All Debates between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock

Tue 14th May 2019
2 interactions (1,425 words)
Wed 10th April 2019
2 interactions (377 words)
Fri 27th April 2018
2 interactions (720 words)

Draft Common Fisheries Policy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2020

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Wednesday 9th December 2020

(5 months, 1 week ago)

General Committees

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

I absolutely refuse to confirm or deny that because I know no more than the right hon. Gentleman at this point. It is important that we listen to what the CDL has to say at, I think, 12.30—the Whip will confirm—and then, I hope, we will have much greater clarity. I am really pleased that the Joint Committee came to the agreement that it did and I am really looking forward to learning the details.

I turn to the changes on enforcement. First, the draft regulations will amend the 2019 fisheries regulations, updating the wording in relation to the amendment to section 30 of the Fisheries Act 1981 to ensure that, after the end of the transition period, criminal prosecutions can continue to be brought in Great Britain and Northern Ireland for breaches of EU fisheries rules that are directly applicable in Northern Ireland by virtue of the protocol. That does not represent a change in practice since prosecutions can currently be brought relying on section 30 of the 1981 Act for breaches of directly applicable EU fisheries rules.

Secondly, the draft regulations will amend regulations concerning sustainable and traceable fishing, correcting deficiencies and reflecting the direct application of EU law in Northern Ireland under the protocol. That will allow the UK to fulfil its obligations under ICAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, and CCAMLR—that may be less familiar to hon. Members, and is the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources—to which the UK is an independent contracting party. The UK, rather than the European Commission, will be responsible for the submission of information to the relevant secretariat as required by the obligations of each regional fisheries management organisation. To clarify, the UK will continue to submit the same level of information to ICCAT and CCAMLR, which is required by these international agreements, to which we will be an independent contracting party.

Thirdly, the draft regulations apply certain aspects of retained EU law relating to illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing to Northern Ireland. This is necessary to ensure that the UK is able to comply with its obligations under the port states measures agreement—the PSMA—once it accedes to that agreement at the end of the transition period. The PSMA requires the UK to apply controls to all non-UK vessels, including requiring them to land into designated ports. The draft regulations serve to implement that requirement in relation to EU vessels landing in Northern Ireland by applying the retained version of the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing regulation to Northern Ireland, supplementing the direct application of the EU’s IUU regulation under the protocol.

The port state measures agreement does not require the UK to apply controls to vessels that are registered in the UK. Once the draft regulations are in force, all non-UK fishing vessels will be subject to PSMA-related controls when landing anywhere in the United Kingdom, thus meeting the UK’s obligations under the agreement.

The draft regulations do not impose significant changes to what the public sector or businesses will have to do. They will ensure UK vessels are subject to largely the same rules as they are subject to at the moment. Accordingly, a full impact assessment has not been prepared. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

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

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott, and it is also good to see the Minister in her place. We have spent many hours debating fisheries policies over the last few months.

The draft regulations make further changes to retained EU law relating to the common fisheries policy to ensure that it continues to operate effectively once the transition period has come to an end. I have a few questions for the Minister that I hope she will be able to answer regarding the proposed changes to retained EU law, which could potentially limit the UK’s role in international collaboration on important marine issues post Brexit.

As noted by ClientEarth in its submission to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee,

“certain delegated powers currently held by the EU have not been transferred to the UK.”

These powers relate to the implementation of the UK’s international obligations on the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The draft regulations remove the Council regulation article that required EU members to provide the Commission with a summary of the list of catch documentations issued or received into territory regarding landings, import or export. Catch documentation schemes for Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish are an important tool to support the conservation and management of Antarctic marine living resources.

The Minister referred to this point, but will she confirm that post Brexit the UK will continue to implement its international obligations, including those relating to the regulation that I have just mentioned? Will she also provide assurances that the UK will continue to co-operate and collaborate with other countries on marine and fisheries after the end of the transition period? As the Minister knows, many marine issues are trans-boundary and it is vital that the UK maintains a close relationship with our overseas partners to protect the marine environment and end the over-exploitation of certain fish stocks. It is important that the Government provide more detail and more clarity on what our post-Brexit fisheries regime will look like.

Labour will not divide the Committee on the draft regulations today, but I would be grateful if the Minister could answer those few questions.

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(Report stage)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Tuesday 13th October 2020

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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

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

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

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

13 Oct 2020, 6:42 p.m.

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

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

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

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Sixth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
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
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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

New clause 10 would establish a duty to co-operate among all fisheries policy authorities in carrying out their functions under the Bill, and would allow them to share information to ensure that they are working efficiently and co-operatively. The Government have already opposed the creation of a dispute resolution mechanism, which would have been used to ensure that disagreements between fishing authorities did not reach an impasse. The new clause would provide for a duty of co-operation in the absence of a dispute resolution mechanism.

The Government have consistently described the Fisheries Bill as a framework Bill to establish the parameters under which the industry will operate. As the Committee will be aware, that function has been fulfilled for a number of decades by the common fisheries policy. Whatever concerns hon. Members may have had about the CFP—I am aware that concerns have been raised on all sides of the House—there is no doubt that it provided a settled framework for fisheries. When the structures of the CFP are removed, it is important that the framework that replaces it is robust and consistent.

The new clause therefore seeks to place an obligation on fisheries policy authorities to co-operate with other fisheries policy authorities in preparation for and the application of the joint fisheries statement, any Secretary of State fisheries statement, the licensing of fishing boats, enforcement against illegal fishing activity, the determination and distribution of fishing opportunities, and the prevention of discards. Those are all crucial points that must be settled collaboratively as the UK seeks to forge a new future for its fishing industry outside the EU.

Without a duty to co-operate between among the different sectors of our fishing industry and the different parts of the UK, we could face a scenario after 31 December whereby different fisheries authorities, the Marine Management Organisation and different devolved Governments each set different regulations or pursue different priorities in relation to the fishing industry and the marine environment. That would lead to a fracturing not just of the industry but of the broader framework that the Bill is designed to establish for UK fisheries.

Opposition Members welcome the Bill and the aim of establishing a framework and clear objectives for the future of the industry. However, without co-operation across the industry and the different parts of the UK, any framework would be fractured, making it all but redundant, and making it infinitely more difficult to achieve the Bill’s objectives. Therefore, if the Government oppose the new clause, I would be grateful if the Minister could set out how they intend to ensure that different stakeholders and constituent parts of the UK’s fishing industry work collaboratively to meet the objectives in the Bill.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 2:16 p.m.

The new clause is unnecessary because, in addition to existing processes, the Bill already contains provisions for lots of co-operation among the authorities. The four fisheries policy authorities have a strong track record of working collaboratively to develop fisheries management policy. That will be further strengthened through a new memorandum of understanding developed as part of the UK fisheries common framework, which will set out how the authorities will continue to work closely together in the future. The Bill includes the shared fisheries objectives, and clause 2 and schedule 1 require the authorities jointly to prepare and produce a joint fisheries statement. Clause 10 requires fisheries authorities to exercise their functions in accordance with the policies in a JFS, Secretary of State fisheries statement or fisheries management plan. As many of the stocks are mobile, that will of course require a great deal of co-operation among the authorities.

Let me turn to the sharing of information. Again, a lot of that happens currently, and principles around data sharing will be incorporated in the MOU. Within the Bill, the scientific evidence objective also includes a requirement for fisheries policy authorities to work together on the collection and sharing of scientific data. The JFS will include policies to support the achievement of that objective.

I therefore ask that the new clause be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 2:17 p.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 11

Highly Protected Marine Areas for England

‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish a plan to designate Highly Protected Marine Areas for England.

(2) Before publishing a plan under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must carry out a public consultation.

(3) The plan in subsection (1) must be published by 31 December 2021.’—(Luke Pollard.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to carry out a consultation and publish a plan to designate Highly Protected Marine Areas for England.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

If the hon. Lady had been listening to my speech, she would have noted that I just said that of course the fishing industry cannot be fully responsible, but it can play its part. Statistics highlighted by The Ocean Cleanup conservation group show an area of floating rubbish totalling 79,000 tonnes, most of which is abandoned fishing gear and other plastic waste. Clearly the UK is not responsible for all fishing gear lost at sea in the EU, or for plastic waste in the Pacific, but there is no reason why we should not set the standard and be world leaders in tackling plastic waste in our own waters.

We have an opportunity with the Bill and with the new clause to tackle this problem and to make an important contribution to broader efforts to protect our environment. The new clause is not radical, nor would it damage the industry or constrain or tie the Government into any particular course of action. I urge the Government to accept the new clause.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Tackling the scourge of plastic pollution in the ocean is a priority for the Government and for me personally. While the proposed new clause rightly recognises the importance of tackling plastic pollution, it is not necessary in the Bill because it replicates existing legislation.

The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage) Regulations 1998 prohibits the disposal of plastic items at sea, including fishing gear. Adequate disposal facilities are already required under the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Port Waste Reception Facilities) Regulations 2003. Under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships) Regulations 2020, larger vessels are required to complete a garbage record book to record waste and complete a garbage management plan to minimise, collect, store, process and dispose of garbage.

Clause 38(4) already provides a power to make regulations for a conservation purpose, which can cover the design and use of sea fishing equipment and the retrieval of lost or discarded sea fishing equipment. There is already a very full legislative framework that regulates the disposal of plastic waste, including fishing gear, from fishing vessels, without the need for this new clause. I recognise why it might have been thought that the new clause was necessary, but given the plethora of legislation in the area, we need to work on enforcement, not legislation. I ask the hon. Member to withdraw the motion.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister points out, we need to work on enforcement, which is clearly not working. I am disappointed that she will not accept the new clause, but I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 13

Enforcement of licences

“(1) A Minister of the Crown must, before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, and annually by the 30 November every year thereafter, lay before Parliament a statement containing the policy of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to the—

(a) routine patrolling of waters within British fishery limits, and

(b) enforcement of the requirements under sections 14(1) and 16(1).

(2) Before making a statement under subsection (1), the Minister must consult—

(a) the Scottish Ministers,

(b) the Welsh Ministers, and

(c) the Northern Ireland department.

(3) The statement under subsection (1) must include a declaration of whether, in the Minister’s opinion, the United Kingdom has sufficient resources to undertake the actions mentioned in subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b).

(4) If, in the Minister’s opinion, the United Kingdom does not have sufficient resources to undertake the actions mentioned in subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b), the Minister shall, within 30 days of making the statement, publish a strategy for acquiring such resources.

(5) A strategy published under subsection (3) must be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

(6) For the purpose of this section “sufficient resources” includes—

(a) an appropriate number of vessels,

(b) an appropriate number of personnel, and

(c) any other resource that a Minister of the Crown deems appropriate.”.—(Luke Pollard.)

This new clause requires a Minister of the Crown to outline the Government’s policy in relation to the patrolling of British waters and enforcement of fisheries licences, and, in the event of the UK not having sufficient resources, requires publication of a strategy for them.

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

15 Sep 2020, midnight

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

As we have said on a number of occasions throughout our discussion of the Bill, it is important that Government policy is led by science and expert opinion, and that the industry and coastal communities have the opportunity to have their voices heard. The new clause will place a duty on the Secretary of State to establish an expert advisory council on fisheries, on which the industry and coastal communities will have a strong voice. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said it supports the establishment of a consultative group comprised of appropriately qualified authoritative fisheries experts to inform policy decisions and ensure proper accountability. It has also said:

“The inclusion on the Advisory Council of fisheries experts would guarantee that sustainability issues are fully considered.”

