Sir Alan Campbell debates with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There have been 6 exchanges between Sir Alan Campbell and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Tue 1st September 2020 Fisheries Bill [Lords] 3 interactions (879 words)
Wed 13th March 2019 Leaving the EU: Fishing (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (76 words)
Wed 21st November 2018 Fisheries Bill 3 interactions (1,347 words)
Wed 4th July 2018 Sustainable Fisheries 3 interactions (47 words)
Tue 20th March 2018 Leaving the EU: Fisheries Management 3 interactions (26 words)
Thu 7th December 2017 UK Fishing Industry 3 interactions (757 words)

Fisheries Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Tuesday 1st September 2020

(3 weeks, 5 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Dame Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton) - Hansard

Order. I will to try to get everybody in, but that does mean that after the next speaker, I will reduce the time limit to five minutes.

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Sir Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Hansard

This Thursday is Merchant Navy Day, and in normal circumstances—if we can remember what they were—we would have been conducting a church service in my constituency, remembering not just the merchant fleet, but fishermen whose lives have been lost at sea. It is always a reminder, though we do not need to be reminded, of how dangerous fishing is. We particularly remember the 36 crew who went down with the Gaul on the night of 8 and 9 February 1974 in what was described as

“the worst ever single-trawler tragedy”.

The boat had originally been the Ranger Castor and sailed from North Shields, and six of the men who lost their lives came from North Tyneside, so we know that fishing was, and fishing remains, a dangerous industry.

The Bill is a framework Bill: it will create a framework for the industry post the common fisheries policy. Some will describe it, I am sure, as a landmark Bill, and with or without a deal in the next few months, we need a framework going forward. As such, I would like to see a greater priority and a bigger mention for safety in the Bill. I can see only one fleeting reference to “health and safety” in the Bill, so I hope that as the Bill progresses, safety can be given a greater prominence and actually be on the face of the Bill.

The Bill rightly puts sustainability at the heart of our fishing policy going forward— the notion, put simply, that we never take more than can be replaced. To be fair, even the common fisheries policy recognised the importance of sustainability, but for its critics, it always seemed overcentralised and inflexible in its approach. We need to learn the best lessons from that, including in our fisheries management plan, which needs to be flexible and I hope will be at least regional. Actually, I hope that it will be as locally focused as possible, because only in that way will we recognise the different needs of different fisheries at any time.

There is a fairness issue that we also need to address in the Bill, and we have heard different views on it already in this debate—that is, the fair distribution of quota, particularly to under-10-metre boats. Currently, they receive around 6%. If that was increased by 1% or 2%, that would increase the quota for smaller boats by around a quarter. They are the backbone of many local fleets—North Shields in my constituency included—and they should be, in my view, at the heart of a sustainable approach.

A further pillar in the Bill is the desirability of landings in UK ports, which should accrue benefits to all parts of the UK. Again, I would like the Bill to go further and be more explicit. I do not think the Government would necessarily disagree with this as a principle: if fish are caught in UK waters, they ought to be landed in UK ports, because the Bill is about jobs, and important though the catching sector is, for every single job in the catching sector there are around nine jobs on land. The reality is that too many of our fishing ports struggle to survive. Ports such as North Shields require constant investment, and currently, for example, the protection jetty is being repaired using European fisheries fund money. It is unrealistic that the money needed for repair and regeneration will come from the industry or even from the ports, which are often struggling in these difficult times. If fishing is a national asset, fishing ports should be seen as part of the national infrastructure.

The Bill allows for the expansion of financial assistance schemes, but it is not clear from the Bill, or even from what the Minister has said today, what that will actually mean. The former Secretary of State told the House that fishing communities would be able to access the coastal communities fund, which was originally set up to regenerate resorts such as Whitley Bay in my constituency. I do not want to see competition between resorts and coastal fishing communities, both of which have needs and are highly deserving. I want the Minister who sums up the debate to confirm that the coastal communities fund idea has gone, particularly since the Minister in charge of it said that there is no guarantee that the fund will continue and it has not even been signed off by the Treasury for the next few years. Where will the investment that fishing communities need come from?

