Committee (4th Day)
Relevant document: 4th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Schedule 5 agreed.
Clause 28: Discard prevention charging schemes
111: Clause 28, page 19, line 10, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of making provision relating to subsection (2)(a), a charging scheme must take account of the public interest in ensuring that chargeable persons do not—(a) make financial gain, or(b) gain competitive advantage,as a result of their unauthorised catches of sea fish.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require charging schemes, when calculating penalties for unauthorised fishing, to consider the public interest in ensuring that unauthorised fishing does not result in a fisher enjoying a financial gain or competitive advantage.
My Lords, this is a fairly straightforward amendment addressing the issue of the discards ban, which we have debated thoroughly in the past. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for signing the amendment, given his committee’s impressive and forensic work on this very issue. I hope for a constructive reply from the Minister because the need to strengthen measures relating to discards is one issue where there has long been cross-party consensus.
We have moved quite quickly away from the original intent of the discard ban, which was to put virtually no value on the unauthorised fish caught and landed, to what is now proposed, which enables a charge to be paid so the fish can still be sold at market. But it is vital that these new charges do not incentivise wrong behaviours. We welcome that there are provisions in the Bill for penalties to be imposed as a result of unauthorised catches, and hope that these powers will be used in a sensible and proportionate manner. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that authorities, particularly in the first stages, will consider issuing warnings before imposing fines as the new scheme is bedded in. On the other hand, I hope that he will also be able to confirm that authorities will be able to ramp up fines in the case of repeated offences, where it is clear that a more deliberate illegality is taking place.
In the meantime, our amendment is primarily for probing purposes in order to better understand the proposed system. But it was also tabled out of a genuine concern that, if the penalty system is not designed properly, charges may be considered as a price worth paying in order to get around the discard rules. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reassurance on this issue and I beg to move the amendment.
My Lords, I very much support the amendment. I admit that there is, perhaps uncharacteristically, a smidgen of innovation in this part of the Bill. The noble Baroness is absolutely right, and I will listen to the Minister’s reply very carefully because, as we know from Northern Ireland and “cash for ash”, these schemes can have unintended consequences. While, as always, I commend the Government on being determined to keep the discard ban active and well managed, we need to understand how this will operate practically and make sure that those unintended consequences do not arise.
My Lords, I seek clarification as I raised a number of points earlier in the Bill relating to this issue. The amendment is useful in that regard to tweak information out of my noble friend. I wondered what the background was to the move away from eliminating discards to this discard prevention charging scheme. Is it from the model developed in New Zealand, and are the Government satisfied that that model is working better now than when there were initial teething problems?
I would be grateful if the Minister would clarify, but I understand that this provision is not deemed to apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Has he had any discussions with the devolved Administrations to see if they are proposing to go down this path at a future stage? I understand that the Scottish Government may bring forward their own Scottish fisheries Bill in this regard; I simply do not know the answer to that.
In Clause 28, how does my noble friend imagine the discard prevention charges being monitored? The way that subsection (4)(a) and (b) is drafted could indicate that this is a voluntary scheme. Are the Government minded to link the scheme to the REM that we discussed earlier, and would that involve cameras on boats as well as other equipment?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her proposed amendment, and as I have made clear in Committee and at Second Reading, the United Kingdom remains fully committed to ending the extremely wasteful practice of discarding. Now that we are an independent coastal state, the UK can develop a new discards policy that is best suited to our marine environment and our fishing industry. It is important that this new policy reflects the complexity of UK fisheries, including our mixed fisheries, where we have many different stocks in the same area, which can make it difficult to avoid unwanted bycatch completely.
In mixed fisheries, when the quota for bycatch stocks is exhausted, fishers are effectively unable to go fishing for their target species. This is because they cannot lawfully catch and land bycatch stocks without quota, but at the same time cannot avoid the bycatch stock when trying to fish their target species. This problem, termed choke, can lead to whole fisheries being closed. This has serious economic consequences for those fishers and coastal communities who rely on those fisheries. That is why we need a pragmatic balance between ensuring that bycatch is minimised—and where possible eliminated—and enabling fishers to continue to fish where appropriate.
Clause 32, which provides for a discard prevention charging scheme, is intended to provide that balance. It will give vessels the option to pay a charge to land catch in excess of their quota, but will be priced in such a way that it would be more cost effective for those fishers to adopt more sustainable practices and avoidance measures to reduce unwanted and unintentional bycatch. This will be just one of the tools we will have available, to reduce discards and support fishers to move to more sustainable practice, including appropriate monitoring.
The noble Baroness is right that we must not in any way incentivise those who use the proposed scheme, and we do not intend to. Previously, fishers have regularly discarded fish when they have an unauthorised catch. The landing obligation requires that all catches of species which are subject to catch limits are landed—subject to limited exemptions—and not discarded. This is a challenge given our mixed fisheries, so this scheme will be a support mechanism to ensure that fishing can continue in the short term while encouraging fishers to adapt to more sustainable practices. It is a fine balance, I agree, and one we are seeking to undertake.
Clauses 28 to 32 provide the parameters to help set the charge at the right level. The details of this are still being developed. While we were in the EU, we were not in a position to introduce such a scheme because common fisheries policy regulations would have penalised member states for fishing in excess of quotas. Now we have left the EU, we will look to other countries which successfully run similar charging schemes, including Norway, where discards were successfully banned in 1987. Such a scheme would provide a new, alternative option for our fishers, and be important for our mixed fisheries. We will consult with industry and other interested parties and undertake economic modelling to determine the appropriate charge level as we develop the details of the scheme.
This would be a voluntary scheme that fishers choose to enter in order to remain compliant. Participation in the scheme would be agreed prior to any use of the charge occuring. Unlike a fine, which penalises illegal activity, the DPC is intended to enable compliance. Once a DPC scheme is running, the existing arrangements for prosecuting overfishing and issuing fines will remain.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh rightly asked about the devolved Administrations. They are also looking to address the issue of discards in ways appropriate to their fleets, and we are working closely with them. The Scottish Government, as a part of their future fisheries management strategy, is working in partnership with key stakeholders to address the current issues with the discard ban and to develop a future catching policy suitable to the needs of the Scottish fleet. These approaches will be tailored to the differing needs of the various fleet segments within Scotland to avoid applying a one-size-fits-all approach to a very diverse fleet which ranges from very large pelagic vessels over 70 metres in length to under-10-metre vessels. Although they are not currently considering the introduction of a discard prevention charge, they are evaluating the use of additional quota to address choke issues and incentivise best fishing practice.
The Welsh Government will determine their approach to deliver the bycatch objective as the joint fisheries statement is developed. They will consider proposals for a discard prevention charge scheme alongside other approaches which may be more appropriate for their largely inshore fleet. We are also working closely with Northern Ireland as it develops policies in this area appropriate for its fleet.
This clause is designed to give England the best opportunity to have a successful discard policy tailored to our fisheries. The Government are fully committed to ensuring that the scheme does not unintentionally have perverse incentives. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, highlighted the importance of ensuring that we do not get unintended consequences. That is why we continue to work up the details of this scheme with interested parties.
I say in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that not only are we working collaboratively within England to bring forward the scheme but, as I said, we are working closely with the devolved Administrations. Following this debate, I will make sure that noble Lords’ remarks are passed on to those working on the scheme. As I said, I absolutely endorse the points that all noble Lords have made in this short debate—we are on the same page—and I want the chance to take back what has been said because, candidly, this is work in progress. Our bona fides on this are strong. We want to put the best discard prevention charging scheme in place and this debate will have been very helpful. I reassure noble Lords that this matter is taken extremely seriously. It is one of the tools that I hope we will be able to deploy on the whole issue of discard and bycatch. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful response. We are all looking for the best way to stop wasteful discards. As he will know, that has been campaigned for over many years. We were very pleased when the discard ban was introduced because it felt as though it was finally beginning to address the issue. If we now move away from it, we need to be assured that anything that runs in parallel has equal advantages.
I suppose that I had not quite understood that the scheme would be voluntary, so I assume that it is all still underpinned by the current discard ban and the charging scheme will work only in certain areas and certain fisheries.
