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Sea Bass

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. David.]

With no sense of irony at all, I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box today, especially as it was touch and go as to whether either of us would make it to the Chamber, given the curtailment of Government business. The issue of the future of Britain’s most popular recreational fish does not appear to have found any favour on the Opposition Benches. That will come as some surprise to the 1 million sea anglers in England, Scotland and Wales, although perhaps we should leave that matter for another day.

It is ironic that, if the Minister had not been able to make it here on time—I am delighted that he has—the Whips Office had chosen my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) to take his place. He is an angler, and I am sure that he would have agreed with every word that I have to say. To have done so, of course, might have contravened the words that he might have been required to read out.

This is an Adjournment debate; we are not limited by time, and I know that that will please everybody here. I am genuine in my congratulations to the Minister, who is a friend of mine. In his other role as Minister for the South East, he has impressed many people with how he has worked in the region with local communities struggling to deal with the aftermath of the July floods. I thank him for his two visits to my constituency; he will be aware that it is impossible to visit Reading without being harangued by fisherman, although in the case that I am thinking about they were freshwater fishermen.

I look forward, particularly in my capacity as Labour’s angling spokesman, to the day when I can offer similar praise for the decision that my hon. Friend has made as Minister with responsibility for fisheries. Sadly, as a result of his decision to go back on the commitment made by his predecessor to increase, in the interests of conservation, the minimum landing size of bass, I am not here to praise the Minister but to challenge him—which is, after all, the purpose of this House. His announcement of 25 October on retaining the minimum landing size for bass at 36 cm rather than increasing it to 40 cm and then to 45 cm by 2010, as recommended by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science just two years ago, flies in the face of scientific evidence and has been greeted with understandable anger and dismay by hundreds of thousands of sea anglers, as well as by conservationists. He himself admitted that his decision was based on looking after the short-term interests of the inshore fleet rather than the long-term interests of the species and the environment. I want to tease out those points.

It is worth reminding the House that the recreational sea angling sector in England and Wales is worth more than £1.3 billion a year to the economy and provides 19,000 non-subsidised jobs. The entire commercial fleet employs only 12,000 people, with considerably fewer in the under-10 m inshore fleet. We should be concerned about the impact of any decision on jobs, but let us not forget the devastating impact that unsustainable fishing has had on all sectors, both commercial and recreational. The livelihoods of charter skippers, who take anglers to sea and depend on healthy fish stocks to maintain a viable business, are every bit as important as those of the commercial fleet. Everybody suffers when a fishery collapses, as we saw in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and in the American striped bass fishery, or as was nearly the case in respect of North sea cod stocks. Future generations will not remember kindly those politicians who duck the challenge of creating the sustainable harvesting of the resources of our planet.

The nub of the argument is that we were promised that Britain’s most popular fish in terms of its sporting and eating potential would be managed sustainably, and primarily as a recreational species. That was a promise made in Downing street, and it should be kept. In 2002, the Prime Minister’s strategy unit commissioned a report on the benefits of recreational sea angling. That report, “Net Benefits”, was eventually published in 2004, to wide acclaim. It said:

“Fisheries management should recognise that sea angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of some resources than commercial exploitation.”

Among its recommendations were:

“Fisheries departments should review the evidence supporting arguments for re-designating commercially caught species for wholly recreational sea angling, beginning with bass by the end of 2004.”

That was followed by the findings of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which looked at “Net Benefits” and, in a consensual report on an all-party basis, said:

“We strongly support the Strategy Unit recommendations to develop the recreational sea angling sector. We believe that the sector, which has considerable economic value, has been overlooked and under-represented for too long.”

In its conclusions, at paragraph 141, it added:

“We support the re-designation of certain species for recreational use and recognise the benefits that this can bring from both a conservation and economic point of view.”

It is easy to see the direction of travel in terms of public policy in respect of bass and its value to the commercial and recreational sectors. By 2004, we had No. 10, the Government and an all-party Commons Committee moving in the same direction, and it is fair to say that there were reasons to be cheerful. Rarely for a policy, the process survived the 2005 general election; in fact, it was enhanced by it. In Labour’s “Charter for Angling”, the Minister’s predecessor wrote:

“It was anglers’ concerns for the conservation status of sea bass that has persuaded me to implement much of the excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers Sport Fishing Society.”

