All Debates between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard

Mon 19th October 2020
2 interactions (2,614 words)
Mon 12th October 2020
3 interactions (1,368 words)

Covid-19: Animal Welfare

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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It is a pleasure to be able to sum up this debate for the Opposition. First, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) for the way in which she introduced this debate with such passion and care. It is very clear that she is an animal lover, not just of Dotty and Dora, but of many other animals as well. I think she spoke for nearly all of us in the debate when she spoke so eloquently about what has happened during the pandemic to our pets and animals, and why it is so important to take action to ensure that there is no more suffering for animals during this period. She is one of Labour’s rising stars and her remarks show us why.

Britain is indeed a nation of animal lovers and, as we have heard throughout the debate, wherever we are in the United Kingdom, there is a requirement, a need and an urgency to see better protection for animals, better enforcement and better funding for those services that are trying to look after those animals. Successive lockdowns have shown more than ever how important animals are to our wellbeing and how much joy and comfort they can bring to our lives. They really are incredibly special.

Pets are not just a commodity; they are not just an item to be purchased; they are not a DVD player or an iPhone—they are part of the family. When we talk about pets and the impact on animals throughout the pandemic, we should approach it from that point—our pets are a full part of our families, not just property. Sadly, that is not how they are described in law. Many of the challenges presented to the Minister today are about how the law can better reflect the importance of animals and how our relationship with animals has changed over time. They are no longer just work animals in support of our economy, but animals to comfort, nurture and be a full member of our families.

A number of issues have been raised in this debate. I thank all hon. Members who have spoken. They have all raised very important, serious issues that need to be addressed by the Minister—I hope they will be.

There has been a huge rise in demand for dogs and cats—pandemic puppies and covid cats—during this period, and that is clear not only in the price paid for them, but in internet searches for them. That creates an opportunity for unscrupulous dealers and those people who want to exploit, con and make money at all costs, including accepting cruelty to animals. As well as the increased sale of healthy pets, there has been a rise in the number of dogs and cats being imported into the UK from unscrupulous dealers. As the hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), not all foreign imports are from unscrupulous dealers, but sadly, far too many of them are. That needs to be addressed.

Many unscrupulous dealers are taking pets away from their mothers at an extremely young age. Those pets have a higher risk of carrying diseases and have not been fully nurtured into the healthy young animals we hope them to be. Many new pet owners have participated in impulse-buying over the pandemic. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home found that 42% of pandemic pup buyers had not seen their puppy’s breeding environment prior to purchase, and 27% paid for their puppy without even seeing it.

This situation underlines the need not only for regulatory action, but for better communication of the laws that already exist. In many cases, campaigners, on a cross-party basis, have changed the law, to require that animals should be seen with their mother and to make sure that animal cruelty in the breeding process is eliminated as much as possible, but if people do not know that those laws exist, they might as well not exist. That is a really important part of the communication effort that I encourage the Minister to look at. As well as arguing for regulation, we need to make sure that people understand what is going on, so they can be better protected.

Now more than ever, when demand for pets is so high, it is vital that the Government increase the legal imported age to six months, as has been discussed. Doing so would make it easier for imported dogs to be checked for rabies and would also ensure that pets are not taken for long journeys at far too young an age. I would also like the Government to stop allowing soft repercussions for those who disregard animal welfare for their own monetary benefits.

We have heard much about the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill—and believe me, the Minister has heard an awful lot from me about it over many years. As we heard from the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), we can have no more false starts on this Bill. She argued for it during her time at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; indeed, successive Secretaries of State have argued for it. There seems to be a blockage in the way that Bills are brought forward to Parliament and a blind spot towards the needs of animals among those doing the parliamentary programming. I know that the Minister shares that concern and will do all that she can to ensure that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is passed through the other place in due course.

Equally, I pay tribute to my fellow west country Member, the hon. Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder), for his work. In praising him for the way that he has conducted his campaign, I also place on record the work of Anna Turley, the former Member for Redcar, who did so much during her time in this place to learn the lessons from the experience of Baby, the young dog that was cruelly abused in such an awful way. Although increasing the sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years in the most extreme cases is a substantial step, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill does not do two things that in my mind it must do.

The first is to apply equally to wild animals as it does to domestic animals, a step that has been taken elsewhere in the United Kingdom but not in England. Secondly, learning the lesson from Baby’s law, we should consider introducing the aggravating offence of deliberately filming the animal cruelty for the personal enjoyment of those doing it or to boast by sharing it online. That is an extra-special form of cruelty, and the law should better reflect that. We did not have the chance to vote on those amendments, which Labour tabled, to the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill. The Minister will know that I am hopeful that she will look to cut and paste those amendments, in the spirit of cross-party co-operation, in any future legislation.

I want to turn briefly to pet theft, which my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd and others mentioned. Losing a pet is not about losing property, which is what the law currently suggests, so I think the law on pet theft needs to be updated. It needs to be better understood and communicated; it also needs to be better enforced. Lockdown has created situations that have led to social media panic, certainly in Plymouth and Pontypridd, about the risk of dog theft. Although pet theft has increased during the pandemic, especially for rare and valuable breeds of dogs and cats in particular, the worry for people that someone will steal their animal, or that something could happen if they let it out of sight, has been combined with the extra worry of those walking their dog on their own, especially at night. Many dog owners have correctly taken extra steps to avoid people during the pandemic, following Government advice to stay away from people, but in doing so they potentially put themselves at greater risk, if only of greater worry about what might happen to them. The Minister urgently needs to communicate with her colleagues at the Home Office to ensure that pet theft is adequately addressed in law and also regulation.

We have seen not only risks of cruelty towards pets, but risks of animals not receiving the medical care they need. The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) used his expertise very wisely to talk about the implications of not taking a new animal to a vet for support, and I support his words of thanks to those in the veterinary profession for their tireless work to help animals during the pandemic. We need to ensure that we pick up on the lessons from microchipping, which the hon. Member for Bury North (James Daly) spoke about. Tuk’s law and Gizmo’s law are much to be supported, but I would like the Minister to apply the same emphasis elsewhere, because it is not right that steps are taken to microchip animals without then scanning them at certain points. Indeed, I might go one step further and suggest that we extend the current requirement to report on motor incidents involving livestock and dogs to include cats, because as we know, the loss of an animal, especially when they have a microchip, or not knowing what has happened to them is very serious.

I would also like to echo the concerns raised by hon. Members about the funding for animal welfare charities. Each animal welfare charity is really important in stopping cruelty in their community and for campaigning for better standards, and I am very concerned to read of the huge numbers of losses that many animal welfare charities have had during this period. Dogs Trust has seen a loss of income of 15% to 30% in donations and legacy income. RSPCA had a 12% fall in donations and a 9% reduction in legacies, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has suffered a £4 million loss in fundraising income.

Smaller charities have also suffered. They might not have the public affairs team to send us briefs on it, but smaller animal charities up and down the country are equally facing difficult times. The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes found that 47% of the 142 UK rescue organisations have reported an income drop of more than 50%. With a recession looming, their recovery will be incredibly difficult, and extending support to those organisations is incredibly vital, as we have heard from the hon. Member for Pontypridd. Just as we have seen with the zoo support fund, the Minister has allocated funding for it, but with 97% of the zoo support fund not yet spent, I encourage her to look at the conditions for that and see whether money can be allocated to support those individuals or steps can be taken by the Treasury.

The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border spoke about the need to ensure that it is not just domestic animals that are protected during this period. The case he made around equine health is especially important because of the incredible cost of keeping a horse. I share his concern that horse abandonment will increase during this period. I know these concerns are shared by the animal welfare sector as well, and I think the Minister would be wise to look at this issue. One way that she could address this area and provide a bit of hope would be to look at the Labour animal welfare manifesto from the previous election. There is much to be said for bringing forward a comprehensive animal welfare Bill in the next Queen’s Speech. It is a proposition that I have put to the Minister previously in debates, and I hope that she will take it up in the spirit that it is intended.

There is cross-party support for tougher measures for animal welfare, better support for pet owners and better support for those people working in this sector. In my mind, an animal welfare Bill should include provisions for tightening the rules on pet theft and puppy smuggling. Should the Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Bury North not pass, an animal welfare Bill should adopt Tuk’s law and Gizmo’s law and look at cat microchipping. It should look at cruelty to wild animals and include tougher sentences for filming, as I mentioned in relation to the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill earlier. It should also include provisions for animal sentience and for the “flop not crop” campaign to ensure that dog ear cropping is not part of our national culture.

An animal welfare Bill should also improve accessibility to vets, improve affordability for those on low incomes, and improve tenants’ ability to properly keep pets. It should improve reporting of motor incidents to include animals beyond livestock and dogs, and take action around livestock worrying. Many people have taken their animals into rural areas and that has had consequences for farm animals. I think that can be better supported without necessarily reducing the right to roam along the way. As we have heard from the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), action should be taken to ban fur imports and to address trophy hunting. Finally, there should be an animal welfare commissioner to produce an annual report on the state of animal welfare in England in particular.

With a Bill as comprehensive as that, there would be much that would have cross-party support. I would encourage the Minister to look carefully at how that can be included in the Queen’s Speech that we are expecting, so we can avoid so many of these debates where hon. Members on both sides make the same cases. Let us have one single Bill to deal with all these issues and to make sure that we are properly putting into law the fact that every pet and every animal matters, with proper, decent protection and funding to go along with it.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
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It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I join in thanking the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones), inspired by Dotty and Dora, for organising this debate today. It has been thoughtful and full of many ideas, to which I will try to respond. If I do not manage to deal with everything, then please do come and talk to me at any point about animal welfare. It is right that we talk about this a great deal in this place, and it is right that our constituents are concerned about it. While much of the national attention has rightly been focused on the impact on humans of the pandemic, today’s debate is a reminder that we are a nation of animal lovers and we do have compassion and concern for the impact of the pandemic on animal welfare generally.

We have all heard a great deal about the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, which I was thrilled to see finish its stages in this House last Friday. It was tense to the end—we have been kept guessing throughout its passage—and if I may say so, it is a testament to cross-party working, for which I will put on the record formally my thanks to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard). I heard the points that he made once again today, in particular about the filming of animals. Although I do not think that we will amend the Bill—we want it to go through and the way to achieve that is by not amending it—I have said before and I will say again today that I will make points in the guidelines about filming. I hope that they will remain part of the way that sentences are given under the Bill, which we hope will soon be a piece of legislation.

DEFRA has been monitoring animal welfare very closely since the start of the pandemic and I would like to assure everybody that we will continue to work closely with the sector to understand the long-term impacts, which are not exactly as we imagined they would be this time a year ago. I, too, pay tribute to the hard work of animal welfare charities, the pet industry and the vets who have all been affected by the pandemic but have continued to prioritise animal welfare in the face of financial hardship and, indeed, uncertainty.

I will also take this opportunity to thank farming organisations and charities for all the support that they have given to farmers during this very difficult year. I never forget that most of the captive animals in this country are, of course, on farms. When we talk about animal welfare, we often do not focus on those animals, but DEFRA will very much focus on them in the future, and it is important that we remember that.

We have had really good speeches this afternoon on a number of topics. Another point made by the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, was that it is important to remind people of our laws. So I will, if I may, pick up on some of the laws that have been mentioned by others, as a reminder to us all.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) is a vet and he spoke passionately to remind us all of the importance of taking our pets and our farm animals for vaccinations and neutering, for example, even during the pandemic. I have accessed vets several times during the pandemic. The first time, in full lockdown, the animal was handed over in a carrying case. Indeed, the vets also had to attend my smallholding during full lockdown; I remember leaving the animals’ passports outside their doors, so that the vet did not even have to speak to me. It has been possible, though difficult, to treat animals throughout the pandemic and vets have done a really good job of managing that.

My hon. Friend is also a member of the EFRA Committee and he spoke about the report on the movement of animals across borders that is being prepared by that Committee. It is a report that I look forward to very much. This is an area where, following the end of the transition period and our departure from the EU, we will be able to take further action, if we think it is appropriate to do so. Several Members talked about pet smuggling, for example, and this is an issue where there may now be the possibility of taking the action that I believe many people would welcome. So, I look forward to that report and to engaging with him further on this issue.

The hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) spoke about pandemic puppies and how she fears they will be less socialised than other puppies. She spoke, too, about the cats that have not been neutered during the pandemic, who will of course go on to have unwanted litters in the future. I thought that was a point very well made; we need to remember that the effects of the pandemic on animals will continue in future years.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) made an excellent speech in which she reminded us of many of the important issues that we need to tackle in legislation. She also made the really fundamental point that if we want new animals to keep at home, we should get them from a rescue centre. That point cannot be made too often. She also argued forcibly for big charitable fundraising events to take place again soon. On the way to the debate, I spoke to a Minister from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about that very subject. I am glad to say that I also spoke to the Leader of the House once again about how to continue the progress of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill. I was worried that I would be late for the debate as a result, but that was important.

I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Daly), the owner of Bertie. He and I have discussed Tuk’s law and Gizmo’s law many times. The Government are a great supporter of microchipping for animals in general, and I very much hope that he receives good news on that in the next Session of Parliament.

The hon. Member for Angus (Dave Doogan), inspired by Maggie the golden retriever, spoke with particular passion about puppy smuggling. I draw attention once again to the Petfished campaign, which has run throughout the pandemic and raises awareness of many of the issues associated with low welfare and the illegal supply of pets. On pet theft generally, raised by a number of hon. Members in this debate and outside it recently, I reassure all those who are worried that DEFRA is working closely with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to gather and analyse data and scope the scale of the issue. We will continue to work very closely with those Departments to ensure that we can come up with the correct solutions to this difficult issue.

In April 2020, the Government commissioned the Animal Welfare Committee to advise on animal welfare impacts relating to the pandemic. It made a preliminary report in June 2020, which included concerns about: the ability of businesses, vets and charities to continue to provide services; the need for contingency planning; and the impact of owners’ physical and mental health on their ability to care for their animals. I was relieved to note that, in the committee’s second report, which was published in December, it concluded that many of the animal welfare risks that had concerned it had not been fully realised. The report recognised that the farming sector remained vulnerable to slaughterhouse closures, for example, which might cause animal numbers to build up on farms, with possible welfare consequences.

There were concerns about the companion animal sector relating to increased ownership, reduced access to vets, potential impacts of personal restrictions on pet care and the ability of animal welfare charities to operate with reduced resources. Some of the initial concerns raised by that committee were realised, but we were pleased to note that most of them were not.

DEFRA has provided updated advice for pet owners and livestock keepers on looking after animals throughout the pandemic. The advice explains how people who are self-isolating or hospitalised can access support to care for their pets. We have worked very closely with the Canine and Feline Sector Group, the National Equine Welfare Council and other organisations to review guidance for pet businesses and animal charities so that operations can continue wherever possible. That has enabled rescue centres to continue core services and pet shops to remain open and supply all the needs that our pets have, including food. It has meant that the services of pet groomers can be accessed for welfare reasons, and those who have been hospitalised have had access to pet boarding, dog walking or dog day care.

There have been positive trends as a result of the pandemic, including a real reduction in the number of stray dogs dealt with by local authorities and increased interest, as we have heard all round, from people wanting to foster or rehome pets, which has helped to alleviate some of the sector’s pressures. However, even though covid-19 appears to have had a reduced impact on animal cruelty, that may well be, as many have said, because of reduced visibility. I take the points about the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence. We are very live to that and are monitoring the situation closely with others in the sector.We are aware that the picture we have is not yet the full one.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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For anyone watching this, can the Minister confirm that there are organisations that will support the animal of anyone fleeing domestic violence as well? The power that a perpetrator may have over an animal should not be used to keep a victim of domestic abuse in their home.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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That is an extremely good point. One of the more unpleasant aspects of domestic violence is the use of a pet as a psychological, and sometimes physical weapon by the perpetrator. It is right that there are organisations that can specifically provide care in those situations. This issue may not have had the full light of day shone on it in the past, but I want to assure all those listening that we take it very seriously.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd raised various specific points, first about mutilating dogs’ ears, which she rightly said has been banned for 15 years in the UK. I am happy to discuss that further with her. It is illegal and unlawful to mutilate a dog. One of the major concerns at the moment is about dogs coming in from abroad who are already mutilated. It is to be hoped that that will be picked up in the work that the EFRA Committee and then DEFRA are doing, looking at the way that pets cross borders.

On breed-specific legislation, I too have visited Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and have seen delightful-looking animals who fall on the wrong side of the breed divide. There are strong views on both sides of this argument and it is only fair that we recognise that the legislation was brought in because of fears for public safety. However, DEFRA has commissioned Middlesex University to do some research on this issue and it is important that we continue to follow the evidence in this difficult area; it really is.

In summary, I wish to reassure all those present that the Government are committed to safeguarding the welfare of animals, particularly during this challenging pandemic period. I have been encouraged to commit to a large animals Bill next session. Sadly, Madam Chairman, that is above my pay grade, but I want to assure those present that DEFRA has a good track record of conducting legislation over the past year. We have had the Agriculture Act 2020, the Fisheries Act 2020 and 94 or so statutory instruments and counting—there will be many more this year. I was thrilled when the private Member’s Bill, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill, passed the House on Friday. If we are unable to persuade the powers that be to give us one big animals Bill, I want to assure those present that there will be a whole series of Bills to deal with as many of the issues raised today as is possible for us. We are committed to continuing engagement with animal welfare organisations, enforcement agencies and groups across the sector to understand the long-term effects of the pandemic on our animals. I want to assure everyone that we will continue to take action where necessary.

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Wednesday 3rd February 2021

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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My hon. Friend has campaigned hard on pet theft, and he and I have enjoyed debating it on many occasions. He knows that we feel as one on the issue. I should emphasise that the Sentencing Council is of course independent of the Government, but it is only right for the Government to make suggestions. I am outlining the suggestion that I feel would be the best-practice sentencing guideline, which I hope the council will make if we pass the Bill—I very much hope we will. I suggest a guideline similar to the one for the robbery offence that I outlined.

In addition to the sentencing guidelines, legislation —one piece specifically—provides an offence that could cover filming animal cruelty. Section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003 creates a specific offence of sending grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages over a public electronic communications network. It is a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide which charge to bring, but it is possible that someone filming an act of animal cruelty or sharing it could be charged with an offence under that section. That would result in a maximum sentence of six months for the offence of posting the offensive message. I am happy to speak to DCMS colleagues further about this, and I will do so as the Bill progresses.

In brief, there are existing options to ensure that the offenders who film and upload or distribute footage of their animal cruelty are met with an appropriate response. This is an horrific crime, and filming it to share with others is beyond comprehension. We will discuss this matter further with the Sentencing Council, and when it reviews the guidelines we will ensure that this point is raised during the public consultation. On that basis, I ask the hon. Gentleman not to press the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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On the basis that we will be seeking to press this amendment and explore it further on Report, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I support the comments from the hon. Gentleman, who has done a good job in building cross-party support in his usual way. Clauses 1 and 2 are good and we will not oppose them.

I want to pose a question to the Minister about clause 1 and disqualification. The proposal to increase maximum sentences from six months to five years is welcome. It will of course be up to the court to decide the point on that scale for any offence. The Dogs Trust has raised the point about issuing disqualification orders where the court has imposed the maximum penalty, to ensure that those convicted of the most extreme animal cruelty and receiving the maximum penalty face mandatory disqualification.

The courts are able to issue disqualifications. It is important to note that at the moment disqualifications are regarded not as part of the punishment but as part of measures to prevent future abuse of animals. However, the Dogs Trust makes a strong case for mandatory disqualification in the event of maximum penalties being imposed, as provided for by the Bill.

There certainly have been recent examples, such as that reported yesterday in Plymouth’s local paper, The Herald, of poor Riot, an American pocket bully-type dog in Plymouth, who had her ears cropped. She was seized by the RSPCA and, thankfully, rehomed. The courts chose not to issue a disqualification order on the owner. That would be one of those points that the public does not understand: how someone can be convicted of severe animal cruelty but not be automatically disqualified. I appreciate that that point sits complementary to clause 1, but I would be grateful if the Minister addressed it in her response.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, whose family has farmed in west Dorset for four generations. I know that they have all been committed to the care of their animals and that he feels very strongly about the subject matter of the Bill.

As we have heard, the Bill would make a significant change to the way in which people who commit serious offences against animals will be dealt with by the courts. By increasing the maximum custodial penalty from six months to five years, it enables cases to be heard when necessary in the Crown court. That will largely depend on the seriousness of the case, but the defendants will also have a say in that matter, on whether they would like their case to heard in a higher court and in front of a jury. The legal system is well placed to make those decisions.

I am glad that the Welsh Government have confirmed that the proposed new maximum penalty should also apply in Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already set the maximum penalty for such offences at five years. We do not take increasing maximum penalties for offences lightly. There must be a proven need to do so. As my hon. Friend said earlier, in some cases magistrates have commented in open court that they would have passed longer sentences had that been available to them.