Perhaps I may make an obvious point. It is generally understood that discarding is continuing as it always has done and that there is very little change in fishers’ activity in that regard. Therefore, bringing in a charge will be a greater incentive to them to carry on as they are at the moment. I welcome this initiative but for the scheme to be successful there has to be remote electronic monitoring or whatever on the vessels so that fishers cannot discard at sea. The scheme will work only if that is done; otherwise, it will be an additional incentive to discard.
That reminds me of a point that my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised. We have had a discussion about the requirements—not only REM but all the ways in which we need to work. We absolutely need to work with industry but we also need to say to it, “It is in your vital interests to work on this area because, in the end, if there aren’t sustainable stocks, there isn’t a sustainable industry”. They are so intertwined. I repeat that, once a scheme is up and running, the existing arrangements for prosecution of overfishing and the issuing of fines remain. This is an add-on, a further tool. There are other countries where it has worked well; this is an opportunity and work is in hand. We want to get the best scheme. It is important that we look internationally to see where it has worked and where it has not so that, when we deploy this, it hits the right target.
Again, that is very helpful. I agree absolutely with the Minister that it is a good idea to look at what is working well internationally. If there are schemes that work well, we should certainly try to learn from them. It is a good idea also to take this slowly and at an appropriate pace with respect to the consultation. Having introduced one scheme, the last thing we want is for people to be confused about the legal underpinnings and their obligations. So, taking it in stages is a good idea. I accept that this is work in progress. It would be great to be updated at some point about how that consultation is going. It is a very delicate balance to set the charges to a level which bring about the right behaviours. They will need to be very nimble because what works in one sector or quarter might not work the same way in another. I do not envy the people who are trying to set those rates so that they incentivise the right behaviours.
I thank the Minister. It has been helpful to get these issues out on the table. Of course, I echo the points made about REM by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. That is an issue that we have rehearsed before and will rehearse again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 111 withdrawn.
Clause 28 agreed.
Clauses 29 to 32 agreed.
Amendment 112 not moved.
Clause 33: Financial assistance: powers of Secretary of State
113: Clause 33, page 22, line 17, at end insert—
“( ) the gathering of scientific data relating to fishing, including but not limited to carrying out stock assessments, vessel monitoring, remote electronic monitoring with cameras and recording fishing catches.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would enable financial assistance to be provided for scientific data collection.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 113 I shall also speak to Amendment 120. These amendments relate to the Secretary of State’s powers to grant financial assistance. Although amending different clauses, they work in tandem to allow for the collection of additional scientific data to influence future policy. Amendment 113 adds scientific data collection to the causes to which the Secretary of State can provide financial support. It also refers to support for remote electronic monitoring, the importance of which we have debated on a number of occasions. Amendment 120 would give the Secretary of State further powers to make provision relating to the collection of scientific data. It may be that other powers within the Bill would be sufficient to allow this; I hope the Minister can clarify that point. However, we believe that it is important to strengthen the requirement to fund and collate the best scientific data available. This is particularly important as we leave the EU and lose access to the mass of scientific work on fishing being carried out by other member states.
Much earlier in the withdrawal negotiations, there seemed to be a genuine desire to continue academic collaboration with our EU neighbours on a whole range of mutually beneficial research, but this desire seems to have withered. It no longer seems to be given any priority, so it is likely that we will have to rely on our own scientific community to provide the data which will form the basis of our sustainability agenda. If I am wrong, and the intention is still to seek some form of research collaboration, I am sure that the Minister will put me right. If I am right, our scientific community, however good it may be, will be stretched and will need all the financial support it can get.
We need the best available scientific data, produced in a timely manner. There are still enormous gaps in our knowledge. Data deficiency remains a real challenge. According to government data, the status of three of the UK’s 15 main fish stocks is unknown. As a result, much of the fish caught in UK waters cannot be marketed as sustainable. The catch, therefore, cannot be considered for Marine Stewardship Council certification. If we can address this deficit, it will help to improve sustainability, as well as potentially offering up more fishing opportunities and more economic stability for our fishers. I hope noble Lords will see the sense in these amendments.
Amendments 114 and 116 relate to facilitating further work on selectivity to try to address the issue of choke species. We welcome this call for a research and implementation fund for improving methods of selectivity. This complements our amendments on data research.
Amendment 115 returns to the hot topic of sustainability. As we have rehearsed in debates on earlier amendments, this states that where there is a conflict between sustainability and socioeconomic objectives, the former should be favoured, and financial assistance provided to fishers to address the socioeconomic issues. We accept that this specific formulation may not satisfy the Minister, but it is clear from previous debates that this is an area of real concern. I therefore hope that there will be further discussions, before Report, so that we can find an acceptable form of words to achieve this objective.
In the meantime, I beg to move my amendment.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on tabling these amendments, and I have a very short query.
It was, I think, when we took evidence on the financing of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the data that would be gathered—I look to the chairman of the Select Committee for confirmation—that the Secretary of State responded by saying that the Government were committing to the long-term future of our involvement with ICES, but that he could not tell us at that point from which budget that would come. I am very keen on the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; I have twice visited it, and it has a fantastic website which is hugely interesting for anybody interested in sustainability. Can the Minister tell us today whether this was resolved in the Budget and the Finance Bill, or whether this will be sent out and covered in the comprehensive spending review? I would like to know that we are going to cover precisely the same percentage, which is some 11% to 13% of the total ICES budget contribution; we take a similar amount of research from it. I entirely endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said: we cannot really proceed as an independent coastal state if we do not know what the data is.
There is one other area that vexes me, and I do not think that anybody is doing research into it at the moment because no one is fishing in the area. We know that the seas currently jointly fished by UK and EU fleets have warmed. Does the Minister have any idea who might do the research in areas where species such as cod and other fish from our waters have moved to? That might explain why sustainability appears to have fallen in those species.
My Lords, I support the amendments in this group which deal with the financial assistance covered by Clause 33.
On the first day in Committee, we debated at length the incompatibility of the sustainability objective and the socioeconomic objective in Clause 1. The Fisheries Bill has been heralded as taking back control of UK fishing rights and waters and is eagerly awaited around our coastlines. Many voters supported Brexit on the basis of having control over our fishing rights and waters. However, what they did not do was vote for our fish stocks to become exhausted by the rush for profit. The dichotomy of sustainability over socioeconomics is an issue which we must tackle before the Bill becomes law. To be successful, we must ensure that those fishermen who find that they are catching less as the sustainability of their usual catch reaches a critical point, and are facing financial implications, are not disadvantaged. It is unwise in the extreme to jeopardise the sustainability of our fish stocks by allowing continued fishing when the scientific evidence demonstrates that the stocks are depleted.
The Government could do much to assist in preserving fish stocks by using financial assistance to recompense vessel owners and crews for reduced or exhausted fishing opportunities. Unless such assistance is forthcoming, there will be no incentive for the fishing of depleted stocks to cease. This will result in the socioeconomic objective becoming the overriding objective and swamping the sustainability objective. Why would fishers willingly lose money by staying in port? The scientific evidence will need to be overwhelming.
To be able correctly to monitor fish stocks and prevent bycatch and overfishing, it is essential that the Government invest in new technologies to be used across the fishing fleet, with both large vessels and those under-10 metres. The passage of the Fisheries Bill provides the Secretary of State with a golden opportunity to establish a research and implementation fund. This could promote new and improved methods of selectivity and encourage and assist vessel owners to replace old nets and other technologies with those capable of more refined selectivity, to avoid choke species.
The gathering of scientific data to inform the management of fish stocks, alongside technologies to improve fishing techniques, are some of the tools available to the fishing industry. They will ensure that we do not reach the stage at which the children of future generations are left wondering what cod and haddock taste like. As the noble Earl, Lord Devon, said at Second Reading, it could be fish fingers for everybody if we do not get this Bill right. However, if we do not take action to ensure fish stocks are preserved, I can envisage a situation in which there will be no fish fingers for anyone.
I hope the Minister is aware of the strength of feeling in the Committee on these issues and is ready to give assurances that these amendments will indeed appear on the face of the Bill. If he is unable to do that, I hope he will think about bringing forward similar amendments on Report.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lady, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, for Amendment 113, and to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for Amendments 114 and 116, which were spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. I will address these amendments together, so that I hope I can provide—I underline “I hope” following the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell—the necessary reassurance that the measures proposed can already be supported by the financial assistance regimes made under Clause 33 of the Bill.