Let me finish on this point. North Shields is the biggest prawn port in England, with 95% of prawns landed sold in Europe. Those fishermen need a deal without tariffs and without delay. I have raised the prospect before of access to European markets closing even temporarily and fleets having to tie up. It has happened. It happened during the pandemic when the markets were closed, and I do not want to see that. We need a deal for fishermen. We also need a deal for the wider economy, and that will be very difficult. What we do not need is a deal bought by selling out the fishing industry in the way the Conservative Government did in the 1970s. There is not much time to get one, Minister.

Mr Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con) - Hansard

The waters around the UK are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. I am sure the right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Sir Alan Campbell) will be pleased when I quote Nye Bevan, who famously said:

“This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish.”

It is not so well known that he went on to say:

“Only an organising genius”—

I think he used those words ironically—

“could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.”

Of course, Nye Bevan never knew about the common fisheries policy and the destructive effect that it could have.

The coal industry is being consigned to the history books, but our departure from the EU will open a whole ocean of opportunities for UK fishermen. While one could, during the European referendum debate, debate the pros and cons of EU membership for many sectors, such as agriculture, no sane person could argue that the common fisheries policy has not been an unmitigated disaster. The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) said that no one could see the benefits of Brexit for fishermen—well, no one apart from every single fisherman I have ever spoken to. It is amazing that the SNP, while talking of independence, wants to consign the control of our fish stocks to the European Union once again.

It is often said that Ted Heath sold out the British fishing industry. It is not quite as simple as that, because at the point that we joined the European Union, the interest of most of the fishing industry, including boats from Hull and Grimsby, was in Icelandic waters. It was only after the seventh cod war—I think the first one was in 1898, when the steam trawler was introduced—that the Icelandics increased their limit from 3 miles, ultimately to 200 miles. The relative stability calculations were based on a British fishing industry that was in those distant waters around Iceland and the Faroes, which is why we got a bad deal at the start.

The problem is that at the same time that we were catching cod and haddock—the two most commonly eaten fish here; you can have them in either breadcrumbs or batter, and that is basically what the British people eat in terms of fish—foreign vessels were catching all those other species that are often on menus abroad but rarely on menus in the UK, such as the John Dory, the megrim, the saithe and the ling. We have tried time and again to get British people to eat those species, but no British person seems to want to eat a fish that looks you in the eye while you are eating it. That is one of the problems. We lost a vital source of that fish from Iceland, and we still import most of the fish we eat and export most of the fish we catch. We now have the opportunity to increase our share of quota over time. Just as importantly, as the right hon. Member for Tynemouth said, we need to secure a trade deal, so that lobsters caught off Scarborough and Whitby can be exported free of tariffs or impediments to France, Spain and so on.

Many wish that we could impose a strict 200-mile limit from day one, like Iceland did, and exclude foreign vessels at the beginning. That is not realistic for a number of reasons. The need for agreement on trade is one. Some of the foreign skippers bought quota fair and square from British skippers, and we need to treat them fairly. Most important, fish stocks do not respect our 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Relative stability has been replaced by zonal attachment, so the UK will, like Norway already does, have to agree the sustainable catch for each quota species and then divvy up between the EU and the independent coastal states such as the UK. Our share needs to increase progressively, by negotiation. We have a great Minister to do that, and great officials, such as Nigel Gooding CBE, who understand the complexity of the zones and species very well.

The Bill also underpins the sustainability of our seas. I mentioned the advent of the steam trawler. As vessels become more powerful and technically more advanced, it has never been more important to limit fishing to sustainable levels. If, as a farmer, I sent all my sheep to market, I would not be surprised if there were no newborn lambs the following year. We must make sure that we get the export markets, as several Members have said. On that point, I hope the Minister will say something about the nomadic scallop fleet. It is an internal issue, but every year we get nomadic scallopers off the coast of Yorkshire, destroying our crab and lobster beds, smashing up the fish and, more important, often towing away whole fleets of pots, which cost thousands of pounds.

