to Welsh legislation), as substituted by paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 (anaw 4), is amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).

(2) In subsection (6), for “and “Wales”” substitute “, “Welsh zone” and (subject to subsection (7)) “Wales””.

(3) After subsection (6) insert—

“(7) In relation to a provision that—

(a) relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health, and

(b) is contained in an instrument made after section43 of the Fisheries Act 2020 comes into force,

“Wales” includes the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limit of the territorial sea.”

(4) The Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 (anaw 4) is amended in accordance with subsections (5) to (8).

(5) In section 1(3)(d) (duty to keep accessibility of Welsh law under review)—

(a) in the English language text, omit “applies in relation to Wales and relates to subject matter which”;

(b) in the Welsh language text, omit “y mae’n gymwys o ran Cymru ac y mae’n ymwneud â phwnc”.

(6) In section 3 (legislation to which Part 2 of the Act applies), after subsection (3)—

(a) in the English language text, insert—

“(4) In relation to subordinate legislation that relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health and is made after section 45 of the Fisheries Act 2020 (c. 00) comes into force, the reference in subsection (2)(b)(iii) to Wales includes the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limits of the territorial sea.”;

(b) in the Welsh language text, insert—

“(4) Mewn perthynas ag is-ddeddfwriaeth sy’n ymwneud â physgota, pysgodfeydd neu iechyd pysgod ac a wneir ar ôl i adran 45 o Ddeddf Pysgodfeydd 2020 (p. 00) ddod i rym, mae’r cyfeiriad yn is-adran (2)(b)(iii) at Gymru yn cynnwys yr ardal o barth Cymru sydd y tu hwnt i derfynau atfor y môr tiriogaethol.”

(7) After section 40—

(a) in the English language text insert—

“40A Application of this Part in relation to the Welsh zone

In relation to subordinate legislation that relates to fishing, fisheries or fish health, references in this Part to Wales include the area of the Welsh zone beyond the seaward limits of the territorial sea.”;

(b) in the Welsh language text insert—

“40A Cymhwyso’r Rhan hon mewn perthynas â pharth Cymru

Mewn perthynas ag is-ddeddfwriaeth sy’n ymwneud â physgota, pysgodfeydd neu iechyd pysgod, mae cyfeiriadau yn y Rhan hon at Gymru yn cynnwys yr ardal o barth Cymru sydd y tu hwnt i derfynau atfor y môr tiriogaethol.””

(8) In Schedule 1, in the Table—

(a) in the English language text, after the entry for “Welsh tribunal (tribiwnlys Cymreig)” insert—

“Welsh zone (parth Cymru)“Welsh zone” has the meaning given by section 158 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (c. 32) (and see article 3 of the Welsh Zone (Boundaries and Transfer of Functions) Order 2010 (S.I. 2010/760), which makes provision about the limits of the zone)”;

“Welsh zone (parth Cymru)

“Welsh zone” has the meaning given by section 158 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (c. 32) (and see article 3 of the Welsh Zone (Boundaries and Transfer of Functions) Order 2010 (S.I. 2010/760), which makes provision about the limits of the zone)”;

(b) in the Welsh language text, after the entry for “offeryn UE (EU instrument)” insert—

“parth Cymru (Welsh zone)mae i “parth Cymru” yr ystyr a roddir i “Welsh zone” gan adran 158 o Ddeddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006 (p. 32) (a gweler erthygl 3 o Orchymyn Parth Cymru (Ffiniau a Throsglwyddo Swyddogaethau) 2010 (O.S. 2010/760), sy’n gwneud darpariaeth ynghylch terfynau’r parth)”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

“parth Cymru (Welsh zone)

mae i “parth Cymru” yr ystyr a roddir i “Welsh zone” gan adran 158 o Ddeddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006 (p. 32) (a gweler erthygl 3 o Orchymyn Parth Cymru (Ffiniau a Throsglwyddo Swyddogaethau) 2010 (O.S. 2010/760), sy’n gwneud darpariaeth ynghylch terfynau’r parth)”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This new clause amends legislation that deals with the interpretation of Welsh legislation, in consequence of the changes made to the legislative competence of Senedd Cymru by clause 45.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 3

Sea Fish Industry Authority: accounts and reports

(1) The Fisheries Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 11 (accounts and reports)—

(a) after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) The statement of accounts must specify the total amount of income received in the financial year from levies imposed under section 4 in relation to sea fish or sea fish products landed in Scotland or trans-shipped within the Scottish zone.”,

(b) after subsection (7) insert—

“(7A) The report must include details of how income received from levies imposed under section 4 has been applied in the financial year in respect of each part of the United Kingdom by the Authority in exercising its functions including in particular details, in respect of each part of the United Kingdom, of how the income has been applied by the Authority in—

(a) promoting the efficiency of the sea fish industry in that part,

(b) promoting the marketing and consumption of, and the export of, sea fish and sea fish products relating to that part.”.—(Deidre Brock.)