The Bill sets out the various purposes for which funding can be given, rather than setting out specific activities. This provides flexibility to fund a wide range of activities, including scientific data collection and innovation in gear selectivity, even if they are not directly mentioned. The existing powers found in the Fisheries Act 1981 are limited to providing assistance for the purpose of reorganising, developing or promoting the sea fish industry or fish farming. The revised power will widen this to allow financial assistance for: the protection and improvement of the marine and aquatic environment; the promotion, development or reorganisation of commercial fish activities; health and safety; training; economic development or social improvement in areas where commercial fish or aquaculture activities are carried out; improving the arrangements for catch or effort quotas; and the promotion of recreational fishing. This means that when scientific data collection contributes to the purposes described, such as conservation or improving the arrangements for quota allocations, it would be eligible for financial assistance through this power.
At this juncture, I should say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that UK scientists are deemed to have considerable expertise and make a significant contribution to international co-operation on stock assessment and related fisheries science. That will continue, primarily through ICES—the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea—which is the independent global body for these purposes. Defra has always worked very closely with ICES, and this will continue. In addition, UK scientists will continue to co-operate regionally with counterparts in the EU and other countries on fisheries and the marine environment.
We will also work with ICES and scientists in the UK, both in Cefas and across the devolved Administrations, to understand the impact of climate change on fish stocks. I am very pleased that, when we discussed the objectives of the Bill earlier, the Government inserted the climate change objective, which is an indication of how serious this matter is for both the marine and terrestrial environments.
I am advised that there are some practical challenges with the drafting of Amendment 113. It is long established that government funding should not be provided for matters that are mandatory. There are already requirements for fishers to carry out a number of the activities listed in the amendment, and these therefore should not benefit from public money. For example, vessels over 12 metres in length are required to use vessel monitoring systems. Similarly, fishers must record details of their catches. Neither of these, in our view, should attract financial assistance, as they are mandatory requirements.
I appreciate the intention in Amendments 114 and 116, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, spoke to. However, I am advised that the powers contained in Clause 33 are already sufficient to create and deliver such a fund, if desired, while not limiting the range of other potential activities that could also be funded. This is the key point that I want to develop. Should other sustainability priorities be identified beyond gear selectivity, we may not be able to create a specific fund to address those priorities if we were tied to a fund focusing on gear selectivity.
Before introducing any new grant scheme, we will consult the sector on the priorities for funding. Details for the activities to be funded in England will also be set out in the regulations we will create to deliver our own domestic scheme. These will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, as the regulations will be introduced by affirmative resolution.
Turning to Amendment 115, I share the noble Lord’s concern about sustainable stock levels being achieved. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell—and I am sure we will have this on Report—regarding the objectives in Clause 1, yes, we need to ensure we are mindful of fishers’ livelihoods, but this is all predicated on the sustainability of our ecosystem. From any lay reading—perhaps I am deploying points I will make on Report—the overwhelming majority of those objectives are predicated on a firm and strong belief that the environmental sustainability of the ecosystem is the route by which you get vibrant communities and vibrant fish stocks. From the Government’s point of view, there is no dilemma about this; it is exactly what we are aiming to do. But, as a responsible Government, we have to be mindful of caring for those coastal communities.
I should also say that it is not government policy to compensate industry when setting the annual fishing effort where that results in a reduction of potential profit or for in-year management measures needed to comply with regulations and ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector. Such activities must and do take place each year, so the fluctuations in profit should be borne by the industry itself. It is already able to respond to fluctuating stock levels to a certain extent by fishing in different fishing grounds to catch quota or adapting the gear to fish for different stocks.
We believe that providing compensation would risk reducing the incentive on the industry to take ownership of fishing at sustainable levels. An unintended consequence of this amendment could be that the industry decided to focus its fishing over a few months in the year, until the stock is exhausted, in the knowledge that it would then have to tie up but be financially compensated for doing so. I think all of us would agree that this would not be a helpful precedent and runs entirely contrary to the spirit and the words expressed in this House; it cannot be right that industry should be in some way rewarded for overfishing. These are points that I know were not intended, but we are concerned about the unintended consequence in terms of the legal reading of the amendment. It is only reasonable that I should make these points to your Lordships.
A future funding scheme could instead provide support to our fishers to allow them to change to more sustainable practices. This could include funding for gear with a reduced environmental impact, as the noble Lord’s gear selectivity fund would have, or funding that enables fishers to change the species they target in line with scientific advice. This will help them to adapt and remain economically viable, without needing compensation or risking fish stocks.
On Amendment 120, I reassure noble Lords that the power under Clause 36 is wide enough to amend retained EU law relating to the data collection framework if we need to implement an international obligation, or if we want to adapt those regulations to suit better the UK for a conservation purpose or a fish industry purpose. Clause 36(4)(o) allows provision to be made in relation to the keeping, disclosing or publishing of accounts, records and other documents and information. Clause 36(4)(q) allows provision to be made in relation to the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with the matters listed in Clause 36. Finally, Clause 36(4)(l) also allows provision to be made in relation to the use the Secretary of State may make of information gathered in the exercise of his functions.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the issue of climate change and research. The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership published a report on the impacts of climate change on fish in January 2020. The group is a partnership between marine scientists from the UK and DAs, their agencies, NGOs and industry. When I send a letter—as I suspect I will at some point—I will get the reference to that report, because I think that noble Lords might indeed like to hear more about that work.
I should also say to my noble friend that the decisions on the replacement domestic arrangements for fisheries data collection will be taken during the next spending review, alongside decisions on all other domestic spending priorities. My understanding is that it has been referenced as before the Summer Recess. I do not think I am in a position to give more precise details, but that is the manner in which it will come.
I hope that noble Lords feel that I am seeking to be positive. I am seeking to assure noble Lords that, on all the points made in this short debate about the need for scientific research and for more research into gear selectivity, the drafting of this Bill is to open up all that and beyond. I am advised that, by seeking perhaps to highlight particular aspects, the amendment may in some way prevent the interpretation and wider recognition that we of course need to have the best scientific advice available. It is why I think, for instance, that this report on the impacts of climate change on fish from January 2020 is very timely. There are so many areas where we are on a learning curve and where we will need to collaborate with the scientists, both in this country and through ICES, the EU and other organisations.
I assure noble Lords that saying what I have said is not in any way to diminish anything that has been said on the issue of the importance of scientific endeavour, but I wanted to put on the record what we think the Bill enables. On that basis, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
May I come back on a couple of points? I thank the Minister for his positivity and I am grateful that he points out that the Bill allows financial intervention in terms of selective gear—that is very useful. One of the things that has come out from Select Committee work is that something that is perhaps not tracked by government, and I am not saying that this is easy, is how selectivity is being applied or is increasing. It is one of those areas that is quite important to track, so I just make that point.
I find it difficult to accept the idea that by giving a financial answer to sustainability we will get a rush to fish. Let us get back to the real world. The way it has worked in the past and will do in the future is that there will be, I presume, an annual agreement about quotas for the various fisheries. At that point we will get the dilemma that if we have an extremely low TAC we know that it will be very difficult for certain sectors of the industry, whichever sectors they are. That is the point at which the political compromise will be made and we will say, “All right, that is not sustainable. We have to help coastal communities, so we will fudge the scientific advice and allow that quota to go up.” This amendment would mean that at that annual negotiation we can say, “No, don’t fudge the scientific advice. You have to go by the scientific advice, but we recognise that there is pain in that sector of the fleet and we will find a financial way around it.” The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, has often made the point that this has often been used in Europe as an alternative, sometimes quite successfully.
I was in Mevagissey at the weekend, looking at the vessels there. It is the second largest Cornish fishing port, and there was a proud sticker on the side of one wheelhouse saying “Fishing For Plastic.” There are schemes like that, so we are not paying for fishers to sit down with their feet up and enjoy the rest of the year at the taxpayers’ expense. It is a bit like the initiative on elms in the Agriculture Bill that I praised in the past. There are ways of doing it. There is no incentive to rush out to get your quota and then stop: this is about an annual situation. Responding to the positivity of the Minister, I am trying to explain that this amendment does not do that; it is trying to solve the dilemma in a positive way, a way that has been done by other fisheries administrations before. I think it is key to solving the economic issue while making sure that we are able to stick to sustainable fish stocks and scientific advice. I just wanted to make that clear.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made that point extremely well, and I hope the Minister will take it away and reflect on it further. As he says, there are all sorts of sustainability activities that one can imagine the fishers being funded to carry out that are not just straight fishing. If we were being more imaginative in the Bill, we could be more imaginative on those sorts of issues as well.