That was before the 2005 election. It goes on to say:

“The bass management plan has suggested:…Nursery Area additional measures and enforcement to protect juveniles”

and

“Increases in Minimum Landing Size to strengthen the brood stock.”

I accept that the Minister has announced nursery areas. I welcome that and I praise him for that announcement, but it is only part of the picture. The document concludes:

“Labour welcomes the publication of the Bass Management Plan and following discussion with the authors, has agreed to a programme of implementation.”

At this point, it is fair to say that the sea angling community was fairly content with my party, and with the direction of travel in respect of the policy of conserving valuable species. The Minister’s predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), made good that promise when he launched the DEFRA consultation in 2005 to increase the minimum landing size for bass, in order to produce a sustainable fishery with more and bigger bass for the commercial and recreational sectors. That proposal was based on sound science and in the interests of conservation and the environment. It followed a report from CEFAS, which made it perfectly clear that the sound policy to adopt, which would maximise the yield per recruit, would suggest that

“gains…can be made in all areas by increasing the size at first capture up to about 44-48 cm…At a size of 40 cm at first capture, YPR gains will be small, but significant gains…will be achieved”

in the long run. In respect of the impact on the commercial fleet, the report says that under a scenario of a 40 cm minimum landing size with no discard mortality,

“landings were significantly reduced in the short term…but subsequently recovered to levels similar to, or above, the status quo”,

assuming, of course, mesh netting controls and bass nursery areas.

To summarise the matter of policy, it was quite possible to put together conservation measures that would deliver more and bigger bass for the commercial sector and the recreational sector. The question that all sea anglers are asking is, what has changed? What changed the entire direction of travel of policy from 2002 onwards in the past few months? I go back to CEFAS. It is DEFRA’s main agency, and leading scientific body, by which Government policy is informed, and from which it is derived. A presentation was made on 1 October by Mike Smith of CEFAS, which said quite clearly that the

“analysis…indicated that increasing the age at which bass were first exploited would improve long-term yields and boost recruitment to the spawning stock”.

On a general summary of benefits, it says:

“The chief policy benefit has been the acceptance that protecting juvenile fish stocks works”.

The optimum spawning size for female bass is 42 cm. It is a simple act of conservation science that every species should be given the opportunity to breed once. Not to allow that does not promote sustainable fishing policy. Not to do so would not be in the interests of the environment, or in the interests of the oceans.

The consultation was launched. There was a predicable outcry from the commercial sector, but then there was an outcry from that sector when conservation measures had to be introduced in the American striped bass fishery and in the Grand Banks in Newfoundland. The commercial fishermen now welcome those measures, which were put in place to sustain the stocks and allow them to recover. It is important that as politicians we take the long-term view, not the short-term one. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter took the long-term view in his statement in 2006 when he announced the conclusions of the consultation and his intention to increase the bass minimum landing size to 40 cm from 36 cm, and then on to 45 cm, beyond the optimum spawning size. The DEFRA press release contained quotations from the Minister’s predecessor. He said:

“I have listened very carefully to the representations made and have not taken this decision lightly. I have accepted the arguments for a bigger minimum landing size to help increase the quantity and size of bass. This will also give better protection for the stocks. There may be short term costs from this measure before we see future gains but it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.”

I emphasise,

“it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.”

That is not my view. Those are not the words of sea anglers, but those of a previous Fisheries Minister. He went on to say:

“The recreational fishing sector makes a major contribution to our economy and it is important that their voice, as well as those of commercial fishermen, is taken into account in fisheries management.

In the future, I intend to increase the landing size further to 45cm, but subject to the results of a review, in 2010”

in connection with

“the measures I have announced today.

The increase to 40cm will bring the minimum landing size closer to the average spawning size for bass…As a result, more juvenile fish will be protected and there would be increased recruitment to the spawning stock. This will in turn increase the number and size of bass available for capture to both the commercial and recreational sector.”

He concluded:

“I have taken on board the concerns expressed during the consultation by the commercial fishing sector about the impact of an immediate increase to 45cm and the need for a reasonable implementation period to minimise the cost of net replacement.”

