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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Thursday 10 September 2020

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Steve McCabe, Sir Charles Walker

† Bonnar, Steven (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)

† Bowie, Andrew (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Coutinho, Claire (East Surrey) (Con)

† Duffield, Rosie (Canterbury) (Lab)

† Fletcher, Katherine (South Ribble) (Con)

† Goodwill, Mr Robert (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)

† Jones, Fay (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)

† Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† O'Hara, Brendan (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

† Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)

† Pollard, Luke (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)

† Prentis, Victoria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

† Smith, Cat (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)

† Wild, James (North West Norfolk) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Redcar) (Con)

Rob Page, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 10 September 2020

(Morning)

[Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

Morning. Before we begin, I will make the usual preliminary points. I ask hon. Members to respect the social distancing guidance and to switch to silent—or switch off—their phones and electronic devices. I remind Members that Mr Speaker does not allow tea or coffee to be consumed in Committee. If possible, please email your speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk for our Hansard colleagues.

We will have a short procedural motion this morning, which I hope will be very straightforward, to allow the publication of written evidence—copies are available if Members want them.

On a point of order, Mr McCabe, a few people have contacted me to inquire about why they cannot watch proceedings, because no visuals are being broadcast. I know that with social distancing, there is a good reason, but for the benefit of those who are listening but not watching, could you explain why they are getting an audio feed alone, rather than a visual feed?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. Obviously, given that we have such a telegenic cast, it is a severe blow to me as well. The answer—as you rightly point out, Mr Pollard—is that we are in a slightly larger room because of the social distancing rules, and the room does not have camera facilities. It is that straightforward.

Resolved,

That subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Victoria Prentis.)

We now move to line by line consideration of the Bill. As usual, the selection list for the sitting is available in the room. Amendments on similar issues are generally grouped. Please note that decisions on amendments do not necessarily take place in the order that they are debated, but in the order in which they appear on the amendment paper. Decisions on each amendment are taken when we come to the clause that the amendment affects.

Clause 12

Access to British fisheries by foreign fishing boats

I beg to move amendment 80, in clause 12, page 11, line 5, at end insert—

“(3A) The master, the owner and the charterer (if any) are not each guilty of an offence if a fishing boat contravenes subsection (1) or (2) as a result of—

(a) danger to life or property, or

(b) any other reason prescribed by the Secretary of State in regulations.”

This amendment makes clear that a foreign fishing boat is not committing an offence if it enters or remains in British waters due to conditions presenting a danger to life or property.

This is a probing amendment. I want fisheries to be sustainable, as we discussed on Tuesday, but I also want them to be safe for British fishers, foreign fishers and all those in our waters. We have tabled the amendment to hear from the Minister what would happen in scenarios in which a foreign fishing boat is in trouble near our waters, and the only way for them seek help or to address their concerns is to enter our waters, where they may not normally have a licence to operate.

I hope that the Minister will say that under our international commitments to safety on the high seas, those boats would receive aid and, because of the close working relationship that I hope we will have with our European neighbours, we will be able to co-ordinate rescue efforts if required, and so the authorities will not need to prosecute in those circumstances. Furthermore—as the Minister will know from her legal past—should any prosecution take place for such a scenario, which I doubt it would, the public interest test to evaluate whether there were a case would probably not be passed if the vessel were genuinely seeking help.

Moreover, the Bill must specify that if a foreign fishing vessel enters UK fishing waters for the purpose of fishing, but erroneously claims that it is because they are in distress, they would be committing an offence in that circumstance as they would not have a licence to operate in our waters, and could face prosecution. This is a probing amendment, tabled mainly to enable the Minister to clarify that scenario on the record.

It is nice to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr McCabe. It is always a pleasure to set out this situation, which already exists under the law in this important area. We all agree that the safety of fishermen and seafarers is critical. The amendment is not necessary, as the hon. Gentleman possibly surmised.

The Merchant Shipping Act 1995 already contains special provisions for vessels in distress, allowing any UK or foreign vessel that is wrecked, stranded or in distress in any place on or near the coast of the UK, or in any tidal water within UK waters, to receive assistance, quite rightly. Articles 17 and 18 of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea allow the right of innocent passage, applying to all ships of all states in territorial seas, an exclusive economic zone or the median line. For example, in poor weather, foreign vessels can stop fishing and shelter behind a headland to escape the worst of the storm. I understand from the Marine Management Organisation that that happens fairly often, particularly in the east and south-west.

Vessels are allowed safe navigation and passage, and we already allow shelter in our waters and ports so that foreign vessel owners can deal with, for example, injuries, repairs to their vessels, replenishing their provisions or refuelling. Foreign vessels can also safely transit through our waters to reach more distant fishing grounds. None of that will change. Any further exceptions will be agreed in international arrangements and set out in vessel licensing conditions. This is already provided for in subsection (1) of the clause, so I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

I am grateful for the Minister’s clarifying that situation, and on the basis of that clarity, I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Regulation of foreign fishing boats

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This clause introduces schedule 2, which extends to foreign vessels a wide range of secondary legislation made by the UK Government and, at their request, Welsh Ministers and the Northern Irish Department. It will make it clear that foreign fishing boats are bound by the same regulations as UK fishing boats. Under the common fisheries policy, the UK was prevented in most cases from applying its local rules to vessels from other EU member states. The clause and schedule 2 seek to rectify that, ensuring a fairer approach to foreign vessels that—subject to negotiations, of course—are granted access to fish in UK waters.

The set of amendments to the clause and the schedule relate an awful lot to the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989. There will be some concern, after only a cursory glance at the amendments and the schedule, that the Government are permitting the taking of undersized crabs, which would obviously be contrary to the principles of sustainability that we have spoken about. I will be grateful if the Minister sets out the intent behind the undersized velvet crabs amendments in a wee bit more detail.

It is probably better to deal with it when we get to the amendments.

Clause 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2

Regulation of Foreigh Fishing Boats

I beg to move amendment 11, in schedule 2, page 42, line 38, leave out from “crabs)”, to end of line 1 on page 43 and insert

“, in paragraph (2), after “foreign fishing boats” insert “of sea fish caught in waters lying outside British fishery limits”.”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 12 to 16, 18, 22 and 23.

These are very technical amendments, and it is difficult to get our order and our arguments in the same place. Amendments 11 to 16 make changes to paragraph (2) of schedule 2, which amends the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 and indeed extends it to foreign vessels, in answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question. The amendments remove unnecessary references to Scottish fishing boats, so that the order applies effectively to Northern Ireland. The amendments also ensure that the restrictions in the order do not apply to foreign vessels when they catch fish outside British fishery limits.

Similarly, amendment 18 exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits. Amendments 22 and 23 just remove some superfluous words in relation to that. I therefore commend the amendments to the Committee.

I am grateful to the Minister for setting that out. For the sake of clarity, the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 was not previously on my reading list; however, it was yesterday. I am grateful to those people who got in touch asking whether this would put further pressure on those species. From my understanding of what the Minister has just said, it does not relate to any further risk to the stock levels; it relates only to access. I am grateful for what she has said on that.

Amendment 11 agreed to.

Amendments made: 12, in schedule 2, page 43, line 2, leave out, from “crabs)” to end of line 4 and insert

“, in paragraph (2), after ‘foreign fishing boats’ insert ‘and were caught in waters lying outside British fishery limits’.”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 13, in schedule 2, page 43, line 13, leave out “Scottish or”.

This amendment removes Scottish fishing boats from the scope of article 4 of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 (which imposes a minimum size for carriage of velvet crabs in the English zone).

Amendment 14, in schedule 2, page 43, line 13, leave out “or a foreign vessel”.

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 15, in schedule 2, page 43, line 16, at end insert—

“(4) A foreign vessel is prohibited from carrying in the English zone velvet crab that were caught in waters lying within British fishery limits and are below the minimum size mentioned in sub-paragraph (1).”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 16, in schedule 2, page 43, line 23, leave out “Scottish or”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment removes Scottish fishing boats from the scope of article 4 of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 (which imposes a minimum size for carriage of velvet crabs in the English zone).

I beg to move amendment 17, in schedule 2, page 43, line 29, at end insert—

“(5A) After article 4 insert—

‘Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign vessels

4A (1) Nothing in article 2, 3 or 4 applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign vessel in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the vessel was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

‘Faroe Islands-licensed’;

‘the Special Area’.”

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from certain provisions of the Undersized Velvet Crabs Order 1989 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 19 to 21, 24 to 26, 3 and 4.

These amendments are necessary to ensure that we comply with the provisions of the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999. The treaty concerns maritime delimitation between the UK and the Faroe Islands. The 1999 agreement, or for the purposes of the Bill the Faroe Islands treaty, provides for a special area in the UK exclusive economic zone, exclusively in Scottish waters, over which both parties exercise jurisdiction for fisheries management purposes. A bespoke approach is required to manage that shared area in the right way.

The amendments provide the legal framework for who is able to regulate fishing in that special area from 1 January. They provide the Faroese authorities with the ability to license foreign vessels in that area, as well as providing the option for the appropriate UK licensing authority to license foreign vessels if that is required. Were the amendments not made, we would not be able to implement the Faroe Islands treaty, which might put us in breach of our international obligations. The amendments to schedule 2 exempt vessels licensed by the Faroe Islands fishing in a special area from some secondary legislation that is applicable in Scottish waters.

This is a technical area. We make the amendments in the knowledge that we have a very positive relationship with the Faroe Islands on fisheries management, and we remain committed to collectively improving the way the sea is managed and governed. Indeed, it is through our working on a new future fisheries agreement with the Faroe Islands throughout this year that we have been able to agree the approach to this issue.

Would my hon. Friend further agree that the Faroe Islands are an exemplar of how to maintain a sustainable fishery, using technology such as long lining, for example?

I am very happy to agree with the former fisheries Minister on this point. I know he did a great deal of work with the Faroe Islands, and we have had a very constructive working relationship with them throughout the course of this year. The issue has now been resolved properly, as it should be, in the Bill.

International negotiations are reserved but implementing international agreements, for example by licensing fishing boats, is a devolved matter, so this is a complex area to legislate for. We have worked very closely with our Scottish Government colleagues, who I would like to thank, and colleagues across Government, to come to an agreed approach that respects both reserved and devolved competences. I am grateful that Scottish Ministers were prepared to and will play an active role in the delivery of this amendment. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

I welcome the Government legislating to comply with international treaties, which I am sure the Minister will agree with—I know she is a fond supporter of the rule of law. Until very recently, I did not think that complying with international law or international treaties was a point of contention in this House, but perhaps I am just being old-fashioned in that respect.

We support the amendments to comply with the 1999 agreement with Denmark and the Faroe Islands—that was something else I did not expect to have on my reading list last night, but none the less a thrilling treaty to have a read of. We think there should be no question when it comes to complying with international law, so we support the amendments, but I would like to press the Minister slightly on one aspect.

The Minister will know that when the 200-metre EEZ became the norm, the UK and Denmark on behalf of the Faroes sought to delimit their maritime zones. However, they disagreed at the time on the method and that produced areas of overlap. Those grey areas or special zones, which the Minister referred to in her remarks, are basically a no man’s water subject to special provisions.

For fishing in the special zones, each country can fish and regulate its own vessels. As the Faroes are not in the EU, the measure has not had much impact to date. However, it does now, potentially. As the Minister will no doubt be aware, we are seeing an increase in RIG activity—that is, Russia, Iceland and Greenland—in the areas around the Faroe Islands and the surrounding high seas. The RIG countries are not signatories to the sharing of coastal states agreements, in particular the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. I would be grateful if the Minister could offer some clarity on whether the measure only applies to Faroese boats and not those from Russia, Iceland and Greenland—countries that the Faroe Islands may grant permissions to fish. How does that apply to the approach the Government are taking?

The stocks in this zone are big business and I am anxious to ensure that we are not leaving a back door here for fishing in this joint area to become over-exploited by others under Faroese permissions. It is of particular importance that we safeguard our distant water fleets. I do not want to see British fishers undermined in this way. I would be grateful if the Minister could set out some clarity, in particular in relation to RIG activity.

This is a highly technical area, and while the hon. Gentleman was kind enough to mention my legal background, I am not sure that I am able to provide him with a complete answer now. I am going to try, but I would like to caveat that, as all experienced lawyers would, with the fact that I will write to him afterwards if I am found to have been wrong.

It is interesting that this special area is quite a unique legal entity. The conflict with the licensing provisions already in the Bill had not come to light until it got to the point of negotiations with the Faroe Islands, when it became clear that there might be some points of conflict.

The 1999 treaty permits either party to license foreign vessels, so both the Faroe Islands and the UK authorities —in this case, the Scottish Government—are able to do that. I think that probably answers the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. That certainly does not mean that there are no rules in this area of the sea. Many of the licence conditions will be very similar for whichever party issues the licence, and the UK will of course still exercise standard controls and enforcement in the area. Both parties already have a commitment in the 1999 treaty, I believe, to co-operate on marine protection measures, which will further preserve this area. I feel that that is probably an answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but if there is more to say, I will say it to him in writing.

I am grateful to the Minister, and I appreciate that this is a very difficult area. My key concern is about overfishing. From what I gather from the Minister, because the UK and Faroese fisheries authorities will be issuing licences, that would include RIG activity within those waters. Is her understanding that there is sufficient data transfer between those two licences and a scientific basis to ensure that those waters are being fished sustainably?

That is what I believe to be the case, but I want to check that. This special marine area is a fascinating area of law. I cannot pretend that I know all the answers at the moment, so I will get back to the hon. Gentleman if I have told him the wrong thing. Otherwise, we will leave it as stated.

Amendment 17 agreed to.

Amendments made: 18, in schedule 2, page 44, line 19, leave out from “prohibition)” to end of line 20 and insert—

(a) in paragraph (1) omit “wherever caught”;

(b) in paragraph (2), after “applies” insert “(wherever caught)”;

(c) after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) The landing in England or Northern Ireland from a foreign fishing boat of any sea fish to which this article applies that were caught in waters lying within British fishery limits is prohibited.””

This amendment exempts foreign vessels from restrictions in the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 in relation to fish caught outside British fishery limits.

Amendment 19, in schedule 2, page 44, line 22, at end insert—

‘(4A) After article 4A insert—

“Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boats

4B (1) Nothing in article 3(2) or 4A(1) (fishing prohibition) applies in relation to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at that time, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) Nothing in article 4(3) (landing prohibition) applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Lobsters and Crawfish (Prohibition of Fishing and Landing) Order 2000 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Amendment 20, in schedule 2, page 44, line 36, at end insert—

‘(3A) After article 4 insert—

“Fishing by Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boats

4A (1) Nothing in article 4 (landing prohibition) applies in relation to fish that were caught by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless, at the time they were caught, the fishing boat was included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(2) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Undersized Edible Crabs Order 2000 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Amendment 21, in schedule 2, page 45, line 13, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (3), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert “; or

(d) carried in, or used by, a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat for the purpose of fishing in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at the time it is so carried or used, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (3) insert—

“(4) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Sea Fish (Specified Sea Areas) (Regulation of Nets and other Fishing Gear) Order 2001 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Amendment 22, in schedule 2, page 45, line 16, leave out “in relation to”

This is a minor amendment removing superfluous wording.

Amendment 23, in schedule 2, page 45, line 19, leave out “in relation to”

This is a minor amendment removing superfluous wording.

Amendment 24, in schedule 2, page 45, line 26, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (2), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert—

“(d) to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at that time, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Prohibition of Fishing with Multiple Trawls Order 2001 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Amendment 25, in schedule 2, page 46, line 11, at end insert “, or

(d) a foreign fishing boat outside British fishery limits.

‘(4) The prohibition in this article does not apply in relation to a net carried in, or deployed by, a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat for the purpose of fishing in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at the time it is so carried or deployed, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section 16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.

(5) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.”

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Shrimp Fishing Nets Order 2002 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands. The amendment also clarifies that the Order only applies to foreign fishing boats when they are within British fishery limits.

Amendment 26, in schedule 2,page 46, line 34, at end insert—

‘(2A) In article 3, in paragraph (2), at the end of sub-paragraph (c) insert “, or

(d) to fishing at any time by a Faroe Islands-licensed foreign fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area unless the fishing boat is, at that time, included in the list maintained and published by the Scottish Ministers for the purposes of section16(2A) of the Fisheries Act 2020.”

(2B) In article 3, after paragraph (2) insert—

“(3) In this article the following expressions have the same meaning as in section 16 of the Fisheries Act 2020—

“Faroe Islands-licensed”;

“the Special Area”.” —(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment exempts foreign fishing boats from certain provisions of the Prohibition of Fishing with Multiple Trawls Order 2003 where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. This is in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Second schedule to the Bill.