An advisory council would be an invaluable source of knowledge of our UK fishing industry and marine environment, helping to guide policy and promote collaboration between central Government, fisheries authorities, industry, scientists, conservationists and other key stakeholders. As has been mentioned multiple times during the Committee, the fishing industry is a naturally variable industry. It is important that fishing policy and authorities are informed by expert opinion and scientific data, and that the industry is involved in decisions on its future at every step of the policy-making process. The aim of this simple Opposition amendment is to bring all expert stakeholders together, and I hope it can carry the support of Members from across the House. I know that Conservative Members have voiced their support, so I hope the Government will give the new clause serious consideration.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

In keeping with the commitments in the 25-year environment plan and the fisheries White Paper, I assure the Committee that we already work closely and collaboratively with our fishing industry, scientists and environmental stakeholders to make sure our fisheries are managed in a sustainable way. The White Paper noted our intention to work in greater partnership with the industry. Our commitment to listening and working collaboratively with the industry and stakeholders feeds into policy development in a flexible and proportionate way. A national one-size-fits-all engagement structure would not, we feel, be in keeping with the needs of different fishing communities. Committing to a prescriptive advisory structure at this stage could limit the development of fisheries management. I believe the new clause is unnecessary and ask that it be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 15

Fishing co-operatives

‘(1) The Secretary of State must promote co-operatives within the fishing industry, in England, and such promotion may include—

(a) offering financial assistance for the creation or development of fishing co-operatives within the following aspects—

(i) landing;

(ii) catching; and

(iii) processing;

(b) establishing bodies to provide practical support and guidance for the development of new co-operatives; issue guidance on the practical steps which can be taken pursuant to establishing a new co-operative.

(2) Financial assistance under subsection (1) may be given by way of grant, loan or guarantee, or in any other form.

(3) An organisation shall be recognised as a fishing co-operative if—

(a) it is either—

(i) registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as a co-operative; or

(ii) constituted under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, and

(b) it operates in a sector of the fishing industry described in subsection (1)(a).’—(Stephanie Peacock.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to provide financial assistance, establish support and issue guidance in order to promote co-operatives in the fishing industry in England by—for example —offering financial assistance, establishing support bodies or issuing guidance.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

New clause 15 speaks to the long history of co-operatives and co-operation in our fishing industry. It would require the Secretary of State to provide financial assistance, establish support and issue guidance to promote co-operatives in the fishing industry in England. This could include, for example, offering funds, establishing support bodies or issuing guidance to co-operative businesses.

As has been said repeatedly in this Committee, the obstacles faced by small-scale operators in the last 10 years require urgent redress. The new clause gives us a chance to do just that. Existing co-operative structures in the industry allow fishers to pool risk and access bigger markets; at the same time, they enable those in the sector to work closely together to protect the long-term financial and environmental sustainability of our seas. Fishing co-operatives can play a vital role in minimising competition for already depleted and diminishing stocks where they allow structures of management and control to be agreed between fishers. That helps to secure the future of our industry. Co-operatives simply offer a greater degree of control to the smaller operators, who need it.

Labour’s new clause would require the Government to boost the growth of co-operative businesses in the sector by supporting existing co-operatives to grow and by helping new co-operatives to start up. I hope that the Government will support the new duties that the new clause would place on the Secretary of State. In doing so, they will show that they recognise the good done by co-operatives across this country and the faith they have in smaller operators, who represent the future of our UK fishing industry.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

This clause is not necessary because funding and guidance are and will continue to be available for a variety of fishing activities in England, as we discussed this morning. The Government made a manifesto commitment to maintain funding for the sector, and we will replace the European maritime and fisheries fund with new domestic scheme from 2021.

We are not sure that it is helpful to focus on co-operatives. Not all fishermen want to be members of broad collective groups or organisations, and in our view it would not be appropriate to single out one form of organisation over others. In addition, it is unclear what relationship this proposed co-operative model would have to the producer organisations and fishermen’s associations that already work throughout England. I therefore ask that the new clause be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 16

“Fishing industry skills strategy

‘(1) Within 1 year of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must publish a strategy for skills, employment and economic regeneration for the fishing industry.

(2) Before publishing a strategy under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must consult with—

(a) the Scottish Ministers;

(b) the Welsh Ministers;

(c) the Northern Ireland department;

(d) representatives of the fishing industry;

(e) any other person the Secretary of State considers appropriate.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish a fishing industry skills strategy.—(Stephanie Peacock.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

--- Later in debate ---
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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 17

Procurement of sustainable fishery products

“The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament, within 12 months of this Act being passed, a strategy for increasing sustainable fish procurement in the public sector.”—(Stephanie Peacock.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

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

15 Sep 2020, 1:55 p.m.

While I understand that all Members of the House are very worried about the effects of covid-19 on the fishing industry, I want to assure the House that we are very carefully monitoring the impacts on the fishing and seafood sectors. The work that we are doing includes monitoring prices and demand, including landings, for UK seafood, as well as analysis of employment data. We are concerned that the new clause would require a duplication of ongoing engagement and monitoring work. The timeframe in the new clause means that it would not capture the effects of coronavirus after the next six months, which, given the seasonality of fishing, means that it would not capture the full effects, as not all of them will have worked through in the six-month period. We are also concerned about the devolution aspects.

It is definitely true that the coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the vital role that the food system plays in all our lives, which is why part one of the national food strategy is already looking at the food system in relation to the pandemic. We recognise that it is vital that everyone has access to healthy and affordable food, and the national food strategy is taking forward that work, in addition to work being done by Seafish in data gathering for its 2020 surveys, which are under way. The work is very detailed and the surveys include specific questions about the impacts of covid-19. Subsequent analysis of that data will, I believe, provide the information that is being sought.

The Bill is intended to frame our fisheries management for many years to come. While the pandemic has certainly not gone away in the way that we might have hoped six months ago, I do not think it is appropriate to legislate in a framework Bill for something such as this, when I am confident that the work hon. Members seek is being covered elsewhere. I therefore ask that the clause be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do appreciate the Minister’s remarks and all the work that the Government are doing, but I am not convinced by her argument that this new clause is a duplicate. It simply asks the Government to come back and report to Parliament, so that they are open and transparent to the public and, most importantly, so that the fishing industry can see the impact of covid-19 on its industry and the support the Government are giving. On that basis, I would like to press the new clause to a vote.

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

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

I jumped in too soon with the nice bits.

I thank the Minister for those comments. I understand her first point, but does her Department have plans to introduce regulations that require not just unprocessed fish but all fish products offered for retail to be labelled with where they come from and where they are caught? I urge the Government to be more ambitious on labelling, and to strengthen the labelling rules.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

May I intervene to answer the question? Fisheries and aquaculture products will continue to be labelled and marketed as before. We are rolling over the labelling and marketing provisions in the regulation, and they will become part of retained EU law. We want to give certainty to consumers and businesses, especially around alignment with existing markets, as we end the transition period. We are consulting on labelling and we are keen to do so, but any changes to the arrangements would need to be carefully considered.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The point of the new clause is to ensure that consumers have the information that they need to make choices, and so that they can choose sustainable fish and can buy British. On that note, I would like to vote on the new clause.

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

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fifth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
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
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Amendments 126 to 129 concern the provision of financial assistance for scientific data collection and the commissioning and decommissioning of boats if quota allocations change.

Clause 35 creates new powers for the Secretary of State to make grants or loans to the fishing and aquaculture industries. When the UK was part of the EU, funding was provided by the European maritime and fisheries fund. Labour welcomes the provisions in the Bill that allow for grant and loan schemes to be established for England following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, in order to replicate the breadth of what we can currently be funded for under the EMFF. The funding will go beyond what is currently allowed under the Fisheries Act 1981 to allow financial assistance for the protection and improvement of the marine and aquatic environment; the promotion, development or reorganisation of commercial fish activities; health and safety training; economic development or social improvement in areas where commercial fish or aquaculture activities are carried out; improving the arrangements for catch or effort quotas; and the promotion of recreational fishing.

However, we would like to include within the purposes listed under clause 35 the provision of financial assistance for the purpose of scientific data collection. The EMFF supported the common fisheries policy through the collection and management of data to improve scientific knowledge. We would ask that the new UK funding scheme supports sustainable fisheries management through the provision of financial assistance for scientific data collection. Our amendments put the gathering of scientific data on a par with the other purposes for which the Secretary of State can provide financial assistance.

The Opposition have made it clear that sustainability must be at the heart of the UK’s fisheries policy as we leave the CFP. The amendments make provision to provide the funding necessary to carry out stock assessments, vessel monitoring and recording of fish catches, among other things. That is important for protecting the future of our marine environment and for the fishing industry itself, and it can be achieved only if appropriate scientific data are gathered.

As has been mentioned throughout the debate on the Bill, we are making fisheries management decisions and policy with a data deficit. Right now, we do not know the status of three of the UK’s 15 main fish stocks, which has meant that we cannot market much of the fish caught in UK waters as sustainable. That has an impact not just on the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification, but on consumer confidence in fish from UK waters.

In addition to the collection of scientific data, the Opposition would like to include within the list of purposes for which the Secretary of State can provide financial assistance the commissioning and decommissioning of boats if quota allocations change. That would help fishers invest in new gear, boats and the hiring of more crew if their quotas increased. Funding for help for under-10 metre boats to be decommissioned in the event of reduced catch and effort quotas would be very welcome to coastal communities, which know all too well the sight of abandoned boats lying marooned on the shore. Has the Minister considered a new system to support new boats being put to sea or existing boats being taken out of service in response to movements in quota value? If an increase in quota is available in a specific area, we cannot simply magic boats out of the air from nearby ports to take advantage of it. Similarly, if a port’s fleet loses quota through negotiations, fishers and boat owners will need support to redeploy.

If the Government will not support the amendments, it calls into question their previous commitment to a sustainable marine environment and the future of the fishing industry. I therefore urge the Government to match their rhetoric with action and support the amendments.

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

The amendments are not necessary, because the Bill sets out the purposes that can be funded, not specific activities related to those purposes, which provides the flexibility to fund a wide range of activities, even if they are not mentioned directly. A scheme providing for financial assistance will be set up via an affirmative statutory instrument, and it will be in that regulation that the details and activities of financial support will be set out. I look forward to discussing that SI and the specific activities when, in due course, it is laid.

Having given that explanation, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Amendments 134 to 137 also relate to the new powers the Bill gives the Secretary of State to make grants or loans to the fishing and aquaculture industry. They would allow fishing ports to bid for grants from any new domestic fisheries fund. The overwhelming majority of fishing ports are currently not eligible to apply to the domestic fisheries fund, which covers the transition period. If that is not fixed, it will be a significant problem for the industry.

We have spoken at length in this Committee about the importance of UK ports. Our ports are hubs of regional and national connectivity. They are the foundation of UK fisheries and wider marine management. Sadly, however, many are struggling to remain financially viable.

I again voice my opposition to the Government’s decision to remove the jobs and coastal communities clause from the Bill, which would have better supported UK ports. Because ports play an important part in supply chains, it is important that they receive the financial support they need to make long-term investment in infrastructure to support the UK fishing industry. With the support of the British Ports Association, we are calling on the Government to include landside infrastructure, such as ports and market facilities, within the purposes listed in clause 35, for which the Secretary of State may give financial assistance.

In 2017, research conducted by the BPA found that two thirds of fishing ports’ working quays needed maintenance or repair work, and 75% of markets and auctions needed modest or significant repairs or upgrades. The covid-19 pandemic has been particularly harmful for a number of ports and market facilities. Many small harbours, markets and auction sites have struggled to remain viable. Repair costs can run to millions of pounds, but at this point in time conducting vital maintenance or repair work is no longer an option. We need to better support the landside infrastructure on which our UK fishing industry relies.

It is important to note that under the European maritime and fisheries fund, 72% of UK ports have received funding to enable the expansion of new services or facilities. That funding has been crucial in driving and refreshing port capacity, including fuel and ice plants. The amendments would allow a domestic continuation scheme to support harbours and landside infrastructure under the proposed post-Brexit fisheries regime.

I commend the amendments to the Committee.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The scope of clause 35 is already wide enough to include the activities suggested. Subsection (1) sets out priorities that can be funded, not specific activities, which provides sufficient flexibility to fund a wide range of activities, including the provision and maintenance of infrastructure related to the catching and aquaculture sectors, even if they are not directly mentioned.

I take issue with some of what the hon. Lady said about support for coastal communities. We have really expanded the funding powers in the Bill, which will enable financial support for port infrastructure work, such as work to improve catch processing and safety facilities.

