[Mr Graham Stringer in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered fishing and the UK leaving the EU.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I start by welcoming the Minister to his place. It is incredibly welcome that he is an east coast colleague, and so will understand the particular pressures on the fishing industry in that part of the world. I look forward to building a constructive relationship with him over the many years that I know he will be in post. Many Members will use their contributions to talk about the catching aspect of our fishing sector—both around the whole UK and in their local areas—with which they will be more familiar than me. I will focus on the impact of Brexit on the post-catching aspect of the sector.
The fishing sector has been the hallmark of Grimsby for generations, and factories such as Young’s and Seachill are the largest source of employment for people in Grimsby. Traditional Grimsby smoked fish is perhaps the most recognisable symbol of quality in the fish world. If the Minister has not yet had the chance to try some, I urge him to visit my constituency and to come along to Alfred Enderby, which supplies Marco Pierre White’s restaurants, and hopefully then he will understand exactly why it has such an excellent reputation.
However, the fish that feeds those factories and smoking houses no longer lands at the docks in Grimsby, and often not even in the UK. Instead, the fish processed in my constituency arrives at our factories from across northern Europe. The cod and haddock used by companies such as Young’s and Seachill and enjoyed by many in the fish and chip shops up and down the country are caught in the likes of Norway and Iceland. They are then transferred across Europe, usually by lorry, moved on to a container ship and then put back on a lorry, eventually arriving at their destination. Those companies really worry about the effect of Brexit on their sector.
It is right that we talk about the sector as a whole, including processing. The Government document, “Seafood 2040: A strategic framework for England”, looks at the whole sector, from catching the fish all the way through to its ending up on people’s plates. The strategy covers the industry in its entirety, which is why it is relevant for me to raise these issues. Companies such as Young’s and Seachill rely on seamless supply routes to ensure that the fish that they use arrives in as fresh a state as possible. Any delay in the transport of what is a highly perishable good will have a massive impact on both the quantity of spoiled fish and the quality of the end product in our supermarkets.
The hon. Lady mentioned, and is a powerful voice for, processors in her constituency. Could she give us some idea of how much of their supply those processors source from EU member states and how much is sourced from places such as Norway and Iceland, which are clearly third countries to the EU at the moment?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right: we source the majority of our product for processing from Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and so on. However, it is worth noting that those countries have European economic area and European Free Trade Agreement agreements with the EU. Our relationship with the EU will impact on those agreements. There is no way, so far as I can see, that we can supersede their existing relationships with the EU. The hon. Lady is shaking her head vigorously from a sedentary position. I am sure that she will address that point in her own comments when the time comes.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing the debate. Does she share my concern about a no-deal scenario? The Welsh fish and sea fish sector exports 90% of what it produces, much of it to the EU, and is worth £25 million to Wales. Will she join me in calling on the Department to provide financial support in the event of a no-deal scenario?
The hon. Lady raises an important point, and £25 million is not an insignificant sum to Wales. We saw this morning the release of proposed tariff rates, which I will come on to later. Perhaps the Minister can offer some reassurance on that. Going ahead with no deal will have a dramatic impact on trading as we know and understand it, because all our systems are set up to work within the current framework. It is absolutely imperative that the Minister hears these issues raised by colleagues.
The hon. Lady will doubtless be aware that the tariff guidance published by the Government this morning lists a range of tariffs for imported fish. However, there will of course be zero tariffs between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. First, how workable does she think that scheme will be? Secondly, does she think that it will find favour with processors in her constituency?
Certainly, the information we received this morning presents a range of difficulties, as the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight. The difficulties of potentially having zero tariffs on imports coming from Ireland, through Northern Ireland and into the UK will have a dramatic impact on the whole sector’s trade routes. I think the figure put on tariffs for import was 11.9%. I will ask for further information about that, because obviously we had that information only this morning.
It is quite concerning that that information has only been released today. It would have been preferable for these kind of details to be in the public domain at an earlier stage. All parliamentarians have been considering and voting on issues relating to leaving the EU and we are only now finding out some of these facts. That is not in the best interests of the industry and is certainly not in the best interests of people working in the industry in our constituencies around the country. Grimsby’s fish processing sector needs assurances that, come what may, it can continue to enjoy its current seamless supply route. However, industry leaders in the area currently express deep concern about the lack of clarity over how they expect the sector to operate in what could be a matter of weeks.
Currently, health certificates for fish imports from inside the EU or EFTA are only required for species that carry, or are at risk from, controlled diseases, but they are needed for all fish imported from outside the EU. Fish from EU and EFTA nations do not need to go through border checks when entering the UK. Imposing requirements on markets such as Norway and Iceland to provide health certificates for all the fish they export to us would lead to increased border checks on fish from those countries and could mean damaging delays to the delivery of fresh fish into the country. Will the Minister confirm that it is not the Government’s intention to require all fish from markets such as Norway and Iceland to have health certificates once we leave the EU?
If we leave the EU without a deal, all fish exported to the EU will require export health certificates, but companies in my constituency have raised concerns that local environmental health officers simply do not have the resources to facilitate that significant increase in their workload. Can the Minister perhaps put companies’ minds at ease by informing us of what steps the Government are taking to ensure that exporters will not be hindered by struggles to produce health certificates in the very unenviable situation that we leave without a deal?
If there are extra certificates, checks and tariffs, those will all be checked and carried out at our ports, and there are concerns among Grimsby companies that even with a deal, ports will experience a bottleneck post Brexit. We have heard about the plans for lorry parks in Dover, but there are also plans around the country for extra capacity to deal with delays in port areas, and the position is the same in north-east Lincolnshire.
Currently, fish arriving at ports in north-east Lincolnshire have been checked and certified in Iceland before being shipped to the UK. Fish arriving here can be seamlessly transferred because of the long-standing relationship between Grimsby and Iceland. There is enormous trust as a result of that relationship, which has existed for decades. It works, and nobody wants that to change. It means that the fish is moved seamlessly. There is no damage to the product. It comes in, and there is no risk of any kind of perishing of the product when it comes through, which of course would devalue it on the open market.
If the UK imposes its own customs checks on fish once we leave the EU, rather than accepting checks as it does now, that would severely impact the quality and quantity of usable fish that ends up in the UK market. Can the Minister therefore confirm that the Government will continue to accept checks from the likes of Iceland as valid and will not impose further checks at UK ports, which could have severe impacts on the viability of the fishing industry in the UK?
We know that additional funds have been directed towards UK ports. The Humber ports of Immingham, Grimsby, Hull and Goole will share £135,000. However, the “Seafood 2040” document highlights the fact that 72,000 tonnes of fish caught under UK licence are currently landed in ports outside the UK. That issue is partly about infrastructure at ports and partly about inadequate facilities. If the Government really recognise the potential for the future of the fishing industry—the potential to grow as we leave the EU—do they consider that that investment of £135,000 between four different ports in the Humber area will be enough to enable them to cope with future demand? Will it make Grimsby fish stocks ready for the 21st century?