The Bill is an important element of taking back control. I hope it reaches the statute book quickly, unsullied by any Lords amendments.

Leaving the EU: Fishing

Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Wednesday 13th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Melanie Onn Hansard
13 Mar 2019, 2:49 p.m.

Certainly, the information we received this morning presents a range of difficulties, as the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight. The difficulties of potentially having zero tariffs on imports coming from Ireland, through Northern Ireland and into the UK will have a dramatic impact on the whole sector’s trade routes. I think the figure put on tariffs for import was 11.9%. I will ask for further information about that, because obviously we had that information only this morning.

It is quite concerning that that information has only been released today. It would have been preferable for these kind of details to be in the public domain at an earlier stage. All parliamentarians have been considering and voting on issues relating to leaving the EU and we are only now finding out some of these facts. That is not in the best interests of the industry and is certainly not in the best interests of people working in the industry in our constituencies around the country. Grimsby’s fish processing sector needs assurances that, come what may, it can continue to enjoy its current seamless supply route. However, industry leaders in the area currently express deep concern about the lack of clarity over how they expect the sector to operate in what could be a matter of weeks.

Currently, health certificates for fish imports from inside the EU or EFTA are only required for species that carry, or are at risk from, controlled diseases, but they are needed for all fish imported from outside the EU. Fish from EU and EFTA nations do not need to go through border checks when entering the UK. Imposing requirements on markets such as Norway and Iceland to provide health certificates for all the fish they export to us would lead to increased border checks on fish from those countries and could mean damaging delays to the delivery of fresh fish into the country. Will the Minister confirm that it is not the Government’s intention to require all fish from markets such as Norway and Iceland to have health certificates once we leave the EU?

If we leave the EU without a deal, all fish exported to the EU will require export health certificates, but companies in my constituency have raised concerns that local environmental health officers simply do not have the resources to facilitate that significant increase in their workload. Can the Minister perhaps put companies’ minds at ease by informing us of what steps the Government are taking to ensure that exporters will not be hindered by struggles to produce health certificates in the very unenviable situation that we leave without a deal?

If there are extra certificates, checks and tariffs, those will all be checked and carried out at our ports, and there are concerns among Grimsby companies that even with a deal, ports will experience a bottleneck post Brexit. We have heard about the plans for lorry parks in Dover, but there are also plans around the country for extra capacity to deal with delays in port areas, and the position is the same in north-east Lincolnshire.

Currently, fish arriving at ports in north-east Lincolnshire have been checked and certified in Iceland before being shipped to the UK. Fish arriving here can be seamlessly transferred because of the long-standing relationship between Grimsby and Iceland. There is enormous trust as a result of that relationship, which has existed for decades. It works, and nobody wants that to change. It means that the fish is moved seamlessly. There is no damage to the product. It comes in, and there is no risk of any kind of perishing of the product when it comes through, which of course would devalue it on the open market.

If the UK imposes its own customs checks on fish once we leave the EU, rather than accepting checks as it does now, that would severely impact the quality and quantity of usable fish that ends up in the UK market. Can the Minister therefore confirm that the Government will continue to accept checks from the likes of Iceland as valid and will not impose further checks at UK ports, which could have severe impacts on the viability of the fishing industry in the UK?

We know that additional funds have been directed towards UK ports. The Humber ports of Immingham, Grimsby, Hull and Goole will share £135,000. However, the “Seafood 2040” document highlights the fact that 72,000 tonnes of fish caught under UK licence are currently landed in ports outside the UK. That issue is partly about infrastructure at ports and partly about inadequate facilities. If the Government really recognise the potential for the future of the fishing industry—the potential to grow as we leave the EU—do they consider that that investment of £135,000 between four different ports in the Humber area will be enough to enable them to cope with future demand? Will it make Grimsby fish stocks ready for the 21st century?

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Sir Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Hansard
13 Mar 2019, 2:43 p.m.