This new clause is intended to ensure that the Authority reports how income received from the levies it imposes has been applied in respect of each part of the United Kingdom.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading)
Victoria Prentis Excerpts
Tuesday 1st September 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I, too, pay tribute to all the fishermen who fish our waters, particularly those who fish off the beautiful cost of South Dorset. They are an integral part of our community, and a very valuable one, and we must fight to do all we can to retain them. I agree with the excellent point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) that fishing within the 12-mile nautical limit should be for British boats. I, too, would be most grateful if the Minister could give some indication of whether that will be the case, when she or he sums up at the end of the debate—

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I see a she there, but we do not know who is going to sum up the debate. That is why I added that disclaimer.

We all know that the fishing industry is totemic. Like all fishermen, those in South Dorset feel let down and neglected, as do many others in this country. Before I came here today, I spoke to Andy Alcock, a fisherman in Weymouth who runs three boats. He is secretary of the local Association of Weymouth and Portland Fishermen and Boat Owners. I asked him what his views were, and what he wanted me to say today. His views mirror mine. He says, “We want our waters back. That’s what you told us when we argued about leaving the EU, and that’s what we expect to get.” He says that 18% of all fish sold on the continent comes from within our 25-mile limit. He would rather that we caught that fish and sold it to them. Both he and I hope that Ministers will stand their ground during the negotiations with the EU and not allow fishing to become a bargaining chip.

At the beginning of this year, I reminded the Prime Minister of a question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), who sadly is not with us at the moment. In December 2019, my right hon. Friend asked the Prime Minister:

“Will he guarantee that we will not make the mistake of the 1970s and allow the allocation of fishing resources to be a bargaining chip in the treaty negotiations? Will he guarantee that we will become a normal independent maritime nation and conduct negotiations on an annual basis for reciprocal deals to mutual advantage?”

The Prime Minister replied that we need

“to restore to this country the advantages of its spectacular marine wealth, and that is exactly what we will do, once we become an independent coastal state.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2019; Vol. 444, c. 148.]

Nothing less than that will do.

The Bill provides for that and I welcome it. Of course I will support it tonight, but fears remain in the fishing industry that fishermen might still, at this late stage, be betrayed as negotiations reach a critical stage at the end of this year. I urge the Government to stand firm, whatever they do, and not to betray our fishermen or our country. We have fought so hard, and it would be a tragedy if we betrayed them on this issue.

I have a message for Mr Barnier: “Hands off our fish!” My wife, who speaks fluent French, texted me a short time ago, so if he is listening, I say, “Monsieur Barnier, laissez nos poissons!”

--- Later in debate ---
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1 Sep 2020, 12:06 a.m.

It is a pleasure to close the debate for the Opposition tonight. From 2021, the UK will become an independent coastal state and for the first time in 45 years we will have control over who fishes in our waters and how much they can catch. We can use this historic moment to our advantage to combat the decline in wages and job opportunities faced by coastal communities and to create a sustainable UK fishing regime where the marine environment is protected and every effort is made to replenish our declining fish stocks. The Bill will impact not only the health of our seas, but our seaside towns, fishers and industry.

In today’s debate, three issues have come up time and again: the impact of covid-19 on our coastal communities, ports and smaller boats; the need to support our struggling fishers and those who live in seaside towns and villages by giving them a fairer share of fishing opportunities and landing catches in UK ports; and the importance of putting sustainability at the heart of future fisheries management. We have heard many passionate speeches from across the House this evening. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) referred to the jobs and coastal communities amendment. She rightly highlighted that, in the fishing industry, 10 jobs are created on land for every one at sea. If the Government are serious about levelling up parts of the UK that have been left behind, they should support Labour’s call to land more UK fish caught in UK waters in UK ports.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) said that

“people care where their food comes from and they care about the people who provide it.”

She is right and she rightly spoke passionately about support for smaller fishers and outlined the simple fact that the Government have always been able to have the power to redistribute UK fishing quotas. As has been discussed in the debate, one of the Bill’s main aims is to ensure a level playing field between UK and foreign boats. Surely that principle of fairness should extend to our own fleet. Small fishers are the backbone of local communities. They deserve the lion’s share of any additional quota that comes out of negotiations with the EU, as the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) touched on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) spoke of the sustainability objective that was passed in the Lords, and I share her disappointment that the Government intend to remove that amendment, along with the three other amendments won in the other place. Labour Members believe that this objective is a big step forward to creating a more sustainable fishing regime and that fisheries management plans must be legally binding if they are to be effective.

The Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State rightly paid tribute to the six fishers who lost their lives in 2019. Commercial fishing remains the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the UK. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Sir Alan Campbell) spoke about that and he highlighted that this Thursday will see Merchant Navy Day take place. The hon. Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) and for Waveney (Peter Aldous) pointed out that recreational fishing deserves recognition for its contribution not only to our national economy, but to smaller ports and communities. The covid-19 pandemic hit this sector hard, as lockdown regulations and social distancing measures made trips economically unviable, and it is so important that the industry gets the support it needs to get back on its feet.

Independently produced, peer-reviewed science must form the basis of all fisheries management decisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) referred to each boat as a floating laboratory and she is absolutely right to describe how a lack of data on the state of fish stocks cripples our ability to make informed decisions and set fishing quotas at sustainable levels. Overfishing directly impacts the future viability of our fishing industry, and the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), along with other Members, was right to call for an end to electronic pulse fishing.

The right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), a former Fisheries Minister, spoke with great expertise on this subject. Fish stocks do not respect the 200 nautical mile zone, so, as has been stated, Labour welcomes zonal attachment. In what I thought was a thoughtful speech, the right hon. Gentleman quoted the great Nye Bevan, acknowledging:

“Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.”

What an irony that the last majority Conservative Government destroyed our coal industry. We believe that we must ensure that our fishing industry does not suffer the same fate.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici) spoke passionately about the importance of fishing to her local economy. I was pleased to visit the Grimsby docks earlier this year, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to her predecessor, who fought hard for the Grimsby fishers during her time in this place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) made important arguments about the need to reduce plastic waste and for a commitment to reach net zero, which is clearly an oversight in the Bill and something that we hope to address in Committee. She, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) and many others, spoke about the operation of supertrawlers in marine protected areas, and a ban was called for by Members across the House.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) that not enough time has been given in this or other Parliaments to discuss our fishing industry. I share his concerns that the delay in bringing forward the Bill caused huge uncertainty for our fishing fleets.

The hon. Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) spoke about the need to encourage young people to enter the UK fishing industry as a career. Labour believes in investment in skills, along with apprenticeships, and we will table an amendment in Committee that we hope the Government will support.

Like the hon. Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), I would also like to acknowledge the invaluable work of Seafarers UK and the Fishermen’s Mission, two charities that my grandma used to collect for.

Labour calls on the Government to support smaller fishers and coastal communities, who have struggled to make a living, especially in the last 10 years, and have been some of the worst hit economically during the covid-19 pandemic. We want to right the wrong faced by small boats, which represent 79% of the UK fishing fleet but hold only 2% of the quota. That is clearly unjust. We want a commitment to land more fish in UK ports, bringing more jobs and growth opportunities to seaside towns. We will continue to push for coastal communities to get a greater share of economic growth, for jobs at sea to be protected and jobs on land to be realised, and for the Government to fulfil their promise of a legal commitment to sustainability.

As Members across the House have made clear, this Bill, together with the Agriculture and Environment Bills, represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leave our environment in a better way than we found it. Healthy fish stocks have been proven to create a more resilient and productive marine environment and ecosystem. That leads to increased long-term catches and greater industry profits. For the sake of our coastal communities, which rely on our UK fishing industry and the thousands of jobs it creates, not just on boats but in processing, logistics and food services, we must put sustainability at the heart of our fishing policy. This Bill presents a chance to begin the process of making sure that UK fishers get a fair deal. We must do right by them and by our coastal communities.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
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1 Sep 2020, midnight

It is a real privilege to close the debate on this important Bill. I will try to address what I can in the moments I have, but where I do not, I undertake to follow up specific issues with hon. Members directly; this has been a very wide-ranging debate.

There has clearly been a lot of interest in the status of the negotiations with the EU. Indeed, the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), also raised the important negotiations that are going on with Norway and the Faroes. I understand the level of interest, and of course I share it, but this is not the place to discuss the current position of those negotiations. The task before us tonight is to make progress with this important Bill. It is a framework Bill that gives us the power to implement whatever we obtain in the negotiations. The measures in the Bill are required regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, and we must press on with our legislative programme.

The Bill has been developed in collaboration with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Administrations, and with their help it has been improved. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) said, Minister Ewing recognised this last month when he confirmed the Scottish Government’s recommendation of consent for the Bill, saying:

“Unlike for other UK bills, the co-operative working between officials and indeed ministers in the Scottish Government, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the other devolved Administrations has demonstrated what can be achieved”.

At their request, this Bill gives the devolved Administrations more powers than ever to manage their fisheries. This is an opportunity to create tailored approaches to fisheries management across the UK.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross). It is clear, on tonight’s showing, that he will be an outstanding leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and we have seen tonight—if we ever doubted—that he is very firmly on the side of the Scottish fishing fleet. My hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) made an excellent speech, and I would also like to mention the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), who, because of his ministerial responsibilities, was unable to speak in the debate. I think it is fair to say that the Scottish industry is well represented in this House, as those Members take a great interest in every decision that is taken.