May I congratulate those people in my hon. Friend’s area who have secured some of that money for the ports, however inadequate it is. I point out to the Minister—I understand that this is a Department for Transport and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government matter—that of the £3 million in total that is being given to ports across the country, not a single penny is coming to any port in the north-east of England.
My right hon. Friend raises a serious issue. There must be equitable distribution of funds. If there is a genuine desire to support the industry, the infrastructure and the facilities must be there. To exclude one at the expense of another is not looking to the future. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to respond to my right hon. Friend’s point in his closing comments.
The additional funding is of course welcome; nobody is going to say no to additional funding, but how it will be shared and distributed and where the priorities will lie are still a concern. When it comes to the spending, will it go to the company that runs the dock facilities, which will have all the responsibility of dealing with the customs checks and perhaps an increase in activity? If Dover is unable to cope, perhaps we will see an increase in freight coming up to our port. What will that mean for the fish stocks and for the auction site? Will it get a share of it? That is not clear. I would be interested to know whether the Minister has any thoughts on that, too.
The concerns are clearly not felt by the processing sector alone. According to the UK Seafood Industry Alliance, we export most of what we catch and we import most of what we eat, with 90% of the cod consumed in the UK coming from outside our borders, and species such as nephrops, which are quite unfamiliar to UK dinner tables, being among our most valuable seafood exports. If we leave without reciprocal and favourable trade arrangements with major importers and exporters, we could easily end up in a situation in which fishermen struggle to make vital profits on export species that are extremely valuable in foreign markets, while we see the cod and haddock in our chippies and supermarkets skyrocket in price as tariffs are slapped on our imports.
Customers may not recognise nephrops, but they will certainly know what Whitby scampi or Young’s scampi look like.
Yes. The Minister makes a key point. Perhaps there is less familiarity with some of the other species that we export, and export very valuably, to the EU markets.
Let me return to the point about tariffs, which we touched on. There was the publication this morning that referred to 11.9% on protected lines. That is the most preferred nation rate. It is what, in the event of no deal, we will be trading on. Can the Minister explain that in greater detail? The information came out only this morning. I have gone to various sources, including the Library, to try to get more detail about exactly which species will be affected and how, but perhaps the Minister can put that on the record here today. If he cannot do so, will there be a ministerial written statement to explain the implications of the tariffs and what they mean for the UK sector?
The hon. Lady will accept that the EU would be absolutely barking mad to embark on a tariff war on fishery and fishing products with the United Kingdom, given our dominance of the sea.
We are in a fortunate position, in that the Minister’s predecessor set a very positive tone from the start of the negotiations to leave the EU. I expect that tone to continue under this Minister. He is a very reasonable gentleman, and I expect him to recognise, in the same interest of standing up for the UK fishing sector, that an unnecessarily aggressive approach is not one that he should take. I do not think that there is any desire on either side to start so-called tariff wars. There is a mutually beneficial industry. The common fisheries policy may continue to be a bone of contention, but in more recent years the relationship has improved, and the changes that have been made in the CFP have struck a good balance between the environment and the catching sector. I hope that that will continue, so I hope that the scenario that the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) highlights and perhaps foresees does not come to pass. That would not be in anybody’s best interests.
I confess that I am not entirely sure what this means, but the list published by the Government this morning says that
“shrimps of the genus ‘Penaeus’ even smoked or whether in the shell or not—including shrimps in shell cooked by steaming or by boiling in water”
will be subject to a 12% tariff. If that is what we are levying as a tariff on imports, why would the EU not levy something similar on our exports to the EU?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point about what would happen in the event of no deal. We know—we will be voting on this very subject later—that it is highly unlikely that there will be a majority for a no-deal outcome. For this sector, we should perhaps, in the course of the debate taking place in the main Chamber, go and make our voices heard and say exactly why that would be an incredibly unhelpful outcome.
Does the hon. Lady share my concern, though, about the withdrawal agreement? The whelk market is worth £6.2 million a year to Wales. It is understood that even if we leave with the withdrawal agreement, there is currently no agreement with South Korea. At the moment, we trade with South Korea under an EU agreement. Processed seafoods, such as whelks, would be subject to a 20% tariff in South Korea if we traded under World Trade Organisation rules.
The hon. Lady leads me neatly to a point about international trade and the role of the Secretary of State for International Trade in securing deals. As I see it—I am sure hon. Members on the Government Benches will leap to the defence of the Secretary of State—there has been such a strong desire to ratchet up the number of confirmed trade deals that, in some circumstances, they have been made at the expense of the fishing sector. The hon. Lady’s point stands, but I would like to expand on the example of the Faroe Islands deal.
It is good that a deal has been done with the Faroe Islands. In the fishing sector, the Faroe Islands is a relative small exporter to this country, exporting about 35,000 tonnes, which is much less than Norway and Iceland. In previous fisheries debates, we have discussed the fact that the catching sector has been kept very separate from the trading element. At the time, we all agreed that it was probably a good thing not to combine the two, because it would get too complicated. In the case of the Faroe Islands, it seems the deal has been made at the expense of—
Mackerel, I am reliably informed by the right hon. Gentleman from a sedentary position. If that is the blueprint for future deals with Iceland and Norway, it will not serve our industry well. I wonder what conversations have taken place between the Department for International Trade and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on this specific issue. If there have not been detailed conversations, perhaps there could be such conversations in advance of signing up to any more deals, which otherwise will make it more difficult for companies that catch and trade in fish to continue their business. Companies that rely on importing say that we need to focus on deals with major suppliers, such as Norway, Iceland and Canada, if we are to have a seamless transition post Brexit.
Is the hon. Lady aware that in the trade deal between the UK and the US, fish and fish products are included with industrial goods? While agriculture is excluded and protected in that deal, bizarrely, fish is not.
That point has been discussed in previous debates on this matter. It complicates the issue of whether things are considered food or industrial goods, or whether they come under farming. Therefore, it is unclear which Department has responsibility for and understanding of the fishing industry, which is a complex industry, because it encompasses so many different elements, as we discussed.
Will the Minister confirm what discussions he or his Department—given his recent appointment—have had with the Department for International Trade about the importance of getting those deals with major suppliers over the line? Will he inform us of the status of the deals with Norway and Iceland, and whether we can expect favourable trade terms for fish when we leave the EU, regardless of the scenario in which we leave?
I know that people in the industry are very concerned at the amount of repetition that occurs in paperwork and fear that it will only get worse post Brexit. Are there any plans to simplify the often arduous paperwork? Currently, there are no digital solutions in place that I am aware of to reduce the burden of the bureaucracy on people throughout the sector.