May I congratulate those people in my hon. Friend’s area who have secured some of that money for the ports, however inadequate it is. I point out to the Minister—I understand that this is a Department for Transport and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government matter—that of the £3 million in total that is being given to ports across the country, not a single penny is coming to any port in the north-east of England.

Melanie Onn Hansard

My right hon. Friend raises a serious issue. There must be equitable distribution of funds. If there is a genuine desire to support the industry, the infrastructure and the facilities must be there. To exclude one at the expense of another is not looking to the future. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to respond to my right hon. Friend’s point in his closing comments.

The additional funding is of course welcome; nobody is going to say no to additional funding, but how it will be shared and distributed and where the priorities will lie are still a concern. When it comes to the spending, will it go to the company that runs the dock facilities, which will have all the responsibility of dealing with the customs checks and perhaps an increase in activity? If Dover is unable to cope, perhaps we will see an increase in freight coming up to our port. What will that mean for the fish stocks and for the auction site? Will it get a share of it? That is not clear. I would be interested to know whether the Minister has any thoughts on that, too.

The concerns are clearly not felt by the processing sector alone. According to the UK Seafood Industry Alliance, we export most of what we catch and we import most of what we eat, with 90% of the cod consumed in the UK coming from outside our borders, and species such as nephrops, which are quite unfamiliar to UK dinner tables, being among our most valuable seafood exports. If we leave without reciprocal and favourable trade arrangements with major importers and exporters, we could easily end up in a situation in which fishermen struggle to make vital profits on export species that are extremely valuable in foreign markets, while we see the cod and haddock in our chippies and supermarkets skyrocket in price as tariffs are slapped on our imports.

Fisheries Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Wednesday 21st November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
David Duguid Portrait David Duguid - Hansard
21 Nov 2018, 4:42 p.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I will get to that point a little later.

The Fisheries Bill itself, and the White Paper before it, has been welcomed by organisations across the industry, including the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. This vital legislation lays the groundwork for the revival of our fishing industry outside the common fisheries policy. It is important to note that, in the event of no deal, the Bill will ensure that all UK vessels can legally continue to fish in our own waters. For example, clause 7 revokes the CFP regulation that allows EU vessels unfettered access to our waters. Clause 8 introduces the common-sense principle that any foreign vessel that wants to fish in our waters must do so on our terms. This is taking back control of our waters, and it is the basis of the British fisheries sector’s revival. Clause 9 covers those UK fishing boats that are required to be licensed, as well as stating those for which licensing will not apply.

Clause 1 of the Bill defines the fisheries objectives, as many Members have said, and chief among them is the sustainability objective, which ensures that fishing and aquaculture is environmentally sustainable in the long term and managed in a way that is consistent with contributing to the economy and to food supplies. I was going to go through all the other objectives but, as I am pushed for time, I will skip them.

Clauses 9 to 17 set out rules for the licensing of UK and foreign fishing boats—I just want to cover that briefly. Although the devolved Administrations are responsible for licensing boats in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, licences issued by any UK fisheries administration will be valid across UK waters. The UK Government will agree access arrangements internationally and, although each of the devolved Administrations are responsible for issuing licences to foreign vessels in their zones, it is encouraging to know that the UK Government will administer the system, having already been provided with consent by the devolved Administrations.

Clauses 18 to 22 cover the allocation of fishing opportunities, an area on which I would like specific clarification from the Minister. Clause 18 deals with the Secretary of State’s power to determine fishing opportunities. I would appreciate it if Ministers would comment on the appropriateness of the Secretary of State setting quotas for lobster or brown crab in Scotland which, I believe, are subject to international agreement. Clause 22 is about the sale of English fishing opportunities. Given that English-registered vessels operate in Scottish producer organisations and vice versa, will the Minister please provide clarification on whether these would be available for all UK vessels?

Finally, let me say something about the future of the fishing industry in my constituency and of fishing communities around the UK. After decades of deterioration within the CFP, we will not see a full recovery overnight. Government support will be required, and this House has previously been assured of that support by the Prime Minister and others

“to secure a sustainable and profitable fishing industry that will regenerate coastal communities and support future generations of UK fishermen.”

