House of Lords
Thursday 12 November 2020
The House met in a hybrid proceeding.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Durham.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Sitting of the House will now begin. Some Members are here in the Chamber, respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded at any point, I will immediately adjourn the House.
Lord Speaker’s Statement
My Lords, on behalf of the Lord Speaker I would like to make a short Statement about the plans for Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022, which will mark 70 years of her reign. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that such a historic occasion, never before seen in the history of our country, should be marked in a fitting way. Today, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will make a Statement in the House of Commons about the national plans, and I would like to take a moment to update the House about what will happen here in Parliament.
Noble Lords will recall that, for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Parliament gifted a stained-glass window in Westminster Hall. For this Platinum Jubilee, I can announce that a cross-party, bicameral project board has been established to decide what the next gift will be and to deliver it in 2022. As was the case in 2012, the right honourable Michael Ellis QC MP, the Solicitor-General for England and Wales, has been asked by both Speakers to manage this project and I extend our sincere thanks to him for his efforts.
As was the case for the Diamond Jubilee gift, no public funds will be spent to purchase the gift. The gift will be paid for from personal contributions made by Members of both Houses and a further announcement about the gift and how noble Lords can contribute will be made in the new year.
Oral Questions will now commence. Please can those asking supplementary questions keep them to no longer than 30 seconds and confined to two points. I ask that Ministers, too, are brief.
Covid-19: Levelling-up Agenda
The Government recognise the significant impact of Covid-19 on every region and nation of the UK and remain committed to levelling up opportunity across the country. In recognition of this, we have announced unprecedented support for business, workers and local authorities across the UK, including support for 2.7 million people through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, and have extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has already supported 9.6 billion jobs and provided over £62 billion in business support loans.
My Lords, the Northern Health Science Alliance reported two days ago that Covid has made economic inequalities worse, with reductions in mental well-being in the north costing the economy £5 billion a year, and that more people in the north have died. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership is calling for a northern economic recovery plan. The LGA says that in the north, where core services have already been cut by up to half in some of the poorest areas, more cuts will just make regional inequalities worse. South Yorkshire’s mayor, Dan Jarvis, wrote yesterday in the House magazine:
“The brutal reality is that the North is now on course for levelling down, not levelling up.”
Is it not now time for a huge transfer to the north of resources of all kinds and the powers to use them?
My Lords, I think that we have seen a significant transfer of power to the north; Dan Jarvis, the mayor in Yorkshire, is an example of that. The Government are absolutely committed to levelling up and to reducing this inequality. That is why, for example, we have the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which supports at least 45 places in the northern powerhouse and 30 places in the Midlands engine region.
My Lords, I ask the Minister to make clear to her colleague the former Northern Powerhouse Minister in another place the huge contribution that culture has made to the regeneration of Gateshead and Salford, for example, and that football and culture are not mutually exclusive—it is possible to support both. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government will soon publish a strategy for levelling up and, in the light of Covid, have the Government been restructured in order to tackle the problems for the north post Covid and the implementation of such a levelling-up strategy?
My Lords, the government structures in place at the moment are focused on tackling Covid, but support for levelling up and recovery across the country is at the heart of everything that the Government do. It was at the heart of the Chancellor’s plan for jobs, announced in the summer, which includes a Getting Building Fund of up to £1 billion to support local economic projects to get jobs and recovery back in local economies.
My Lords, it is unfortunate that the tiered system of local virus control led to political turf wars. This simply divides communities, as was seen with the handling of the Greater Manchester case. Can the Minister reassure the House that, in future, changes will not simply be imposed on historically deprived areas of the north of England with last-minute government press announcements at midnight and that local elected representative will be fully involved in the decision-making process and therefore share ultimate decision-making?
My Lords, the Government have been committed to having local leaders involved in decision-making at every step of the process. That has sometimes led to a more complicated process, which I think the noble Lord has pointed to, but we always endeavour to have joint decision-making wherever possible.
My Lords, it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is having a huge economic impact on businesses and livelihoods throughout the country. However, some regions are having to live through tougher and longer restrictions than others. I know that this Government are committed to their levelling-up agenda. Can my noble friend the Minister outline what extra support will be given to these hardest-hit communities?
My Lords, since the pandemic, the Government have provided £6.4 billion of additional funding to local authorities, but, in addition to this, for those areas that faced restrictions prior to the second lockdown, extra support was put in place for businesses that were closed or had their business severely affected by those restrictions. Local authorities got additional funding for grants to support the local economy.
My Lords, rumours emanating from who knows where in government are talking about cutting back HS2 phase 2b—the bit that goes from Birmingham to Leeds. This would mean that the journey times from Toton would go from 27 to 85 minutes for Leeds and from 93 to 106 minutes for Newcastle. How is this sort of thing compatible with government protestations about levelling up?
What is the noble Baroness’s assessment of the Treasury’s 80:20 rule, which decrees that 80% of funding for Homes England goes to the areas where homes are most unaffordable? This naturally ends up being the south and south-east of England. Will she accept that, when 46 of the red wall seats are only eligible for 20% of the funding for homes, this creates a blatant unfairness for the north? Can she tell the House what Government are doing to resolve this?
I reassure the noble Baroness that funds from the £400 million brownfield fund announced in the Budget will unlock up to 24,000 high-quality homes across the country, with 90% allocated immediately to seven mayoral combined authorities to allow them to begin delivering projects that will benefit local areas.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, post Covid, there will be cities like mine—Leicester—that will be looking for investors to come and invest, given the loss of jobs? Does she agree that digital platforms are the key to getting most of our young people skilled? Will she encourage businesses, particularly disruptors from the digital platforms, to come and look at cities like Leicester to skill up and invest in young people and others?
I absolutely agree with my noble friend, and one of the things that the Government are doing to support digital skills is setting up a limited series of digital boot camp trailblazers to support local regions and employers to fill in-demand vacancies. We will look to roll out a national programme next year that will learn the lessons from this.
The Alliance for Full Employment and Resolution Foundation research shows that there are now around 1 million 16 to 24 year-olds not in work. The alliance is predicting a need for 1.5 million training places by the end of the academic year. The Kickstart Scheme will not help anyone under 25 who has lost their job at the end of October, as they will not be eligible for help until next May. Does the Minister agree that the extension to the furlough scheme offers a breathing space to redesign the Kickstart Scheme in order to provide meaningful work or training in conjunction with local authorities and employers? Will the Government meet the Alliance for Full Employment to discuss its plan to get Britain levelling up?
My Lords, the Kickstart Scheme is specifically designed to support young people at risk of long-term unemployment, but that is not the only support that the Government are putting in place for those who may have lost their jobs or are struggling to find work, having finished their studying or training. For example, we have put £1.2 billion in to significantly expand and enhance our work-search support, including doubling the number of work coaches. That kind of support, alongside support for skills and apprenticeships, is available to young people in advance of them being at risk of longer-term unemployment.
My Lords, Covid has accelerated modern trends such as remote working, and there is a great deal of education and training needed for that. Should levelling up not include a focus on digital trends, aiming to leap-frog post-industrial areas into the new era of work?
My Lords, the time allotted for this Question has now elapsed.
Sustainable Development Goals
My Lords, the UK is committed to the sustainable development goals. The aims of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office—working to end extreme poverty, tackling the climate crisis, protecting our values and promoting sustainable growth—all contribute to meeting the goals. The integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy will further define the Government’s ambition for the UK’s role in the world and shape the FCDO’s objectives and priorities.
My Lords, Covid shows the need for increased action by the global community towards achieving the SDGs and delivering on the commitment to “leave no one behind”. Prioritising the SDGs domestically as well as internationally is vital, as they provide a ready-made road map to recovery. What are the Government doing to establish a coherent cross-government strategy for achieving the SDGs and to improve engagement with stakeholders in line with the commitments that the noble Baroness made in last year’s VNR? On the transparency of aid spending, will she guarantee that ICAI remains independent of government and accountable to Parliament?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that the SDGs provide a valuable framework to help us build back better in Covid-19 recovery. We are committed to implementing the SDGs and we have been proactive in our response to the pandemic. The SDGs have an important role to play, both here in the UK and in our international work. We will continue our regular engagement with stakeholders. On ICAI, I can confirm that it will remain independent.
My Lords, thanks largely to global efforts and UK leadership, recent research shows that the global burden of disease on women has shifted significantly from maternal mortality and morbidity to non-communicable diseases. In particular, the statistics on mental health are distressing. Depression is predicted to be the second-leading cause of global disability by 2020 and it is twice as common and more persistent in women. Dementia is also twice as common in women globally. Women and children are by far the most affected by violence and disaster, with post-traumatic and neurodevelopmental disorders still widely underdiagnosed. Despite all this, mental health accounts for less than 3% of global health budgets. In order to meet SDGs 3 and 5, can the Minister say how much ODA spending will go to women’s NCDs and mental health budgets, in particular?
I agree with my noble friend that mental health is a major concern that affects women around the world. This summer we published our approach paper on mental health and psychosocial disabilities. It clearly outlines our ambition to achieve an integrated and comprehensive rights-based approach to mental health support. It noted the significant gender disparity. It is important that while we continue to support our work on ending preventable deaths, we also address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.
My Lords, given Brexit, can the Minister inform the House of how much UK aid that had gone through the EU will now be exclusively available for UK priorities, and can the likely billions be invested with the Global Partnership for Education, advancing girls’ education, of which I am a champion?
My Lords, the monitoring the sustainable development goals programme is a joint project between the FCDO and the UN Statistics Division. It supports 20 countries to feed data into the global set of 172 indicators. This is essential data if we are to meet the commitment to leave no one behind. The programme is successful and scores an A. Can the Minister say whether it will continue after May 2021?
I agree with the noble Baroness on the importance of investing in data. I am afraid I cannot commit to future spending in 2021 at this stage, but I agree that data is key to understanding progress against the SDGs and helping to identify where further action is needed. We will continue our partnership with the UN by ensuring that we provide the best data we can for countries around the world so that they can judge their own progress against the SDGs.
My Lords, as a consequence of the Courtauld commitments, the Government have a partial strategy at least—one for the delivery of environmental goals in SDG 12. However, progress is slow and not on target for the reduction of food waste or emissions associated with the production and consumption of food, and we have no road map for the delivery of a water security target. The strategy is fine but what is being done to make sure that the goals are kept under proper review and, more importantly, realigned when necessary?
We are, of course, committed to a sustainable and resilient recovery as we build back better from Covid-19. We look forward to hosting the COP 26 conference next November, where will be able to focus on all the issues that the noble Lord has raised.
My Lords, who exactly are the poorest of the poor who must not be left behind? Will the FCDO identify them? Are they the ones without food, water or healthcare? Are they refugees? Will the UK focus SDGs more on those suffering from endemic poverty, such as victims of slavery or Dalits who have to clean latrines day after day in India? I think the public would like to know.
My Lords, one of the core missions of the FCDO is to end extreme poverty, while also ensuring that all our programmes are reaching the bottom billion—the people most in need of the support that we give through our development programmes. We will continue to develop our programmes, making sure that we are reaching those most in need so that we do not leave anyone behind.
My Lords, the World Bank has said that, post recovery, we will need to reschedule debts, tackle climate change more energetically and promote livelihoods. Do the Government agree with that assessment? If they do, will they still ensure that we prioritise gender equality and poverty reduction in achieving those objectives?
My Lords, the extraordinary donation this week by Peter Baldwin and Lisbet Rausing of £8 million to the British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Programme is a reminder of the international work that our museums do around the world, helping developing nations preserve and protect their heritage. Will the Minister assure me that culture will be at the heart of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s work on sustainable development goals?
My Lords, the Minister said yesterday that girls’ education is the top priority for our overseas aid but girls cannot stay in education if they are married off early with no access to contraception because they then spend the rest of their lives having more and more babies. Surely strengthening the availability of family planning and sexual and reproductive health services must be the top priority for overseas aid to achieve the sustainable development goals, especially during the pandemic.
Girls’ education is indeed a key priority for the FCDO but so is continuing our support for sexual and reproductive health and rights. We are the world’s second-largest global bilateral donor on family planning. I agree with the noble Baroness that we must ensure that girls and women have access to family planning so that they can continue their education, contribute to the economy and decide how and when to have children and how many to have.
My Lords, all the supplementary questions have been asked and we now move to the third Oral Question. I call the noble Lord, Lord Woolley of Woodford.
We are having ongoing discussions with the Treasury on the best ways to support people through Covid-19 and beyond. We will of course update Parliament on any future decisions on benefit spending when they are made. Claimants can be assured, though, that the Government are fully committed to supporting those who rely on the welfare system and to ensuring it continues to provide a safety net to those who need it.
My Lords, I thank the Government for extending the £20 universal credit increase and getting behind—even turbocharging —Marcus Rashford’s initiative to feed poorer children, many of whom will be black, Asian or minority ethnic. Does the Minister agree with me and the organisation Action for Children about the urgent need to develop and implement a UK-wide child poverty strategy that sets targets for its reduction and eradication?
The noble Lord’s acknowledgement of the Government’s activities in this field is appreciated. We are very pleased that we have been able to implement our latest package and we acknowledge Marcus Rashford’s passion and commitment, which the Government share. I will need to take the strategy the noble Lord raised back to the department. That is not me trying to avoid the issue; I will do that, and I will come back to the noble Lord in writing.
Families in receipt of legacy benefits, such as employment and support allowance, did not benefit from the very welcome £20 a week uplift in benefits. These people are just as likely to be affected by the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and include many disabled people. Will the Government extend the increase in benefits to include those in receipt of legacy benefits, as recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Keep the Lifeline campaign?
The right revered Prelate raises an issue that many people are raising. The answer I have, in the politest terms, is that we have no plans to increase legacy benefits further. They were increased by 1.7% in April 2020 as part of the annual uprating exercise.
The Government recently increased the national living wage to £8.72 per hour, which means the annual earnings of a full-time worker on the national living wage have increased by nearly £3,700 since 2016. The Spring Budget confirmed a tax cut for 31 million working people, and other tax changes make basic rate taxpayers over £1,200 better off. We have been able to extend the holiday activities and food programme with £220 million, and the Covid winter grant scheme has £170 million, so be in no doubt: the Government do care and do take action.
My Lords, every citizen, whether in paid work or not, deserves an income that allows a decent standard of living. We should not be permitting a system where discomfort and, indeed, poverty are built in. You cannot live on the standard allowance—no one can—and that is apart from delays in payment. How can the Minister possibly defend universal credit, even as a viable safety net, when demand for food banks is at a record high and homelessness is rapidly rising, even with the extra £20 a week?
I understand the noble Earl’s point, but as I said, we have put out a raft of additional support. I could read it out, but it would take the whole 10 minutes, if not longer. I understand his point, but the Government are taking action to make life better for people.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for recognising the important contribution of the £20 a week increase. Does she also recognise that the increase in housing benefit rates has made a significant contribution to reducing poverty? Does she agree that we should recognise the contribution made by the key workers in the DWP? The case managers, job coaches and all the staff have coped with a 600% increase in universal credit claimants since March, of which there are now 8.2 million. We should also recognise the contribution of its chief executive, Neil Couling, who has given dedicated and inspirational leadership to ensure a successful digitalisation programme which enabled the DWP to cope with the massive increase in claimants.