The increase in maximum penalties follows from an amendment made in 2019, known as Finn’s law, which provided better protection for service animals. I am sure that hon. Members will remember that Finn is a police dog who was stabbed by an assailant he had restrained. Despite incurring serious wounds, Finn ensured that the attacker was caught. He recovered from his injuries and returned to duty before eventually retiring from the service. I was pleased to meet him on one of his trips to Parliament. When this Bill is enacted, it will ensure not only that offenders who have caused harm to service animals are brought to justice, but that they will face stiffer penalties.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I rise in support of my hon. Friend’s remarks on extending the provisions to include wild animals. I take this from a simple perspective: how would we explain to a member of the public, or to a child, that one rabbit will be treated differently from another rabbit, depending on whether it is in a cage or in a field? How do we instil the same sense of value for both those animals if one is treated differently by the law from the other? There is a case here for including wild animals; I appreciate that the opportunity to include them in this Bill may not be immediately forthcoming, but I believe that is a clear and important part of ensuring that wild animals do matter—that all animals matter.

The second part of the new clause, which is worthy of being adopted by the Minister, is the two-year review of this legislation to see how it is working. One area in particular that needs to be looked at is the effects of the restrictions around coronavirus and covid-19 on animal cruelty. I mentioned in my earlier remarks that we have seen an increase in the number of cases of animal cruelty during these restrictions. It would be useful to policy makers and to those seeking to enforce this legislation if there was an assessment about its impacts on animal cruelty, at a time when we know animal cruelty is increasing, to see whether the deterrent effect is working.

In particular, it would be useful to assess how the provisions of the Bill can be better communicated to people, to ensure that they make better decisions before committing cruelty to an animal, recognising that there are now stronger and tougher penalties that equally are being used by the courts as a form of deterrence as well as a form of punishment. That is an element that could also be looked at.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I note that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 was subject to review through the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee some time ago in 2010 and again, informally, through the EFRA inquiry “Animal welfare in England: domestic pets” in 2016. A broad consensus arose from that inquiry that the Animal Welfare Act had had a genuinely positive effect on animal welfare. The 2006 Act, of course, relates to animals within the control of humans, and indeed the 2016 inquiry encouraged the bringing forward of this Bill, which is partly why we are all here today.

Subsection (3)(a) of new clause 1 would commit the Government to including an assessment of wildlife. As we have heard, wildlife legislation is not within the scope of the Animal Welfare Act; only animals within the control of man are within scope. There are some exceptions, which I gently point out to the hon. Member for Cambridge: animals that are normally domesticated, such as cats and dogs, are within the scope of that Act, so even a feral cat would be covered. If a wild animal is trapped, it too would be considered to be within the control of man and would be covered by the Act.

There are, of course, separate pieces of legislation that deal with wild animals. We have already had a review of wildlife legislation at DEFRA’s request by the Law Commission, which undertook the wildlife law project. It published its recommendations in November 2015, and recommended that the existing pieces of wildlife legislation be replaced by a single statute. It did not recommend that we bring in the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which is, by broad consensus, operating quite efficiently. For those who are interested, the Ministry of Justice regularly publishes data on prosecutions, some of which we heard earlier, and on convictions and sentencing under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Pet Theft

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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19 Oct 2020, 5:31 p.m.

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) for introducing the debate with such verve. The Member whom he replaced had a similar verve when it came to animals, so there is clearly something in the way Ipswich elects people that ensures that they are animal friendly.

Like others, I place on the record my thanks to the researchers and other people who have been fighting so hard on this issue for so long. That is an aspect to which I would like to return. As the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) so ably and politely put it when mentioning it to the Minister, we have been here before. No matter how good the debate has been—this has been a very good debate—it is not the quality of the debate but the pressure on the Minister to act that we need to look at.

We have all heard this stated before, but it is true that the theft of a pet is not a simple matter of theft of an item, nor should it be treated as such by the law. It is the callous and criminal removal of a family member. It is kidnapping. It is something that strikes at the very heart of the family unit. Pet theft is a tragedy that should be measured more in emotional distress than in economic loss.

The debate has touched on not just pet theft but a number of parallel issues relating to animal welfare and protection of animals: microchipping, animal cruelty, criminal breeding, puppy farming and the import and export of animals. I think that we should not just take one item, as a line item, to look at what can be done, but recognise that pet theft plays into a much bigger concern about the future and the welfare of our animals. One of the opportunities, which has not been spoken about in the debate so far, is that of bringing together those bits of outstanding welfare legislation for which we are still waiting. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson) hinted in her remarks, there is enormous cross-party support for many of those items sitting in Ministers’ to-do trays.

I think that the approach that Ministers have adopted, especially since 2015, of parcelling up animal welfare into smaller and smaller Bills, smaller issues, and dealing with them one by one is a fantastic way of gaining headlines, but it does not deal with the comprehensive nature of some of those challenges. I encourage the Minister to look at whether animal sentience and animal welfare sentencing—assuming that there is not enough time for the Bill that was spoken about; it is due to be debated on Friday, and I hope that there will be—as well as cat microchipping and the other issues can be wrapped up together in a flagship animal welfare Bill that could be in the Queen’s Speech. I think that there would be enormous public support not just on this issue but for a whole host of other animal welfare concerns if that were the case.

A number of hon. Members spoke passionately and it is only appropriate that I mention some of them, because it does tell a story about what is going on. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), who is no longer in his place, talked about the law being sub-optimal and not working. That is a cross-party concern that was echoed right across the Chamber. The reality of it, mentioned by the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson), is that only one in five animals are returned, meaning that enormous amounts of families are without their pets each and every year. That figure is important.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Kieran Mullan) talked about the importance of the data. I agree with him on that: the stretched police resource and the real pressure on the police mean that in many cases these crimes are not being properly recorded as pet theft. They are recorded as animals going missing, or simply not at all. That is especially true of certain age groups who do not want to be a burden or to bother the authorities. They might sit at home desperately worried about their animal, but will not want to make an appeal or burden the police with it. I say to all those people who have lost or are worried about an animal to report it. Animals in animal shelters up and down the country are waiting to be reunited with people. It is important that we encourage that so that we can get the data, as mentioned by the hon. Member, to make sure that the work is being done properly.

The hon. Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers) said that pets are priceless, and indeed a number of Members have spoken today about the economic value of their own animals in this regard. A law based simply on an animal’s economic value will always discount and disregard the emotional value of that animal. A bigger change in animal welfare legislation is a theme we have seen in the past decade or so: we are recognising not just animals as little furry creatures, but their role within our families and within our society, and the values we want to attach to those animals are being reflected in the legislation that governs them. There has been a gap there, and there are opportunities to close that gap. I say to the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) that we all wish the village of Wherwell the best of luck with their endeavours in relation to finding Cleo. It is good to see so many people feeling strongly about the issue.

Animal welfare has been mentioned as a topic at the top of our inboxes. When I explain that to people, there is an element of shock and surprise in their first instant reaction, “Is it not Brexit? Is it not covid-19?” Then there is the realisation that people love animals more than they love people sometimes. It is no surprise to me that animal welfare is at the top of our agenda, and that demands that the action follows it.

As a number of Members, including the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), have hinted, when we talk about the theft of an animal we need to look at it not just in the moment of its being stolen, not just as regards the use of sophisticated machinery—as mentioned by the hon. Member for Ipswich in reference to the theft of a number of animals—and not just as being about opportunism. We also need to think about happens to the animal afterwards. I know that when someone loses an animal, they do not think about the economic cost, they worry about what is happening to that animal at that point. They worry about whether the animal is trapped somewhere. “Can’t they get out? Are they okay? Is there something I can do to safeguard and protect the animal?” The worry and concern eats away. The SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Lisa Cameron), spoke about the psychological torture at the moment of loss. That is what is so cruel about this crime, because it is torturous. It is a form of torture when we lose an animal along the way, and that needs to be properly reflected.

These petitions are good petitions. There is an enormous opportunity to do something about the situation. We know that pets are not simply possessions. Labour are sympathetic to the need to do more to tackle pet theft, including considering the possible changes in the law that have been spoken about so passionately across the Chamber today. There is an opportunity for Ministers to work with campaigners, because despite the reasons that have been discussed for the Government refusing to act so far—that sentences already exist and that there are criminal and sentencing guidelines—those measures are not working. This is a moment to look again at not just the words on the page of the guidelines, but how they are being implemented. They are not being implemented in a way that, I believe, carries public confidence in the measures. There is an opportunity to change that.

I hope that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill that has, like this debate, been seen many times before will get proper attention on Friday as a private Member’s Bill. Indeed, I have called on the Government to adopt it as a Government Bill to ensure that it has enough time, and I encourage the Minister to make sure that is the case.

My neighbour, the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) spoke passionately about the need to microchip cats. Indeed, just before the last general election some of us, in this same room, debated the need to microchip cats. That was a compelling case then, and it remains a compelling case now.

With the world in crisis, a jobs crisis looming and covid-19 taking up much of the Government’s bandwidth, how can we get animal welfare issues properly on the agenda? I say to the Minister that wrapping them together in a comprehensive animal welfare law is one way to do that, and I encourage her to include puppy smuggling as part of that. When we talk about puppy smuggling, we frequently talk about animals smuggled into the United Kingdom, but there is also the reverse trend. That is especially being used at the moment to satisfy the demand of people seeking to buy an animal during the lockdown.

We have heard a number of times during the debate about how pets offer such important companionship—they are part of the family. We know there has been a real increase in the value of animals during the lockdown, particularly dachshunds, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs and chow chows—prices have been shooting up. The price of a dachshunds has shot up by a whopping 80% since the start of the lockdown. That is a market that criminals will prey on, and I encourage the Minister to ensure that that is taken into account.

Plymouth is no different from many of the places that have been mentioned so far in the debate, and there is enormous public concern that we should not find ourselves here again in six months’ time. When the Minister addresses hon. Members’ valid and well-put concerns, I encourage her to offer reassurance that all the hundreds of thousands of people who signed the petition, including 500 people in Plymouth, will not need to sign the same petition again to get another debate in order to put pressure on a Minister to enact what is a very clear and obvious instruction from the public—indeed, from the House—that we want to see pet theft taken more seriously.

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

19 Oct 2020, 12:11 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt) on securing the debate. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie), who cannot be with us today—I know she has worked hard in this area—and all the campaigners who have worked so hard to bring us to where we are today. We should all recognise that there is a lot of heartbreak behind the debate, in addition to the happy memories that we have with our animals.

The Government understand how important pets are to the families who care for them, and we understand that this has nothing to do with their monetary values. I am the carer—I never say “owner”—of Midnight, who did not have an unbeatable start in life round the back of the local chicken factory. He was a feral stray, and he and his brother fit on my palm when they arrived. I am proud to say that he became the purr-minister several years ago; indeed, he is campaigning at the moment for his re-election. It is clear that Midnight has no monetary value whatever, but his value to me, my husband and my children is priceless.

We have heard in the debate about a number of animals who are just like Midnight. We have heard about Trigger, Milly and Louis, Ruby and Beetle, Cromwell and Bertie, Fred, Archie, Clemmie, Poppy and Ebony, Winston, Cleo, Rossy and many more. Of course these animals are precious to their owners, as all our animals are. It is a horrible thing when an animal goes missing, but it is particularly unpleasant if the owner thinks that the animal is still alive and suffering somewhere.

Before I set out the Government’s position on pet theft, I will first set out a few high-level points on the Government’s position on animal welfare. Last December, we stood on a particularly strong manifesto for animal welfare, which included commitments to introduce tougher sentences for animal cruelty, to crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies, to bring in new laws on animal sentience, to end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening, to ban the keeping of primates as pets, and to introduce cat microchipping, which is an issue that I campaigned on as a member of the all-party parliamentary group for cats—which, obviously, Midnight made me join. Those measures will build on what has already been achieved. I heard what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) said—that it might be sensible to bring such issues together in one Bill—and I hope to have some news for him in that regard before too long.

In terms of Government achievements in this area, in 2018 we replaced old laws on the regulation of pet selling, dog breeding, animal boarding, riding schools and exhibiting animals. The regulations have strict statutory minimum welfare standards that are enforced by local authorities. I am very excited about the private Member’s Bill this Friday, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill. This Bill, if passed—I very much hope it will be, and the Government are 100% committed behind it—will increase the maximum custodial penalty for animal cruelty from six months’ imprisonment to five years.

Microchipping has been rightly brought up by a number of hon. Members, and it certainly helps in the sphere of pet theft and in returning animals to their rightful place. To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West, who made specific points on dog microchipping, a review will begin shortly into the effects of the law that was brought in on the microchipping of dogs. Their points are well are well made—I will pass them on, but they will have been heard today and I am happy to follow that up specifically.

Earlier this year, there was a call for evidence on whether to bring in compulsory microchipping for cats. The responses to that call for evidence were overwhelmingly in favour of doing so. We will be publishing a summary of responses shortly, and I anticipate that we will consult on the issue very soon.

Moving on to pet theft, it is already an offence under the Theft Act 1968 and significant penalties are already possible; the difficulty is that, as so many hon. Members across the House have said, those penalties are not always used to the maximum. As we have heard, the maximum penalty is up to seven years’ imprisonment, which could go even higher if the theft occurred, as sadly they sometimes do, as part of an aggravated burglary or robbery. One difficulty is that we have limited data available to us about exactly what is happening on the ground.

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(Report stage)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

Agriculture Bill

(Consideration of Lords amendments)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12 Oct 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I agree. At least British Ministers will not have to utter the phrase, “It won’t get through Parliament,” because Parliament has, sadly, voted itself out of having a say, making it one of the few Parliaments in the world that will not have a say on any trade deals with Britain.

Let me address briefly some of the reasons the Minister gave for not supporting the amendments, because it is important that we consider the arguments. Last week I heard the International Trade Secretary say that if we have high standards, that would risk having a crippling effect on agricultural exports from developing countries such as Kenya. I know that Members are concerned about that, but the problem is that it is not right. At the moment, thanks to our membership of the EU, the Government have nine trade deals with sub-Saharan African countries, and so far not a single one of them has been rolled over. We risk losing those trade deals with sub-Saharan Africa if we do not renew them by 31 December. If we care about our agricultural exports, that should be the priority. The Minister also knows that the Government should have a better plan for improving the post-Brexit UK version of the EU’s generalised scheme of preferences, which sets lower tariffs for developing countries in exchange for meaningful protection of human rights, labour rights and the environment.

What else is used as an excuse for the Government not putting their promise into law? The Minister mentioned labelling. I have spoken proudly from this Dispatch Box about the need to buy local. I want consumers to look out for the red tractor and other local accreditations when they are making purchasing decisions. But let us be real: an extra label will not stop lower-quality food being sold in Britain. It offers a meagre apology on the packaging, but only where there is packaging. Ministers know that 50% of our agricultural production does not go into retail. It goes into food service—to cafés and restaurants, food processing and the like—where the origin of the ingredients is, at best, hidden. That is precisely where chlorinated chicken would be sold and eaten first. It would go to big caterers and into mass production—places where consumers cannot tell where their food has come from or know the standards it is produced to. It would go into hospital food and into meals for our armed forces and our schools. The Government claim that the amendment is unnecessary because standards are included in the withdrawal Act, as we have just heard. However, the EU’s import restrictions apply only to products banned on the basis of safety and, as was mentioned earlier, they do not deal with animal welfare or environmental protections, which is what this amendment seeks to do.

There is one more excuse, which has not been spoken about so far, that is absolutely key to the Government’s future trade strategy, and it is about taxes. Could not Ministers just tax these products a wee bit more with an extra couple of pence on tariffs and let the market decide? This is something I have heard and read about in Tory-leaning media, but let me be clear with Ministers, because all those in this place know what the Treasury and the Department for International Trade are planning. Charging a few extra pence on lower-standard food import tariffs while public anger is at its highest will give Ministers a convenient soundbite to offer a nation ill at ease with the Government’s policy. They will then be able to drop those tariffs through secondary legislation when the anger dies down. The end result will be that we still have chlorinated chicken and food produced to lower standards on sale, whether it is for a few pence more or a few pence less. That will not stop those products being sold in the United Kingdom. It will authorise and legitimise it, and it will sign the death warrant for farm businesses the nation over. That is why we want these standards put into law.

In the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, it is imperative that we have a clear road map for agriculture to reach net zero. The NFU has done a good job in its work so far, and I want to thank farmers for the efforts they are making to cut carbon emissions, which are a sizeable chunk of UK emissions. That is why we back efforts to have clear, sector-specific plans that farmers can follow, and we also back efforts including the amendment tabled by Lord Whitty in the other place on pesticides. That matters because of the impact not only on the environment but on human health.

I fear that, in seeking to disagree with these amendments tonight, the Government might be trying to hint at the Salisbury convention, which is that the other place should not interfere with manifesto commitments. However, the Lords are doing something different from that: they are doing a reverse Salisbury. They are asking the Government to stick to their manifesto commitments. In such circumstances, the Salisbury principle does not apply, and the Lords should ask the Commons to reconsider these amendments on food safety and on the Trade and Agriculture Commission again—and again, if necessary. Every time this House votes on these amendments, more and more farmers will be looking at the voting list to see which Members support the farmers and which have chosen not to. We cannot take any votes for granted, and I warn Conservative Members against doing so.

Just last week the Leader of the Opposition and I visited the farm of the NFU president, Minette Batters, in Wiltshire. That was our second meeting with the NFU president in a month, but the Prime Minister still refuses to meet her. I would be grateful if the Minister could pull a few strings to get the PM to meet farmers to talk about this issue.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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12 Oct 2020, 6:58 p.m.

I believe that the president of the NFU will be visiting Downing Street later this week.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12 Oct 2020, 6:58 p.m.

Where the Leader of the Opposition leads, the Government follow. I am grateful for that. That visit to Wiltshire was not in vain, I see—[Interruption.]

What kind of country do we want to be? [Interruption.] I do not think that a country whose MPs shout at each other in a debate like this is a country that is good—[Interruption.] I have not heard that from this side and I encourage those on the Conservative side to recognise that as well. There are people watching this debate in farming communities up and down the country. They are tuning into BBC Parliament and parliamentlive.tv for the first ever time, and they should see parliamentarians performing at our best in this debate.

I want Britain to be a nation of quality—[Interruption.] Let me start that again, because the people at home might not have heard me over the chuntering. I want Britain to be a nation of quality, of high standards, of ethical treatment of animals and of stewardship of our landscapes; a custodian of high environmental standards; and a nation that challenges other nations to compete with us fiercely but to do so on a level playing field. I want Britain to be a beacon country with our values proudly on show, not just in soundbites and manifestos, but in our laws, trade deals and behaviours. That is what the amendments on food standards seek to achieve. It is a moral compass that this Agriculture Bill desperately needs.a It is because of that, and because Labour backs our farmers, that we have voted at every opportunity against the Bill, which singularly fails to protect our farmers from being undercut by food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards abroad. Our farmers are not afraid of competition but, when we maintain high standards for them but allow potentially food produced at lower standards to be imported, that is unfair. It is not a level playing field. That food would be illegal for British farmers to produce here, but somehow it would be okay to have it through the back door. That cannot be allowed and that is why our food standards must be put into law.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(8 months ago)

Public Bill Committees

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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 2:24 p.m.

I agree with the key point the right hon. Gentleman makes because, as a west country MP, I see an awful lot of dumpy boats around the west country that have been adjusted to be as broad as they possibly can while still coming under the designated length, be that 10, 12 or 14 metres or whatever. I share his concern about retrofits to fishing boats; in particular, he will know of my concern about retrofits to boats that do not come with the latest stability features, so that the retrofitting not only avoids certain fisheries regulations, which is the point he is making, but also potentially poses a greater safety risk to the lives of the crew, if they were to go over, and of those volunteers tasked with saving them in such an event.

I take the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. However, when it comes to banning supertrawlers, although I know that the amendment that Labour tabled mentioned supertrawlers over 100 metres, he will be aware that there is a debate about whether a supertrawler at 90 metres is also sufficiently sized. To a certain extent, that is a moot point, because as he will know the oceans treaty that his Government have signed up to effectively seeks to ban all extractive activity in marine protected areas by 2030, working on the assumption that marine protected areas will be the ones that would become highly protected marine areas. I hope there is a strong case for that status being given to Wembury bay, around the coast from Plymouth. The Minister will know it. It has a beautiful diverse marine environment, and would be an effective highly protected marine area; it does not necessarily enjoy all the protections of other classifications at the moment. There is some wiggle room there.

The key point of the new clause is to seek clarity from the Minister and the Government on the journey ahead. My fear is that we will not see a clear plan produced, or a part two of the Benyon review. I would like Richard Benyon recommissioned to start a part two, because the questions of how an area is designated, and how commercial and recreational fishers are included in the process, are essential. The UK Government must not renege on their 2030 treaty obligations because they did not put in the advance work, and we must not have a rush to designate in the lead-up to 2030 that does not adequately take into account the livelihoods of fishers, who otherwise could have been supported for a period through re-zoning of fishing activity. That is the purpose of the new clause. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about it.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The Government are pushing internationally for a global target of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030. We were pleased to read the report on highly protected marine areas from the independent review panel, chaired by Richard Benyon. I have also enjoyed some fairly lively meetings with stakeholders, to listen to their views about the recommendations of the review. As we have said, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working closely with other Government Departments and is considering its response to the report’s recommendations. We will publish that response in due course. I am unable to give a better timetable than that, I am afraid, but work is ongoing. The Government are interested in the proposals for highly protected marine areas. In the Secretary of State’s recent speech on environmental recovery, he announced his intention to pilot highly protected marine areas.