It is difficult to establish exactly why the Government have reversed that decision. It is also difficult to understand why the hon. Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin) is nodding at every phrase that I say. During a recent fisheries debate, he chastised me for supporting a minimum landing size for bass. I have quotations from him that query the wisdom of the Government’s going down that road in the first place. Perhaps I should let him speak so that he can explain his absurd attitude.

As we have until half past six, I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. What has changed is that the Government have not responded with an alternative. My difficulty with the minimum landing size as a stand-alone measure was that the purpose is surely to get professional fishermen to change the sort of gear that they use. As a stand-alone measure, the minimum landing size does not achieve that, but as part of the bass management plan it does. That is why I am nodding, why I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman secured the debate, and why I am disappointed that we are not seeing the joined-up thinking on fishing that we were promised by the Government. That is a great shame.

At the risk of sounding churlish, I must say that those political gymnastics are worthy of the Liberal Democrats, who, of course, are not here. One must welcome support wherever it comes from—be it from the Conservatives, or from other sources.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is a reasonable man. He has sought to be reasonable in everything that he has done. He may have made a decision that, in my view, is fundamentally wrong, but he has attempted to engage all sides in the process. The hon. Member for Leominster has raised an interesting point. We need to weigh in the balance the impact of establishing nursery areas. We also need to weigh in the balance the impact of increasing mesh size from 80-90 mm, say, to 100 mm.

We need to know what the Minister plans to do about inshore netting. Although bass spawn at sea, there is a mass migration to the coastal waters around Britain, particularly around the west country and in the English channel. Those shallow inshore waters are most vulnerable to commercial exploitation. Not only do we need nursery areas and increased net sizes, but, if we are to do the right thing by long-term fisheries conservation, we need to limit inshore netting and trawling in some of those sensitive areas. Of course, the marine Bill, which has cross-party support, will give us the opportunity to do that.

The Under-Secretary made it clear in his announcement that he is prepared to review the decision. In the face of the science and the change in the direction of travel, what would trigger that review? What would make him question his decision?

I am sorry to have missed the first eight minutes of the hon. Gentleman’s speech because the debate started early. As he knows, I have tabled some written questions about the subject, and I have two active and articulate constituents, Kevin Aston and John Halton, both recreational fishermen, who have made representations to me about the importance of maintaining the balance between recreational and professional sea bass fishing. Has the hon. Gentleman received any intimation from the Under-Secretary or anyone else of why, when the previous Minister marched us a long way up the hill, encouraging us to believe that a new balance would be struck between the interests, we have been marched down again? Has the evidence changed? Has the European Union applied some sort of pressure? Has commercial fishing put pressure on the Government? From where does the hon. Gentleman believe the pressures have come to cause such a significant change? My constituents have been badly let down. They believed that their responsible representations meant that they had some Government encouragement.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. Much as Conservative Members would love to blame the European Union for everything from climate change to the price of cheese, its hands are relatively clean on the issue that we are considering.

The Under-Secretary is more than capable of speaking for himself, but I believe that he has taken note of representations from the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which is a well-funded and effective lobby, as, indeed, it should be on behalf of its members. The Under-Secretary has shown concern, especially for the small boat fleets off the south and south-west. Many fishermen are frustrated by their inability to get more of the cod quota. That hit the headlines in recent days.

That does not negate my point that it is incumbent on us to take the long-term view. The science shows that, although the minimum landing size for bass would mean a short-term depletion in the fish available to be caught by the commercial sector, there would be a long-term increase. The Under-Secretary must recognise that. We are considering centimetres—the difference between 36 and 45 cm. That difference means doubling the weight of the sea bass, which is a valuable species for recreational fishing. Just as people spend a lot of money to catch quality salmon—far more than salmon would ever fetch on a fishmonger’s slab—people will spend a lot of money to enjoy quality recreational bass fishing on the fly, by bait or by using lures, plugs and spinners.

Bass is an immensely valuable resource, which we should protect. Global warming means that stocks of juvenile bass have risen to some extent, but the recreational fishery is undervalued if only stunted bass are available through the removal of a great proportion of the stock at too early a stage in its life. That is why the decision is wrong and represents short-term thinking. That is bad for local economies in the long run.