This schedule amends a wide range of secondary legislation, covering issues such as prohibitions on fishing at certain times of the year, rules on gears that may be used in certain fisheries, and a prohibition on catches of certain species that currently applies only to UK vessels. The purpose of the schedule is to amend the relevant secondary legislation so that it will, in the future, apply to all vessels fishing in UK waters regardless of nationality. That should ensure an equitable approach towards our treatment of foreign vessels, if access is negotiated, of course. Extending these statutory instruments will mean foreign vessels will be bound by the same sustainability regulations as UK boats for the first time. That is a major win for this Bill. At the Welsh Government’s request, the schedule also includes an equivalent amendment to secondary legislation made by them.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Clause 14

British fishing boats required to be licensed

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This clause sets out the conditions under which British fishing boats are prohibited from fishing anywhere without a licence except for very special exemptions. It consolidates existing provisions in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The Secretary of State may make regulations to add, remove or vary the exceptions listed in this section. Scottish and Welsh Ministers and the Northern Ireland Department must consent prior to any such regulations being made. If British fishing boats carry out unexempted fishing activities under this clause without a licence, the owner, charter and master will be guilty of an offence.

I have a simple question for the Minister. I think that many fishers would welcome clarification, especially in relation to later amendments about electronic licences, of what the licence is. Can it be an electronic licence, or does it need to be held in hard copy on a fishing boat?

The pre-covid regulations required a hard copy to be held on board a fishing boat while it was at sea. However, the covid regulations published by the Department made it an electronic one. Presumably for consistency with other covid-related regulations that requirement will be removed once the pandemic is over, creating a distinction between the holding of a hard or electronic copy.

Clearly, there is a subtle difference between a bit of paper or an electronic file on an email server. Particularly with reference to enforcement activities, what definition is the Minister using of the form of the licence?

Do you know, Mr McCabe, I do not think that is covered in the Bill. What I do know is that the licence must name the fishing vessel to which it is attached, and is granted to the boat’s owner or charterer. I do not know that we need to specify in legislation whether it needs to be in hard copy or electronic form. As to what is probably the best way to deal with it, clearly covid exemptions still apply and we do not know what trajectory we are on with the pandemic at the moment, so I think we should carry on considering the Fisheries Bill and take the conversation elsewhere and deal with it in the context of the pandemic, if that is acceptable.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Power to grant licences in respect of British fishing boats

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

I note that the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations—not an organisation that I always agree with about its fishing lobbying, although I respect the energy and enthusiasm with which it pursues its purposes—puts forward some questions about the different classifications of boats in its brief, which I am sure the Minister and her officials have seen.

The NFFO is concerned that the clause gives powers to the Marine Management Organisation to grant licences for

“any other British fishing boat”.

The clause gives the power to grant a licence to Scottish Ministers in respect of a Scottish fishing boat, Welsh Ministers in respect of a Welsh fishing boat, and the Northern Ireland Department in respect of a Northern Ireland fishing boat. However, for any other British fishing boat the MMO has the power to grant a licence. My question is about the imbalance of the wording about the remits of the MMO and the devolved Administrations.

I understand that the MMO grants licences to English fishing boats, but I appreciate that the Minister and the Bill are at pains to avoid saying “English fishing boats”. Is it, however, to be understood that, for the purpose of the provision, a “British fishing boat” is an English fishing boat rather than a British fishing boat that may also simultaneously include a Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish fishing boat? I think that the NFFO would be grateful for clarity on that from the Minister.

It is no problem at all. We hoped the clause clarified the existing law and it reflects in fact the status quo. Each UK fisheries administration licences its own boats, wherever it is they actually fish. The Bill consolidates legislation that has been in force since 1967 and amended many times, not just at UK level but at devolved level. With agreement from the devolved Administrations, the provisions in the Bill are merely to carry on with the status quo, but to tidy up the statute book and try to help to deliver a coherent licensing regime for British fishing boats.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Amendments made: 3, in clause 16, page 12, line 32, at end insert—

“(b) by a Faroe Islands-licensed fishing boat in waters lying within the Special Area.

‘(2A) The exception in subsection (2)(b) does not apply in relation to a foreign fishing boat that is for the time being included in a list maintained and published for the purposes of this subsection by the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment excepts foreign fishing boats from the requirement to be licensed under the Bill where they are fishing in the Special Area and have a Faroe Islands licence. It also gives the Scottish Ministers power to remove this exception from particular foreign fishing boats by putting them on a published list. These changes are in order to comply with the treaty entered into with Denmark in 1999 on maritime delimitation in the area between the United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands.

Amendment 4, in clause 16, page 13, line 3, leave out subsection (8) and insert—

‘(8) For the purposes of this section a fishing boat is “Faroe Islands-licensed” if there is in force a licence issued by or on behalf of the Government of the Faroe Islands authorising it to fish in waters lying (to any extent) within the Special Area.

(9) In this section—

(a) “the Special Area” means the Special Area, as defined in Article 4 of, and Schedule C to, the Faroe Islands Treaty;

(b) “the Faroe Islands Treaty” means the agreement between—

(i) the Government of the United Kingdom, and

(ii) the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the Home Government of the Faroe Islands,

relating to the maritime delimitation in the area between the Faroe Islands and the United Kingdom, entered into on 18 May 1999;

(c) “licence” (except in subsection (8)) means a licence granted under section17.” (Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment inserts definitions into clause 16 in connection with Amendment 3.

Clause 16

Foreign fishing boats required to be licensed if within British fishery limits

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

The clause sets out the arrangements under which foreign vessels must be licensed to fish in UK waters, if, of course, such access is negotiated. These arrangements mirror those for British boats.

The only exemption from the licensing requirement for foreign fishing vessels is if they are allowed to fish in the waters of the Isle of Man, for which there is a separate licensing regime.

The Secretary of State, following agreement with the devolved Administrations, may make affirmative resolution regulations to provide further exemptions for foreign fishing vessels to hold licences. The UK Government consider that it is appropriate for these regulations to require the consent of the devolved Administrations, because the clause replaces existing powers that had allowed them to make their own regulations. However, the Secretary of State would propose removing the Isle of Man exemption only at the request of the Isle of Man Government.

The clause also makes it an offence for the owner, charterer or master of a foreign fishing boat to operate in UK waters without the relevant UK fishing licence.

Clause 16 should require an appropriate assessment, which is a form of environmental impact assessment, before the licences for these foreign boats can be issued for fishing in sites protected by the offshore habitats regulations. The Minister will be aware of my fondness for impact assessments, having heard me speak about them in many debates on statutory instruments, as I take the radical view that we should think about actions before we take them.

Regarding the assessments in relation to this clause, only if the appropriate assessment can demonstrate that any vessel will not adversely affect the integrity of a marine site, as the case may be, can the licence be issued. There is a concession for overriding this requirement for reasons of public interest, but I understand that allowing foreign trawlers into UK waters will not automatically qualify for that concession.

For sites such as the Dogger Bank, which we agree is a special area of conservation, this requirement will likely make it difficult to justify continued beam trawling and especially pulse trawling on such sites, including on much of the Dogger Bank.

The Minister will know that with the last iteration of the Fisheries Bill Labour was very determined to see an end to electro-pulse beam trawling, which I know is a view shared by many Government Back Benchers. An SI followed in relation to that issue, but we understand that electro-pulse beam trawling is potentially still taking place around that measure. So I will come back to the question of enforcement; I mention it now just to give the Minister time to find her relevant notes.

This clause is almost at the heart of what the people of South Ribble are really passionate about—not only the control of our waters and the right to license fishing boats, but the right to make sure that any fisherman or fisherwoman is using our natural resources in a sustainable way. I have received a lot of correspondence about pulse trawling in particular, as well as correspondence about beam trawling. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the cross-party agreement on this matter should be welcomed?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention and I share her concerns and those of her constituents about electro-pulse beam trawling in particular. It was an area where, sadly, the last time we debated the Fisheries Bill there was not cross-party agreement. Indeed, the proposals to ban electro-pulse beam trawling in British waters were voted down by the Government party at the time, and further voted down when the Bill was debated in the main Chamber.

Having control of who fishes in our waters is really important; I agree with the hon. Member on that. Indeed, that is the position that my hon. Friend, the shadow Fisheries Minister, set out yesterday.

What happens to electro-pulse beam trawling within UK waters is technical, but it still really matters. I use the example of Dogger Bank because there is an assumption at the moment among many fishers and environmentalists that foreign fishing vessels equipped with electro-pulse beam trawling gear are using that gear on the Dogger Bank, partly because of the nature of the seabed in relation to that, while simultaneously having other gear on board, so that they can claim they are using one type of fishing gear when in fact they are using a different type of fishing gear.

I see no justifiable reason for electro-pulse beam trawling in British waters. It ravages our seabed, causes enormous ecological destruction and is not something that the constituents I represent in Plymouth want to see—nor, by the sounds of it, those whom the hon. Member for South Ribble represents. That is why the enforcement question is important.

If an assessment is required under the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 before a new fisheries licence is granted for foreign fishers, especially in special areas of conservation, and there is a concern out there—I believe there is—how is that requirement correctly enforced? Will that additional appropriate assessment prevent foreign fishers from using gear that we regard as environmentally damaging in our own waters?

This bring us to the heart of the Bill. If the Bill goes through, as we hope it will in the next few months, we will be able to manage these issues through our licence conditions. That is the whole point of what we are doing.

I am a biologist and have done a huge amount on marine ecophysiology. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport makes a strong case about pulse fishing. The point is that we will have control of it and be able to react to changes in scientific evidence and to changes in Dogger Bank, its uses and our desire for it. At the heart of the Bill, which is welcomed cross-party, is what the Minister articulated. Does she agree that the best bit of the Bill is that we will be able to control and evaluate the scientific evidence?

Yes, of course. We are fortunate to have many people on the Committee who are genuinely passionate about these issues and bring a wealth of experience to the table. I am grateful to everyone sitting on the Committee. In the future, these issues will be managed through licence conditions, sometimes on the basis of sophisticated scientific evidence and sometimes—while we are on the subject of Dogger Bank—on the basis of the industry saying it is concerned and that we should temporarily close a fishery while we find out what is going on and take a view on licensing following the evaluation of scientific evidence.

I believe we will discuss a further amendment on pulse fishing later. There are currently five vessels able to pulse-trawl under the control of UK authorities, of which four are English. The licences have been withdrawn from the English vessels, which will not be pulse trawling from the end of the year. That is a win for all of us who are concerned about that form of fishing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17

Power to grant licences in respect of foreign fishing boats

I beg to move amendment 99, in clause 17, page 13, line 29, at end insert—

‘(3A) No licence may be granted under this section unless conditions are attached to that licence so as to require the foreign fishing boat to comply with any standards in relation to environmental protection and marine safety that would apply to the same boat if it were a British fishing boat.’.

Under this amendment, licences granted to foreign fishing boats would require those boats to comply with the same environmental protection and marine safety standards as British fishing boats.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 103, in clause 17, page 13, line 32, at end insert—

‘(5) A licence may not be granted under this section unless the fishing boat meets safety standards that are at least equivalent to those applicable to British fishing boats.’.

This amendment prevents a licence being granted to foreign fishing boats unless the applicant can demonstrate that their vessel meets the standards required of British fishing boats.

The amendments seek to apply the same marine safety standards to foreign boats as to British boats. The Minister will know from our debate on Tuesday how important it is that we have similar and equivalent safety standards for everyone fishing in UK waters. In the previous iteration of the Fisheries Bill Committee we had considerable debates about the minimum standard that should be applied to any boat under whatever flag fishing in our waters.

The premise that many fishers voted for Brexit to ensure that level playing field and access is an important one, because the concern is that the cost of implementing regulations for UK fishers—albeit well-intentioned regulations to save lives—is not carried in the same way by some of our European friends, who enjoy lower costs, albeit with a greater risk from lower standards. Amendments 99 and 103 look at whether there should be a more explicit provision in the Bill to say that foreign fishing boats should have the same level of safety as UK fishing boats. That is about not only saving lives, but the economic cost that goes along with that in terms of the regulatory burden for businesses involved.

It is important to make sure that people stay safe. Amendment 103, in the name of my hon. Friend the shadow fisheries Minister, contains the phrase

“at least equivalent to those applicable to British fishing boats.”

Although we have been governed by the same common fisheries policy as our European friends for many years, and by similar obligations under the International Maritime Organisation, they have implemented their safety standards slightly differently. The amendment would therefore ensure that there is equivalence of safety standards and a similar basis, because any fishing boat going down or getting into trouble should worry us all.

Marine safety is not only about the behaviour of the crew onboard in terms of wearing lifejackets. As the Minister knows, I welcome the support of the Department for Transport and her predecessor in the roll-out of the Plymouth lifejacket scheme, which was pioneered in Plymouth. It includes a personal locator beacon on the lifejacket and moves the clasp from the middle of someone’s chest to being lower, which enables them to use filleting knives more easily on board a boat, so it is easier to operate, do their job and stay safe. That roll-out is important, but it is not compulsory and is not being applied to our European friends in the same way.

It is also important to make sure that stability testing is the same, particularly for small boats. The biggest risk to our small boat fleet is of capsize from the change of gear, where stability tests have not proven that boat to be stable in the way that we would all want it to be. There is no suggestion that they are breaching their licence by doing that but, to borrow a plea from the hon. Member for South Ribble in the last debate, there is cross-party support for a high level of marine safety.

I would be grateful if the Minister could respond as to how fishing licences will ensure that there is an equivalence of marine safety between foreign fishing boats and UK fishing boats, and how that will be checked during the implementation of the new regulations to ensure compliance. There is sometimes a sense among British fishers that the enforcement agencies, which for English fisheries is the Royal Navy, look at UK boats more than foreign boats. Whether that is true or not, I am sure the Minister will have heard that in her conversations with fishers. I would be grateful if she could set out the enforcement side as well as the safety side in her response.

I am concerned about the unhelpful unintended consequences of the amendments. As I mentioned in the debate on amendments 71 and 72, schedule 2 already extends regulations to foreign boats, so the Bill clearly provides powers to deliver the environmental aspects present in amendment 99, as we discussed earlier.

Ensuring compliance with safety regulations is more challenging. I will set out the current regime for foreign vessels and then explain why it might not be desirable to require compliance with our safety regulations. Powers exist to allow foreign boats to be inspected in UK ports by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. If problems are found, the MCA will send a report to the flag state or, if sufficiently serious—to the hon. Gentleman’s enforcement point—detain the vessel until such time as the issues are rectified, which seems reasonable and proportionate.

Regulation 28 of the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997, which applies to foreign vessels, sets out in detail that where conditions are

“clearly hazardous to health and safety”,

the inspector may take measures to “rectify those conditions” or to “detain the ship”. However, I should add that inspectors are under duty not to detain the ship unreasonably. Foreign vessels are expected to meet the same standards as UK vessels while in UK waters.

Turning to the desirability of this amendment, we are all concerned for the safety of all fishing crews wherever they come from, but I am not sure that it is right to impose our safety regimes on other states. The flag state should and, indeed, does have responsibility for the health and safety rules for their own industry.

For example, EU and EEA vessels of 24 metres and over must comply with directive 97/70 of the harmonised safety regime. This also requires vessels of 24 metres and over to comply with the International Maritime Organisation Cape Town protocol. There are further EC requirements for vessels of different sizes. There is also the work in fishing convention, which has entered into force internationally. Owners, skippers and crew have a heavy responsibility for safety.

Most of the vessels that may fish in our waters, should we decide to grant access, will be covered by EU law, which we have in our codes and has been implemented through the Fishing Vessels (Codes of Practice) Regulations 2017, so they cover UK vessels as well. The practical impact of this amendment would be to place the onus on the UK for checking compliance of foreign vessels. We would probably need to make changes to the powers of the MCA to be able to inspect foreign vessels under this requirement. It would also be a hugely resource-intensive exercise to check whether foreign vessels complied.

There are other more serious practical concerns, too. Most foreign vessels fishing in our waters will not do so exclusively. They will fish in the waters of many other states, including their own. If our health and safety rules differed from those of their flag state, it would cause a conflict between different requirements. This sort of confusion could cause safety issues that we are trying to avoid. I am also concerned by, though I have not investigated fully, the issues around insurance and licensing for flag states.

In conclusion, though I believe this is a well-intentioned amendment, which covers important issues, I believe that it is unnecessary because of the existing international law.

I am grateful for that explanation, but I want to press the Minister, so that I understand her a bit more on enforcement. I am concerned that it seems that we are setting a higher regulatory cost for UK fishers than we are allowing for foreign fishers fishing in the same waters.

When it comes to enforcement, can the Minister clarify something? The Marine and Coastguard Agency does not inspect boats at sea. She suggested that, therefore, as a corollary, it will only inspect boats when they are on land. Therefore, unless they are landing their fish at UK ports, they will not be inspected. It falls, therefore, upon the safety, search and rescue, the Royal Navy and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, to go to support boats of lower standards that get into trouble, because the regulatory regime that she has just said is sufficient means that they are only inspected at port and not while at sea.