The noble Lord acknowledges the significant increase in universal credit claimants, and I understand the importance of the issues he raises. He also acknowledged the key people at the DWP, not least Neil Couling and the whole executive team that works with him, who have done a sterling job and will continue to do so.
I, like other noble Lords, welcome the retention of the £20 a week increase, which will indeed help many people. However, is the Minister aware of the report by the charity Scope on disability and the coronavirus, which found that many disabled people are feeling forgotten and experiencing isolation, a lack of access to basic essentials, delays in receiving benefits and medical care, and poor access to care and support? Will she assure us that the Government will meet with disability charities to ensure that all people with disabilities, and their families, receive the care and support they need during the coronavirus? Will she report back to Parliament on this?
The noble Baroness is absolutely right to raise the issue of disabled people and the challenges they face. The noble Baroness will also know that my natural way of working is to agree to these things and to report back. The only thing I can offer her today is that I will talk to the Minister for Disabled People and let him know what it is she would like to do. I will report back to her.
My Lords, I too welcome and acknowledge all the support measures the Government have put in place, but can my noble friend say a little more about the evidence base? How are the Government assessing whether the measures they have taken are having the desired impact among families on the lowest incomes?
The noble Baroness raises the important issue of evidence. Analysis shows that the Government’s interventions have supported the poorest working households, as a proportion of February income, the most, with those in the bottom 10% of the income distribution seeing no reduction in their income.
My Lords, because the £20 uplift was not extended to legacy benefits, an adult on universal credit is given £94 a week to live on but her neighbour on JSA or ESA gets just £74 a week. The Minister told the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that there were no plans to change this, but she did not tell him why. Could she please explain to the House and the 2 million people on JSA and ESA why they do not deserve the same help when their food and bills cost every bit as much as those for people on universal credit?
I note the point that the noble Baroness makes and it is well made, but as I said, the Government’s position is that we have no plans to increase legacy benefits further. People on legacy benefits can transfer to universal credit and they can do a calculation before they transfer to make sure they will be better off.
Like other noble Lords, I congratulate the Government on coming some of the way towards Marcus Rashford’s and other food campaigners’ demands. This weekly increase of £20 does pay for the bulk of a single person’s grocery budget and is one of the things keeping a lot of people out of food banks, although, as my noble friend Lord Clancarty pointed out, these figures continue to rise. It seems extremely ironic that the Government have decided to support food banks and declare that they are an essential part of our system when we should be working to abolish them, yet they are contemplating taking away this small increase of £20 and, as was just mentioned, not affording it to people on JSA or ESA. I come back to my noble friend Lord Woolley of Woodford’s original Question and ask the Minister: what plans do the Government have to keep this increase for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and after it? It does make a difference.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed and we therefore move to the fourth Question.
Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Access for Goods
My Lords, we have been unequivocal in our commitment to unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods moving to the rest of the UK market. We are delivering on that commitment in full, including through the draft statutory instrument we have laid to guarantee it from 1 January and the protections we wish to provide in the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which, regrettably, your Lordships opposed.
My Lords, supermarket chains and other business consortia in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned that goods supply lines will be cut off to them from 1 January 2021. Will the Minister, along with ministerial colleagues, and working with EU negotiators, ensure that flexibilities are built into food supply lines so that Northern Ireland businesses and consumers can continue to enjoy a wide range of choice and affordability with respect to all food products?
The noble Baroness makes an important point. The UK Government recognise, of course, the unique position of authorised traders, such as supermarkets, with stable supply chains and comprehensive oversight of warehousing and distribution, moving pre-packaged products for retail solely in Northern Ireland. We are continuing to pursue specific solutions for this trade.
My Lords, many of us in this House and elsewhere have long believed that the Government’s claims that the Prime Minister’s deal will produce unfettered trade are, quite frankly, delusional. Now that the Government have recognised that, instead of planning to breach our international obligations, would they not do better to look at constructive alternatives? For instance, what consideration has been given to the sensible proposals put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Empey, and his parliamentary colleagues, which might just get the Government off the hook?
My Lords, I remind the noble Lord that the principle of unfettered access, and its legislative underpinning, was one of the key components of the re-formation of the Northern Ireland Executive. The UK Government are seeking to fulfil an obligation, and I regret very much that your Lordships, including the noble Lord, voted against it.
My Lords, the sheer scale of the burden on businesses created by the wholly inadequate preparations for the wider border procedures by the Government was laid bare by the National Audit Office report on Friday. Regarding Northern Ireland, food and drink producers still do not yet know whether goods going to Northern Ireland will have to have EU labels, UK labels or both. Can the Minister be clear, with six weeks to go, what labels will food and drinks going to Northern Ireland from GB have to have, UK or EU? What contingency procedures are in place if the Government cannot be clear to businesses?
My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord on his very specific point about labelling. Of course, I acknowledge that there are ongoing discussions in the joint committee, and that that is an issue. But the Government have a range of measures, already taken and in hand, which we have discussed with business, to facilitate GB-NI movement.
My Lords, but is not unfettered trade access what we want, what we have always wanted all along and what the withdrawal agreement guarantees, both for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland—with a few minor checks—and of course trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? We are committed to all these things. Does my noble friend agree that, if President-elect Biden seeks reassurance against the destabilisation of the Northern Ireland peace process—reassurance that we all want—it is the European Union authorities and negotiators in Brussels who are his best port of call and whom he should be ringing?
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord into international diplomacy. What I will say is what I said with some force to the House on Monday: this Government are absolutely dedicated to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. That agreement has east-west as well as north-south aspects, and the rejection of the unfettered access commitment by your Lordships’ House was deeply unhelpful.
My Lords, to go back to the Question that the noble Baroness asked, I am sure the whole House understands the concerns about supply to retailers in Northern Ireland, well expressed in the joint letter from the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. However, the NAO report last Friday shows where the problem lies, when it confirms that the new border control posts we are constructing at Larne, Warrenpoint and Belfast will not be ready. What interim plans have the Government in mind to ensure that supply to retailers in Northern Ireland continues unaffected?
My Lords, I gave an assurance on supermarkets and food supplies in an earlier answer. The Government are constantly, on a daily basis, monitoring and considering the maintenance of all links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and have every confidence that they will be secure.
We have long known that Brexit, plus a failure to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement, would lead either to new and more border arrangements in Ireland, and so to a likely breach of the Good Friday agreement, or, alternatively, to new barriers and obstacles down the Irish Sea, so threatening the integrity of the UK. At the general election, the Prime Minister assured us that neither of these unattractive options would be necessary, but does the Minister accept that, unless the Government find a third way, they will have failed their own tests and failed the country? What is this elusive third way?
My Lords, we are all aware of the extensive movement of animals across the internal Irish border and across the Irish Sea, and the extensive movement also of milk and milk products. If there is to be unfettered access across the Irish Sea, do the Government envisage that there will have to be checks at what will now become the EU’s external border? What progress, in that case, has been made towards recruiting the vets and inspectors needed to enforce the checks required there?
My Lords, earlier this week, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland jointly wrote to the EU, imploring it to act sensibly and pragmatically to prevent any threat of disruption to food supplies to Northern Ireland. This is about defining goods at risk. We are in the ridiculous situation that the EU, unless it comes to a sensible arrangement, will ensure that all goods coming into Northern Ireland are goods at risk. Tins of beans on a Tesco lorry destined for Belfast, Portadown or Banbridge will be deemed at risk of being smuggled over the border by the supermarket at Dundalk. How ridiculous. If the EU does not see sense, will the Minister undertake that the necessary fallback, safety-net provisions will be there to safeguard Northern Ireland consumers—nationalist and unionist—as the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have said?
My Lords, as I said earlier, the Government certainly take extremely seriously the need to ensure the security of this trade. I agree with the noble Lord that the protocol obliges both the UK and the EU to seek to streamline trade between GB and Northern Ireland.
Will my noble friend gently remind the European Union that any obstacles to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be contrary both to Article 6 of the withdrawal agreement and to the Act of Union, which is a fundamental part of our legal order which the European Union has pledged to uphold? I hope and expect that the EU will agree arrangements to prevent such obstacles, because to refuse such agreement would constitute bad faith, justifying the activation of those parts of the internal market Bill that I hope the other House will reinstall and this House will duly accept.
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed.
Hong Kong: Legislative Council
Private Notice Question
My Lords, yesterday was another sad day for the people of Hong Kong. China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress imposed new restrictions, meaning that any Hong Kong legislator deemed to be supporting independence, refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty, seeking to support foreign forces’ interference or endangering Hong Kong’s national security would be disqualified. This decision led to the immediate removal of four elected members of the Legislative Council. Beijing’s actions breach both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy and the right to freedom of speech, which is guaranteed under the Sino-British joint declaration.
My Lords, this is immensely serious for Hong Kong. What have the Government said directly to the Chinese Government about this major breach, as the Minister described it, of the Sino-British joint declaration? Will they consider taking China to the International Court of Justice for breaching its obligations under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, or has the United Kingdom undermined its ability to do that by threatening to break international law when it suits us?
On the noble Baroness’s second question, we remain strong supporters of the ICJ but, as she will know, going to the ICJ requires the agreement of both parties. I very much doubt that China would do so. On the specific measures that we have taken since China’s action, only an hour or so ago, the Chinese ambassador was summoned to the FCDO to meet the Permanent Under-Secretary. I have not seen the read-out of that but we have taken immediate steps there.
Lord McKenzie, we are struggling to hear you. Could you lean in a little closer to the mic?
I will; I am sorry. China’s dismissal of four members of the Legislative Council underlined the worst fears about the national security law and its impact on freedoms of expression and judicial independence in Hong Kong. The new law, which apparently applies to everyone everywhere in the world, is generating alarm among universities with students who will return to Hong Kong at some stage and could face the risk of arrest. It makes a nonsense of “one country, two systems”. What representations are being made to the Chinese ambassador about the disqualification of the four pro-democracy lawmakers? What progress is being made in identifying senior Chinese Government officials who have committed serious human rights abuses?
My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. We have summoned the Chinese ambassador to register our deep concern on this issue. The noble Lord talked about all members of the Legislative Council; four members were suspended and removed while they were in the Chamber. Others have left the council in solidarity.
On identification, the noble Lord was, I think, alluding to global human rights sanctions. As I have said before, we cannot speculate on future sanctions that we may apply through that regime. Nevertheless, since the national security laws initiated the continuing suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong, we have aired—and continue to air—our deep concerns.
I gently remind noble Lords to keep their questions and answers concise.
My noble and learned friend raises an important issue. On 6 October, 39 countries issued a joint statement at the UN General Assembly expressing deep concern at the situation in Hong Kong, building on the Human Rights Council statement in June. We believe that this joint approach with other international partners is the best approach in pressing China to live up to its obligations.
My Lords, I declare my interests as a patron of Hong Kong Watch and vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. What steps are the Government taking to co-ordinate an international response to the purge of democrats and the dismantling of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong? Does this include an international contact group, mobilising the G7, developing an alliance of democracies to co-ordinate targeted sanctions and a lifeboat rescue package, and working for the creation of a mechanism at the United Nations for a special rapporteur?
As I have already said, we are leading the international response on Hong Kong. An increasing number of countries are joining statements through UN human rights bodies, which underscores the success of this approach. We have no plans to establish an international contact group. The Foreign Secretary is leading the way on this issue as a priority.
My Lords, the Government have provided a way for citizens holding a BNO passport to take steps to come here. A high proportion of people will miss out on this scheme, particularly those born after 1997. What other immigration measures have the Government considered in the interests of safety for the people of Hong Kong?
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise BNO status. It will open for applications at the end of January 2021. On the specifics of people born after a given date, certainly where they are connected to those who qualify for BNO status, our policy is not to separate families—they will also be included in the scheme.
My Lords, given the clear breach of the joint declaration and international law, how can we enlist support from European Union countries when the Government persist with Part 5 of the Internal Market Bill? Is this not a clear illustration of the Government’s chickens coming home to roost?
I assure the noble Lord that there are no chickens in my response, per se. On this specific issue, the fact that Germany delivered the statement at the UN Third Committee underlines the strong support in the European Union for our position on Hong Kong.
My Lords, I welcome what the Minister said about his and the United Kingdom’s efforts at the United Nations and building support, but we obviously need to do more. The Minister failed to answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about how we may build a better consensus through the use of the scheduled G7 meeting. Can he give a more specific answer?
Of course. We will continue to press this case, whether through the G7 or other multilateral fora. We are achieving success; I am sure that all noble Lords will acknowledge that the fact that we have seen an incremental increase in the number of countries supporting the UK’s position on Hong Kong illustrates the success of this policy.
My Lords, in view of this scandalous behaviour by the Chinese Government and their rejection of the criticism of western Governments, is it not time to encourage people not to support Chinese exports, as their economy is all-important to the Chinese?
My Lords, we have a strategic relationship with China. We continue to wish to strengthen that, but in a very clear-eyed way, and where there are abuses of human rights, whether in Hong Kong or indeed in mainland China, we will call them out.
The offence of the four lawmakers who were expelled without legal process from LegCo—two barristers, an accountant and a medical consultant—was that they had allegedly supported requests to the US to impose sanctions on China for its interference in Hong Kong. What about this country? The United Kingdom signed the bilateral joint declaration, which by Article 3 guarantees the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. Does the Minister agree that we have a moral and imperative duty to take action now, not just to wring our hands—to impose sanctions or to take China to the International Court of Justice, as my noble friend suggested earlier?
My Lords, the noble Lord raises Article 3, and that is exactly what we are pressing: that China must uphold its international obligations. I have already covered the point on the ICJ; we will continue to work on a multilateral basis and bilaterally in raising this issue with Chinese authorities and the Hong Kong special administrative region as well.
My Lords, what assessment has the Minister made of the likely impact that Beijing’s purging of pro-democracy voices in the legislature will have on the rule of law in Hong Kong? Does he share my concern about the threat to the continued independence of the judiciary, and do the Government have anything specific in mind to seek to avoid that?
My Lords, I totally concur with the noble Baroness. There has been an increasing decline, and this is the second major shift this year with the introduction of the national security law and the suspension of democratically elected legislators. She raises an important point about the independence of the judiciary. Again, the national security law raises real concerns, as under it the Chief Executive now has the right to appoint judges as well. We will continue to raise that issue and our concern with China directly.
My Lords, this is an extremely serious development and I am sure that Her Majesty’s Government are working hard with international partners to ensure that democracy and human rights—and indeed freedom of speech—are maintained in Hong Kong. I have previously raised the fact that two crucial events are coming up where China has a leading role to play. As well as the COP next year there is the equally important meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity, which China is hosting. Does my noble friend think that the prospects of these two global events are in any way endangered by these events in Hong Kong?