I conclude by reassuring the Minister that after we leave the CFP and become an independent coastal state, with all the powers and control that that entails, I will look forward to continuing to work with the Government to deliver that ambition to regenerate not only the fishing industry, but the wider communities and economy for which the “sea of opportunity” will deliver.

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
21 Nov 2018, 4:45 p.m.

This is an important Bill. Leaving the EU and the CFP will require effective management of our fisheries, and it is just as crucial that fishermen and fishing communities get as much certainty as possible, as far as there ever can be certainty in fishing. I think that fishermen will broadly welcome many of the provisions in the Bill, including those on controlling access to UK waters, quota and equal access for UK vessels in UK waters. However, I believe that there is still a strong case for ensuring a link between landings and home port, because it is important to recognise that fishing is more than just about catching fish; there are also issues about the sustainability of ports and port jobs.

I welcome any emphasis on a quota increase for smaller boats. Most of the North Shields fleet are under 10 metres. As been has already been said, these are the very boats most likely to land at local ports, and to fish selectively and environmentally. Despite the assurances of the Secretary of State, I still think that the Bill as drafted is in danger of missing an opportunity. If the largest five quota holders control a third of UK quota and half of UK quota is currently owned by big companies based overseas, there has to be an opportunity for a much fairer approach. Also, if 80% of the fleet are smaller boats, why is it that they get 6% of the quota? The Secretary of State attempted to give assurances for the future, and he will be held to those assurances.

I want to talk a little bit about politics—we have seen a little bit of it this afternoon—because every fisheries Minister and every fishing representative I have ever met who has attended the annual Fisheries Council speaks about the debilitating effect of politics coming into play. Whoever the Ministers are, we must recognise the potential for politics coming into play in any alternative process. The NFFO itself describes the joint fishery statements, which it welcomes, as having scope for friction; that could be an understatement. For example, while there is support for equal access for UK vessels, there would be concerns for fishermen in my area if different regulations were introduced by different devolved authorities, so this may well prove to be a difficult matter.

I will mention another political risk for Ministers. The drift net salmon fishery in the north-east is a heritage fishery. The few licences that remain have come under pressure from successive Conservative fisheries Ministers, who want to phase them out. Ministers have blamed the EU, saying that the fishery is part of a wider discussion on stocks. The fishermen say that it is about appeasing landowners who want to rent out fishing rights. They cannot both be right. In taking back control, Ministers need to recognise that they are going to have to own their decisions; they will not have the EU and the CFP to hide behind.

Also politically, the Bill puts a great deal of emphasis on secondary legislation. Now, it may offer greater flexibility and responsiveness, both of which would be welcome, but the emphasis, particularly in clauses 31 and 33, is on negative statutory instruments. I think we need to avoid replacing one inflexible framework with another, so I would generally favour affirmative SIs, as well as the establishment of an advisory council—perhaps on a statutory footing—that would include, for example, the NFFO.

On the issue of flexibility, I understand the reluctance to put a maximum sustainable yield on the face of the Bill on a statutory basis, but if the Bill does have a vision of sustainability, as Ministers claim, and if they want the UK to be a world leader, the Government and other authorities need to be held to account for what this legislation delivers in the future.

Leaving the EU and the common fisheries policy means that we will no longer be able to access the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund—a fund from which the UK has benefited by £190 million between 2014 and 2020. There is no guarantee in the Bill that this funding will be replaced, other than a vague reference to grants. North Shields is a working fishing port, so it needs constant investment. We hope that the protection jetty, which is crucial for the fleet, will be renewed. The problem, however, has not been the EMFF—it is not that bit of the funding that has proved difficult. The problem with funding is turning to local authorities that have had their funding cut, or turning to the port authority, which is concerned about the fall-out from Brexit. I want to hear what the Minister is going to do about making sure that ports like North Shields have access to funding in the future.