To answer some of the hon. Gentleman’s questions, all extractive activities are not compatible with the aims for the areas. The review panel did not make specific recommendations on pilot sites. The review recommended that the Government consider social and economic factors when identifying sites, in order to minimise any negative effects for stakeholders, and it also recommended transparency, as well as early, continuous and, of course, honest engagement with a range of stakeholders when considering highly protected marine area sites. If the Government do decide to introduce HPMAs, we will work with our arm’s length bodies and stakeholders to identify where the pilots should be, and will consult honestly and frankly with those affected as soon as we can before designation. If we decide to go down the HPMA route, we will certainly carry out a full public consultation before putting any pilots in place. I ask that the new clause be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid I did not get the answers that I was looking for from the Minister with regard to a commitment and a timetable. I am grateful for the commitment she has given on consultation, but I will push the new clause to a vote.

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

--- Later in debate ---
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, midnight

I take the point, although it is brave of any Conservative MP to talk about rule breaking at the moment.

Returning to the issue at hand, rather than the game playing, it is important that we look at this issue. That is why in proposed new clause 13(6) we say that there must be “sufficient resources” available for proper enforcement, including

“an appropriate number of vessels…an appropriate number of personnel, and…any of other resource”

that is needed, such as new aerial assets and drones, as we have discussed. Joining together our Royal Navy assets, coastguard assets, the enforcement activities of the devolved nations, electronic monitoring systems, automatic identification systems and other electronic tracking systems gives us the ability to track vessels as well as giving us a better understanding of the reality at sea. That is important.

Frequently, in regulatory terms, there has been an idea that when a fishing boat leaves port some of the rules will not be enforced, even if it undertakes activities incorrectly. As we have seen, there is an appetite among fishers, coastal communities and the people we represent to ensure that fishing activities at sea are legal, sustainable and fair when distributed between British and foreign boats in our waters. At the moment, that is not the view of many fishers in the west country. There seems to be a bias towards prosecuting British boats rather than foreign boats that are potentially in breach. I encourage the Minister to look at the enforcement priorities of the authorities when she has a moment.

All of those who feed into enforcement need to ensure that people are playing by the rules; I do not think people are doing that at the moment. There needs to be sufficient enforcement of the standard that we want. As we become a newly independent coastal state, the message about our values and enforcement that we send now will be one that we are judged against in the future. I want the Government to use the powers that they already have and have had for many years—not new powers that may be afforded to them by any negotiations—to ensure sufficient enforcement of our marine laws, to make sure there is no bias in favour of prosecuting British boats at the expense of rule-breaking foreign boats in our waters, and that we have a higher standard regime for safety enforcement.

Many non-departmental bodies that the Minister has in her remit have an important role in sending messages about stability tests, proper training and wearing lifejackets, as well as the issues that she spoke about relating to discards and other matters. I am keen to hear what the Minister has to say.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, midnight

In England, enforcement of fisheries legislation is a statutory function of the MMO. A copy of the MMO’s annual report must be laid before Parliament and there is scrutiny of what enforcement is being carried out. Although it is good to have encouragement from the hon. Gentleman in this area, I would like to reassure him that there is no need for that encouragement, as this is an issue we take very seriously. Parliamentary questions about enforcement are regularly asked in both Houses, and senior leaders of the MMO have given evidence to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. There is a great deal of scrutiny of their activities.

Since the UK voted to leave the EU and become an independent coastal state, the Government have taken significant steps to ensure the UK can enforce the new fishing rights. Those include—with respect to England via the MMO—doubling the number of warranted enforcement officers to over 100, chartering two offshore commercial vessels in addition to the Royal Navy Overseas Patrol Squadron, and procuring 140 aerial surveillance flights for the period of January to March 2021. Those increases in resources are the result of the latest requirement assessment, based on the MMO’s compliance and enforcement strategy, which has been published on gov.uk.

Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, enforcement of fisheries legislation is devolved. It is and will continue to be for each devolved Administration to decide how best to control its waters. DEFRA and the MMO work with fisheries administrations from the devolved Administrations to utilise available resources, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence, Department for Transport and other agencies. This ensures that UK Government Departments are increasingly joined up in maximising our maritime capability, including fisheries protection. Given that we feel this new clause duplicates policy and procedure, I ask that it be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for setting that out. I agree that there has been a great deal of scrutiny, but that scrutiny has found enforcement gaps, enforcement problems and a lower number of interventions and hours at sea. There is more work to be done there, but on the basis that we have discussed this and the Minister can be in no doubt that there is a better job to be done than is done already, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 14

Expert advisory council on fisheries

“(1) The Secretary of State must establish a body called the Expert Advisory Council on Fisheries for the purpose of exercising the functions in subsections (4) to (6).

(2) The Expert Advisory Council on Fisheries shall consist of as many people as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(3) Before appointing any person to the Expert Advisory Council, the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) the other fisheries policy authorities;

(b) inshore fisheries and conservation authorities;

(c) fishing industry representatives;

(d) representatives of the 10m and under fishing sector;

(e) recreational fishing representatives;

(f) environmental organisations;

(g) fish processors;

(h) port representatives;

(i) local government representatives; and

(j) any other such organisations as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(4) The Secretary of State must have regard to the advice of the Expert Advisory Council on Fisheries before—

(a) publishing or amending a Secretary of State fisheries statement,

(b) making or withdrawing a determination of fishing opportunities under Section 24, and

(c) making any regulations under this Act.

(5) The Secretary of State shall publish the Expert Advisory Council on Fisheries’ assessment, for a calendar year, of the state of UK fisheries, including—

(a) current stocks and their sustainability,

(b) species distribution within the Exclusive Economic Zone,

(c) the status of employment and skills in the fishing industry,

(d) the take-up of fishing industry job opportunities by school and college leavers,

(e) present total catches and future projected total catches, by both volume and monetary value, and

(f) the economic and social value and impact of the fishing industry on coastal communities.

(6) The first annual assessment under subsection (5) shall be published within 12 months of this section coming into force, and each subsequent assessment must be published within 12 months of the previous such assessment.

(7) For a calendar year, no determination may be made under section 24 until the annual assessment under subsection (5) has been published for that year.” —(Stephanie Peacock.)

This new clause would place a duty on the Secretary of State to establish an Expert Advisory Council on Fisheries, and would provide for the Council’s membership and functions.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I agree entirely. Plymouth’s plan for fish has a similar focus on marine skills, and again, if the hon. Member for Waveney were here, he would no doubt be talking about the skills in the Renaissance of the East Anglian Fisheries project. What is happening here, though—this is a good example—is that the responsibility for workforce is being shifted to local authorities and local initiatives, and is not part of a national strategy. If it is happening in certain communities, we can presume that it is not happening in others, and sharing best practice, though important, is no substitute for a national lead that would create such a strategy and make skills workforce development easier for people to undertake.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

We can all agree that attracting skills and talent is crucial to realising our ambitions for a thriving modern fisheries sector. Seafish undertakes a great deal of work promoting careers, as well as safety training, in the seafood sector, which includes providing a range of training courses and materials for new and more established members of the industry. It also established the Young Seafood Leaders Network in October 2018 to share best practice and innovation and develop leadership skills.

However, bringing new entrants into the industry remains a challenge. A Seafish study from July 2019 showed that many young people see jobs in seafood as low-skilled, unexciting and focused on handling fish. In response to this, Seafish has developed a range of materials to help improve understanding of the range of employment opportunities that exist, including case studies of women in the industry.

In England, we are closely engaged with the recommendations made in the Seafood 2040 strategic framework. That initiative includes the delivery of a single, cross-sector seafood training and skills plan, aiming to support businesses in the seafood supply chain and recruit and retain workers with suitable skills. Helping safeguard the industry’s future by encouraging new entrants is very important, and we will be looking at how we can best encourage that as part of our work to reform the fisheries management regime.

The funding powers in the Bill, contained in clause 35 and schedule 6, will allow the Government to support the reorganisation, development and promotion of fishing. That will really benefit commercial communities, and will also support training for those who fish. Given all that, I ask that the hon. Lady withdraw the motion.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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15 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

This is a really important new clause, and I hope the Minister thinks strongly about adopting it. We do not eat enough local fish, and it was universally agreed on Second Reading that we need to eat more. As part of that, we need to buy more local fish. The public sector—the UK’s largest fish buyer—has the potential, as the national caterer, to buy more local fish.

Marine Stewardship Council certification of UK stocks is not as high as we would like it to be, and the opportunity to have more sustainable fish stocks should also mean the opportunity for more Government procurement. It seems odd that, at the moment, the fish eaten in our prisons, Government offices, schools and hospitals is frequently foreign fish because our own fish do not adhere to the sustainability standards. I am sure the Minister wants to change that.

If the UK Government were to lead by example and set an objective as part of the procurement report that the shadow fisheries Minister set out, they would also encourage more private sector buyers to buy more British fish, because that would support domestic infrastructure for processing and the onward distribution of fish in the UK.

On Second Reading, I challenged UK supermarkets to buy more British fish, and asked them to write to me to set out how they planned to do so. I fear that the supermarkets’ monitoring of parliamentary debates may be a little faulty, because not a single one has yet put pen to paper to set out how that might happen. Hopefully, the Minister will set out how the Government intend to buy more British fish, and at the same time will encourage UK supermarkets, which could, after the lead of the UK Government, provide the biggest boost for our domestic fishers.

At a time when international markets are disrupted—they could be disrupted further, given what may follow the no-deal Brexit that we seem to be heading towards—the ability for UK supermarkets and the UK public sector to buy more British fish would be enormously helpful.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

We are in no doubt, on both sides of the House, that we want everybody to buy more British fish. The Government have a manifesto commitment on that:

“When we leave the EU, we will be able to encourage the public sector to ‘Buy British’ to support our farmers and reduce environmental costs.”

Our future policy will undoubtedly reflect that commitment.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East referred to the existing guidance—the Government buying standards for food and catering services. That is mandatory, and if she has examples of non-compliance, I encourage her to let me know very shortly. The Government are determined to create an environment where our farmers and food producers are supported in accessing public sector contracts and providing outstanding home-grown produce to high environmental standards. That helps to meet wider Government policy objectives, such as supporting local communities, encouraging healthier diets and improving sustainability.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

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

This brief new clause would require the Government to publish a report into the distant water fleet. On a recent visit to Hull, I spoke to a number of fishers from UK Fisheries who are part of that fleet.

It may be useful for new Committee members to understand what a distant water fleet is. Historically, the UK fished in distant waters, especially around Iceland, Norway, Greenland and other places. It was in those waters that we developed a taste for the white fish that still makes up the vast majority of our imports, and from which the white fish for fish and chips largely still comes. As those nations took back control of their own waters and pushed our boats out of them—as part of the cod wars that I am sure all hon. Members are familiar with—distant water fishing opportunities declined, and with them, sadly, many of our fishing ports that relied on the distant water fleet, especially along the east coast in places such as Hull and Grimsby.

A small distant water fleet remains. The Minister knows that I want more fishers to land their fish in UK waters. Whether they are UK boats or UK flagged boats, if they are using any quota that has been given to the UK, I want that fish to be landed in UK ports. Notwithstanding that, the new clause seeks to encourage the Minister to ensure that in the negotiations taking place with our EU friends, the quota available for the distant water fleet that is currently UK flagged still has the opportunity to continue fishing in those waters.

In the Norway-EU agreement, for instance, the UK has approximately 50% of the available quota. Norway has said: “Brexit is your problem to sort out. We’ve allocated our quota to you guys. You sort it out between you.” That is perhaps fair-minded of it and not unreasonable, but in making the case for a distant water fleet to preserve that quota, I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed, first, that that is part of the fisheries negotiations; secondly, that conversations are taking place with the distant water fleet; and thirdly, that the Minister and her Department have had opportunities to encourage the distant water fleet to genuinely build an economic link with UK ports, particularly on the east coast, and ensure that it is not just flying a UK flag for convenience and that it is landing more fish.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The Government are holding formal negotiations with Norway and the Faroe Islands and engaging in discussions with other relevant countries, such as Iceland and Greenland. The UK is close—very close—to agreeing a fisheries framework of agreements with Norway and the Faroe Islands. Those agreements will provide a framework for the annual negotiations on fishing opportunities and access.

The Marine Management Organisation already reports on a large amount of the information sought by the new clause, including data on catches, quota uptake and value. I note the desire of hon. Members to be further informed about negotiations, and although I understand that, I should say that the negotiations are fluid at the moment. We will, of course, inform the House as soon as we can.

A report as specific as that sought by the new clause would be unlikely to deliver much gain at the moment, in the context of those extremely fluid, live negotiations. Reporting would be required on a likely minimum of 200 UK vessels of more than 24 metres in length that fish in non-UK waters. There is also ambiguity in the new clause about assessing commercial health and economic sustainability, which I think would be very difficult to action in practice. I therefore ask that the motion be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 19

Report on fish caught in UK waters but landed abroad

‘(1) Within 12 months of this Act being passed and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report stating—

(a) what fish have been caught within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone but landed at ports outside the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey; and

(b) why such fish were not landed at a port in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey.’—(Luke Pollard.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 3:09 p.m.

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

The new clause, which is consistent with the case made by Labour Members in Committee, would create an evidence base for the missing fish that our coastal ports are denied when it is landed in foreign ports. We know that Conservative MPs have voted down Labour’s jobs in coastal communities amendments, favouring the landing of fish in foreign ports rather than British ports. That does not create jobs in Grimsby, Hull, Plymouth, Newlyn, Portavogie and elsewhere.

The new clause seeks to understand how much fish caught under a UK quota is being landed in foreign ports. As set out by the shadow fisheries Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East, for every job at sea, there are 10 jobs on the shore. Landing more fish in our coastal communities creates more jobs in them, and creates the opportunity for more fish to be sold in the UK, supporting our domestic industry. The report proposed by the new clause, which would only create the evidence base for missing fish, would hopefully inform that debate.

When the Government voted against the jobs in coastal communities amendment that would have required two thirds of fish caught under a UK quota to be landed in British ports, I told the Minister that that would not be the end of the matter. Indeed, she should expect Labour to continue campaigning for the creation of jobs in coastal communities, especially given the jobs crisis that they face in particular. The new clause would create an evidence base, and it is hard to disagree with the merit of that. The promise of more jobs that was made to our coastal communities—with Brexit and with more fish being landed—can be realised only if more fish is actually landed.

Although the Minister and I are perhaps not on exactly the same page on the negotiations, she has a wee advantage over me as she knows what is going on— I hope so, anyway. But whether or not we get more fish, we still need to focus on creating support for our domestic industry. The new clause would require Ministers to produce a report setting out how much fish caught in our exclusive economic zone is landed in ports outside the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, and to investigate why that fish was not landed in ports in the United Kingdom. To realise the benefits of landing more fish in the United Kingdom, we need to strengthen that economic link. It is important that Parliament has a voice on the public asset test.

I am grateful for the evidence that has been submitted even though we did not have an evidence session, and I note that the Clerk has been busy forwarding it to the Committee. Some of the evidence arrived after the objectives were debated by the Committee, so we have not had a chance to integrate it all fully, but one particular point is worth highlighting. Professor Richard Barnes, of Lincoln University, correctly points out in his submission that assuming that fish are already a public asset is incorrect, and that there is nothing about that in the Magna Carta, as many people think there is. There is nothing about it in international law necessarily —not that that is relevant here. He states:

“FQAs do not establish…stewardship responsibilities”,

and that fish are in effect private property through quota. He goes on:

“Establishing that fish are a public asset would be a critical first step in establishing a stewardship framework for fishing in the UK. It would create an opportunity for engagement in ongoing debates and decisions about how best to manage a valuable public good.”

It is a shame to miss out on that evidence. Are fish to be a public asset? The Minister voted down that amendment, but in effect she said that fish should be one and should be managed in that way. If so, an important part of the evidence base is to have an understanding of how much of that public asset derives an economic benefit to the UK and how much of it is deriving a considerable economic benefit to our European friends. We have no such understanding simply because Ministers have not yet chosen to use the powers they already have, whether in primary legislation or through licensing.

Should the Minister be thinking about adjusting the requirement to land more fish in British ports through the licence, having taken note of Labour’s amendment that was defeated—seeking to introduce the policy without giving the Opposition a win, so to speak—an evidence base would be important. That is what the report seeks to achieve.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 3:11 p.m.

Far from being missing, those fish are included in the statistics published by the Marine Management Organisation on the landings of fish by UK vessels as part of its annual report. The statistics include the ports and countries into which a catch is landed. Conservative Members are determined to support the UK fishing industry to get the best price for what it catches. The Government are clear that UK-registered vessels that fish against UK quota must demonstrate a link to the economy of the UK.

As I said last week, we will soon consult on proposals to strengthen the economic link to England, but those proposals will not mean that all catch must be landed into the UK, because we recognise that for some vessels it is more practical, sustainable or financially beneficial to land abroad. Our proposals do not mean that the Government will seek justification from vessel owners for their private and undoubtedly well-reasoned business decisions, which might be market sensitive and to do with the price that they can get for their catch.

The reasons why fish will be landed elsewhere relate primarily to price and market. Sometimes landing outside the UK will be necessary for safety reasons—for example, in a storm or because of mechanical issues. The new clause is not necessary, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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15 Sep 2020, 3:13 p.m.

I will take up that opportunity, Sir Charles.

I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that the MMO publishes those statistics. As a recent response of hers to a parliamentary question showed, however, 50% of cod catches do not have a sales note registered, so how convinced is she that the MMO has the ability to track accurately what of the UK total allowable catch is caught and landed? That is why an evidence base is important.

I do not think the Minister has given an adequate reason for why there should not be a report into fish caught abroad. We are missing fish still from our economy. We do not have a strong enough economic link. UK ports are missing out on fish that could be landed in our ports. I encourage the Minister to borrow as much Labour policy as she possibly can from our jobs and coastal communities amendment, as I suspect she will. [Interruption.] A set of Conservative MPs are huffing and hawing about the idea, but I suspect that, in the weeks and months ahead, we will see the Minister in effect cutting and pasting large parts of our amendments.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 3:14 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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15 Sep 2020, 3:14 p.m.

I am happy to give way—it is important to do so.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 3:14 p.m.

I can find no other mechanism to answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions. We discussed this measure fully last week. He knows that we will consult on proposals for landing requirements. I look forward to working across the House with all those who have proposals in this area, but I will not accept that 100% of UK vessels’ catch will have to be landed in the UK. Conservative Members wish to support the fishing industry, and we do that best by letting them land where they can get the best price, where that is appropriate.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did not detect a question in that intervention, so I am not sure I can reply. However, I would not want the Minister to be under a misapprehension about Labour policy. I believe she was attempting to paint a picture that Labour were suggesting that 100% of fish should be landed under a UK quota. She will know, because I am sure she has read the new clause and no doubt seen the considerable amount of media coverage in coastal communities on it, that we have suggested that two thirds of fish caught under a UK quota should be landed in a UK port.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(8 months 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 (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for listening, and agreeing to the amendments that were tabled, effectively, by Labour, in the previous iteration of the Bill, for protection of marine archaeology. Today, through these amendments, we are making the case for additional powers for the Government to ensure that marine archaeology is protected. I uage the Minister to adopt them in the good spirit in which they have been tabled.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I thank the hon. Members for Barnsley East and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. The issue is an important one, but we do not feel that the additional powers in the amendment are needed. I want to reassure Members that, while it is not explicit in clause 38 or schedule 8, the provisions are already wide enough to include making regulations to protect these features.

Regulations can be made under clause 38 and schedule 8 for a conservation purpose, including

“the purpose of protecting the marine and aquatic environment from the effects of fishing or aquaculture, or of related activities”.

The marine and aquatic environment in the context of the Bill is defined in clause 51 as including

“features of archaeological or historic interest”,

which means that clause 38 may be used to amend or introduce legislation to protect those sites individually or collectively. With those assurances I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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These are technical amendments, which I commend to the Committee.

Amendment 51 agreed to.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 98, in schedule 9, page 95, line 16, leave out “and” and insert “or”.

This amendment would enable the Marine Management Organisation to make byelaws to protect marine features in circumstances where the need for protection is not urgent.

The amendment is designed to strengthen provisions already in the Bill. It ensures more protections for sea features by changing an “and” to an “or”, so that a feature can be exempted from the MMO byelaws if there is an urgent need or if the Secretary of State sees fit to do so. It also removes Whitehall red tape by allowing the MMO to designate a protected sea feature if there is an urgent need to do so. I hope the Minister will accept this friendly amendment.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

However friendly it is, I feel that the amendment would duplicate powers elsewhere in the Bill. Paragraph 11 of schedule 9 to the Bill adds new section 129B to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, giving the MMO the power to make byelaws to conserve marine features in the English offshore region where the need for protection is not urgent. For any urgent need to protect a marine feature, the Bill provides the power to make emergency byelaws through paragraph 13 of schedule 9. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 52, in schedule 9, page 96, line 37, leave out “2010 (S.I. 2010/940)” and insert “2017 (S.I. 2017/1012)”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This technical amendment updates a cross reference to a set of regulations so that it refers to the current version.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The schedule, which is introduced by clause 46, will ensure that the MMO is able to operate outside UK waters. It defines the scope of procedure for creating byelaws or orders within UK waters, either by the MMO in England or by Ministers in Scotland and Wales, for the purposes of protecting, conserving, enhancing and restoring the UK’s marine environment.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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As I say repeatedly, this wonderful Fisheries Bill prohibits any commercial fishing vessel, including a foreign-registered vessel, from fishing in UK waters without a licence. It provides powers, as the hon. Gentleman said, to attach conditions to those fishing vessels, such as the areas that can be fished, the species that can be caught and the type of fishing gear that can be used. Foreign vessels operating in our waters will have to follow UK rules, including any conditions attached to their commercial fishing licence.