Does the Minister understand fishers’ concerns that this suggests that the regulatory burden on British fishing boats is different from that on foreign fishing boats and, as a result, that there is a different enforcement probability? A UK boat is more likely to be subject to enforcement than a foreign boat, even if it does not adhere to the same standards.

I do believe that, under the laws that regulate the way that vessels fish internationally, it is right that flag states should be responsible for the licensing conditions and health and safety regulations of their own vessels. It may assist the hon. Gentleman to learn that under the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993, regulation 56(1), a foreign-owned UK flag vessel can be removed from the register like any UK vessel. What we cannot do is interfere in the licensing regimes of other flag states.

I am not only a former Fishing Minister, but a former Shipping Minister. Is it not the case that if a vessel docks in a UK port, it could be subject to a port state control inspection, which would inspect safety equipment, as well as the welfare of staff? Indeed, following on from the point that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport made, if we are going to have to inspect boats at sea for safety equipment, that is going to take pressure away from inspecting them for illegal fishing.

I am grateful to the former Minister for making those points. They are points I had attempted to make earlier, but clearly not as succinctly.

On the basis that the Minister is not setting out a level playing field between UK fishers and foreign fishers, I am concerned that this sends the wrong message to fishers. However, I understand that we will be revisiting the issue of safety a number of times during this process, so I will not be pushing any of these amendments to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

National Landing Requirement

I beg to move amendment 87, in clause 18, page 13, line 34, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.

This amendment would ensure that regulations establishing a national landing requirement for the devolved nations are made by the devolved administrations rather than by the Secretary of State.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 88, in clause 18, page 13, line 38, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.

Amendment 89, in clause 18, page 13, leave out lines 41 to 43, insert “, and” at the end of line 40.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.

Amendment 105, in clause 18, page 13, leave out lines 41 to 43.

This amendment removes the requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the devolved administrations before determining the national landing requirement.

Amendment 90, in clause 18, page 14, line 1, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “fisheries policy authorities”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.

Amendment 91, in clause 18, page 14, line 2, leave out “the UK fishing industry” and insert “their respective fishing industries”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 87.

Amendment 106, in clause 18, page 14, line 16, after “limits”, insert

“and outside of Scotland, the Scottish zone, Wales, the Welsh zone, Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland zone”.

This amendment changes the definition of ‘landing requirement’ into an England-only one.

Amendment 107, in clause 18, page 14, line 17, leave out

“the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey”

and insert “England”.

This amendment changes the definition of ‘landing requirement’ into an England-only one.

We in the SNP are concerned about Government amendment 5, which would possibly remove clause 18 from the Bill in its entirety. We oppose that in the strongest terms, and I encourage right hon. and hon. Members to do likewise. If they respect the sentiments of devolution, they will support the amendments we have tabled, which we do intend to put to a vote.

A landings target is currently the policy of the governing party in Scotland, and it is a policy that Scottish Ministers are keen to progress. The UK Government, on the face of it, have simply refused to engage in any way—far less in a meaningful way—with the reasonable and rational intent of the amendments from the other place. The Conservatives, in my opinion, are again showing their true colours: they have no respect for devolved national parliamentary matters, and it is highly disappointing that ensuring the economic value and benefits of sea fishing for coastal communities, and for labour markets and livelihoods in constituencies such as mine, is not high enough on their agenda.

The amendments made in the other place that the Government are seeking to remove are relevant and considered. They would have aided the delivery of the aims in clause 1, and would also have followed through on the Government’s pledge of levelling up. However, we now know—if some of us did not beforehand—that a pledge by this Government or their Ministers means virtually nothing when they can break laws left, right and centre, willy-nilly. The amendments would have safeguarded employment in the processing and distribution sections of the sector, which are so important to my constituents in Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, and to Scotland as a whole.

One job at sea is widely regarded as being equivalent to 10 on dry land, and coastal communities are crying out for investment and support. They currently have higher rates of unemployment and lower wages than other parts of their countries; they face the additional challenges of social isolation; they have fewer training and apprenticeship prospects; and ultimately, they are in poorer health. A minimum landings requirement for fish caught in our own waters could have provided a long-overdue stimulant and a renaissance for these communities. It could have breathed new life into many of the smaller or less used ports and harbours across Scotland and the other countries of the UK. The opportunity to do so is being passed up.

The other major concern we have—I cannot emphasise this enough—is the tampering with, and erosion of, devolution. I will not often agree with folk draped in ermine cloaks, nor will many of the folk I represent, but those in the other place identified the flaws in the original drafting of this Bill when it came to respecting the devolved Administrations. It was both striking and disappointing in equal measure that this was not reflected in the original amendment and is something we seek to remedy.

I am not sure why the Government have refused point blank to engage with the amendment with any good faith, and I seek answers from the Minister about that. She may claim that the Government already have powers to do this, but where are those and in what legislation? Why will they not use this legislative opportunity to update those measures?

The Scottish Government are already creating a voluntary monitoring approach to vessels under 12 metres participating in inshore Scottish waters, and have plans in place to extend that pilot to larger vessels in different fisheries too. Again, the devolved nature of the responsibility was not reflected in the original drafting, which is why the other place sought the amendment. It is a matter that needs to be remedied so that the power to make regulations on the matter is devolved to the fisheries public authorities.

I urge colleagues to safeguard our fisheries, to support the position of the devolved Governments and to allow opportunities to revitalise our coastal and sea-linked communities by supporting our amendments, which are designed to do that. I commend them to the Committee.

I thank my hon. Friend for laying out clearly why we think these amendments are important. I will add a few thoughts, particularly those that relate to remote rural communities such as my own, in Argyll and Bute.

It is surely common sense to want to encourage as many vessels as possible to land as much catch as they can in UK ports. I know, because we have talked about it often enough in this place, that it is often our remote, rural, poor communities that get left behind when there is talk of regeneration and investment. Across the UK, formerly thriving fishing communities are losing population and are struggling to see a long-term future for themselves. Those communities are exactly the ones we can seek to help, in some measure, by supporting this amendment.

Landing more catch in UK ports will attract investment, help create jobs and encourage people not just to stay but to actively come and live in those communities. Areas such as Argyll and Bute, with its dependence on shellfish, have been particularly badly hit by the impact of coronavirus. There was a 68% decrease in the value of the shellfish catch in March 2020 compared with March 2019, and I understand the figures for April were even worse. Communities need our help.

There is a direct link to what we discussed in the Committee on Tuesday, about fishing being a national asset. Surely, if it is—

Mr O’Hara, I am sorry to interrupt you, but I want to make this clear to everyone. I have already allowed some latitude to Mr Bonnar because it is his first time moving an amendment in Committee. At this stage, people should be speaking specifically to the amendments. There will be space for a clause stand part debate on clause 18 if people have wider observations that they want to make. Can I draw you back to the amendments?

Thank you, Mr McCabe. I will take your advice and catch your eye at the stand part debate.

Our amendment 87 makes this clause devolution friendly and recognises that the Government should, by now, understand and accept devolution. Amendment 87 would allow the devolved Administrations to establish their own national landing requirements, rather than having those set by a UK Secretary of State. Throughout the debate, we have returned to the idea that the person in political charge of English fisheries is also the Secretary of State, and that it cannot be left to a UK Secretary of State to apply laws and rules where there are clearly devolved areas of competence. Yet again, the Government have missed that and our amendment 87 seeks to resolve that.

Mr McCabe, I apologise again, and I will seek to catch your eye in the stand part debate.

Those listening to this debate will need to listen to the stand part debate and then the amendment debate separately so that this part of the debate makes sense to those not following parliamentary procedure.

The amendments tabled by the SNP and those tabled by the Labour party seek to make the clause devolution-friendly and devolution-compliant. That means respecting the devolution agreements. The amendment drafted by our friends in the House of Lords was intended to put the concept within the Bill. Again, it enjoyed cross-party support. However, the precise wording of the amendment did not take into account the devolution settlements in the way that I think we need to at this stage. The Welsh Labour Government support it as a concept. However, they have some concerns about the precise wording proposed in the amendments. Labour Members therefore cannot support the SNP amendments, although we are aligned with the principles of them. It is important that the devolution settlement is baked into the clause. The devolved Administrations are willing, and perhaps even desire, to judge by the words of the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, to use the powers currently in the Bill—and which we hope will remain in the Bill—while respecting the devolution settlement in each devolved nation. I hope that in the stand part debate we will speak about the wider importance of the national landing requirement and how that could work in each devolved nation.

I will try to deal with the amendments now and discuss wider matters later, although I accept it is very confusing for everybody.

The amendments are unnecessary. Clause 18 was added by our friends in the other place. I will set out my concerns about it in detail later. First, I would like to reassure the Committee. We said in the fisheries White Paper that we would reform the economic link. The Government intend to hold a public consultation very shortly that will seek views on proposals to strengthen the economic link licence condition in England. The proposal will look to increase the benefit, from the current 50%, to the UK of fishing by English-registered foreign vessels.

In answer to the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, who asked where the powers for any change come from, schedule 3 allows us to place conditions on licences, including conditions about an economic link, so that we need no further regulation-making powers. If the Bill is passed, it is there in the Bill. I acknowledge that amendments 87, 89, 90 and 91 seek to address one of the issues with the new clause, which was raised by the Government in the other place. The clause as a whole retains an inflexible and narrow approach to ensuring that the UK benefits from fish caught in its waters.

Similarly, amendments 105 to 107 seek to amend clause 18 so that it is compatible with the devolution settlements, but we are concerned that they still fail to do so. The regulation of vessels registered in one Administration is largely a matter for that Administration, with each Administration licensing its vessels wherever they fish. The amended clause would allow the Secretary of State to regulate Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish vessels in English waters, and so would be regulating within areas of devolved competence.

Where previously the clause allowed regulation in devolved competence to be done without the devolved Administration’s consent but after consultation, these amendments remove even the need to consult the devolved Administrations on the regulation of their boats. This is contrary to the constructive and collaborative approach that we have taken so far. I do not recognise the hon. Gentlemen’s readout of how we have managed this; we have managed fisheries in a very collaborative way. We have sought to legislate for the devolved Administrations only in areas where we have been asked to. Again, the amendments do not reflect the other ways that boats can show an economic link to the UK and which benefit the country in different ways, not just through landing fish. I therefore ask that the amendments be withdrawn.

I remind hon. Members again that we are dealing with amendment 87. Once we have worked through the various amendments, there will be time for a clause stand part debate.

I beg to move amendment 85, in clause 18, page 13, line 36, leave out “or 16(1)”.

This amendment would mean that regulations establishing a national landing requirement would not apply to foreign boats.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 86, in clause 18, page 14, line 9, leave out “or 16(1)”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 85.

This is a similar argument to the one we heard before; the amendment seeks to make the clause as devolution-friendly as possible, and it is important that we have right to do so. It is really a probing amendment to ask the Minister about the licensing of foreign vessels. We are concerned that there would be tit-for-tat reprisals as a result of requiring licensed foreign vessels to land their catch in the UK. Many foreign vessels land in UK harbours already, but the clause could result in other coastal states’ requiring UK-licensed vessels to land catches in their harbours. That would defeat the purpose. We absolutely want to encourage landings in the UK to help processing and, of course, for the landing fees, but we fear that, as the clause is worded, forcing people to do so will lead to tit-for-tat reprisals and compound the problem.

I agree that any landing requirement should not apply to foreign vessels, which will need to demonstrate a link to their own flag states. We would not want to see reciprocal measures put in place against UK vessels that fish outside UK waters—I very much agree with that. The Government believe, however, that the clause should be removed from the Bill because it is inflexible, does not respect the devolution settlements, and will not achieve what its supporters believe. A landing requirement already exists for all UK vessels as part of the economic licence condition. The power to attach such conditions to vessel licences is provided in schedule 3, as I said earlier. Ensuring that vessels that use UK fishing opportunities bring benefit to the UK is of course very important. That is why we have included the national benefit objective in clause 1. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

To nobody’s surprise, I rise to argue that—at the risk of repeating myself, which I have tried not to do—clause 18 is important. It is important because it gives hope to our remote, rural fishing communities littered along the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, who need help. The clause goes some way to help them. I know the Government have indicated their desire to remove the clause, but I urge them at this stage to think again. Communities such as mine in Argyll and Bute, which depends particularly on shellfish, are being decimated. They need hope, and I ask the Government not to extinguish clause 18.

On Tuesday we talked about fishing being a national asset, and about how it can be a catalyst for change and can benefit the wider community. As a national asset, surely it should not be there just to make very rich people even richer; it should be there for the economic wellbeing of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Landing fish into communities means jobs in transport, fish processing, environmental health, retail, hospitality, tourism and construction. Hopefully, it will also mean that more and more young people will want to take advantage of working at sea on the boats.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill said, it is reckoned that one job at sea creates 10 onshore jobs. That in itself should be reason enough for the Government to encourage as many boats as possible to offload into UK ports. It is because landing fish into communities is such an important economic driver that the Scottish Government have been pursuing for a number of years a policy of landing targets, which is something that I know Scottish Ministers are keen to progress.

I implore the Government not to extinguish the hope, because our coastal communities need hope. In many places, it is all that they have. Embattled, formerly thriving fishing communities need our support, and this is one way to do it. It is not just about boats landing in harbours, but about the associated jobs in processing, construction and transport, and it becomes a magnet for tourism and hospitality. It is that important, and I implore the Government to reconsider and to give our communities a bit of hope.

Once again, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I wish to speak against the Government’s ambition to remove clause 18.

The clause makes job creation a major priority. Labour’s “jobs in coastal communities” clause was part of the laws to ensure that at least two-thirds of fish caught in UK waters must be landed at our ports. As we hurtle ahead into a no-deal Brexit situation, it is imperative that we give our coastal communities a chance to recover and thrive. That is most important in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The successful amendment, which the Government now seek to reverse, protects jobs at sea, creates numerous jobs on land and at sea, and will provide a much-needed and anticipated boost to our coastal communities. As hon. Members know, such communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and subsequently locked down, and they have been decimated by austerity over the past 10 years.

The British Ports Association was right to say that the Fisheries Bill

“should be strengthening the economic link between our fisheries and our ports and coastal communities”.

There is currently no requirement for boats exploiting UK fishing quota opportunities to land fish caught in our waters in the UK. As a result, 40% of UK quota is landed in Europe, where much of the economic value is realised. That leaves our own British fishing businesses sidelined, unable to benefit from the fish caught in our own seas. That is not right. Increased landing in the UK would mean that our coastal communities would benefit from fish caught in the UK seas. That would mean more jobs and more prosperity and would provide better and increased benefits to our coastal communities.

Just yesterday afternoon, in the Opposition day debate on the protection of jobs and businesses, we spoke of the need to safeguard British jobs. This Government seem to feel as though British jobs at sea and other associated jobs in the sector do not deserve fair state protection and support or opportunity. Now is the time to support coastal communities to grow in jobs, which would be beneficial to the United Kingdom as a whole, as well as to those communities. Now is not the time to snatch away opportunities, as the Government’s reversing the gains made in the House of Lords would attempt to do. Now is the time to allow coastal businesses to flourish. We want more fish landed in coastal towns across the country, which will directly lead to more jobs being created in fish markets, processing and distribution. In removing the clause, the Government are indicating that job creation and job protection in coastal communities is not a priority for them, and that the survival of British coastal communities does not matter.

I am proud to represent the coastal town of Fleetwood, which is part of the fishing industry in Lancashire— or at least it was, before the last deep sea trawler left Fleetwood in 1982. After almost 40 years of fishing decline in the town, I have seen the knock-on effect on people’s earnings and on economic prosperity, and the struggles that we have in the town.

The decline of the deep sea fishing industry cannot be held solely accountable for the fortunes of the town that I am proud to represent in this House, but it is no doubt part of the wider picture, alongside other issues such as the Beeching cuts and the rise of cheaper and package holidays. The reality is that those in coastal communities have a lower wage than people who live inland—people earn around £1,600 a year less. The Bill could offer a framework by which coastal communities such as Fleetwood could really benefit from the kind of change they have been telling me they have wanted for a very long time.

My constituency voted leave. When my constituents voted to take back control, it was not just about fishing; it was also about the regeneration of coastal communities. The clause offers a framework by which we could see not just the economic benefits of fish landed in ports such as Fleetwood, but also the knock-on effects for jobs in fish processing. We still have hundreds of jobs in that sector. It would be of economic benefit to the wider town.

I represent one coastal community, but the clause would benefit isolated and rural fishing communities up and down the United Kingdom, including those communities that perhaps used to have a connection to fishing. The clause should stand part of the Bill.

I understand the reasoning of those who support the clause. However, British fishermen land fish abroad because that is the market for which it is destined; the majority of fish caught by British fishermen is exported to those lucrative markets. While that is not an option for those catching crab and lobster off Scarborough and Whitby, when that is landed it is put on trucks—more often than not French or Spanish trucks—that transport it back there. I worry that the provisions in clause 18 would result in fishermen getting less for their fish because they have to add transportation costs. It would create jobs for French lorry drivers and for ferry workers and those who work on the tunnel, but it could have a negative consequence in terms of the income for our fishers.