Many strategy documents come out of DEFRA, and that is welcome. The Under-Secretary has published the recreational sea angling strategy, which promises more and bigger fish, while at the same time not raising the minimum landing size for bass—the most important fish for recreational sea fishing.

Here and in meetings throughout the country, I have tried to make the Government’s case for a sea licence. There is an argument for a sea licence, although I absolutely agree with the National Federation of Sea Anglers that it could be implemented only if sea anglers see a significant improvement in the sport available to them. The decision that has been taken—this extraordinary U-turn—drives a coach and horses not only through the recreational sea angling strategy, but through any attempt that I or others could make to create a consensus on a sea rod licence.

The Prime Minister has talked about vision. We need to talk about vision if we are serious about protecting the harvest that our oceans can deliver for us. My worry is that the decision that has been taken is short- term and lacks the vision to which we must all aspire.

My hon. Friend is making a fantastic contribution. As an angler and a member of the all-party angling group, I do not underestimate the significance of the issue throughout the country. I have been contacted by many people about it. Angling is the biggest participant sport in the country, with approaching 1 million sea anglers. With another hat on, my hon. Friend is chair of the all-party angling group. Does he have any plans to convene an emergency meeting to forge an all-party consensus and take the issue forward?

I think that I have now. I am particularly minded to forge an all-party consensus in light of the helpful comments made by the hon. Member for Leominster, who I believe might have something to say.

Order. I must remind hon. Members that I have allowed some latitude with one intervention. Regardless of time, Opposition Front-Bench spokespeople are not allowed to make a speech or an intervention in these debates.

It is probably worth putting on record that the hon. Gentleman was nodding his assent. I would welcome any opportunity to work with hon. Members across the political divide, as I have sought to do on angling and conservation, to see whether we can test, probe and challenge the decision, and encourage the Minister to come forward with the review that he promised.

In conclusion, this is a sad day for sea angling. Bass—one of the few fish that I have never caught—is a totemic species. It is highly sought after and a valuable resource. It was recognised as being worthy of protection by the Prime Minister’s strategy unit. We had a fine policy in place. We had done the heavy lifting, but in the final furlong there has been a change of heart. I know that the Minister is a serious politician, so I hope that he will listen seriously to the representations that I and thousands of others will continue to make. I hope one day to return to the House and praise him for making the right decision in respect of an important British fish species.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) on securing this debate, as it provides an opportunity to set out more background to my recent decision on bass and to describe measures that I intend to take with a view to delivering benefits to sea anglers. I am grateful to him for his invaluable work in raising the profile of angling in general and, in particular, for his active involvement with sea angling representative bodies.

I am aware that many of those bodies wanted to come together with one voice. My hon. Friend has worked tirelessly to ensure that that happens, so that there is effective discussion and dialogue with the Government. It makes it much easier for the Government if there is one voice. Bringing those bodies together is not easy work. It is time-consuming work and I am sure that the whole House is grateful to my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend has said some kind words about me. We have been close friends since we came to the House. One never knows what is going to happen, but when we both walked in here for the first time as Members of Parliament for our respective constituencies in the south-east region, little did he or I imagine that we would one day be discussing this matter from our respective positions. He knows of my high regard for him, and for the way in which he has brought together the sea angling community. I assure him that I will continue to work with him and with that community.

Let me deal first with the decision on bass. I announced on 25 October that the minimum landing size for bass would not be increased from the current EU size of 36 cm to 40 cm. I made this decision after full consideration of the evidence and following a meeting with the fishing industry and angling representatives. I brought together the anglers and representatives of the industry for a presentation by scientists at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science—CEFAS.

Before making this decision, I was aware that the consultation on the issue had generated some 2,800 responses. That is a large postbag for a fisheries issue. The replies demonstrated that views were generally polarised between anglers who were strongly in favour of an increase and commercial fishermen who strongly opposed it. Against that background, whatever decision was reached was likely to be contentious. With this in mind, my approach was to ensure that my decision took proper account of the science and all the other evidence. I was also clear that I would not reach a decision until both parties had had a chance to put their case to me.

