(5 months, 1 week ago)General Committees
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.
(7 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
New Clause 15
‘(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—
(ii) catching; and
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(8 months, 1 week ago)Public Bill Committees
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fisheries management plans: power to depart from proposals in JFS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
(8 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.