Friday, 4 September 2020

Fisheries Bill debate and Brexit negotiations.


There's an argument that Under 10m vessels are a special case.

The Chronicle reported on the Fisheries Bill debate highlighting the Under 10m sector's concerns:

Fair deal for North East fishermen plea as Parliament debates new rules The House of Commons is debating new laws which will set out rules for fishing in UK waters once Brexit is complete where new fishing rules will need to be established after Brexit

North East MPs are pushing the Government to back small-boat fishing businesses, which play an important role in the economy in Tynemouth and across the east coast of England.

The House of Commons is debating new laws which will set out rules for fishing in UK waters once Brexit is complete. Although the UK has left the European Union, the country is still currently obeying EU regulations.

Ministers say British boats will be allowed to catch more fish. However, they will still be limited by quotas, and Tynemouth MP Sir Alan Campbell spoke in the House of Commons to call for small boats to receive a bigger share of the catch.

He said: "There is a fairness issue that we also need to address in the Bill, and we have heard different views on it already in this debate - that is, the fair distribution of quota, particularly to under-10-metre boats.

"Currently, they receive around 6%. If that was increased by 1% or 2%, that would increase the quota for smaller boats by around a quarter. "They are the backbone of many local fleets - North Shields in my constituency included - and they should be, in my view, at the heart of a sustainable approach."

Sir Alan also said that all fish caught in UK waters should be landed at UK ports, a measure that would bring in more revenue to ports on the east coast.

He said: "If fish are caught in UK waters, they ought to be landed in UK ports, because the Bill is about jobs, and important though the catching sector is, for every single job in the catching sector there are around nine jobs on land.

Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan entitled to £17,000 payout after Boris Johnson abolishes her job "The reality is that too many of our fishing ports struggle to survive. Ports such as North Shields require constant investment, and currently, for example, the protection jetty is being repaired using European fisheries fund money."

According to the Government, the new legislation, known as the Fisheries Bill, will be fairer than the EU rules it replaces.

George Eustice, the Secretary of State for the Environment, told the House of Commons: "The common fisheries policy has long been seen by these coastal communities as a policy that symbolised the unfairness of our EU membership and the failure of EU policy.

"It has granted uncontrolled access to UK waters for EU vessels.

During the debate, George Eustace said: 

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time. Fishing is at the heart of coastal communities the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, from the Shetland Islands all the way down to Cornwall and some of the communities that I represent. Across the UK, the seafood sector employs about 33,000 people in often dangerous work, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all our fishermen, who risk the perils of the sea to bring fish to our tables, and, in particular, to remember the six fishermen who sadly lost their lives last year.

Of course, the industry has also been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on the export of fish, but once again, our resilient fishing communities have shown real ingenuity by finding new ways to sell fresh fish direct to our doors. However, the common fisheries policy has long been seen by these coastal communities as a policy that symbolised the unfairness of our EU membership and the failure of EU policy. It has granted uncontrolled access to UK waters for EU vessels. It has given the European Commission the legal right to trade UK fishing interests during international negotiations with our neighbours such as Norway and the Faroes, and the principle of relative stability has set in stone an anachronistic methodology for sharing quota dating back to the 1970s, which is profoundly unfair to the UK fleet and does not reflect the quantity of fish found in British waters.

For example, under relative stability, we receive just 10% of the overall quota for Celtic sea haddock, but our zonal attachment analysis suggests that our share should be around 50%. Overall, the UK fishing industry currently has access to just around half of the fishing opportunities that are in our waters, and that cannot be right. The CFP has also failed our marine environment. The misallocation of fishing opportunities combined with ill-conceived technical measures and a cumbersome decision-making process that is slow to correct errors, have all taken their toll on the health of our marine environment and the resources in our waters.

As we leave the European Union, we have the opportunity for the first time in almost half a century to correct these shortcomings. The Bill before the House today gives the UK the powers that it needs to chart a new course as an independent coastal state. It gives us the powers we need to implement the approach that we outlined in our fisheries White Paper published in 2018. The Bill sets out in statute the environmental and scientific principles and objectives that will inform future policy. It creates a legal requirement for a joint fisheries statement across the UK Administrations relating to those objectives, and it creates a legal requirement for the preparation of a series of fisheries management plans to ensure that continuous progress towards our objectives is secured.

The Bill also gives us the power to control access by individual foreign vessels to our exclusive economic zone. This includes the power to stipulate, through a vessel licence, where in our EEZ a vessel may fish, when it may fish there, what fish it may catch while there, and what type of fishing gear it may or may not use. The ability to control and manage access to our waters will be crucial to ensuring that a fairer sharing arrangement prevails in future.

Victoria Prentiss The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs closed the debate: 
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 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 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 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 Andrew Bowie made an excellent speech, and I would also like to mention the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend 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 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), Sir Alan Campbell, 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 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 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 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 Kerry McCarthy and my hon. Friend Robert Courts. The strong voice of Cornwall was heard around the Chamber and, indeed, acknowledged by 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 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 James Wild and my hon. Friend 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.

Today a joint statement was made by the SFF and NFFO on Brexit negotiations: 

Elspeth Macdonald and Barrie Deas, chief executives of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) respectively, said: “For the fishing industry in the UK, leaving the Common Fisheries Policy has always been about redressing a fundamental issue: the woefully unfair allocation of quota shares in our waters, where the EU fleet has an unfettered right of access to the UK’s rich fishing grounds and fish five times more in UK waters than we fish in theirs. 

“The only satisfactory means of ensuring that this is achieved is for the UK, as a sovereign coastal state, to maintain full control over access to our waters. 

“That does not mean denying EU vessels access to fish in the UK Exclusive Economic Zone. Rather, that such access would be negotiated annually – as is the norm for the EU and Norway and other non-EU fishing nations. 

“Under international law, this will be the default position if a Fisheries Agreement cannot be reached. 

“Evidently, it would be preferable if the right deal could be agreed, meeting the industry’s objective of control of access to fish in the UK EEZ and fairer quota shares based on zonal attachment, but if an acceptable deal cannot be reached then the catching sector would prefer these issues to be addressed through the annual negotiations process. This is in line with the government’s negotiating position, which we fully support. 

“Ultimately, it is up to the EU which of the two routes it wishes to take towards the UK becoming a coastal state – through a stable framework agreement that respects UK sovereignty and follows similar arrangements that the EU has with other coastal states in the north-east Atlantic, or via a more uncertain route for the EU where everything is done through annual negotiations with no framework agreement in place.”

Click below to hear Plymouth MP Luke Pollard discuss the Fisheries Bill and Brexit.