To briefly answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions, the MMO will be responsible for enforcement as we go forward with the powers in the Bill. Schedule 9 byelaws will apply to both UK and foreign boats. More than 90 marine protected areas in English inshore waters already have byelaws in place to protect them from damaging fishing activity.

On the hon. Gentleman’s main point, which was about speed, we aim to make rapid progress in protecting more sites from damaging fishing once the transition period ends. We cannot do it before the end of the transition period, but I assure him that we wish to move speedily afterwards, and we will then have the new byelaw powers proposed in the Fisheries Bill.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I think there is agreement across the House that we want to see further environmental protection from 1 January. Will the Minister deal specifically with the issue of consultation? There is nothing that prevents her Department or the MMO from starting consultations on those proper protections before the end of the Brexit transition period. It could save time and preserve many of those marine environments if those consultations were to start this side of the Brexit transition period, not the other side.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

The hon. Gentleman is very impatient. We have, I think, 108 days left until the end of the transition period and we have a great deal to do, including passing this piece of legislation. He makes an important point, though, so I will reassure him that the new procedures will be much quicker than those under the common fisheries policy, where member state agreement had to be obtained for management measures; that took a considerable period of time.

I have no doubt that the byelaw process will be much quicker, but, as has often been said on the Opposition side of the House, there is a balance to be struck between rigour and speed in all things. I can definitely reassure the hon. Gentleman that leaving the CFP gives us the opportunity to introduce a sustainable and responsible fisheries policy, which will enable us to put proper byelaws in place.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 9, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Clause 47

Retained direct EU legislation: minor and consequential amendments

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

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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As I have said repeatedly, the Government are committed to ensuring that our stocks are fished sustainably. We are working towards ending the wasteful practice of discarding. The EU’s landing obligation requires all stocks subject to catch limits to be landed and counted against quota. There are a number of limited exemptions to that blanket ban that permit a limited level of discarding for certain stocks under strict conditions and with scientific evidence to show that they will not have a detrimental impact on the stock as a whole. The flexibility provided by those scientifically justified exemptions is an important tool in addressing the risk of choke, especially in our very mixed fisheries.

These discard plans will form part of retained EU law. A number of exemptions are due to expire at the end of this year and needed further evidence to ensure that they are still justified. We now have the evidence, so we have decided to use this Bill to extend those exemptions from January. That was—I will be completely honest about this—to reduce pressure on an already tight secondary legislation timetable between now and the end of the year. I am conscious that, even in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, we have a large number of statutory instruments that we need in place in the next 108 days. This is merely to assist with the passage of legislation. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The Opposition have no problems with amendments 59, 60 or even 53, which we will discuss shortly. The Minister talked about crowbarring statutory instrument content into primary legislation to speed up the process, but I ask her to be very careful with that approach. There are real democratic issues of scrutiny and oversight relating to that, because of the lack of scrutiny of this Government amendment, which was tabled after the publication of the Bill. We do not necessarily have any problems with that, but a stand-alone statutory instrument would go through a clear process and further stakeholder scrutiny.

It is important that Ministers do not get too attached to this method. Although I do not see too many problems with the content of the amendments, there is a risk that, if this method is used more frequently, the lack of oversight will produce a polluted statute book. As the Minister knows, that is something that I feel very strongly about. We have already removed statutory instruments that I cautioned about in Committee with this legislation. There is a democratic issue that needs to be addressed. I am not opposing the Government amendments, but I am keen that the approach that has been taken is not used subsequently.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I have absolutely no intention of making this normal practice; I felt it necessary to explain to the Committee honestly and openly what is being done. These provisions will exist for only a year after the end of the transition period. I am extremely keen on legislative purity—I was a proud member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments for many years—and I feel that what we have done is acceptable in this context. With that in mind, I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Amendment 59 agreed to.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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15 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I think there is different regulation for enforcement; this is on access. Amendment 109 seeks to clarify the difference between a British fishing vessel and an English fishing vessel. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the devolution agreements enable the fisheries authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to have a slightly different view from the one we hold in England—and I mean England, rather than Britain, because Britain and England are different things. As an English MP, I find it frustrating that “England” and “Britain” are used interchangeably. They represent different geographies and identifies, and we should be unafraid of speaking about England more frequently. The Bill has an English problem, because it makes a distinction between Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and UK fishing boats, but it does not deal with English fishing boats. That is an issue of identity that we need to come to.

Amendment 109 seeks to set out clearly that clause 48 applies to English fishing boats. It would thus deal with the devolution concern expressed by our SNP colleague, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, which the Minister will no doubt address. These amendments teach us all the lesson that devolution-compliant amendments are much more complicated to draft, but it is important that we take time to draft them in such a way that they respect the devolution agenda. That is not just about making sure that our friends in Cardiff, Belfast and Holyrood are comfortable; provisions must work for the English as well, which is what the amendment seeks to ensure.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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“English fishing boat” and “British fishing boat” are already defined in clause 51, so we feel that the amendments are unnecessary. The Bill already contains powers to take necessary action, such as introducing the mandatory roll-out of REM, for English vessels and in English waters.

I will answer a few others points raised by the hon. Gentleman. On the introduction of regulations for monitoring compliance of personal flotation devices, as we discussed last week, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has fully implemented the legislation relating to the International Labour Organisation’s work on fishing conventions. Among other things, that makes the use of personal flotation devices necessary.

I am aware of the Seafish issue, but I reassure the hon. Gentleman that Seafish has worked collaboratively with the MCA on this matter, and the MCA is satisfied that Seafish has taken all necessary steps and did not promote unsafe or incorrect practices. There are other opportunities for checking whether flotation devices are being worn, and worn correctly: the MCA uses aircraft that can now identify vessels on which the crew are not wearing personal flotation devices, and take appropriate enforcement action.

We must all be open to innovation as times move, and we should take steps to find better ways of doing things. The upcoming call for evidence on REM is a first step in opening that dialogue. It is right that we wait for the results of our call for evidence and consultation before we commit to one approach. That will ensure that we have an approach that suits the fishing industry as well as our marine environment. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the basis that we will revisit this matter when the consultation concludes, as well as in later amendments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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We feel that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. The CFP imposed very inflexible measures that quickly went out of date, and we now have the opportunity to change that. It is important that we do not prescribe one specific action in the Bill, when we very much hope that science and technology will move on and enable us to deal with the problem in a variety of ways. I urge the Committee to agree that the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, midnight

Remote electronic monitoring and cameras on boats are a practical and cost-effective fisheries management tool that brings many benefits. The Lords’ addition of the clause improves the Bill considerably, and I will explain why. Robust and verifiable data helps to inform scientific modelling. Many times, fishers have told me that they know that there are more fish out there than the science says, and we need to ensure that the data deficiency, gap and lag between collection and utilisation is reduced as much as possible. Providing assurances to seafood supply chains that seafood is being supplied and sustainably and legally sourced is an important part of that, which the clause seeks to address. It has the potential to transform UK fishing by providing the data needed to unlock the economic, environmental and social benefits of well-managed and sustainable fisheries, which will in turn help our fisheries and coastal communities to thrive.

The Secretary of State commented on Second Reading that the Government would be able to

“increase the use of remote electronic monitoring, which we will be able to do once we have a greater understanding of how it would be deployed.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 69.]

Trials of REM have been under way in the UK for some time, including voluntary schemes run by the MMO since 2011. It has been successfully implemented in other countries, particularly Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Scottish Government have indicated support for REM, and said that they would support the REM amendment if it were devolution-compliant, as we spoke about when debating the previous set of amendments. The Government need to show leadership and commit to introduce REM via the Bill. It will set a clear direction of travel and a level playing field for all fishing vessels fishing in UK waters. It is important that it be for all fishing vessels, so that British boats are not, as I mentioned, held to a higher and therefore more expensive standard than foreign boats that are allowed to fish in our waters.

REM will also make our regulatory obligations as a coastal state, under the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, much easier. We have an enforcement problem and an enforcement gap. The Minister might not use those words, but she is aware that we have a problem enforcing our fisheries rules in the UK. There are insufficient resources focused on enforcement at present, let alone to deal with territorial disputes or access difficulties that might arise after 1 January next year. Remote electronic monitoring could help reduce the problem for Ministers.

I am concerned that the resources provided to the Royal Navy—for example, for English enforcement in English waters—will be insufficient. I support what the Minister has said about additional aerial methods. Indeed, one of the counterintuitive aspects of increased enforcement is that we might not need more boats, but we will definitely need more aerial assets. The combination of those assets is what makes the enforcement a key part of this endeavour.

It is recognised by all involved that REM provides an important and powerful tool in supporting fisheries enforcement. The question is how that is implemented and included in the Bill. Indeed, the UK is leading in the use of satellite technology to support fisheries enforcement through the satellite applications catapult project. Given that we are aware of problems and gaps in enforcement capacity, and that we have a solution, there is a strong argument for requiring such measures to form a part of the enforcement framework under fisheries law in the UK, and to be part of the framework setting. That is why it is important that that be in the Fisheries Bill. The UK could demonstrate leadership in fisheries regulation and be world leading in this area.

I am in favour of strong data protection regulations to stop remote electronic monitoring being exploited, as I know the Minister is, and the concerns of fishers are understandable. One of the concerns that I hear is about how REM sits with automatic identification systems and some monitoring systems, especially those that show a fishing boat going back and forth on its track, which shows that it has found fish. That encourages other fishers to try to locate the fish found by the boat. We are aware that some of our fishers sometimes turn their systems off to prevent their location being tracked. In the previous iteration of the Fisheries Bill, and certainly in subsequent Delegated Legislation debates, the Minister gave commitments that although the new vessel monitoring systems would prevent fishers having their position shared, authorities could still pick up on the sharing of those positions to ensure that enforcement action took place.

Other important aspects of remote electronic monitoring is cameras on boats and the wearing of lifejackets. Remote electronic monitoring is not just about positioning; it is about cameras on boats. A safety aspect can be included here. If a camera, regardless of whether it is live-monitored or has its footage held in the cloud, is pointing at someone, they are much more likely to obey the regulations, wear a lifejacket and behave in a legal manner. Lifejackets are still not worn properly right across United Kingdom fisheries waters, but they need to be.

It is curious to look at what Ministers have said about closed circuit television in slaughterhouses, which is a parallel issue. Speaking in debate on the draft Mandatory Use of Closed Circuit Television in Slaughterhouses (England) Regulations 2018, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:

“Access to CCTV recordings for monitoring, verification and enforcement purposes is essential, and will be especially useful where the official veterinarian undertakes other duties in the slaughterhouse and does not directly witness all incidents.”—[Official Report, Second Delegated Legislation Committee, 30 April 2018; c. 4.]

Although that is in the slaughterhouse context, the fishing boat context is parallel, as is well supported.

If the Minister will not support the clause, which was added by our friends in the other place, will she set out how she intends to bring forward greater provision for remote electronic monitoring, and cameras on boats in particular? This is about not just discard prevention but safety, and enforcement of rules about wearing lifejackets.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 10:54 a.m.

The proposed amendments to the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 will provide new protections for wild seal populations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from intentional or reckless injury, killing or taking. It will greatly restrict the circumstances in which any intentional killing of a wild seal is lawfully permitted—for example, animal welfare exemptions to euthanise a wild seal if found to suffer from irrecoverable injury, pain or disease. The amendments are highly beneficial from an animal welfare perspective, as seals are often intentionally killed during interaction with commercial fisheries. The amendments are necessary for the UK to comply with new import regulations being implemented in the USA. From January 2022, the USA will allow imports of fisheries products only from countries that do not allow the killing, injuring or taking of marine mammals as part of commercial fisheries.

In England and Wales, the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 permits commercial fisheries to kill seals under licence granted by the MMO, or without a licence in very special circumstances known as the netsman’s defence. Similarly, in Northern Ireland there is a provision that also allows for the killing of seals in the course of commercial fishing.

Exports from UK wild capture fisheries could be prevented from entering the USA, and UK businesses currently exporting wild capture fish, such as cod, mackerel or shellfish would no longer be able to do so. That would result in a significant loss of export revenue, because last year wild capture exports to the USA were worth well over £13 million. It could also preclude fishery businesses from taking advantage of a future free trade agreement.

The Scottish Government have separate legislation regarding seal conservation— the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010—which they have amended to comply with current requirements, as we intend to do by means of this amendment. These amendments have been developed in conjunction with colleagues in Northern Ireland to facilitate a whole-UK approach, and I commend them to the House.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Labour supports these amendments and we will not vote against them.

Every seal matters and the discussions that we have had with stakeholders show strong support for the measures outlined by the Minister. Indeed, the changes to the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 prohibit the killing, injuring or taking of seals, as well as limiting the circumstances in which those activities can be permitted. Previously, these activities were prohibited only if particular weapons or poisonous substances were used. These changes provide a broader set of protections for seals.

Seals form an important part of the UK’s marine ecosystem, but face an increasing threat from climate change and hunting. Indeed, seals eat a lot of fish and there is sometimes a sense that killing seals protects fish stocks. In fact, such killing damages the fragile ecosystem that supports all life in our oceans, which is why we need to protect seals.

These amendments will help to protect an iconic and much-loved species, and we welcome them. However, when the Minister responds, I would be grateful if she set out why this amendment and the new schedule have been introduced so late in the Bill’s progress and were not originally included in the Bill when it was published, because they seem to be changes that would carry strong support and are worthy of good scrutiny by stakeholders.

It is unusual in this place that we are adjusting our legislation to amend something that Donald Trump may want for trade with the US, and doing so with full enthusiasm from both sides of the House. However, there is popular support for these changes.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I accept that there are some real difficulties with seals getting close to commercial fisheries on occasion. Nevertheless, we feel that this is the right step to take at this time and we are very grateful for support from Labour.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 10:50 a.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for her support. Noting what the former Minister said, may I challenge the Minister about where the measure will apply to imports? She mentioned that it was being introduced to facilitate the export of British fish to American markets, but to take the example of the hoki fishery in New Zealand, where we know there is licensed and widespread killing of seals in the fishery, we may still import fish from that fishery. Will the Minister set out her intention for fish imports? The principle is a good one, but I want to understand how far it will go.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 11:01 a.m.

As we have discussed many times on the Agriculture Bill, it is difficult for countries to legislate for the standards of other countries. This is an interesting example. We are all falling over ourselves to be willing to legislate, because we feel that is the right thing to do for the seals in and around the UK, but whether we should legislate for other countries’ standards is a much broader question, and one that we have rehearsed extensively with the Agriculture Bill. In future, given our views across the House on the killing of seals, we might well want to consider it further.

Amendment 55 agreed to.

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 11:01 a.m.

The clause sets out the commencement date for each of the provisions in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 54

Short title

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 11:01 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 83, in clause 54, page 37, line 37, after “the” insert “Sustainable”.

I will beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment in due course, because the Bill comes nowhere near deserving “Sustainable” in its title. I have concerns that the Bill is not sustainable, and the Government voted down the Labour amendments to make it more sustainable, such as making sustainability the prime objective of fisheries management, including a net zero plan for how fishing will decarbonise. The Government also refused to ban supertrawlers fishing in marine protected areas. The Bill will therefore not be the world-beating one that it needs to be, and it does not deserve to be called the “Sustainable Fisheries Bill”. I will keep that title in my back pocket for Labour’s first fisheries Bill after 2024.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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15 Sep 2020, 11:02 a.m.

The naming of the Bill is a matter for parliamentary counsel, for whom I have enormous respect. In fact, I take this opportunity to put on the record my thanks to them for their excellent drafting of the Bill. After careful consideration, parliamentary counsel determined that the Bill should be named the “Fisheries Act 2020” once it becomes an Act, which we hope it will.

Sustainability is one of the eight fisheries objectives set out in clause 1. It is an important part of the Bill but, as I have said repeatedly, a careful balance must be struck between the objectives. Including one of them in the short title will have no practical effect and will, none the less, make the function of the Act less clear.

Adding “Sustainability” might imply that the Bill has only one objective, and that the careful balancing of objectives to deliver a thriving fishing industry, rejuvenated coastal communities and healthy seas is unnecessary. That is not the case, so we do not feel that amendment of the short title—with or without legal impact—is useful. We care deeply about sustainability, but I prefer to reserve the word for actions with substance. Given that explanation, I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 11:04 a.m.

Fearing that I would fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act were I to seek amend the short title of the Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 84, in clause 54, page 37, line 38, leave out subsection (2).—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment removes the privilege amendment inserted by the Lords.

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 9:24 a.m.

The clause is a standard provision that simply provides for the short title.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 54, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 1

Conservation of Seals

‘Schedule (conservation of seals) contains amendments of the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (1985/171 (N.I. 2)) in connection with prohibiting the killing, injuring or taking of seals.’—(Victoria Prentis.)

This new clause introduces the proposed new Schedule on the conservation of seals.

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

New Clause 2

Recreational fishing

‘(1) When any provision of this Act, including provisions inserted into other Acts by this Act, requires or permits the Secretary of State to consult with any person considered appropriate, the Secretary of State must consult with persons representing the practice of recreational fishing, including those who charter boats for the purpose of recreational fishing.

(2) The Secretary of State shall publish an annual report providing an assessment of the extent to which the provisions of this Act have—

(a) promoted recreational fishing, and

(b) had economic benefits attributable to the promotion of recreational fishing.

(3) The first report under subsection (2) shall be published no more than 12 months after this section comes into force.’—(Victoria Prentis.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to consult on providing financial assistance for the promotion of recreational fishing, and to include representatives of recreational fishing when conducting a consultation under any other provisions of the Bill.

Brought up, and read the First and Second time

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fourth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Thursday 10th September 2020

(8 months, 1 week 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 (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Very briefly—not to interrupt your pace.

I am sure the Minister has had time to reflect on the question that I asked in this morning’s session about the difference between a hard and soft copy licence. I wonder whether this might be an opportunity to clarify that situation.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I am afraid I do not have that clarity yet. I anticipate that it is something I will have to talk to the team about over the next few days and, indeed, probably weeks, given the state of the pandemic.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3

Sea fishing licences: further provision

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 104, in schedule 3, page 52, line 7, at end insert—

“(2A) A sea fishing licensing authority must attach to any sea fishing licence appropriate conditions with respect to the safety of the boat and its crew.”

This amendment would require the licensing authority to set appropriate conditions regarding safety when granting a sea fishing licence.

This amendment continues the theme that we have had for a number of amendments: safety. I am grateful that the efforts of the Departments for Transport and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have contributed to an improvement in safety and, importantly, the involvement of more fishers in making decisions about safety—not just regulation of them for safety purposes—but I think we all agree that more work still needs to be done.

I mentioned earlier the need to have more fishers wearing lifejackets that come as standard with personal locator beacons, which take the “search” out of the search and rescue when boats go down or fishers are washed overboard. I want to see more stability work, especially for our smaller boats that I mentioned earlier. Having remote vessel monitoring and CCTV on board, which was proposed in amendment 1 in the Lords, helps ensure that fishing stays within the law, but it also incentivises fishers to wear a lifejacket and come home safely to each other. I know there is cross-party concern about this issue, and I want to reiterate the support for cross-party working that I gave the Minister earlier. I will not say any more about remote vessel monitoring, because that comes later in the Bill, but the amendment was an attempt to probe the Government position on this issue.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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While being very sympathetic to the intent behind the amendment and, indeed, all attempts to improve safety at sea, I feel that it is unnecessary. These are complex areas that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are the responsibility of both the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, as well as being our responsibility. Fishing vessel owners are responsible for ensuring their vessels comply with the regulations on construction and how they are operated. All fishing vessels are surveyed or inspected. If the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is not satisfied with the safety standards around a vessel’s construction, or if it discovers an emerging safety issue, the safety certificate will not be issued. If the vessel has a certificate, it may be detained and able to leave port only to enable repairs to be carried out.

As I mentioned earlier, maritime safety is already extensively covered in legislation and accompanied by comprehensive guidance, and I do not think that adding another layer of bureaucracy would make any tangible difference to safety. Education and behaviour change are what we know will make a difference. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I beg to move amendment 100, in schedule 3, page 52, line 15, at end insert—

‘(6) Conditions attached to any sea fishing licence must include a prohibition on the use of any form of electric pulse beam trawl fishing.’

This amendment would require sea fishing licences to prohibit electric pulse beam trawl fishing.