Finally, regarding the future of the fishing sector, I know that people in Grimsby would be delighted to see the rebirth of its traditional fishing industry, to sit alongside the new, emerging sector in offshore wind energy. There remain issues around training, awareness and skills. Even in the industry as it stands, we have not managed to get those things right as a country. I hope the Minister will put all his efforts into ensuring that we have the best possible industry in future.
We have about half an hour before I call the Scottish National party spokesperson, leaving about five and a half to six minutes for each speaker. I do not want to impose a time limit.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), my colleague in the all-party parliamentary fisheries group, on securing this debate. My constituency of Banff and Buchan is estimated to have been the most pro-Brexit constituency in Scotland—in fact, it was the only constituency in Scotland that voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. That is unsurprising in the context of this debate, given that it is home to two of Europe’s largest fishing ports. Peterhead is the largest white fish port in Europe and Fraserburgh is the largest for shellfish.
Fishermen across the UK have endured 45 years of their industry being run down through being a member of the EU and the common fisheries policy. They voted to take us out of the EU and the CFP. For years, they have compared their industry, declining under the CFP, to the Norwegian and Icelandic fishing industries, and even to that of the Faroese, all of which have flourished. Opposition to the CFP is a major reason why those countries have refused to join the EU.
It is clear that we can forge a better way as an independent coastal state with our own fisheries policy, but it is important that we get this right. We must ensure that we leave the CFP and take back control of our waters no later than the end of 2020. The UK Government have committed to that repeatedly. I hope that my amendment to the Fisheries Bill currently going through Parliament, ensuring that we do become an independent coastal state by the end of 2020, will reinforce that commitment and reassure fishermen across the country.
Likewise, it is vital that any future relationship with the EU does not compromise our status as an independent coastal state in exchange for some other priority, which would be a betrayal of the fishing communities. I have repeatedly said that I could not support any future arrangement that does not advance the interests of fishermen in general, and Scottish fishermen and those in my constituency in particular.
The Government have repeatedly committed to lead us out of the CFP, to become an independent coastal state. When that is achieved we can control the access to our waters for all foreign fishing vessels and secure a greater supply of fish for our industry, without compromising on sustainability. That rebuilding process will require more than those measures alone.
Decades of decline in the industry, coupled with the appeal of the oil and gas industry in north-east Scotland, have made it particularly difficult for the industry to attract local labour to crew fishing vessels, leaving us heavily reliant on attracting foreign crew. In Scotland, approximately 400 fishing crew come from the EU and twice that number come from places outside the EU, such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ghana.
The industry has already made moves to return to reliance on local workers in the future, and is willing to work with the UK Government to achieve that, but for the time being it expects to continue having to employ significant numbers of foreign crew, especially from non-EEA countries. As the hon. Member for Great Grimsby will appreciate, that applies to the seafood processing industry, which is heavily reliant on foreign labour.
Across the fisheries sector, the increased supply that Brexit promises will exacerbate the need for foreign staff in the short term. It would be tragic for British fisheries to be liberated from the CFP, only to be held back by labour shortages. I have been consistent in calling on the UK Government to ensure that their future immigration policy is fair for the entire UK fisheries sector.
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that inshore on the east coast, and particularly on the west coast, where all fishing is inshore because of the Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides, we have an even greater problem in getting visas for non-EEA fishermen? We require a fishing or seafarers visa. At least a lot of fishing in the north-east is outside the inshore limit.
I agree with the hon. Lady. It is a cross-party concern: the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) and I have repeatedly approached the Immigration Minister on that basis.
I was going to encourage the Minister to engage with the industry, but I found out recently—I think he announced it yesterday—that he is going to visit my constituency to discuss the investment opportunities in the sector. That is most welcome. It is not enough to suddenly have access to more of our own fish in our own waters; we need to expand our capacity to catch, land and process our seafood, and we need to expand that capacity rapidly—perhaps more rapidly than business will be able to do naturally. We must ensure that our fish and seafood produce can be easily exported to markets around the world.
When the hon. Gentleman shows the Minister the investment opportunities in his constituency, he should probably also take him to local veterinary practices, which are now being sounded out about their ability to produce export health certificates in the highlands and islands and Aberdeenshire. In a no-deal Brexit, the Scottish Government expect that somewhere in the region of 150,000 certificates will be required in Scotland, but local authorities do not have the capacity to deal with that 3,000% increase. They are looking to vets to fill the gap.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a couple of interesting points. One reason why I supported the withdrawal agreement last night was that it would have helped to alleviate that. The need for additional environmental health inspectors has been repeatedly raised with me by the fishing industry in my constituency. They are employed through the local council but no funding has been received from the Scottish Government for them, although I understand that English councils have received about £56 million overall for EU exit preparations.
I am conscious of time, so I will finish. As I said, we must ensure that our fish and seafood produce can be easily exported to markets. These are turbulent times for Brexit and for the country more generally, but we must never forget the hope that led many of our coastal communities to vote to leave the EU and the CFP. We can vindicate that hope, and I believe that the Government are committed to doing so, but delivering on that commitment will not be straightforward. It will require a cross-industry and cross-Government vision of our islands becoming the world-class global centre of excellence that they can be in the fisheries sector.
It is a pleasure to speak on this matter, Mr Stringer. I do not think a fishing debate has taken place during my time in Westminster that I have not participated in. People may say, “Well, he participates in most debates”, but that is by the way. The predecessor of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) was the instigator of many fishing debates and it was always a pleasure to work with him, as it is to work alongside the hon. Lady now.
It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), with whom I see eye to eye on many fishing issues. He highlighted the issue of the Filipino fishermen, who we have spoken to the Minister about. The Minister knows the story only too well, because the four parties involved have made cross-party representations to him to try to bring about changes. We are fortunate to have the Minister in his place and I look forward to working with him. I also thank the former Minister, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), for his contribution, because he was definitely a friend of the fishermen as well.
The Minister was a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which did an inquiry into fishing, so he knows the issues. He also had an opportunity to visit my constituency, especially the village port of Portavogie. He sampled and enjoyed the wonderful Portavogie prawns and scampi, so when I say they are the best in the world, he knows that they clearly are.
The other issue that came up in the visit to the village port of Portavogie was the boats and the fact that many of them were old—we talked about it yesterday, as the Minister will recall. We need reinvestment in the fishing fleets in Portavogie, and in Ardglass and Kilkeel. In this House, I represent the fishermen and fishing sector in Portavogie, but I also have the opportunity and privilege of representing the fishermen in Ardglass and Kilkeel, given that the hon. Member for South Down (Chris Hazzard) unfortunately does not feel that it is his duty as a Member of Parliament to come to the House and represent the fishing sector. That is a story for another day, although it is true and factually correct.
The difficulties with fishing post Brexit could be no different from today, but I am quite confident about the future and I believe that the situation will improve. The fishing sector in my village of Portavogie is confident about where it will go and what it will do. The investment and the money that the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority has spent in Portavogie harbour is significant and welcome. We are also pleased that significant multimillion-pound projects are planned for Kilkeel post Brexit.