On that point, the right hon. Gentleman knows we are on polar opposite sides of the Brexit debate, but if this idea is about taking back control and this sea of opportunity, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood said, who is that sea of opportunity for? Is it purely for those who own the quota? Is it purely for those who own the boats? Is it purely for those who work in the industry? Or is that sea of opportunity not meant to include the regeneration of the United Kingdom, and particularly its ports? The clause would do that, and by throwing it out, the Government are surely singularly failing to do that.

The UK intends to establish itself as a global trading nation, and part of that global trade is trade with the European Union, our most important neighbour in terms of trade. Many of the most valuable species that fishermen catch are valuable because they have such a premium in markets abroad. We are once again seeing the law of unintended consequences. When we look at our carbon footprint, we need to look at the carbon cost of a ship in, say, the channel that was intending to land in France having to steam back to the UK, put that fish on a truck and then take it back, possibly to the same port where it intended to go for that market. While I understand the sympathies behind the clause, the unintended consequences, both for value for our fishermen and the carbon footprint of the fishing industry, are both very negative.

Government amendment 5 goes against the very heart of what was promised to coastal communities in the referendum. It is a betrayal of our coastal communities that the Conservatives are supporting jobs in foreign ports. The clause, which was a Labour amendment, was deliberately designed to create jobs in our coastal communities, in ports from Newlyn, Plymouth, Portavogie in Northern Ireland, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Fleetwood and Grimsby. It was designed to inject more energy and economic activity into those places.

I disagree with Government amendment 5, which seeks to remove clause 18, but more than that, I believe it betrays a promise made to many of those communities that Brexit would deliver more jobs and a revival of the fishing community. When I speak to fishers and the community around the fish quay in Plymouth, their model for whether Brexit is a success for fishers and fishing is whether they see more boats in our port, more fish being landed and more jobs created. That is what the clause, passed in the Lords, will do—create more jobs in our ports. The former fishing Minister, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, described it as perhaps only creating distribution jobs. At a time when our coastal communities have been hit hard by 10 years of austerity, and by under-investment for far too long, creating more jobs in our coastal communities is something that we should welcome and go for.

The debate on the clause in the House of Lords was good, with Conservative and Labour peers and those from the devolved Administrations of all parties making the case that we should be creating more jobs in our coastal communities. It was promised that Brexit would deliver that for fishing. It is bizarre that we now see the Government arguing against that very thing, supporting jobs in foreign ports and not in our own country. It is an odd reversal of a promise given to those communities, and why I cannot support the Government amendment.

The clause would create a jobs boom because, as has been said by several Members, every job in the catching sector creates 10 on shore. That is true. Those jobs are created in fish markets, in distribution—I do not pooh-pooh that at all; these are important jobs—and in processing. It will create an economic stimulus and an incentive to process more fish at the point of landing, rather than to have those processing jobs in foreign ports at the point of landing elsewhere, because it would mean fresher fish processed in our ports. It will create greater value from the processing of that fish. That is why all those are important.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if Iceland imposed a similar restriction on the processing of fish, it would decimate places such as Grimsby, which relies on processing fish imported to the UK?

Indeed, and if clause 18 were about processing fish, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would have a point, but—I am sure he has read it—it is about landing fish, rather than processing them. That is a good cul-de-sac to try to take us down, but that is not what the clause actually says. I went to Grimsby recently and spoke to people on the fish quay, and they hark back to the days when there were 800 fishing boats in their port. They want more fish to be landed in their port, so it is bizarre in the extreme that the Government are arguing against more fish being landed there.

Having more fish processed in Britain will create more jobs. Interfish in Plymouth creates an enormous number of jobs from landing the fish that it catches in Plymouth and processing them there, supplying our supermarkets. I want to see more British supermarkets buying British fish. That would be greatly helped by this clause, because more British fish would be available in our markets.

A number of points have been raised about why the clause does not work, so let me briefly address them. First, the former fishing Minister, the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, mentioned the increased carbon footprint. At a point when Conservative MPs voted against the net zero objective in the Fisheries Bill, I think that does not apply in the same way. We want fishing to be carbon free, and we want more fish to be landed in our ports. I agree that it is often argued that fishers chase the higher price that is delivered in foreign markets, and that if they if they landed in a UK port, the price would be lower. I hope the same arguments are used about any departure from any regimes in the European Union that make travel across borders easy. Delays at the border put an extra focus on this. I hope the argument that has been applied to this clause is applied equally to the Government’s policy, but I fear that it will not be. None the less, it was a good attempt.

As we said in the debate on Tuesday, fish should be a public asset. The economic link between the fish in our waters and the United Kingdom should be strengthened. That is what clause 18 does: it strengthens the economic link. I fear, on this point, that the arguments of Government MPs will need to be reversed when the licence conditions change.

I welcomed the consultation that the Minister has set out, but I disagree with her that the figure is 50% currently. As she knows, landing 50% of fish in the UK is potentially one of the licence conditions, but it is not the only one, and it is important to state that if a company has a brass plaque in the UK and employs UK crew, it can get out of that. That is why many fishers catching fish in UK waters land nearly all their catch in foreign ports. One trawler in Wales lands barely any of its catch in British ports; it lands 84% in foreign ports. That fish should be supporting the Welsh economy. There are examples of that in English and Scottish waters. That is why this matters so much. We will be betraying those coastal communities if we do not support job creation.

I hope the Minister, when she comes to her consultation, cuts and pastes this clause, as Ministers did for Labour’s last set of amendments to the Fisheries Bill, and makes it her own. I am a big fan of Louis Walshisms in politics. The Government should make it their own. I hope they copy this clause and put it into their consultation, because we need to create jobs in coastal communities, and that is what the clause seeks to do.

When this clause comes to a vote—surely it will do—and Labour and SNP Members vote in favour of the jobs in coastal communities clause and in favour of landing at least two thirds of fish in our coastal ports, I hope that every single Conservative MP who represents a coastal community will be able to explain to their electorates in those communities why they chose to support ports on the continent, rather than the port that they represent, why they chose to create and preserve jobs in foreign ports, not in their communities, and why they chose not to give the young people in their communities the opportunity that would come from enhanced employment not only in the catching sector but in processing, and the engineering jobs that accompany this. I hope they have a decent argument for that, because this flies in the face of everything that has been promised to coastal communities. That is why Labour will be supporting keeping clause 18 in the Bill to protect jobs in coastal communities, and opposing the Government’s plan to continue the export of those jobs to our European friends.

The hon. Gentleman has done his job; I am now going to do mine, which is to bring us back to this Bill. I do not believe that anybody in this room is not equally passionately in favour of having more jobs in coastal communities, but this is not a jobs in coastal communities clause. It requires the Government to consult on landing a 15% higher proportion of fish in this country. My argument is that the Government are equally as passionate as the hon. Gentleman, and indeed everyone who has spoken well, about coastal communities and their needs, but the Bill already allows us to meet the clause’s aim in a more appropriate way through the objective in clause 1 and the powers, which I have already gone into, in schedule 3.

The clause as it stands is not compatible with devolution. As I have said, the Government intend to undertake a formal public consultation on economic link reform, which would have been impossible were we still a member of the EU. We will launch the consultation in England very shortly.

The clause does not deliver what its supporters believe it does, and I am concerned that it would end up damaging the part of the sector it seeks to help. The quota donation condition, for example, has brought in an average of £3 million-worth of quota per annum for use by English under-10 metre vessels in recent years. Removal of that condition without looking very carefully at the knock-on effects could harm the sector that Opposition Members seek to support. To give another example, different circumstances across the UK nations require different approaches, and it is not currently possible for Northern Ireland’s largest registered vessel to land its catch directly in Northern Ireland. I am also concerned that agreeing to the clause could result in inefficient processes that are not environmentally friendly, as the former Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby, said earlier. With that explanation, I hope hon. Members will agree that the clause should not stand part of the Bill.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18 disagreed to.

The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Fisheries Bill [ Lords ] (Fourth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Steve McCabe, † Sir Charles Walker

† Bonnar, Steven (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP)

† Bowie, Andrew (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con)

† Butler, Rob (Aylesbury) (Con)

† Coutinho, Claire (East Surrey) (Con)

† Duffield, Rosie (Canterbury) (Lab)

† Fletcher, Katherine (South Ribble) (Con)

† Goodwill, Mr Robert (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)

† Jones, Fay (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)

† Morris, James (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† O'Hara, Brendan (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

† Owatemi, Taiwo (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Peacock, Stephanie (Barnsley East) (Lab)

† Pollard, Luke (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)

† Prentis, Victoria (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

† Smith, Cat (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)

† Wild, James (North West Norfolk) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Redcar) (Con)

Rob Page, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 10 September 2020

(Afternoon)

[Sir Charles Walker in the Chair]

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

Order. There is far too much jollity in the Room. We will put an end to that.

I have a few announcements. Colleagues may remove their jackets, if they so wish. I am looking at a colleague who obviously knew I was going to say that—that is an admonishment by the way, but a very gentle one. Before we begin, I will make a few preliminary points. Most of you want to get back to your constituencies this evening. I do not know how we will proceed, but I am sure there will be a clip to it. Members will understand the need to respect social distancing guidance; I shall intervene, if necessary, to remind everyone. I remind hon. Members to switch electronic devices to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings, and Hansard colleagues would be grateful if hon. Members could email their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk.

Clause 19

Further provision about licences

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Very briefly—not to interrupt your pace.

I am sure the Minister has had time to reflect on the question that I asked in this morning’s session about the difference between a hard and soft copy licence. I wonder whether this might be an opportunity to clarify that situation.

I am afraid I do not have that clarity yet. I anticipate that it is something I will have to talk to the team about over the next few days and, indeed, probably weeks, given the state of the pandemic.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3

Sea fishing licences: further provision

I beg to move amendment 104, in schedule 3, page 52, line 7, at end insert—

“(2A) A sea fishing licensing authority must attach to any sea fishing licence appropriate conditions with respect to the safety of the boat and its crew.”

This amendment would require the licensing authority to set appropriate conditions regarding safety when granting a sea fishing licence.

This amendment continues the theme that we have had for a number of amendments: safety. I am grateful that the efforts of the Departments for Transport and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have contributed to an improvement in safety and, importantly, the involvement of more fishers in making decisions about safety—not just regulation of them for safety purposes—but I think we all agree that more work still needs to be done.

I mentioned earlier the need to have more fishers wearing lifejackets that come as standard with personal locator beacons, which take the “search” out of the search and rescue when boats go down or fishers are washed overboard. I want to see more stability work, especially for our smaller boats that I mentioned earlier. Having remote vessel monitoring and CCTV on board, which was proposed in amendment 1 in the Lords, helps ensure that fishing stays within the law, but it also incentivises fishers to wear a lifejacket and come home safely to each other. I know there is cross-party concern about this issue, and I want to reiterate the support for cross-party working that I gave the Minister earlier. I will not say any more about remote vessel monitoring, because that comes later in the Bill, but the amendment was an attempt to probe the Government position on this issue.

While being very sympathetic to the intent behind the amendment and, indeed, all attempts to improve safety at sea, I feel that it is unnecessary. These are complex areas that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are the responsibility of both the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, as well as being our responsibility. Fishing vessel owners are responsible for ensuring their vessels comply with the regulations on construction and how they are operated. All fishing vessels are surveyed or inspected. If the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is not satisfied with the safety standards around a vessel’s construction, or if it discovers an emerging safety issue, the safety certificate will not be issued. If the vessel has a certificate, it may be detained and able to leave port only to enable repairs to be carried out.

As I mentioned earlier, maritime safety is already extensively covered in legislation and accompanied by comprehensive guidance, and I do not think that adding another layer of bureaucracy would make any tangible difference to safety. Education and behaviour change are what we know will make a difference. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

I now call the Minister to move amendment 100. [Interruption.] Sorry, the shadow Minister—this is not a good performance from your Chair. I apologise. I shall up my game.

I am grateful for the confidence that you have in me and my party. It is consistent with some of your comments in the media recently. Thank you very much, Chair.

I beg to move amendment 100, in schedule 3, page 52, line 15, at end insert—

‘(6) Conditions attached to any sea fishing licence must include a prohibition on the use of any form of electric pulse beam trawl fishing.’

This amendment would require sea fishing licences to prohibit electric pulse beam trawl fishing.

The amendment that has been tabled in my name and that of the shadow fisheries Minister relates to pulse beam trawling, which is an area that we briefly touched on earlier, and I know that colleagues have similar views on this issue. What we are attempting to do with this amendment is to prohibit the use of electro-pulse beam trawling in any form. I suspect that the Minister will say that the amendment is not needed because of the statutory instrument that was passed last year. However, I hope to press her further on enforcement in this area.

Parliament initially rejected Labour’s proposal to ban pulse beam trawling but then saw the light and passed a statutory instrument to put into action the intention behind the original amendment that we tabled the last time we discussed the Fisheries Bill. However, I am concerned that the scientific derogation is too large, allowing 5% of a fleet—up to 200 vessels, potentially—to use this gear.

I am grateful that the Minister set out earlier her intent that the English fisheries Minister should effectively remove the licences from those boats that have electro-pulse gear in English waters. However, what this amendment seeks is a prohibition on the use of any form of electro-pulse beam trawling on any boats with any flag in our waters. There is a very strong environmental case for doing so. Electro-pulse beam trawling is utter vandalism of our seabed. It is indiscriminate—in particular, it kills many smaller fish that might otherwise grow and reproduce. Therefore, it poses a greater threat of stock damage than other methods of fishing. In particular we are concerned, as I mentioned earlier, about the risk of this technology in certain locations around our waters, where the use of electro-pulse beam trawling methods and gear can be disguised by the claim that other gear is being used.

The Minister will know that I and other Labour Members have strong views on how we need to protect our marine protected areas, and about the gear used in those areas. We believe that such protection should be part of the nine-year journey that we effectively have between now and 2030, when our marine protected areas will effectively need to become no-take zones. Again, I will reiterate what I said on Tuesday about that issue, namely that it would do the Government credit and do the debate a lot of good if they could start the conversation with our coastal communities about how that will happen, because I do not think there is awareness of that situation among our coastal communities and I think that, when they find out about it, it will come as quite a shock to them.

So, to support the work of the Minister and to help her to have an easy life by not having to respond to angry fishers when they find out about that change, there is a debate to be had around this issue. I think that debate can be softened somewhat by clearly saying that we do not support in any way the use of this method of fishing—electro-pulse beam trawling—and that, as an independent coastal state, we will outlaw it in our waters.

Importantly, the amendment seeks to remove the scientific derogation that was in the SI by saying that we do not want this technology in our waters at all. I am concerned about the scientific derogation being used, as other countries have sometimes used it, to disguise commercial fishing activities. Indeed, if we look at our friends over in the Netherlands, how much of their fleet was using this particular gear and disguising it behind a scientific purpose is a cause for concern.

So, in support of the amendment, I will say again that there is both cross-party concern and concern in all our fishing communities. A statutory instrument was delivered to put into practice what Labour proposed last time, but I do not think that it is working to the extent that we had initially intended it would. I remember that when we discussed this issue then, there was a concern about how enforcement would work. I encourage the Minister to work with her officials to look again at enforcement in this area, because it seems that environmental groups and some fisheries have a legitimate concern about the potential damage being done to specific marine areas by this method of fishing.

We have rehearsed some of these arguments already today and I know that the hon. Gentleman had this debate several times with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before he became Secretary of State.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the statutory instrument made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prohibits foreign fishing boats from fishing with electric current in UK waters. As I said earlier, the four English-registered vessels using it have been informed by the Maritime Management Organisation that their authorisations will be withdrawn at the end of this year. The authorisation for the single electro-pulse beam trawler registered in Scotland will be reviewed by Scottish Ministers in advance of July 2021, when the EU prohibition comes into force.

Pulse fishing will be prohibited, so its enforcement will be dealt with in the same way as any other type of illegal or unlawful fishing. I will continue to keep in touch with the Marine Management Organisation as to the position at sea. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would send us details of any specific instances and concerns he has. I remind him that the MMO can check any vessel fishing in our waters at any time, so it will be dealt with in the normal way. I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

The concern put out there is specifically about enforcement. I realise that the Minister does not have figures to hand on the scope of enforcement, which would be useful for the debate. However, I will seek those through a parliamentary question. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 101, in schedule 3, page 52, line 15, at end insert—

‘(6) Conditions attached to any sea fishing licence must include a prohibition on using a fishing boat greater than 100 metres in length in any of the protected areas specified in subsection (7).

(7) The protected areas to which the prohibition in subsection (6) applies are marine conservation zones and marine protected areas as defined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

(8) The list of protected areas in subsection (7) may be added to by the Secretary of State by means of regulations.’.

This amendment would include in the sea fishing licence conditions a prohibition on using a fishing boat longer than 100 metres in protected areas.