My Lords, China is an important partner and my noble friend is quite right to raise the two events coming up next year. We continue to work strategically and importantly on the priorities of the environment as a key issue in the lead-up to COP 26. However, events like this indeed hinder the relationship that we are seeking to build bilaterally with China.
My Lords, I declare my position as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. The noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich, referred to people buying Chinese products. That is a large part of our retail sector but of course our financial sector, the City of London, is tightly enmeshed with banks that have expressed support for the Chinese government position and are heavily involved in the Hong Kong economy. What are the Government’s plans to tackle that issue?
My Lords, as I have already said, trade with China is important, but we must do so in a manner which reflects the importance that the Government attach to human rights. The noble Baroness raises the issue of financial services. It is for companies to make key decisions, but we remain very much committed that where there is a usurping of human rights we will raise those issues, whether that is happening in Hong Kong or mainland China.
That is an interesting question for the noble Lord to put to a Minister who has served under both Prime Ministers. We live in the present, and that is where we need to focus. We have seen a systematic abuse in recent years in mainland China, whether we are talking about the Uighurs or indeed other human rights abuses, which we have often debated in your Lordships’ House. Currently, the steps that have been taken this year alone in Hong Kong illustrate a hardening of the stance and a real test of the Sino-British joint agreement. We will continue to press for that and press China to stand up for its international obligations. However, at the same time, we will continue to raise the bar against the usurping of human rights, be it in Hong Kong or indeed in China.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for the brevity of their questions and answers. All supplementary answers have been asked.
Business of the House
Motion on Standing Orders
That Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Tuesday 17 November to allow the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day and that therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 48 (Amendments on Third Reading), amendments shall not be moved on Third Reading.
United Kingdom Internal Market Bill
Order of Consideration Motion
Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Motion to Approve
Electricity (Risk-Preparedness) (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
Motion to Approve
Flags (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020
Motion to Approve
Covid-19 Lockdown: Homelessness and Rough Sleepers
Commons Urgent Question
The following Answer to an Urgent Question was given in the House of Commons on Wednesday 11 November.
“As we look ahead to the winter months, it is vital that we work together to prevent increases in homelessness and rough sleeping. The Government have set out unprecedented support on this issue, dedicating over £700 million to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone. Our work on rough sleeping has been shown not only to be world leading but to have saved hundreds of lives. We are dedicated to continuing to protect vulnerable people in this period of restrictions and through the winter months.
We used the summer to work with local authorities on individual local plans for the coming months. Last week, the Prime Minister announced the Protect programme—the next step in our ongoing, targeted support for rough sleepers. That will provide a further £15 million, ensuring that support is in place for areas that need it most and addressing the housing and health challenges for rough sleepers during this period of national restrictions. That is on top of the £10 million cold weather fund, available to all councils to provide rough sleepers with safe accommodation over the coming months. That means that all local areas will be eligible for support this winter. It builds on the success of the ongoing Everyone In campaign in September. We have successfully supported over 29,000 people, with over 10,000 people in emergency accommodation. Nearly 19,000 people have been provided with settled accommodation or move-on support. We continue to help to move people on from emergency accommodation with the Next Steps accommodation programme.
On 17 September, we announced NSAP allocations to local authorities, to pay for immediate support and to ensure that people do not return to the streets, and £91.5 million was allocated to 274 councils across England. On 29 October, we announced allocations to local partners to deliver long-term move-on accommodation. More than 3,300 new long-term homes for rough sleepers across the country have been approved, subject to due diligence, backed by more than £150 million. We are committed to tackling homelessness and firmly believe that no one should be without a roof over their head.
Throughout the pandemic, we have established an unprecedented package of support to protect renters, which remains in place. That includes legislating through the Coronavirus Act 2020 on delays as to when landlords can evict tenants and a six-month stay on possession proceedings in court. We have quickly and effectively introduced more than £9 billion of measures in 2020-21 that benefit those facing financial disruption during the current situation. The measures include increasing universal and working tax credit by £1,040 a year for 12 months and significant investment in local housing allowance of nearly £1 billion. As further support for renters this winter, we have asked bailiffs not to carry out evictions during national restrictions in England, except in the most serious of circumstances. As the pandemic evolves, we will continue working closely with local authorities, the sector and across government to support the most vulnerable from this pandemic. These measures further demonstrate our commitment to assist the most vulnerable in society.”
My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant registered interests. We are in a second pandemic, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and colder, but we have a squabbling No. 10 and a shambolic Government, with no homelessness tsar in post. Can the noble Lord tell the House why there is such a poverty of ambition to prevent homelessness and keep people off the streets this winter? Where is the noble Lord’s zeal? Where is the fire in his belly to get homelessness finally sorted out?
My Lords, families do tend to squabble a bit, but that has nothing to do with the massive ambition we have for ending rough sleeping. Some £700 million has been committed to end rough sleeping with a world-class policy, a programme in three stages, and the recent announcement of a further stage of the Protect programme. Our swift action has been praised by leading stakeholders, including Shelter, Crisis, St Mungo’s and Thames Reach. The policy speaks for itself: lives are being changed for the better and I see that my colleague, Minister Tolhurst, continues to lead in this regard, under the benign direction of the Secretary of State.
My Lords, in the spring the Everyone In scheme was a success, but post Dame Louise Casey—now the noble Baroness, Lady Casey—who is leading and taking up that role now, not at ministerial level but in Whitehall? If emergency shelters were deemed unsafe then, will the Minister confirm that they will not be used now? With so many families who rent threatened with homelessness, does the Minister agree that universal credit should cover the median rent in every part of the country, and will the Government do what they promised at the election and get on with scrapping Section 21 evictions? Finally, why are the Government only “asking” bailiffs not to carry out evictions? They have compelled so many on so much. What is so special about the bailiffs?
My Lords, that was a succession of questions. There is no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, is a phenomenal force of nature. I watched how she took the troubled families programme and developed a fantastic resolve at all levels of government, and in the social and charitable sectors, to ensure that everyone worked together to tackle the malaise of the families who require a huge amount of support from the state—and then with the integration programme. We have really benefited from her work. However, we do see leadership from Ministers, including the Secretary of State, and a resolve to do something at all levels of government. We will build on that. As for the removal of Section 21, that is a manifesto commitment, and we will introduce legislation to deliver a better deal for renters, including repealing Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, as a priority, once the urgency of responding to this dreadful pandemic has passed. I will write to the noble Baroness on the other matters.
I do not know whether the Minister has read the Lancet report showing that the work done in the first lockdown led to a saving of 266 lives, that more than 1,000 people were prevented from ending up in hospital, and about 350 from ending up in intensive care. This is prevention. I have been working for the last 30 years to try to get successive Governments working on prevention—on stopping homelessness happening—because when people slip into homelessness, they die. I thank the Government for their efforts in the previous period, but I am also asking loads of questions. Where are the answers for this next period? More than anything, I want to know what we are going to do about stopping circa 200,000 people slipping into the treacle of homelessness because of their inability to pay their rent or mortgage.
The noble Lord makes an important point about focusing on prevention. In all areas of public policy, we want to prevent things happening in the first place. In healthcare, for example, rather than just letting the disease get worse and then responding, we want to prevent it happening in the first place. That is why the money going towards ending rough sleeping—the £700 million that has been committed and continues to be spent—is a part of the wider package for tackling homelessness. There is an absolute resolve to deal with the issues that the noble Lord raises. We will continue to focus on prevention and also on the response to those who are on the streets.
May I gently remind noble Lords to keep their questions and answers brief? A number of noble Lords still wish to get in.
I guess it is easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise but on the critical issue of homelessness this Government, and specifically the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, together with my noble friend the Minister, ought to be congratulated. As has been said, early in the pandemic they launched the Everyone In project, backed up with £700 million. In addition, the recent announcement of the Protect programme, with a further £15 million, will ensure that councils can offer everyone sleeping rough somewhere safe to go. However, does my noble friend agree that it would be reprehensible if any council used that funding for people who are not sleeping rough?
My Lords, it is important to focus the money designed for rough sleeping on rough sleeping—that is its intended purpose—but it is also important to deal with the wider issue of homelessness. I would point out that the Government have given £6.4 billion to local councils to support their communities through the pandemic.
The Salvation Army has an innovative project for short-term housing solutions by using “meanwhile use” land to provide high-quality modular homes rooted in church communities and supported by wider community groups. This gives the residents the provision of a flat and the relational support of the community. What consideration have Her Majesty’s Government given to the Salvation Army’s innovative approach to homelessness and similar projects?
My Lords, we have almost a repeat scenario of the situation we discussed earlier this month relating to free school meals. A very good government initiative earlier in the year—Everyone In—was widely praised, but now it is no longer in that form the responsibility is being passed, through the funding agreements that have been mentioned, to local authorities. That is the answer we got about free school meals. But, as we see in this morning’s press, local councils are facing widespread financial failures and are terrifically strapped for cash. A previous question supposed that the money had to be hypothecated for people suffering from homelessness and rough sleeping—but local councils have so many priorities that will match that. This will be another postcode lottery, if we are not careful. Why can the Government not have another Marcus Rashford moment, and do a U-turn? This month of lockdown is already under way, and the Question is about this month.
My Lords, I was, unfortunately, a local council leader during a previous Administration under the leadership of Gordon Brown, when there was no Government more focused on ring-fencing every fund. My point was that if a fund is specifically for rough sleepers, it is right and proper that it be targeted on those who are sleeping rough. Most of the money that we are providing—the £6.4 billion—is non-ring-fenced money for local councils to put where their local communities need it most.
My Lords, there is a story in Sikhism about the young Guru Nanak spending money given to him for investment on food and blankets for the homeless who were shivering in the winter sun. This led to free dining areas in all the gurdwaras. Does the Minister agree that such facilities, underused in the current pandemic and common to all our different places of worship, can be a valuable resource to help the homeless on today’s streets?
My Lords, the time allocated for this Question has elapsed. Rather than adjourn the House, if we can just take a minute to move round, I shall move straight into introducing the Fisheries Bill business.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the hybrid proceedings will now resume. If the capacity of the Chamber is exceeded, I will immediately adjourn the House.
We now come to consideration of Commons amendments to the Fisheries Bill. These proceedings will follow guidance issued by the Procedures and Privileges Committee. When there are counter-propositions, any Member in the Chamber may speak, subject to the usual seating arrangements and capacity of the Chamber. Any Member intending to do so should email the clerk or indicate when asked. Members not intending to speak on a group should make room for Members who do. All speakers will be called by the Chair.
Short questions of elucidation after the Minister’s response are permitted but discouraged. A Member wishing to ask such a question, including Members in the Chamber, must email the clerk. The groupings are binding. Leave should be given to withdraw.
When putting the Question, I will collect the voices in the Chamber only. Where there is no counter-proposition, the Minister’s Motion may not be opposed. If a Member speaking remotely intends to trigger a Division, they should make this clear when speaking on the group. Lords following proceedings remotely but not speaking may submit their voice, content or not content, to the collection of the voices by emailing the clerk during the debate. Members cannot vote by email. The way in which to vote will be on a remote voting system through the Peers’ hub. We will now begin.
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Motion on Amendment 1
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 12, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—
“(2) The “sustainability objective” is that—
(a) fish and aquaculture activities are—
(i) environmentally sustainable in the long term, and
(ii) managed so as to achieve economic, social and employment benefits and contribute to the availability of food supplies, and
(b) the fishing capacity of fleets is such that fleets are economically viable but do not overexploit marine stocks.”
My Lords, the Government recognise the intent of this House in focusing its attention on environmental sustainability. The Bill recognises the complexity and challenges of fisheries management and sets a framework that ensures that sustained environmental progress goes hand in hand with social and economic considerations. I should highlight some actions that Defra is undertaking that focus on environmental sustainability.
The Marine Management Organisation has issued a call for evidence on fisheries management measures for five marine protected areas to be implemented next year. Industry recognises the importance of sustainability and wants to work in partnership, as shown when it raised concerns about a scallop fishery on the Dogger Bank. Following constructive discussions with all four Administrations, the area was closed to conduct scientific surveys and provide increased protection to the stock in the area. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations stated that
“without a functioning ecosystem and policies which limit fishing to safe levels, there will be no fishing industry.”
The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation said that,
“it is simply bad business sense to ‘bankrupt’ fish stocks—a healthy marine environment is the cornerstone of the UK’s fishing future.”
We have previously discussed the Bill’s fisheries management plans. They are an important demonstration of the Government’s commitment to improving the marine environment. There are clear obligations for consultation, reporting and review of the plans, providing opportunities to hold the Government to account. We are already working with the shellfish industry advisory group to support its initiative to develop management plans for crabs, lobster and whelks. These valuable stocks currently have little management, so it is right that we prioritise these plans.
I will now address specific elements of Motion 1A. Lawyers advise me that removing “in the long term” would introduce significant uncertainty and hence legal risk to our policy development. Any fisheries management policy or measure could be challenged if there was potential for it to affect environmental sustainability. There are inevitable short-term impacts from development of aquaculture systems or port infrastructure that are managed through the planning and licensing process. The amendment could potentially prevent any further development to support coastal regeneration. We are clear, too, that to ensure long-term sustainability we must make progress in the short term. That is why in my prelude to my remarks on the amendments in the group I set out some of the work currently under way.
Turning to Amendment 1B, the United Kingdom has a well-established vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 require the Government and the devolved Administrations to produce a UK marine strategy for our seas to achieve good environmental status. This is a transparent, evidence-based process, drawing in the best available science on the condition of our marine environment. The Bill’s fisheries objectives link to the Marine Strategy Regulations.
Clause 2(1)(c) requires fisheries policy authorities to explain
“how the fisheries objectives have been interpreted and proportionately applied in formulating the policies and proposals”
as part of the joint fisheries statement. This explanation will, of course, rely on scientific evidence. The statement will include an explanation of how the fisheries policy authorities have sought to balance the individual components of the fisheries objectives, including the three elements of the sustainability objective, and the reasons for the fisheries policy authorities believing that the approach outlined in the statement represents the most appropriate way of meeting the sustainability objective, alongside the other objectives. I should also say that six of the eight objectives are environmentally focused, all of which will help deliver sustainable fisheries.
The joint fisheries statement will be subject to public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, report its progress every three years and be reviewed at least every six years. This means that the statement on the proportionate application of fisheries objectives will be reviewed at these points too, with the necessary public consultation and scrutiny. This provides future accountability beyond this Government. Future policy development will be a collaborative and transparent process. Fisheries management plans will also be subject to public consultation. I hope that noble Lords, and particularly my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, will accept that I absolutely understand what they seek to achieve. We all share the overriding objective of a vibrant marine environment.
Amendments 3 and 4 deal with the removal of the national landing requirement clause and the quota for new entrants and the under-10s respectively. The Government recognise the strength of feeling across both Houses in ensuring that the UK benefits from fish caught in its waters, and that quota is distributed fairly. Last month, consultations were launched on both matters. The economic link and quota allocation to industry are devolved matters, and while the Government engage with their devolved counterparts on policy across the UK, I will necessarily focus on what we are doing in England at this point.