The White Paper talks about the coastal communities fund. That fund followed on from Sea Change, which the previous Labour Government introduced to implement regeneration in coastal and seaside towns. In my constituency, the successful regenerations of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay have partly been funded from those funds. But seaside towns sometimes have no link with the fishing industry. What we need to avoid at all costs, with a fund that is of limited resource, is getting competition and having to choose between something that will make the port work and something that is there to regenerate seaside towns so that people visit our coasts.

The EMFF includes money for data collection— €52.2 million between 2014 and 2020. It also pays, in part, for enforcement, with €45.2 million between 2014 and 2020. I ask the Minister: where will the money come from to pay for those essential elements of a future fishing policy? If we control our waters, and infringements are going to be regarded as offences, that needs enforcement, as the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) said. Last year, the Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre was established, but I understand from fishermen I talk to that its resources are stretched. In addition, we have dependencies in other parts of the world that require our help in policing the environmental protection zones that they have established.

So where is the money going to come from for enforcement? I fear, and many of my fishermen will fear, that it will come from a word often used in the Bill—“charging”. Fishermen operate small businesses, and, like many small businesses, they operate on the edge. A charging regime based on recouping the full cost of a regulatory regime may prove very costly. If clause 29 is anything to go by, we are talking about a substantial charging regime, and one that can be introduced and amended at the will of the Secretary of State through statutory instrument.

Let me turn briefly to something else that will determine the future of the fishing industry. Fishing is about catching fish, but it is also about selling them. The EU is our biggest importer and exporter, and market access is absolutely crucial. North Shields is the biggest prawn port in England; 95% of the prawns that are landed in North Shields are taken to be sold in Europe. They have five days to get there. Any delay, any bureaucracy or any tariff would put at risk not just the livelihood of the fishermen but perhaps the port itself. Fishermen tell me—I would like the Minister’s view on this—that if they do not have clarity by March 2019, or if there is no deal, they intend to tie up their boats, not just for weeks but for months on end.

The Government, as we have heard, have to stand by the promises that they have made. Fishermen felt let down when we went into the Common Market, and they will feel very let down if they do not get a good deal when we come out of the EU and the common fisheries policy. There is a lot in this Bill to commend it, and a lot of good ideas that should be applied whether we are in or out of the EU and the common fisheries policy.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) - Hansard

Order. Hon. Members have been very good in observing a time limit, but to make sure that everyone has a chance of speaking, I am now going to impose a formal time limit of six minutes.

Sustainable Fisheries

Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Wednesday 4th July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jul 2018, 2:12 p.m.

My hon. Friend puts his finger on exactly those issues that we do need to make sure are at the heart of any developed regional strategy, particularly for fishermen in East Anglia. He is absolutely right.

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jul 2018, 2:12 p.m.

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will allocate more than £250 million to UK fishing communities by 2020. The Secretary of State has chosen to ignore this question twice, so let me ask it in a different form: has the Treasury guaranteed that money after we leave?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Jul 2018, 2:13 p.m.

Yes, it has. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear that EMFF funding, which is committed before we leave the European Union, will continue to be paid.

Leaving the EU: Fisheries Management

Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Tuesday 20th March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 12:56 p.m.

I believed—and I must apologise to the House if I did not make this clear—that I had made it clear in my original statement that, even before the transition period ends in December 2020, we will be negotiating as an independent coastal state. I hope that is a sufficient guarantee and reassurance to my hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross).

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Hansard

Given that we export such a large proportion of our prawns and other shellfish to Europe, should we not have the freest possible trade with Europe?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove - Parliament Live - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 12:57 p.m.


UK Fishing Industry

Sir Alan Campbell Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 3:15 p.m.

I actually believe that, as we come out of the common fisheries policy, there will be enough fish for everybody. If we manage the fish stocks much better, we will have every opportunity. We need to make much more of the fish that we catch, not only in the area of recreational fishing but in areas such as fish processing. I believe that we will have greater access to fish and be able to land much more of our fish on to our own shores, but when we do that, we must ensure that we process it and add value to it. We must also—dare I say it—say to all our population that we eat many types of fish when we go to the continent and to other parts of the world that we will not eat here. That is key, because we still have a huge market. Some 70% to 80% of the fish we land in the west of England is exported to France, Spain and across the rest of Europe. Those markets are very important, so we need to ensure that we get the fish, manage the fish stocks and market the fish.