The amendment seeks to address the concern received from constituents by nearly every single Member of the House about supertrawlers and the activities of fishing boats larger than 100 metres fishing in marine protected areas. Until recently, Britain did not have a single supertrawler larger than 100 metres, but one that previously flew a foreign flag has been reflagged in the last few weeks—I believe to help with quota aggregation, which is a practice used in particular by larger foreign-owned companies for moving more quota around their different boats—which means we have one. Regardless of whether we have one supertrawler over 100 metres fishing in marine protected areas or more, we as a Parliament must take a view about whether we want such supertrawlers fishing in our marine protected areas.

The Greenpeace campaign on this issue has attracted the signatures of not only a large number of Back Benchers, but a number of Ministers. I appreciate that it is difficult for DEFRA Ministers to sign up for a campaign about the Department they look after, but it is good to see that there is support within Government for banning supertrawlers over 100 metres in our marine protected areas. That is why, reflecting widespread public concern, we tabled the amendment to ban those fishing boats in excess of 100 metres from fishing in the UK’s MPAs.

A Greenpeace investigation revealed that in the first six months of 2020, supertrawlers spent 5,500 hours fishing in marine protected areas. Those are areas meant to safeguard vulnerable marine habitats; instead, they are being threatened by highly destructive industrial fishing methods, including those deployed by these boats that can harvest huge quantities of fish from our oceans.

The Secretary of State already has the power to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres and indeed the Minister and her Department could choose to deploy that licence condition. I note that, to date, the Government have not done so. Now that this issue has been brought to the public’s attention, a positive Government response is important. The amendment seeks to do so by amending the primary legislation. If the Minister chooses to oppose this sensible amendment, subsequent secondary legislation or confirmation of alterations in fishing licences would be required.

There is a good case for banning supertrawlers over 100 metres from fishing in marine protected areas. It should have happened already. The UN oceans treaty, which was signed up to following encouragement from Labour by the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), with much applause, sets out the ambitious target of having 30% of the world’s oceans fully protected by 2030. That is a very good ambition, which supports a number of UN policies and fragile fisheries right across the world. Indeed, actually the Government should be praised for the way in which they have worked with our overseas territories to create marine reserves around those territories, and especially those in the south Atlantic.

However, there is much more to be done. We cannot simply deliver such a policy by creating marine reserves around overseas territories. We need a policy for UK waters. That is what the Benyon review into highly protected marine areas effectively did. This amendment is a first step on the nine-year process that I spoke about at the start of my remarks that basically says that the Government have committed to make 30% of the world’s oceans fully protected with no-take zones, and as part of that they are taking the first step by banning supertrawlers. This is a very difficult debate. I say that knowing how hard this will be to discuss with fishers.

I understand how contentious this is. Is it not the case that the marine protected areas are there to protect the seabed, and that most of the trawlers fish mid-water and catch species that move well beyond those protected areas? I am not seeking to defend them; I am simply saying that we need to understand exactly the impact that the trawlers have on the marine protected areas.

The former Minister raises a good question. Marine protected areas do not exclusively protect the seabed, although that is a clear part of the validity of any marine protection. Such areas also protect species mix and can also deal with bird life and other forms of ocean-going life. The issue is complicated by the diversity that we seek to protect. Marine protected areas protect the seabed, but they also apply in other ways as well. None the less, the commitment that the Government have made around the UN oceans treaty is one that the Labour party fully supports. I say in all candour to the Minister that it will be a difficult sell and a difficult journey between now and 2030 to pitch that to fishers, but we need to have that honest conversation with them.

The Benyon review’s remarks about how highly protected marine protected areas can be designated, which effectively make MPAs no-take zones, need to include fishers. There is huge support among British fishers, particularly among the small boat fleet, for the banning of supertrawlers. Apart from the supertrawler that I mentioned earlier that currently flies a British flag, but did not until very recently, all the supertrawlers that fish in UK waters, especially in marine protected areas, are foreign-owned boats. There is a huge advantage to our sustainability and our support for our domestic fishing industry if we make the case now to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres and if we start the conversation about how we move the Benyon review recommendations into a greater awareness with a plan as to how that comes about. I hope the Minister—no doubt she objects to this particular amendment—will set out how she intends to implement a similar ban, because I think a ban is coming. I cannot see that the Government’s position is sustainable if they do not ban supertrawlers over 100 metres, if only due to the very sincere and heartfelt public opposition to that method of fishing.

I do recognise the huge interest and concern from across the House and from many of our constituents in the campaign against supertrawlers. However, once again, I do not consider the amendment necessary. There is a devolution issue with it, and I politely say again that the Bill is deliberately a framework Bill to enable the Government to take powers that would enable them not to license supertrawlers in future. Although the amendment is well intentioned, it is simply not necessary.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we are continuing to lead diplomatic efforts to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030, and 357 marine protected areas already protect about 25% of UK waters. Of course, protecting those areas is only the first step towards achieving protected waters. When we were in the EU, we had to get agreement from other member states with an interest to bring forward management measures in MPAs. Owing to the level of fishing interest in our waters from others in the EU, we were not able to reach agreement in the way that we wanted to on these measures. Now that we have left, the Bill already gives us the powers in schedule 9 to protect English waters, both inshore and offshore. We anticipate that this programme of work and new licences will begin as soon as possible in the new year.

As well as the new management measures that we will be able to introduce, paragraph 1(1) of schedule 3 to the Bill provides for the relevant licensing authority to attach conditions to a licence where necessary. The licensing conditions in the Bill are wide and flexible, and should be a suitably flexible way of managing our fisheries in the future. When the transition period ends, we will be able to restrict the activities of foreign vessels in our waters and decide, for the first time in 40 years, who can come in to fish. The Bill’s licensing regime already gives us the powers to do that.

I understand completely that the thought of large boats hoovering up fish in protected areas of the sea is concerning for many; however, the impact of a vessel on an MPA is determined by how damaging the method used is, rather than the size of the vessel. Pelagic fishing, which is the method usually used by vessels of this size, and which takes place within the water column, is unlikely to affect the seabed features that most marine protected areas are designed to protect.

As I said earlier, an added complexity is that the regulation of sea fishing is devolved. The amendment, in seeking to legislate for a blanket approach across all the Administrations, would be a problem for the devolution settlements. I hope that I have sufficiently reassured the hon. Gentleman that mechanisms to manage and restrict the activities of supertrawlers are already in the Bill, if that is the route we choose to take. I hope that I have also reassured him by reiterating the Government’s commitment to further protecting our sea, and I ask that he withdraw the amendment.

If the Minister had given a commitment to ban supertrawlers over 100 metres with the licence conditions, I would have happily withdrawn the amendment, but as she has said only that the Government are taking powers, with no commitment to ban supertrawlers, I am afraid that we could be waiting for a very long time for those powers to be used. As such, and because the issue is so pressing and of such public concern, I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

I beg to move amendment 95, in schedule 3, page 55, line 4, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

This amendment would make the relevant regulations subject to the affirmative procedure.

This is a very simple amendment, which seeks to move from a negative process to an affirmative one. We have seen that good parliamentary scrutiny improves Government legislation and that, when things are rushed or not given scrutiny, faults and things that even those pushing the devices may not be aware of emerge. That is why we are seeking, as standard in such matters, to move negative procedures to affirmative ones, to ensure that the Government can achieve their objectives by having improved legislation, rather than rushed legislation that they then seek to change subsequently.

Later amendments that remove lots of the statutory instruments that we spent many hours working on show that good scrutiny lends itself to the delivery of Government objectives and better policy making, and offers more people the chance to contribute to policy making. That is why we are seeking to have an affirmative resolution policy here, rather than a negative one.

Much as I enjoy our exchanges, the difficulty with this amendment is that it would mean that every time the Government wanted to change a highly technical rule about the licensing of fishing boats, it would be subject to debate.

The change of procedure would apply to two powers. First, paragraph 7(1) of schedule 3 restates an existing power to make regulations about how licensing functions should be exercised. In our view, the existing regulation-making power is necessary so that the UK’s licensing authorities may make provision about the operation of their licensing regimes—such as in relation to the manner in which they issue and notify licences. The nature of those matters does not warrant the affirmative procedure.

Secondly, paragraph 7(3) of schedule 3 provides the power to authorise the making of charges in relation to licenses. The procedure followed in this paragraph is the same as that for provisions that we are replacing in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The use of the negative procedure continues the status quo in that case. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

In the debate on landing fish in coastal communities and banning supertrawlers, the Minister said that the salvation to those causes lies in the licence restrictions. She cannot argue on those controversial issues that the future needs to be trusted to the licence conditions and then deny Parliament’s scrutiny of those licence conditions. However, recognising that she probably will take this as an opportunity for greater consultation, perhaps with stakeholders, before such decisions are made, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 27, in schedule 3, page 56, line 3, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

‘(a) sections 15 to 17,’

This amendment updates the definition of “licensing function” so that it includes functions under clause 16.

This is a technical amendment that updates the definition of licensing function. It will allow licensing authorities to transfer the licensing functions in clause 16 to another licensing authority if required.

I have one bit of good news for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, which is that I have just had confirmation that licences in England can continue to be emailed. That is not entirely relevant to this amendment, Chair—I am sorry.

Briefly, it is good to hear that licences can be emailed. I will come back to that point.

This technical amendment relates to how foreign boats and UK boats could be regarded in different regulatory environments, so I do not think it is as slight as the Minister is suggesting. How British boats and foreign boats are judged and regulated is at the heart of the Bill, because I am concerned that there is not a level playing field. It is good news that the licence can be emailed and I will pick that up in due course, but we will not be opposing this amendment.

Amendment 27 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Third schedule to the Bill.

The schedule replicates the powers in section 4 of the

Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. Those powers are given to the licensing authorities and are necessary to implement a vessel licensing regime. Paragraph 1(1) includes powers to attach conditions to a licence. The schedule provides that licensing authorities may add, vary or remove a licence. The licensing authorities will have the power to require a master owner or charterer who is named to provide any information they ask for. Failure to do so will constitute an offence.

The schedule allows licensing authorities to apply licence conditions to restrict the number of boats fishing in any one area or restrict fishing for specified species at certain times of the year. The licensing authorities have the ability to make arrangements for any licensing functions to be carried out by others on their behalf.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 3 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 20

Penalties for offences

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The purpose of the clause is to set out the penalties that can be applied for access and licensing offences in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 20 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 21

Offences by bodies corporate etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause sets out the offences that apply to bodies corporate and the officers that have committed them through consent, connivance or negligence. It makes it clear that “officer” means a director, manager, secretary or similar officer of the body corporate, or a person purporting to act in one of those capacities.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

Jurisdiction of court to try offences

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The effect of the clause is that, where an offence under the Bill has been committed, proceedings can be taken against individuals in any part of the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23

Minor and consequential I

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This clause introduces schedule 4, which sets out the consequential I arising from the new access and licensing provisions introduced in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 23 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

Access and licensing: minor and consequential I

I beg to move amendment 28, in schedule 4, page 57, line 2, leave out sub-paragraph (3).

This amendment removes the power to extend section 2 of the Fishery Limits Act 1976 (which is repealed by paragraph 3(1) of this Schedule) to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

These are technical I. Schedule 4 repeals the current regime that would manage access of foreign fishing boats to British waters through the use of designation orders. These I ensure that that regime and the designation orders are also repealed in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man—with their agreement, of course. I commend the I to the Committee.

This is a completely uncontroversial amendment, which we are happy to support. However, I am keen to understand from the Minister why the measure was not included in the original Bill and is being proposed as a Government amendment, because that removes the ability for others to have time to consider the implications.

I am afraid I do not know the answer to that question—I was not involved in the creation of the Bill—but I am very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with further details. I suspect that it was not spotted.

Amendment 28 agreed to.

I beg to move amendment 29, in schedule 4, page 63, line 14, at end insert—

“‘temporary foreign vessel licence’ means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks;”.

This amendment is one of a group of I that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

This group of I enables the four UK fishing administrations to issue licences to foreign vessels in a shortened timespan, if it should prove necessary to do so.

The preferred system of licensing is that, should access be granted, the UK and the EU, Norwegian or Faroese licensing authorities would exchange lists of vessels wishing to fish in each other’s waters. Following relevant checks, the lists would be validated and the UK would issue licences to individual vessels. That process would be undertaken by the Marine Management Organisation, acting as our single issuing authority.

That will necessarily take some time and there is a risk that the delivery of fishing licences to vessel owners will be delayed. The impact would be that vessels from the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands would not be able to fish in our waters at the start of any fishing agreement.

I stress that this is very much a contingency solution to provide maximum flexibility for the UK licensing authorities. The aim would be to have full licences ready to issue for all individual vessels at the start of the fishing year, if a negotiated outcome on access has been reached. As a contingency, accepting that that will not always be possible, we have devised the new mechanism. It in no way undermines the principle that any foreign vessels that we allow to fish in our waters must be licensed and must follow the same rules as our vessels. The only difference between the systems is about who is informed about the granting of a licence and the time in which it can be processed.

The I pick up on one theme I have raised with the Minister around the difference between a hard copy and an electronic licence. That relates to the experience of British fishers in particular and the MMO’s licensing arrangements. As we discussed earlier, arrangements have changed in relation to the covid procedures, particularly in relation to the carrying of a hard copy versus an electronic copy. My reading of the amendment is that it provides a different service and puts a different requirement on foreign fishers than on UK fishing boats.

Current UK fishing licence conditions, including conditions 6.1a and 6.1b, require UK fishing boats to carry a hard copy of their licence on board, or to be able to produce it at a time and place requested by the regulator or their agent, which in most cases in England is the Royal Navy, within five days. This amendment seeks to make an electronic version a permanent solution for foreign boats, but not for UK boats.

I understand that we have seen changes with the covid situation. I hope the Minister has effectively announced that the licence will now be electronic for all UK boats. She may need to bring forward a statutory instrument to adjust the regulations after the covid regulations are removed. My understanding of the covid regulations is that they will all go and we will revert back to the pre-covid regulations, which would require a new statutory instrument to be brought forward. That would be a welcome move because it would put UK fishers on a level playing field with foreign fishers.

With this amendment, foreign fishers get a better service than UK fishers, outside the current covid regulations. I am concerned about that, so I shall be grateful if the Minister will set out how that would work, particularly regarding enforcement and the difficulties of obtaining signal while at sea, in order to demonstrate to an enforcement vessel during a stop that a vessel has an electronic licence if it does not have a hard copy.

We know there have been difficulties in the past with foreign boats fishing in our waters without a licence and not being checked. The Minister will probably be aware of the case of the Dutch-registered Friesian that was scalloping and landing in and out of UK ports without a licence, before it was finally checked by the French, who took it to task. That was a number of years ago and it is extraordinary that steps have not been taken to address that level of enforcement since then. There is a point to make about both UK and foreign fishing boats being regulated in a similar way.

I realise that the approach that the Minister has taken in the past is to say that other nations regulate their own boats. However, when fishing in our waters, using permissions granted by the UK Government or UK fisheries authorities, there should be a similar approach, whether the boat is British-based or foreign-based.

To answer the point directly about whether we are making it easier for foreign boats than for UK boats, that it is not the case. If access is granted, all the facts in the list will be checked and validated by the single issuing authority, devolved Administration or Crown dependency. That would happen regardless of the licensing mechanism used. That is a temporary solution. Permanent licences will be needed, and will be issued to individual licence holders as soon as they can be processed.

I have had confirmation that the MMO does not require physical licences, but the licence is required to be available to be shown on a boat, either on a phone, by email or by whatever is easiest for the licence holder. I do not believe that further legislation is required. For the purposes of the Fisheries Bill, we need to crack on. When I get back to the office I will check whether further legislation is required, but I do not believe that that is the case.

Amendment 29 agreed to.

Amendments made: 30, in schedule 4, page 63, line 23, after “words”, insert—

“(i) after ‘A licence’ insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) ”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 31, in schedule 4, page 63, line 40, leave out “this regulation” and insert “paragraphs (1) and (2)”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 32, in schedule 4, page 63, line 44, leave out from “charterer;” to end of line 47 and insert—

“(b) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.

(2B) A temporary foreign vessel licence shall be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Welsh Ministers or of a person granting the licence on their behalf.

(2C) In paragraph (2B), ‘the relevant person’, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 33, in schedule 4, page 64, line 10, after “licence”, insert

“, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 34, in schedule 4, page 64, line 21, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b) and insert—

“(a) in the heading, for ‘Delivery’ substitute ‘Granting’;

(b) in paragraphs (1) and (2), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(c) in paragraph (3)—

(i) after ‘A licence’ insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for ‘a nominee’s’ substitute ‘an’;

(iii) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert—

‘(3A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by electronic means at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (3) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(3B) A notice communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2)(b) (publication on website) shall be treated as given immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.