I want to say something about funding, because the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, quoted the Secretary of State on long-term funding commitments and asked which budget they will come from. I know that the Minister mentioned the spending review, but that is not the same as the commitment that seems already to have been made. I think he said that he would write or give us further information. Perhaps he could do that in writing to say what that longer-term funding will be and how it will be funded in the future. That would be extremely helpful, because that question mark still hangs over this.
I was not convinced. I did not come to bang my drum for Amendment 113 in particular, but the more the Minister tried to rubbish it, the more I got quite defensive about it. For example, in the Bill we have this long list of reasons for funding to be given by the Secretary of State, some of which are quite major and others one might think are not so significant. We are trying to say that collecting the scientific data is as important as them. I am sure that it is. It must be on a par with that because it is at the heart of our sustainability measures. Given that we already have a long list, I cannot see why we cannot add a paragraph (j) to the bottom of that long list.
The point is that I can foresee that there would be scientific analysis of the majority of them. It is not as if science is over there; science will provide the solutions and the answers to this long list. That is why—obviously not successfully—I am seeking to deploy that science and the collection of scientific data are absolutely included. That is a given, and it is applicable. There will be all sorts of ways in which science can apply for financial assistance with regard to much of that long list.
My response to that is, if that is the case, why not put it here? The scientists themselves might find that easier, rather than having to claim for funding as a sub-clause of one of these things listed here, and it might make the funding more accessible if it was stated absolutely in the Bill. I am not absolutely convinced by what the Minister has attempted to say on that.
The Minister then attempted to say that, in any case, Amendment 113 does not stand up legally. We talked about the gathering of scientific data and some of the reasons that it might be necessary—stock assessments, vessel monitoring and so on—and he said that some of those things are mandatory already. I hear that point, in which case I increasingly feel that I will take this away and put forward a more general clause which says “the gathering of scientific data”, so that we will not be precluded from some things that are already mandatory. We can play around with the wording, which might provide a solution for all of us.
I feel that the Minister’s lawyers have been overanalysing all this, poring over it in rather more detail than they needed to. Again, I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that the idea that there is a legal failure in the wording of the policy that is put forward in his amendment does not stand up to scrutiny. If we do not have the wording exactly right on that, we can find the right words for what the noble Baroness and the noble Lord are attempting to do to ensure that we have sustainable fishing and a balance with socio-economic activities.
I am sorry to say this, but I am not absolutely convinced. It would be helpful to have some more information about how the long-term science will be funded, and it comes back to something that we have been discussing ever since we started talking about the EU withdrawal Bill. A lot is riding on the UK science community. We always talk about the great strengths that it has and the fantastic work that it does, but it will be stretched to meet all these new targets as it used to share a lot of the work with its EU counterparts. It will need support and access to new funds, and the more reassurance we can give it in the Bill or elsewhere that those funds will be coming to it, the more we can have confidence that a future sustainable scheme built on the best scientific advice is a reality rather than just something that we aspire to. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 113 withdrawn.
Amendment 114 not moved.
Clause 33 agreed.
Amendments 115 and 116 not moved.
Schedule 6 agreed.
Clause 34: Charges: powers of Marine Management Organisation
117: Clause 34, page 23, line 15, at end insert—
“( ) licensing of fishing vessels.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment includes an additional activity as a relevant marine function for the purposes of imposing a charge.
I shall speak also to Amendment 119. When I looked through the list of items that the Marine Management Organisation should be able to charge for, I was surprised that it did not include fishing vessel licensing. It is like saying that people do not have to pay road fund licence tax for their cars, which I am sure we would all like individually but would not be a good idea for the environment. In this case, for incumbents, we are not even charging for quota, or whatever, and yet vessel licensing is an important activity. I just do not understand why that is not in the list. The majority of the fishing industry can well afford to pay the administrative cost of licensing. All sorts of Treasury rules limit how much public charging can take place to ensure that it is reasonable. I know that variation of licences can take a lot of the regulator’s time, so I do not understand why it is not included. It should be. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister.
My other amendment states that the Marine Management Organisation should not be dependent on public funding. A huge number of regulators in this country do not receive any public finance. Two years ago, I asked a Question about that and the Government kindly sent me a list of 25 regulators in the UK that require no public funding because they charge the industry for regulating it. I will not read them all out, but it goes from the Animals in Science Regulation Unit, which I must admit I had not heard of, to much more important organisations, such as the Land Registry, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the Office of Rail and Road, Ofwat and the Oil and Gas Authority. In financial services, there is the PRA and the Financial Conduct Authority. There is Ofgem in energy. There is the Civil Aviation Authority. All those organisations just say, “We provide an important public good, the regulation of an industry, and we expect the industry to pay for doing it.”.
I do not understand why we as taxpayers should have to pay subsidy for the industries that the MMO regulates, from offshore wind through to fisheries, all of which are extremely profitable. Why do the Conservative Government not expect the taxpayer to be relieved of that burden? That is obvious to me. That is why I have tabled the amendment. The Marine Management Organisation should fend for itself. It should be able to set sensible charges, as any other UK regulator does. I should be very interested to hear from the Minister why taxpayers should subsidise those extremely profitable industries, which include, as I said, offshore wind, marinas and most of the fishing industry. I beg to move.
I rise to speak to Amendment 118 in my name, which is a probing amendment and seeks to upgrade the regulations on this matter from negative to affirmative. While the Bill’s negative procedure has not been commented on by your Lordships’ Delegated Powers Committee or Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and may seem technical, it involves money.
Under Clause 34(5), the MMO has considerable discretion. The initial charging structure becomes important as the UK sets up the fisheries framework outside the CFP. Some questions arise, to which it will be important to have answers. Will the MMO undertake this charging function on the basis of full cost recovery? That lies behind the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. Schedule 7 replicates that clause in relation to Scotland on page 74, Wales on page 75 and Northern Ireland on page 76. Is it expected that all the Administrations will set up identical charging structures to avoid any competitive imbalances?
I acknowledge that the MMO is an existing body with an excellent track record; its relationships with stakeholders are usually very positive and productive. However, if this legislation established a new public body, your Lordships’ House and the other place would have a strong interest in the exercise of this power and the procedure attached to it. When the Minister replies, I would be grateful if he could give as much detail as possible on the level of charges, the frequency of any changes envisaged and the relevant percentage of cost recovery that any sector of the industry will be required to cover.
This last point is of particular interest, as I have noted, and covered by Amendment 119 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. I am curious about the noble Lord’s use of “appropriate” in proposed new paragraph (b) in relation to his subsequent use of “must” in proposed new paragraph (c), in that there may be some implicit contradictions in the amendment. I ask the noble Lord: does the maximising of charges on the 10 metre-plus fleet mean that it could pay more pro rata and therefore be seen, in some way, as partly subsiding the under 10-metre fleet? This amendment also seems to mandate the MMO to make full cost recovery across all its responsibilities. I await the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, I support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, relating to the charging, or not, of the MMO’s services. He is absolutely right that in most other industries the regulators are funded by the industry.
I had cause to write to the MMO because a neighbour of mine in Cornwall had a problem with it over a small planning issue. I do not want to get into the rights and wrongs of it except to say that the general reaction of the neighbour and others was that the service was incredibly slow. In fact, it took a whole year for them to get an answer on whether they needed to apply for a licence. I suspect that this had a lot to do with the fact that the MMO was probably subject to government financial cuts and was not allowed enough people. I am sure that it is very good at what it does, technically and commercially, but it did not have enough people to answer on this small issue.
Looking at all the regulated industries mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, some of which I know about and some of which I do not, whatever one thinks of their decisions, they usually operate in a timely and professional manner. If they do not, we can still raise issues in your Lordships’ House. At least it is not an issue that they do not have enough money to employ the right people. I would be very interested to hear from the Minister why this sector gets all the regulation for nothing while in virtually every other sector, the people who are regulated have to pay.