The key features of our proposals in our consultation on strengthening the economic link are to set a landing requirement of at least 70%, and for vessel owners to make up any shortfall in reaching that percentage of landings through quota donations. Quota donations are part of the existing economic link and they benefit the inshore fleet. This strikes a good balance where higher levels of landings will benefit UK ports and the wider economy, while ensuring that in most cases businesses can continue to operate using existing models.
The Government also consulted on future quota allocation and management in England in October. We sought views on whether a reserve of quota for new entrants should be established and how this could work. We will be working with industry in 2021 and beyond to develop jointly and implement solutions to this important issue.
Lack of quota is not the only challenge holding back new entrants into this industry. The Government are also working with Seafish and a range of training partners to offer apprenticeships across the UK on a range of subjects.
The consultation also sought views on how we should fairly allocate additional quota between sector and non-sector pools. The non-sector pools include under-10-metre vessels. The consultation sought broader views on quota management in future, and it sought expressions of interest for piloting community quota management schemes. Defra officials had a number of constructive and positive conversations with various members of the under-10-metre fleet about these initiatives.
Amendment 14 removed Clause 48 on remote electronic monitoring in UK waters, and Amendments 14A and 14B would reinstate that clause, made specific to English waters and vessels. I recognise the importance that your Lordships, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, place on the benefits that REM can deliver and the need to make progress in expanding its use. I also welcome his helpful submission of evidence on behalf of the EU Environment Sub-Committee.
Monitoring and enforcement is devolved and the noble Lord’s amendments recognise this, but the fact that the previous clause removed by the Commons overstepped devolution was not our only concern, as has been made clear in both Houses. The noble Lord’s amendments would restrict us to specific management measures on a particular timescale. Existing powers in the Bill will allow us to implement REM, but with the flexibility to develop tailored management approaches. Our view it that a one-size-fits-all approach would be a return to the inflexibility of the common fisheries policy.
REM has benefits. Existing studies have shown that it can be an effective enforcement tool, but we agree that it can be used to build a better scientific evidence base as well. The Government also agree with those who have successfully rolled out remote electronic monitoring elsewhere that it is much better to do it with the industry, rather than to the industry.
That is why, on 19 October, Defra launched a call for evidence on expanding the use of remote electronic monitoring in English waters. This action has been welcomed by many environmental groups, including the Marine Conservation Society. The discussions on the call for evidence have shown a wide range of views. The evidence we gather will help us design the detailed options for expanding REM in the right way. In the first half of next year, we aim to have launched a consultation on these detailed options for rolling out increased use of REM. Defra will also work closely with all nations of the United Kingdom to develop a coherent approach to REM, while fully respecting the devolution settlements.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who I know wants to make progress on this—we all do—will accept the Government’s intentions and current work. This is about how we take this matter forward.
The Government have made clear commitments to exploring issues raised in your Lordships’ House with industry and other stakeholders through consultations and calls for evidence. Defra is already taking important action to improve the marine environment, which I very much hope noble Lords will welcome. With those remarks, I beg to move.
Motion 1A (as an amendment to Amendment 1)
My Lords, I beg to move Motion 1A standing in my name. I draw attention to my environmental interests, as declared in the register. I am also a member of the Marine Conservation Society.
We are very nearly here with this important legislation. First, I offer my sincere thanks to my noble friend, who is the epitome of patience and understanding. I am sorry for all the extra work I have caused him and his hard-working officials. I also thank the Secretary of State and Fisheries Minister in the other place for the various discussions we have had. I have not had so much interaction with Ministers since I was the Deputy Chief Whip there, and that was normally telling them that they had to stay for votes.
My amendment is very simple, which noble Lords might expect from someone who is best described as a “bear of very little brain”. I simply want to remove the rather vague “in the long term” from sustainability. My fears are perhaps unfounded, and my noble friend has done his best to reassure me that the Bill will offer jam tomorrow, if it does not today, but I believe that we should be putting sustainability at the immediate heart of our fishing policy.
But why is “in the long term” included? What does it actually mean? I remember, when I was in retail, always being confused by the term “lifetime guarantee”. Does it mean the lifetime of the purchaser or of the product so guaranteed? Either way, it is a pretty meaningless phrase. So when does “short term” finish and “mid term” kick in? More importantly, when does “long term” mean? When should we expect—next year, the next five years or, more worryingly, next century? I feel this is a pretty meaningless term, so why not just ditch it?
One of the reasons we have heard is that not having “in the long term” in could threaten port developments. I understand that might be a consideration but, not being a great fisheries expert, I would not have thought that ports would affect fisheries, as they are not close. They might affect shellfish or nearshore fisheries, but not the deep-sea fisheries that we are talking about.
Fish are not visible; perhaps, if they were above the seas, we would appreciate their vulnerability much more. Think about bison on the great plains of North America; there were so many in the 19th century, but they had almost gone within a few decades. Passenger pigeons present an even more poignant example of extinction by overhunting. In today’s world, we are all aware of the dwindling numbers of insects, which is very worrying. But let us not fool ourselves: it has already happened with fish. Speak to the Newfoundlanders, who lost their cod and their livelihoods. We cannot continue to overfish the oceans and, if we still want to maintain our harvest of this valuable food source, we must act and must act straightaway.
I was disappointed to learn that my simple thought unleashes legal arguments far beyond my understanding. Call me psychic, but I get the feeling that my amendment will not be accepted. I am at heart a pragmatist, not a dogmatist, so I therefore ask my noble friend for an assurance, at least, that the current situation, which often prioritises short-term economic impacts when deciding quota limits, will be addressed and that fishing authorities will give due regard to long-term environmental impacts when making decisions.
Perhaps, for those cases where quota allocations are set above scientifically recommended sustainable levels—which happens year after year for certain stocks at the annual negotiations—this could be achieved by giving the public detail setting out the decision-making process and how long-term environmental sustainability of the stock was taken into consideration when making the decision. One of the issues around the annual quota-setting process is the lack of transparency about how decisions are reached. We urgently need accountability around the decision-making process and why the Secretary of State has agreed to overfish a particular stock, if he or she has.
This has been a steep learning curve for me, which I perhaps should have started on some time ago, but I am always keen to learn. I wait to hear my noble friend’s reply to my points. I am also acutely aware that this Chamber is appointed and not elected, and I do not want to embark on something that will unreasonably delay the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who explained the purpose of his amendment so clearly. I can be brief on Motion 1B, because I believe—and I will come back to this—that the Minister agreed to the point of the amendment in his opening speech. The rationale of my amendment, like that of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is to ensure that the Bill places primacy on the environmental sustainability of fish stocks and the marine environment.
My amendment explicitly put environmental sustainability as the primary fisheries objective when I tabled it on Report. It was rejected by the Government because, it was argued, sustainability is a three-legged stool. It is about the environment, but it is also about the economy—the livelihood of fishers—and communities. I accept that sustainability is a three-legged stool. Amendment 1B asks how the three legs will be balanced against one another. Like the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, I wish to see transparency in how these calculations are done. As he said, we must avoid making the same mistakes that we have made in the past. We do not need to repeat the arguments that we have heard many times during the passage of this Bill, that many fish stocks, not only in European and UK waters but in other waters around the world, are heavily overfished because short-term gain has always been put ahead of sustainability—the livelihoods of fishers today put ahead of the lives of the fish tomorrow. I am asking the Government to show us their workings. If they are going to balance these three elements of the stool, they must show us how. How have the joint fisheries statements balanced the three legs of sustainability, along with the other fisheries objectives?
In his opening remarks, the Minister answered this. I listened very carefully and wrote down what he said, which was that the joint fisheries statement will include an explanation of how the fisheries policy authorities have sought to balance the individual components of the fisheries objectives, including, importantly, the three elements of the sustainability objective, which is exactly what my amendment was asking for. Furthermore, he said that the fisheries authorities would also give the reasons why their balancing of these different elements of the objectives, including the sustainability objective, is the most appropriate way of meeting the sustainability objective. If the joint fisheries statements follow the indication that the Minister has given, we will end up with transparency, we will all understand the workings and we will understand that if sacrifices are being made in the short term to the marine environment on behalf of the livelihoods of fishers and their communities, we will at least know that this has happened, and why it has happened, which will be a significant step forward.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, I pay tribute to the Minister, his officials and the Secretary of State in the other place, for their very patient listening. I too have been a thorn in the side of the Minister and his officials. I apologise, but through these prolonged discussions over many months, we have improved the Bill and the surrounding commentary from the Minister at various stages. In thanking him, and in speaking to my amendment, I also support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. No doubt when we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I shall support his amendment. I had the great privilege of serving under his chairmanship on the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, where we spent many hours cogitating and hearing evidence on remote electronic monitoring.
My Lords, I remind the House of my interest, as chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. I will speak to Amendments 14A and 14B in my name, but I shall first refer to some of the other amendments. It is excellent to follow the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to whom I give all credit for his persistence in ensuring that this matter around objectives is not allowed to rest. I hope the Minister will give the noble Lord the assurances that he needs.
I will not go on about it after this, but I must say that the Government have made it quite clear that this Bill is the first time for 40 years or more that we have been able to have our own fisheries legislation—fundamental primary legislation—in this House and in the other place. There are good things in it, and I am delighted that the Government brought it forward, but they should have had more courage to make it, in the Prime Minister’s words, a world-beating and ambitious Bill, rather than one that takes us half way to the destinations we need to reach. I give it credit for where it has got us, but it could have gone further, which is why I am disappointed that the four amendments that this House sent to the other place were effectively rejected.
Regarding the ordering of the objectives of fisheries plans and management, by giving all those objectives equal status, there are a number of escape clauses to avoid the difficult decisions with the fisheries industry around setting tax and quotas. I suspect that we will not have a fundamental fisheries Bill for many years now, so these escape routes will cover future Governments as well as this one. Whatever reassurances we have now, we cannot be certain that they will be carried forward by future Secretaries of State or Governments. That is why I am so sad that we are repeating the mistakes of the common fisheries policy. However, I will move on, and if the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, is happy with the Minister’s response, I give it full credit.
I thank the Minister for mentioning the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation. From what he says, I suspect that he has been in contact with it. It is great at promoting not only fishing activity but the whole supply chain and the excellent provenance of Cornish fresh fish products.
Going through a couple of those other amendments that we have not talked about so much and do not have counterproposals for, I recognise that the Government are moving ahead on the obligations regarding the proportion of fish landed, which I take positively. However, on the redistribution of quotas, I still want to understand from the Government, given the large foreign ownership of those stocks effectively through British companies, how the Government will resolve those issues and ensure that British fishers will still be the main beneficiaries of that extra quota, which comes from greater control over our EEZ, and not foreign owners of British companies. Will the National Security and Investment Bill, newly introduced in the other place, be a method by which we protect this resource for British fishers? Is that an intention of this Government? It deserves that level of interest, given the potential application of the legislation. Otherwise, we gain the EEZ, we go through difficult negotiations with the EU, and then we give it all away again. How do we ensure that we do not do that?
Coming to my own amendments on remote electronic monitoring, I very much welcome the Government having quickly put out a call for evidence. This will lead to a consultation, and I am also pleased that the Government have given a timetable for that, although it is not until next year, and clearly, even though we are almost into next year, the evidence has yet to come in.
I am slightly disappointed that there is still quite a bit of caution. Clearly, we have to take notice of the evidence that comes in to that call, but there seems still to be no understanding that REM is the way forward. It is the only technology to gain the right data and ensure that enforcement is effective. Sure, some of that might change, but it will change through the software and the way that information is used or processed; it will not be the technology itself—the technology will just get cheaper and easier to use.
I put down an amendment that I thought would absolutely fulfil the Minister’s needs. I am a huge believer in devolution, as are these Benches, and so mine is an English proposition rather than a United Kingdom one. I rather expected the Minister to thank me and accept it. Clearly, that is not going to be the case, and so I have considered my position—I have not quite warned the Deputy Speakers that I might call a vote, but there we are.
I hear what the Government have said and I welcome that we have started to move down the road of the REM process. However, I ask the Minister to use seriously his influence—I know that the Secretary of State is generally positive in this area—to make this big step. It is a route to greater sustainability; it is a route to ensure honest fishers do not suffer from those who are not so honest in the industry. It means a level playing field and honesty on the high seas—something that is difficult to enforce at the moment.
I still push for my amendment. However, I would be interested to hear from the Government on these other issues.
My Lords, I wish to address the Government’s amendment to Clause 1 and the amendment of noble Lord, Lord Randall. The Government have proposed replacing subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 with a single subsection. To understand the implications, one must look carefully at the deletions. Subsection (3), which the Government would delete, states that the sustainability objective is the prime fisheries objective. It is reasonable to infer that the removal of this is tantamount to its negation. If sustainability is not the prime objective of fish stock management, it is logical to infer that the depletion of fish stocks would be regarded as a tolerable outcome if their preservation would stand in the way of the realisation of more favoured objectives.
One does not have to look far to discover what these objectives might be. The Government have encouraged an expectation that Brexit will result in a bonanza for British fishermen. They are keen to avoid an immediate disappointment of this expectation by restraining the fishermen. Fish are not vital to the UK economy. The incentive to conserve them is liable to be overshadowed in the short run by the desire of the Government to appease UK fishermen and supporters of Brexit in general.
That this is the immediate objective is confirmed by another deletion from subsection 2(a)—the deletion to which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Randall, draws attention. The original clause declared the intention to avoid compromising environmental sustainability either in the short term or in the long term. The Government now propose to do this only in the long term. This invites the danger that, in the long term, there would be little left to sustain. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, has proposed that the remaining qualification, which refers to the long run, should also be deleted, so that the objective of environmental sustainability can be asserted unequivocally. I believe this to be his intention and I support his Motion strongly.
Thankfully, there are other passages in the confused text of this Bill that might give us greater hope for the survivability of fish stocks than the Government’s proposed version of subsection (2) of Clause 1. Clause 1(3)(b) asserts the objective of exploiting the marine stocks in such a way as to maintain the populations of harvested species above the biomass levels capable of producing the maximum sustainable yield. Notice that this is not an injunction to fish at the maximum sustainable yield—which would imperil the fish stocks—but to fish at a lesser rate, which would allow stocks to regenerate.
I am unaware of the provenance of this clause. It must have been placed there by someone with a proper understanding of fish stock ecology. It makes good sense and I wish to commend it.
My Lords, I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute briefly on this group of amendments. I wish to speak to nothing other than Commons Amendment 3, relating to the deletion of Clause 18, which deals with the national landing requirement. I support the Government going down this path of accepting that we do not want to impose the rigidities of that formulation, and I entirely agree with what my noble friend the Minister said in introducing his amendments and speaking to that particular one.
As was said by my noble friend, and by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, this is about achieving economic benefits through economic linkage. The Government are pursuing this through their consultation. We must understand that the most important economic benefits will be derived from the new relationship we establish with the European Union and our role as an independent coastal state. We must make this happen.