In a perceptive speech, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that there is a great deal of consensus for what the Bill is trying to achieve, and many Members from across the House spoke about getting the balance right—namely, the complexities of managing a diverse ecosystem with the interests of an equally diverse fishing fleet.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) made a stand-out speech. Of course, she helped to craft the Bill, and spoke passionately about its aims and objectives.

We heard some superb and wide-ranging Back-Bench speeches from across the House. The issue of safety was rightly raised on both Front Benches, and most passionately by my hon. Friends the Members for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) and for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), the right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Sir Alan Campbell), the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen), who I welcome back from maternity leave, and many more Members across the House. Much work is being done on the issue. As Members have said, there is absolutely no need to wait for the outcome of the Bill to do this important work, and it is right to say that the Department for Transport, the Marine and Coastguard Agency, and Seafish are working hard on this issue. Unusual though it may be, I pay tribute to the shadow Secretary of State for the work that he has done to raise this issue again and again in this place. It is not a matter particularly for tonight’s debate, but definitely a matter of concern to all of us in this House—and that should have been heard loud and clear.

Other speeches that stood out for me included that of the former Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who gave us an important historical round-up of why we are here. On the specific point that he raised, I will ask the Scallop Industry Consultation Group to raise the issue of gear conflict. I undertake to report back to him on that.

Many Members encouraged us to eat more local fish and to promote British seafood, and many noted what had been done during the pandemic to support that and said how much more direct selling was being undertaken at the moment. I refer specifically to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici), who represents the proud port of Grimsby, my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), for West Dorset (Chris Loder), for North West Durham (Mr Holden) and for Witney (Robert Courts)—all of them proud eaters of seafood who were encouraging their constituents to be the same—and, of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess). I am not sure that it is Government policy yet that Southend should become a city, but there can be no doubt that he sticks up for the rights of his fishing industry and the rights of his people to eat what they produce.

We also heard some passionate speeches about the marine environment from the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts). The strong voice of Cornwall was heard around the Chamber and, indeed, acknowledged by the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), who accepted that many of the issues raised mirror those of his own fishermen. It is great to have so many Cornish colleagues who, in their own words, would say that they had done a proper job at standing up for the industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), who is married to a fisherman, cannot be here tonight, but we heard strongly about the worries that Cornish colleagues have about the inshore fleet. I would like to reassure them that we are working with a number of recently formed groups—again, supported by Seafish—to collaborate on more sustainable management for specific stocks such as whelks and crabs. We have noted that parts of the industry have had louder voices than others in the past, and these new groups are an attempt to address that.

I should also mention the work of REAF, the Renaissance of East Anglian Fisheries, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) and my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who mentions it frequently in this place. Its report contains some excellent ideas, which the Government will continue to look into.

Fisheries management plans will revolutionise how we manage our precious fisheries. They will allow us to take a holistic approach to management, managing fisheries at an appropriate level, not fettered by lines on maps or differences between inshore and offshore, between Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities districts or even between Administrations. We will continue to work with industry and interested parties in a much closer way, developing plans together and ensuring that we use the best possible evidence and local knowledge, so that we can create a management for fisheries that is truly appropriate.

A number of Members mentioned funding. Of course, with a fairer share of fish and more opportunities, we expect that profitability and investment in the sector will increase. However, we recognise that this will take time, so I would like to restate that the Government will maintain funding for fisheries across the UK’s nations throughout the Parliament, as we said in our manifesto commitment. The Bill provides new, expanded funding powers, which will allow us to fund infrastructure such as port development and training—I see the right hon. Member for Tynemouth nodding; I know that that has long been a concern of his. These new domestic funding schemes will support our priorities, and as a devolved matter, each Administration will lead on their own programme.

We all recognise the importance of the inshore sector, not just our Cornish colleagues. I am really pleased that, over the summer, tourists have been able to travel to our coastal communities and enjoy the very best of what our seas have to offer. As a family, we enjoyed some wonderful weather in Tenby over the weekend. It has been rather a shock to come back, straight into this important Bill. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate those seafood businesses that have adapted and innovated as a result of the pandemic and are encouraging more and more people to eat locally caught and directly sourced fish. We are determined to continue to work on this as a Government; it is a real priority for us.

Fishing is a key part of our heritage as an island nation. The injustices felt by so many concerning the common fisheries policy loomed large in the debate over our decision to leave the EU. This Bill gives us the opportunity to put that right and reclaim our position as an independent coastal state. It is a framework Bill, and I look forward to working across the House to put meat on the bones of the Bill, but it does what it needs to do, which is give us the powers we need to act in a flexible and responsive way, providing sustainable fisheries for future generations. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The list of Members currently certified as eligible for a proxy vote, and of the Members nominated as their proxy, is published at the end of today’s debates.