Perhaps I may come back to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, whose point is well made. I have probably not written the amendment exactly as it should be and he is right to pull me up on it. What I am trying to say is that that part of the amendment seeks to recognise that there has to be some sort of relationship between the charging regime and the ability of a particular unit in the fisheries industry to make money. It is clear that there is a deep division in the sector between larger vessels, which on the whole are pretty profitable to very profitable, and the under 10-metre sector, which struggles rather more. I would not want to see punitive charges being put on that sector because that would not be the way to proceed.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment. It is Government policy to set charges in order to recover, where possible and appropriate, the costs of services provided to industry, which is why we are using this Bill as an opportunity to expand the existing powers available to the MMO. I should also say at this juncture that I want to acknowledge the noble Lord’s service during his time with the MMO, which I have been informed about many times. He has an advantage over us all in terms of knowing the inner workings of the organisation.
Currently, the costs of regulating sea fisheries management functions are met by the taxpayer. Fisheries management is one element of the broader function, although it includes other activities that will not be included within the scope of the charging power. However, in line with Treasury guidance, it may be more appropriate for some costs to be met by those being regulated. This may sometimes include services relating to compliance and monitoring.
The charging powers under the Fisheries Bill will enable us to move over time to increased cost recovery for the MMO where appropriate, thus ensuring consistency with the application of charges to other users of MMO-regulated services and more widely across the Defra group. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his comments, which I will take away as well. We are all in public service and we want to get these things done in as timely a way as possible.
As set out in the Fisheries White Paper, costs recovery will ensure that the MMO has the funding it needs to carry out a process of continuous improvement, making the service it runs as efficient as possible. We will need to work closely with industry to agree the pace of this change to ensure that it is sustainable. That is why the clause also places an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult appropriate persons before implementing a charging scheme. This will provide the industry with an early indication of the type of services being proposed, the detail of the charges’ composition, and when the charges are going to be brought into effect. I should also say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that paragraph 7(3) of Schedule 3 to the Bill already provides for the relevant national authority—in England, the Secretary of State—to make regulations authorising the making of charges in relation to a sea fishing licence.
Amendment 118 would change the parliamentary procedure for regulations made under Clause 34 from the negative resolution procedure to the affirmative. The Government have carefully considered the delegated powers in the Bill and the procedures which should apply to regulations. We consider that we have struck the right balance between the need for parliamentary scrutiny and the need to be able to update MMO charges through secondary legislation. Indeed, I am reminded that it is usual for fees and charges to be imposed by arm’s-length bodies to be set out in regulations made under the negative resolution procedure. A recent example is the power for the Secretary of State to charge fees through regulations under the Ivory Act 2018, where the negative procedure is used.
As highlighted earlier when we discussed the procedure for the days at sea regulations, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has reconfirmed in its report of 26 February its view that we have struck the right balance with all our delegated powers in this Bill.
Turning to Amendment 119, the MMO has some existing cost-recovery powers that are currently utilised for marine activity. An activity for which the MMO currently charges is customer-initiated advice direct to developers without Planning Inspectorate involvement. Such developers could seek licences for building wind farms, for example. While the reasons for the amendment are entirely understandable, the Government feel that prohibiting the MMO receiving grant in aid funding would risk significantly limiting the activities it currently provides to industry. It is current government policy not to charge for activities such as control and enforcement, marine planning, research and delivering grant schemes. If the MMO were put under an obligation to self-fund entirely, there would be difficulties with charging for and delivering the activities I just outlined.
So far as paragraphs (b) and (c) in the amendment are concerned, there are existing government guidelines in place to provide guidance on cost recovery. Clause 34 also sets a statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to consult before any charging scheme is introduced. The industry would therefore be fully engaged with any decision on a proposed scheme.
A number of points were made. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, referred to the devolved Administrations. As he indicated, this matter is devolved. This provision is intended to provide powers for the MMO to recover its costs, so it will apply primarily in England, but there may be circumstances in which the MMO performs a sea fisheries management function in relation to another part of the UK maritime area. It may therefore seek to recover the costs of doing so from individuals in other parts of the United Kingdom.
The under-10-metre fleet had a fishing income of around £110 million in 2018, an increase of £17 million in real terms from a decade ago. I think we all instinctively support this area; coastal communities have very much seen it as part of their lifeblood. I have a long speaking note on under-10-metre fleets, but I might like to write about that because I have quite a bit of detail on it.
I hope that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that the charge will not exceed the reasonable costs incurred in carrying out specified fisheries management functions. Again, this is work in progress. It has been helpful to have this debate on the desire for the MMO and us to move forward on cost recovery. We need to work candidly with industry on the requirement for consultation. The direction of travel is entirely in line with the noble Lord’s aspirations. There are areas in which we think this is appropriate, but current government policy is that we would not seek cost recovery in areas such as research, because they are important and in the national interest. On the basis of work continuing on this matter, I hope the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
Yes; as I said, it is in the Bill. Paragraph 7(3) of Schedule 3 provides for the relevant national authority—the Secretary of State in England’s case—to make regulations
“authorising the making of charges in relation to a sea fishing licence.”
If there is any embellishment to some elements of that, I will include it in the letter, but that is what Schedule 3 says.
I thank the Minister for that reassurance, and for his extensive reply. Regarding the funding of the MMO, I fully agree that it has some broader activities, including marine planning, although I am not aware that it does research. That is new to me.
The direction of travel is absolutely right, and there are all sorts of challenges. We know that departmental budgets get cut. Defra is always on the front line of those cuts, as is the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and a number of others. When cuts occur, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies have their budgets cut as well, and although we expect increased efficiency from all those bodies, sometimes they are unable to provide exactly those services, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, illustrated. We must try to free them from that, because on the whole, what do users of those services want? They want quick decisions; they want to invest in offshore wind, or marinas, or coastal developments or nuclear power stations. Obviously, they are worried about the charges, but they want action. If there is proper cost recovery and those resources can be put against those needs, it will suit everybody, because everybody can get on with the job they want to do. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 117 withdrawn.
Amendment 118 not moved.
Clause 34 agreed.
Amendment 119 not moved.
Schedule 7 agreed.
Clause 35 agreed.
Clause 36: Power to make provision about fisheries, aquaculture etc
Amendment 120 not moved.
Clause 36 agreed.
Clauses 37 to 40 agreed.
Clause 41: Procedural requirements for regulations under section 36 or 38
121: Clause 41, page 27, line 42, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) Before making regulations under section 36 or 38, the Secretary of State must—(a) prepare a draft (“the consultation draft”) of such regulations,(b) publish the consultation draft in such manner as the Secretary of State considers appropriate,(c) take such steps as the Secretary of State considers appropriate to secure that the consultation draft is brought to the attention of interested persons,(d) specify a period (“the scrutiny period”) for scrutiny of the consultation draft by Parliament, and(e) on or before the first day of the scrutiny period lay a copy of the consultation draft before both Houses of Parliament.(1A) In this section “interested persons” means—(a) the Scottish Ministers,(b) the Welsh Ministers,(c) the Northern Ireland department, and(d) any persons likely to be interested in, or affected by, the consultation draft.(1B) Subsection (1C) applies if, during the scrutiny period—(a) either House of Parliament passes a resolution with regard to the consultation draft, or(b) a committee of either House of Parliament makes a recommendation with regard to the policies contained in the consultation draft.(1C) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a statement setting out the Secretary of State’s response to the resolution or recommendation.(1D) The Secretary of State must, in making regulations under section 36 or 38, have regard to any representations made to the Secretary of State about the consultation draft under subsection (1) or any resolution or recommendation made under subsection (1B).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides an additional requirement for authorities to lay the draft regulations before Parliament. It also requires the Secretary of State to “have regard to” any responses to the consultation, including any Parliamentary resolutions or recommendations.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 121 in my name, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. Better scrutiny of secondary legislation is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine. I hope that this is a good example of how we should look to improve methods of scrutiny of secondary legislation across the board but let us focus on this one for now.
When the various statutory instruments were going through the House, transposing European legislation into UK laws as part of the withdrawal process, we all bore the scars of quite restricted consultation and no publication of the statutory instruments in draft. The only real remedy available for those dissatisfied with the statutory instrument was to blow the whole thing out of the water, even under the affirmative procedure, a nuclear option that would have left us with no legislation in place at all.