I remind noble Lords—I know those present will know only too well—that we import two-thirds of the fish that we eat and we export two-thirds of the fish that we catch. The market and trading relationship that we have with our neighbours is as important as the relationship that we have around the allocation of fishing opportunities. It is said that a deal can be done: both sides are saying a deal can be done but both sides continue to say that such a deal has not yet been done in relation to fisheries. That is a sad fact, because it should be the case that a deal should be available. Some considerable time ago, the European Union accepted the proposition that there would be a move to zonal attachment rather than relative stability. It cannot deny the simple legal fact that we have now, and will have in future, sovereign control over our waters, but I think we all accept that there is a need to co-operate.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson—he understands this far better than I do—made the point that what we require for our UK fishing fleet is, in the years ahead, a reversal of the experience they have had in the last decades. Instead of the progressive reduction of capacity of the UK fishing fleet—which I think is something around 30% down over 20 years, and halved over the last 40 years—we want in the decade ahead to see the capacity of the UK fishing fleet increase, year on year. It is not simply about the allocation of additional quota, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, that could end up quota that is sold back to foreign boats.
What we want to see therefore—and what is, I think, the basis of a deal—is an acceptance on the part of the EU that there is a progressive increase in UK quota that is then made as additional quota available to UK boats at a pace realistic to their ability to increase capacity. They have been losing capacity, on average, at 2% a year, and we could maybe be more ambitious in recovering it—at perhaps 5% a year, and a 50% increase in capacity over 10 years.
It may be that this is not achievable in a straightforward deal with our European partners. But in the broader context of the relationship with the EU, such a shift and reduction in the available quota to our neighbours in the European Union is entirely negotiable, with compensation for those who lose access to quota in some of these other countries. That may be something we have to accept in the context of the deal.
However, it seems to me that one of the ideological barriers to understanding the nature of the deal that has to be struck is the proposition, constantly made by the Government, that there is no relationship between market access and quota. That is clearly not true. It was not true for the Norwegians: the European Economic Area discussions that Norway had with the European Union were about financial contributions, fishing opportunities and market access. Our deal with the European Union must include all those three aspects too. When we accept that, and the fact that we are substantial importers and consumers of fish caught by our neighbours, just as they buy from us, we then begin to realise that there must be a deal and how it might be achievable. We will then get the economic benefits through the expansion of our fishing fleet over a period of time at a sustainable rate, which, I believe, should be accepted, even by the most fervent advocates of the Brexit process—which I am not. But even those who are must accept that simply, for example, giving all the quota back to the English fishing fleet tomorrow will not suddenly create a large capacity that does not presently exist.
I shall speak in support of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I would like to say what a privilege it is to serve under his chairmanship on the EU Environment Sub-Committee.
I have spoken at every stage of this Bill about the benefits of remote electronic monitoring, and I very much support the conclusions that we reached in the other place when I was chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. As the number one admirer of my noble friend the Minister, I believe that this amendment should be extremely helpful to him. I would like to quote what my noble friend the Duke of Montrose would have said had he been here. He feels that at the moment we are missing answers to the main questions about reasonably accurate records of stocks, and I think that this amendment serves to plug that gap. In my noble friend’s words, it
“might remove some of the resistance in the under 10m fleet”,
because we are exposing that. The amendment addresses what is missing at the moment, which is the scientific data that we need. I welcome the fact that under-10-metre vessels will be excluded and that that exclusion will apply to both UK vessels and other vessels fishing in our waters.
I want to impress on the Minister a sense of urgency in this matter. I welcome the fact that he has made a call for evidence and that we are to have a consultation in the first half of next year, but there will then be a further delay before the regulations are drafted and come into effect, and that is the missing link. Therefore, I urge the Minister to show a sense of urgency in this regard.
In regard to the quotas for under-10-metre fishing vessels, when I was MEP for Essex North and Suffolk South, the whole of the Essex coast was in my constituency. This issue is of immense concern to fishermen there and to fishermen in Filey and other parts of Yorkshire. I am sure that my noble friend will confirm that we do not need to have left the EU fisheries policy to achieve this, so, again, I hope that we can proceed rapidly to the donations and to allowing unused quotas to be used by the under-10s.
The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, always speaks with authority. If the Minister is not able to accept his amendment, I hope that he will say what vehicle he will use in this House to inform us how the three legs of the sustainability objective will be retained.
Finally, expressions such as “long term” and “shortly” always amuse me. Now, we learn from the Minister that we will hear before the summer about the regulations to bring part of these provisions into effect. Can my noble friend point to the specific part that “in the long term” will apply to? Is it the habitats directive? Which legal provision would prevent any possible future development of ports if the words “in the long term” were removed from Amendment 1? What specific legal provision can he refer to in that regard? I am struggling to understand, unless there is a specific provision in the habitats directive or other parts of what are now EU retained law in UK law.
With that, the one amendment that I would support, if he were to put it to a vote, is Amendment 14B, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that this Bill is not ambitious enough. I think that it is, and it is considerably more ambitious than it would have been if written a few years ago, as I am sure he would agree. In 10 years’ time, we might, with hindsight, say that it could have been more ambitious, but, given the current climate, I think that it is a pretty ambitious Bill.
I say that because one has to bear in mind the amount of detailed work and consultation that has gone on with the devolved Administrations. I will not point a finger at which of the devolved Administrations is not as keen on the environment as the Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Krebs, and I might be and has blocked some of the amendments that we put forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also talked about companies and business. I take a slightly different view from him on that. I welcome all investment in the fishing industry, wherever it comes from, as it is to the benefit of this country and the fishing industry. I hope that my noble friend Lord Gardiner will confirm that the taxpayer will not compensate or help English fishermen to buy back the quotas that they have sold but which the Scottish and other fishermen have not sold and who would therefore not benefit in the same way,
I join the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, in his concern that Clause 1(3) is being deleted. I listened to my noble friend’s opening speech, but I hope that he will come back to this point, because it seems to me that sustainability should remain a prime objective of the fishing industry.
On Amendment 1B, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on his persistence and, I think, his victory with the Government. He was right to highlight what my noble friend Lord Gardiner had said. Provided my noble friend confirms that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has correctly interpreted what he said, I will stick with the Government on this.
I was initially attracted by Amendment 1A, in the name of my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge, but he was wise to be pragmatic, because there are difficulties with deleting “in the long term”. However, I hope very much that in the short term we will get to where we are going.
Finally, on Amendment 14B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, the Bill allows this to be introduced. I speak with the experience of having twice been a Minister for Fisheries many moons ago. I recall that the one lesson I learned from everybody I talked to in the fishing industry then was that, if you work with the industry, you get a better and quicker result than if you impose something on it. This is perhaps one situation where I suggest to the House that that bit of advice is the way forward. I know that my noble friend is keen to get this to work, but I think that working with the industry and getting it on side will be helpful. One has only to read the press reports of the great spat that is about to happen between President Macron and the French scallop fishers. Perhaps that is why President Macron is being so difficult over the fishing negotiations: he is trying to appease the industry on the one hand while clobbering it hard with the other.
We have made progress with the Bill. It is a substantial step forward, and I hope that none of the amendments is put to a vote.
My Lords, this group of amendments seems to put all the controversial fishing amendments—as opposed to the controversial Crown dependency amendment—into one group. I ask noble Lords to forgive the length of my intervention at this stage of the Bill but it will be my only intervention today.
On Amendment 1B, I support the principles being put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. One of the most unedifying parts of the common fisheries policy is the annual December bun-fight over future quotas and fishing rights. This is a party where too many Ministers try to represent the fishers of their country against the fishers of a neighbouring country; they try to represent the fishers of today rather than the fishers of tomorrow, who unfortunately do not get a vote. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Deben, telling me once about an occasion when he was representing the UK at that year’s fisheries meeting. The Danish Fisheries Minister tried to take a long-term view of fishing opportunities; when he got home, he was promptly sacked for letting down his fishing industry. That is an example of why the common fisheries policy has sometimes been described as a tragedy of the commons —in other words, today’s fishers say to themselves, “There’s no point in me not catching all the fish I can now because if I don’t catch them while they are there, the other blighters will”.
However, all that is now finished. These are our waters that we are discussing. The other blighters cannot catch them without a licence issued by us. When we get remote electronic monitoring on to all the boats in our waters, British and EU, we will know exactly who is catching what and where and thus be able to prevent overfishing for short-term socioeconomic gain. So there is no longer any excuse for not taking a long-term sustainable approach to our fisheries.
I quite like the use of “long term”. In saying that, I am not trying to oppose the amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Randall. I understand completely what he is getting at and I totally support his motives; he does not want short-term economic gain to trump environmental gain in either the short or the long term. However, I would quite like to have “long term” somewhere in this crucial Bill-defining first clause because it seems to me that that would make it clear that we are laying down these objectives for tomorrow’s fishers rather than today’s—for our current fishers’ grand- children rather than for those fishers themselves.
Coming back to Amendment 1B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, a commitment by the Minister on the Floor of the House may suffice at this stage. However, although I may have missed this in his opening remarks, I ask that he considers in his final remarks committing to reporting on this matter more than just once after the Bill has been enacted. It would be good to know that this once-in-a-lifetime chance to embed the right principles in our fisheries legislation will be an ongoing commitment for the long term— which, as I say, is what really matters.
Turning briefly to Commons Amendment 3, I can see why, with the Brexit negotiations still ongoing, the Government did not want their hands tied by the details of our Clause 18 on the landing requirement. I can also see why they would want more flexibility—and time, perhaps—to consult on economic links. However, it is a pity, in spite of what the Minister said, that the Government did not feel that they could have replaced our Clause 18 with their own clause setting out the principles of an economic link. We have now lost all reference in the Bill to a landing requirement or an economic link; as I say, that is a pity, particularly bearing in mind the vision that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, just gave us on how our negotiations with the EU might go over the next 10 years or so.
The same thoughts apply to Commons Amendment 4, which removed our Clause 27 on holding a reserve of quota for new entrants and smaller boats. The Minister in the other place said that
“the Government agree with the intention behind the clause, but disagree with the manner in which that intention is proposed to be delivered … It is our intention to consult on using some of the additional quota that I am convinced is coming to us to provide increased fishing opportunities for under-10 metre vessels … but I am afraid, because of the drafting difficulties, I cannot support the clause.”—[Official Report, Commons, Fisheries Bill Committee, 10/9/20; col. 123.]
If the Government support the clause but not its details, why not put in something better of their own in its place? Even if consultation has to follow, this seems to be an opportunity lost. After all, such schemes have worked successfully in Denmark, on a more local scale in the Shetlands and probably in other countries as well.
The impression given by the Government’s amendment just to delete our Clause 27 is one of Executive bulldozing—that is, “We don’t disapprove of what is proposed but, rather than sitting down and working out what is needed, let’s just scrap it altogether and leave it to us, the Executive, to work something out in future without the parliamentary scrutiny that words on the face of a Bill might require”. As I said about Amendment 3, this seems like a lost opportunity to put something in the Bill, which is a pity because this Bill sets the framework for our UK fisheries for probably a whole generation.
Turning to Amendment 14B, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for bringing forward once again the question of having remote electronic monitoring, known as REM, on fishing vessels in our waters and trying to get some form of government commitment into the Bill. Having looked at fisheries several times over the years on the EU sub-committee that the noble Lord very skilfully chairs, and having heard hours—if not days—of evidence on this subject, I am convinced that REM is going to be the key element to the successful and sustainable fishing regime that we all wish to see in British waters after we regain control of our own fisheries.
As I made clear on Report, we need REM to manage all the fishing in our waters. One of the most important reasons is that we do not have the necessary fleet available to police either our new fisheries policy or the terms and conditions that will accompany the fishing licences for all boats in UK waters. Bearing in mind that some 70% of all fish currently caught in UK waters are caught by non-UK boats, the management role of REM will be really important to the equitable management of our fisheries and thus the long-term sustainability of our UK fishing industry. It is important that our own fishers realise that if we are to change the share-out of the fish in our waters, albeit gradually, we will have to accept that REM is inevitable as we cannot monitor non-UK boats without monitoring our own. The sooner we have REM, the better it will be for everyone.
In a similar vein, I acknowledge that the Scottish fishing fleet catches 64% of all UK fish landed compared to the English fleet’s mere 28%, so one might think that this compromise amendment—Amendment 14B—applies only to England and would put an unfair burden on the English fleet. It might, but then again we should note that the introduction of REM to the Scottish fleet was in fact a manifesto commitment of the SNP, so I do not believe that any disparity would last for very long.
In any case, without going into all the detail of the advantages of REM that I spoke about on Report—such as providing data for zonal attachment and avoiding choke species—I firmly believe that the large amounts of real-time data that would become available to fishers and fishing authorities as a result of the introduction of universal REM would become a hugely valuable asset to all parties, including to the fishers themselves. I am convinced that, if they try it for a few years, the fishermen will not want to go back. I realise that Amendment 14B does not go as far as universal REM but I hope that eventually we will get it on to all boats.
But, ignoring my aspirations and coming back to where we are today, I get the impression that the Government are actually quite enthusiastic about REM—I think the Minister confirmed that in his opening remarks—but they just want the room to introduce it in their own way and in their own time. I was interested to see from my notes on the passage of the earlier version of the Bill through its Committee stage in the Commons last year that the then Fisheries Minister, one George Eustice, said:
“as I made clear earlier, DEFRA has recently consulted on extending VMS requirements to UK vessels under 12 metres in length.”
VMS—video monitoring system—was the earlier acronym to describe REM. He went on to say:
“Work on this is at an advanced stage and we anticipate bringing forward the regulations next year.”
Clearly all that is now irrelevant with the collapse of that particular Bill, but I would be interested to know the difference between that consultation, which George Eustice referred to, and the call for evidence just launched. I hope that the current one includes asking both US and New Zealand authorities, for instance, what made them roll it out across their fleets, what their early impressions are and, perhaps, how they managed to impose it in the face of the inevitable reluctance of their fishers. Do not forget that, in both cases, I would be surprised if even 5% of their fish were being caught by non-national boats, so the argument for REM for their fleets would not have been half so convincing as it is for ours.
Also, given my assumption of the enthusiasm for REM by both Defra and its Ministers, I was wondering if the Minister might go as far as to echo the words of the current Secretary of State by saying, like him last year:
“we anticipate bringing forward the regulations next year.”—[Official Report, Commons, Fisheries Bill Committee, 17/12/18; col. 369.]
Perhaps that may be an ask too far.
I realise that this amendment is probably not going to change very much of itself, but it would be good to get some form of greater encouragement from the Minister that REM really matters to the Government. As I say, I am convinced that the introduction of universal REM will be the key element to a successful and sustainable UK fishing regime.
As this is probably my last intervention on the Bill, I want to say that the passing of the Bill will be a great moment in the history of UK fisheries, possibly more so than the passing of the now Agriculture Act is for UK farmers, though some might dispute that. Anyway, I am proud to have been involved in this Bill—well, both Bills actually—and to have worked with everyone from all sides of the House, particularly with the Minister, who has given so much of his time and attention to everything we have had to say.