Having given that explanation, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand what the Minister has said. However, further to the points I have made, I would like to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 54, in clause 35, page 24, line 15, at end insert—

“(c) require the Secretary of State, or another person, to publish specified information about financial assistance given in accordance with the scheme.

(4A) In subsection (4)(c) ‘specified’ means specified by the scheme; and information that may be specified under that provision includes information about—

(a) the recipient of the financial assistance;

(b) the amount of the financial assistance;

(c) the purpose for which the financial assistance was given.

(4B) The scheme may not impose a duty to publish information where its publication would (taking the duty into account) contravene the data protection legislation (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 2018).”

This amendment allows financial assistance schemes to include requirements to publish information about financial assistance given under the scheme.

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

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

The amendments provide that any future financial assistance schemes made under the Secretary of State’s funding power in clause 35 or the devolved Administrations’ funding powers in schedule 6 could include a requirement to publish data about the assistance given. The amendments also enable us to be more explicit about the potential design of a future scheme. This makes clear to future applicants the limited types of information that we could seek to publish as part of such a scheme.

The amendments should not be taken to imply that, in their absence, we could not do that anyway under the General Data Protection Regulation. The provision has also been drafted so that it cannot require publication of information that would be contrary to the Data Protection Act 2018. The power has been extended to the DAs at their request, and I commend it to the House.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 9:37 a.m.

As the Minister outlined, these are technical amendments, so the Opposition are happy to support them. I would just like to ask why the measures were not included in the original Bill and why they are now proposed as Government amendments. Obviously, when this happens, there is less time to consider the implications.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The reason why the amendment was not in the original Bill is that we do not think these powers are necessary to comply with GDPR, but we think that the introduction of this provision ensures consistency. It is a mirroring provision to the Agriculture Bill. We thought that this belt-and-braces approach would be clearer and more transparent for people reading the Bills in the future to understand.

Amendment 54 agreed to.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 138, in clause 35, page 24, line 20, at end insert—

“(5A) The scheme shall be open to statutory harbour authorities.”

This amendment would ensure that all statutory harbour authorities are eligible for financial assistance under the scheme, regardless of ownership.

This amendment relates to the amendments I spoke about earlier. It would ensure that all statutory harbour authorities were eligible for financial assistance under the new domestic funding scheme that replaces the EMFF. As I outlined, we all acknowledge and have spoken at length about the importance of UK ports. Under the current arrangements, the majority of our ports would not be able to apply to the domestic fund. If we seriously want our fishing industry to thrive and grow in the long term, that will require investments in the infrastructure on which the industry relies. However, our smaller harbours, markets and auction sites have been unable even to consider the long-term investments that they will need while they have been worried about the day-to-day viability of their businesses during the pandemic. Never mind investments for the future; many vital maintenance and repair works for today have no longer been an option for many operators.

I know that the Government share our ambition for the sector to grow, but that rhetorical ambition needs to be matched by providing the structures and support to ensure that it can be achieved. That includes ensuring that all our statutory harbour authorities are eligible for financial assistance under the new domestic funding schemes that replace the EMFF. With the support of the British Ports Association, I ask the Government to support the amendment.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

There is a bit of history here, Sir Charles. I am aware that the strict eligibility rules under the domestic maritime and fisheries fund in England, which opened to applications in 2019, excluded harbour authorities. That scheme was delivered using Exchequer funding, and during the transition period we have had to comply with European state aid rules. In future, we will not be bound by the EU state aid regime, and we will take our own view on the need for funding for UK infrastructure, including that owned by harbour authorities. The clause provides flexibility for all legal entities, including harbour authorities, to be eligible for financial assistance. Details of future schemes will be contained in subsequent regulations, which, as I said earlier, will be voted on under the affirmative procedure. I therefore think the amendment is unnecessary.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 9:40 a.m.

I hear what the Minister says. I understood this to be a great opportunity to put it into law now, but I accept the point she has made. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 9:41 a.m.

During the UK’s membership of the EU, funding to the fish and aquaculture sectors has been provided under the EMFF. This clause allows the creation of domestic financial assistance schemes that would support the fish and aquaculture sector in England. The Government are committed to putting in place new domestic long-term arrangements to support the UK’s fishing industry from 2021. This will be through the creation of four new schemes to deliver funding for each nation. The devolved Administrations will lead on their own schemes. I hope Members will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 35, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6

Financial assistance: powers of devolved authorities

Amendments made: 56, in schedule 6, page 72, line 19, at end insert—

“(c) require the Scottish Ministers, or another person, to publish specified information about financial assistance given in accordance with the scheme.

(4A) In sub-paragraph (4)(c) ‘specified’ means specified by the scheme; and information that may be specified under that provision includes information about—

(a) the recipient of the financial assistance;

(b) the amount of the financial assistance;

(c) the purpose for which the financial assistance was given.

(4B) The scheme may not impose a duty to publish information where its publication would (taking the duty into account) contravene the data protection legislation (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 2018).”

This amendment allows financial assistance schemes made by the Scottish Ministers to include requirements to publish information about financial assistance given under the scheme.

Amendment 57, page 73, in schedule 6, line 19, at end insert—

“(c) require the Welsh Ministers, or another person, to publish specified information about financial assistance given in accordance with the scheme.

(4A) In sub-paragraph (4)(c) ‘specified’ means specified by the scheme; and information that may be specified under that provision includes information about—

(a) the recipient of the financial assistance;

(b) the amount of the financial assistance;

(c) the purpose for which the financial assistance was given.

(4B) The scheme may not impose a duty to publish information where its publication would (taking the duty into account) contravene the data protection legislation (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 2018).”

This amendment allows financial assistance schemes made by the Welsh Ministers to include requirements to publish information about financial assistance given under the scheme.

Amendment 58, page 74, in schedule 6, line 19, at end insert—

“(c) require the Northern Ireland department, or another person, to publish specified information about financial assistance given in accordance with the scheme.

(4A) In sub-paragraph (4)(c) ‘specified’ means specified by the scheme; and information that may be specified under that provision includes information about—

(a) the recipient of the financial assistance;

(b) the amount of the financial assistance;

(c) the purpose for which the financial assistance was given.

(4B) The scheme may not impose a duty to publish information where its publication would (taking the duty into account) contravene the data protection legislation (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 2018).”—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment allows financial assistance schemes made by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to include requirements to publish information about financial assistance given under the scheme.

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 9:27 a.m.

The schedule has been placed in the Bill at the request of the devolved Administrations to establish schemes of financial assistance equivalent to those in clause 35. I hope that it will stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Clause 36

Charges; Powers of Marine Management Organisation

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 96, in clause 36, page 25, line 21, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

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

Both I and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport have spoken at length in the Committee about the need for more parliamentary scrutiny. The clause gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations regarding the Marine Management Organisation’s power to impose charges when carrying out certain marine functions. Such functions could include: fishing quota; ensuring commercial fishing activities are lawful; registration of buyers and sellers of first sale fish; and catch certificates for the import and export of fish.

The Bill expands the powers available to the MMO. Given the important role that organisation plays and will play in future fisheries management, further parliamentary scrutiny is needed when updating MMO charges and changes through secondary legislation. If the Government seek to oppose the amendment, I ask the Minister to outline how often she envisages changes being made to charges. What steps will her Department take to ensure that MMO charges are appropriate and value for money?

Labour seeks a standard to move from negative procedure instruments 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. Good scrutiny is good governance. It would help the Government to deliver on objectives outlined in clause 1 and make for better policy making as more people would be involved in the policy-making process. That is why we seek to make such regulations subject to the affirmative procedure.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The clause allows the Secretary of State to make regulations allowing for the MMO to impose charges when exercising a relevant marine function. It is Government policy to set charges to recover costs for services provided to the industry where possible. When drafting the Bill, we carefully considered the delegated powers and procedures that should apply to regulations. We think we struck the right balance between the need for scrutiny and the need to be able to update MMO charges through secondary legislation.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place twice reviewed our suggested procedures and its view both times was that we had struck the right balance with all the delegated powers. The clause requires the Secretary of State to consult appropriate persons before implementing any charging scheme. Given that assurance, I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 36 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 7

Imposition of Charges: Powers of Devolved Authorities

Question proposed, That the schedule be the Seventh schedule to the Bill.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

Again, this schedule, at the request of the devolved Administrations, provides those Administrations with powers to make regulations enabling them to impose charges for carrying out relevant marine functions.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 7 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 37

Sea Fish Industry Authority: fees for services provided for industry in EU

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

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

15 Sep 2020, midnight

The clause gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations to allow the UK to meet its international obligations, conserve the marine environment and adapt fisheries legislation. As I am sure Members will be aware, the are able to make the regulations on scientific data collection that they deem to be necessary.

As we have discussed at length, there are deficiencies in our data that we need to address if we are to ensure the sustainability of the fishing industry and our marine environment. The amendments would place scientific data prominently in the Bill and in the remit of the Secretary of State, to ensure that appropriate regulations are in place as we become an independent coastal state once again.

Like many of the amendments we have proposed, amendment 130 would not tie the hands of the Secretary of State or affect the direction of the objectives; indeed, it is wholly in line with them. It does not even involve additional scrutiny. Under the amendments, scientific data would simply be given the prominence in the Bill that it merits, and the Secretary of State and the relevant Ministers would have the power to address deficiencies in data as they saw fit. I hope that we can come to agreement and that the Government will find the amendments acceptable.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I hear what the hon. Lady says, but I feel that the Bill’s existing provisions are sufficient. They enable the UK to introduce regulation if our international obligations require us to gather and share scientific data. The scientific objective in clause 1 commits us to collect and share data to deliver efficient fisheries management. The regulations that enable us to collect data—the EU data collection framework regulation 2017/1004—will become retained EU law after the end of the transition period. We feel that clause 38 is wide enough to enable us to keep the regulation up to date and relevant. I hope that with that assurance the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

The clause will provide the Secretary of State with the powers necessary to manage our fisheries when the UK becomes an independent coastal state once again. It will enable the Government to comply with the UK’s international obligations, to manage our fisheries and to keep pace with changes to rules we have to comply with as members of regional fisheries management organisations.

The powers in the clause are broad in scope; in recognition of that, we have introduced a number of constraints to limit them as far as possible. They must be exercised for a purpose listed in subsection (4), they can be exercised only for matters listed for specific purposes, and they cannot create criminal offences punishable by imprisonment. However, the list of matters in subsection (4) does not apply in relation to implementing RFMO regulations, which can cover any matter within the scope of RFMO rules. The clause is integral in providing a legal framework for the UK to meet our international obligations under various conventions.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 38 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 39 and 40 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 41

Scope of regulations under section 38 or 40

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

The clause requires the Secretary of State to obtain consent from the Scottish or Welsh Ministers or the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to make provisions in areas of devolved competence for regulations under clauses 38 and 40. Where there is consent, the power will allow cross-UK regulations to be made in areas of devolved competence, which could ensure a coherent management regime for our fishers.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 42 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43

Procedural requirements for regulations under section 38 or 40

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 97, in clause 43, page 29, line 32, leave out from “if” to the end of line 42.

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

I will not repeat the arguments that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport have made about the need for more parliamentary scrutiny. Clauses 38 and 40 allow the Secretary of State to make regulations for technical matters currently regulated by the EU under the common fisheries policy. That includes powers to allow the UK to meet its international obligations, conserve the marine environment, adapt fisheries regulations, and make provisions for the purpose of monitoring, controlling, preventing or eradicating diseases of fish or other aquatic animals. With amendment 97, we seek to make the relevant regulations subject to the affirmative procedure to enable better scrutiny of the Government, and help the Government achieve their objectives listed under clause 1.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

We feel that we have got the balance of scrutiny right. Clause 43 was carefully drafted to ensure that the affirmative procedure was used in appropriate cases, with the negative procedure used to introduce what are likely to be highly technical amending regulations. As I said earlier, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place has twice considered the procedures proposed and told the Government that we have the right parliamentary procedure for all the regulation-making powers in the Bill. The Committee commented in its first report that

“of the Bill’s 15 delegated powers that have a parliamentary procedure, only four are solely governed by the negative procedure, and justifiably so.”

