Speaking in a debate on fishing and leaving the EU, Peter Aldous calls on the Government to ensure that local fishermen and support industries can earn a fair living, that a sustainable fisheries management system is put in place and that benefits go to local people, local communities and local businesses.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer, and to welcome the new Minister to his place. I thank his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), for his sterling efforts over the past few years. I congratulate the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) on securing this debate. Her timing is particularly auspicious.
Although the final form that Brexit will take is uncertain at present, I believe that, generally, the Government and Parliament have used the period from 23 June 2016 up to now to good effect—focusing on the UK fishing industry and gradually putting in place a policy framework that will revive the industry.
To revitalise the industry in Lowestoft and along the East Anglian coast, which is now a very pale shadow of its former self, we need to address three challenges. First, local fishermen must be given the opportunity to catch enough fish to earn a fair living and to supply local markets, processors and mongers. Secondly, we must put in place a sustainable fisheries management system. Thirdly, we must ensure that the benefits of properly managed fisheries go to local people, local communities and local businesses.
My view is that, although there is still much work to do, we are gradually moving in the right direction and making progress. The cornerstone for the revival of UK fisheries is taking back control of our waters so that we decide who fishes there and on what terms. The Prime Minister has come under much pressure in negotiations to compromise on that undertaking. She has not done so and, whatever happens in the next few months, it is vital that we do not give ground on that point.
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister has compromised on this—she compromised when she said she would put fisheries into the transitional arrangement period.
From my perspective, the Prime Minister has come under a lot of pressure from the French and the Dutch, and she has not given way in a meaningful sense.
Despite the fact that I tabled a large number of amendments to the Fisheries Bill when it was in Committee, it is generally a good document and Ministers and officials are to be commended for drafting it to such good effect under such time pressure. That said, it does need some changes. I have tabled an amendment to promote the fairer distribution of fishing opportunities, and we need to consider strengthening what is known as the economic link. Furthermore, although the Government have laid down a statutory instrument to outlaw electro-pulse fishing, there is a worry that loopholes are being left open. I wrote to the previous Minister detailing those concerns and, if they cannot be addressed, we may need to consider outlawing that abhorrent and completely unsustainable practice through provisions in the Bill.
To make the most of the opportunity to ensure that Lowestoft and other East Anglian fishing communities reap the Brexit dividend, the industry in East Anglia, under the leadership of June Mummery and Paul Lines, has formed the Renaissance of East Anglian Fishing. With the assistance of Waveney District Council, a grant has been obtained from the Marine Management Organisation to develop a long-term strategy for the East Anglian fishing industry. Additional financial support has been provided by the east Suffolk councils, Suffolk County Council, Norfolk County Council and Seafish. The work, which is being carried out by Vivid Economics, is now under way. It looks at the current state of the industry and will come up with a strategy for its revitalisation all the way from the net to the plate. I anticipate that it will highlight where investment is needed in port infrastructure, skills and supply chain building, and I expect that we will be making submissions to the Chancellor’s autumn Budget.
The project is exciting and could prove to be a blueprint that could be replicated around the coast. I invite the Minister to visit us in Lowestoft to find out more about it.
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