I believe we now have a pretty good road map for our fishing future. We have the opportunity to set off in a new direction and I hope be a model to the rest of the world, where, all too often, fisheries are overfished to the detriment of the marine environment. We, the non-government Peers involved, did not get all we wanted from the Bill, and we have had to trust the Government across a range of issues in the hope that they will actually deliver. But I sincerely hope and believe that, if the Government do stick to their commitments, the way forward mapped out by the Bill will enable us to maintain a flourishing fishing industry without, most importantly, compromising the opportunities of future generations.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his extensive introduction to this group of amendments, and for his time and that of the Secretary of State and his officials in providing a briefing. He has given reasons for why amendments in this group cannot be accepted. However, I regret that I find it difficult to accept the Government’s arguments.
We spent many hours and days debating the Bill, with contributions from all sides in an effort to improve it, preserve our fishing stocks, protect the economy of our coastal communities and give our fishermen an income which will sustain them into the future. That is not an easy task but, at the end of the day, if we do not protect our fish stocks, we will have received no economic or social benefits for either the communities or the fishermen.
Fishing must be conducted in a sustainable way and the environment must be protected. We are all aware of the severe challenges faced by our coastal towns and villages during the six months from October to March each year, when the tourists and second homeowners visit less frequently, and in some areas not at all. Coastal communities that attract thousands of visitors during the spring and summer months know that it is often the sight of the fishing boats in the harbour which are the draw.
However, unless fish stocks are preserved and sustained into the future, there is a very real threat to the prosperity of these communities. A smash-and-grab approach, whereby fish are taken over and above the maximum sustainable yield for short-term economic gain, will not produce the results needed. Transparency, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has indicated, is absolutely key.
Motion 1A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, is simple: sustainability is a must for ever. Is “the long term”, in the view of the Government, three years? Is it 10 years? It must be stretching into the future. Just what does “long term” mean? It is not acceptable in 20 years’ time for our grandchildren to say, “What is cod? What does it look like? What does it taste like?” I choose this species as it is the most widely available on fish counters today and in fish and chip shops, but it could be any species—skate, hake or haddock. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, makes very pertinent points about the invisibility of fish. Despite international commitments to end overfishing by 2020, only 58% to 68% of UK fish stocks for which data is available are currently fished at sustainable levels. This means that between 32% and 42% are overfished and not sustainable.
Motion 1B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, similarly presses the need for environmental sustainability. We know from previous discussions that the Government believe that sustainability is only a third of the basis for their fishing policies, with economic and social factors being on a par—a three-legged stool. This is a false premise on which to go forward; it will not protect fish stocks. Once fish stocks have depleted there will be no economic or social benefits. Sustainability must be the overarching consideration. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, has spoken knowledgeably about the allocation of quota, and the bun-fight when it is distributed.
It is regrettable that the Commons has not sought to include and support Clause 18 for a national landing requirement. Similarly, it had rejected Clause 27, which would have ensured fishing opportunities for new entrants and boats under 10 metres. There is, therefore, little hope for those young men and women living in coastal communities who wish to make fishing their way of life. There is now no mechanism for them to plan for such a future; this is extremely short-sighted. As more mature fishermen retire, it will be essential to encourage younger people into the industry. Can the Minister say what measures the Government intend to put in place to encourage new entrants into the fishing industry?
Amendment 14B, in the name of my noble friend Lord Teverson, seeks to install remote electronic monitoring systems and cameras on all over-10-metre fishing vessels, including those fishing outside the UK EEZ. This would be phased in within the next five years after passing the Bill. His timetable is not unreasonable: he asks not for this to happen next year but for a phased implementation. The government consultation on the implementation of REM is to be welcomed. It is essential that robust and verifiable data is needed to support well-managed, accountable and sustainable fisheries. Trials of REM on UK vessels have already illustrated the benefits of this technology as a valuable monitoring tool.
So why is it so important to have this on the face of the Bill and not wait for the results of the government consultation? The NFFO policy statement is that Brexit provides an opportunity to take back control of UK fishing: control access to UK waters and ensure that UK fishermen get a fair deal on quotas; revive coastal communities, bringing immediate and long-term opportunities; and grow the UK’s industry as a world leader in sustainable fisheries management. It is not wrong—this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, it is the methods that it wishes to follow to achieve this which are flawed. On the subject of MSY, it believes that:
“Setting quotas in mixed fisheries for sustainable fisheries management … will not be helped if there is a legal requirement that elevates MSY above all other factors and an immoveable rigidity is introduced into fisheries management.”
MSY is key to sustainability of our fish stocks.
The NFFO is similarly
“against the blanket introduction of REM as this would raise a range of ethical, legal and practical questions that so far remain unaddressed”.
I am at a loss to understand what the ethical questions might be. One thing is very clear: introducing REM will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what has been caught, where and what, if anything, has been thrown back, and where the catch is landed.
The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, has supported my noble friend Lord Teverson in this eloquent amendment, as have other Peers. We wait to see what the result of the REM consultation will produce but, as my noble friend said, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I deeply regret that we have not grasped it with both hands. Yes, there would have been difficult decisions, but now is the time to make them, not put them off for another day. I support all three amendments, which are absolutely vital for the future of our fishing industry and fish stocks over the next 30 years.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his letter setting out the Government’s reasons on these amendments, and also for the very helpful meeting with the Secretary of State and advisers earlier this week. However, we remain disappointed with the Government’s response. We believe that the substance of our original amendments was sound and a constructive improvement to the Bill. Having read Hansard for the Commons considerations of our amendments, I would say that we won the arguments even if we did not win the votes.
Of course, there is a particular irony in that, from the outset, we were told that we could not amend this Bill as it was a done deal with the devolved nations that could not be unpicked, yet here we are considering 101 government amendments that have been tabled since our amendments were opposed for that very reason. We will consider the merits or otherwise of the government amendments in other groups, but I want to say something more about our amendments at this stage.
First, on sustainability, I do not think that we will ever agree on the need for environmental sustainability to be paramount. The Minister knows the strength of feeling in the House on this issue. It was not helped by the argument he originally put forward that we should welcome the arrangements because they merely replicated those in the common fisheries policy, which, as noble Lords will know, has led to depleted stocks, whereby just over half of UK fishing stocks are fished at sustainable levels. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, leaving the EU was the one opportunity to make a dynamic difference to the sustainability of our fish stocks, and it feels like the Government have failed to grasp that vision and make it a reality.
Nevertheless, I welcome the commitments in the Minister’s letter to build sustainability into the pilot schemes for the fisheries management plans and to increase protections for the marine protected areas. However, there is clearly a great deal more to be done to demonstrate environmental sustainability in action and to persuade us that there has been a break with the discredited practices of the past. This is why I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which would require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on how the economic, social and environmental objectives are being balanced by the fisheries policy authorities. We would then be in a better position to judge the Government’s real determination to deliver change on this issue and there would be the transparency that we all seek. As has been said, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has been tenacious in pursuing this issue, so I am pleased that the Minister was able to provide more detail in his opening comments on how the fisheries management plans will work and how the three-legged stool will be balanced so that we can hold local fishing communities to account for achieving all aspects of sustainability.
I also welcome the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall. He is quite right to point out that environmental sustainability should be not just a long-term objective—or, as he put it, “jam tomorrow”; it should be for the here and now, in response to the immediate crisis, rather than a distant and worthy goal. That is the point that my noble friend Lord Hanworth echoed. It seems like a simple but important amendment and I hope that the Minister will recognise the strength of the concerns raised today on this issue. Like the noble Lord, Lord Randall, I was not sure about the argument that coastal development might impact on short-term sustainability. I am sorry that the Government did not feel able to take this simple amendment on board, but I hope that the Minister was able, in his comments, to provide sufficient reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, that it will, in practice, be both a short- and long-term objective.
Moving on, I am pleased that the Government have belatedly acknowledged our case in the Lords amendments on the national landing requirement and reserved quotas. The announcement of consultations on how to split additional quota from EU negotiations, the allocation of quotas for new entrants, and additional licencing requirements for vessels to land the fish at UK ports is very welcome. I will be interested to hear the response to the pertinent question from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on how we can ensure that British fishers benefit from the additional quotas when so much of the fleet is currently foreign owned.
Of course, consultations can mean only so much, but it is a start, and it shows that the Government have listened to us and are beginning to address the decline of coastal communities, which lay at the heart of our amendments. As we said in the debates, our coastal communities have suffered for far too long from poor transport infrastructure, lack of educational opportunities, poor-quality housing and a tourism industry in decline. Landing more fish in UK ports, and providing new job opportunities at sea and in the port areas, could provide a lifeline for those communities. We will be watching the consultations with interest and making sure that the results are not left to rot in a back drawer in a department somewhere. But at least this is some progress.
Finally, the Government have of course also issued a call for evidence on the introduction of REM on boats in England. This was another issue with huge support when we debated it here in the Lords. It clearly goes hand in hand with the sustainability objective, as a number of noble Lords said. It was good to see 22 major supermarkets and seafood businesses recently support the call for sustainable fishing and robust monitoring and enforcement, including the rollout of cameras on boats. They quite rightly made the case that the current lack of monitoring was affecting their credibility as responsible UK businesses.
Again, the issue is what happens once the consultation ends. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is right to push his amendment on this issue and to flag up that we are trying to tie the hands not only of this Government but of future Administrations so that we can see the success going forward. We need timeframes and action, not just consultations on consultations. As I understand it, the devolved nations are also on board for the rollout of REM, so this is an opportunity for the UK to show leadership and determination on the issue. I hope that, when he replies, the Minister will be able to persuade us that there is a detailed game plan in place, there will not be a delay and we will indeed see the rollout of REM during 2021. I look forward to his response.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this fairly wide-ranging debate. I am particularly grateful for the kind and generous remarks that have been made.
I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that sustainability is at the heart of the Bill. I think that the work that we have all done together on the Bill shows a spirit of ambition—my noble friend Lord Caithness used the word “ambitious”. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will be satisfied that the opportunities will be as this comes into fruition. I do not think that we have missed opportunities in terms of legislative provision. The key and the test of all this is what this framework Bill will do to the marine environment, out there in the seas and oceans. That is when we all be judged—Governments, the industry—and when we will be able to see that fish stocks are recovering; indeed, that more fish stocks are recovering.
It is interesting that my noble friend Lord Randall spoke about the reference to “long term” and not wanting this, but the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, rather liked it. Our clear ongoing commitment, setting out how the fisheries objectives will be applied, is provided through Clause 2(1)(c), as I said. I repeat that this will be reviewed and updated with each iteration of the joint fisheries statement, which will be laid before Parliament and consulted on. There will be regular scrutiny of our ongoing commitment to ensure that today’s fishers’ grandchildren enjoy the benefits of a healthy and productive marine environment, with sustainable fish stocks that support a thriving fishing industry and vibrant coastal communities. I know that that is the objective of us all. I repeat: removing “in the long term” from Clause 1, as proposed by my noble friend Lord Randall, will introduce significant legal uncertainty and, we believe, hinder our policy development.
The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, asked about IVMS and REM. My understanding is that inshore vessel monitoring systems are a satellite-based monitoring system and enforcement tool that provides an accurate picture of the fishing location and activity of the under-12-metre fleet. Following public consultation in early 2019, the MMO is putting plans in place for IVMS to be rolled out to all licensed British under- 12-metre vessels operating in English waters. The date of implementation is not expected to be before late 2021. The devolved Administrations are all currently working on IVMS projects for their respective under-12-metre fleets. In comparison, REM includes integrated onboard systems of cameras, gear sensors, video storage and global positioning system units that capture comprehensive video of fishing activities. As I have highlighted, we do not want REM to be exclusively and alone an enforcement tool; we think that there are many other attributes of that system.
I know this was a point all noble Lords were concerned about, but I will flag up the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Cameron, who asked for a date for REM implementation. I particularly refer to my noble friend Lady McIntosh in saying that we are already using REM. The Government are clear that we will be consulting on increasing the use of REM in the first half of 2021, with implementation following that. I am not in a position to give a precise date today for when this will be implemented, but I can absolutely say—and I want to put this on the record—that the Government are absolutely seized of the importance of REM. Indeed, other technologies may come along in the future that will also assist us with all the things that we hope and intend that REM will do, as I have described. However, I understand and accept that everyone wants action on this; I share that feeling, as do the Fisheries Minister and the Secretary of State.
I welcome the comments of my noble friend Lord Randall and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who highlighted the importance of transparency in quota setting. I agree with them, and that is why we supported my noble friend Lord Lansley’s amendment on Report, which provided further transparency about the criteria used by setting this in the Bill. These amendments also made clear the link between the fisheries objectives and quota distribution through Clause 22. That means that the fisheries administrations will need to explain, through the joint fisheries statement, how their policies on quota allocation contribute to the achievement of the fisheries objectives. As I have said, six of the eight are environmentally focused.
The Secretary of State’s determination for UK fishing opportunities will be required to be laid before Parliament under Clause 25(2) in the version of the Bill that went to the House of Commons. This will be an additional opportunity for scrutiny not previously available under the EU system. There is still more that we need to do to achieve our ambitions for the marine environment. The Government are already taking action through our work to implement the joint fisheries statement and the fisheries management plans. The Bill will put in place the framework to make that action even stronger.
I received some questions. If there are any that I do not answer fully enough, in my opinion, I will write to noble Lords, but I hope I have answered most of them. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about foreign-owned vessels and the economic link. Foreign-owned but UK-flagged vessels will continue to be allowed to fish in UK waters. They will need to meet the economic link criteria, as all UK vessels must. In England, our consultation proposes strengthening these criteria, realising an ever-greater benefit from these boats.
The noble Lord also asked about REM. We are clear that it is a route forward, and we want to make sure that its uses can be maximised beyond enforcement, as I said. My noble friend Lord Caithness made a point that I addressed in my earlier remarks: I think we all agree that it is much better that we work with industry to get this done because that is how we will have the right arrangements to ensure that the fishing industry—this is why I quoted those remarks from Cornwall and elsewhere; it is something that we increasingly need—sees the quest for sustainability as the heart and soul of what it is doing.
My noble friend Lord Lansley referred to negotiations. As the Bill is negotiations-neutral, for me to start speculating on any deal may not be helpful to your Lordships today. Our quota consultation makes clear that we want to do something different with additional quota so that it is not distributed through FQA units. In relation to fleet capacity, currently managed by restrictive licensing and quota allocation, we believe that the fleet could catch additional quota with no need for expansion.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about the National Security and Investment Bill. I will make sure that that point is put to my colleagues, but I am afraid I am not in a position to opine on it myself. My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about buy-back. The quota consultation asked for views on different ways of distributing additional quota negotiated. This relates not to a buy-back scheme but to different ways for fishers to access quota in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, asked about the “national benefit objective” in Clause 1, which will require the fisheries administrations to set out their policies for achieving benefits for the UK from fish caught by UK boats—a clear reference to the economic link.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about port development. My understanding is that this is subject to habitats and other regulatory regimes. Plans are also subject to environmental assessment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, rightly asked about new entrants. I should have said that it is not just fishers’ grandchildren but their children whom we want to be engaged in this sustainable harvest, with excellent food coming from our waters. Helping to safeguard the industry’s future by encouraging new entrants is very important. We will look at how we can best work with industry to encourage that as part of our work to reform the fisheries management regime.