The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, was excellent in talking to people about the statutory instruments he was responsible for. However, it still left us with the ability to talk about them but not to change them, because by that time they had been laid. This amendment reflects the fact that in this Bill a number of provisions give the Secretary of State powers to create secondary legislation, including for fishing industry or conservation purposes in Clause 36, and for aquatic animal disease purposes in Clause 38. These could be seminal and result in major changes to fisheries management measures. It is important that any changes are subject to a more extensive scrutiny process by stakeholders and the legislature.
Of course, the Bill requires the Secretary of State to consult before making new regulations, but this amendment provides an additional requirement for authorities to lay regulations before Parliament at the draft stage, while it is still possible to change them, and for the Secretary of State to have regard to any responses to consultations, including any parliamentary resolutions or recommendations. This reflects the super-affirmative requirements for scrutiny of secondary legislation in the Public Bodies Act 2011 and the existing consultation requirements for the joint fisheries statement, the Secretary of State fisheries statement and the fisheries management plans in Schedule 1, so it would not be out of line with other measures currently in the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Baroness in her amendment; she spoke very eloquently about the need for it. Having been in the other place for some considerable time, I know that it is always easier to change legislation when it is in the draft form. I have found that Governments of all colours are more loath to change once they have laid the actual regulations. Some of these are of sufficient importance that interested parties, including Parliament, should have a good look at anything being brought forward. That is the way forward and it will allow us to improve not just regulations. I am very keen to see this type of amendment in this Bill and others.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone for moving Amendment 121, which allows the Committee to probe into the consultation process, the input consultation and from where it comes, in relation to the regulation-making process powers in the regulation concerning fisheries and aquaculture, and to the devolved Administrations and the joint fisheries statements.
This proposed amendment to Clause 41 widens the consultation process to include Parliament in a quasi super-affirmative, as well as wider industry bodies under proposed subsection (1A)(d). The drafting of subsection (2) makes the resolution affirmative—that is, with the express approval of Parliament—in certain fundamental aspects only. Yet this does not include the wider industry. Can the Minister confirm whether the affirmative procedure necessitates a wider industry consultation in this respect only?
As my noble friend has said, this wider consultation allows for ideas and concerns to be fed into the system and duly considered before a final instrument is laid. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for his remarks. The Committee, over the past three sessions, has expressed disappointment at the lack of ambition in the Bill: it does not take UK fisheries much further than replicating the CFP. It is vital that forthcoming regulations have the full scrutiny that this wider consultation would demand.
Should the Minister consider that there are adequate opportunities for scrutiny and consultation in this clause—and the Bill in general—I hope she will provide additional assurances by specifying how this would work.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone; I understand her desire to support better scrutiny of secondary legislation.
Amendment 121 would add a new enhanced parliamentary procedure for regulations made under Clauses 36 and 38. Under this amendment,
“The Secretary of State must … have regard to any representations”
made during the consultation period, and respond to any resolutions of either House and any recommendations made by the Select Committee. The powers under Clauses 36 and 38 will, among other things, allow us to continue to meet our international obligations as members of the regional fisheries management organisations, make amendments to technical requirements in retained CFP measures and keep our aquatic animal health regulations up to date.
I would like to give some examples of the technical regulations that we might make using this power. We could specify new avoidance measures that fishers should take to minimise the risk of by-catch of fish or of marine mammals, marine reptiles, seabirds, and other non-commercially exploited species: provision for this could be made under Clause 36(4)(d). Clause 36(4)(e) could be used to amend measures on mesh sizes and minimum landing sizes in several EU technical standards regulations which will become part of retained EU law in the future. These are important matters, but I am not convinced that we need an additional layer of parliamentary scrutiny for these types of technical regulations.
The amendment also replicates a duty in Clause 41(1) to consult the devolved Administrations and other interested parties before making regulations, which in our view is appropriate. Other interested parties in Clause 41(1)(d) could include, for example, fishers, the industry and environmental NGOs. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Randall, are reassured by that.
We have been very mindful of the need to balance the need for proper and effective scrutiny with that of learning lessons from the common fisheries policy which has proved to be rigid and unresponsive to changing circumstances, including scientific advice or aquatic disease. Regulations made under the Bill’s clauses will be subject to public consultation and, of course, parliamentary scrutiny. I fear that this amendment shifts the balance unacceptably.
As previously highlighted, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has twice looked at the delegated powers in the Bill. The committee did not raise any concerns about the scope of the powers under Clauses 36 and 38, or question the parliamentary procedures proposed for them. There has therefore been careful analysis of the powers and the affirmative process is required in many, appropriate, cases. Given these assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for her reply. I did not really hope or dare to dream that the Government would roll over on this one. I take the point that flexibility and improvements are important and that many of these pieces of secondary legislation will be about technical issues. But the question of ambition in this Bill comes into play here. The reality is that there could be instances where consultees would want to see more rather than less ambition in some of these technical solutions. When there is no ability to look at these statutory instruments in draft before they are laid, it becomes impossible to insert anything at that stage of the process. I am distraught and disappointed as usual when I talk about scrutiny of secondary legislation.
Amendment 121 withdrawn.
Clause 41 agreed.
Clause 42 agreed.
Schedule 8 agreed.
Clauses 43 and 44 agreed.
Schedule 9 agreed.
Clause 45 agreed.
122: After Clause 45, insert the following new Clause—
Producer organisations in England must publish on their websites the following information—(a) the names of their members;(b) their most recent annual accounts;(c) the sources of their funds;(d) their constitution;(e) the quotas and other fishing rights distributed to each member and any other party;(f) their method of distributing quota and other fishing rights;(g) all management plans required of them by legislation or regulation;(h) the members of their governing bodies.”
My Lords, one of the central themes of Brexit was escaping the common fisheries policy. However, a bedrock of that policy is the producer organisations and I do not think that the Bill refers to them anywhere. They are effectively co-operatives in the fishing industry, but they are an essential part of the common market organisation which is the core of the common fisheries policy. They have important powers and abilities, which stem from the fact that they allocate the vast majority of quota—itself a very valuable national resource—among their members.
I am not against producer organisations. There might be better ways of doing this in future, but I do not disagree with the Government ejecting them and finding some other method. What is exceptionally important, given the value of the assets they distribute, is that there is maximum transparency about who owns them, their legal structure, how they make decisions about their constitution, how they distribute their assets and who their members are—all information we want to know when taking about valuable assets that are part of the national resource of fish stocks and quotas.
This is a probing amendment more than anything else, to try to understand the Government’s approach to producer organisations. Will it be just carry on as you are? I believe there is a need for full transparency about how these organisations operate. I will be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government will ensure transparency about this key national asset. I beg to move.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for tabling Amendment 122 on producer organisations. It is right to say that the more someone learns about the fishing industry, the more they realise they know very little. This is certainly true of a key part of the fisheries industry: the boat fraternity, its ownership, quota and producer organisations. It is far from transparent, which makes for a difficult task when trying to appreciate the consequences and implications of Government policy. This amendment is one way to shed light into this opaque part of the industry. Whether it is the right or best way to bring transparency the Minister can help to determine. If there are other, better ways, perhaps he can bring them to our attention, which would be to the benefit of everyone.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment. We fully support the move towards greater transparency within the fishing industry, including producer organisations. Our fisheries White Paper recognised that producer organisations have a key role to play in managing our fisheries. This includes managing quota for their members, supporting their members to fish sustainably, matching supply with consumer demand and adding additional value to their catches through effective marketing. All of this is to support our industry to get the best possible price for the fish it catches. In future, as we reform our domestic fisheries management, implementing polices which are tailored to our fisheries, Defra will continue to work with English producer organisations to build upon their strengths. This work will also consider how to improve transparency.
The amendment would require corporate information about members, accounts, constitutions, funding and boards to be published on each producer organisation’s website. It would also require information about quotas and management plans to be published. It is worth noting that much of the corporate information on producer organisations, such as their annual accounts and details of their directors, is already published in public registers such as Companies House and the Mutuals Public Register. On top of this, some producer organisations also choose to publish further information. For instance, the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation has a clear, published list of board members and their vessels on its website.