I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

The clause sets out the procedural requirements for making regulations under clauses 38 and 40. These ensure that there is appropriate parliamentary and public scrutiny of provisions made using these powers.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 8

powers to make further provision: devolved authorities

Amendments made: 50, in schedule 8, page 85, line 26, after “of” insert “sea fishing by”.

This amendment clarifies the scope of the Welsh Ministers’ power to make regulations under paragraph 6 or 8 of Schedule 8 in relation to matters that are not within the legislative competence of Senedd Cymru.

Amendment 146, in schedule 8, page 85, line 26, at end insert—

‘(3A) Provision which does not fall within sub-paragraph (3)(a), but which would do so but for a requirement for the consent of a Minister of the Crown imposed under Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006, may be included in regulations under paragraph 6 or 8 with the consent of the Secretary of State.’—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment enables the Welsh Ministers, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to include in regulations under paragraph 6 or 8 provision that is only within the legislative competence of Senedd Cymru if consent has been given by a Minister of the Crown.

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

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

15 Sep 2020, 10:50 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 9, in clause 51, page 35, leave out lines 26 to 28 and insert—

““minimum conservation reference size”, in relation to an aquatic organism, means the size of a member of the species of which the organism is a member, at the level of maturity of that organism, below which capture or retention is prohibited or restricted;”

This amendment clarifies the definition of “minimum conservation reference size”.

This technical amendment replaces the definition of “minimum conservation reference size” in clause 51. The previous definition might have implied that the reference size related to the size of the marine stock. The amendment makes it clear that it means the size of an individual fish or other relevant aquatic organism in terms of its maturity. I commend the amendment to the House.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Sep 2020, 10:50 a.m.

Labour is happy to support the amendment.

Amendment 9 agreed to.

Amendment made: 145, in clause 51, page 35, line 28, at end insert—

“Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (see section 8(1) of that Act);”

This amendment inserts into the Bill a definition of “Minister of the Crown”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

Clause 51, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 52

Extent

Amendment made: 10, in clause 52, page 37, line 3, leave out “revocation made by paragraph 5” and insert “repeals and revocations made by paragraphs 3 to 5”

This amendment ensures that the repeal in Schedule 4 of the current regime governing access of foreign fishing boats to British waters extends to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.—(Victoria Prentis.)

Clause 52, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 53

Commencement

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

15 Sep 2020, 10:51 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 55, in clause 53, page 37, line 30, at end insert—

‘(4A) Section (conservation of seals) and Schedule (conservation of seals) come into force on 1 March 2021.”

This amendment provides that the proposed new clause and Schedule on the conservation of seals come into force on 1 March 2021.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fourth sitting)

(Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
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
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I think what we are all learning, Sir Charles, is the extraordinarily complex and interrelated nature of the legislation in this area. I am sure we can always continue to improve on it, but I am very proud of the Bill.

The schedule amends UK legislation in consequence of the access and licensing provisions introduced in the Bill. The matters covered are access to British fisheries by foreign fishing boats, the licensing of British fishing boats and transitional provisions. In particular, section 2 of the Fishery Limits Act 1976, which sets out the current law on access by foreign boats, is repealed, as is the secondary legislation made under that section.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Clause 24

Power of Secretary of State to determine fishing opportunities

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

10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 111, in clause 24, page 16, line 14, leave out “may determine” and insert “must determine”.

This amendment makes it compulsory for the Secretary of State to make a determination relating to fishing opportunities.

Labour’s amendments to clause 24 relate to the Secretary of State’s function of setting the maximum quantity of sea fish that may be caught by fishing boats, both British and foreign, and the days that they may spend at sea during a specified period. Further to the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, this amendment seeks to make that an affirmative rather than a negative process.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

The current drafting of clause 24 gives a statutory power to the Secretary of State to determine UK fishing opportunities. The power may be exercised only where necessary to comply with the UK’s international obligations. Although most determinations are likely to be made to implement any obligations resulting from negotiations with other states, the Secretary of State could also make a determination to implement the UK’s sustainable fishing duties under international law. A determination may cover fishing effort as well as quota.

Amending the power would make the scope of the Secretary of State’s function uncertain. If it became obligatory to make a determination, would that duty apply to non-quota stocks or to stocks that are wholly located within devolved areas? I am concerned that my colleagues in the devolved Administrations would not welcome that. I assure the hon. Lady that, through the Fisheries Bill, there will be greater transparency of how we manage and allocate quota in the UK through the publication of the Secretary of State’s determination of UK fishing opportunities, which will be laid before Parliament. Given that explanation, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 113, in clause 24, page 16, leave out lines 16 to 19 and insert—

“(a) the maximum quantity of sea fish that may be caught by British fishing boats or foreign fishing boats holding rights to use the British catch quota;

(b) the maximum number of days that British fishing boats or foreign fishing boats holding rights to use the British catch quota may spend at sea.”

This amendment would add foreign fishing boats to the determination made by the Secretary of State of the maximum quantity of sea fish caught, or of the maximum number of days at sea.

I believe that the amendment brings us one step closer to taking back control of our waters. We should have control over what non-UK boats do in our waters, including how much fish they can catch. As hon. Members know from our lengthy discussions on these matters, the Opposition are keen to ensure that the sustainability of our environment and our fish stocks are fundamental to fisheries management, and that our small British fishers and their coastal communities see the greatest possible benefit from fishing opportunities and redistributed quotas.

The amendment would add foreign fishing boats to the determination made by the Secretary of State for the maximum quantity of sea fish that can be caught and the maximum number of days that can be spent at sea. It seeks to ensure that foreign fishing vessels are not exempt from the Secretary of State’s jurisdiction. In our efforts to ensure that we have a sustainable and growing UK fishing industry, the British Government should be able to set limits for all boats operating in our waters to protect UK fish stocks and ensure the survival of our UK fishing industry.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

We do not think that this amendment is necessary, as foreign fishing boats do not hold any rights to use British catch or effort quota. UK quota is allocated only to vessels registered and licensed in the UK. It is, of course, true that the ultimate beneficial owners of some UK fishing businesses are foreign. This is because UK fishing companies and their assets can be bought and sold like any other company in any other industry, but no foreign-registered fishing boat has the right to use our quota, nor will they in future. Any foreign fishing boat permitted to fish in UK waters in future would fish against its own state’s quota. Given that the amendment would not be effective in practice, I ask that it be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 114, in clause 24, page 16, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) No determination of effort quota under subsection (1)(b) may be made until the completion of a trial for the relevant area of sea, stocks fished, fishing methods used, documentation methods used and any other relevant considerations that demonstrates that there is no evidence that such a determination—

(a) might cause a detriment to the achievement of any of the fisheries objectives;

(b) might cause the maximum sustainable yield of any stock to be exceeded;

(c) might reduce the accuracy of the recording of catches;

(d) might increase the risk of danger to the crew of fishing boats.”

This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State making a determination of effort quota until it has been shown not to cause adverse impacts through a days at sea trial.

Amendment 114 would require the Secretary of State to commit to a days at sea trial to ensure the effort quota is not harmful to the fisheries objectives, the state of fish stocks or boat crew members. Days at sea or effort quotas should be the result of careful planning and consideration. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said on Second Reading:

“Fish stocks are a finite resource, yet fishing quotas are being set above scientifically recommended sustainable levels year on year. Estimates suggest that restoring fish populations would not only safeguard our marine life, but lead to £244 million a year for the industry and create more than 5,000 jobs.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 96.]

I cannot stress enough the need for quotas to closely follow scientific guidance so that fish stocks are not depleted further. With this amendment, the Opposition are calling on the Secretary of State to complete trials on

“the relevant area of sea, stocks fished, fishing methods”

and “documentation methods used” before making a determination of fishing opportunities. This would ensure that effort quotas do not negatively impact the achievement of any of the fisheries objectives under clause 1 of the Bill, exceed the maximum sustainable yield of any stocks, reduce the accuracy of the recording of catches, or put the lives of fishers at risk. I do not believe it is too much to ask of the Government that they commit to a trial that ensures the sustainability of our stocks and the industry.

If the Minister is confident that the trial would find that an effort quota is not harmful, there is nothing to fear or oppose in having it take place, and ensuring the matter can be concluded with its findings. Conversely, if it is the case that the effort quota is harmful to the fisheries objectives, the state of the fish stocks or the boat crew members, I am sure the Minister would not want that harm to continue. As I have said, the amendment simply commits the Secretary of State to undertake a days at sea trial to ensure that we are not causing long-term harm to the industry and our fish stocks. I hope the Government will take this opportunity to do so.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

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

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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 2:56 p.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

10 Sep 2020, 2:59 p.m.

It would indeed be our pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn, because we think it is disproportionately burdensome, though we agree it is well-intentioned and we absolutely agree that good data is key to making good fisheries management decisions. We also accept that we have too many data-poor stocks, particularly for non-quota stocks, but there are a number of practical issues with the amendment that we think would cause us difficulties.

Fisheries management plans in the Bill require fisheries authorities to specify the actions to assess the status of the stocks covered, or explain how the stocks will be managed sustainably in the absence of sufficient data. Our progress with those plans will be reported on every three years. Many non-quota stocks occur in the waters managed by the devolved Administrations. Most of the functions of gathering that information will be for the DAs, not the Secretary of State. I am concerned about that aspect of this amendment, and I again ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will withdraw it.

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

I could not have put it better myself.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 112, in clause 24, page 17, line 8, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

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

The amendment would make the regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. On the first day of the Committee, I spoke at length about the need for more parliamentary scrutiny. Since 2013, no significant progress has been made towards achieving maximum sustainable yield figures, which have languished at about 57% to 68% of stocks fished sustainably in the last seven years.

The powers granted under clause 24(10) give the Secretary of State the power to determine the number of days in a specified period that a boat may spend at sea. Regulations under that power will be affected by the varying technical conditions—from the stowing of fishing gear to entering the UK’s inshore waters or leaving a port—that may affect when a boat should be regarded as fishing. The calculation of what is meant by “a day at sea” is highly technical, so I firmly believe that we need more parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that effort quotas do not exceed scientific advice and damage the sustainability of our fish stocks.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

The Government consider that we have struck the right balance between the need for parliamentary scrutiny and the need to react quickly, with secondary legislation, to make what are often technical amendments. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee considered the procedures for the delegated powers in the Bill, and said:

“Of the Bill’s 15 delegated powers that have a parliamentary procedure, only four are solely governed by the negative procedure, and justifiably so.”

That Committee also published a report about the Bill on 26 February, and it did not change its views. It should also be noted that an identical amendment was debated and withdrawn in the other place. I therefore invite the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

The clause provides the Secretary of State with the power to determine the UK’s fishing opportunities, to comply with its international obligations. The Secretary of State will be able to set the maximum amount of seafish that may be caught by British fishing boats and the maximum number of days that they can spend at sea. The power would be used to set the level of total allowable catch for UK shared stocks, reflecting anything that we manage to negotiate. It could also be used to ensure our compliance with article 61 of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

The power relates therefore to the high-level function of determining UK fishing opportunities as a whole; it does not relate to the subsequent allocation of those opportunities to the different fisheries administrations, or indeed to their distribution to industry. Under the clause, the Secretary of State would also have the power to make negative resolution regulations about when time will be counted as time at sea for the purposes of the determination.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25

Duties relating to a determination of fishing opportunities

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 117, in clause 25, page 17, line 19, at end insert—

“(e) the public.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to conduct a public consultation prior to making or withdrawing a determination under section 24.

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

10 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks with great authority on the subject. I guess that that argument could be applied to pretty much any public consultation. The idea of the amendment is that although, of course, people can come to their local MPs, who can make the case for them, they would be able to feed in directly on the specifics of fishing opportunities.

A public consultation would also, I believe, bring to light the current inequalities in the UK fishing fleet and give the public an opportunity to have their say on how to address bringing back prosperity to coastal communities. It would also give people the opportunity to ensure that the Government and fisheries authorities stay true to the objectives outlined in clause 1—most importantly, the sustainability objective. The British public are increasingly concerned about the climate emergency and the efforts being made to protect our environment. If we are to restore the confidence of the public that the British Government are in complete control not only of our maritime future, but of the conservation and protection of our marine environment, we must involve them in our fisheries management decisions. I believe we should give them a voice, and commit to listening.