There was also a reference to the landing requirement. I have to mention carefully the helpful comments and messages that we—or other noble Lords—sent to the other place. On the point about landing requirements, we have brought forward this consultation on the proposal to increase the landing requirement to 70% to incentivise a higher level of landings into the UK and to ensure a stronger link between vessels fishing UK waters and the UK economy. This figure has been chosen because we believe it strikes the right balance between the need for a strengthened link and recognition that it is appropriate for some vessels to land their catch outside the UK, while demonstrating an economic link through quota donations. As I said, we are seeking views in our consultation on the appropriateness of the 70% figure.
I will look at Hansard, but I want to confirm, so there is no ambiguity, that I absolutely recognise the points all noble Lords have made in their amendments. It is why I set out in my opening remarks some of the action that is already being taken in the short term, as with Dogger Bank and shellfish. It is not that we want to be doing these things in years to come; we need to be doing them now, and we are doing them now. We need to work progressively so that, in our waters at least, we have a sustainable harvest with a sustainable environment, not just for the harvesting of the fish that we want to eat but for the entire ecosystem, which is clearly a key priority and responsibility of the UK Government. For those reasons, I beg to move my amendment.
My Lords, I have received no request to ask a short question of elucidation after the Minister. Does any noble Lord in the Chamber wish to contribute further? In which case, I call the noble Lord, Lord Randall.
My Lords, I would like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this wide-ranging debate and particularly those who spoke to my amendment. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and others who had a different take on what I was reading into the Government’s amendment, and I can understand there are several ways of interpreting it. I am still slightly at a loss about the point of port development, because I do not think that actually impacts decisions to set fishing quotas above sustainable levels, but I shall leave it there.
Despite my prodding the Government once or twice, I still believe they have the environment at the heart of their policies. I shall continue to ensure as best I can that that is the case, but I am an optimist, and I think we will see further measures coming forward that will encourage me. I shall continue to talk about the marine environment and fishes, but I can assure my noble friends in the Government Whips’ Office that any plans they had for me to sleep with the fishes are unfounded, as I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in my name.
Motion 1A (as an amendment to Amendment 1) withdrawn.
Motion 1B (as an amendment to Amendment 1) not moved.
Motion on Amendment 1 agreed.
Motion on Amendment 2
2: Clause 2, page 3, line 37, leave out “18 months” and insert “two years”
My Lords, as your Lordships will have seen in my letter of 3 November to all Peers, the House of Commons agreed a number of changes to the Bill. I hope my letter was helpful in setting out the reasons for those changes.
Amendment 2 extends the timeframe for the publication of the joint fisheries statement from 18 months after Royal Assent to 24 months. This change was necessary due to the delays in the passage of the Fisheries Bill, mostly, latterly, as a result of Covid-19. Had this amendment not been made, key stages of the drafting and adoption processes would have fallen within the pre-election periods for all three of the devolved legislatures, and so they requested we make this change. We believe it would not be appropriate to be making potentially new policy decisions as part of the JFS drafting process during any pre-election period.
Amendment 5 expressly allows the publication of personal data relating to funding recipients, and Amendments 66, 67 and 68 make equivalent provision in relation to the devolved Administrations’ funding powers. There should be transparency when public funds are made available. The publication of such data is in the public interest and facilitates fraud deterrence and detection. The publication of data on grant beneficiaries was raised during the development of our future funding scheme, and this amendment expressly addresses this concern.
Amendment 77 and the consequential Amendments 13 and 27 strengthen existing legislative protections for seals in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. The amendments greatly restrict the circumstances in which any intentional killing of a wild seal is lawfully permitted. We have, however, retained important exemptions: it will, for instance, still be lawful to euthanise a wild seal suffering from catastrophic injury, pain or disease.
These changes are necessary for the UK to comply with new import regulations being implemented in the United States of America. From January 2022, the United States will only allow imports of fisheries products from countries that do not allow the killing, injuring or taking of marine mammals as part of commercial fisheries. Not complying with this requirement would result in a significant loss of export revenue for the United Kingdom. In 2019, wild-capture exports to the United States were worth approximately £13.3 million.
Given the possible impact of this change on the catching sector, Defra undertook a targeted consultation in England before committing to any changes. Defra also agreed to legislate on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive, and their respective legislative regime for seals needed time to be worked through. For both these reasons, this amendment had to be introduced at a later stage in the Bill’s passage.
Both environmental non-governmental organisations and parts of industry have responded positively to this change in legislation. The Seal Research Trust said this would improve the welfare of seals. Parts of industry highlighted the potential future importance of the US market.
Amendments 98 and 100 extend specific existing exceptions from landing obligations in the north-western waters and the North Sea respectively so that they apply until 31 December 2021. Two new exemptions are also introduced relating to Norway lobster in the North Sea, replacing an existing exemption and an exemption for plaice in the North Sea that will also be implemented by the EU from January.
These exemptions are supported by scientific evidence collected by the EU’s Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, which we considered with our world-class scientists in Cefas. We have been clear that scientific evidence will underpin our future fisheries management policies. This particular science and analysis were only available after Report stage in your Lordships’ House.
The other part of Amendment 100 enables the UK to adopt its own conservation measures for North Sea cod from next year, which will apply to all vessels fishing in UK waters by revoking provisions in retained EU law.
Turning to the more minor and technical amendments agreed by the other place, Amendment 8 inserts “sea fishing” to clarify the scope of regulation-making powers under Clauses 36 and 38. Amendment 17 makes a small change to the definition of “minimum conservation reference size” to make clear that it aligns with the widely accepted approach. Amendment 28 removes the Lords privilege amendment. This is a routine procedural issue. Finally, Amendments 78 and 79 update references to two regulations that have been replaced.
The Bill has been enhanced by these changes, ensuring we have the necessary legislation in place to develop our approach to future fisheries management. I beg to move.
What a delicious irony, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said. We were told that this Bill could not be amended by ourselves due to devolution—look at all the amendments here—and now we have found out the United States can change this Bill but we cannot. It is a great irony, and interesting arguments about territoriality are coming out. What is interesting is that there is no better ammunition than this to show, if we have a trade deal with the United States, that we should not be having chlorinated chicken or the other things we talk about, given that we have had to concede on seal welfare—not that I do not welcome sea welfare.
What I welcome in particular is the transparency element that comes in. This is important for making it absolutely clear who receives grant schemes or other schemes to help the industry, as any other industry, and how those are received, so we can have a good audit of that process. I welcome that very much.
In terms of the landing in north-west waters, that is an illustration where I agree with the Government. There has to be pragmatism around how we operate the landing of fish. That is why making the detail of that in future, as we discussed in the last group, will be quite complex but essential. Do I take it from that that the exemption is for only one year? Is that exemption there only until the Government have decided what the broader landing rules are? That is my real question.
I thank the Minister for his introduction to this group of amendments and for the letter dated 3 November explaining the Commons amendments to your Lordships’ House, where the Bill started. Many of these amendments followed up on suggestions and inquiries initiated here, which the Government have had time to consider further during the Summer Recess, including in several consultations.
Once again, this House had a serious impact, delivering improvements to government legislation. These amendments provide examples of that work and could be categorised as important but may be more minor policy changes, drafting improvements and corrections.
Amendment 2 is one such amendment where, following probing, the initial provision for publication of the joint fisheries statement was set at 18 months after Royal Assent. The new proposal is to extend this to 24 months, as the noble Lord said. The pandemic and a succession of pre-election purdahs have resulted in slippages. I am glad that the Government have been able to be realistic—something it is often difficult to praise them for. However, having said that, it is frustrating that we will not get to see the outcome of that process for quite a while. Perhaps the Government will not need all the extra time that they have given themselves; we remain ever hopeful.
Amendment 5 is another example where, following debates and then amendments in the Agriculture Bill, the Government have come forward to provide explicit clarity that this extra provision does not contravene compliance with data provisions in the GDPR. We welcome this consistency and Amendment 66, regarding Scotland, Amendment 67, regarding Wales and Amendment 68, regarding Northern Ireland, which follow up with the devolved Administrations.
Amendments 13 and 27 and new Schedule 9 in Amendment 77 on the conservation of seals would strengthen protections to comply with the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, as necessary before 1 March 2021 to be able to export fish products to America. While this provision gave rise to some controversy concerning seals specifically, I, like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, pick up on the fact that to encourage exports the UK is prepared to change how it does business. However, when challenged on maintaining standards provisions on imported food in the Agriculture Bill, the Government claim that they cannot require compliance with UK provisions for imports. The shadow Secretary of State, Luke Pollard, mentioned trade from New Zealand, which does not have these added protections and from where we will continue to import product. Does the Minister see any double standard here?
He might like to dance on the head of a pin—we will enjoy that—saying that this compliance is with conservation of seals provisions, not food standards. What if there is any re-export of food products to the US? Alternatively, I recognise Monday’s conversion in the Agriculture Bill that, under CRaG amendments, it is now recognised that there will not be a non-regression of standards and the Government should no longer be peddling that line.
Amendment 17 is a further amendment of second thoughts on drafting. It would make a small change to the definition of “minimum conservation reference size” to specify individual fish in terms of their maturity size and not the size of the marine stock. We support this amendment and also support Amendment 8 in relation to sea fishing of boats. I note that Amendment 28 in this group removes financial privilege from the legislation as the Bill started in your Lordships’ House.
The remaining amendments are technical corrections and additions to Commission-delegated regulations, which will avoid further secondary orders. With those comments, we are entirely content with the amendments proposed.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Grantchester, for their welcome of these amendments.
I welcome the positivity from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the importance of transparency. It is something that the Government have picked up on in terms of recognition. I again put on the record that all we—this Government and future Governments—do needs to be transparent as we seek to reassure everyone, including your Lordships, that we want to achieve success for the marine environment.
I welcome the noble Lord’s point about pragmatism. The exemption is in place only for one year. We are reviewing our future discards policy and considering how it could be better made to fit the mixed fisheries in UK seas.
Given the time allocated, I am not sure that I want to jest about the Agriculture Bill and some of the exchanges we may have. Of course, I am bound to say that, as everyone knows, there is a considerable legislative framework behind which we are all secure in terms of import standards and requirements in relation to agricultural goods—but perhaps we might leave that for a further moment.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that we will publicly consult on the JFS next year so I am certainly not looking at needing to wait as long as might have been suggested—two years—before anyone sees it. Drafts are being shared at a high level. Again, it is important that, as we move forward on all these matters, Parliament and your Lordships’ House do the right thing. In the end, if we do not get this right, we will have failed; that is not something that any Government would wish to do with their custodianship of our seas and the opportunities that this responsibility presents to us.
With those comments and the general endorsement of the two noble Lords, I beg to move.
My Lords, I have received no requests to ask a short question. I beg your pardon. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, wishes to ask a question.
My Lords, I will not detain the House. I have a quick question that arose from a question from the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. Will extending the timeframe of the joint fisheries statement to 24 months have a knock-on effect on fisheries management plans? I just want to check with the Minister that that delay will not cause everything else to be delayed. I apologise for not asking this earlier.
My Lords, so that I do not mislead the noble Lord, I will write to him about that. Triggering work on the fisheries management plans is another stream of work; a response may come. As it has not, the easiest thing is for me to write to the noble Lord. It is an important point and I am sorry that I do not have the answer before me.
Motion on Amendment 2 agreed.
Motion on Amendments 3 to 5
3: Clause 18, page 13, line 33, leave out Clause 18
4: Clause 27, page 18, line 7, leave out Clause 27
5: Clause 35, page 24, line 15, at end insert—“(c) require the Secretary of State, or another person, to publish specified information about financial assistance given in accordance with the scheme.(4A) In subsection (4)(c) “specified” means specified by the scheme; and information that may be specified under that provision includes information about—(a) the recipient of the financial assistance;(b) the amount of the financial assistance;(c) the purpose for which the financial assistance was given.(4B) The scheme may not impose a duty to publish information where its publication would (taking the duty into account) contravene the data protection legislation (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 2018).”
Motion on Amendments 3 to 5 agreed.
Motion on Amendment 6
6: Clause 39, page 27, leave out lines 5 to 8
My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that we have worked closely with the devolved Administrations in the development of the Bill. This has led to various requests from them for additions to the Bill, many of which could otherwise have been made under their own legislation. The department’s preference is to be collaborative and constructive when working with the devolved Administrations. Given the pressure that parliamentary timetables are facing it was felt that, in this spirit of co-operation, the Government should make these changes for them. These amendments support a collaborative approach to fisheries management across the UK.
We have waited until now to make these changes as we wanted to ensure that the devolved Administrations’ legislative consent processes had been successfully completed before tabling some of these amendments. It was not until Report in the other House that all three DAs consented to the Bill, allowing for the other place to agree a package of amendments relating to the DAs. The amendments relating to the devolved Administrations’ functions can be divided into seven themes, and I shall explain what each theme does.
At the request of all three Administrations, Amendment 10 and consequential Amendments 23 and 40 will enable a sea fish licensing authority to exercise fisheries and related product movement functions on behalf of another such authority. This would facilitate arrangements for one Administration to become a single point of contact for the fishing industry, or to deliver a speedy process on behalf of the other Administrations. This could be used, for example, in relation to verifying catch certificates. Consequential Amendments 6, 15 and 16, 18 to 20, 41, 69, 71 and 75 move definitions so that they apply across the whole Bill.
Turning to technical SI extensions to foreign boats, the Scottish Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, or DAERA, requested that we extend technical fisheries management measures in some of their secondary legislation to foreign boats, as provided for in Amendment 39. Amendments 29 to 38 make consequential changes to Schedule 4 as a result of Amendment 39. These regulations help protect vulnerable stocks, for example by prohibiting the catching of undersized fish. This is in line with our policy of ensuring that any foreign boats given access to UK waters comply with restrictions that apply to UK boats. Similar provisions have been made in Schedule 2 for England and Wales statutory instruments. Noble Lords will understand the pressures of getting the statute book updated in readiness for the end of the transition period. It would have been very challenging for the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to have delivered these changes to secondary legislation themselves.
As for procedural changes, at the request of the Scottish Government, Amendment 43 and consequential Amendment 25 confirm that orders made under Section 22A of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 can be made under the negative procedure, which is not clear under the current drafting. At the request of Scottish Government lawyers, and following advice from UK Government lawyers, these changes are applied retrospectively to remove any uncertainty about the effect of existing Scottish statutory instruments.
Turning to Wales, the definition change and Senedd competence, Amendments 12 and 24 reflect a change requested by the Welsh Government to the definition of “Wales” in primary legislation, consequential on the extension of Welsh competence provided by the Bill in relation to the offshore zone. Additionally, Amendments 7 and 73 clarify that where the Senedd has legislative competence, subject to the consent of a Minister of the Crown, Welsh Ministers will also have equivalent executive competence, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State. Amendment 72 clarifies that the scope of the Welsh Ministers’ powers to make regulations under Clauses 36 and 38 is specific to sea fishing.