It is important that any requirements to publish additional corporate information add to, rather than duplicate, the information already available. However, I acknowledge that not all producer organisations routinely publish all this information—at least, it is not published on their websites in an easy-to-access location. More could be done here, and we encourage all producer organisations to do so, but we must consider this matter carefully before introducing new statutory requirements. As well as not wanting to duplicate existing requirements, we must also consider whether such information would ordinarily be considered commercially confidential. It is not clear, for example, what exactly would be covered by information on sources of funding and what the impact of requiring disclosure would be.
Information on quotas and management plans is often published already, or at least is available to producer organisation members and the MMO. For example, the MMO already publishes monthly information on quota statistics. From this, it is possible to see the quotas held by each producer organisation and how they vary throughout each year. Earlier I gave the example of the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation—this is for the benefit of the noble Lord and my noble friend Lady Wilcox, who is not in her place. It also publishes a monthly bulletin setting out the catch limits that apply to its quota pool, and other producer organisations also publish such information.
Producer organisations are also already required to submit production and marketing plans to the MMO. They require information about landings, turnover, volume of catches, marketing strategy and ways in which they will pursue their sustainability objectives. They also include a financial plan, which includes costs, expenditures and expected financial resources for each measure to be implemented within the plan. Progress against these plans is laid out within an annual report, which includes the expenditure associated with implementing the plans.
Again, I acknowledge that more could be done to improve transparency on quotas, but that is true of the quota allocation system generally and is not specific to producer organisations. In our debates so far on the Bill, we have discussed the complexity of the quota allocation system and how it makes it hard for lay persons to understand. We have undertaken work in the past to improve this—for example, through the introduction of the FQA register in 2013, which enables anyone to see who holds fixed quota allocation units. We aim to continue this work and to make the system easier to understand in the future. The Bill supports this aim by providing greater transparency through the Secretary of State’s determination of UK fishing opportunities, which will be laid before Parliament.
We have also said that we will continue to work with producer organisations, as well as other parts of industry and other stakeholders, to develop a new approach to allocating the additional quota that we expect to secure now that we have left the EU. As part of this, we will consider how to make quota management simpler and, importantly, more transparent.
There are also some practical issues relating to this amendment to draw to the attention of your Lordships. For example, the quota position of producer organisations will change during the year as a result of quota swaps carried out between them. It could therefore be administratively burdensome to have to produce an up-to-date record to comply with the provision as proposed here, especially if this is already published, albeit in a slightly different form, by the MMO. It is also unclear how this provision would be enforced in a practical sense and which body would have responsibility for doing so. It would not appear to form part of the existing compliance regime for producer organisations.
Therefore, I say to the noble Lord, in particular, that work is ongoing to explore the role of producer organisations in England and to move towards greater transparency within the fishing industry. In reviewing the functions and duties of producer organisations in the future, we will commit to consider specifically the need to improve transparency. We also recognise the need to improve the transparency of the quota system more generally. While this work is ongoing, we do not feel that it would be appropriate, or indeed probably wise, to include on in the Bill greater regulation for producer organisations.
I have a note from the Box to clarify for the noble Lord that producer organisations are mentioned in the Bill as a purpose for which regulations can be made. They appear in Clause 36(4)(m),
“the functions, objectives or regulation of producer organisations”.
I hope that that is helpful.
To clarify the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about the allocation of quota, producer organisations have a number of functions including marketing and planning provisions. They do not allocate quota but manage their members’ quota. I say that from my knowledge; I am sure that the noble Lord is well aware of it.
Should we believe that legislation or legislative changes are required, then indeed Clause 36 would give the Government the powers to do so. We would, of course, consult stakeholders on the exercise of those powers as required by Clause 41. I fully appreciate that the noble Lord said that this was a probing amendment. I hope it is helpful to say again that this is a work in progress. The absolute guts of what the noble Lord said relate to work on which we are embarking. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that extensive reply. I knew that it might be a hostage to fortune when I said that this was not mentioned in the Bill. I apologise to his Bill team for not reading their Bill sufficiently before making that comment. I welcome the Minister’s response; again, it is around the direction of travel. Transparency is important in this area. He is absolutely right that producer organisations have marketing and production plans and a much broader remit than just managing quota. I ask the Minister and his colleagues—perhaps his honourable colleague at the other end who deals with fisheries full-time—to keep an eye on this issue and progress it, rather than forget it. It is for the industry’s longer-term good that it is transparent and beyond criticism. I thank the Minister for his reply; I accept it and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 122 withdrawn.
123: After Clause 45, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State must carry out a consultation regarding—(a) the rationalisation of, and(b) the sharing of,regulatory activities between the Marine Management Organisation and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and lay a report of the conclusions of the consultation before both Houses of Parliament.(2) The Marine Management Organisation and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities must—(a) fully cooperate in each of their geographic areas in order to maximise the use of resources and intelligence;(b) draw up and submit joint plans for cooperation in fisheries management to the Secretary of State annually.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment aims to ensure the best use of all marine regulator resources by better shared facilities, resources and coordination.
My Lords, we come to the last group of amendments. I suppose one is not really allowed to call this an amendment with my tongue in my cheek; it is around an important issue. The original Marine and Coastal Access Act laid out quite a structure around how the seas are regulated. It had a divide between IFCAs, which were inshore, up to six miles out—if I have it right, rather than 12 miles—and the MMO, which went out beyond that on our territorial waters to 12 miles, and then there was the EEZ fisheries enforcement. I do not think that that divide has worked particularly well. Also, when the MMO was originally set up, there was a vision that it would have a much broader role over what happens on our seas. That role is, of course, also divided with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency—a very important agency but under the purview of the Department for Transport. It seems to me that there are opportunities for better co-ordination and more efficiency in the way that we regulate our seas, in all sorts of fashions. I do not necessarily say that this is easy, but I do not think that we are at the right solution at the moment.
In fact, in spite of my amendment, the biggest challenge is perhaps between the roles of the IFCAs and the MMO. That is why I have perhaps been overprescriptive in this amendment in saying that there needs to be an actual plan between the MMO and those organisations—for each region that the IFCAs cover—to make sure those resources are used efficiently. As the Minister mentioned, I was proud to be a board member of the MMO for six years. I am no longer that but, during that time, there was—I would not say a turf war—quite a struggle between IFCAs and the MMO. The IFCAs were concerned that they would be taken over by the MMO, or that the MMO would be quite strong in telling them what to do. It is a difficult relationship. It works well in certain areas—it has always worked very well in the eastern region—but not necessarily elsewhere. I am trying to highlight that.
The Minister has often said that there are now all sorts of co-ordination methods out there on the seas, which I welcome. But I still feel that the workings of the IFCA-MMO relationship is not good enough and that there is room for rationalisation between our ocean regulators, the MCA and the MMO. As previously, I am very interested to hear the Minister’s comments on how the Government see this. The main challenge is making sure that IFCAs and the MMO work closely together, maximising their resources and maximising sustainability and conservation. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 128, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, has attached her name.
In 2001, I was top of the Private Member’s Bill ballot in the other place and introduced the Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill, which passed its stages in the Commons but, sadly, did not go through your Lordships’ House. At that time, I realised how complex the whole marine environment—in the wider sense of the word—is, including how many different interests there are and the different contexts; fisheries is the most obvious, but there are many others. I am pleased to say that my early foray into this area led to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to which my Bill was a little nudge.
I am a very simple person and this is a very simple amendment. It seeks to add to the Short Title of the Bill the words “and Marine Conservation”, as in the Long Title. I have listened to much informed debate here, and now have much more knowledge of fisheries than I have ever had; when I have not been in the Chamber, I have looked at Hansard. I therefore realise that this is very complex. I think it is the Government’s intention to make the Bill not just about the fishing industry but about sustainability, and to look at marine conservation—as I said, it is in the Long Title. It is important to put it in the Short Title also because a lot of people, including probably me, think that when we talk about fisheries we are talking purely about the industry. It is of course much more than that.