The amendment that has been tabled in my name and that of the shadow fisheries Minister relates to pulse beam trawling, which is an area that we briefly touched on earlier, and I know that colleagues have similar views on this issue. What we are attempting to do with this amendment is to prohibit the use of electro-pulse beam trawling in any form. I suspect that the Minister will say that the amendment is not needed because of the statutory instrument that was passed last year. However, I hope to press her further on enforcement in this area.

Parliament initially rejected Labour’s proposal to ban pulse beam trawling but then saw the light and passed a statutory instrument to put into action the intention behind the original amendment that we tabled the last time we discussed the Fisheries Bill. However, I am concerned that the scientific derogation is too large, allowing 5% of a fleet—up to 200 vessels, potentially—to use this gear.

I am grateful that the Minister set out earlier her intent that the English fisheries Minister should effectively remove the licences from those boats that have electro-pulse gear in English waters. However, what this amendment seeks is a prohibition on the use of any form of electro-pulse beam trawling on any boats with any flag in our waters. There is a very strong environmental case for doing so. Electro-pulse beam trawling is utter vandalism of our seabed. It is indiscriminate—in particular, it kills many smaller fish that might otherwise grow and reproduce. Therefore, it poses a greater threat of stock damage than other methods of fishing. In particular we are concerned, as I mentioned earlier, about the risk of this technology in certain locations around our waters, where the use of electro-pulse beam trawling methods and gear can be disguised by the claim that other gear is being used.

The Minister will know that I and other Labour Members have strong views on how we need to protect our marine protected areas, and about the gear used in those areas. We believe that such protection should be part of the nine-year journey that we effectively have between now and 2030, when our marine protected areas will effectively need to become no-take zones. Again, I will reiterate what I said on Tuesday about that issue, namely that it would do the Government credit and do the debate a lot of good if they could start the conversation with our coastal communities about how that will happen, because I do not think there is awareness of that situation among our coastal communities and I think that, when they find out about it, it will come as quite a shock to them.

So, to support the work of the Minister and to help her to have an easy life by not having to respond to angry fishers when they find out about that change, there is a debate to be had around this issue. I think that debate can be softened somewhat by clearly saying that we do not support in any way the use of this method of fishing—electro-pulse beam trawling—and that, as an independent coastal state, we will outlaw it in our waters.

Importantly, the amendment seeks to remove the scientific derogation that was in the SI by saying that we do not want this technology in our waters at all. I am concerned about the scientific derogation being used, as other countries have sometimes used it, to disguise commercial fishing activities. Indeed, if we look at our friends over in the Netherlands, how much of their fleet was using this particular gear and disguising it behind a scientific purpose is a cause for concern.

So, in support of the amendment, I will say again that there is both cross-party concern and concern in all our fishing communities. A statutory instrument was delivered to put into practice what Labour proposed last time, but I do not think that it is working to the extent that we had initially intended it would. I remember that when we discussed this issue then, there was a concern about how enforcement would work. I encourage the Minister to work with her officials to look again at enforcement in this area, because it seems that environmental groups and some fisheries have a legitimate concern about the potential damage being done to specific marine areas by this method of fishing.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

We have rehearsed some of these arguments already today and I know that the hon. Gentleman had this debate several times with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before he became Secretary of State.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the statutory instrument made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prohibits foreign fishing boats from fishing with electric current in UK waters. As I said earlier, the four English-registered vessels using it have been informed by the Maritime Management Organisation that their authorisations will be withdrawn at the end of this year. The authorisation for the single electro-pulse beam trawler registered in Scotland will be reviewed by Scottish Ministers in advance of July 2021, when the EU prohibition comes into force.

Pulse fishing will be prohibited, so its enforcement will be dealt with in the same way as any other type of illegal or unlawful fishing. I will continue to keep in touch with the Marine Management Organisation as to the position at sea. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would send us details of any specific instances and concerns he has. I remind him that the MMO can check any vessel fishing in our waters at any time, so it will be dealt with in the normal way. I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The concern put out there is specifically about enforcement. I realise that the Minister does not have figures to hand on the scope of enforcement, which would be useful for the debate. However, I will seek those through a parliamentary question. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 2:17 p.m.

The former Minister raises a good question. Marine protected areas do not exclusively protect the seabed, although that is a clear part of the validity of any marine protection. Such areas also protect species mix and can also deal with bird life and other forms of ocean-going life. The issue is complicated by the diversity that we seek to protect. Marine protected areas protect the seabed, but they also apply in other ways as well. None the less, the commitment that the Government have made around the UN oceans treaty is one that the Labour party fully supports. I say in all candour to the Minister that it will be a difficult sell and a difficult journey between now and 2030 to pitch that to fishers, but we need to have that honest conversation with them.

The Benyon review’s remarks about how highly protected marine protected areas can be designated, which effectively make MPAs no-take zones, need to include fishers. There is huge support among British fishers, particularly among the small boat fleet, for the banning of supertrawlers. Apart from the supertrawler that I mentioned earlier that currently flies a British flag, but did not until very recently, all the supertrawlers that fish in UK waters, especially in marine protected areas, are foreign-owned boats. There is a huge advantage to our sustainability and our support for our domestic fishing industry if we make the case now to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres and if we start the conversation about how we move the Benyon review recommendations into a greater awareness with a plan as to how that comes about. I hope the Minister—no doubt she objects to this particular amendment—will set out how she intends to implement a similar ban, because I think a ban is coming. I cannot see that the Government’s position is sustainable if they do not ban supertrawlers over 100 metres, if only due to the very sincere and heartfelt public opposition to that method of fishing.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 2:19 p.m.

I do recognise the huge interest and concern from across the House and from many of our constituents in the campaign against supertrawlers. However, once again, I do not consider the amendment necessary. There is a devolution issue with it, and I politely say again that the Bill is deliberately a framework Bill to enable the Government to take powers that would enable them not to license supertrawlers in future. Although the amendment is well intentioned, it is simply not necessary.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we are continuing to lead diplomatic efforts to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030, and 357 marine protected areas already protect about 25% of UK waters. Of course, protecting those areas is only the first step towards achieving protected waters. When we were in the EU, we had to get agreement from other member states with an interest to bring forward management measures in MPAs. Owing to the level of fishing interest in our waters from others in the EU, we were not able to reach agreement in the way that we wanted to on these measures. Now that we have left, the Bill already gives us the powers in schedule 9 to protect English waters, both inshore and offshore. We anticipate that this programme of work and new licences will begin as soon as possible in the new year.

As well as the new management measures that we will be able to introduce, paragraph 1(1) of schedule 3 to the Bill provides for the relevant licensing authority to attach conditions to a licence where necessary. The licensing conditions in the Bill are wide and flexible, and should be a suitably flexible way of managing our fisheries in the future. When the transition period ends, we will be able to restrict the activities of foreign vessels in our waters and decide, for the first time in 40 years, who can come in to fish. The Bill’s licensing regime already gives us the powers to do that.

I understand completely that the thought of large boats hoovering up fish in protected areas of the sea is concerning for many; however, the impact of a vessel on an MPA is determined by how damaging the method used is, rather than the size of the vessel. Pelagic fishing, which is the method usually used by vessels of this size, and which takes place within the water column, is unlikely to affect the seabed features that most marine protected areas are designed to protect.

As I said earlier, an added complexity is that the regulation of sea fishing is devolved. The amendment, in seeking to legislate for a blanket approach across all the Administrations, would be a problem for the devolution settlements. I hope that I have sufficiently reassured the hon. Gentleman that mechanisms to manage and restrict the activities of supertrawlers are already in the Bill, if that is the route we choose to take. I hope that I have also reassured him by reiterating the Government’s commitment to further protecting our sea, and I ask that he withdraw the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the Minister had given a commitment to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres with the licence conditions, I would have happily withdrawn the amendment, but as she has said only that the Government are taking powers, with no commitment to ban supertrawlers, I am afraid that we could be waiting for a very long time for those powers to be used. As such, and because the issue is so pressing and of such public concern, I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 95, in schedule 3, page 55, line 4, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

This amendment would make the relevant regulations subject to the affirmative procedure.

This is a very simple amendment, which seeks to move from a negative process to an affirmative one. We have seen that good parliamentary scrutiny improves Government legislation and that, when things are rushed or not given scrutiny, faults and things that even those pushing the devices may not be aware of emerge. That is why we are seeking, as standard in such matters, to move negative procedures to affirmative ones, to ensure that the Government can achieve their objectives by having improved legislation, rather than rushed legislation that they then seek to change subsequently.

Later amendments that remove lots of the statutory instruments that we spent many hours working on show that good scrutiny lends itself to the delivery of Government objectives and better policy making, and offers more people the chance to contribute to policy making. That is why we are seeking to have an affirmative resolution policy here, rather than a negative one.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

Much as I enjoy our exchanges, the difficulty with this amendment is that it would mean that every time the Government wanted to change a highly technical rule about the licensing of fishing boats, it would be subject to debate.

The change of procedure would apply to two powers. First, paragraph 7(1) of schedule 3 restates an existing power to make regulations about how licensing functions should be exercised. In our view, the existing regulation-making power is necessary so that the UK’s licensing authorities may make provision about the operation of their licensing regimes—such as in relation to the manner in which they issue and notify licences. The nature of those matters does not warrant the affirmative procedure.

Secondly, paragraph 7(3) of schedule 3 provides the power to authorise the making of charges in relation to licenses. The procedure followed in this paragraph is the same as that for provisions that we are replacing in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The use of the negative procedure continues the status quo in that case. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the debate on landing fish in coastal communities and banning supertrawlers, the Minister said that the salvation to those causes lies in the licence restrictions. She cannot argue on those controversial issues that the future needs to be trusted to the licence conditions and then deny Parliament’s scrutiny of those licence conditions. However, recognising that she probably will take this as an opportunity for greater consultation, perhaps with stakeholders, before such decisions are made, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 27, in schedule 3, page 56, line 3, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

‘(a) sections 15 to 17,’

This amendment updates the definition of “licensing function” so that it includes functions under clause 16.

This is a technical amendment that updates the definition of licensing function. It will allow licensing authorities to transfer the licensing functions in clause 16 to another licensing authority if required.

I have one bit of good news for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, which is that I have just had confirmation that licences in England can continue to be emailed. That is not entirely relevant to this amendment, Chair—I am sorry.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Briefly, it is good to hear that licences can be emailed. I will come back to that point.

This technical amendment relates to how foreign boats and UK boats could be regarded in different regulatory environments, so I do not think it is as slight as the Minister is suggesting. How British boats and foreign boats are judged and regulated is at the heart of the Bill, because I am concerned that there is not a level playing field. It is good news that the licence can be emailed and I will pick that up in due course, but we will not be opposing this amendment.

Amendment 27 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Third schedule to the Bill.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The schedule replicates the powers in section 4 of the

Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. Those powers are given to the licensing authorities and are necessary to implement a vessel licensing regime. Paragraph 1(1) includes powers to attach conditions to a licence. The schedule provides that licensing authorities may add, vary or remove a licence. The licensing authorities will have the power to require a master owner or charterer who is named to provide any information they ask for. Failure to do so will constitute an offence.

The schedule allows licensing authorities to apply licence conditions to restrict the number of boats fishing in any one area or restrict fishing for specified species at certain times of the year. The licensing authorities have the ability to make arrangements for any licensing functions to be carried out by others on their behalf.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 3 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 20

Penalties for offences

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

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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These are technical I. Schedule 4 repeals the current regime that would manage access of foreign fishing boats to British waters through the use of designation orders. These I ensure that that regime and the designation orders are also repealed in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man—with their agreement, of course. I commend the I to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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This is a completely uncontroversial amendment, which we are happy to support. However, I am keen to understand from the Minister why the measure was not included in the original Bill and is being proposed as a Government amendment, because that removes the ability for others to have time to consider the implications.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I am afraid I do not know the answer to that question—I was not involved in the creation of the Bill—but I am very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with further details. I suspect that it was not spotted.

Amendment 28 agreed to.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

This group of I enables the four UK fishing administrations to issue licences to foreign vessels in a shortened timespan, if it should prove necessary to do so.

The preferred system of licensing is that, should access be granted, the UK and the EU, Norwegian or Faroese licensing authorities would exchange lists of vessels wishing to fish in each other’s waters. Following relevant checks, the lists would be validated and the UK would issue licences to individual vessels. That process would be undertaken by the Marine Management Organisation, acting as our single issuing authority.

That will necessarily take some time and there is a risk that the delivery of fishing licences to vessel owners will be delayed. The impact would be that vessels from the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands would not be able to fish in our waters at the start of any fishing agreement.

I stress that this is very much a contingency solution to provide maximum flexibility for the UK licensing authorities. The aim would be to have full licences ready to issue for all individual vessels at the start of the fishing year, if a negotiated outcome on access has been reached. As a contingency, accepting that that will not always be possible, we have devised the new mechanism. It in no way undermines the principle that any foreign vessels that we allow to fish in our waters must be licensed and must follow the same rules as our vessels. The only difference between the systems is about who is informed about the granting of a licence and the time in which it can be processed.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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The I pick up on one theme I have raised with the Minister around the difference between a hard copy and an electronic licence. That relates to the experience of British fishers in particular and the MMO’s licensing arrangements. As we discussed earlier, arrangements have changed in relation to the covid procedures, particularly in relation to the carrying of a hard copy versus an electronic copy. My reading of the amendment is that it provides a different service and puts a different requirement on foreign fishers than on UK fishing boats.

Current UK fishing licence conditions, including conditions 6.1a and 6.1b, require UK fishing boats to carry a hard copy of their licence on board, or to be able to produce it at a time and place requested by the regulator or their agent, which in most cases in England is the Royal Navy, within five days. This amendment seeks to make an electronic version a permanent solution for foreign boats, but not for UK boats.

I understand that we have seen changes with the covid situation. I hope the Minister has effectively announced that the licence will now be electronic for all UK boats. She may need to bring forward a statutory instrument to adjust the regulations after the covid regulations are removed. My understanding of the covid regulations is that they will all go and we will revert back to the pre-covid regulations, which would require a new statutory instrument to be brought forward. That would be a welcome move because it would put UK fishers on a level playing field with foreign fishers.

With this amendment, foreign fishers get a better service than UK fishers, outside the current covid regulations. I am concerned about that, so I shall be grateful if the Minister will set out how that would work, particularly regarding enforcement and the difficulties of obtaining signal while at sea, in order to demonstrate to an enforcement vessel during a stop that a vessel has an electronic licence if it does not have a hard copy.

We know there have been difficulties in the past with foreign boats fishing in our waters without a licence and not being checked. The Minister will probably be aware of the case of the Dutch-registered Friesian that was scalloping and landing in and out of UK ports without a licence, before it was finally checked by the French, who took it to task. That was a number of years ago and it is extraordinary that steps have not been taken to address that level of enforcement since then. There is a point to make about both UK and foreign fishing boats being regulated in a similar way.

I realise that the approach that the Minister has taken in the past is to say that other nations regulate their own boats. However, when fishing in our waters, using permissions granted by the UK Government or UK fisheries authorities, there should be a similar approach, whether the boat is British-based or foreign-based.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

To answer the point directly about whether we are making it easier for foreign boats than for UK boats, that it is not the case. If access is granted, all the facts in the list will be checked and validated by the single issuing authority, devolved Administration or Crown dependency. That would happen regardless of the licensing mechanism used. That is a temporary solution. Permanent licences will be needed, and will be issued to individual licence holders as soon as they can be processed.

I have had confirmation that the MMO does not require physical licences, but the licence is required to be available to be shown on a boat, either on a phone, by email or by whatever is easiest for the licence holder. I do not believe that further legislation is required. For the purposes of the Fisheries Bill, we need to crack on. When I get back to the office I will check whether further legislation is required, but I do not believe that that is the case.

Amendment 29 agreed to.

Amendments made: 30, in schedule 4, page 63, line 23, after “words”, insert—

“(i) after ‘A licence’ insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) ”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 31, in schedule 4, page 63, line 40, leave out “this regulation” and insert “paragraphs (1) and (2)”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 32, in schedule 4, page 63, line 44, leave out from “charterer;” to end of line 47 and insert—

“(b) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.

(2B) A temporary foreign vessel licence shall be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Welsh Ministers or of a person granting the licence on their behalf.

(2C) In paragraph (2B), ‘the relevant person’, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 33, in schedule 4, page 64, line 10, after “licence”, insert

“, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 34, in schedule 4, page 64, line 21, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

“(a) in the heading, for ‘Delivery’ substitute ‘Granting’;

(b) in paragraphs (1) and (2), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(c) in paragraph (3)—

(i) after ‘A licence’ insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for ‘a nominee’s’ substitute ‘an’;

(iii) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert—

‘(3A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by electronic means at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (3) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(3B) A notice communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2)(b) (publication on website) shall be treated as given immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.

(3C) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2B) shall be treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(e) in paragraph (5) (in each place it occurs), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 35, in schedule 4, page 64, line 27, leave out from “paragraph (a)” to end of line 28 and insert—

“(i) after ‘2(1)’ insert ‘or (2B)’;

(ii) omit ‘, and a notice which is communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2)(b),’;

(iii) for ‘delivered or given’ substitute ‘granted’;”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 36, in schedule 4, page 65, line 38, at end insert—

“(e) after that definition insert—

‘“temporary foreign vessel licence” means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 37, in schedule 4, page 65, line 40, after “words”, insert—

“(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) ”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 38, in schedule 4, page 65, line 43, at end insert—

“(ba) after that paragraph insert —

‘(1A) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Scottish Ministers or of a person granting the licence on their behalf.

(1B) In paragraph (1A), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 39, in schedule 4, page 66, line 3, leave out from “notices)” to end of line 4 and insert—

“(a) in the heading, for ‘Delivery’ substitute ‘Granting’;

(b) in paragraphs (1) and (2), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(c) in paragraph (3)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for ‘a nominee’s’ substitute ‘an’;

(iii) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert—

‘(3A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (3) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(3B) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated in accordance with regulation 3(1A) is to be treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(e) in paragraph (5) (in both places), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 40, in schedule 4, page 66, line 4, at end insert—

“(6) In regulation 5 (time at which licences and notices to have effect), in paragraph (a)—

(a) after ‘3(1)’, insert ‘or (1A)’;

(b) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 41, page 66, line 30, at end insert—

“(ba) for the definition of ‘notice’ substitute—

‘“notice” means a notice of variation, suspension or revocation of a licence;’;”.

This amendment updates the definition of “notice” in the Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (England) Regulations 2012 to reflect other changes to those regulations made in this Schedule.

Amendment 42, in schedule 4, page 66, line 44, at end insert—

“‘temporary foreign vessel licence’ means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 43, in schedule 4, page 66, line 46, leave out paragraph (a) to paragraph (c) on page 67 and insert—

“(a) in paragraph (1)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for the words from ‘the owner’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient (“P”)’;

(b) after that paragraph insert—

‘(1A) In paragraph (1) “an appropriate recipient” means—

(a) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a relevant fishing boat—

(i) the owner or charterer of the fishing boat, or

(ii) a nominee of the owner or charterer;

(b) in relation to a licence or a notice, relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.’;

(c) in paragraph (2), after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence, ’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert —

‘(3A) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Marine Management Organisation or of a person granting the licence on its behalf.

(3B) In paragraph (3A), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’;

(e) omit paragraph (8).”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 44, in schedule 4, page 67, line 10, at end insert—

“(5) In regulation 4 (time at which licences are delivered and notice given)—

(a) in the heading and paragraphs (1), (2), (3) and (4), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(b) after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by means of an electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (4) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated as described in regulation 3(3A) is treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(c) in paragraph (7) (in both places), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.

(6) In regulation 5 (time at which licences and notices have effect), in paragraph (a), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 45, in schedule 4, page 68, line 4, at end insert—

“(f) after that definition insert—

‘“temporary foreign vessel licence” means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 46, in schedule 4, page 68, line 6, leave out paragraphs (a) to (c) and insert—

“(a) in paragraph (1)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) omit ‘Northern Ireland’;

(iii) for the words from ‘the owner or charterer of the boat’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient’;

(b) in paragraph (2), after ‘A licence’, insert ‘(other than a temporary foreign vessel licence)’;

(c) in paragraph (3), for the words from ‘the owner or charterer of the boat’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient’;

(d) after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In paragraphs (1) to (4), “an appropriate recipient” means—

(a) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a Northern Ireland fishing boat—

(i) the owner or charterer of the fishing boat, or

(ii) a nominee of that owner or charterer;

(b) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by delivering it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Department or of a person granting the licence on its behalf.

(4C) In paragraph (4B), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 47, in schedule 4, page 68, line 20, at end insert—

“(5) In regulation 4 (time when licences are delivered and notices given), after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by means of an electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (4) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence delivered as described in regulation 3(4B) is treated as delivered immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’

(6) In regulation 5 (time when licences, variations, suspensions or revocations have effect), in paragraph (a), after ‘3(2)’, insert ‘or (4B)’.”—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I beg to move amendment 48, in schedule 4, page 68, line 22, at end insert—

“Sea Fish Licensing (Wales) Order 2019

22 The Sea Fish Licensing (Wales) Order 2019 (S.I. 2019/507 (W. 117)) (which has not come into force) is revoked.

Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Wales) Regulations 2019

23 The Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Wales) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/500 (W. 116)) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Sea Fish Licensing (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

24 The Sea Fish Licensing (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/523) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Sea Fish Licensing (Foreign Vessels) (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019

25 The Sea Fish Licensing (Foreign Vessels) (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/87) (which has not come into force) is revoked.

Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

26 The Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/88) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Fishing Boats Designation (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019

27 The Fishing Boats Designation (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/345) (which has not come into force) is revoked.”

This amendment revokes various statutory instruments that have not come into force, and were made as part of contingency planning in case the Bill was not passed before IP completion day.

The amendment, which was mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, revokes contingency legislation made in March 2019—wasn’t that fun?—in the absence of the Fisheries Bill and in anticipation of leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, as was originally expected. I do not think I need to say anything further at this point. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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We spent a lot of time on these fisheries statutory instruments, and concerns were raised by Labour at the time as to whether we would need to revisit them—a point that the Minister at the time, although not this Minister, refuted. It turns out that the Government were incorrect and the Opposition were correct, as we are repeating activities here. This again underlines the importance of proper time for scrutiny and getting things right before pushing through a legislative programme. Taking greater care would have improved the outcomes and avoided our needing this Government amendment to revoke the SIs.

Indeed, the question is: why were the SIs not revoked in the original Bill, rather than as a result of a Government amendment? That pattern of behaviour—last-minute changes to things that were rushed—is concerning and makes me worry about the effectiveness of the legislation being passed if things are rushed in this way.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I do not think I need to respond to that in detail. The SIs are not different from the provisions of the Bill. As I said, I am sure that the work of the earlier Committees has in fact fed into this excellent Bill, which I have absolutely no doubt about commending to the House.

Amendment 48 agreed to.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I beg to move amendment 49, in schedule 4, page 69, line 21, at beginning insert—

“(1) Regulations made under section 4B of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 (regulations supplementary to sections 4 and 4A of that Act) in relation to licences under section 4 of that Act have effect on and after the coming into force of paragraph 6(2) as if they were made under paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 3 to this Act.”

This is a technical amendment clarifying the transitional provisions applying on the transition from the licensing regime in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 to the licensing regime in the Bill.

This is another technical amendment. In clarifying the licensing regime as it applies to foreign vessels, parliamentary counsel were of the view that a specific transitional provision might be sensible. The amendment clarifies the transitional provisions applying on the transition from the licensing regime in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967—my favourite—to the licensing regime in the Bill. It is a technical amendment, and I commend it to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I just note for the record that this change has been included as a Government amendment, not as part of the original Bill. I am concerned that other things have been missed and not included.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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indicated dissent.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is shaking her head. It is good to have that on the record. When we come to future SIs that take out bits that have been missed, because of the pace at which the Government are going, that can be correctly quoted back at whichever Minister is in the role at the time.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 2:54 p.m.

There is already a long-standing effort scheme in place for some shellfish and all demersal fish in the western waters, which will become retained UK law. To effectively manage the western waters effort regime in future, we may need the Secretary of State determination to vary effort baselines in response to the latest scientific evidence or, of course, the outcome of annual fisheries negotiations. I am concerned that the amendment would hamper our ability to improve the western waters regime. Requiring no evidence to be found seems unlikely to be achieved through the pilot, so I suggest that the effect of this amendment would be to stop the effective use of effort as a way of determining fishing opportunities in future.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 2:54 p.m.

We have not spent as much time discussing effort during the passage of this Bill as we did during the course of the last Bill. One reason for that is that Ministers subsequently committed to undertake days at sea trials, and there have been discussions among various ports as to which ones would undertake those trials. As the Minister will know, Plymouth is one of those ports; it is keen to undertake the trials, and with a very active council on fisheries matters and the shadow Secretary of State representing the area, that would be the perfect opportunity to prove or disprove whether this works. Is it still the Government’s intention to hold those days at sea trials, and if so, would they be a substitute for what the amendment seeks to provide?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

Given the specific nature of this clause, I am not sure that I can answer the hon. Gentleman’s question in the way he would like me to. What we are talking about here is the effort trial involving some quota stocks, and without further time to check what is envisaged in any Plymouth trial, I do not want to categorically rule it in or out.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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10 Sep 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. Whether it is a Plymouth trial, a Fraserburgh trial or a Grimsby trial, the concept is of a series of trials to look at days at sea and effort-based fishing, beyond the stocks that already have effort-based regimes in place. That was an important concession that the Government made after the pausing of the last Fisheries Bill. If the Minister does not know the status of those trials, perhaps she could write to the Opposition to set out those details. It is important that we have clarity on that.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 2:55 p.m.

As far as I am concerned, we are very keen to make the scientific evidence and the baselines that we use as good as possible. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware of the work that is carrying on in that regard. However, we do need the flexibility to respond to changing science. I am in no way denigrating the pilot schemes, which are important and ongoing. This is probably, again, not a matter for this amendment, but something that we will continue to discuss for many years.

The problem with the amendment is that it would stop the effective use of effort as a way of determining fishing opportunities. I am not saying that we do not need the science—of course we do, and we need pilots to give us that science—but I do not want this to prevent us from using a precautionary approach to fisheries management where that is appropriate.

I am concerned that the amendment would put fisheries and their management at risk up and down the country, so I expect it will be withdrawn.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 3:04 p.m.

As I know you know, Sir Charles, recreational angling within the UK is not currently subject to quota limitations, which the Government are concerned could incorrectly be interpreted as a reference to equivalent measures currently in place for commercial fishers. Discussions with the recreational sector have repeatedly highlighted the fact that it is not particularly interested in being subject to quota restrictions. Its interest is in restoring stocks and improving physical access, so that more successful recreational trips can take place. Indeed, the current industry proposal for a recreational scientific catch, tag and release bluefin tuna fishery is based on the premise that quota would not be required.

The amendment pre-empts the outcome of engagement with stakeholders and careful consideration of the best way to develop a regime, if we believe that that is the right way to go, for recovering species such as bluefin tuna. I have undertaken to meet the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, and other colleagues who are interested, at some point before too long, to discuss bluefin tuna specifically. The Government feel that the amendment is unnecessary, as we already have broad powers in relation to scientific trials, data collection and quota allocation.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at the last minute and for agreeing to meet me, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) and, perhaps in a different capacity, the Chair to discuss bluefin tuna. Will she address the point about the role of recreational fishers in helping to provide science? That was at the heart of what the shadow fisheries Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East, was saying. For data-deficient stocks in particular, and for stocks for which data is held but is poorly applied, recreational fishers—a group of people who love their fish and have really strong opinions on making fishing more sustainable—could provide an enormous benefit to Government science.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I could not have put it better myself.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I rise in support of the case that has just been laid out by my colleague the shadow fisheries Minister. There is an opportunity here to support our small boat fleet and to send a message about what type of fisheries we want to have after we leave the Brexit transition period at the end of the year. I believe the British public and those in our coastal communities where fishing has a presence want to see our small boat fleet supported in particular. That is the sentiment that comes from fishers and coastal communities in Plymouth and across the south-west and, indeed, when I visited Grimsby and Hull recently. They want to see the small boats in particular benefiting.

As the Minister knows, I am sceptical about whether more fish will appear in any negotiations, and that is why, regardless of whether more fish come or not, now or later or not at all—I hope they do, through zonal attachment rather than relative stability—the ability to redistribute even a small percentage of our current quota to the benefit of our smaller fishers could have a profound and positive impact on our coastal communities. It would support our small fishers, create more jobs and, in particular, provide an economic foundation for fishers to expand the number of boats, expand the workforce and invest in our port infrastructure.

I anticipate that the Minister will be less keen on this measure. However, the sentiment that has been articulated is sound and good and would deliver on much of the promise that many of our coastal communities want to see from a revised fisheries regime.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I have absolutely no doubt that more fish will appear, or that we will be entitled to more fish at the end of this year. I absolutely agree with the sentiment of much of what the hon. Gentleman said, but I have an issue with the amendment.

The fisheries White Paper 2018 set out the Government’s policy on our existing quota—I rehearsed that point in the debate on the previous amendment. It is not our intention to undermine the legal status of the existing quota regime. We have also made it very clear, not least on Tuesday, that we will allocate additional quota differently. We will shortly consult on proposals for allocating English additional quota. I look forward to hearing from the hon. Gentleman at length when we do so.

There are some drafting issues with the amendment. For example, it is unclear what is meant by

“fishing opportunities made available before IP completion day”.

Obviously, fishing opportunities vary from year to year as stock conditions go up and down. It is unclear what is expected to be used as the baseline here. I am also concerned that the amendment seems to duplicate earlier parts of clause 26. Given that the Government have made absolutely clear that we do not intend to redistribute our existing share of FQA and that it is uncertain how the amendment would operate, I ask that it be withdrawn.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 121, in clause 26, page 17, line 44, at end insert—

“(3A) When distributing catch quotas for use by fishing boats, the national fisheries authorities may make provision for the pooling of catch quotas by two or more boats.

(3B) Before making provision for the pooling of catch quotas under subsection (3A), the national fisheries authorities must be satisfied that any pooling will lead to a reduction in the discard of catch, including bycatch.”.

This amendment would allow the national fisheries authorities to enable catch quota to be pooled by two or more boats in cases where doing so would avoid discards.

This probing amendment is intended to investigate the Government’s plans to deal with discards and bycatch. We know that in mixed fisheries in particular, there is the real problem of small boats not having a quota for the fish they are catching because of their inability to target species in a 100% accurate manner. The amendment argues for a greater pooling of an element of quota to avoid fishers getting into trouble, through no fault of their own, despite best efforts to avoid bycatch when catching species they have neither quota for nor the ability to discard over the side or land in an economic manner. It is intended not as the preferred solution but rather as an opportunity for the Minister to set out the options, because I am concerned that the current discards regime, introduced for all the right reasons with a huge amount of public support, does not support our fishers in achieving the right outcomes in support of their businesses or the regime’s intended environmental objectives.

I expect the Minister to take much issue with the wording of the amendment. I am less fussed about its wording and more fussed about the clarity of where she intends to take discard policy in the future.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I am always fussed about the wording of amendments, but I would like to emphasise the important point that the Government remain fully committed to managing our stocks of fish sustainably and indeed to ending the wasteful practice of discarding.

Now that we have left the EU, we will develop a discards policy more tailored to us. It will have an emphasis on reducing the level of unintentional and unwanted bycatch through sustainable and selective fishing. The amendment is unnecessary because we already use quota pools in the way the amendment sets out. Most quota in England is managed by producer organisations. The exact management arrangements vary, but many do choose to operate with a quota pool, as set out in the amendment. The rest of the English fleet, which includes most of the smaller inshore vessels, fish from one of two quota pools that are managed by the MMO.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)

(Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Thursday 10th September 2020

(8 months, 1 week 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

This is a probing amendment. I want fisheries to be sustainable, as we discussed on Tuesday, but I also want them to be safe for British fishers, foreign fishers and all those in our waters. We have tabled the amendment to hear from the Minister what would happen in scenarios in which a foreign fishing boat is in trouble near our waters, and the only way for them seek help or to address their concerns is to enter our waters, where they may not normally have a licence to operate.

I hope that the Minister will say that under our international commitments to safety on the high seas, those boats would receive aid and, because of the close working relationship that I hope we will have with our European neighbours, we will be able to co-ordinate rescue efforts if required, and so the authorities will not need to prosecute in those circumstances. Furthermore—as the Minister will know from her legal past—should any prosecution take place for such a scenario, which I doubt it would, the public interest test to evaluate whether there were a case would probably not be passed if the vessel were genuinely seeking help.

Moreover, the Bill must specify that if a foreign fishing vessel enters UK fishing waters for the purpose of fishing, but erroneously claims that it is because they are in distress, they would be committing an offence in that circumstance as they would not have a licence to operate in our waters, and could face prosecution. This is a probing amendment, tabled mainly to enable the Minister to clarify that scenario on the record.

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

It is nice to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr McCabe. It is always a pleasure to set out this situation, which already exists under the law in this important area. We all agree that the safety of fishermen and seafarers is critical. The amendment is not necessary, as the hon. Gentleman possibly surmised.

The Merchant Shipping Act 1995 already contains special provisions for vessels in distress, allowing any UK or foreign vessel that is wrecked, stranded or in distress in any place on or near the coast of the UK, or in any tidal water within UK waters, to receive assistance, quite rightly. Articles 17 and 18 of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea allow the right of innocent passage, applying to all ships of all states in territorial seas, an exclusive economic zone or the median line. For example, in poor weather, foreign vessels can stop fishing and shelter behind a headland to escape the worst of the storm. I understand from the Marine Management Organisation that that happens fairly often, particularly in the east and south-west.

Vessels are allowed safe navigation and passage, and we already allow shelter in our waters and ports so that foreign vessel owners can deal with, for example, injuries, repairs to their vessels, replenishing their provisions or refuelling. Foreign vessels can also safely transit through our waters to reach more distant fishing grounds. None of that will change. Any further exceptions will be agreed in international arrangements and set out in vessel licensing conditions. This is already provided for in subsection (1) of the clause, so I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the Minister’s clarifying that situation, and on the basis of that clarity, I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Regulation of foreign fishing boats

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

This clause introduces schedule 2, which extends to foreign vessels a wide range of secondary legislation made by the UK Government and, at their request, Welsh Ministers and the Northern Irish Department. It will make it clear that foreign fishing boats are bound by the same regulations as UK fishing boats. Under the common fisheries policy, the UK was prevented in most cases from applying its local rules to vessels from other EU member states. The clause and schedule 2 seek to rectify that, ensuring a fairer approach to foreign vessels that—subject to negotiations, of course—are granted access to fish in UK waters.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The set of amendments to the clause and the schedule relate an awful lot to the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989. There will be some concern, after only a cursory glance at the amendments and the schedule, that the Government are permitting the taking of undersized crabs, which would obviously be contrary to the principles of sustainability that we have spoken about. I will be grateful if the Minister sets out the intent behind the undersized velvet crabs amendments in a wee bit more detail.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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Mr McCabe, would you like me to deal with this now or when we deal with the amendments?

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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These are very technical amendments, and it is difficult to get our order and our arguments in the same place. Amendments 11 to 16 make changes to paragraph (2) of schedule 2, which amends the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 and indeed extends it to foreign vessels, in answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question. The amendments remove unnecessary references to Scottish fishing boats, so that the order applies effectively to Northern Ireland. The amendments also ensure that the restrictions in the order do not apply to foreign vessels when they catch fish outside British fishery limits.

Similarly, amendment 18 exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits. Amendments 22 and 23 just remove some superfluous words in relation to that. I therefore commend the amendments to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for setting that out. For the sake of clarity, the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 was not previously on my reading list; however, it was yesterday. I am grateful to those people who got in touch asking whether this would put further pressure on those species. From my understanding of what the Minister has just said, it does not relate to any further risk to the stock levels; it relates only to access. I am grateful for what she has said on that.

Amendment 11 agreed to.

Amendments made: 12, in schedule 2, page 43, line 2, leave out, from “crabs)” to end of line 4 and insert

“, in paragraph (2), after ‘foreign fishing boats’ insert ‘and were caught in waters lying outside British fishery limits’.”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 13, in schedule 2, page 43, line 13, leave out “Scottish or”.

This amendment removes Scottish fishing boats from the scope of article 4 of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 (which imposes a minimum size for carriage of velvet crabs in the English zone).

Amendment 14, in schedule 2, page 43, line 13, leave out “or a foreign vessel”.

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 15, in schedule 2, page 43, line 16, at end insert—

“(4) A foreign vessel is prohibited from carrying in the English zone velvet crab that were caught in waters lying within British fishery limits and are below the minimum size mentioned in sub-paragraph (1).”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 16, in schedule 2, page 43, line 23, leave out “Scottish or”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment removes Scottish fishing boats from the scope of article 4 of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 (which imposes a minimum size for carriage of velvet crabs in the English zone).

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I beg to move amendment 17, in schedule 2, page 43, line 29, at end insert—

“(5A) After article 4 insert—

‘Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign vessels

4A (1) Nothing in article 2, 3 or 4 applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign vessel in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the vessel was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

‘Faroe Islands-licensed’;

‘the Special Area’.”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from certain provisions of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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10 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I am very happy to agree with the former fisheries Minister on this point. I know he did a great deal of work with the Faroe Islands, and we have had a very constructive working relationship with them throughout the course of this year. The issue has now been resolved properly, as it should be, in the Bill.

International negotiations are reserved but implementing international agreements, for example by licensing fishing boats, is a devolved matter, so this is a complex area to legislate for. We have worked very closely with our Scottish Government colleagues, who I would like to thank, and colleagues across Government, to come to an agreed approach that respects both reserved and devolved competences. I am grateful that Scottish Ministers were prepared to and will play an active role in the delivery of this amendment. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I welcome the Government legislating to comply with international treaties, which I am sure the Minister will agree with—I know she is a fond supporter of the rule of law. Until very recently, I did not think that complying with international law or international treaties was a point of contention in this House, but perhaps I am just being old-fashioned in that respect.

We support the amendments to comply with the 1999 agreement with Denmark and the Faroe Islands—that was something else I did not expect to have on my reading list last night, but none the less a thrilling treaty to have a read of. We think there should be no question when it comes to complying with international law, so we support the amendments, but I would like to press the Minister slightly on one aspect.

The Minister will know that when the 200-metre EEZ became the norm, the UK and Denmark on behalf of the Faroes sought to delimit their maritime zones. However, they disagreed at the time on the method and that produced areas of overlap. Those grey areas or special zones, which the Minister referred to in her remarks, are basically a no man’s water subject to special provisions.

For fishing in the special zones, each country can fish and regulate its own vessels. As the Faroes are not in the EU, the measure has not had much impact to date. However, it does now, potentially. As the Minister will no doubt be aware, we are seeing an increase in RIG activity—that is, Russia, Iceland and Greenland—in the areas around the Faroe Islands and the surrounding high seas. The RIG countries are not signatories to the sharing of coastal states agreements, in particular the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. I would be grateful if the Minister could offer some clarity on whether the measure only applies to Faroese boats and not those from Russia, Iceland and Greenland—countries that the Faroe Islands may grant permissions to fish. How does that apply to the approach the Government are taking?

The stocks in this zone are big business and I am anxious to ensure that we are not leaving a back door here for fishing in this joint area to become over-exploited by others under Faroese permissions. It is of particular importance that we safeguard our distant water fleets. I do not want to see British fishers undermined in this way. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out some clarity, in particular in relation to RIG activity.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

This is a highly technical area, and while the hon. Gentleman was kind enough to mention my legal background, I am not sure that I am able to provide him with a complete answer now. I am going to try, but I would like to caveat that, as all experienced lawyers would, with the fact that I will write to him afterwards if I am found to have been wrong.

It is interesting that this special area is quite a unique legal entity. The conflict with the licensing provisions already in the Bill had not come to light until it got to the point of negotiations with the Faroe Islands, when it became clear that there might be some points of conflict.

The 1999 treaty permits either party to license foreign vessels, so both the Faroe Islands and the UK authorities —in this case, the Scottish Government—are able to do that. I think that probably answers the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. That certainly does not mean that there are no rules in this area of the sea. Many of the licence conditions will be very similar for whichever party issues the licence, and the UK will of course still exercise standard controls and enforcement in the area. Both parties already have a commitment in the 1999 treaty, I believe, to co-operate on marine protection measures, which will further preserve this area. I feel that that is probably an answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but if there is more to say, I will say it to him in writing.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister, and I appreciate that this is a very difficult area. My key concern is about overfishing. From what I gather from the Minister, because the UK and Faroese fisheries authorities will be issuing licences, that would include RIG activity within those waters. Is her understanding that there is sufficient data transfer between those two licences and a scientific basis to ensure that those waters are being fished sustainably?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

That is what I believe to be the case, but I want to check that. This special marine area is a fascinating area of law. I cannot pretend that I know all the answers at the moment, so I will get back to the hon. Gentleman if I have told him the wrong thing. Otherwise, we will leave it as stated.

Amendment 17 agreed to.

Amendments made: 18, in schedule 2, page 44, line 19, leave out from “prohibition)” to end of line 20 and insert—

(a) in paragraph (1) omit “wherever caught”;

(b) in paragraph (2), after “applies” insert “(wherever caught)”;

(c) after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) The landing in England or Northern Ireland from a foreign fishing boat of any sea fish to which this article applies that were caught in waters lying within British fishery limits is prohibited.””

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 19, in schedule 2, page 44, line 22, at end insert—

‘(4A) After article 4A insert—

“Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boats

4B (1) Nothing in article 3(2) or 4A(1) (fishing prohibition) applies in relation to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at that time, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) Nothing in article 4(3) (landing prohibition) applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

Amendment 20, in schedule 2, page 44, line 36, at end insert—

‘(3A) After article 4 insert—

“Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boats

4A (1) Nothing in article 4 (landing prohibition) applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Undersized Edible Crabs Order 2000 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

Amendment 21, in schedule 2, page 45, line 13, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (3), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert “; or

(d) carried in, or used by, a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat for the purpose of fishing in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at the time it is so carried or used, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (3) insert—

“(4) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Sea Fish (Specified Sea Areas) (Regulation of Nets and other Fishing Gear) Order 2001 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

Amendment 22, in schedule 2, page 45, line 16, leave out “in relation to”

This is a minor amendment removing superfluous wording.