On the question of Brexit and the common fisheries policy, we have a moment now, as we negotiate, when we have very positive cards in our hand. We can say to our neighbours, “There are historical arrangements that we will look at, but at the end of the day, you will fish the amount that we agree under our rules, and that is the way it will be.” If we are absolutely firm with them —I expect the Minister to be exactly that—we can get a reasonable deal with our neighbours. I think our neighbours will deal with us in a fair way on this issue because, to be absolutely blunt, they have two choices. They can have the fish under our rules or they will not have the fish at all.

I want to reinforce the point that we must not negotiate away our fisheries again. Our fishermen did not forgive us when we did that the first time round. If we do it a second time, they will never forgive us. This is not just about our fishermen and what percentage of the overall economic benefit comes from fish; it is also about what is morally right and wrong. This is something that we can now put right. I am convinced that this can work, with the right policies in place. I suspect that the Minister is minded to keep a lot of our existing systems of catching through quota in place. Let us have evolution, not a revolution.

On discards, let us ensure that we land everything that we catch, so that we know exactly what the stocks are. Let us also look at which types of fish will recover if we put them back into the sea. Let us have a smart system of managing our stocks. I believe that we will do well in the future. We can manage our fishing better, and we must ensure that we police our waters as we leave the common fisheries policy.

Sir Alan Campbell Portrait Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 3:19 p.m.

It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) to her role on the Front Bench. She will be a strong voice for fishing and fishing communities.

In view of the frankly ludicrously short time available for this debate, I intend to keep my remarks brief and my points very local. My first point is about the continued availability of funding for infrastructure repair. North Shields port is the premier fishing port on the east coast and the biggest prawn port in England, landing around £7 million-worth of catch every year and sustaining around 300 jobs, but a recent report on the condition of the quay found that between £6 million and £8 million is needed for infrastructure repair. On 1 December, the projection jetty—an important part of the port where many boats are moored—was closed, and there is a real dilemma for those who make repairs. Does the North Shields Fish Quay make a bid? As a private company, it would be able to access only 50% of the funding from the European maritime and fisheries funds. Does the Port of Tyne do it? It can potentially access more funding but, like most trust ports around the country, it is not a small or medium-sized enterprise, so it does not fit into that category. We are therefore left scratching our heads as to where the money will come from, and fishermen are being prevented from going about their daily business. I wrote to the Minister earlier this week, and I hope that he will read of our concerns and ask his Department or, perhaps, the Marine Management Organisation to look into them, because getting an outcome and finding funding is urgent. In life after the common fisheries policy, will resources for infrastructure funding remain in place as they are now, because it is important to ports such as North Shields?

As for what post-CFP will look like, different areas will have different priorities. As I have said, North Shields is the biggest prawn port and therefore has an inshore fleet and a 12-mile limit is crucial, but it would suffice. Frankly, a 200-mile exclusive economic zone really is not relevant when, I am told, perhaps only one or two foreign vessels a year may fish those areas. Local fishermen are not particular exercised about that. North Shields has the biggest prawn port exports, with 95% of the prawns being exported. They are not processed or frozen; there are five days between them being caught and being put on tables, which are usually in European Union member states. Lorries cannot afford to wait at a hard border, and we cannot afford to have tariffs. The MMO currently issues around 300 catch certificates a year for exports to non-EU countries. If a certificate is required for every single lorry that goes to France, Spain or Italy, an estimated 21,000 certificates would be necessary, which would be a disaster for North Shields. What is the point of catching all that fish if there are no accessible markets? What is the Minister’s plan? What arrangements will be in place after we exit the CFP?