On a slightly different issue, I mention to the Minister the issue of the eel fishery, which we looked at in the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. I am mindful of the time, so with that introductory comment, I will quickly comment on one issue.
The hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) and I brought the issue of the voisinage agreement to the Minister’s attention. He responded to me in a letter after I applied for an urgent question, which the process of the House unfortunately did not allow to happen. I put on the record my annoyance on behalf of the fishing sector. We talk about post Brexit, but here is an example of what could happen to us.
The voisinage agreement means that Irish fishermen can fish in our waters close to the shore, and enables us to do the same, but a court case brought by Irish fish producers down south legally restricted the option and possibility of our fishermen—British fishermen—fishing in their waters. Under that legal agreement, they seized two fishing boats from Kilkeel and arrested the crew. At that point, some sanity crept into the process at long last. The Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation and the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation released a statement, but in fairness, the judge in the court down south realised that the matter could be dealt with in only one way, and released them. That increased our angst about it, however.
For our fishermen who have fished under the voisinage agreement, and for the future of fishing, that is a warning signal that we cannot afford to ignore when we move out of the EU and into better times. We have continued to allow Irish boats access to our fisheries as part of our gentlemen’s agreement and as a nod to good working relations, and the behaviour of the British Government, the Minister and the Minister before him has been above reproach, yet that was the Irish Government’s response to our decent hard-working fishermen. They need to be reminded of the harsh truth; I am sure the hon. Member for South East Cornwall will do likewise.
I am conscious of the time, so I will skip forward to the other issue. I welcomed the immediate statements from the Irish Government; it appeared that they had realised that their aggressive approach and the arrest of our fishermen was not in the spirit of co-operation or neighbourliness. Despite the commitments made by the Irish Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister, however, who indicated that in the light of the situation, they would table legislation in the Irish Parliament to resolve the matter, I have seen little or no evidence of that so far. Again, I ask the Minister to update us on where the Irish Government are on that. Our fishermen need assurances that the Government will hold the Republic of Ireland to their commitment to pass legislation to resolve the voisinage agreement in the immediate term.
The previous Minister told us that he was committed to doing that at a meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) and I held with the two fishing producers organisations in December last year. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs addressed a group of industry representatives in London stating that he and the Home Secretary were working to ensure that there would be a route for non-EEA fishermen into the industry post Brexit. I mentioned that earlier, and I mention it again. There seems to be some welcome news coming. Indeed, it is an essential component to any fishing policy.
I finish by making something abundantly clear: the post-Brexit fishing potential is enormous. It can bring great dividends. We must make the most of it, and stop kowtowing to those who have no respect or regard for us. They are taking care of their own and now, I believe, it is the Minister’s job to take care of us.
Leaving the common fisheries policy provides so many opportunities for the UK fishing industry. Article 62 of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea states that any surplus, and only the surplus, that UK vessels are unable to take from UK waters needs to be made available to other nations, and the UN fish stocks agreement protects shared stocks that transit between each country’s waters.
Leaving the CFP means an opportunity to boost our fishing industry, rather than allowing other member states to simply come in and take fish from UK waters, as is the case when the French take 80% of the cod from waters off the south-west coast—we will be able to take that with our fleet. That has the potential to benefit the UK economy: we will no longer be just giving away this very valuable UK asset to other nations to profit from, with no benefit at all to the Exchequer.
I pay tribute to the Minister’s predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice)—he did a really good job—and I welcome the Minister to his place. I cannot think of a better person to represent the fishermen for whom I care so much.
Leaving the CFP gives us the potential to implement measures that will attract young blood into the fishing industry. The industry has been in decline for the last 40 years, and we have the potential to grow it. I pay tribute to my joint co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fisheries, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), who I know really cares about the processing sector. I also pay tribute to her predecessor, who I knew for many years and who I worked with on the Save Britain’s Fish campaign, since he was—
Absolutely. Austin Mitchell was a great man, and the fishing industry cared so much for him.
He is still alive!
Yes, but he is not an MP any more. Sorry—I should have said he was a great MP!
Processors source much of the fish used in their factories from outside the EU—from Iceland and Norway, in particular. As an independent coastal state, we can set up deals with those nations. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby mentioned the European economic area. I may be wrong, and the Minister may correct me, but as I understand it, protocol 9 of the EEA agreement refers to no tariffs between EU and EEA nations, but does not prevent the European Free Trade Association—the three nations that sign up to the EEA—from signing bilateral agreements, either collectively or independently. I genuinely believe that there is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to sign trade deals that could benefit our processing sector with those nations.
I also believe that our membership of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission provides us with a very real opportunity to speak to other nations that are not part of the European Union club. We have been hampered by our membership of the European Union for the past 40 years. I also understand that the EEA agreement excludes fisheries and agriculture, apart from some areas of compliance with regard to fisheries products. Could the Minister confirm that?
Finally, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). It is time for the UK to take action under the voisinage agreement to stop the Republic of Ireland from imposing what I would describe as a hard border between the six-mile limit off the Republic of Ireland and that in UK waters off the coast of Northern Ireland. I hope the Minister can give us that assurance today.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to welcome the new Minister to his place. I thank his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), for his sterling efforts over the past few years. I congratulate the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) on securing this debate. Her timing is particularly auspicious.
Although the final form that Brexit will take is uncertain at present, I believe that, generally, the Government and Parliament have used the period from 23 June 2016 up to now to good effect—focusing on the UK fishing industry and gradually putting in place a policy framework that will revive the industry.
To revitalise the industry in Lowestoft and along the East Anglian coast, which is now a very pale shadow of its former self, we need to address three challenges. First, local fishermen must be given the opportunity to catch enough fish to earn a fair living and to supply local markets, processors and mongers. Secondly, we must put in place a sustainable fisheries management system. Thirdly, we must ensure that the benefits of properly managed fisheries go to local people, local communities and local businesses.
My view is that, although there is still much work to do, we are gradually moving in the right direction and making progress. The cornerstone for the revival of UK fisheries is taking back control of our waters so that we decide who fishes there and on what terms. The Prime Minister has come under much pressure in negotiations to compromise on that undertaking. She has not done so and, whatever happens in the next few months, it is vital that we do not give ground on that point.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister has compromised on this—she compromised when she said she would put fisheries into the transitional arrangement period.
From my perspective, the Prime Minister has come under a lot of pressure from the French and the Dutch, and she has not given way in a meaningful sense.
Despite the fact that I tabled a large number of amendments to the Fisheries Bill when it was in Committee, it is generally a good document and Ministers and officials are to be commended for drafting it to such good effect under such time pressure. That said, it does need some changes. I have tabled an amendment to promote the fairer distribution of fishing opportunities, and we need to consider strengthening what is known as the economic link. Furthermore, although the Government have laid down a statutory instrument to outlaw electro-pulse fishing, there is a worry that loopholes are being left open. I wrote to the previous Minister detailing those concerns and, if they cannot be addressed, we may need to consider outlawing that abhorrent and completely unsustainable practice through provisions in the Bill.