Amendment 118 would require the Secretary of State to state what scientific advice was used when making or withdrawing a determination under clause 24. As discussed earlier, the scientific evidence objective requires fisheries authorities to draw on

“the best available scientific advice”

in making their decisions. The Opposition have argued that only that evidence will lead to world-leading sustainable fisheries management.

For the purposes of accountability and effective scrutiny, it seems clear that when making such determinations under clause 24 the Secretary of State should identify the scientific evidence on which the decisions are based. Such decisions by the Secretary of State will have significant impacts on operators and coastal communities, and I do not believe that it would be improper for the Secretary of State to confirm the scientific basis of a decision.

Independent peer-reviewed science must form the basis of all fisheries management decisions. Sadly, we live a world where a minority scientific opinion—the opinion of those who deny the existence of a climate crisis, for example—can cast doubt on the majority of scientific data and advice. It is important that we know who the Government are turning to when they determine the allocation of fishing opportunities under clause 24.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

10 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

We are concerned about the practical implications of the amendment, as it could result in an unacceptable loss of time in getting access to fishing opportunities at the start of the calendar year. If public consultation were required it would have to take place after international negotiations, which could cause a significant delay. Fishermen would not be able to fish, because they would still be waiting for confirmation of quotas. For fisheries that operate primarily in the early part of the year, such as the mackerel fishery, that could be serious.

It is unclear what benefit public consultation at that stage would bring. The scientific advice, which the hon. Lady is right to mention as important, and which informs negotiation and quota setting, would have been published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea some months earlier. Discussions with industry and other stakeholders about quota setting would ordinarily take place in advance of negotiations, not afterwards.

Turning to amendment 118, the advice on the health and sustainability of fish stocks is already publicly available and is published each year. It is good international advice on the health of fish stocks and total allowable catches each year, and is available to all those who are interested in it. I am afraid I do not see what benefit the two amendments will bring, and I therefore ask that neither be pressed to a vote.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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

I beg to move amendment 119, in clause 26, page 17, leave out line 38.

This amendment would remove historical catch levels as a basis for distributing catch quotas and effort quotas.

Amendment 119 removes historical catch as a basis for allocating quotas. National authorities would no longer consider historical catch levels when distributing catch and effort quotas to fishing boats. Instead, they would prioritise environmental and local economic criteria. Removing historical catch levels as a criterion would help to end the unfair arrangement that British fishers suffered under the common fisheries policy.

This new system under which quotas are distributed on the basis of environmental and local economic criteria is likely to benefit small-scale sustainable fishers who belong to the UK small fishing fleet, because smaller boats provide more job opportunities to local communities. For every fish caught, small-scale fleets create far more jobs than their larger counterparts. In 2016, they landed 11% of fish by value in the UK but employed nearly half of all fishers. They are also better for the environment.

We have already discussed the impact of destructive fishing methods, including pulse beam trawling, which cause huge damage to the UK marine environments and ecosystems. In contrast to supertrawlers and larger boats, the vast majority of boats within the small-scale fleet use passive gears, which are more environmentally friendly. By removing historical catch from the list of criteria that a national authority must consider when allocating fishing opportunities, we would send a message to smaller boats that we believe in their economic potential and recognise the positive impact of job opportunities in coastal communities and the marine environments in which such boats operate.

I am aware that some colleagues will be concerned about the legality of removing historical catch as a basis for allocating quotas, but I reassure them that a challenge to a new system of quota allocation enshrined in an Act of Parliament would be unlikely to succeed. I have been assured that the new scenario of mandating quota re-allocation in UK law would be compatible with domestic and international law.

Under this new approach, foreign-owned companies that control UK quota would have to work to keep it on the UK’s terms. They would have to fulfil the environmental and local economic criteria, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and local employment. Our smaller fishing fleets remain the backbone of coastal communities across the country. It is time that they got their fair share of fishing opportunities.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

In Committee earlier this week, I explained that although fixed quota allocation units do not represent a permanent right to quotas, the High Court has recognised them as a property right, and it is not the Government’s intention to undermine the legal status of the existing quota regime at this stage. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

--- Later in debate ---
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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

DEFRA absolutely recognises the benefits of recreational fishing to the nation’s health and economy; I know you do too, Sir Charles. I myself enjoy sea angling, as do other members of my family.

However, I will note at the beginning of this discussion that references to “fish activities” include both commercial and recreational fishing in this iteration of the Bill. So, it is fair to say that the Bill has been improved and it is good to see those activities being viewed as equal partners in what we are trying to do.

Quota is one of several possible mechanisms that could be explored in order to increase recreational anglers’ access to fish; we talked about that earlier. Other mechanisms could include technical measures, through which recreational fishers saw a significant increase in their access to sea bass between 2019 and 2020. We can also enable anglers and fishermen to play a greater role in scientific research, as we also discussed earlier, and that has been proposed with regard to bluefin tuna.

Clause 26 relates generally to the distribution of fishing opportunities. It is not just about the distribution of quota to commercial boats. It already ensures that environmental, social and economic factors are considered. On that basis, I believe that the current wording of clause 26, combined with the other work that we are doing on recreational access to fish, is sufficient to meet the hon. Lady’s objectives.

Turning to amendment 81, DEFRA’s recreational sea fishing forum brings together the recreational sector, regulators and policy makers to shape sea fishing policy. This forum met for the third time two days ago and it is providing a really useful mechanism for those in the sector to share their ideas and evidence.

DEFRA is also committed to engaging with stakeholders on the design and implementation of any future grant scheme, to ensure that we can best meet domestic priorities as well as Government objectives. On that basis, I do not think that it is necessary to include the express consultation requirement when consulting on future grant schemes.

Turning to new clause 2, by default in the Bill all provisions apply to recreational fishing as well as to commercial fishing, unless it is explicitly specified other- wise. Given the importance of recreational fishing, the Government will include policies on recreational fishing in the joint fisheries statement. Of course, fisheries management plans can take recreational fishing into account, where appropriate.

On that basis, I believe that we have sufficient existing provisions in the Bill and I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have heard what the Minister says. However, it is really important that we make sure that recreational fishing is seen as a valid and equal stakeholder. So I will not withdraw the amendment and I will press for a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

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

10 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

As with many of the amendments made in the other place, the Government agree with the intention behind the clause, but disagree with the manner in which that intention is proposed to be delivered, therefore I seek for the clause not to stand part of the Bill.

The clause refers to new entrants, but it is not clear exactly what that means. A new entrant could refer to a new fishing boat owner, a new skipper or a new crew on board an existing boat, and those different groups may have different needs on joining the industry. New crews on fishing boats do not need any quota, but might need some training. Many under-10 metre vessels target non-quota stock such as shellfish, rather than quota species, so of course they will not need quota either. The lack of clarity about the scope of the clause makes it difficult to establish a baseline for deciding how much quota to give new entrants and, indeed, what data we need to collect and analyse.

Secondly, the clause does not consider the wider issues affecting new entrants. For example, to fish commercially against UK quota, a new entrant needs a British-registered fishing boat and a licence, of which there are a fixed number. Fishing requires a significant capital investment before someone can even go to sea; the cost of an average under-10 metre boat is significant. Reserving a proportion of quota for new entrants does not address that issue. No time limit has been set for how long someone would be classified as a new entrant, which also presents challenges about whether vessels would ever lose access to the reserve quota, how long before that happened and what quota they would then fish against if was removed.

The Government and Seafish are working in partnership with a range of training partners to offer apprenticeships across the UK on a range of subjects relevant to the seafood industry and maritime occupations. Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications in shellfish and fish processing are available, as are introductory courses on working in the commercial fishing industry, which I am pleased to say include mandatory training on safety at sea.

It is our intention to consult on using some of the additional quota that I am convinced is coming to us to provide increased fishing opportunities for under-10 metre vessels. That is absolutely an intention we share and feel passionately about. There will be more benefits for our fishing ports and coastal communities, but I am afraid, because of the drafting difficulties, I cannot support the clause.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Sep 2020, 3:41 p.m.

Labour opposes the Minister’s proposal to remove clause 27, which was passed in the other place. We have not moved our amendments to the clause, given the Government’s intention to remove it, but we had hoped to encourage them and the Secretary of State to consider the impact on communities with high unemployment and on small and medium-sized enterprises when deciding fishing opportunities under clause 24 of the Bill.

We support the campaign by the Blue Marine Foundation, whose executive director said:

“The distribution of quota is long overdue for reform; it was a botched privatisation which is unfair to the majority of fishermen, who fish inshore, and has perverse environmental consequences. Now it must be unpicked.”

For too long the UK fishing quota has been dominated by huge, often foreign-owned, vessels that land their catch abroad. In May, a report by the BBC found that £160 million-worth of English quota is in the hands of vessels owned by companies based in Iceland, Spain and the Netherlands. That is more than half of the value of the English quota. The status quo needs to be changed to give smaller boats the lion’s share of the quota, and we do not need new powers to affect real change for our coastal communities. The Government have always had the power to redistribute share of the UK’s quota, but have chosen not to, despite small vessel owners facing severe financial hardship over the years.

Some 50% of the English quota is held by companies based overseas. At the same time, the small-scale fleet holds only 6%. It is a damning fact that the five largest quota holders control more than a third of the UK fishing quota. Four of them can be found on the Sunday Times rich list. It is clear that the current distribution of fishing opportunities is outdated and unfair. We should take this opportunity and the powers that we have to ensure that it is our small fishers and the UK coastal communities that benefit. If the Minister is seeking to remove the clause, how do the Government intend to deal with such inequality and give smaller fishers a fairer share of quota? The fishers who would benefit from a redistribution were some of the loudest voices during the Brexit referendum, who have long felt that their communities have been ignored. They are also the ones that have been hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic. Many could not leave port, but their fixed costs remained the same. For some, the Government covid-19 grant came too late, and for many it was not enough to cover maintenance of their boats and port fees.

Our small fishing fleet deserves support from the Government. There has been a lot of talk about how leaving the EU is an opportunity for the UK to secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for our own fleets. I ask that that principle of fairness is extended within our own fleets. As has already been mentioned, it would not only benefit the owners of under-10 boats, but our coastal communities, as for every fish caught the small-scale fleet creates more jobs than larger boats do. I firmly believe our UK small-scale fleet has the potential to lead the way towards the creation of a greener economy that is not only good for the environment, but creates more jobs at home.

Right now, the barriers for new entrants into the sector, and for small fishers struggling to make a living, are too high. Clause 27 would help to rejuvenate our fishing sector, encouraging more small fishers to join the industry, which, admittedly, has a relatively older profile than others, and would create more opportunities for people with exciting ideas about how to make UK fishing more sustainable, innovative and profitable. The Bill has the potential to become a vehicle for a fair redistribution of quota allocations, which would be transformational for many of England’s small fishers and their communities. Are the Government creating a system that would encourage new entrants into the sector, and redistributing fishing opportunities to the under-10 metre fleet to the benefit of not only small fishers but the communities they rely on?

I also want to probe the Minister and ask her to explain in greater detail what she has said about the proportion of quota that is already guaranteed to the under-10 metre fleet. Will the Government commit to reviewing the current allocation of quota and from here on consider the case for increasing allocations of fishing opportunities to the under-10 metre fleet on a yearly basis?

Last week the Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation gifted an extra quota to the under-10 metre fleet. This was referenced on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who said the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs supported this distribution to help keep the Northern Irish fleet economically viable. Will the Minister consider supporting a similar allocation to English fishers who own under-10 metre boats to help them get back on their feet after the past year of uncertainty?

The clause seeks to create a better, fairer framework of quota allocation. Better quota decisions will support our fishing industry, widening employment and making fishing an attractive career to young people. Simply put, in supporting our small fishers, we will support our coastal communities. This is a once in a generation chance to shape our fishing industry for the better. Labour Members will therefore oppose the Government’s attempt to remove clause 27.