As most life in the marine environment is under the sea, it is not visible—there are obvious exceptions, such as birds and the cetaceans that surface from time to time. I am not sure that the public are entirely aware of what has happened in our depleted under-sea environment. I think that if it was terrestrial, many people would realise what was going on. It is rather like the American bison that once roamed the plains in their millions, and was then reduced to very few, or perhaps the passenger pigeon that once darkened the skies, and was shot and used for pet food, and then suddenly went extinct. If people realised what was happening under the water to a lot of our fish stocks, they would be appalled.
This Bill does a lot towards that. Although I am a little disappointed with some areas, I am beginning to understand this place and know that the Government will look again at some of these things on Report, and that the Bill will go down to the other place. But we have to be very careful. In the first speech I made on this Bill, I mentioned the Newfoundland cod stocks that disappeared. I am very concerned that, if we are not careful, similar extinctions will occur, which will have an economic and social impact on our fishing communities, not to mention on wildlife. Obviously, it is not just us who enjoy the nutritious meal that is fish; the sand eels that are taken are a very important part of the diet of many seabirds.
I always want to be helpful to the Government—it is a trait I have had ever since my party has been in government—and I think this would be a good addition to the Bill. It will not cost much, only the cost of reprinting, and it would send a message. Of course, it would also make it easier for us to make sure that the Government’s feet are firmly to the fire on some of the conservation measures in the Bill. With that, I leave this with the Government. If they want to take it as their own clever idea, I would be more than delighted.
My Lords, I will speak very briefly. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Randall, for proposing these amendments.
As the noble Lord said, Amendment 123 seeks a consultation exercise on how fisheries regulation activities can be rationalised or better shared. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made a very good case for better co-ordination, particularly between the IFCAs and the MMO. Again, we all acknowledge his considerable experience in this regard. We would hope that this is something that the department is doing anyway, particularly as part of the repatriation of policy from the EU. However, I agree very much with the noble Lord that there is further work to be done on this and that this information should be made available to Parliament for further consideration and debate. Therefore, it would be helpful to have this as a requirement in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Randall, has made a very simple proposal about changing the Short Title of the Bill to “Fisheries and Marine Conservation Bill”. It is a simple idea, but we very much support the amendment. It encapsulates many of the preceding debates we have had. It is clear that we do not want to put an artificial divide, with marine conservation being dealt with in the Environment Bill rather than as part of the Fisheries Bill, as we think it should be. This is important and it is a central principle here. As the noble Lord, Lord Randall, made clear, this Bill is not just about the industry; the decisions we are making have all sorts of wider ramifications and knock-on effects.
We have so much more to do in delivering the rollout of the blue belt of marine conservation areas. The amendment underlines the importance of marine planning in the conservation of our fishing stocks. As the noble Lord said, changing the title of the Bill would send an important message in this regard, so we share the hope that the Minister will see that this simple and helpful suggestion is something that the Government could support. Therefore, we add our support to the noble Lord’s suggestion.
My Lords, I am grateful for Amendment 123, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I welcome the opportunity to set out the arrangements already in place for ensuring such co-ordination, because I believe the Bill supports the aims of the noble Lord’s amendment. I will address the amendment as two parts.
First, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine Management Organisation have distinct and separate regulatory functions. The MCA is responsible for providing a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service around the UK coast, as well as producing legislation and guidance on maritime matters, and certification for seafarers. The MCA is sponsored by the Department for Transport, as its responsibilities relate to vessels and infrastructure. By contrast, the MMO licenses, regulates and plans marine activities in the seas around England to ensure they are carried out in a sustainable way.
Notwithstanding this distinction, there are areas of shared interest where these organisations already co-ordinate and work jointly to achieve their regulatory purpose effectively. This includes the operation of aerial assets for monitoring and surveillance, the collocation of personnel in the Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre, and intelligence sharing. Opportunities for further collaboration and efficiencies are still being identified.
Turning to the second part of the proposed amendment, I do take on board the concerns referred to by the noble Lord, particularly given his experience, and I will take those back to the department. The MMO and inshore fisheries and conservation authorities, or IFCAs, are working collaboratively increasingly well. The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, to which the noble Lord referred, enshrines consistent and co-ordinated co-operation in the general objective and duty to co-operate provisions.
In recognition of the benefits of close co-operation, the organisations have drawn up a memorandum of understanding for a co-ordinated approach to, amongst other things, effective management of fisheries and the marine environment, information and intelligence sharing, and joint patrols and the sharing of fishery patrol vessels. These memoranda are reviewed as necessary following any pertinent changes to the policies, procedures or structures of the parties concerned.
In practice, this has resulted in a joint intelligence provision between the MMO and the IFCAs, including tactical co-ordination groups to direct risk-based intelligence-led compliance and enforcement activity. Throughout 2019, the IFCAs were further integrated into the JMOCC, and inshore activity is now visible to, and co-ordinated across, the national maritime domain.
I have noted the role of the JMOCC, and your Lordships will be aware of its function to enhance capability and capacity across the maritime regulators, agencies and devolved administrations. The MMO and the MCA have committed to collocate personnel within the JMOCC.
I reassure noble Lords that effective co-ordination exists between maritime regulators and is already mandated within the Marine and Coastal Access Act. No further regulation or consultation is required. Opportunities to improve operational relationships and to collaborate more efficiently and effectively are continuously sought.
On accountability to Parliament, I further reassure noble Lords that additional legislation is not required in this area. Schedule 1 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 commits the MMO to deliver an annual report to the Secretary of State on how it has discharged its functions. This report is laid before both Houses, and the MMO is accountable to Parliament for its contents. MMO annual reports typically include details of collaborative work with other marine regulators.
Turning to Amendment 128, tabled by my noble friend, the Bill is designed to replace the common fisheries policy, and I have been advised by parliamentary counsel that the short title is appropriate. They have advised that a short title does not need to be comprehensive; it just needs to give a good idea of what the Bill is mostly about. In this case, that is replacing the common fisheries policy. The Bill’s short title is the Fisheries Act 2020, which therefore seems appropriate.
Your Lordships will also be aware that the long title sets out the scope of the Bill, which includes the term “marine conservation”. However, this sits alongside the term “fishing, fisheries and aquaculture”, and its inclusion should be taken in the context of protecting the marine environment from those activities. Adding “marine conservation” to the short title might suggest that the Act should include provisions relating to the protection of the marine environment and wildlife from a wider range of activities, such as energy production, shipping and tourism. However, I am advised that, in reality, changing the short title has no legal effect.
I should also draw my noble friend’s attention to the fisheries objectives in Clause 1, the first of which is sustainability; the third is the ecosystem objective. We also have the Environment Bill, which will cover many of the issues to which the noble Lord rightly drew our attention. They are in its objectives.
In light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will withdraw his amendment.
I thought that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Randall, was far better than mine. I am very sad that, despite the fact that it would have “no legal effect”, it is not possible. We come to the end of Committee. It is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, is not still here, because he was here at the beginning. He said that he was just so excited; I am sure we all remember that strong advocate of Brexit saying how exciting it was to be able to talk about all the new ideas coming through in these amendments. Well, where are we? We have had the charging for things that should not be discarded, which was a change, but, other than that, I find the Bill very conservative. If I were to give the Government one bit of advice—I never thought I would hear myself say this—I would tell the Minister to deliver the Bill to Dominic Cummings at No. 10 and ask him to sex it up. I think that is seriously what is required. We have an opportunity here really to make a difference. This is Brexit and we are an independent coastal state for goodness’ sake—let us make the most of it. But what do we have? Something that is really just the status quo. Anyway, that is my feeling about it.
I thank the Minister for his perseverance with all of us during Committee—I know we do not normally do this at this time, but I really do—and I thank the noble Baroness. On this amendment, I recognise the progress that the Government are making in this area. I think, in reality, that the IFCAs and the MMO are structurally flawed; this is very difficult to solve. I am not saying anything else, but progress is being made there. The memorandums of understanding are probably new since I was involved in this—or they are being developed —but I welcome them. With those comments, and my commiserations to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, on his last effort, I look forward to Report and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 123 withdrawn.
Amendments 124 to 125A not moved.
Schedule 10 agreed.
Clauses 46 and 47 agreed.
Clause 48: Interpretation
Amendments 126 and 127 not moved.
Clause 48 agreed.
Clauses 49 and 50 agreed.
Clause 51: Short Title
Amendment 128 not moved.
Clause 51 agreed.
Bill reported without amendment.