To make the most of the opportunity to ensure that Lowestoft and other East Anglian fishing communities reap the Brexit dividend, the industry in East Anglia, under the leadership of June Mummery and Paul Lines, has formed the Renaissance of East Anglian Fishing. With the assistance of Waveney District Council, a grant has been obtained from the Marine Management Organisation to develop a long-term strategy for the East Anglian fishing industry. Additional financial support has been provided by the east Suffolk councils, Suffolk County Council, Norfolk County Council and Seafish. The work, which is being carried out by Vivid Economics, is now under way. It looks at the current state of the industry and will come up with a strategy for its revitalisation all the way from the net to the plate. I anticipate that it will highlight where investment is needed in port infrastructure, skills and supply chain building, and I expect that we will be making submissions to the Chancellor’s autumn Budget.
The project is exciting and could prove to be a blueprint that could be replicated around the coast. I invite the Minister to visit us in Lowestoft to find out more about it.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. It is always an honour to follow the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who is well known for his knowledge of these matters. As he knows, I have family connections to Lowestoft, and it is good to hear him.
The Minister was a member of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs and had the honour of visiting Northern Ireland on many occasions during that time. He of course visited Portavogie and other ports, and met fishermen there; he was a keen Committee member. We prepared a report on fisheries in Northern Ireland, and the conclusions and recommendations were welcomed by the fishing industry there, as he will know. Unfortunately, however, the Committee and industry have still not received a substantive response to the report from the Government. Now that the Minister is effectively a poacher turned gamekeeper, perhaps when he is in the Department he could rustle up a powerful and positive response to it, to ensure that the industry and indeed the Committee is better informed about Government thinking on the key issues we identified. The report recorded the enormous potential that Brexit offers the industry in Northern Ireland. The common fisheries policy has had a detrimental impact there, and we want to rectify that—something that the industry looks forward to.
The United Kingdom has previously stated its intention of leaving procedures for importing seafood unchanged. Today that has been reinforced by the Government’s announcement of no tariffs on produce entering Northern Ireland from the Republic. Clearly that must be reciprocated by Dublin and the EU. Otherwise, as I said in an intervention, it is the Republic of Ireland that stands to lose more in a tariff war with the rest of the United Kingdom, given its dependence on British sea waters. No one wants that; we want to be good neighbours to the Republic of Ireland, and we have been good neighbours. However, it is important that people recognise that the hard border in Northern Ireland is actually a hard sea border, where the fishermen of the Republic of Ireland have denied access to our fishermen. That has to be rectified. I wait with interest to see whether an amendment going through the Irish Parliament in Dublin will rectify the situation and ensure that the reciprocal voisinage agreement once again operates fairly for our fishermen in Northern Ireland.
Our report came out in December, at which time the Minister for Immigration would have been aware of the issues that affect the Minister’s constituency in this regard. The Minister met fishing representatives in Northern Ireland, and heard that among the issues that affect them is the fact that Whitby Seafoods, based in his constituency and employing 250 people in Kilkeel in Northern Ireland, needs to maintain supplies of raw material to its factories. Without crews, one of the trawlers is clearly going to stop operating. Over two years and longer, there has been no resolution, although, interestingly, owners will shortly pay Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax for their crew who are not from the European economic area. That seems a little ironic given what a grey area the question of status in the United Kingdom is.
We look forward to those issues being resolved by a Minister who had his hands on the issues while in other service. I hope that the concerns of people who raise the harvest from the sea will be identified appropriately and resolved to our satisfaction.
I call Philippa Whitford. I will call the SNP spokesperson at 3.30 pm.
The Scottish industry dominates because of the sheer scale of its share of water around Scotland. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) said, the industry is overwhelmingly based at Peterhead. However, there is a significant difference between the industry on the east and west coasts. In the east there is inshore fishing, but deep sea fishing predominates. That brings up the issue of visas, which I mentioned earlier. Non-EEA crew can get transit visas and join a ship. That is not available on the west coast or to inshore fishing.
On a point of clarification, the hon. Lady is obviously correct to comment on the vastness of the waters, and the fact that the Scottish area is huge—and that there is an emphasis on deep sea fishing in Peterhead, as well as Fraserburgh and Lerwick in Shetland. However, there are a lot of smaller-scale fishermen from those ports who fish on the west coast.
I did say that there is inshore fishing. On the west coast it is predominantly inshore fishing. In Troon in my constituency, we have the south-west Scotland fish market. It is very much a matter of small boats, and of nephrops, lobster and langoustine. Eighty-five per cent. of that harvest is sent to the EU. People make statements about all fishermen supporting leave, but that is not the case. The Clyde Fishermen’s Association and the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Association have withdrawn from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation because they felt that the only view ever put forward was for leave, as if fishermen were unanimous.
I understand that there are major issues with the common fisheries policy, but lots of issues that have been blamed on it are nothing to do with it. One is the fact that 80% of all the boats in Scotland share 1% of quota. The rest has largely been dominated by a handful of companies. In England the figure is 77% sharing 3% of quota. A lot of change would have to happen in the UK to make sure that the industry has quota. Norway has been mentioned. Why not look at having community quota, so that quota remains where it should be and is not transferred, as happens in Scotland—bought up and transferred from the west coast to the east? When we talk about opportunities for coastal communities, that must include the harbour, market and processors. The processors employ more people and generate higher gross value added than the fishermen. We must look at the whole supply chain. We do not feel that that is happening.
The right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Sir Alan Campbell) mentioned that there was no funding for ports in north-east England. No Brexit preparation funding has come to ports in Scotland. I am not sure of the situation in Northern Ireland. Up and down the west coast, we cannot get crew and have boats tied up, so the industry is on its knees. That is not to do with the common fisheries policy; it has to do with decisions made here.