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

10 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 125, in clause 28, page 18, line 43, at end insert—

‘(3A) The national fisheries authorities must publish, on at least an annual basis, a comparison of the number of each species of sea fish caught and—

(a) the catch quota for that species for that year, and

(b) the maximum sustainable yield (FMSY) reference point for that species for that year.

(3B) The publication under subsection (3A) must, where the number of sea fish caught in a calendar year has exceeded the figures in paragraphs (3A)(a) or (3A)(b), note the impact on fish stocks that exceeding that figure is thought to have had.”

This amendment would require the publication of the quantity of fish caught, by species, to enable the impact on the sustainability of fish stocks to be assessed.

Amendment 125 would require fisheries authorities to publish annually data on the state of fish stocks. As hon. Members from both sides of the Committee have often said, the deficiencies in data about our UK fish stocks must be improved. A lack of information results in the over-setting of quota limits, which directly leads to over-fishing. That harms not just our marine ecosystems but the future prosperity and survival of our UK fishing industry. I do not doubt that the Secretary of State shares my concerns about that and shares our aspiration to ensure that the deficiencies in our data are addressed.

Annually publishing the data on the state of fish stocks would mean that we are better able to ensure the effective monitoring of the progress being made in addressing those deficiencies. That would inform and enable greater scrutiny of decisions. We would be better able to publicly assess the sustainability of our fish stocks and understand the effect that they are having on each species and what that means for our marine environment and coastal communities. As we discussed earlier, we should not fear greater transparency or scrutiny. That would lead to greater progress and better decisions about our fisheries management, which will only benefit our fishers and their communities.

In his speech on Second Reading, the Secretary of State said that the UK is

“a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries”

and that we

“can show the world that a better approach can deliver more balance, profitable fisheries and an enhanced marine environment.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 70.]

If we are to demonstrate the success of the UK fisheries management regime, it must be done in a format that allows for careful scrutiny and public debate, to celebrate where we succeed and to challenge and change where things should be improved.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

I am afraid I am going to behave like a Government lawyer again and say the intent behind the amendment is absolutely clear, but the wording is ambiguous. It is not clear what sort of comparison is expected. The amendment focuses on consideration of species, but this does not make sense where different stocks of the same species are managed separately in different sea basins.

The MMO publishes the UK sea fisheries annual statistics report, which provides detailed information on our fisheries, including data on catches, quota uptake and value. The ICES publishes its annual advice on stocks, including advice on sustainable harvest rates. The advice indicates the status of stocks, taking into account previous harvesting. The Government routinely report on the outcome of annual fisheries negotiations, which includes providing figures for the number of TACs set at or below their maximum sustainable yield, and this is absolutely something that I undertake to continue to do in the future.

Our fisheries management plans will have indicators to assess their performance, and every three years the joint fisheries statement will report on how our plans have been implemented and how the stocks have been affected. The Government’s intention is to provide the necessary information through the new and existing mechanisms, so that everybody is clear about how we are getting on with delivering sustainable fisheries. I therefore say that the amendment is unnecessary.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
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
Victoria Prentis Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Victoria Prentis)
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, midnight

I beg to move amendment 2, in clause 2, page 3, line 37, leave out “18 months” and insert “two years”.

This amendment extends the deadline for publishing the first joint fisheries statement. Under the Bill as it stands the deadline is 18 months after the Bill is passed; the amendment alters it to two years after the Bill is passed.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Charles. Government amendment 2 extends the timeframe for publication of the joint fisheries statement from 18 months after Royal Assent to 24 months. That is to ensure sufficient time for drafting and sign-off by all the fisheries administrations, as well as for public and parliamentary scrutiny of the proposed policies. The change is unfortunately necessary because of the slippage in proceedings on the Bill, most latterly as a result of the pandemic. That has resulted in key stages of the joint fisheries statement drafting process, including parliamentary scrutiny, falling within the purdah or pre-election and, indeed, election periods for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments in the spring of next year and the Northern Ireland Assembly in spring 2022. The devolved Administrations have raised the matter with us and, in our view, are rightly concerned that these election processes could significantly delay the ministerial clearances that will be required ahead of public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. We are concerned that there is a high risk that the deadline will not be met. It would not be appropriate to make potentially new policy decisions during any pre-election period.

This amendment will support the development of a robust joint fisheries statement on the implementation of policies to meet the fisheries objectives that have been subject to appropriately rigorous scrutiny. I therefore ask the Committee to support the amendment.

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

8 Sep 2020, 2:03 p.m.

The fisheries administrations are required to publish a joint fisheries statement setting out the policies that will achieve or contribute to the achievement of the objectives listed in clause 1, which we discussed this morning. A common UK framework should be ambitious in scope and aspiration. The recovery of our fish stocks and sustainable management of our fisheries will impact generations to come. We will no doubt agree that the establishment of the first joint fisheries statement is an important moment for the UK fishing industry. I have met representatives from across the fishing industry in recent months, as I am sure the Minister has, and I am sure that the Minister will have heard as much as I have their concerns that the process of the UK leaving the common fisheries policy and becoming an independent coastal state has felt prolonged. Many fishers are keen to make progress on this as quickly as possible—something that I am sure the Minister and I will share. I understand the reasons that the Minister has outlined for the unfortunate but necessary delay, but can she also assure us that any delays in publishing the joint fisheries statements will not impact on the fisheries objectives that we have already discussed and, in particular, on the sustainability objective, albeit we would have preferred it to be stronger?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 2:03 p.m.

I agree with almost all of what the hon. Lady has to say. We share her disappointment that the amendment is necessary, but we regretfully say that it is.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 63, in clause 2, page 3, line 38, at end insert—

“(5A) The Secretary of State must by regulations establish a system to resolve disputes between fisheries policy authorities that result in no joint fisheries statement being published.

(5B) In establishing the system under subsection (5A), the Secretary of State must in particular ensure that the dispute resolution system makes provision to require the fisheries policy authorities to make use of the system if it appears that no JFS will be published by 1 January 2022 due to disputes between the fisheries policy authorities.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to establish a system for resolving a dispute between the fisheries policy authorities which could otherwise result in no joint fisheries statement being published.

As I am sure many members of the Committee will remember, the Second Reading debate on the Bill got quite heated in parts. Fisheries management decisions and approaches can be contentious, and it is clear that disagreements can easily arise. We have only to look at what is happening in Brussels at the moment to see evidence for that. This amendment is therefore designed to ensure that a dispute resolution process is formally established. Such a process would ensure that any disagreements over fisheries management policies could be resolved through a clear framework and in a timely manner before discussions became deadlocked to the point that a joint fisheries statement could not be produced. This provision is supported by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which regards it as essential.

The NFFO also said that it would like this provision to be implemented in consultation with each devolved Administration before policies are set out in a Secretary of State’s statement. It is my understanding that the Government are developing a memorandum of understanding with the devolved Administrations that

“aims to ensure co-operative ways of working and a mechanism for escalating and resolving disputes should they arise.”

I would like to probe the Minister further on how this mechanism would work in practice, how it would respect devolution settlements while ensuring an efficient process and how it would ensure that the joint fisheries statements were the product of an equitable and democratic process.

This amendment would provide important certainty to the industry across the UK that, should any disputes arise, a clear and fair dispute resolution process would be in place. I believe that this does have and would have the support of the wider industry.

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

8 Sep 2020, 12:03 a.m.

Amendments 64 and 65 would ensure that fisheries statements are subject to review every five years, instead of the Government’s current preference of six years.

I would like to probe the Minister about the Government’s choice of a six-year review period. Such a long period between reviews of policy is bad for accountability and fundamentally bad for effective policy making. Indeed, on a six-year timescale, one could be a Member of the House for an entire Parliament without fisheries policies being made available for scrutiny. I hope we can all agree that that simply is not right.

Over the years, too little time has been given to debate fish and fisheries management in Parliament. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) said on Second Reading:

“It has often been the case that at the end of the year we have struggled to get 90 minutes for an annual fisheries debate.” —[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 94.]

As the EU referendum and negotiations have shown us, people care about fish, fisheries management and fisheries rights. In the earlier part of the Committee I heard the Minister say that she welcomed more time for discussions on fisheries policy, but Backbench Business and Westminster Hall debates are simply not good enough.

As we leave the common fisheries policy and establish our own fisheries policy, as an independent coastal nation, it is more important than ever that we ensure that our fisheries get the time in Parliament that they deserve. I believe that Fishing for Leave called for two years—it certainly was not six years—and that changing the review period from six years to five years will mean that fisheries are included as one of the major policy items under review at the start of the new parliamentary term.

If we are to take back control of our fishing policy, we need to make sure that the Executive is held to account and challenged, where challenge is needed. We must ensure that where policies do not deliver on the objectives set out in clause 1, they can be debated and changed. Given that those policies will be regularly affected by annual international negotiations, and changing scientific advice and data, it would not only be good governance but lead to a better policy and better outcome for us if we chose to make a joint fisheries statement on a more regular timescale.

I do not believe it is too much to ask for that to take place once in a fixed-term Parliament—once every five years. In the context of the current climate crisis and a fishing industry that is keen to grow in a sustainable way, I hope the Minister will agree that we need more scrutiny of environmental policies and not less.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

--- Later in debate ---
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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Secretary of State fisheries statement

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

The clause provides for the Secretary of State to publish details of policies relating to UK quota matters and reserved matters, which are defined in the clause, in a Secretary of State fisheries statement, or SSFS. That is to ensure transparency and accountability in the event that the joint fisheries statement does not include such policies. Again, we have worked closely with the devolved Administrations in the development of this policy. If a situation arose in which we could not reach agreement on a JFS policy that related to UK quota matters or any reserved matter, an SSFS could be created to set out those policies. The statement would be legally binding and would have to go through consultation, scrutiny and reporting requirements. If publication of an SSFS is required, it must take place within six months of publication of the JFS, to ensure that a complete framework of policies is available with minimal delay.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Secretary of State fisheries statement: procedure

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 2:24 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 66, in clause 5, page 5, line 38, leave out “6” and insert “5”.

This amendment would ensure that the fisheries statements are subject to review every five years, instead of every six years.

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

8 Sep 2020, 2:26 p.m.

As I have already argued with regard to clause 3, Labour believes that fisheries management and scrutiny of fisheries policy need to take place at least once within a fixed-term parliamentary cycle. We believe that six years is too long a period between reviews and, as I have said, does not aid good governance or policy making. Amendment 66 is intended to bring that in line with our earlier amendment to clause 3.

Fisheries and coastal communities have experienced a great deal of uncertainty over recent years from both Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic. Amendment 67 seeks to place a timeframe of 45 days in the circumstance where the Secretary of State replaces or makes amendments to a published Secretary of State fisheries statement. We believe that that timeframe is adequate to enact changes to an SSFS, while also providing much-needed clarity and certainty for the fishing industry, if such changes were indeed to be made. It is important that we take steps to improve the confidence of fisheries management and provide certainty for the UK’s hardworking fishers.

I hope the Minister will agree that it would be far from ideal for our fishing industry to have a statement withdrawn without the certainty of a replacement’s coming in good time. I have no doubt that it would be the Minister’s intention to provide that certainty and that they would be working hard to that end, but, as we know, we do not always meet our intentions in a timely fashion. By placing a timeframe on changes to the policies that are not included in the joint fisheries statements, we will ensure that our fishers are not left in limbo and that we can provide certainty to an industry that we all wish to see thrive.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

We have chosen a six-year review period to match the review period for the joint fisheries policy statement. That review period, as I have noted previously, is a minimum, and clause 5 allows for the Secretary of State fisheries statement to be amended as the need arises, in accordance with the processes in schedule 1. In addition, we have committed to reporting every three years on progress, in response to recommendations from the EFRA Committee. These provisions should enable us to respond quickly to changing circumstances or environmental needs as required, ensuring that the policies remain fit for purpose.