Regarding DAERA marine powers and other technical changes to Schedule 10, Amendment 85 and consequential Amendments 86 to 88, 90, 91 and 93 to 96 provide DAERA with the power to manage fishing activity in the Northern Ireland offshore region for the purpose of conserving the marine environment. Similar provision for England and the other devolved Administrations is in Schedule 10. At their request, we are also making minor changes to the powers of the Scottish and Welsh Ministers in Schedule 10 in government Amendments 80 to 84, 89 and 92. These include changes to the parliamentary procedure for some orders and adding time limits to emergency orders made by Scottish Ministers.
In conclusion, I am pleased that the devolved Administrations have now consented to the Bill, which is an excellent example of collaborative working. I hope noble Lords will appreciate the need for this package of amendments agreed to in the other place, which supports the alignment of fisheries management across the UK. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her introduction to this hefty group of amendments. These amendments deal with requests from the devolved Administrations, as she said. Most are consequential on four main amendments. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, I am interested in the way the devolved Administrations have amended the Bill, when during our debates in Committee and on Report we were told that there could be no amendments that might affect the devolved Administrations.
The main amendments are Amendments 10, 12, 39 and 85, alongside a raft of minor drafting amendments. Amendment 10 and the amendments consequential on it—Amendments 15 and 16, 18 to 20, 23, 40 and 41, 69, 71 and 75—provide arrangements for a sea fish licensing authority, which is the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, the Northern Ireland department and the MMO. We support these. Amendments 12 and 24 are consequential on Clause 43 and relate to the interpretation of the Welsh legislation, in both English and Welsh, and to the offshore zone, subject to the Secretary of State’s approval.
Amendment 39, which is extremely important, inserts legislation relating to several regulations affecting shellfish, scallops, sharks, skates and rays, razor clams, et cetera, in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Amendments 29 to 38 are consequential on Amendment 39. The fish and shellfish in the list in this amendment are nearly all endangered in one way or another, and it is important that there is transparency over their protection and that they are not overfished or taken undersized, as the Minister said. The list is extensive; as it is at the request of the devolved Administrations, we are happy to support these amendments, but we make the point that these fish and shellfish need to be sustainable and their stocks carefully monitored.
Amendment 85 and consequential amendments insert new powers into the Schedule for the Northern Ireland department relating to exploitation of sea fishery resources in its offshore region. This also includes consultation with the Secretary of State, the MMO, and Scottish and Welsh Ministers. Consultation has risen rapidly up the fishing agenda on a range of matters, and consultation with the devolved Administrations is essential. The sheer number of amendments we are debating today indicates that some of this can be very last minute—that is a bit of a danger. However, there are legitimate reasons for these amendments and for them being so late, so we support them, albeit at a somewhat late stage of the process.
I intend to speak quite briefly, but first, I thank the noble Baroness for her explanation of these changes. Having looked at the small, technical amendments in this group, I do not have a problem with them, but I return to the issue of devolution in the broadest sense. I raised earlier the issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, raised: because it has now been raised several times, it would be helpful if the Minister would explain why we were told that the Bill was a done deal with the devolved nations and could not be amended, when it seems, quite understandably, that negotiations have been ongoing, as evidenced obviously by the amendments before us today. It leaves a slightly sour taste because it feels as if we were slightly misled about the process that was taking place. Can she clarify that for us?
It is not surprising that the Government have continued to meet with the devolved nations, and we welcome that. But, if that were the case and it was an ongoing process, why could not some of our earlier amendments have been fed into that consultation process, considered and dealt with in that broad and positive way, rather than being blocked? I would genuinely like an answer to that, because we want to work constructively, going forward.
The other part is that what has been happening seems rather odd. Can the Minister explain what timeframes were given to the devolved nations? Were they told what the deadlines were to feed in comments and make interventions? It is not ideal for these things to come to us so late, so I would like a bit more information on what was happening in the background to all this.
Thirdly, some of the amendments are quite substantial, as we can see from the detail listed, and they have consequences for the devolved nations. In the Commons, the Minister Victoria Prentis made the point that was echoed by the noble Baroness today that this is all the product of collaborative and constructive working. Similarly to the noble Baroness, she went on to say:
“Many are amendments that the devolved Administrations could have made themselves, but given the pressures on all the parliamentary timetables in the run-up to the end of the transition period, we felt that in a spirit of co-operation we should, if possible, make these changes for them.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/10/20; col. 264.]
As the Minister has confirmed, it was decided that, for example, because the Scottish fisheries Bill has now finished all its stages, we would slip it into the UK legislation instead.
I feel a level of unease about this process. We have to be careful that our motives are not misinterpreted. It does not feel right just to look for a convenient bit of legislation, whether devolved or UK, and harness things to it. While there is nothing wrong with the clauses, and I am sure they have been through the proper scrutiny process, we need to be clear about how devolved decision-making will play out in the future and where responsibilities lie. That is particularly important for the people affected by these changes, who need to understand who is making the decisions and where to find the detail of that legislation.
I ask the Minister to confirm that this was just a one-off and is not intended to be a regular occurrence. As I say, I have a sense of unease about what has happened here. I am not going to say any more about it. I am pleased that constructive discussions are taking place, but just wanted to raise a note of caution. Perhaps the noble Baroness could respond.
My Lords, there has been much debate on the challenges posed by devolution in previous stages of the Bill, and the amendments made for the devolved Administrations in the other place demonstrate opportunities that will be open to us in the future to work positively across the four nations of the UK. I acknowledge the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, but genuinely feel that this was a timing issue. As the Fisheries Bill was introduced in this House, it gave us more time to introduce them at this stage, when it came back to us, once conversations had concluded and after it became clear that there would be no time for the devolved Administrations to pass their own legislation, and we would therefore be in a position to do so on their behalf.
I am grateful for the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and for her support. I am particularly grateful for her comments on Amendment 39. The whole intention of extending this list is for us to preserve stocks from an extensive list of species. I am glad that, through constructive and collaborative working with the devolved Administrations, we have been able to deliver a Bill that is truly for the whole UK. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have received a request to ask a short question of elucidation from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. Lord Adonis?
I have to inform the House that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is proposing to speak in Grand Committee and his request has arrived, somewhat erratically, at the wrong Chamber.
It was a moment of puzzlement for me, too. Given that, as far as I understand it, we have no other questions for the Minister, I will proceed to put the Question.
Motion on Amendment 6 agreed.
Motion on Amendments 7 and 8
7: Clause 41, page 28, line 24, after “Senedd Cymru” insert “(ignoring any requirement for the consent of a Minister of the Crown imposed under Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006)”
8: Clause 41, page 28, line 31, after “of” insert “sea fishing by”
Motion on Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.
Motion on Amendment 9
9: Clause 41, page 28, line 40, leave out from “State” to “under” in line 41 and insert “, or of any of the sea fish licensing authorities,”
My Lords, four themes of the changes made by the Government relate to the Bill’s licensing provisions. I would like to make it clear why these changes were necessary and why they were made in the other place. Before I do so, I clarify for the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, today—if that is all right with your Lordships—that fisheries management plans will not be delayed and can be brought forward before the JFS is adopted. Clause 9 specifically provides for this. I am sorry; I should know the Bill better by now, but I hope that helps.
Government Amendments 11 and 26 are necessary to ensure we comply with the provisions of the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands. That 1999 agreement provides for a special area in the UK exclusive economic zone, exclusively in Scottish waters, over which both parties exercise jurisdiction for fishery management purposes. The amendments to the Bill ensure that we can implement this treaty and meet that international agreement. They provide that Faroese-authorised foreign vessels can continue to fish in that area, which is 0.01% of the UK EEZ, without also requiring a UK licence. Were these amendments not made, we would not be able to implement the treaty, putting us in breach of our international obligations.
It was only through working on a new framework fisheries agreement with the Faroe Islands throughout this year that we were able to agree the approach to continued implementation of the 1999 treaty and to make these amendments. We have a very positive relationship with the Faroe Islands on improving the way the sea is managed and governed. International negotiations are reserved, but implementing international agreements, for example by licensing fishing boats, is a devolved matter. We have worked closely with officials and Minister Ewing in the Scottish Government, and colleagues across government, to come to an agreed approach that respects both reserved and devolved competence.
Amendments 44 to 63 introduce a contingency arrangement to issue approval for foreign fishing vessels more quickly and make a consequential wording change. The preferred approach is to issue individual licences to foreign vessels which, following negotiations, may fish in UK waters. Experience has shown that, sometimes, some annual fisheries negotiations can extend into the next fishing year. It could then take some time for the various parties to collate the information needed for the licensing process. During this time, fishing activities would be disrupted, which could cause unnecessary tensions. We do not want to exacerbate those tensions or disrupt fishing further. This is a pragmatic response to such a circumstance and has the support of the devolved Administrations.
To manage this, the other place agreed to introduce this contingency approach, which would allow approval to be issued for a list of vessels, rather than individual vessels. This approval would be faster, but time limited until individual licences can be issued.
Amendment 64 revokes legislation in England, Wales and Scotland made as a contingency in March 2019 in the absence of the Fisheries Bill and in anticipation of an earlier departure from the EU. The Northern Irish legislation has already been revoked. The Bill provides for the regulation of foreign boats fishing in UK waters if access is negotiated. All foreign vessels approved to fish in UK waters will need a UK licence. We waited until we thought we had certainty that the Bill would receive Royal Assent before the end of this year before making these amendments as its licensing regime replicates and supersedes that in the contingency SIs.
Amendment 99 and consequential Amendments 97 and 101 are clear examples of where close collaboration between the four fisheries administrations has proved invaluable in ensuring that the Bill is doing what it needs to. The amendment revokes Regulation (EU) 2017/2403 on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets, known as SMEFF. This regulation sets out part of the EU’s licensing framework. This is broadly similar to the UK’s framework for licensing so there is no need for a parallel regime such as SMEFF. I am grateful to Scottish officials for identifying the need for this change. That is why the other place agreed to revoke it.
Finally, on minor and technical amendments relating to licensing, Amendments 9, 70, 74 and 76 make minor changes to provisions that prevent powers in Clauses 36, 38, and Schedule 8 being used to modify the Bill’s licensing functions. Amendment 65 clarifies licensing transitional provisions. Two amendments were also made at the request of the Crown dependencies to Schedule 4, which deals with minor and consequential licensing amendments.
These are the changes that have been needed to the Bill’s licensing provisions and why they were brought forward in the other place. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister, because I had never heard of this 1999 treaty before. It is quite important because we are in the ratification process of a UK-Faroes fisheries agreement. I will raise one or two things about this which perhaps the Minister can explain to me.
Commons Amendment 11 is very strict. It says:
“No prohibition, restriction or obligation relating to sea fishing imposed by any enactment applies to … anything done or not done by or in relation to a foreign fishing boat”
that is a Faroe Islands-regulated vessel. Given that this is our EEZ, that seems to take away completely our rights to inspect or apply any regulation whatever to Faroes vessels fishing within our EEZ within this special zone. That seems a very asymmetric agreement or condition, given that our own vessels presumably still have to do that. Having read the treaty very quickly, Article IV says that we have no rights of inspection whatever. I am sure that the Government have this worked out but I would like to be reassured that we have some way of making sure that this area is responsibly fished. Occasionally, we have our disagreements with the Faroes. We generally have a good relationship with the Faroes, and obviously with Denmark as the ultimate sovereign nation. However, a couple of years ago we had a strong dispute over fisheries there regarding a particular species, so there are examples of the Faroes and us falling out. I would appreciate the Minister’s explanation of that.
I wished to bring up one other matter but I will leave it at that. That is my key issue on this area and I hope that the Minister will be able to help me.
I thank the Minister for his introduction to this group of amendments and for his explanations. I am also grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. This group relates mainly to the carve-out for the Faroe Islands temporary foreign vessel licences and other minor technical provisions. Amendments 9, 70, 74 and 76 are technical and replace references to the devolved Ministers in Clause 41 with “sea fish licensing authorities” instead.
Amendment 11 and the consequential Amendment 26 update compliance with the 1999 treaty with Denmark and enable the Scottish Government to manage this shared area and issue licences to permitted foreign vessels as the Faroes, while in the UK’s exclusive economic zone, are exclusively in Scottish waters. I am not sure that there should be the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, envisages, but I await the Minister’s reply.
Amendment 44 and the bulk of the amendments in the sequence in the middle of this group concern the definition of “temporary foreign vessel licence” and how this will apply on a contingent basis when the UK becomes an independent coastal state with an agreement with the EU concerning the UK’s exclusive economic zone and licensing arrangements. Necessarily, this could take some time—meanwhile, fishers need to be able to continue activities. I agree that the flexibility this provides is commendable. In the Commons, the shadow Secretary of State Luke Pollard asked whether secondary legislation would need amendment to specify these arrangements. The Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis said that she would need to check this position. Will the Minister be able to confirm today that this has indeed been done and that no further orders are required?
The point of these provisions is made on the assumption that the UK will be able to negotiate a continuing relationship with the EU after 31 December this year. That is not that far in front of us. Many of us are beginning to count down the remaining parliamentary sitting days, during which timetable the various relevant trade treaties will need to be examined and approved by Parliament. On an earlier amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, spoke on the likely outcome of the way forward in relation to the landing requirement. The Minister replied that the Bill is neutral on any outcome of negotiation. I will not pursue this any further, as I sympathise with him when he says that any comment from him may not be helpful at this stage.
The remaining amendments are technical, tidying up various provisions. For example, Amendment 64 concerns the timing of differing legislation at different times of the tortuous Brexit debates. Amendments 21 and 42 concern provisions in Schedule 4 regarding the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and the extent of Section 2 of the Fishery Limits Act, as the Crown dependencies did not confirm their approach until the beginning of August. I am very glad that this bit was achieved with them. The remaining amendments tidy up retained direct EU legislation. This and all the amendments in this group are agreed.
We will all look forward to the necessary announcements on the conclusion of successful negotiations with the EU. I contend that they should now become easier following the amendments to the Agriculture Bill to secure a non-regression of standards so necessary to the attainment of a level playing field with Europe.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Grantchester. We are into a technical range of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about the Faroe Islands. While the 1999 treaty permits either party to license foreign vessels to fish in this small section of shared sea, it does not mean that there are no rules. Many of the licence conditions will be similar for either party issuing a licence. The UK will still exercise standard control and enforcement. The 1999 treaty also includes a commitment by both parties to co-operate on marine protection measures which further preserve this area.
Considerable work has been done. Certain discussions could obviously be undertaken only once we had left the EU, so negotiations with the Faroe Islands Administration have been taking place this year. I reassure your Lordships that in no way does this mean that there is not proper responsible control. As I said in my opening remarks, we are working with the Faroe Islands because both countries share an ambition for strong governance and custodianship of what is a very small but very important part of our UK EEZ. We should be consistent throughout.
I will look at any further points, but I am not going to embark on any commentary on negotiations and standards. This has been well and truly aired. Standards are supreme.