As I have said, most of our produce from south-west Scotland goes to Europe. As was mentioned, under WTO there would be a 12% tariff, but fishing is excluded from the customs union, even within the withdrawal deal. We have a particular problem because of the Irish backstop. Northern Ireland fishermen could fish right in close to our waters, land fish and send it through southern Ireland at 0% tariff, whereas the more that was processed, the higher the tariff would be. Scottish salmon dominates the smoked salmon market in Europe. It is one of the biggest food exports of the UK. It beats Norwegian salmon, which carries a 13% tariff. We will lose our aquaculture advantage, and Scottish smoked salmon could also end up with a 13% tariff. The idea that this is all easy and will be beneficial to fishermen is simply not true.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I welcome the Minister to his place. I congratulate the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) on securing this debate, which gives Members another opportunity to raise their concerns about the effect that Brexit will have on their fishing industries. I say “industries” because it is important to recognise the great differences that lie underneath the catch-all term “fishing industry”, and all too often only the voices and opinions of the big players are heard or considered newsworthy.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) rightly said, in Scotland about three quarters of our active fishing vessels fish primarily in inshore waters, which are defined as those up to 12 nautical miles from shore. As Member of Parliament for Argyll and Bute, I am well aware of the importance of the fishing sector to the economic wellbeing of my constituency. As well as having an inshore fishing fleet, Argyll and Bute produces and exports enormous quantities of shellfish and has a hugely valuable Scottish salmon industry. Although those industries may do different things, they are linked by a couple of vital threads. First, they need to be able to recruit the right people to crew their boats and process their catch, and secondly they need guaranteed, fast and unimpeded access to markets. I believe that Brexit, in whatever form it eventually takes, threatens all that, and I do not think that that feeling of trepidation about what lies ahead is confined to the west coast of Scotland or the inshore fleet.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I will make some progress for now. In a debate last November I quoted from an article in the Financial Times by Mure Dickie who, during a visit to Peterhead, spoke to at least one fish wholesaler based there who believed that they had been sold down the river once again.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Let me finish my point. Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago, the Financial Times asked Mure Dickie to visit the west coast of Scotland to see how the promise of the bright new post-Brexit world was going down with fishing communities in Argyll and Bute. What he found bore a striking similarity to what he had encountered in north-east Scotland. When asked about the “sea of opportunity” that was promised to fishing communities during the referendum, Kenny MacNab from Tarbert, who chairs the Clyde Fishermen’s Association, replied:
“It’s only a sea of opportunity for a few. It’s not a sea of opportunity for the west coast inshore fleet”.
Just down the road in Campbeltown, long-time skipper Andrew Harrison said:
“We haven’t got the fishing opportunities to gain out of Brexit. We’ve got a hell of a lot more to lose”.
For fishing communities—from large producers in north-east Scotland to the inshore fleet on the west coast—the promised sunlit uplands of a painless extraction from the European Union, in which the UK will dictate who can fish in our waters and exactly how much they can take, while still receiving tariff-free access to the European Union, have been replaced by cold reality. Their sense of betrayal is palpable. That is not what people were promised; that is not what was written on the side of a bus.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm what he appears to be saying, which is that Scottish National party policy is to remain in the common fisheries policy?
I am referring back to the debate we had last November, and indeed before then; we have had this verbal ping-pong before, and I will not be taken down that blind alley again. [Interruption.] I will make some progress.
I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous); like it or not, the EU has already linked gaining access to UK waters with access to markets. That suggests that any increase in quota for UK boats could come at the price of new trade barriers. That is an inescapable fact; that is what the EU is going for. Let us be honest: United Kingdom Governments do not have the best track record in defending the interests of the fishing industry when it is expedient for them not to do so.
In 2016, fishing, aquaculture and fish processing combined generated just short of £1 billion to the Scottish economy, and employed 15,000 people. In 2017, Scottish vessels landed just short of 0.5 million tonnes of sea fish and shellfish. However, it is one thing to catch and land fish, but quite another if there is no market to sell it in. Right now, we have a mature, stable and growing market. Fifteen days from now, who knows what we will have? That is causing grave concern in the Scottish fishing industry.
The European Union is by far the most important export market for Scottish seafood; in 2017, 189,000 tonnes of Scottish seafood, with a value in excess of £700 million, was exported to the EU. Fishermen in my constituency have perfected the art of getting langoustine, lobster or prawns out of the water and on to tables in some of the best restaurants in Europe in a matter of hours. That does not happen by chance. That has taken 40 years of dedicated hard work, and we will not stand by and watch it be thrown away by this Government’s incompetence, intransigence, and ideologically motivated red lines. As members of the European Union, we enjoy tariff-free access to 27 member states. No Brexit deal out there could be better for our exporters than the one we already have as full members of the European Union.
Does my hon. Friend see the danger in the fact that if fish processors on the continent require fish, they can invite fish catch landing at zero tariff? That could take fish from the North sea to the continent, which would mean that processors, harbours, and the rest of the supply chain here would not get to handle it.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I will touch briefly on fishing tariffs. We all feared that catastrophic tariffs would accompany a no-deal Brexit, and at 7 o’clock this morning we found out just how catastrophic they would be. As the hon. Member for Great Grimsby and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) pointed out, the suggested tariffs are colossal and include a 7.5% tariff on monkfish, 15% on frozen fish, 12% on shrimp, 12% on nephrops, and 24% on tuna. I do not share the optimism of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) that the EU will not at the very least reciprocate when it comes to those tariffs. Those figures are potentially ruinous for the industry and will cost thousands of jobs in areas of the country that can least afford to lose them. I hope that every MP who cares for the future of this industry will join me in the Lobby tonight to ensure that no deal is taken off the table.
This debate is not solely about the tariff regime; a lot of other issues are deeply concerning. Last month I hosted a fishing summit; 60 skippers from all over the west coast of Scotland and beyond came to meet the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy in the Scottish Government. Had anyone else bothered to turn up, they would have heard concerns about the loss of the European maritime and fisheries fund, how the quota has operated historically, and how the crippling cost of buying or renting quota is blocking new entrants to the industry.
In conclusion, for more than two years the UK Government and Westminster have offered Scotland, its people and its businesses nothing more than crippling uncertainty, and there is no prospect of that ending soon. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that only independence as a member of the European Union will save Scotland and its peoples. I look forward to the day when we can work with our neighbours and friends in Europe, collectively and collaboratively, on a fishing policy that benefits us and our neighbours.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) on securing the debate. Her timing could not have been better, because this debate gives the Minister an opportunity to let us know what he thinks about fishing and to clarify some of the remarks on his website, which I hope he will do shortly.
This debate has also been a chance for Members to ask where the Fisheries Bill is, because as we approach the end of this parliamentary Session we want to know where it is, when it will make a return, and whether it will be carried over to the next Session or whether it will fall, meaning that the process would have to start all over again. I realise that the Minister’s views may be subtly different from those of his predecessor, and I would be grateful if he clarified that when he gets to his feet. Nevertheless, I welcome him to his post, as I did in yesterday’s debate about farming; then, I welcomed him as the new farming Minister and now I welcome him as the new fisheries Minister. He has quite a portfolio of challenges ahead of him and Labour Members wish him well, because it is really important that fisheries policy is got right.
I will spend the brief time I have today talking about what fishing should look like after Brexit. There is an opportunity to recast fishing policy and to address the genuine concerns that have been raised about the common fisheries policy; like my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby, I am no fan of the CFP. However, concerns have been raised about the additional powers that the Government are considering, how they will be used and whether the Government are using the powers they already have to make the lives of fishers better.
It is worth saying that the Labour party does not oppose the Fisheries Bill. However, like the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who mirrors lots of my views about fisheries, there are still improvements that should be made to it. In particular, we need to consider how the Fisheries Bill can create truly sustainable fisheries. Our fishing needs to be sustainable, both environmentally and economically. In the past, those two elements have been seen as being opposed to each other, when in fact they are the same thing. If we do not have a sustainable fisheries policy, we will not have the fish, which means we will not have the fishing fleet, the processors and the industry, which would further affect our coastal communities.