(3C) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2B) shall be treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(e) in paragraph (5) (in each place it occurs), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 35, in schedule 4, page 64, line 27, leave out from “paragraph (a)” to end of line 28 and insert—

“(i) after ‘2(1)’ insert ‘or (2B)’;

(ii) omit ‘, and a notice which is communicated in accordance with regulation 2(2)(b),’;

(iii) for ‘delivered or given’ substitute ‘granted’;”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 36, in schedule 4, page 65, line 38, at end insert—

“(e) after that definition insert—

‘“temporary foreign vessel licence” means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 37, in schedule 4, page 65, line 40, after “words”, insert—

“(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) ”.

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 38, in schedule 4, page 65, line 43, at end insert—

“(ba) after that paragraph insert —

‘(1A) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Scottish Ministers or of a person granting the licence on their behalf.

(1B) In paragraph (1A), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 39, in schedule 4, page 66, line 3, leave out from “notices)” to end of line 4 and insert—

“(a) in the heading, for ‘Delivery’ substitute ‘Granting’;

(b) in paragraphs (1) and (2), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(c) in paragraph (3)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for ‘a nominee’s’ substitute ‘an’;

(iii) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert—

‘(3A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (3) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(3B) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated in accordance with regulation 3(1A) is to be treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(e) in paragraph (5) (in both places), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 40, in schedule 4, page 66, line 4, at end insert—

“(6) In regulation 5 (time at which licences and notices to have effect), in paragraph (a)—

(a) after ‘3(1)’, insert ‘or (1A)’;

(b) for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 41, page 66, line 30, at end insert—

“(ba) for the definition of ‘notice’ substitute—

‘“notice” means a notice of variation, suspension or revocation of a licence;’;”.

This amendment updates the definition of “notice” in the Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (England) Regulations 2012 to reflect other changes to those regulations made in this Schedule.

Amendment 42, in schedule 4, page 66, line 44, at end insert—

“‘temporary foreign vessel licence’ means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 43, in schedule 4, page 66, line 46, leave out paragraph (a) to paragraph (c) on page 67 and insert—

“(a) in paragraph (1)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) for the words from ‘the owner’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient (“P”)’;

(b) after that paragraph insert—

‘(1A) In paragraph (1) “an appropriate recipient” means—

(a) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a relevant fishing boat—

(i) the owner or charterer of the fishing boat, or

(ii) a nominee of the owner or charterer;

(b) in relation to a licence or a notice, relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.’;

(c) in paragraph (2), after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence, ’;

(d) after paragraph (3) insert —

‘(3A) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by communicating it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Marine Management Organisation or of a person granting the licence on its behalf.

(3B) In paragraph (3A), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’;

(e) omit paragraph (8).”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 44, in schedule 4, page 67, line 10, at end insert—

“(5) In regulation 4 (time at which licences are delivered and notice given)—

(a) in the heading and paragraphs (1), (2), (3) and (4), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’;

(b) after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by means of an electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (4) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence communicated as described in regulation 3(3A) is treated as granted immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’;

(c) in paragraph (7) (in both places), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.

(6) In regulation 5 (time at which licences and notices have effect), in paragraph (a), for ‘delivered’ substitute ‘granted’.”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 45, in schedule 4, page 68, line 4, at end insert—

“(f) after that definition insert—

‘“temporary foreign vessel licence” means a licence that—

(a) is granted in respect of a foreign fishing boat, and

(b) has effect for a period of no more than three weeks.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 46, in schedule 4, page 68, line 6, leave out paragraphs (a) to (c) and insert—

“(a) in paragraph (1)—

(i) after ‘A licence’, insert ‘, other than a temporary foreign vessel licence,’;

(ii) omit ‘Northern Ireland’;

(iii) for the words from ‘the owner or charterer of the boat’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient’;

(b) in paragraph (2), after ‘A licence’, insert ‘(other than a temporary foreign vessel licence)’;

(c) in paragraph (3), for the words from ‘the owner or charterer of the boat’ to the end substitute ‘an appropriate recipient’;

(d) after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In paragraphs (1) to (4), “an appropriate recipient” means—

(a) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a Northern Ireland fishing boat—

(i) the owner or charterer of the fishing boat, or

(ii) a nominee of that owner or charterer;

(b) in relation to a licence or notice relating to a foreign fishing boat, the owner or charterer of the fishing boat.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence is to be granted to the owner or charterer of a foreign fishing boat by delivering it to the relevant person by—

(a) transmitting it to the relevant person by means of an electronic communication, and

(b) subsequently publishing it on the website of the Department or of a person granting the licence on its behalf.

(4C) In paragraph (4B), “the relevant person”, in relation to a foreign fishing boat, means—

(a) if the fishing boat is registered in a member State, the European Commission;

(b) if the fishing boat is registered in a country or territory that is not a member State, the authority in that country or territory that is responsible for the regulation of fishing boats.’”

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

Amendment 47, in schedule 4, page 68, line 20, at end insert—

“(5) In regulation 4 (time when licences are delivered and notices given), after paragraph (4) insert—

‘(4A) In relation to a licence or notice transmitted by means of an electronic communication at any time during January 2021, the reference in paragraph (4) to 24 hours is to be read as a reference to one hour.

(4B) A temporary foreign vessel licence delivered as described in regulation 3(4B) is treated as delivered immediately it is published in accordance with that provision.’

(6) In regulation 5 (time when licences, variations, suspensions or revocations have effect), in paragraph (a), after ‘3(2)’, insert ‘or (4B)’.”—(Victoria Prentis.)

This amendment is one of a group of amendments that introduces an expedited process for granting temporary licences to foreign fishing boats by communicating them electronically to the European Commission (or, in the case of a non-EU fishing boat, the relevant regulatory authority) and publishing them on the web.

I beg to move amendment 48, in schedule 4, page 68, line 22, at end insert—

“Sea Fish Licensing (Wales) Order 2019

22 The Sea Fish Licensing (Wales) Order 2019 (S.I. 2019/507 (W. 117)) (which has not come into force) is revoked.

Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Wales) Regulations 2019

23 The Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Wales) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/500 (W. 116)) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Sea Fish Licensing (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

24 The Sea Fish Licensing (England) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/523) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Sea Fish Licensing (Foreign Vessels) (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019

25 The Sea Fish Licensing (Foreign Vessels) (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/87) (which has not come into force) is revoked.

Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

26 The Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/88) (which have not come into force) are revoked.

Fishing Boats Designation (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019

27 The Fishing Boats Designation (EU Exit) (Scotland) Order 2019 (S.S.I. 2019/345) (which has not come into force) is revoked.”

This amendment revokes various statutory instruments that have not come into force, and were made as part of contingency planning in case the Bill was not passed before IP completion day.

The amendment, which was mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, revokes contingency legislation made in March 2019—wasn’t that fun?—in the absence of the Fisheries Bill and in anticipation of leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, as was originally expected. I do not think I need to say anything further at this point. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

We spent a lot of time on these fisheries statutory instruments, and concerns were raised by Labour at the time as to whether we would need to revisit them—a point that the Minister at the time, although not this Minister, refuted. It turns out that the Government were incorrect and the Opposition were correct, as we are repeating activities here. This again underlines the importance of proper time for scrutiny and getting things right before pushing through a legislative programme. Taking greater care would have improved the outcomes and avoided our needing this Government amendment to revoke the SIs.

Indeed, the question is: why were the SIs not revoked in the original Bill, rather than as a result of a Government amendment? That pattern of behaviour—last-minute changes to things that were rushed—is concerning and makes me worry about the effectiveness of the legislation being passed if things are rushed in this way.

I do not think I need to respond to that in detail. The SIs are not different from the provisions of the Bill. As I said, I am sure that the work of the earlier Committees has in fact fed into this excellent Bill, which I have absolutely no doubt about commending to the House.

Amendment 48 agreed to.

I beg to move amendment 49, in schedule 4, page 69, line 21, at beginning insert—

“(1) Regulations made under section 4B of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 (regulations supplementary to sections 4 and 4A of that Act) in relation to licences under section 4 of that Act have effect on and after the coming into force of paragraph 6(2) as if they were made under paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 3 to this Act.”

This is a technical amendment clarifying the transitional provisions applying on the transition from the licensing regime in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 to the licensing regime in the Bill.

This is another technical amendment. In clarifying the licensing regime as it applies to foreign vessels, parliamentary counsel were of the view that a specific transitional provision might be sensible. The amendment clarifies the transitional provisions applying on the transition from the licensing regime in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967—my favourite—to the licensing regime in the Bill. It is a technical amendment, and I commend it to the Committee.

I just note for the record that this change has been included as a Government amendment, not as part of the original Bill. I am concerned that other things have been missed and not included.

The Minister is shaking her head. It is good to have that on the record. When we come to future SIs that take out bits that have been missed, because of the pace at which the Government are going, that can be correctly quoted back at whichever Minister is in the role at the time.

I am not sure whether a shaking of the head puts the Minister in jail, but I will leave that to be decided in a future debate.

Amendment 49 agreed to.

Question proposed, That the schedule, as amended, be the Fourth schedule to the Bill.

I think what we are all learning, Sir Charles, is the extraordinarily complex and interrelated nature of the legislation in this area. I am sure we can always continue to improve on it, but I am very proud of the Bill.

The schedule amends UK legislation in consequence of the access and licensing provisions introduced in the Bill. The matters covered are access to British fisheries by foreign fishing boats, the licensing of British fishing boats and transitional provisions. In particular, section 2 of the Fishery Limits Act 1976, which sets out the current law on access by foreign boats, is repealed, as is the secondary legislation made under that section.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 4, as amended, accordingly agreed to.

Clause 24

Power of Secretary of State to determine fishing opportunities

I beg to move amendment 111, in clause 24, page 16, line 14, leave out “may determine” and insert “must determine”.

This amendment makes it compulsory for the Secretary of State to make a determination relating to fishing opportunities.

Labour’s amendments to clause 24 relate to the Secretary of State’s function of setting the maximum quantity of sea fish that may be caught by fishing boats, both British and foreign, and the days that they may spend at sea during a specified period. Further to the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, this amendment seeks to make that an affirmative rather than a negative process.

The current drafting of clause 24 gives a statutory power to the Secretary of State to determine UK fishing opportunities. The power may be exercised only where necessary to comply with the UK’s international obligations. Although most determinations are likely to be made to implement any obligations resulting from negotiations with other states, the Secretary of State could also make a determination to implement the UK’s sustainable fishing duties under international law. A determination may cover fishing effort as well as quota.

Amending the power would make the scope of the Secretary of State’s function uncertain. If it became obligatory to make a determination, would that duty apply to non-quota stocks or to stocks that are wholly located within devolved areas? I am concerned that my colleagues in the devolved Administrations would not welcome that. I assure the hon. Lady that, through the Fisheries Bill, there will be greater transparency of how we manage and allocate quota in the UK through the publication of the Secretary of State’s determination of UK fishing opportunities, which will be laid before Parliament. Given that explanation, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 113, in clause 24, page 16, leave out lines 16 to 19 and insert—

“(a) the maximum quantity of sea fish that may be caught by British fishing boats or foreign fishing boats holding rights to use the British catch quota;

(b) the maximum number of days that British fishing boats or foreign fishing boats holding rights to use the British catch quota may spend at sea.”

This amendment would add foreign fishing boats to the determination made by the Secretary of State of the maximum quantity of sea fish caught, or of the maximum number of days at sea.

I believe that the amendment brings us one step closer to taking back control of our waters. We should have control over what non-UK boats do in our waters, including how much fish they can catch. As hon. Members know from our lengthy discussions on these matters, the Opposition are keen to ensure that the sustainability of our environment and our fish stocks are fundamental to fisheries management, and that our small British fishers and their coastal communities see the greatest possible benefit from fishing opportunities and redistributed quotas.

The amendment would add foreign fishing boats to the determination made by the Secretary of State for the maximum quantity of sea fish that can be caught and the maximum number of days that can be spent at sea. It seeks to ensure that foreign fishing vessels are not exempt from the Secretary of State’s jurisdiction. In our efforts to ensure that we have a sustainable and growing UK fishing industry, the British Government should be able to set limits for all boats operating in our waters to protect UK fish stocks and ensure the survival of our UK fishing industry.

We do not think that this amendment is necessary, as foreign fishing boats do not hold any rights to use British catch or effort quota. UK quota is allocated only to vessels registered and licensed in the UK. It is, of course, true that the ultimate beneficial owners of some UK fishing businesses are foreign. This is because UK fishing companies and their assets can be bought and sold like any other company in any other industry, but no foreign-registered fishing boat has the right to use our quota, nor will they in future. Any foreign fishing boat permitted to fish in UK waters in future would fish against its own state’s quota. Given that the amendment would not be effective in practice, I ask that it be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 114, in clause 24, page 16, line 19, at end insert—

“(1A) No determination of effort quota under subsection (1)(b) may be made until the completion of a trial for the relevant area of sea, stocks fished, fishing methods used, documentation methods used and any other relevant considerations that demonstrates that there is no evidence that such a determination—

(a) might cause a detriment to the achievement of any of the fisheries objectives;

(b) might cause the maximum sustainable yield of any stock to be exceeded;

(c) might reduce the accuracy of the recording of catches;

(d) might increase the risk of danger to the crew of fishing boats.”

This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State making a determination of effort quota until it has been shown not to cause adverse impacts through a days at sea trial.

Amendment 114 would require the Secretary of State to commit to a days at sea trial to ensure the effort quota is not harmful to the fisheries objectives, the state of fish stocks or boat crew members. Days at sea or effort quotas should be the result of careful planning and consideration. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said on Second Reading:

“Fish stocks are a finite resource, yet fishing quotas are being set above scientifically recommended sustainable levels year on year. Estimates suggest that restoring fish populations would not only safeguard our marine life, but lead to £244 million a year for the industry and create more than 5,000 jobs.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 96.]

I cannot stress enough the need for quotas to closely follow scientific guidance so that fish stocks are not depleted further. With this amendment, the Opposition are calling on the Secretary of State to complete trials on

“the relevant area of sea, stocks fished, fishing methods”

and “documentation methods used” before making a determination of fishing opportunities. This would ensure that effort quotas do not negatively impact the achievement of any of the fisheries objectives under clause 1 of the Bill, exceed the maximum sustainable yield of any stocks, reduce the accuracy of the recording of catches, or put the lives of fishers at risk. I do not believe it is too much to ask of the Government that they commit to a trial that ensures the sustainability of our stocks and the industry.

If the Minister is confident that the trial would find that an effort quota is not harmful, there is nothing to fear or oppose in having it take place, and ensuring the matter can be concluded with its findings. Conversely, if it is the case that the effort quota is harmful to the fisheries objectives, the state of the fish stocks or the boat crew members, I am sure the Minister would not want that harm to continue. As I have said, the amendment simply commits the Secretary of State to undertake a days at sea trial to ensure that we are not causing long-term harm to the industry and our fish stocks. I hope the Government will take this opportunity to do so.

There is already a long-standing effort scheme in place for some shellfish and all demersal fish in the western waters, which will become retained UK law. To effectively manage the western waters effort regime in future, we may need the Secretary of State determination to vary effort baselines in response to the latest scientific evidence or, of course, the outcome of annual fisheries negotiations. I am concerned that the amendment would hamper our ability to improve the western waters regime. Requiring no evidence to be found seems unlikely to be achieved through the pilot, so I suggest that the effect of this amendment would be to stop the effective use of effort as a way of determining fishing opportunities in future.

We have not spent as much time discussing effort during the passage of this Bill as we did during the course of the last Bill. One reason for that is that Ministers subsequently committed to undertake days at sea trials, and there have been discussions among various ports as to which ones would undertake those trials. As the Minister will know, Plymouth is one of those ports; it is keen to undertake the trials, and with a very active council on fisheries matters and the shadow Secretary of State representing the area, that would be the perfect opportunity to prove or disprove whether this works. Is it still the Government’s intention to hold those days at sea trials, and if so, would they be a substitute for what the amendment seeks to provide?

Given the specific nature of this clause, I am not sure that I can answer the hon. Gentleman’s question in the way he would like me to. What we are talking about here is the effort trial involving some quota stocks, and without further time to check what is envisaged in any Plymouth trial, I do not want to categorically rule it in or out.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. Whether it is a Plymouth trial, a Fraserburgh trial or a Grimsby trial, the concept is of a series of trials to look at days at sea and effort-based fishing, beyond the stocks that already have effort-based regimes in place. That was an important concession that the Government made after the pausing of the last Fisheries Bill. If the Minister does not know the status of those trials, perhaps she could write to the Opposition to set out those details. It is important that we have clarity on that.

As far as I am concerned, we are very keen to make the scientific evidence and the baselines that we use as good as possible. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware of the work that is carrying on in that regard. However, we do need the flexibility to respond to changing science. I am in no way denigrating the pilot schemes, which are important and ongoing. This is probably, again, not a matter for this amendment, but something that we will continue to discuss for many years.