The meeting that I convened at the beginning of October gave me the opportunity to hear the views of those who have been closely involved with the debate. Commercial bass fishermen and bass anglers made it very clear to me how important bass was to them. The meeting also gave an opportunity for the scientific advice on bass stocks to be fully debated. This advice from CEFAS scientists has been that the bass stock appears to be fished sustainably and that a succession of successful year classes, together with a suite of effective management measures, has resulted in a doubling of bass stocks since the mid-1990s.

That view is endorsed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea—ICES—whose report I have here. ICES advised the European Commission in 2004 that bass stocks around the UK coast appeared to be fished sustainably. For example, it reported:

“The prognosis for sea bass stocks in the English Channel…is that fishing mortality levels are sustainable…spawning stock biomass levels are as high or higher that they have been over the previous 20 years and that strong year classes continued to be sufficiently frequent to ensure that recruitment maintains both yields and the stock.”

The same report also noted that the package of bass conservation measures introduced in the UK in the 1990s—including the creation of 37 key bass nursery areas, which we closed to directed fishing for bass—had met their objectives.

The science—from ICES in 2004 and our own scientific advice—has remained consistent since the consultation. However, the circumstances in which I am making my decision have changed. My hon. Friend was right: I am particularly concerned about the impacts on the under-10m fleet in the short to medium term. It is difficult to quantify the impact on the profitability of individual vessels, but it is clear that bass between 36 cm and 40 cm makes up an important share of the catch for these vessels.

Our regulatory impact assessment identified that, with an increase to 40 cm, the costs to the industry would have been around £1.4 million in the first year, with reduced landings for three to four years, and subsequently recovering to the levels that pertained before the increase. This sector of the fleet has faced a number of additional pressures this year in relation to the availability of quota species. Inshore netters fishing for sole, cod and plaice have been particularly affected in 2007, and, as a non-quota and plentiful species, bass is an important displacement stock for those fishermen.

I am also concerned about the effects of any increased minimum landing size on discards of bass—when fish are thrown back into the sea, often dead. That is a key issue for fishermen and for managers, and the European Commission has recently produced proposals to reduce the number of discards in key fisheries. The largest discard impact would have been on trawlers in the eastern English channel. At 40 cm, an estimated 55 tonnes of bass would have been discarded—and would probably have died—from UK inshore trawlers each year out of an average trawl catch of around 230 tonnes.

Finally, when I reached my decision I bore it in mind that we now had a clear indication that other member states and the Commission would not support an increased MLS, as we had originally hoped.

I have heard the argument, which my hon. Friend advanced, that the MLS should be increased, as it is currently set below the spawning size for bass. I should clarify that although 42 cm is the average size at which female bass will have spawned once, it is not necessary to introduce an MLS of 42 cm to ensure stock sustainability, given the current scientific advice that the bass stock is being fished sustainably at a MLS of 36 cm.

Having been a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and having conducted investigations of fisheries in the past, I think it fair to say that scientific advice is not constant, but varies significantly over a period. Is it not better to take the cautious route, and consider whether we should increase the minimum landing size?

In making decisions of this kind, we have to weigh the competing demands. I am trying to explain why I reached my decision within the competing demands represented by the wishes of anglers who have presented the powerful case articulated by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West and the representations made to me by fishermen. I will, however, make some further points which are relevant to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew).

I too have heard the argument that an increase in the MLS would have generated an increase in angling activity which would outweigh the financial impact on commercial fishermen. I have some sympathy with that argument, and I accept that managing fisheries to take account of anglers’ requirements could develop the sport and lead to increases in angling-related expenditure on items such as tackle, bait, travel and accommodation. Bass anglers have made that point as part of their case for an increase, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West referred to it as well. Our analysis was less certain: despite the large increase in the stock in recent years, the evidence that we had on bass angling showed that the number of bass anglers over a similar period had not changed significantly. Our analysis also showed that many shore anglers would not see the benefits from an increase, as most bass inshore measure less than 40 cm.

Generally there are limited data available relating specifically to angling for bass. I accept that that is a shortcoming, and I aim to address it through a research and development study that I announced along with my decision on bass.

I am interested in the fact that the Minister has a research and development study in mind.

One of the greatest expenditures in recreational sea bass angling is the boat. That is certainly the case for those who fish off north Wales and in the Dee estuary in my part of the world. That expenditure is often entered into with a repayment term of some years, so predictability of risk is needed.

