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Volume 639: debated on Thursday 26 April 2018

The Government fully recognise the importance of the seafood sector not only to the economy but, historically and culturally, to coastal and local communities. In 2016, the gross value added for the fish processing sector was £650 million.

Around 5,000 people in the Grimsby-Cleethorpes area are employed in the seafood sector, and it is clear that it is vital to the local economy. Will the Minister reassure the industry that the Government will work with it to ensure a continuation of supplies and create further job opportunities?

I have had the pleasure of visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency, and the Secretary of State will visit it next month. I have met representatives from the processing sector. My hon. Friend’s part of the world is home to a world-beating fish processing industry. I have had detailed dialogue with the sector about the importance of trade with non-EU countries such as Norway and Iceland. I am confident that we can roll forward the trade agreements on which they depend.

The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation says that the cost of fishing could increase by between 40% and 90% if we have no trade deal with the EU. What is the Minister doing to ensure that fishing continues to make its current contribution to the economy?

We have made it clear that, when we leave the EU, it is our intention to depart from relative stability and current quota-sharing arrangements, and there is an opportunity to secure a better and much larger share of fish in the future. Alongside that, as I said earlier, we are seeking a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

The seafood sector, particularly regarding supply, is very important, and there are great opportunities post-Brexit. Under international law, we only need to offer any supplies that the UK fleet cannot catch. Will the Minister confirm that that will be the case once we leave the common fisheries policy?

Yes. My hon. Friend is an expert in these areas, given her experience, and she will be aware that when we leave the European Union, the UN convention on the law of the sea becomes the new legal baseline. Under that international law, we are responsible for controlling access to our exclusive economic zone. Indeed, as she says, there are also provisions around joint working with partners and others who have a shared interest in the stock.

I got a text message this morning stating:

“If there is any glimmer of hope from Gove I won’t sell.”

That was from a fisherman on the west coast who is short of crew. Now that he knows that the Home Office has run a hostile policy to migrants and migrant workers, he is hoping that he will not be forced to sell, so what will DEFRA do to ensure that the west coast fishing industry, and I believe the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, is not forced out of business? There is a real need for the Home Office to give fishermen pieces of paper to keep the Home Office happy. In other words, we need non-European economic area fishermen—

I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) about this issue, and the hon. Gentleman is aware that we are in dialogue with the Home Office on these issues. As I said, the Migration Advisory Committee is looking in the round at our labour needs after we leave the EU.