I turn now to amendment 67, which would require the Secretary of State to develop and publish changes to an SSFS within 45 days. While I appreciate that the intent of this amendment is to ensure that a fisheries statement is updated swiftly, the amendment as proposed could decrease its effectiveness. In order to ensure that any amendments to the Secretary of State fisheries statements achieve their purpose, we need to allow sufficient time for drafting an appropriate consultation, not least with the devolveds, to take account of the best available evidence and ensure suitable scrutiny. That could last longer than 45 days and we do not want to lower our standards to meet an arbitrary deadline.

The Government are committed to delivering sustainable fisheries, and I hope I can reassure hon. Members that the Secretary of State would prepare and publish any required amendments to a Secretary of State fisheries statement as swiftly as is practicable. I therefore ask for the amendments not to be pressed.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Fisheries management plans: duty to comply with proposals in JFS

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 2:29 p.m.

Fisheries management plans will transform our ability to manage our fish stocks holistically on a stock-by-stock or fisheries basis, as appropriate. They will help to move our fish stocks towards healthy, sustainable levels and allow us to move away from the damaging, one-size-fits-all approach of the common fisheries policy.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, midnight

I welcome what the Minister has said. The Opposition welcome the introduction of fisheries management plans and hope that they will set out how stocks will be fished sustainably.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7

Fisheries management plans: power to depart from proposals in JFS

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, midnight

I beg to move amendment 68, in clause 7, page 7, line 45, before ‘available’ insert ‘best’.

This amendment changes the reference to ‘available scientific evidence’ to the “best available”. This term is used elsewhere in the Bill.

The amendment refers to what is meant by a “relevant change of circumstances” that would allow a fisheries policy authority to depart from proposals in the joint fisheries statement. We acknowledge that a level of flexibility will always be required when circumstances change, but clause 7 is viewed by some environmental groups as an opt-out or loophole clause. Essentially, opting out must happen for the best scientific reasons, not just any scientific reasons.

The clause would make it possible to redraft a new plan should a change in circumstances occur. However, there are fears that its broad terms could undermine much of the important environmental and sustainability work that must take place to secure the long-term future of the industry and marine environment. Changes in circumstances include international obligations, action by a Government outside the UK, scientific evidence and evidence related to the social, economic or environmental objectives.

Greenpeace said that

“a loophole in the wording allows for these plans to be ‘amended, replaced or revoked’ under a wide range of ‘relevant’ circumstances. As long as national fisheries authorities publish a document to justify their decision, the Bill could enable them to carry on as normal, without delivering their sustainability plans.”

I share concerns about the breadth of circumstances that would allow a departure from the joint fisheries statement to happen without effective scrutiny, and in particular the reference to “available” science rather than “the best available” science.

The amendment would tighten up the relevant circumstances. If scientific evidence points towards the creation of a different fisheries management plan, it should be the best scientific evidence that guides the process. The scientific evidence objective in clause 1 requires fisheries authorities to draw on the “best available” scientific evidence. The amendment would bring clause 7 into line with that definition. Up-to-date independently produced peer-reviewed science should form the basis of all fisheries management decisions. We cannot allow poor-quality research to dictate fisheries policies and undermine progress towards achieving the objective discussed earlier. Only the best scientific advice will yield the world-leading sustainable fisheries management practices that will allow our country’s fisheries and marine environment to thrive.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

Of course we understand the need to base decision making on accurate science, but Administrations may need to act promptly as a precautionary matter when emerging evidence indicates that there is a problem. An example is the one I gave this morning about scallops on Dogger Bank. The fishing industry recently expressed concern about stock levels on Dogger Bank. We acted on industry calls to close the fishery so that we could commission scientific evidence on which scientists could then base their best advice on the state of stock. That is one example of a closure that might have seemed to be a pre-emptive act. However, it seemed sensible, to get proper evidence from the site.

Science is always evolving and sometimes what constitutes the best can be contested, particularly when data and evidence are collected by different parties using different techniques; so it is in our interest to allow our excellent scientists to make use of all available evidence, including that provided by the industry, to produce the best available scientific advice as referenced in the scientific evidence objective in clause 1. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8 Sep 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8

Fisheries management plans: procedure

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 12:02 a.m.

Fisheries management is complex and constantly changing, as the stocks are a wild natural resource. Further, fisheries science and technology is developing quickly and we must be able to respond appropriately to new findings and developments. It is important that policies within a fisheries management plan are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The clause ensures that fisheries management plans are reviewed at least every six years. As with the timing of the review of the joint fisheries statements, that follows the approach in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. If, after review, the relevant fisheries administrations find that changes are required, they may amend, replace or revoke the plan. The clause also introduces part 3 of schedule 1, which sets out the administrative process for the preparation of fisheries management plans. It includes all the requirements for consultation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9

Fisheries management plans: transitional provision

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 69, in clause 9, page 8, line 45, at end insert—

‘(2) In preparing and publishing a fisheries management plan under subsection (1), a fisheries policy authority acting alone must—

(a) consult any other fisheries policy authorities that it deems appropriate, and

(b) have regard to their responses before publishing the fisheries management plan.”

This amendment ensures that when a fisheries policy authority acts alone to introduce transitional provision, it must first consult with other fisheries policy authorities to ensure joined-up policymaking.

The amendment requires fisheries policy authorities to consult other fisheries authorities when preparing a fisheries management plan if a joint fisheries statement has not already been agreed to and published. That will ensure joined-up policy making, while also ensuring that the devolution settlement across the UK is respected. A co-development process will ensure that fisheries management plans are compatible with one another and work towards the best and most effective management of our fisheries. That will prevent gaps in management, monitoring and enforcement, and protect the health of shared fish stocks if a joint fisheries statement is not already in place. Management measures that are consistent with one another across fisheries policy authorities have the best chance of being successful in replenishing declining fish stocks.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 12:14 a.m.

The amendment would place a duty on a fisheries policy authority to consult other fisheries policy authorities if it is preparing a fisheries management plan ahead of the joint fisheries statement being published. Part 3 of schedule 1 already sets out the broad consultation and publication obligations placed on the authority in these circumstances. They must consult interested persons, who may well be other fisheries policy authorities, but it might not always be an appropriate or worthwhile use of resources for a fisheries policy authority to consult all its equivalents on plans that may be located far from the jurisdiction of another authority. The existing schedule 1 has been drafted to give that flexibility.

Fisheries policy authorities will be sighted on the proposed fisheries management plan, since those plans will be listed in the joint fisheries statement. Our fisheries White Paper also makes clear our intention to work in much closer partnership with industry. We are beginning to do so as we develop the pilot fisheries management plans with, for example, the shellfish industry and with Seafish on plans for crabs, lobster and whelks. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Effect of fisheries statements and fisheries management plans

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

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

8 Sep 2020, 12:16 a.m.

The clause makes clear that the relevant fisheries authorities will be legally bound by the fisheries statements and fisheries management plans when exercising their functions. The UK fisheries administrations and the Marine Maritime Organisation are national fisheries authorities for the purposes of the clause. These fisheries authorities must act in accordance with the policies in the statement, unless a relevant change in circumstance indicates otherwise.

If there is a relevant change in circumstance, the authority may need to diverge from the policies set out in the statement for the fisheries management plans. That could, for example, be to ensure flexible management measures are implemented in the event of a really sudden decline in a stock, or it could be because new evidence suggests that a different approach to managing a stock should be taken. A non-exclusive list of examples of changes in circumstances is included in subsection (4). If that happens, the authority must prepare and publish a document to explain its action and the relevant change of circumstances that led to its decision to follow an alternative course of action.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 11

Reports on fisheries statements and fisheries management plans

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 70, in clause 11, page 10, line 25, at end insert—

‘(b) any other person whom the Secretary of State deems appropriate.’

This amendment adds a requirement for the Secretary of State to consult with any other person they deem appropriate, as well as devolved Ministers.

Over the last few months I have spoken to many people who are passionate about the management of our UK fishing industry, from environmentalists to industry representatives, and I feel it is important that they get a voice and a chance to contribute to any reports made on the extent to which policies have achieved the fisheries objectives set out in clause 1. The amendment simply gives the Secretary of State powers to consult qualified fishing experts, which would give a say to those who know the industry best and have its best intentions at heart.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

--- Later in debate ---
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.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(James Morris.)

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
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
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.

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

8 Sep 2020, 9:41 a.m.

I hear what the Minister says about how we have all sorts of options, including as Back Benchers. Is not the point, though, that we can have lots of debates on this issue but they are not legally binding and will not compel the Government? It is just nice for us to talk about it. The point that the amendment is making is about the need for a legal requirement for the Government to follow.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

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

8 Sep 2020, 12:05 a.m.

In answer to one of my written questions, yesterday the Government said that by the end of 2020, of the 67% of total allowable catches set at maximum sustainable yield, only 54 stocks will reach that. That basically means that a third of fish stocks at maximum sustainable yield will not be sustainable. Will the Minister comment on the fact that a whole third is not meeting that?

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

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

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point and I do not believe that the brunt should fall on the fishing industry. This is an issue that every sector of society and the economy has got to deal with. It does not make sense not to seize the opportunity that the Bill presents to ensure that our fishing industry can lead the charge in terms of net zero. We could be pioneers and lead the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps. We could improve the environmental performance of our fishing ports, promoting decarbonisation and phasing out fossil fuels. The end of the CFP and the passage of the Bill through Parliament does represent an opportunity to be bold and ambitious, and now is the time for meaningful change to promote the sort of greener economy that benefits both people and our environment.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

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.

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading)
Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Tuesday 1st September 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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

1 Sep 2020, 12:06 a.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Sep 2020, midnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Prisons and Probation

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Tuesday 14th May 2019

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Justice
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 May 2019, 12:45 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Justice Committee, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill).

This Government’s ideologically driven changes to the probation service have had a catastrophic impact on the justice system in this country. The reports from experts in the industry are damning, the first-hand accounts of those who have experienced the services shocking, and the damage done by this failing service to our communities all too clear to see. The comments we have heard from Members join the growing chorus of condemnation, alongside groups such as the Public Accounts Committee, the Justice Committee and the National Association of Probation Officers, to name but a few.

Perhaps none, however, has been as disparaging as the report on the outsourcing of our probation services undertaken by the National Audit Office. It speaks of significant risks being introduced by a Ministry setting itself up to fail; underinvestment in services by community rehabilitation companies motivated by commercial outcomes over public safety; and, perhaps least surprisingly, given the ministerial architect of the changes, a decision inspired by ideology that has proven a staggering waste of money to the taxpayer—this time, to the tune of nearly half a billion pounds. It is therefore difficult to disagree with the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), that it is

“unacceptable that so many unnecessary risks were taken with taxpayers’ money.”

But for all the talk of decisions taken in Westminster, with the colossal budgets in tow, we must not forget the impact, back in the real world, that these changes have on our constituents, because, more than anything, it is utterly unacceptable that so many risks were taken with taxpayers’ safety. It is residents in our communities, like mine in Barnsley East, who suffer when vital services, such as our probation system, begin to fail. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that more than the case of my constituent Jacqueline Wileman.

Last year, four men stole a HGV lorry and drove it around Barnsley, damaging cars, injuring pedestrians, nearly killing a man and eventually crashing into a house, but not before hitting and killing Jacqueline near her home in Brierley. All four men had existing criminal records, with nearly 100 convictions between them. They had several convictions for driving offences, and one had already been sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving. Two of the men had recently finished probation supervision, and the one who stole the lorry had no driving licence and was, staggeringly, on probation at the time. It can be argued that these men should not have been on the streets and able to commit these tragic crimes in the first place. The lenient sentences handed down to them following Jackie’s death have led to calls being made by her brave family to scrap the maximum sentence for those who cause death by dangerous driving to ensure that they will not be out in a few years to do so again—calls I wholeheartedly support. I have raised this in the House on more than one occasion, and I will continue to press the Government to act to increase the 14-year limit for death caused by dangerous driving as soon as possible.

Questions must be asked of the probation services responsible for supervising these criminals. The Barnsley area is covered by South Yorkshire CRC, which is now the responsibility of Sodexo Justice Services and was recently rated as requiring improvement in the latest inspection by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation. The inspection report noted, among other failings:

“Alarmingly… the large majority of probation staff here are not qualified, and many are not sufficiently experienced at managing risk of harm to others.”

