A number of constituents contacted me about a note on the Fisheries Bill.
The disagreements were over parliamentary process rather than disagreement about the importance of sustainable fishing. Officials advised that the opposition amendment on large vessels was unnecessary. 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 was well intentioned, it was simply not necessary.
The opposition’s New Clause would have required the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament, within 12 months of this Act being passed, a strategy for increasing sustainable fish procurement in the public sector. The Government said it was determined to create an environment where farmers and food producers are supported in accessing public sector contracts and providing outstanding home-grown produce to high environmental standard.
Fishing is a key part of our heritage as an island nation. The injustices felt by so many concerning the common fisheries policy loomed large in the debate over our decision to leave the EU. I am therefore delighted that the Fisheries Bill gives us the opportunity to put that right and reclaim our position as an independent coastal state. The Bill will enable the UK to control who comes into our waters through a new foreign vessel licensing regime and ends the current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters.
Underpinning everything in the Bill is the commitment to sustainability, ensuring healthy seas for future generations of fishermen. It is encouraging that new fisheries management plans will allow a holistic, sustainable approach to be taken when managing our fisheries. The Bill includes new powers to protect the marine environment in England, Wales, and Scotland, and powers to implement the technical measures necessary to manage fishing activity in UK waters effectively. At their request, the devolved Administrations will have more powers than ever to manage their fisheries, providing the opportunity to create tailored approaches to fisheries management right across the UK.
In addition, the Bill establishes UK-wide fisheries objectives, and a Joint Fisheries Statement which will set out policies to achieve these objectives. This will provide more transparency for our fisheries management policies than was seen under the Common Fisheries Policy. The Bill also provides for new, expanded funding powers, which will allow Ministers to fund infrastructure such as port development and training.