Counting the number of recreational sea bass fishermen must also be looked into carefully. I cannot believe that the figures are as constant as suggested, given that I am told by people—even by one of my neighbours—that they fish regularly and often invite friends, who are therefore introduced to the sport in a way that might mean that they are not counted in the statistics.

I thank the Minister for giving way, and I say to him that I have no intention of bobbing up and down to interrupt him.

Does the Minister feel well served by the data put before him? It is not possible to define a bass angler. They are not spawned on the moon and exported down to Britain. Bass is a sporting species. Many trout, salmon and coarse anglers, for example, enjoy bass fishing, but they might not appear in data. From my extensive contacts in the angling world, it is my contention that bass angling is becoming more popular but is at risk as people are frustrated at the lack of availability of decent-sized bass to catch. Baby bass angling has not got a strong future, and that is where we are at present.

I am grateful for those interventions. I accept that there are shortcomings in respect of the available data. We must improve that, and I will say a little more about the matter shortly. This is an important sport, and we need to understand it better because it makes a significant contribution to communities—coastal communities in particular.

The regulatory impact assessment identified that other measures might achieve the aim of the increased MLS without the substantial cost to the fishing industry. We also need to ensure that the bass fishery remains sustainable. That is the reason for my announcement of a package of measures which will provide benefits for bass stocks and anglers.

The measures include a review of the current series of 37 nursery areas around the coast of England and Wales, which have proved so successful in protecting juvenile bass. We will also be considering having more nursery areas where significant new juvenile populations of bass require protection as a result of climate warming causing bass to spawn further north and with greater success. We will also explore the pros and cons of strengthening protection in the existing areas.

I have announced that we are funding a pilot study to explore whether closing specific coastal areas to fishing would let more bass in local populations grow bigger, and the practicalities of doing so. We will also review inshore netting restrictions where there is the potential to deliver benefits to anglers.

In respect of all those areas, I hope that I can rely on my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West and sea bass anglers to work with the Department and to ensure that our review process delivers what we all want.

I assure the Minister that, despite my anger at this decision, I will continue to work constructively with him and his Department to seek to rebuild the consensus that has been damaged by the decision. I welcome the fact that he has agreed to meet sea anglers next week. I am in discussion with many sea angling bodies, and they are looking forward to having a similar robust but polite discussion with him.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.

Finally, we are funding the three-year research and development project that I referred to earlier to fill gaps in knowledge about the impacts of different management measures on stocks and, as I said, on economic activity. The study will help to improve our knowledge of recreational sea angling activity and provide a firmer basis for future action.

In moving forward from this decision, I am clear that we need to take a collaborative approach to fisheries management, sharing information and agreeing the way forward. Such an approach will be critical to the success of the other measures that I have described, along with a strategy for recreational sea angling, which I plan to publish soon. I look forward to the work in the near future and to meeting my hon. Friend next week.

My hon. Friend has worked very hard on this issue for the cause of sea bass anglers. I recognise his disappointment and anger. I have received many e-mails from sea bass anglers, many of which were not that complimentary. I understand the passion of those people, and my commitment is to work with them. Although they did not like my decision, they were involved in the process and they saw the information that I received in a transparent way. My commitment is that I will work in that way in the future.

May I press the Minister on one point? He has been honest with the House, acknowledging that we are talking about a change of policy, but one that was motivated by concern for the livelihoods of the inshore fisherman, particularly the under-10 m fleet. If he is able in his role—to some extent, he has the powers to do this—to improve the prospects of the under-10 m fleet, will he review this decision at the earliest opportunity?

In announcing my decision, I said that I would review the MLS, but I need to take account of a host of factors, particularly the under-10 m fleet’s quota. Within our 2020 vision for fisheries we want a sustainable under-10 m fleet and a buoyant sea angling fraternity. We want all sides to be able to enjoy the sea and the benefits that we derive from it. My hon. Friend referred to the marine Bill, and we will be bringing forward a draft of that in the spring. Many of these matters are pertinent to that. I said that I would review the decision, and I shall do so. We must ensure that we put in place the measures to which I referred. I look forward to working with him and others on those measures, so that we can make progress.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes to Six o’clock.