That is why sustainability needs to be at the heart of the Fisheries Bill. The Minister’s predecessor was not so generous as to accept an amendment from the Opposition that sought to change the name of the Fisheries Bill to the “Sustainable Fisheries Bill”. Nevertheless, I would like to see the new Minister to put sustainability throughout the Bill. We need to ensure that, regarding what comes after Brexit, the Fisheries Bill considers how we can regenerate our coastal communities, gives a fairer deal to our small fleets in particular, ensures a high level of marine safety by UK boats and—importantly—by foreign boats in our waters, promotes fishing co-operatives, and deals with the grand rhetoric and huge promises that the Secretary of State and others in Government have made about what fishing can get out of Brexit, because, as has already been mentioned, there have been concerns about the betrayal of fishers.
I encourage the new Minister to be cautious about making any grand promises, because, as we have heard about fishing in the transition period, promises that have been made to the industry and repeated time and again have not been delivered. I therefore invite him to be cautious about some of the words that he uses, to make sure that there are no additional betrayals or disruption.
The Labour party believes there is an opportunity to use the Fisheries Bill and post-Brexit fishing to consider redistribution of quotas. It is really important to consider how we can support the small-scale fleets in particular in post-Brexit fishing. There is an opportunity, with the powers that the Minister already has under the CFP, to consider reallocation of quotas and whether our quota system is the right one.
The Minister, writing on his own website, has come out in support of effort-based regimes regarding quota allocation. Many of us in this House hoped that that had been put behind us, so I would be grateful if he clarified his view on effort-based regimes, especially as they were not front and centre in the Fisheries Bill. As we go forward, it is important that the promise to coastal communities that Brexit will deliver more jobs and more fish is delivered, and it can be delivered through fair distribution, within the CFP and outside it. That needs to be written throughout the Fisheries Bill.
Another issue that we discussed in the Fisheries Bill Committee was marine safety. Brexit must be used as an opportunity to increase marine safety, for not only for UK boats but foreign boats. At that time, the Minister’s predecessor did not want to consider a suggestion from the Opposition to require foreign boats to have the same high environmental standards and marine safety standards as UK boats. However, there are great opportunities to adopt more widely what is already going on.
I invite the Minister to consider the lifejacket scheme being pioneered by Labour-run Plymouth City Council. This scheme has been developed with the industry to provide new lifejackets to fishers—let us face it: fishers do not always wear the lifejackets that we know they should wear—to ensure that the buckle does not get in the way of their work, and, importantly, that there is a personal locator beacon on every single lifejacket, so that if a fisher falls overboard or comes into contact with seawater, the PLB activates and the “search” is taken out of the search and rescue operation. Although responsibility for this scheme is shared with the Department for Transport, developing it further is something that the Minister could achieve a quick win on.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is very well aware that I have a personal interest in safety at sea. Does he welcome the fact, as I do, that in the last Budget the Government made quite a considerable sum of money available for safety equipment for fishermen?
I thank the hon. Lady, who has a neighbouring constituency to mine, for that intervention. It is good that we have two MPs from the far south-west championing fisheries in this debate. However, I would like to know what that money is being spent on, because I am cautious about press releases and announcements, and I want to see action, including action to spread the best practice of that lifejacket scheme to every single one of our fishing communities. That could be really strong action.
I agree with the hon. Member for Waveney, who made some compelling points about strengthening the economic link; we know that for every one job at sea, there are 10 jobs at home in fish processing. However, the Fisheries Bill does not strengthen that link; it is nowhere near strong enough in that regard. I therefore invite the Minister to consider how we can strengthen that economic link. Labour’s proposal to ensure that at least 50% of all fish caught under a UK licence is landed in a UK port could be a huge step forward in that respect.
I also press the Minister to do more to support the development of fishing co-operatives, in both the catching sector and the processing sector. Fishing co-operatives are a real success story; from the south-west of England to Scotland, they have prospered largely without Government support. Their potential for expansion, with a fairer share of wealth and power in our coastal communities, is vast.
I hope that the Minister will carefully consider ways to encourage the establishment of more co-operatives, and that he will work with Labour and Co-operative MPs to help double the size of the co-operative sector in fishing. There is a real opportunity to keep the money that is generated by fishing in those coastal communities by building more co-operatives.
Finally, because I realise my time is running out, I repeat that I share the concerns of my “double” from across the aisle—the hon. Member for Waveney—about electric pulse beam fishing. I know that we had a brief conversation about that in the margins of yesterday’s debate on farming, but I put on the record the Opposition’s real concern about electric pulse beam fishing. It is a cruel method of fishing. As a nation, we should be proud to say that we will not allow it in our waters. I know that the Minister is taking steps to look again at the licences of UK boats engaged in electric pulse beam fishing, but the statutory instrument that was tabled by his predecessor would allow 5% of the UK fleet—around 200 boats—to use this cruel method of fishing, which is simply not good enough. We should ban electric pulse beam fishing and allow it only under scientific derivations when there is a clear scientific case for it, and we should not use the case for science—as some of our Dutch friends do—to create commercial fisheries that use electric pulse beam fishing.
There is a huge opportunity to make sure that our coastal communities receive the investment they need, because in many cases those communities have been hit hardest by the austerity of the last nine years, and if we are to realise the promises made during the leave campaign, and since the referendum, about the benefits that can derive from a revised fisheries policy, we need the Minister not only to ensure that the regulations and laws that come after Brexit work, but to use the powers that he already has to ensure a fairer distribution of quota and more investment in our coastal communities.
Before I call the Minister, may I ask him to leave a minute or 90 seconds at the end of his remarks for the proposer of the debate to wind up?
Thank you very much for that, Mr Stringer, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Greater Grimsby (Melanie Onn), who is my relatively near neighbour on the other side of the Humber, for securing this important debate.
As a former shipping Minister, I know Grimsby very well. Indeed, I recall that, years ago, when I first entered Parliament, there was the annual fishing debate, when Austin Mitchell and I would often engage in speeches. By the way, I am very pleased to know that he is still alive, but he will be very pleased when the UK finally leaves the European Union, as will the many people in Greater Grimsby who voted to leave.
I begin my first debate as fisheries Minister by paying tribute to our fishermen, who regularly risk their lives to provide healthy, sustainable and nutritious food in what is still one of the most dangerous jobs in this country. My thoughts are with the fishermen who have suffered loss and injury and with their families, and I thank those in the rescue services for their bravery and dedication. Before I turn to the notes I have prepared, I will comment on some of the points that have been made during the debate, which are probably more important. I particularly want to address the hon. Lady’s point about tariffs, and the situation in Northern Ireland.