The problem with the amendment is that it would stop the effective use of effort as a way of determining fishing opportunities. I am not saying that we do not need the science—of course we do, and we need pilots to give us that science—but I do not want this to prevent us from using a precautionary approach to fisheries management where that is appropriate.

I am concerned that the amendment would put fisheries and their management at risk up and down the country, so I expect it will be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 115, in clause 24, page 16, line 26, at end insert—

“(3A) The Secretary of State must ensure that a baseline stock assessment has been made for all non-quota species by 2030 and must report on progress on an annual basis.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to gather a baseline stock assessment for those stocks that are not subject to catch limits.

Amendment 115 calls for a baseline stock assessment to be made for all non-quota species by 2030, and requires an annual report on progress. I believe the amendment is vital to ensuring the environmental and economic sustainability of our non-quota fish stocks. As I hope we all acknowledge, the absence of comprehensive data, even on quota species, has led to considerable issues that could threaten the long-term future of the industry and the marine environment itself. Overfishing is only one of the problems caused.

To ensure that the objectives in the Bill are met, the amendment calls for a baseline stock assessment to be made for all non-quota species by 2030 and an annual report on progress.

The hon. Lady is talking about a specific point in the trophic pyramid of the ecosystem. She is asking for an assessment of all non-stock species, but is that down to the nudibranchs on the rocks? I can see certain practical challenges with that, even though it is just fish.

Okay. The trophic pyramid does not allow—just because it has a backbone—for it to be at that point in the ecosystem because it is called a fish in biology. I wonder whether there are unintended consequences of the amendment.

We hope that there will not be unintended consequences, but the amendment speaks to those fish that we actually go out and fish. I hope that clarifies the point.

As such, it seems that baseline stock assessments and annual reporting of progress on this matter are essential if we are to ensure that informed decisions can be made to protect the future of all non-quota species and the fishers who catch them. We know that many of these species are under great pressure. A deficiency in the data can be an excuse for fishing unsustainably. We cannot allow ourselves to plead ignorance, when the important step within this amendment has the potential to prevent such mistakes being made, which we know would be an environmental and economic disaster for the communities that rely on our fish stocks.

Is it your pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn? Sorry, I call the Minister. I am sure it would be the Minister’s pleasure for the amendment to be withdrawn.

It would indeed be our pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn, because we think it is disproportionately burdensome, though we agree it is well-intentioned and we absolutely agree that good data is key to making good fisheries management decisions. We also accept that we have too many data-poor stocks, particularly for non-quota stocks, but there are a number of practical issues with the amendment that we think would cause us difficulties.

Fisheries management plans in the Bill require fisheries authorities to specify the actions to assess the status of the stocks covered, or explain how the stocks will be managed sustainably in the absence of sufficient data. Our progress with those plans will be reported on every three years. Many non-quota stocks occur in the waters managed by the devolved Administrations. Most of the functions of gathering that information will be for the DAs, not the Secretary of State. I am concerned about that aspect of this amendment, and I again ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 116, in clause 24, page 16, line 43, at end insert—

“(7A) The Secretary of State may also determine, for such year or other period as may be specified in the determination, the maximum number of different descriptions of sea fish that may be caught, tagged and released, for the purposes of gathering data to aid scientific study, by those engaged in recreational fishing.”

This amendment would give the Secretary of State the power to determine a ‘catch, tag and release’ quota for recreational fishing for the purposes of gathering data to aid scientific study.

As outlined with reference to amendment 115, the absence of comprehensive data on our fish stocks inhibits our ability to ensure that we manage our fisheries in a way that is environmentally and economically sustainable. Amendment 116 would give the Secretary of State the power to determine a catch, tag and release quota for our recreational fishers. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, who is serving on the Committee, referred to each fishing boat as a “floating science laboratory”. I could not agree more. Fishers are, absolutely, experts in their industry. We must not ignore their knowledge and ability to gather data. In fact, I would argue that they should have a much bigger role in the formation of policy decisions, because they bring to the table not only expertise but an unparalleled passion for ensuring the future survival of the UK fishing industry.

In bringing recreational fishers into much-needed work gathering data on our fish stocks, the amendment would provide the Secretary of State with the opportunity to allow recreational fishers to assist in the gathering of data on the state of our fish stocks and help scientists to provide up-to-date information and advice to fisheries authorities. In doing so, the Secretary of State would be providing a boost to recreational fishing, while allowing it to play its role in ensuring the sustainability of our fish stocks and better fisheries management for our commercial operators.

Since 2015, huge Atlantic bluefin tuna have appeared late each summer in UK waters. That is an exciting new development for UK fishers. Until the 1950s, we had a thriving recreational bluefin tuna fishery that operated out of Whitby and Scarborough. In the early 1960s, however, those fish disappeared completely from the far north-east Atlantic. That was down to a combination of factors, including long-time climatic cycle shifts and commercial overfishing of their prey species. But as of five years ago, long-term climatic cycles and recovery efforts had helped the Atlantic bluefin to become once again a regular seasonal visitor to our waters. Recreational fishers could take part in its global stock recovery programme. No longer do they have to travel to faraway places to fish that big game fish. Instead, catch and release would enable recreational fishers to aid scientific data gathering on non-quota species that are starting to be found in UK waters.

We have a real opportunity here to create world-class, sustainable and valuable live-release recreational fisheries. The amendment is not just about protecting fish stocks for environmental and conservationist reasons, although that is important. It is about the future prosperity of our fishers and coastal communities, whom we want to see grow in the long as well as the short term.

My alertness just improved during the discussion of this amendment. I am so sad that I cannot involve myself in this debate.

As I know you know, Sir Charles, recreational angling within the UK is not currently subject to quota limitations, which the Government are concerned could incorrectly be interpreted as a reference to equivalent measures currently in place for commercial fishers. Discussions with the recreational sector have repeatedly highlighted the fact that it is not particularly interested in being subject to quota restrictions. Its interest is in restoring stocks and improving physical access, so that more successful recreational trips can take place. Indeed, the current industry proposal for a recreational scientific catch, tag and release bluefin tuna fishery is based on the premise that quota would not be required.

The amendment pre-empts the outcome of engagement with stakeholders and careful consideration of the best way to develop a regime, if we believe that that is the right way to go, for recovering species such as bluefin tuna. I have undertaken to meet the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, and other colleagues who are interested, at some point before too long, to discuss bluefin tuna specifically. The Government feel that the amendment is unnecessary, as we already have broad powers in relation to scientific trials, data collection and quota allocation.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at the last minute and for agreeing to meet me, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) and, perhaps in a different capacity, the Chair to discuss bluefin tuna. Will she address the point about the role of recreational fishers in helping to provide science? That was at the heart of what the shadow fisheries Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley East, was saying. For data-deficient stocks in particular, and for stocks for which data is held but is poorly applied, recreational fishers—a group of people who love their fish and have really strong opinions on making fishing more sustainable—could provide an enormous benefit to Government science.

I beg to move amendment 112, in clause 24, page 17, line 8, leave out “negative” and insert “affirmative”.

This amendment would make the relevant regulations subject to the affirmative procedure.

The amendment would make the regulations subject to the affirmative procedure. On the first day of the Committee, I spoke at length about the need for more parliamentary scrutiny. Since 2013, no significant progress has been made towards achieving maximum sustainable yield figures, which have languished at about 57% to 68% of stocks fished sustainably in the last seven years.

The powers granted under clause 24(10) give the Secretary of State the power to determine the number of days in a specified period that a boat may spend at sea. Regulations under that power will be affected by the varying technical conditions—from the stowing of fishing gear to entering the UK’s inshore waters or leaving a port—that may affect when a boat should be regarded as fishing. The calculation of what is meant by “a day at sea” is highly technical, so I firmly believe that we need more parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that effort quotas do not exceed scientific advice and damage the sustainability of our fish stocks.

The Government consider that we have struck the right balance between the need for parliamentary scrutiny and the need to react quickly, with secondary legislation, to make what are often technical amendments. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee considered the procedures for the delegated powers in the Bill, and said:

“Of the Bill’s 15 delegated powers that have a parliamentary procedure, only four are solely governed by the negative procedure, and justifiably so.”

That Committee also published a report about the Bill on 26 February, and it did not change its views. It should also be noted that an identical amendment was debated and withdrawn in the other place. I therefore invite the hon. Lady to withdraw the amendment.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause provides the Secretary of State with the power to determine the UK’s fishing opportunities, to comply with its international obligations. The Secretary of State will be able to set the maximum amount of seafish that may be caught by British fishing boats and the maximum number of days that they can spend at sea. The power would be used to set the level of total allowable catch for UK shared stocks, reflecting anything that we manage to negotiate. It could also be used to ensure our compliance with article 61 of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

The power relates therefore to the high-level function of determining UK fishing opportunities as a whole; it does not relate to the subsequent allocation of those opportunities to the different fisheries administrations, or indeed to their distribution to industry. Under the clause, the Secretary of State would also have the power to make negative resolution regulations about when time will be counted as time at sea for the purposes of the determination.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 24 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25

Duties relating to a determination of fishing opportunities

I beg to move amendment 117, in clause 25, page 17, line 19, at end insert—

“(e) the public.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to conduct a public consultation prior to making or withdrawing a determination under section 24.

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 118, in clause 25, page 17, line 24, at end insert—

“and stating what published scientific advice was used as the basis of the decision,”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to state what scientific advice was used when making or withdrawing a determination under section 24.

I will speak to both amendments. Amendment 117 calls for public consultation prior to the Secretary of State making or withdrawing a determination of fishing opportunities under clause 24. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned that we need to restore public trust in fisheries management decisions and policy. For too long, the British public have had little say in what happens, with decisions made behind closed doors in Brussels. The feeling that decisions that affected the public were made by people far away who knew little about their lives and were not willing to listen has been incredibly powerful, and the frustration that that democratic deficit causes is real.

A public consultation would give the public, and particularly our coastal communities, a say in the fishing opportunities in UK waters. It would show that the Government want to give the public an opportunity to have their say and that they are committed to listening.

The hon. Lady talks about a democratic deficit, but do not many Members of Parliament represent coastal ports, and indeed are there not councillors on the inshore fisheries and conservation authorities? Do not we already have quite strong democratic accountability for the fishing industry and environmental concerns within Parliament and local authorities?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks with great authority on the subject. I guess that that argument could be applied to pretty much any public consultation. The idea of the amendment is that although, of course, people can come to their local MPs, who can make the case for them, they would be able to feed in directly on the specifics of fishing opportunities.

A public consultation would also, I believe, bring to light the current inequalities in the UK fishing fleet and give the public an opportunity to have their say on how to address bringing back prosperity to coastal communities. It would also give people the opportunity to ensure that the Government and fisheries authorities stay true to the objectives outlined in clause 1—most importantly, the sustainability objective. The British public are increasingly concerned about the climate emergency and the efforts being made to protect our environment. If we are to restore the confidence of the public that the British Government are in complete control not only of our maritime future, but of the conservation and protection of our marine environment, we must involve them in our fisheries management decisions. I believe we should give them a voice, and commit to listening.

Amendment 118 would require the Secretary of State to state what scientific advice was used when making or withdrawing a determination under clause 24. As discussed earlier, the scientific evidence objective requires fisheries authorities to draw on

“the best available scientific advice”

in making their decisions. The Opposition have argued that only that evidence will lead to world-leading sustainable fisheries management.

For the purposes of accountability and effective scrutiny, it seems clear that when making such determinations under clause 24 the Secretary of State should identify the scientific evidence on which the decisions are based. Such decisions by the Secretary of State will have significant impacts on operators and coastal communities, and I do not believe that it would be improper for the Secretary of State to confirm the scientific basis of a decision.

Independent peer-reviewed science must form the basis of all fisheries management decisions. Sadly, we live a world where a minority scientific opinion—the opinion of those who deny the existence of a climate crisis, for example—can cast doubt on the majority of scientific data and advice. It is important that we know who the Government are turning to when they determine the allocation of fishing opportunities under clause 24.

We are concerned about the practical implications of the amendment, as it could result in an unacceptable loss of time in getting access to fishing opportunities at the start of the calendar year. If public consultation were required it would have to take place after international negotiations, which could cause a significant delay. Fishermen would not be able to fish, because they would still be waiting for confirmation of quotas. For fisheries that operate primarily in the early part of the year, such as the mackerel fishery, that could be serious.

It is unclear what benefit public consultation at that stage would bring. The scientific advice, which the hon. Lady is right to mention as important, and which informs negotiation and quota setting, would have been published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea some months earlier. Discussions with industry and other stakeholders about quota setting would ordinarily take place in advance of negotiations, not afterwards.

Turning to amendment 118, the advice on the health and sustainability of fish stocks is already publicly available and is published each year. It is good international advice on the health of fish stocks and total allowable catches each year, and is available to all those who are interested in it. I am afraid I do not see what benefit the two amendments will bring, and I therefore ask that neither be pressed to a vote.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26

Distribution of fishing opportunities

I beg to move amendment 119, in clause 26, page 17, leave out line 38.

This amendment would remove historical catch levels as a basis for distributing catch quotas and effort quotas.

Amendment 119 removes historical catch as a basis for allocating quotas. National authorities would no longer consider historical catch levels when distributing catch and effort quotas to fishing boats. Instead, they would prioritise environmental and local economic criteria. Removing historical catch levels as a criterion would help to end the unfair arrangement that British fishers suffered under the common fisheries policy.

This new system under which quotas are distributed on the basis of environmental and local economic criteria is likely to benefit small-scale sustainable fishers who belong to the UK small fishing fleet, because smaller boats provide more job opportunities to local communities. For every fish caught, small-scale fleets create far more jobs than their larger counterparts. In 2016, they landed 11% of fish by value in the UK but employed nearly half of all fishers. They are also better for the environment.

We have already discussed the impact of destructive fishing methods, including pulse beam trawling, which cause huge damage to the UK marine environments and ecosystems. In contrast to supertrawlers and larger boats, the vast majority of boats within the small-scale fleet use passive gears, which are more environmentally friendly. By removing historical catch from the list of criteria that a national authority must consider when allocating fishing opportunities, we would send a message to smaller boats that we believe in their economic potential and recognise the positive impact of job opportunities in coastal communities and the marine environments in which such boats operate.

I am aware that some colleagues will be concerned about the legality of removing historical catch as a basis for allocating quotas, but I reassure them that a challenge to a new system of quota allocation enshrined in an Act of Parliament would be unlikely to succeed. I have been assured that the new scenario of mandating quota re-allocation in UK law would be compatible with domestic and international law.

Under this new approach, foreign-owned companies that control UK quota would have to work to keep it on the UK’s terms. They would have to fulfil the environmental and local economic criteria, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and local employment. Our smaller fishing fleets remain the backbone of coastal communities across the country. It is time that they got their fair share of fishing opportunities.

In Committee earlier this week, I explained that although fixed quota allocation units do not represent a permanent right to quotas, the High Court has recognised them as a property right, and it is not the Government’s intention to undermine the legal status of the existing quota regime at this stage. I therefore ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 120, in clause 26, page 17, line 44, at end insert—

“(3A) When distributing English fishing opportunities, the Secretary of State may redistribute any fishing opportunities made available before IP completion day, and any such distribution and redistribution must be carried out according to social, environmental and local economic criteria following national and regional consultation from relevant stakeholder advisory groups, including representative groups from across the fishing fleet, scientists, and environmental groups.”

This amendment would allow the redistribution of existing fishing opportunities in England and would mean that such distribution and redistribution had to be carried out in accordance with certain criteria, following consultation.

Amendment 120 would allow the redistribution of existing English fishing opportunities. I stress that Labour’s amendments to clause 26 would not leave our largest fishing boats and those that are bigger than 10 metres in a position where they could no longer operate—far from it. We are calling for a redistribution of a small proportion of opportunities to the under-10 metre fishing fleet. Even a single-digit percentage redistribution of quotas would make a monumental difference to the lives of small fishers, who have been hit particularly hard by the covid-19 pandemic. If just 1% or 2% of the total catch was re-allocated, that could increase by 25% what small boats can catch.

As I outlined earlier, for every fish caught, a small-scale fleet creates more jobs than their larger counterparts do. Despite landing only a tenth of the fish by value, they employ nearly half of all fishers. Of course, as we discussed, they create far more jobs on land that at sea. These small fishers are the backbone of the British fishing fleet. The future prosperity of our coastal communities is fundamentally dependent on these small-scale fishers. A small redistribution of the quota, which is clearly within the Government’s gift, would not cause significant damage to large-scale fishers, but it would fundamentally transform the prospects of our small fishers and their coastal communities. It would give them a platform to invest in new gear and boats and to hire more crew.

Labour is not calling for the redistribution of the quota to happen immediately. A phrased drawdown period would ensure that fishers could build up their capacity to meet the new quota allowances. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said on Second Reading:

“Such rebalancing could easily be absorbed by the big foreign-owned boat operators within the current range of variation of total allowable catch”.—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 73.]