As for the salmon drift net fishery, there are only about a dozen licences on the north-east coast. They are being phased out, and that decision is based on evidence that is at least questionable because some of our rivers in Northumberland have had salmon runs for the first time in many years. We were previously told that licences needed to be phased out because the EU wanted to make them part of the whole sustainability issue, but the pressure does not come from the EU; it comes from landowners who want to protect their fishing rights to ensure that they get their share of the catches, because it is a big business. Post-CFP, will the Minister stand up to the landowners’ lobby? The fishermen in the heritages fisheries have enormous respect for the environment and a fantastic record of restocking our rivers, and it is in the interests of the fisheries that the fishermen’s interests are looked after.

In the seconds I have remaining, I invite all Members to come to see our new memorial to fishermen lost at sea, Fiddler’s Green, which was unveiled in September by Julie Myhill, the partner of James Noble—the most recent fisherman to lose his life. It reminds us that fishing is a dangerous job, and every policy maker must have that at the forefront of their mind.

Scott Mann Portrait Scott Mann (North Cornwall) (Con) - Hansard
7 Dec 2017, 3:24 p.m.

I am delighted to be called to speak in this important debate. It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray), my constituency neighbour, on securing the debate.

First and foremost, as we leave the European Union, there are massive opportunities for our fishing industry to establish itself once again as functioning, economic and viable. Repatriation of our historical territorial fishing areas will give coastal communities such as mine a completely new lease of life. The UK must ensure full and absolute control of the UK’s 200-mile territory, up to the median lines, with fishing opportunities, access and regulatory regimes controlled once again by the UK Government.

Many people may ask what that will look like. I have been slightly sceptical about the days-at-sea proposal since examining the trial initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) back in 2011. I had concerns about overfishing, about the targeting of species close to the shore and about a lack of scientific data against which to measure catches. However, I recently had a meeting with Fishing for Leave and saw its proposals for excluding travel time to fishing destinations, including net soak time to measure catch effort, and for recording scientific data on which to measure this resource. These proposals would end the senseless discards that we have seen under the failed quota system implemented by the European Union.

In my remaining time, I will address a specific proposal from ICES on fishing for the dicentrarchus labrax—the European sea bass—that has caused consternation among my recreational sea anglers and among sea anglers across the UK. Although I recognise its latest statistics on the continued decline in the biomass of the stock and further recognise that something needs to be done, it should not be done on the back of the rod-and-line angler. As a member of the all-party angling group and a champion of the sea bass in Parliament, I recently had the pleasure of leading a delegation to Cornwall to fish for bass. We were hosted by a chap called Nick, who runs a successful family business called Bass Go Deeper. We had a successful trip, and all the fish were returned to the sea—catch and release. Nick, like many other bass guides in Cornwall and other hook-and-line beach and cliff anglers, will no longer be able to fish if the ridiculous and draconian proposals from ICES are implemented.

The suggestion is that anglers will be able to catch fish for catch and release for only six months of the year. They will not be able to target bass at all for the other six months of the year. If the proposals are truly meant for conservation, the angler is once again being penalised by comparison with the hook-and-line commercial fisheries that can effectively land 4 tonnes of catch each.

Sport fishing in the UK is a lucrative and growing business. Businesses like Nick’s will go to the wall if these proposals are implemented. The recreational sea angling sector, which has had the least impact on fish mortality, will bear a disproportionate burden of last year’s negotiations, with a zero catch from January to June and a one-fish bag limit from July to September. The impact of recreational sea angling on bass stocks is negligible, which demonstrates that the problem does not rest with the sea angler. That is why I support the campaign of the Angling Trust, the Save Our Sea Bass campaign and the European Anglers Alliance to stop these completely unfair and unenforceable proposals. Banning the public from fishing for a species recreationally while letting commercial hook-and-line fisheries continue is unjust and cannot be allowed.

As the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) has already said, Ireland and America have both embraced a recreational bass fishery and are seen as premium sport fishery areas.

Catching a fish and keeping it for the pot is not a crime. Catching a fish and cooking it for dinner is one of the last great remaining hunter-gatherer pursuits in this country. The Minister should fight for anglers and oppose these ridiculous measures, which would sink a fine pursuit and a fledgling industry. There are thousands of anglers out there who are looking for his support this year.