Leaving the EU with a negotiated deal remains the best outcome for the UK, and I am disappointed that so many people in this room, particularly those on the Opposition Benches, did not vote last night to leave the European Union on 29 March. Doing so would have moved us on from many of the concerns that Members expressed about a no-deal Brexit.
I know that many fishermen are watching this debate. Will the Minister tell fishermen in Wales who export processed whelks to South Korea what their future will be under the withdrawal agreement? I emphasise to the Minister that the highest percentage of small vessels in the United Kingdom are Welsh vessels. Ninety per cent. of Welsh vessels are under 10 metres, and many of their owners make their money out of this sort of industry. The withdrawal agreement could be devastating for them—I declare an interest, because my daughter is the part owner of exactly one of those vessels. Will the Minister commit to providing financial support to fishermen who trade under non-EU free trade agreements in this current situation of uncertainty?
South Korea, as we know, is not in the European Union, and therefore Brexit will not have an impact on that industry. However, the hon. Lady may rest assured that we are planning for all scenarios, as any responsible Government would, including leaving without a deal.
Today, the Government have published information about essential policies that would need to be in place if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal on 29 March. In that scenario, the Government would implement a temporary tariff regime that would apply for 12 months. Under that regime, the majority of imports would be tariff free, including the majority of fish imports. There would be exceptions for some fish products, primarily tuna and warm-water shrimps and prawns. For those products, preferential access to the UK market is important for developing countries.
In a no-deal scenario, the Government are committed to entering into urgent discussions with the EU, including Ireland, to jointly agree long-term measures to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. On a temporary basis, the Government would not introduce any new checks or controls on goods crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland. However, fish from outside the EU would need to enter Northern Ireland through a designated entry point.
In recent weeks, I have been corresponding with Iceland’s ambassador to the UK, who is particularly concerned about whether the tariff advantages that Iceland receives under EEA arrangements will continue. Can the Minister confirm that that will be the case?
I think I will be spending quite a lot of time in Oslo, Reykjavik and the Faroe Islands, which will be our new allies in this area, particularly at the annual Fisheries Council. We will attend those negotiations as an independent coastal state like Norway, making those important decisions.
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), the Opposition spokesman, talked about effort-based regimes. The points I made came at the height of the discard crisis, when there was a particularly emotive story on local BBC television about perfectly good fish being thrown into the sea because the fishers had found some larger-quota fish. We are moving into a new era, and the landing obligation solves many of the problems that the quotas created, but our White Paper noted that effort-based regimes attract mixed views. We may consider a pilot, but we need to ensure that fishing is sustainable and that we do not encourage a race to fish.
The right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Sir Alan Campbell) made a point about investment in ports; as a former ports Minister, I refute his allegations. Ports up and down the country, including in the north-east—private ports, trust ports such as the one in Newcastle, and local authority ports—are making massive investments. In Whitby, £7.6 million is being invested in pier repairs. Sirius Minerals is investing massive amounts of money as part of a £4 billion project to deliver polyhalite fertiliser through the port of Tees, using many of the facilities that British Steel used. On 26 February this year, Hartlepool council announced a big investment development order through which many opportunities will come to Hartlepool, including offshore wind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) repeated his invitation to visit Peterhead, which I hope to do very soon.
I want to correct the record. Opposition Members said that there had been no investment in the fishing industry, but last year’s UK Government Budget delivered millions in technology and methodology funding. That will ensure that we not only regain control of our waters when we leave the CFP, but give our fishermen the chance to innovate within the industry.
On a point of order, Mr Stringer. The hon. Lady claims that people on the Opposition Benches said certain things, but she was not in her place for most of the debate. I am flabbergasted as to how she could have come to that conclusion having not been in her place.
That is not a point of order.
If anyone wants evidence of investment and confidence in the Scottish fishing industry, they should visit Parkol Marine Engineering in Whitby, which builds fishing boats. It has an order book stretching almost into the middle of next decade, with Scottish fishermen from Shetland and elsewhere buying state-of-the-art boats because of the confidence they have in the fishing industry. Massive investment has gone into Fraserburgh and Peterhead, and I have also heard of amazing plans for future investment in Peterhead’s fishing industry.
I hope the Minister will forgive me for potentially being helpful to Scottish National party Members, but does he agree with the Scottish Government’s report from last summer, which stated that Brexit could generate up to £540 million for the fishing industry and 5,000 jobs?
That is exactly right. It is nice to hear some optimism from the Government Benches, in stark contrast to the SNP, which is fast becoming a one-trick pony. It has had one referendum, which it lost, but it seems to think that the answer to everything is an independent Scotland. The people of Scotland made their view quite clear in that referendum, and the SNP should respect it, in the same way that the people of the United Kingdom respect the result of the referendum on leaving the European Union.
It is a fact that the majority of people working in the fishing industry voted to leave, and many did so because those in that industry who survived the common fisheries policy still bear its scars. It is also true that we have asymmetric access to the market: an average of 760,000 tonnes of fish was caught by foreign EU vessels in our waters between 2012 and 2014, compared with only 90,000 tonnes the other way around.
Does the Minister agree that it is not just UK fishing businesses that will benefit from increased catches, but the UK Exchequer?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We touched briefly on visas, and as a former immigration Minister I know about the problems with Filipinos working on vessels because of the way the 12-mile limit works, particularly in Ulster and the west of Scotland. I am sure that the new Immigration Minister will have conversations with right hon. and hon. Members on that topic. Of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) said, we need to get young blood into the industry. We need to train our own people, and have newer ships in places such as Portavogie.
I know of the recent concerns about the Irish suspension of the voisinage agreement, which has been mentioned, and the impoundment of two Ulster boats. That was the result of a legal challenge, not of any action by the Irish Government; I am pleased that the Irish Government have committed to resolving that issue, and we will monitor any moves closely. When I was a transport Minister in the European Council, Mr Varadkar was my opposite number. I know that he is a man of great integrity, and we should take the Irish Government at their word that they are going to fix that problem.
I understand the concerns that have been raised about pulse trawling. The statutory instrument laid before the House on 13 January will provide continuity for the fishing industry by ensuring that EU law on technical conservation is operable in the UK. That will mean that vessels will no longer be able to conduct pulse trawling in UK waters.
I had better allow the hon. Lady who secured the debate to make a few concluding points. If I have not covered every point, I will be happy to write to right hon. and hon. Members.
I have to say that I am sorry about the tone that the Minister took in his remarks, particularly about the withdrawal agreement. He said that he knows my constituency very well, but he does not know it that well. It is Great Grimsby; getting its name right would be a good start.
I worry about the flippant tone that he has taken about non-EU nations and the impact on the industry of leaving, even with a deal. That is not going to help the Welsh industry, as the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) pointed out, so I hope that the Minister will take that point seriously. Why will the Minister not set up a DEFRA marine safety hub in my constituency, to support the industry in Grimsby and secure its future?
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).