The amendment calls on the Secretary of State to consider the social, environmental and local economic criteria when distributing or redistributing existing English fishing opportunities, as well as to consult stakeholder advisory groups. As I mentioned in the debate on amendment 119, Labour believes that considering environmental and local economic criteria would benefit our small fishing fleet and, consequently, the seaside towns and villages they rely on. Amendment 120 asks the Government to grasp this opportunity to support our small English fishers and their communities.

I rise in support of the case that has just been laid out by my colleague the shadow fisheries Minister. There is an opportunity here to support our small boat fleet and to send a message about what type of fisheries we want to have after we leave the Brexit transition period at the end of the year. I believe the British public and those in our coastal communities where fishing has a presence want to see our small boat fleet supported in particular. That is the sentiment that comes from fishers and coastal communities in Plymouth and across the south-west and, indeed, when I visited Grimsby and Hull recently. They want to see the small boats in particular benefiting.

As the Minister knows, I am sceptical about whether more fish will appear in any negotiations, and that is why, regardless of whether more fish come or not, now or later or not at all—I hope they do, through zonal attachment rather than relative stability—the ability to redistribute even a small percentage of our current quota to the benefit of our smaller fishers could have a profound and positive impact on our coastal communities. It would support our small fishers, create more jobs and, in particular, provide an economic foundation for fishers to expand the number of boats, expand the workforce and invest in our port infrastructure.

I anticipate that the Minister will be less keen on this measure. However, the sentiment that has been articulated is sound and good and would deliver on much of the promise that many of our coastal communities want to see from a revised fisheries regime.

I have absolutely no doubt that more fish will appear, or that we will be entitled to more fish at the end of this year. I absolutely agree with the sentiment of much of what the hon. Gentleman said, but I have an issue with the amendment.

The fisheries White Paper 2018 set out the Government’s policy on our existing quota—I rehearsed that point in the debate on the previous amendment. It is not our intention to undermine the legal status of the existing quota regime. We have also made it very clear, not least on Tuesday, that we will allocate additional quota differently. We will shortly consult on proposals for allocating English additional quota. I look forward to hearing from the hon. Gentleman at length when we do so.

There are some drafting issues with the amendment. For example, it is unclear what is meant by

“fishing opportunities made available before IP completion day”.

Obviously, fishing opportunities vary from year to year as stock conditions go up and down. It is unclear what is expected to be used as the baseline here. I am also concerned that the amendment seems to duplicate earlier parts of clause 26. Given that the Government have made absolutely clear that we do not intend to redistribute our existing share of FQA and that it is uncertain how the amendment would operate, I ask that it be withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 121, in clause 26, page 17, line 44, at end insert—

“(3A) When distributing catch quotas for use by fishing boats, the national fisheries authorities may make provision for the pooling of catch quotas by two or more boats.

(3B) Before making provision for the pooling of catch quotas under subsection (3A), the national fisheries authorities must be satisfied that any pooling will lead to a reduction in the discard of catch, including bycatch.”.

This amendment would allow the national fisheries authorities to enable catch quota to be pooled by two or more boats in cases where doing so would avoid discards.

This probing amendment is intended to investigate the Government’s plans to deal with discards and bycatch. We know that in mixed fisheries in particular, there is the real problem of small boats not having a quota for the fish they are catching because of their inability to target species in a 100% accurate manner. The amendment argues for a greater pooling of an element of quota to avoid fishers getting into trouble, through no fault of their own, despite best efforts to avoid bycatch when catching species they have neither quota for nor the ability to discard over the side or land in an economic manner. It is intended not as the preferred solution but rather as an opportunity for the Minister to set out the options, because I am concerned that the current discards regime, introduced for all the right reasons with a huge amount of public support, does not support our fishers in achieving the right outcomes in support of their businesses or the regime’s intended environmental objectives.

I expect the Minister to take much issue with the wording of the amendment. I am less fussed about its wording and more fussed about the clarity of where she intends to take discard policy in the future.

I am always fussed about the wording of amendments, but I would like to emphasise the important point that the Government remain fully committed to managing our stocks of fish sustainably and indeed to ending the wasteful practice of discarding.

Now that we have left the EU, we will develop a discards policy more tailored to us. It will have an emphasis on reducing the level of unintentional and unwanted bycatch through sustainable and selective fishing. The amendment is unnecessary because we already use quota pools in the way the amendment sets out. Most quota in England is managed by producer organisations. The exact management arrangements vary, but many do choose to operate with a quota pool, as set out in the amendment. The rest of the English fleet, which includes most of the smaller inshore vessels, fish from one of two quota pools that are managed by the MMO.

I beg to move amendment 82, in clause 26, page 17, line 44, at end insert—

‘(c) access for the purpose of recreational fishing, including by means of boats chartered for that purpose, to increased stock levels of recovering species.’.

This amendment would add access by recreational fishing to increased stock levels of recovering species to the list of things that national fisheries authorities must seek to incentivise when distributing catch quotas and effort quotas.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 81, in clause 35, page 23, line 44, at end insert—

‘(1A) Prior to giving financial assistance under subsection (1)(i), the Secretary of State must conduct a public consultation on how best to promote sustainable public access to recreational fishing opportunities, taking socioeconomic factors into account.

(1B) The consultation in subsection (1A) must include consideration of the use of boats that are chartered for recreational fishing.’.

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to conduct a consultation on recreational fishing prior to providing financial assistance.

New clause 2—Recreational fishing

‘(1) When any provision of this Act, including provisions inserted into other Acts by this Act, requires or permits the Secretary of State to consult with any person considered appropriate, the Secretary of State must consult with persons representing the practice of recreational fishing, including those who charter boats for the purpose of recreational fishing.

(2) The Secretary of State shall publish an annual report providing an assessment of the extent to which the provisions of this Act have—

(a) promoted recreational fishing, and

(b) had economic benefits attributable to the promotion of recreational fishing.

(3) The first report under subsection (2) shall be published no more than 12 months after this section comes into force.’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to consult on providing financial assistance for the promotion of recreational fishing, and to include representatives of recreational fishing when conducting a consultation under any other provisions of the Bill.

Amendments 81and 82 and new clause 2 are all about recreational fishing. Amendment 82 recognises the importance of recreational fishing to local economies across the UK and would call on national fisheries authorities to add access to recreational fishing to increase stock levels of recovering fish species in the distribution of catch and effort quotas.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport outlined on Second Reading, recreational fishing matters to people’s identities and it now competes economically with commercial fishing in GDP terms. In oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee for the previous iteration of the Bill, Dr Carl O’Brien said:

“In future, we need to have a better understanding of recreational fishing. We cannot ignore it, but we have to come up with a policy where you balance commercial and recreational anglers”

and that

“regardless of whether they are selling their catch, they are competing with a commercial fishery…for the western Baltic cod, the catches of the recreational anglers are far in excess of the commercial fleet.”––[Official Report, Fisheries Public Bill Committee, 6 December 2018; c. 117, Q228.]

The amendment asks the Secretary of State to consider the interests of the recreational fishing fleet alongside commercial fishing interests when distributing extra quota that has come about through the efforts to restore fish stock. New clause 2 would require the Secretary of State to consult on providing financial assistance for the promotion of recreational fishing and to include representatives of the recreational fishing industry when conducting a consultation under any of the provisions of the Bill.

As I mentioned, recreational fishing makes a huge contribution to local economies across the UK. It is an incredibly popular activity enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people. Research recently published from surveys of sea anglers during 2016 and 2017 shows that about 800,000—1.6% of UK adults—went sea angling at least once a year, fishing for a total of 7 million days. Anglers spend on average more than £1,000 a year on their sport, resulting in sea angling having a total economic impact of between £1.5 billion and £2 billion. Sea angling supports about 15,000 jobs in the UK. It is important that we give the public and the industry an opportunity to have their say. Recreational angling and its contribution to coastal communities deserves more recognition in the Bill.

New clause 2 would ensure that the Bill supports our recreational industry. In a Committee evidence session on the previous iteration of the Bill, the Angling Trust argued that one of the great failures of the common fisheries policy was the failure to recognise recreational angling as a legitimate stakeholder in European fisheries. The new clause tries to correct that failure. As we take back control of our waters, we could do right by our sea anglers. We could recognise recreational sea angling as a direct user of, and a legitimate stakeholder in, fishing.

Amendment 81 would require the Secretary of State to conduct a consultation on recreational fishing before providing financial assistance. Clause 35 creates new powers for the Secretary of State to make grants or loans to the fishing and aquaculture industries. Labour welcomes the inclusion in the Bill of recreational fishing among the list of purposes for which the Secretary of State may give assistance. Our amendment would bring the Bill in line with new clause 2 and ensure that consultation on recreational fishing takes place prior to the provision of financial assistance.

Sustainable public access to recreational fishing should be promoted. I will not repeat the points that I have already made about the importance of the recreational fishing sector to coastal communities and sustainable fisheries management. However, I urge the Minister to support our amendments and new clause on recreational fishing, to recognise the good that the industry does for our country and ensure that it thrives in the future.

DEFRA absolutely recognises the benefits of recreational fishing to the nation’s health and economy; I know you do too, Sir Charles. I myself enjoy sea angling, as do other members of my family.

However, I will note at the beginning of this discussion that references to “fish activities” include both commercial and recreational fishing in this iteration of the Bill. So, it is fair to say that the Bill has been improved and it is good to see those activities being viewed as equal partners in what we are trying to do.

Quota is one of several possible mechanisms that could be explored in order to increase recreational anglers’ access to fish; we talked about that earlier. Other mechanisms could include technical measures, through which recreational fishers saw a significant increase in their access to sea bass between 2019 and 2020. We can also enable anglers and fishermen to play a greater role in scientific research, as we also discussed earlier, and that has been proposed with regard to bluefin tuna.

Clause 26 relates generally to the distribution of fishing opportunities. It is not just about the distribution of quota to commercial boats. It already ensures that environmental, social and economic factors are considered. On that basis, I believe that the current wording of clause 26, combined with the other work that we are doing on recreational access to fish, is sufficient to meet the hon. Lady’s objectives.

Turning to amendment 81, DEFRA’s recreational sea fishing forum brings together the recreational sector, regulators and policy makers to shape sea fishing policy. This forum met for the third time two days ago and it is providing a really useful mechanism for those in the sector to share their ideas and evidence.

DEFRA is also committed to engaging with stakeholders on the design and implementation of any future grant scheme, to ensure that we can best meet domestic priorities as well as Government objectives. On that basis, I do not think that it is necessary to include the express consultation requirement when consulting on future grant schemes.

Turning to new clause 2, by default in the Bill all provisions apply to recreational fishing as well as to commercial fishing, unless it is explicitly specified other- wise. Given the importance of recreational fishing, the Government will include policies on recreational fishing in the joint fisheries statement. Of course, fisheries management plans can take recreational fishing into account, where appropriate.

On that basis, I believe that we have sufficient existing provisions in the Bill and I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.

I have heard what the Minister says. However, it is really important that we make sure that recreational fishing is seen as a valid and equal stakeholder. So I will not withdraw the amendment and I will press for a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause was amended in the other place to set out the criteria for distributing UK fishing opportunities in the Bill, rather than by reference to retained EU law. The wording of the provision has been updated slightly to reflect UK drafting style, but the provision includes the same requirement for transparent and objective criteria that take into account environmental, social and economic factors.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 26 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

Reservation of English fishing opportunities for new entrants and boats under 10 metres

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

As with many of the amendments made in the other place, the Government agree with the intention behind the clause, but disagree with the manner in which that intention is proposed to be delivered, therefore I seek for the clause not to stand part of the Bill.

The clause refers to new entrants, but it is not clear exactly what that means. A new entrant could refer to a new fishing boat owner, a new skipper or a new crew on board an existing boat, and those different groups may have different needs on joining the industry. New crews on fishing boats do not need any quota, but might need some training. Many under-10 metre vessels target non-quota stock such as shellfish, rather than quota species, so of course they will not need quota either. The lack of clarity about the scope of the clause makes it difficult to establish a baseline for deciding how much quota to give new entrants and, indeed, what data we need to collect and analyse.

Secondly, the clause does not consider the wider issues affecting new entrants. For example, to fish commercially against UK quota, a new entrant needs a British-registered fishing boat and a licence, of which there are a fixed number. Fishing requires a significant capital investment before someone can even go to sea; the cost of an average under-10 metre boat is significant. Reserving a proportion of quota for new entrants does not address that issue. No time limit has been set for how long someone would be classified as a new entrant, which also presents challenges about whether vessels would ever lose access to the reserve quota, how long before that happened and what quota they would then fish against if was removed.

The Government and Seafish are working in partnership with a range of training partners to offer apprenticeships across the UK on a range of subjects relevant to the seafood industry and maritime occupations. Apprenticeships and vocational qualifications in shellfish and fish processing are available, as are introductory courses on working in the commercial fishing industry, which I am pleased to say include mandatory training on safety at sea.

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. That is absolutely an intention we share and feel passionately about. There will be more benefits for our fishing ports and coastal communities, but I am afraid, because of the drafting difficulties, I cannot support the clause.

Labour opposes the Minister’s proposal to remove clause 27, which was passed in the other place. We have not moved our amendments to the clause, given the Government’s intention to remove it, but we had hoped to encourage them and the Secretary of State to consider the impact on communities with high unemployment and on small and medium-sized enterprises when deciding fishing opportunities under clause 24 of the Bill.

We support the campaign by the Blue Marine Foundation, whose executive director said:

“The distribution of quota is long overdue for reform; it was a botched privatisation which is unfair to the majority of fishermen, who fish inshore, and has perverse environmental consequences. Now it must be unpicked.”

For too long the UK fishing quota has been dominated by huge, often foreign-owned, vessels that land their catch abroad. In May, a report by the BBC found that £160 million-worth of English quota is in the hands of vessels owned by companies based in Iceland, Spain and the Netherlands. That is more than half of the value of the English quota. The status quo needs to be changed to give smaller boats the lion’s share of the quota, and we do not need new powers to affect real change for our coastal communities. The Government have always had the power to redistribute share of the UK’s quota, but have chosen not to, despite small vessel owners facing severe financial hardship over the years.

Some 50% of the English quota is held by companies based overseas. At the same time, the small-scale fleet holds only 6%. It is a damning fact that the five largest quota holders control more than a third of the UK fishing quota. Four of them can be found on the Sunday Times rich list. It is clear that the current distribution of fishing opportunities is outdated and unfair. We should take this opportunity and the powers that we have to ensure that it is our small fishers and the UK coastal communities that benefit. If the Minister is seeking to remove the clause, how do the Government intend to deal with such inequality and give smaller fishers a fairer share of quota? The fishers who would benefit from a redistribution were some of the loudest voices during the Brexit referendum, who have long felt that their communities have been ignored. They are also the ones that have been hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic. Many could not leave port, but their fixed costs remained the same. For some, the Government covid-19 grant came too late, and for many it was not enough to cover maintenance of their boats and port fees.

Our small fishing fleet deserves support from the Government. There has been a lot of talk about how leaving the EU is an opportunity for the UK to secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for our own fleets. I ask that that principle of fairness is extended within our own fleets. As has already been mentioned, it would not only benefit the owners of under-10 boats, but our coastal communities, as for every fish caught the small-scale fleet creates more jobs than larger boats do. I firmly believe our UK small-scale fleet has the potential to lead the way towards the creation of a greener economy that is not only good for the environment, but creates more jobs at home.

Right now, the barriers for new entrants into the sector, and for small fishers struggling to make a living, are too high. Clause 27 would help to rejuvenate our fishing sector, encouraging more small fishers to join the industry, which, admittedly, has a relatively older profile than others, and would create more opportunities for people with exciting ideas about how to make UK fishing more sustainable, innovative and profitable. The Bill has the potential to become a vehicle for a fair redistribution of quota allocations, which would be transformational for many of England’s small fishers and their communities. Are the Government creating a system that would encourage new entrants into the sector, and redistributing fishing opportunities to the under-10 metre fleet to the benefit of not only small fishers but the communities they rely on?

I also want to probe the Minister and ask her to explain in greater detail what she has said about the proportion of quota that is already guaranteed to the under-10 metre fleet. Will the Government commit to reviewing the current allocation of quota and from here on consider the case for increasing allocations of fishing opportunities to the under-10 metre fleet on a yearly basis?

Last week the Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation gifted an extra quota to the under-10 metre fleet. This was referenced on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who said the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs supported this distribution to help keep the Northern Irish fleet economically viable. Will the Minister consider supporting a similar allocation to English fishers who own under-10 metre boats to help them get back on their feet after the past year of uncertainty?

The clause seeks to create a better, fairer framework of quota allocation. Better quota decisions will support our fishing industry, widening employment and making fishing an attractive career to young people. Simply put, in supporting our small fishers, we will support our coastal communities. This is a once in a generation chance to shape our fishing industry for the better. Labour Members will therefore