Amendment 23, in schedule 2, page 45, line 19, leave out “in relation to”

This is a minor amendment removing superfluous wording.

Amendment 24, in schedule 2, page 45, line 26, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (2), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert—

“(d) to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at that time, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Prohibition of Fishing with Multiple Trawls Order 2001 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

Amendment 25, in schedule 2, page 46, line 11, at end insert “, or

(d) a foreign fishing boat outside British fishery limits.

‘(4) The prohibition in this article does not apply in relation to a net carried in, or deployed by, a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat for the purpose of fishing in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at the time it is so carried or deployed, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(5) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Shrimp Fishing Nets Order 2002 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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. The amendment also clarifies that the Order only applies to foreign fishing boats when they are within British fishery limits.

Amendment 26, in schedule 2,page 46, line 34, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (2), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert “, or

(d) to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at that time, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.” —(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Prohibition of Fishing with Multiple Trawls Order 2003 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is 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.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Second schedule to the Bill.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

This clause sets out the conditions under which British fishing boats are prohibited from fishing anywhere without a licence except for very special exemptions. It consolidates existing provisions in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The Secretary of State may make regulations to add, remove or vary the exceptions listed in this section. Scottish and Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Department must consent prior to any such regulations being made. If British fishing boats carry out unexempted fishing activities under this clause without a licence, the owner, charter and master will be guilty of an offence.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I have a simple question for the Minister. I think that many fishers would welcome clarification, especially in relation to later amendments about electronic licences, of what the licence is. Can it be an electronic licence, or does it need to be held in hard copy on a fishing boat?

The pre-covid regulations required a hard copy to be held on board a fishing boat while it was at sea. However, the covid regulations published by the Department made it an electronic one. Presumably for consistency with other covid-related regulations that requirement will be removed once the pandemic is over, creating a distinction between the holding of a hard or electronic copy.

Clearly, there is a subtle difference between a bit of paper or an electronic file on an email server. Particularly with reference to enforcement activities, what definition is the Minister using of the form of the licence?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

Do you know, Mr McCabe, I do not think that is covered in the Bill. What I do know is that the licence must name the fishing vessel to which it is attached, and is granted to the boat’s owner or charterer. I do not know that we need to specify in legislation whether it needs to be in hard copy or electronic form. As to what is probably the best way to deal with it, clearly covid exemptions still apply and we do not know what trajectory we are on with the pandemic at the moment, so I think we should carry on considering the Fisheries Bill and take the conversation elsewhere and deal with it in the context of the pandemic, if that is acceptable.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Power to grant licences in respect of British fishing boats

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

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I note that the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations—not an organisation that I always agree with about its fishing lobbying, although I respect the energy and enthusiasm with which it pursues its purposes—puts forward some questions about the different classifications of boats in its brief, which I am sure the Minister and her officials have seen.

The NFFO is concerned that the clause gives powers to the Marine Management Organisation to grant licences for

“any other British fishing boat”.

The clause gives the power to grant a licence to Scottish Ministers in respect of a Scottish fishing boat, Welsh Ministers in respect of a Welsh fishing boat, and the Northern Ireland Department in respect of a Northern Ireland fishing boat. However, for any other British fishing boat the MMO has the power to grant a licence. My question is about the imbalance of the wording about the remits of the MMO and the devolved Administrations.

I understand that the MMO grants licences to English fishing boats, but I appreciate that the Minister and the Bill are at pains to avoid saying “English fishing boats”. Is it, however, to be understood that, for the purpose of the provision, a “British fishing boat” is an English fishing boat rather than a British fishing boat that may also simultaneously include a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish fishing boat? I think that the NFFO would be grateful for clarity on that from the Minister.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

It is no problem at all. We hoped the clause clarified the existing law and it reflects in fact the status quo. Each UK fisheries administration licences its own boats, wherever it is they actually fish. The Bill consolidates legislation that has been in force since 1967 and amended many times, not just at UK level but at devolved level. With agreement from the devolved Administrations, the provisions in the Bill are merely to carry on with the status quo, but to tidy up the statute book and try to help to deliver a coherent licensing regime for British fishing boats.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Amendments made: 3, in clause 16, page 12, line 32, at end insert—

“(b) by a Faroe Islands-licensed fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area.

‘(2A) The exception in subsection (2)(b) does not apply in relation to a foreign fishing boat that is for the time being included in a list maintained and published for the purposes of this subsection by the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment excepts foreign fishing boats from the requirement to be licensed under the Bill where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. It also gives the Scottish Ministers power to remove this exception 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.

Amendment 4, in clause 16, page 13, line 3, leave out subsection (8) and insert—

‘(8) For the purposes of this section a fishing boat is “Faroe Islands-licensed” if 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.

(9) In this section—

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

(b) “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;

(c) “licence” (except in subsection (8)) means a licence granted under section17.” —(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment inserts definitions into clause 16 in connection with Amendment 3.

Clause 16

Foreign fishing boats required to be licensed if within British fishery limits

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

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention and I share her concerns and those of her constituents about electro-pulse beam trawling in particular. It was an area where, sadly, the last time we debated the Fisheries Bill there was not cross-party agreement. Indeed, the proposals to ban electro-pulse beam trawling in British waters were voted down by the Government party at the time, and further voted down when the Bill was debated in the main Chamber.

Having control of who fishes in our waters is really important; I agree with the hon. Member on that. Indeed, that is the position that my hon. Friend, the shadow Fisheries Minister, set out yesterday.

What happens to electro-pulse beam trawling within UK waters is technical, but it still really matters. I use the example of Dogger Bank because there is an assumption at the moment among many fishers and environmentalists that foreign fishing vessels equipped with electro-pulse beam trawling gear are using that gear on the Dogger Bank, partly because of the nature of the seabed in relation to that, while simultaneously having other gear on board, so that they can claim they are using one type of fishing gear when in fact they are using a different type of fishing gear.

I see no justifiable reason for electro-pulse beam trawling in British waters. It ravages our seabed, causes enormous ecological destruction and is not something that the constituents I represent in Plymouth want to see—nor, by the sounds of it, those whom the hon. Member for South Ribble represents. That is why the enforcement question is important.

If an assessment is required under the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 before a new fisheries licence is granted for foreign fishers, especially in special areas of conservation, and there is a concern out there—I believe there is—how is that requirement correctly enforced? Will that additional appropriate assessment prevent foreign fishers from using gear that we regard as environmentally damaging in our own waters?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

This bring us to the heart of the Bill. If the Bill goes through, as we hope it will in the next few months, we will be able to manage these issues through our licence conditions. That is the whole point of what we are doing.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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Yes, of course. We are fortunate to have many people on the Committee who are genuinely passionate about these issues and bring a wealth of experience to the table. I am grateful to everyone sitting on the Committee. In the future, these issues will be managed through licence conditions, sometimes on the basis of sophisticated scientific evidence and sometimes—while we are on the subject of Dogger Bank—on the basis of the industry saying it is concerned and that we should temporarily close a fishery while we find out what is going on and take a view on licensing following the evaluation of scientific evidence.

I believe we will discuss a further amendment on pulse fishing later. There are currently five vessels able to pulse-trawl under the control of UK authorities, of which four are English. The licences have been withdrawn from the English vessels, which will not be pulse trawling from the end of the year. That is a win for all of us who are concerned about that form of fishing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Power to grant licences in respect of foreign fishing boats

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 99, in clause 17, page 13, line 29, at end insert—

‘(3A) No licence may be granted under this section unless conditions are attached to that licence so as to require the foreign fishing boat to comply with any standards in relation to environmental protection and marine safety that would apply to the same boat if it were a British fishing boat.’.

Under this amendment, licences granted to foreign fishing boats would require those boats to comply with the same environmental protection and marine safety standards as British fishing boats.

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10 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

The amendments seek to apply the same marine safety standards to foreign boats as to British boats. The Minister will know from our debate on Tuesday how important it is that we have similar and equivalent safety standards for everyone fishing in UK waters. In the previous iteration of the Fisheries Bill Committee we had considerable debates about the minimum standard that should be applied to any boat under whatever flag fishing in our waters.

The premise that many fishers voted for Brexit to ensure that level playing field and access is an important one, because the concern is that the cost of implementing regulations for UK fishers—albeit well-intentioned regulations to save lives—is not carried in the same way by some of our European friends, who enjoy lower costs, albeit with a greater risk from lower standards. Amendments 99 and 103 look at whether there should be a more explicit provision in the Bill to say that foreign fishing boats should have the same level of safety as UK fishing boats. That is about not only saving lives, but the economic cost that goes along with that in terms of the regulatory burden for businesses involved.

It is important to make sure that people stay safe. Amendment 103, in the name of my hon. Friend the shadow fisheries Minister, contains the phrase

“at least equivalent to those applicable to British fishing boats.”

Although we have been governed by the same common fisheries policy as our European friends for many years, and by similar obligations under the International Maritime Organisation, they have implemented their safety standards slightly differently. The amendment would therefore ensure that there is equivalence of safety standards and a similar basis, because any fishing boat going down or getting into trouble should worry us all.

Marine safety is not only about the behaviour of the crew onboard in terms of wearing lifejackets. As the Minister knows, I welcome the support of the Department for Transport and her predecessor in the roll-out of the Plymouth lifejacket scheme, which was pioneered in Plymouth. It includes a personal locator beacon on the lifejacket and moves the clasp from the middle of someone’s chest to being lower, which enables them to use filleting knives more easily on board a boat, so it is easier to operate, do their job and stay safe. That roll-out is important, but it is not compulsory and is not being applied to our European friends in the same way.

It is also important to make sure that stability testing is the same, particularly for small boats. The biggest risk to our small boat fleet is of capsize from the change of gear, where stability tests have not proven that boat to be stable in the way that we would all want it to be. There is no suggestion that they are breaching their licence by doing that but, to borrow a plea from the hon. Member for South Ribble in the last debate, there is cross-party support for a high level of marine safety.

I would be grateful if the Minister could respond as to how fishing licences will ensure that there is an equivalence of marine safety between foreign fishing boats and UK fishing boats, and how that will be checked during the implementation of the new regulations to ensure compliance. There is sometimes a sense among British fishers that the enforcement agencies, which for English fisheries is the Royal Navy, look at UK boats more than foreign boats. Whether that is true or not, I am sure the Minister will have heard that in her conversations with fishers. I would be grateful if she could set out the enforcement side as well as the safety side in her response.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I am concerned about the unhelpful unintended consequences of the amendments. As I mentioned in the debate on amendments 71 and 72, schedule 2 already extends regulations to foreign boats, so the Bill clearly provides powers to deliver the environmental aspects present in amendment 99, as we discussed earlier.

Ensuring compliance with safety regulations is more challenging. I will set out the current regime for foreign vessels and then explain why it might not be desirable to require compliance with our safety regulations. Powers exist to allow foreign boats to be inspected in UK ports by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. If problems are found, the MCA will send a report to the flag state or, if sufficiently serious—to the hon. Gentleman’s enforcement point—detain the vessel until such time as the issues are rectified, which seems reasonable and proportionate.

Regulation 28 of the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997, which applies to foreign vessels, sets out in detail that where conditions are

“clearly hazardous to health and safety”,

the inspector may take measures to “rectify those conditions” or to “detain the ship”. However, I should add that inspectors are under duty not to detain the ship unreasonably. Foreign vessels are expected to meet the same standards as UK vessels while in UK waters.

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- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:18 p.m.

I am grateful for that explanation, but I want to press the Minister, so that I understand her a bit more on enforcement. I am concerned that it seems that we are setting a higher regulatory cost for UK fishers than we are allowing for foreign fishers fishing in the same waters.

When it comes to enforcement, can the Minister clarify something? The Marine and Coastguard Agency does not inspect boats at sea. She suggested that, therefore, as a corollary, it will only inspect boats when they are on land. Therefore, unless they are landing their fish at UK ports, they will not be inspected. It falls, therefore, upon the safety, search and rescue, the Royal Navy and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, to go to support boats of lower standards that get into trouble, because the regulatory regime that she has just said is sufficient means that they are only inspected at port and not while at sea.

Does the Minister understand fishers’ concerns that this suggests that the regulatory burden on British fishing boats is different from that on foreign fishing boats and, as a result, that there is a different enforcement probability? A UK boat is more likely to be subject to enforcement than a foreign boat, even if it does not adhere to the same standards.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:19 p.m.

I do believe that, under the laws that regulate the way that vessels fish internationally, it is right that flag states should be responsible for the licensing conditions and health and safety regulations of their own vessels. It may assist the hon. Gentleman to learn that under the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993, regulation 56(1), a foreign-owned UK flag vessel can be removed from the register like any UK vessel. What we cannot do is interfere in the licensing regimes of other flag states.

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10 Sep 2020, 12:24 p.m.

I am grateful to the former Minister for making those points. They are points I had attempted to make earlier, but clearly not as succinctly.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the basis that the Minister is not setting out a level playing field between UK fishers and foreign fishers, I am concerned that this sends the wrong message to fishers. However, I understand that we will be revisiting the issue of safety a number of times during this process, so I will not be pushing any of these amendments to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

National Landing Requirement

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, midnight

Indeed, and if clause 18 were about processing fish, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would have a point, but—I am sure he has read it—it is about landing fish, rather than processing them. That is a good cul-de-sac to try to take us down, but that is not what the clause actually says. I went to Grimsby recently and spoke to people on the fish quay, and they hark back to the days when there were 800 fishing boats in their port. They want more fish to be landed in their port, so it is bizarre in the extreme that the Government are arguing against more fish being landed there.

Having more fish processed in Britain will create more jobs. Interfish in Plymouth creates an enormous number of jobs from landing the fish that it catches in Plymouth and processing them there, supplying our supermarkets. I want to see more British supermarkets buying British fish. That would be greatly helped by this clause, because more British fish would be available in our markets.

A number of points have been raised about why the clause does not work, so let me briefly address them. First, the former fishing Minister, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, mentioned the increased carbon footprint. At a point when Conservative MPs voted against the net zero objective in the Fisheries Bill, I think that does not apply in the same way. We want fishing to be carbon free, and we want more fish to be landed in our ports. I agree that it is often argued that fishers chase the higher price that is delivered in foreign markets, and that if they if they landed in a UK port, the price would be lower. I hope the same arguments are used about any departure from any regimes in the European Union that make travel across borders easy. Delays at the border put an extra focus on this. I hope the argument that has been applied to this clause is applied equally to the Government’s policy, but I fear that it will not be. None the less, it was a good attempt.

As we said in the debate on Tuesday, fish should be a public asset. The economic link between the fish in our waters and the United Kingdom should be strengthened. That is what clause 18 does: it strengthens the economic link. I fear, on this point, that the arguments of Government MPs will need to be reversed when the licence conditions change.

I welcomed the consultation that the Minister has set out, but I disagree with her that the figure is 50% currently. As she knows, landing 50% of fish in the UK is potentially one of the licence conditions, but it is not the only one, and it is important to state that if a company has a brass plaque in the UK and employs UK crew, it can get out of that. That is why many fishers catching fish in UK waters land nearly all their catch in foreign ports. One trawler in Wales lands barely any of its catch in British ports; it lands 84% in foreign ports. That fish should be supporting the Welsh economy. There are examples of that in English and Scottish waters. That is why this matters so much. We will be betraying those coastal communities if we do not support job creation.

I hope the Minister, when she comes to her consultation, cuts and pastes this clause, as Ministers did for Labour’s last set of amendments to the Fisheries Bill, and makes it her own. I am a big fan of Louis Walshisms in politics. The Government should make it their own. I hope they copy this clause and put it into their consultation, because we need to create jobs in coastal communities, and that is what the clause seeks to do.

When this clause comes to a vote—surely it will do—and Labour and SNP Members vote in favour of the jobs in coastal communities clause and in favour of landing at least two thirds of fish in our coastal ports, I hope that every single Conservative MP who represents a coastal community will be able to explain to their electorates in those communities why they chose to support ports on the continent, rather than the port that they represent, why they chose to create and preserve jobs in foreign ports, not in their communities, and why they chose not to give the young people in their communities the opportunity that would come from enhanced employment not only in the catching sector but in processing, and the engineering jobs that accompany this. I hope they have a decent argument for that, because this flies in the face of everything that has been promised to coastal communities. That is why Labour will be supporting keeping clause 18 in the Bill to protect jobs in coastal communities, and opposing the Government’s plan to continue the export of those jobs to our European friends.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman has done his job; I am now going to do mine, which is to bring us back to this Bill. I do not believe that anybody in this room is not equally passionately in favour of having more jobs in coastal communities, but this is not a jobs in coastal communities clause. It requires the Government to consult on landing a 15% higher proportion of fish in this country. My argument is that the Government are equally as passionate as the hon. Gentleman, and indeed everyone who has spoken well, about coastal communities and their needs, but the Bill already allows us to meet the clause’s aim in a more appropriate way through the objective in clause 1 and the powers, which I have already gone into, in schedule 3.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(8 months, 1 week 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, 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.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

We do not think this amendment is necessary. As the hon. Member for Barnsley East said, the Bill places a statutory obligation on the Administrations to produce a joint fisheries statement. When it is possible to set out joint policies in the JFS, we will do so. Equally, it is perfectly possible for each Administration to have separate and different policies within the JFS. That is part of devolution, and it is not something that I am resisting. The policies in the JFS do not have to be the same ones. For instance, we were talking about bycatch earlier, and it would be perfectly possible for each Administration to put in place a different policy to achieve the same bycatch objective, as appropriate for the industries in the different parts of the UK, but we would still be working towards the same goal. That means that there should not really be a circumstance in which a JFS cannot be agreed if we are working towards the same goal.

Processes are in place to resolve disputes between the Administrations. They will be strengthened. I accept some of what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said about the need for a memorandum of understanding between the Administrations. In fact, contrary to some of what the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute said, the fisheries administrations have a strong track record of working together for the common good to develop fisheries management policy—as demonstrated by the close working on this Bill—while respecting the individual circumstances of each Administration. Most fisheries issues can be resolved through a strong working relationship at ministerial and official level, because we share an aspiration to maintain sustainable fisheries, as well as the vibrant and profitable fishing industry that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

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In answer to the hon. Lady’s question about why the period of six years was arrived at, I understand that the six-yearly review period mirrors that found in the requirement in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 relating to marine plans. I recognise that the hon. Lady aims, with her amendment, to ensure that the delivery of the joint fisheries statement is effectively monitored and reviewed, but I do not feel that the amendments are necessary. Similar amendments were tabled in the other place, and the Government’s view is unchanged on that.

As Lord Gardiner of Kimble set out in the other place, we have chosen a six-year review period following a great deal of discussion with the devolved Administrations, with whom we work closely. We believe that six years is sufficiently regular to ensure that the joint fisheries statement reflects the current state of fisheries management and the best available scientific evidence, while providing sufficient stability for fisheries managers and the industry. It also reflects the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Six years is enough time to allow policies to have tangible effects, while avoiding placing undue burdens on policy makers and stakeholders.

We will report every three years on progress towards achieving the objectives, which I think is right. That new commitment, which ought further to increase transparency and accountability, has been made in this iteration of the Bill in response to recommendations from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. As with the Agriculture Bill, six years is the longest possible review period—clause 3 provides that the JFS can be amended wherever appropriate—so the provisions in the Bill will enable us to respond quickly and as required to changing circumstances or really bad environmental changes, for example, ensuring that the policy remains fit for purpose.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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Given that the Minister is arguing against a six-year period—

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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No, I am arguing for a six-year period.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Forgive me; I meant against a five-year period. Will she set out in which years she expects the first and second reviews to be produced, as that would allay fears that we will not have an opportunity in this Parliament, and perhaps the next, to ensure that a review is adequately addressed?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I would like to take further soundings on that from the devolved Administrations because, as I said earlier, we are concerned about their purdah and election periods. If I may, I will talk to the hon. Gentleman about that outside the Committee. I do not think it will be possible for me to give him those years now without consulting the devolved Administrations. He knows, because he is aware of the provisions in the Bill, that it will be two months from Royal Assent, and we will then have a two-year period before the first JFS. Following that, the rest of the provisions continue to apply. I would like to reassure him that there is sufficient flexibility in the way the clause is drafted for us to act more urgently if needed.

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The amendment seeks to require the Secretary of State to consult any appropriate person when preparing a report on an SSFS. It is of course important to ensure that we have sufficient evidence and data to establish the extent to which policies have been successful, but the amendment is not needed to achieve that. DEFRA already collects information from a wide range of sources, including scientific bodies, regulators, statutory advisers and industry in preparing its reports and we are committed to using robust evidence in all areas related to fisheries.

We would of course seek to follow a similar evidence-based approach to developing a report under the clause, including engaging with the fishing industry and non-governmental organisations. Any report on an SSFS must also be published and laid before Parliament, which would provide us with an opportunity for scrutiny.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Could the Minister set out whether the list of people she expects to be consulted on such statements includes organisations representing recreational fishing? There is a concern among many fishers in that sector that recent decisions, and especially those in relation to bass, for instance, were taken without adequate consultation with that part of the sector.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman, you, Sir Charles, and I all share an interest and understanding of the importance of recreational fishing to the fishing sector. I assure him that, where appropriate—it might not always be appropriate—the recreational fishing community will be included in any consultation necessary under the SSFS. As a consequence, it is not necessary to legislate for what is already our standard way of working, so I ask the hon. Member for Barnsley East to withdraw the amendment.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(8 months, 1 week 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, 9:36 a.m.