This is a probation service, the effectiveness of which is crucial to maintaining the safety of my community, explicitly failing to manage risk of harm to others. It is a shocking state of affairs, yet a product of decisions made by this Government. Simply put, the safety of our communities and constituents has been jeopardised.

I await the results of the internal review into what more could have been done by the probation service in the case of Jackie Wileman and what lessons can be learned. For her brother, Johnny, the impact on public safety of the outsourced probation service overseen by this Government is clear enough: “If the probation services had done their job properly,” he told me, “my sister would still be alive.”

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

14 May 2019, 2:20 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the powerful speech by the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) and friends from across the House who broadly take the same view on the progress we need to make with the probation system. I am not going to focus on that. My views are carefully set out in the report of the Justice Committee and have been well rehearsed by my colleagues from the Committee on both sides of the House. However, I noted carefully what the Secretary of State had to say, and I am extremely hopeful that we will have an announcement or statement from him in the very near future. I hope the result will be one that we all applaud.

As ever, I would like to talk about prisons. It always shocks me how empty the Chamber is when we discuss prisons. If we are serious about helping the lowest strata of society, we surely have a fairly obvious place to look to find them. I for one was very grateful that the Opposition chose this subject for today’s debate.

I am fortunate to represent one of the biggest constituencies in the country. The number of my electors is broadly the same as the number of adult men in prison. The point I am making is that there are a lot of people in prison, a lot of families affected and, perhaps more importantly, a lot of future victims who are affected by our failure to treat people and by the breeding of future criminals in prisons as they are run at the moment. We must accept that about a fifth of prisoners are sex offenders and that nearly all of them will be released into our communities. Members know that I spend a lot of my time here arguing in favour of prison reform, but the most compelling reason for me to do that is that we must save future victims from crimes that will ruin their lives.

The Justice Committee has written not only a marvellous report about transforming rehabilitation, but a big report on the prison population—for me, it is our magnum opus—which I hope the new Minister, the hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Robert Buckland), has read and digested and will return to many times during his tenure. I will whizz through the main recommendations of that report and then give him some jobs for the rest of the week.

Our report’s first recommendation is that

“The prison population has become increasingly challenging in nature, with prisoners often having complex health and social needs. Many have learning disabilities or mental health conditions”,

and that the Ministry of Justice needs to

“acknowledge the challenge it faces and demonstrate that it has a long-term strategy”.

Secondly, the prison population is projected to grow, and the existing approach “limits the scope” for the Ministry thinking more laterally about planning for that growth. It states that the “more challenging mix” of those sentenced to custody is likely to be partly attributable to the impact of wider social factors over which the Ministry has no control, but the Ministry and prison officers have to pick up the pieces.

The third recommendation is that

“Trends in ethnicity and the social drivers of complex and challenging behaviour should be more explicitly identified”.

Fourthly,

“To close the large gap between the money allocated to prisons by the Treasury and the current costs of running and maintaining them, the Ministry of Justice has estimated that it would have to reduce the prison population by 20,000 places. By the Ministry’s own admission this is not achievable under existing strategies and funding arrangements.”

How will the Minister possibly close that gap?

We have got to take prison reform seriously. This is my fourth Prisons Minister. There have been six Secretaries of State for Justice since 2010. All of them—certainly the Prisons Ministers—have been one nation, compassionate Conservatives. I stalk their every movement, as this Minister will find out, and I count them among my closest friends in this place; I hope it is mutual. It is really important that the current Minister can stay in place for long enough to make substantive change.

Legal Aid for Inquests

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Wednesday 10th April 2019

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Justice
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Apr 2019, 2:42 p.m.

I support that call. Not only is that the way to discover the truth that will provide redress to individual families in individual cases, but it is an avenue to expose the systematic practice problems that have led to deaths, which can alert the authorities and prevent more. That means providing truth and accountability to prevent another Hillsborough or Grenfell, and ensuring that our justice system works for everyone—not just those who can afford it.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con)
- Hansard - -

10 Apr 2019, 2:45 p.m.

I had not planned on speaking, but when I saw the debate’s title, I realised that I come at the issue from a variety of angles and, sadly, with a great deal of experience. In about 1994, as a junior lawyer, I was sent—because I was cheap, I suspect —to sit in on inquests concerning elderly people who had died in old people’s homes. In those days, it was common practice for us to provide a report for insurance companies, which even junior lawyers were considered capable of, and inquests were viewed as the place where we could garner information.

As a junior lawyer, I thought that was exciting, and I was pleased to see a system that was inquisitorial and not that adversarial, and where real facts were teased out that could be of use, or not, to insurance companies that wanted to protect their assets from later claims. I remember being excited by the ancient nature of the coronial system, by how flexible it could be and by how it can adapt to needs today and later on.

Ultimately, I became a Government lawyer for 17 years and specialised in article 2 inquests. [Interruption.] I am glad to be described as the best of the best, and we were—indeed, we are, incidentally. In that respect, I had the privilege of taking part in some very sad inquests, including many relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Litvinenko’s inquest, the 7/7 bombings inquests, and far too many about prisoner deaths. As a Government lawyer, I hope that I was able to help and counsel families, and that we were able to come to the truth of what happened in many of those tragic situations. I also, rightly, protected the Government’s assets in terms of secret material, which is what I was usually there for.

Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Wednesday 13th February 2019

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis
- Hansard - -

13 Feb 2019, 5:26 p.m.

I do. Those are fabulous local groups, and we are lucky enough to have them in my area too. My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to them.

We are not just talking about formal charities today. I would like to tell the Chamber about Tony, my next-door neighbour. He not only takes my children to the bus, reduces the local rat population, uploads new photos on the village website, takes other families’ dogs for walks, and opens and checks the church daily, but he does all this by 8.30 every morning. We all know people like this and, quite frankly, we want to grow into such people. It is great that, as the Minister told us earlier, 30% of adults are doing some volunteering. I would like her to measure not just the money that is given, but the time that is spent by stalwarts of our communities, such as Tony, who do so much for us.

I could not let such an opportunity pass without mentioning Singing for Syrians, which I set up soon after my election in 2015. I heard on the radio that Syrian doctors were working unpaid, and I thought we would have a bit of a whip round. Everybody I asked said yes and tried to help. It is my dream charity. We encourage people to do the work for us and to do their own thing—inspired slightly, I must say, by the Macmillan annual coffee morning. Everybody can get involved in the singing, or in eating at the fabulous Syrian supper clubs. This year, our flagship will be on 10 December in St Margaret’s, and a marvellous cross-party choir of MPs will be taking part. Others do the work; we just receive and distribute the money, and there are events all over the country.

We need the money more than ever. The Hands Up Foundation, which we fund, is one of the very few charities still donating into northern Syria, as the big players have pulled out. Our prosthetic limb clinic was flooded two weeks ago—all the equipment is kept in the basement to protect it from aerial bombardment—and we are trying to raise £10,000 to re-home the limb clinic, which provides such essential services to those who have lost limbs in the war. We are still about £4,000 short of that target, so if anybody would like to give me a cheque afterwards, it would be gratefully received. I encourage everybody present in the Chamber, perhaps if there is a boring moment later, to google “Singing for Syrians” and watch our very short clip, “Sing like they can hear us!” If they have three minutes and want a good laugh, they can google, “Singing for Syrians Flashmob” in Marylebone station, which is fantastic.

I would like to thank everybody who volunteers for all our local and national charities. I especially want to thank those who volunteer in north Oxfordshire. I am particularly proud that we have national bases locally for the Child Brain Injury Trust and for Adoption UK. I am inspired by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), who has a “Volunteering Week”, during which it appears that he does a lot of gardening. I am going to do “Victoria Volunteers” from 23 September for a week, when I am looking forward to cooking for Banbury Young Homelessness Project, eating cake at Restore, making tea at the Royal Voluntary Service and reading to children with the indomitable women of ARCh—Assisted Reading for Children—which is just a fantastic organisation. If I am allowed to, I will also do some volunteer driving for the people who volunteer out of the citizens advice bureau, but they may not want me and I may not pass the check. It is fantastic what is done by people all around our country, and I cannot praise them highly enough. I thank the Minister for all she does.

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

13 Feb 2019, 5:29 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), who spoke so passionately.

There is much that makes me proud of the communities I represent across Barnsley East, especially our local charities and community groups, many of which I have had the privilege to visit in recent weeks.

Everyone who cares for a loved one with dementia knows of the immense emotional strain the condition imposes on those who live with it and those who care for them. I know that I speak for many people across Barnsley when I thank BIADS—Barnsley Independent Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support—and Butterflies, two fantastic community groups that provide outstanding support, help and comfort for those living with dementia in our community.

I cannot deny the sense of shame I feel in telling the House that today, in 21st century Britain, after years of austerity, there are children going hungry and families—many of them in employment—who are unable to put food on the table without resorting to a local food bank. Our community came together 30 years ago to feed the families of men who had no option but to go on strike to defend their industry and their way of life. Again, our community is coming together to feed families who face the most desperate conditions because of universal credit, the low-wage insecure economy and wider austerity. I have nothing but praise for our food banks—for the volunteers who give their time and their heart to run them, and for the generosity of all those who donate.

Employment and Workers’ Rights Bill

Debate between Victoria Prentis and Stephanie Peacock
Friday 27th April 2018

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is right that these measures are long overdue. She is also right about the intention of clause 5.

I would like to share some examples with the House, particularly the case of agency workers in BT call centres, including the one near my constituency in south Yorkshire, and others who take 999 calls. The majority of them are kept on continuous assignments, working for years in the same role. In practice, they are nothing less than permanent staff, but they have no job security and are on lower pay than other workers. The nature of their contracts means that the equal pay exemption can be exploited. On average, they are paid about £500 a month less than their colleagues on permanent contracts. Some do not even take annual leave, because they simply cannot afford to do so.

There is the case of the lorry driver who has worked for the same national supermarket for the best part of 20 years but could be sacked by the hirer without notice, reason or redundancy pay. They would be left with no legal recourse against the hirer to claim unfair dismissal. Take the warehouse worker in Barnsley who works up to 20 hours a day on their feet, but is constantly threatened with immediate dismissal if they do not hit their target. It even happens in the public sector. As a former teacher, I have heard of too many cases of agency teachers being paid less than those they teach alongside. It is simply unfair.

Financial security has been lost as hard-working people in my community live week to week, rota to rota, and pay packet to pay packet. Proper working rights, pay and conditions that truly benefit employees have been sacrificed in the name of flexibility for unscrupulous bosses.

The Bill is founded on the important premise that two people working in the same role, or doing the same job for the same company, should be entitled to the same fair and equal rights. It will simply level the playing field for agency workers in Barnsley East and across the country in the face of unfair working practices, and provide them with the proper workplace rights and pay that they are overdue.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

27 Apr 2018, 2:25 p.m.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. Employment rights have always been close to my heart. For example, it was a genuine honour to sit on the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Public Bill Committee earlier this year. Ensuring that parents have the time to grieve the loss of a child without the pressure to return to work is vital and will make a real difference, and I remain indebted to my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) for their work in bringing that Bill forward.

As the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) made clear, her Bill has two main elements. First, it would ensure equal treatment for agency workers by ending the equal pay exemption in the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, also known as the Swedish derogation. Secondly, the latter part of the Bill would tackle the exploitation of agency workers who are used by employers effectively as permanent staff to avoid the legal obligations afforded to normal employees.

According to the independent Taylor review, which was published last July and which I recommend to Members who have not already read it, robust data on the number of agency workers in the UK is sadly lacking. It is estimated that there are between 800,000 and 1.2 million such workers. The review made clear:

“Agency work has an important part to play in a vibrant, flexible labour market and many choose to work in this way. However, there is increasing evidence that some companies are relying on temporary workers to fill longer term positions, with the same agency worker doing the same job for years. This works for some people. They have the freedom to leave whenever they want with no notice whatsoever but for many, this level of uncertainty, not knowing whether work will be terminated and having no security of income, does not work. What is more, individuals in this situation can find it hard to seek work elsewhere, especially if they fear taking time off from the current contract may count against them in future allocations of work.”