Yes, Mr McCabe. I am still on amendment 61. I beg your pardon; I will get to amendment 62 in just a moment.

Amendment 61 would ensure that public bodies—national Governments, regulatory bodies, science bodies and, in relation to funding arrangements, bodies of the Government that allocate funding to our coastal communities—have due regard for the objectives. If they are not to have due regard for them, why are they there at all? Why have a sustainability or ecosystem objective, or a bycatch objective, if they are just to create lines in the Bill and are not an important part of it?

Turning hurriedly to amendment 62, Mr McCabe, the important part of laying the statement before Parliament is that we want the opportunity to discuss it on an annual basis. In the previous Bill Committee, the transcripts of which I am sure the Minister has read thoroughly, there was a good debate about the frequency with which the Government should report to Parliament. Historically, we had the annual fisheries debate in Westminster, which was designed to strengthen the hand of the Fisheries Minister ahead of the December Fisheries Council, to set out clearly for them the concerns of our fishing sector and coastal communities, and to ensure that they would fight the corner of the species and sectors that were most at risk. However, the annual fisheries debate has become slightly less frequent, and it has moved around because of the frequency of fisheries Bills. Having an annual report laid before Parliament and therefore discussed by parliamentarians is the key part of amendment 62 that would allow us to look at what progress has been achieved towards the objectives. Amendment 61 states that people must have due regard in the exercise of public functions, and amendment 62 states that there must be decent scrutiny of the progress towards those objectives. Both are important starting points for the Bill. Both set the tone, which is that sustainability must be the prime consideration.

Although there is good, sound logic to say that all the objectives are equal, there is one simple truth: if we overfish our seas, there will not be enough fish left for a fishing industry to exist. That is why sustainability has to be the prime consideration. I want jobs in our coastal communities to continue. That is the argument that Labour Members present. We need to make sure we manage our fish stocks at sustainable levels, that we do not set total allowable catches above maximum sustainable yields, and that we ensure that sustainability is the prime consideration at all times. For that to take place, we need to make sure that all public bodies have due regard to the objectives set out in the Bill. I know that the Minister and her officials have worked very hard on those objectives and will make further proposals to improve them shortly, but what is the point of all the work that has gone into those provisions if no regard is paid to them?

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

8 Sep 2020, midnight

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, and to speak to this important Bill. I hear what the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport says about Labour’s support for the Bill, and I am grateful for the genuinely consensual way in which Labour and Conservative Members normally work on fisheries. Those negotiating on our behalf with the EU hear how this House speaks as one on fisheries, as we did very strongly on Second Reading. We are all determined to get the very best for our fishermen.

It is fair to say, as the hon. Gentleman did, that the previous Committee worked hard to improve the Bill. Those improvements and those made in the other place are reflected in the Bill before us today. I am grateful to all the people who worked so hard to bring it to its current incarnation.

The blanket requirement that amendment 61 would place on all authorities is not appropriate. It is for the fisheries administrations to determine appropriate policies for meeting the objectives set out in the Bill. Public authorities already have relevant duties under a vast amount of other legislation. A statutory body’s objectives and duties will be set out in primary legislation. Inshore fisheries conservation authorities already have a duty under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to seek to ensure that the,

“exploitation of sea fisheries resources”,

is carried out in a sustainable way. Under that Act, the Secretary of State may give guidance to an IFCA on how it performs the duty, and the IFCA must of course have regard to such guidance. I am worried that the amendment could dilute the accountability of fisheries policy authorities, as clearly established in the Bill, by dividing responsibility for the objectives more broadly across a wide range of public authorities, which might lead to divergent approaches.

A similar argument applies to amendment 62. The Bill already contains a robust framework of reporting and review requirements that will provide sufficient information to inform and drive progress against the fisheries objectives. Clause 11(1) states that the fisheries policy authorities must, every three years, prepare and publish a report on the extent to which the policies set out have been implemented. Clause 11(2) requires the report under subsection (1) to include the extent to which the policies contained in a relevant fisheries management plan have been implemented and how they have affected stocks.

Bearing in mind the number of objectives, we strongly believe that an annual reporting requirement would place a disproportionate burden on fisheries managers and the industry for not a great deal of gain. Not enough would have changed in a year, and the report might have little value. It would divert needed resource away from direct fisheries management, reduce the authorities’ ability to move towards co-management with the industry, and potentially hamper the deliverability of the eight objectives.

There is of course nothing to prevent a parliamentary debate—a Government debate, an Opposition day debate or a Back-Bench debate—from taking place if that were considered appropriate as an annual event, or more frequently. I for one am always happy to talk about fisheries policies in Parliament and I am sure that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is, too. However, that does not change my view of this amendment, and I therefore ask him to withdraw it.

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8 Sep 2020, 9:41 a.m.

For the reasons that I have set out, I believe that the reporting requirements that need to be legally binding and are in the Bill are more than sufficient, but I am not in any way denigrating the idea that we might want to talk about fisheries far more often.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am a big fan of having votes on these proposals and putting Labour’s positions clearly, but on this amendment, I have listened to what the Minister has said and I am happy not to push it to a vote. I like the commitment that the Minister has given to good scrutiny of fisheries policy in the future. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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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.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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The Minister mentions Interfish, which is a brilliant fishing company that I am very proud to have in the patch I represent. However, I do not follow her argument. Can she set out how having “public asset” already in UK law, as defined by the court case she has just mentioned, and then having a public asset objective are different? They seem to be very similar. Saying that we already have a public asset within UK law but that we cannot have a public asset objective in UK law because that would be bad seems to be contradictory. Can the Minister clarify that?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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8 Sep 2020, 12:22 a.m.

There is no contradiction; I just do not feel that the extra amendment is necessary. Another reason for that is that the national benefit objective in the Bill already requires UK fishing activities to bring social or economic benefits to the UK. That means, in effect, that the Bill already recognises the importance of managing fisheries for the public good.

I now move on to the important issue of safety and training requirements. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport is right to highlight that the matter was mentioned a great deal by Members across the House on Second Reading. It is right that I should—as I did on Second Reading—pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s long campaigning on this important issue. It rightly concerns us all and, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is shared between Departments, but that does not in any way detract from the importance of moving forward. Indeed, it rather strengthens our hand across Government.

Safety at sea is, of course, not just about fishing. It is a maritime vessel issue. The safety of all vessels falls within the remit of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Legal requirements for the safety of vessels are already in place in several pieces of legislation, most particularly in the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997. Adding further complexity to an already comprehensive framework of legislation will not do much to improve safety. As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport rightly said, training and behaviour change are what is needed. I was particularly glad to hear him mention personal locator beacons, not least because grants are available to fund those at the moment. I encourage all those who could benefit from wearing a personal locator beacon to apply for those grants. I am pleased to see—I think the hon. Gentleman would agree—that positive progress has been made, with the industry taking greater responsibility, with support from the relevant authorities where possible. We should not be complacent, obviously, and I look forward to continued working across the House on that important issue.

On the equally serious issue of modern slavery, working conditions and the general wellbeing of our fishers, the UK has fully implemented the requirements of the International Labour Organisation’s work in fishing convention. Of course, we have the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which ensures that—from 2016—officers from police forces, the National Crime Agency and Border Force can board and search vessels, seize evidence and arrest offenders. Section 1(2)(b) of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 already requires that

“all seafarers working on ships within the UK internal waters and ports are entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage.”

That is

“regardless of where the ship is registered”

or where the worker ordinarily lives or comes from. The legal exception to that is for those paid by crew share. We know that almost three quarters of fishermen are paid that way.

Recent research conducted by Seafish shows that average gross crew shares in the UK range from £1,060 a month for onshore workers to over £4,000 for mates. That is in line with or better than national minimum wage requirements, so we do not feel that the amendments are necessary and I ask the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport not to press them.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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8 Sep 2020, 12:25 a.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out her reasons for disagreeing with the amendments and for setting out the importance of safety. We will return to safety later. With that in mind, I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—

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

(a) fish and aquaculture activities are—

(i) environmentally sustainable in the long term, and

(ii) managed so as to achieve economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of food supplies, and

(b) the fishing capacity of fleets is such that fleets are economically viable but do not overexploit marine stocks.”

This amendment alters the definition of the “sustainability objective” so as to revert to the definition as it stood before it was substituted at Report stage in the Lords.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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8 Sep 2020, 10:29 a.m.

I think the hon. Lady is possibly slightly unaware that we do not currently have good data for many stocks. We fish, we think, just over 100 stocks—we have 100 stocks available to us to fish in the UK, and we are very fortunate to have a very wide, mixed fishery—but we simply cannot say whether we are meeting MSY because we do not have the data available. That is why it is so important that we do the work where we need to, such as in Dogger Bank, to find out what is happening.

I can answer the hon. Lady more fully as we go through the Bill; we have a whole section on MSY coming up. I know it was not the intention that this amendment, inserted in the other place, should cause difficulties by introducing a hierarchy into the set of interlinked objectives, but I feel that returning clause 1 to its original balance is the best outcome for the environment, our fisheries and our coastal communities.

Amendment 74 would extend the scope of the Bill to the management of fish and aquaculture activities in freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater ecosystems are already managed through a comprehensive suite of legislation, which emanates mostly from the EU water framework directive. The Environment Agency regulates inland waters under the Environment Act 1995. Freshwater fisheries are also regulated under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. There are, of course, specific challenges to managing freshwater ecosystems, most of which are unrelated to fishing or angling—for example, those relating to water quality or obstructions in sluices. We are further strengthening our regulation of such issues through both the Agriculture and Environment Bills.

This Bill has been developed to put in place a new sea fisheries management regime and clearly focuses on the marine environment. We recognise that the term “marine and aquatic” is used elsewhere in the Bill where appropriate; we want there to be no doubt, for example, over the scope of an administration’s powers to make grants in relation to inland as well as marine activities. However, this Bill’s core purpose is managing marine and coastal fisheries, and that is why we do not feel that this is a helpful amendment.

Amendment 75 is also well intentioned, but we feel it would have significant unforeseen impacts, which could lead to stopping a great deal of fishing activity and damaging our coastal communities as a result. Requiring our fisheries and aquaculture sector to reverse all the negative impacts of their activities on marine ecosystems, as proposed in the amendment, would simply render many fishing activities impossible.

On amendment 76, we of course agree that we must protect sensitive species from incidental catches in fishing nets. The Government are committed to encouraging the fishing industry to minimise bycatch of sensitive species as much as possible, and we are developing UK plans of action for cetacean and seabird bycatch, working closely with the fishing industry and environmental groups. Our various bycatch monitoring programmes are essential to inform that work. We will be launching a broader programme of work on protected, endangered and threatened species bycatch to support a more holistic system.

However, the effect of this particular amendment would be that fisheries administrations would have to have policies that would eliminate all bycatch. While our goal is to reduce bycatch to as close to zero as possible, in some situations complete elimination of bycatch will not be possible and some sensitive species will inevitably be caught. The wording that bycatch should be,

“minimised and, where possible, eliminated”,

reflects this intention and ensures that our objective is ambitious but achievable. It is accepted by both environmental organisations and fishermen.

Turning to amendment 77, the Government support extensive monitoring. We already have an extensive data collection programme that uses effective and innovative methods, such as underwater TV surveys. We feel this amendment is unnecessary, as the objective to collect scientific data is already included within paragraph (a) of the scientific evidence objective. It is important, as not all scientific data can be collected or used in real time. There may be a period of several weeks, or indeed months, between samples being taken from a fish on deck and the completion of the scientific processes. We agree—I know we will be discussing this issue further on another day—that the increased use of remote electronic monitoring may well help us to achieve this scientific objective, which is why we have included powers in the Bill that would allow its future roll-out, or further roll-out. Even then, given the volumes of data collected, that data may well not be checked in real time.

Turning to amendment 78, the CFP’s landing obligation, which was fully implemented last year, requires all species subject to catch limits to be landed and counted against quota, rather than discarded at sea. There are a few limited exceptions. Now that we have left the EU, the Administrations are free to develop discard policies that are tailored to the industries. However, as I have noted, even when our fishing practices are highly selective there will be instances in which this unwanted bycatch cannot be avoided entirely, given the high number of mixed fisheries in UK waters. If, for example, that catch is scientifically proven to have high survivability, it will be better for the long-term sustainability of the stock for it to be returned alive, rather than landed dead. There may be some limited instances in which there would be a high economic or safety cost to land bycatch caught unintentionally, so that is the purpose behind the “where appropriate” phrase in the Bill. I am worried that the effect of this amendment would be to undermine our future discards policy.

Amendment 79 would cause significant problems for the industry and the fisheries administrations. The management of fishing opportunities, namely quota, is inherently different from managing access to fishing waters. The equal access objective ensures that all UK fishing boats can continue to access all UK waters. By contrast, the management of quota is devolved. At the start of each fishing year, UK quotas are apportioned between the Administrations by the Secretary of State, and each Administration is then responsible for distributing those quotas to industry: the Scottish Government determine how quota is allocated to Scottish-registered vessels, and so on. Allowing equal access to fishing opportunities regardless of where vessels are licensed and registered directly conflicts with those devolved arrangements, and implies that each Administration would have to make quota available to boats managed by the other Administrations. It is unclear how that would work, and the uncertainty it would create would threaten the stability of the current quota apportionment system.

Finally, I will make a few points regarding amendment 73. The Government’s world-leading commitment to net zero, declaration of a climate emergency, and the inclusion of a climate change objective in this Bill—an improvement on the Bill, in my view—all show how seriously the Government are taking their commitments to climate change mitigation and adaption. Emissions from fishing vessels count towards national emissions, and are part of national plans to address emissions in the longer term under the Climate Change Act 2008. The unique part of the Bill’s existing climate change objective is the focus on mitigating the adverse effect of all fish and aquaculture activities. While part of that mitigation is through decarbonisation, it is important to emphasise that many other potential impacts need to be mitigated, such as impacts on the health of marine habitats that impair their ability to store carbon. I am concerned that the amended wording would limit our options on developing policies for mitigation only through decarbonisation and port improvements.

Fishing activity is already part of the Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050. The UK takes its international obligations very seriously, as underlined in the fisheries White Paper. We believe that it would be inappropriate to include in the Bill references to some, but not all, of our international commitments in this area. We feel this amendment is unnecessary, as it restates existing obligations and commitments of the UK under international law. I hope that the Opposition will feel able to support Government amendment 1, and will not press their remaining amendments.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I am grateful to the Minister for setting out what is a lengthy, complicated group of amendments. I will also go through each amendment in turn, with specific focus on Government amendment 1 and amendment 73, the key amendments within this group.

Government amendment 1 seeks to remove a line inserted by the House of Lords:

“The sustainability objective is the prime fisheries objective.”

That sends a very poor message to those who want us to manage our fish stocks sustainably. There is no future for fishing unless it is sustainable, which is the clear message of the current wording of the Bill. I disagree with the Minister’s argument that the current wording makes things difficult. Indeed, we have to face up to the difficult truth around fishing and sustainability—if fishing is not truly sustainable, there will not be a fishing industry in future.

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Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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8 Sep 2020, 11:10 a.m.

I agree, in fact, with a great deal of what is being said. I reiterate that the Government are absolutely committed to leaving the natural environment in a better state than we found it in. There is no watering down of our commitments to sustainability, which are clearly stated in the Bill in the first objective in clause 1. However, I do not feel that the amendment helps to take this further. I am worried that putting the primacy of sustainability in the Bill might—inadvertently, I am sure—cause unnecessary suffering to coastal communities.

To focus on the MSY issue for a moment, I am not going to stand here and suggest that the current position is one we should be proud of. We have undoubtedly made progress on fishing at MSY. We are now fishing at about 67% of MSY. In 1990, we were fishing at 10% of sustainable stocks, so there is no doubt that we are where we want to be, although we are moving slowly in the right direction.

The Government hope that the fisheries management plan, set out in the Bill, will work locally and holistically to make the situation much better, fast, as we must do. However, I am concerned that if we put in the clause which makes the sustainability objective prime, there will be some really serious unintended consequences for coastal communities.

I will give three examples on MSY in particular. If we followed the zero TAC advice for whiting in the Irish Sea, it could close the nephrops fishery that has critical economic importance for Northern Ireland, where landings averaged about 15 million a year over the past five years. Another example, following the zero-catch advice on plaice in the Celtic Sea would close the very valuable anglerfish and megrim fishery and could displace those boats into a more intensely fished area elsewhere, which could also displace even worse environmental harm. Out at Rockall, latterly, there is a very low quota for cod, although the quality of the scientific advice there has been questioned. Following the advice on cod would close the valuable haddock fishery that might itself be taking some of the pressures off the fishery in the North Sea.

I have been asked repeatedly by Opposition Members for further clarity on the plan. I refer them politely to the fisheries White Paper 2018. Our Secretary of State is particularly proud of this document, having worked on it a great deal himself. It sets out very clearly the direction of travel that the Government are determined to follow as we leave the common fisheries policy and are able to take further steps. We are committed to environmental sustainability, and I hope that working together when this great Bill becomes law we will be able to move forward much more quickly than in the past.

I turn briefly to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport. I remind him that, while this is a framework Bill and touches all areas, it does not, in fact, deal with the Benyon review or some of the specifics that he mentioned. However, I do want to be as helpful as possible. The Benyon review was pushed out on World Oceans Day, which seemed an appropriate time, despite the pandemic. It is important that we get on with this important work. The Government are considering their response at the moment. I think it would be wrong and that this is not the place to go much further than that, but I am happy to take this up with the hon. Gentleman outside the Bill as soon as he likes. We are in a great deal of communication on this at the moment, and a lot of work is being done.

On decarbonising the fleet—I am glad he enjoys Fishing News as much as I do—fishing accounts for about 10% of the domestic shipping CO2 emissions. I am not in any way downplaying that significant amount. The grant-making powers in the Bill could well be used to give grants which would encourage vessels to move to more sustainable types of fuel.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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8 Sep 2020, 11:14 a.m.

Is there a plan?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
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8 Sep 2020, 11:14 a.m.

There is no plan, but there is a very good clause which enables the plan to be made. It is something that should and will be done at local levels, but I would be amazed if decarbonisation of the fuels that vessels use was not the sort of thing to be considered.

Sentience and Welfare of Animals

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Luke Pollard
Monday 16th March 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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16 Mar 2020, 5:34 p.m.

The difficulty when we sit on the Opposition Benches, where our job is to scrutinise rather than to support, is that we look for evidence of the words. There is a genuine risk that standards could be undercut.

It is important to make a distinction here, because this is frequently lost in interventions, although I hope that will not be the case with the hon. Gentleman. It is not that we think the Government will somehow lower our standards immediately, but by signing trade deals that undercut our standards and permit food produced to lower animal welfare standards or with negative environmental impacts, we will be allowing in produce that undercuts our own farmers and our high animal welfare standards, and that creates an incentive to lower regulatory pressures in the UK—or protections, as the Opposition like to think of them.

That is not something that is supported. It is not supported by Labour, it is not supported by the SNP and it is not supported by many Conservative Members, nor is it supported by the National Farmers Union and other groups. There are elements of cross-party support for keeping standards high and keeping that in law; it is one of those areas where we can come together on a cross-party basis to say that animal sentience should be in law. If we did, it should be a simple Bill with good scrutiny—the Minister knows that there are many experts in this House who would happily advise her for free along the way—because it is important that we get it done. At the moment, far from getting done, it is just getting delayed.

I hope that the Minister, when she gets to her feet, will give a boost to the petitioners—all 104,000 of them, in nearly every single parliamentary constituency of the country—and reassure them that this petition will not only enjoy warm words from Government, but see Government action before the end of the implementation period at the end of this year.

Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
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16 Mar 2020, 5:36 p.m.

It really is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in this important debate, Sir Roger. I am not sure that we have yet reached a point on animal welfare where we are sharing glory, but if there is glory to be shared, you should certainly have a part in that, as should many of the hon. Members who have spoken in today’s debate. I recognise that many hon. Members here have been involved in this area for a long time and will continue to be involved, and that is to be welcomed.

I thank in particular the Petitions Committee and its representative in this Chamber, the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. I also thank the 104,000 people who signed a petition to say that it is important that the House have this debate.

I start by saying that we should be proud of this country’s animal welfare record. In preparing for the debate, I had a little look at the history books. We started legislating for animal welfare in the 1830s—a long time before we put into place many other provisions that we would now consider essential, such as for the protection of children—so it is true that we are keen on protecting animals in this country.

It has never been in dispute that, of course, animals are sentient beings. Today’s debate demonstrates once again that we are a nation of animal lovers. All colleagues will know how deeply their constituents feel about these issues. We see that all the time in the love and money that people give to animal charities. We have heard today about the work that the Barnsley Brownies have been doing, and the excellent work that Give a Dog a Bone has been doing in East Renfrewshire. I pay tribute to all those who are involved in that way.