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7. Any other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed. [Mr. David.]
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Sale of Student Loans Bill, it is expedient to authorise
(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure of a Minister of the Crown in consequence of the Act, and
(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund. [Mr. David.]
That the draft Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007 (Powers of District and JP Courts) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 8th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.
That the Company and Business Names (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 3152) dated 5th November 2007, a copy of which was laid before this House on 6th November, be approved. [Mr. David.]
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk) (Con):
Haverhill is the most rapidly expanding town in Suffolk and is served admirably by the three general practice surgeries
located there. The GPs are valued and cherished as well as being highly productive, and they are held in great professional esteem by the local community. The proposal to cut funding to Haverhill GP practices will inevitably lead to job losses and have a devastating effect on front-line patient care, and it is wholly unacceptable. Ten thousand people have signed the petition acknowledging the injustice of the proposal and the lack of fairness to the people of Haverhill and their health needs.
The Petition of residents of Haverhill,
Declares that Haverhill doctors are united against plans to cut funding for the towns frontline health services by over £300,000.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department of Health to instruct Suffolk Primary Care Trust to reconsider the reduction in funding to Haverhill GP practices.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East) (Lab): I beg leave to deliver a petition in the names of the users of Woodland Grove post office, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) and borders my constituency.
The Petition of the users of Woodland Grove Post Office,
Declares that the closure of Woodland Grove Post Office would be detrimental to the local community and the viability of other shops in the vicinity.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government as the major shareholder in Post Office Ltd., to review the programme of planned Post Office closures with a view to keeping the Woodland Grove Post Office open.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham) (Con): I present this petition on behalf of more than 1,000 people who use the post office at Arundel drive in Fareham. They are concerned at the threat posed to its continuing existence, as it is one of the post offices scheduled for closure.
The Petition of those affected by the closure of Arundel Drive Post Office,
Declares that the closure of Arundel Drive Post Office will cause considerable difficulty and hardship.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to make representations to Post Office Ltd. so that the Arundel Drive Post Office remains open.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): With no sense of irony at all, I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box today, especially as it was touch and go as to whether either of us would make it to the Chamber, given the curtailment of Government business. The issue of the future of Britains most popular recreational fish does not appear to have found any favour on the Opposition Benches. That will come as some surprise to the 1 million sea anglers in England, Scotland and Wales, although perhaps we should leave that matter for another day.
It is ironic that, if the Minister had not been able to make it here on timeI am delighted that he hasthe Whips Office had chosen my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) to take his place. He is an angler, and I am sure that he would have agreed with every word that I have to say. To have done so, of course, might have contravened the words that he might have been required to read out.
This is an Adjournment debate; we are not limited by time, and I know that that will please everybody here. I am genuine in my congratulations to the Minister, who is a friend of mine. In his other role as Minister for the South East, he has impressed many people with how he has worked in the region with local communities struggling to deal with the aftermath of the July floods. I thank him for his two visits to my constituency; he will be aware that it is impossible to visit Reading without being harangued by fisherman, although in the case that I am thinking about they were freshwater fishermen.
I look forward, particularly in my capacity as Labours angling spokesman, to the day when I can offer similar praise for the decision that my hon. Friend has made as Minister with responsibility for fisheries. Sadly, as a result of his decision to go back on the commitment made by his predecessor to increase, in the interests of conservation, the minimum landing size of bass, I am not here to praise the Minister but to challenge himwhich is, after all, the purpose of this House. His announcement of 25 October on retaining the minimum landing size for bass at 36 cm rather than increasing it to 40 cm and then to 45 cm by 2010, as recommended by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science just two years ago, flies in the face of scientific evidence and has been greeted with understandable anger and dismay by hundreds of thousands of sea anglers, as well as by conservationists. He himself admitted that his decision was based on looking after the short-term interests of the inshore fleet rather than the long-term interests of the species and the environment. I want to tease out those points.
It is worth reminding the House that the recreational sea angling sector in England and Wales is worth more than £1.3 billion a year to the economy and provides 19,000 non-subsidised jobs. The entire commercial fleet employs only 12,000 people, with considerably fewer in the under-10 m inshore fleet. We should be concerned about the impact of any decision on jobs, but let us not forget the devastating impact that unsustainable fishing
has had on all sectors, both commercial and recreational. The livelihoods of charter skippers, who take anglers to sea and depend on healthy fish stocks to maintain a viable business, are every bit as important as those of the commercial fleet. Everybody suffers when a fishery collapses, as we saw in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and in the American striped bass fishery, or as was nearly the case in respect of North sea cod stocks. Future generations will not remember kindly those politicians who duck the challenge of creating the sustainable harvesting of the resources of our planet.
The nub of the argument is that we were promised that Britains most popular fish in terms of its sporting and eating potential would be managed sustainably, and primarily as a recreational species. That was a promise made in Downing street, and it should be kept. In 2002, the Prime Ministers strategy unit commissioned a report on the benefits of recreational sea angling. That report, Net Benefits, was eventually published in 2004, to wide acclaim. It said:
Fisheries management should recognise that sea angling may, in some circumstances, provide a better return on the use of some resources than commercial exploitation.
Fisheries departments should review the evidence supporting arguments for re-designating commercially caught species for wholly recreational sea angling, beginning with bass by the end of 2004.
We strongly support the Strategy Unit recommendations to develop the recreational sea angling sector. We believe that the sector, which has considerable economic value, has been overlooked and under-represented for too long.
We support the re-designation of certain species for recreational use and recognise the benefits that this can bring from both a conservation and economic point of view.
It is easy to see the direction of travel in terms of public policy in respect of bass and its value to the commercial and recreational sectors. By 2004, we had No. 10, the Government and an all-party Commons Committee moving in the same direction, and it is fair to say that there were reasons to be cheerful. Rarely for a policy, the process survived the 2005 general election; in fact, it was enhanced by it. In Labours Charter for Angling, the Ministers predecessor wrote:
It was anglers concerns for the conservation status of sea bass that has persuaded me to implement much of the excellent bass management plan put forward by the Bass Anglers Sport Fishing Society.
The bass management plan has suggested:...Nursery Area additional measures and enforcement to protect juveniles
Increases in Minimum Landing Size to strengthen the brood stock.
Labour welcomes the publication of the Bass Management Plan and following discussion with the authors, has agreed to a programme of implementation.
At this point, it is fair to say that the sea angling community was fairly content with my party, and with the direction of travel in respect of the policy of conserving valuable species. The Ministers predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), made good that promise when he launched the DEFRA consultation in 2005 to increase the minimum landing size for bass, in order to produce a sustainable fishery with more and bigger bass for the commercial and recreational sectors. That proposal was based on sound science and in the interests of conservation and the environment. It followed a report from CEFAS, which made it perfectly clear that the sound policy to adopt, which would maximise the yield per recruit, would suggest that
gains...can be made in all areas by increasing the size at first capture up to about 44-48 cm...At a size of 40 cm at first capture, YPR gains will be small, but significant gains...will be achieved
landings were significantly reduced in the short term...but subsequently recovered to levels similar to, or above, the status quo,
To summarise the matter of policy, it was quite possible to put together conservation measures that would deliver more and bigger bass for the commercial sector and the recreational sector. The question that all sea anglers are asking is, what has changed? What changed the entire direction of travel of policy from 2002 onwards in the past few months? I go back to CEFAS. It is DEFRAs main agency, and leading scientific body, by which Government policy is informed, and from which it is derived. A presentation was made on 1 October by Mike Smith of CEFAS, which said quite clearly that the
analysis...indicated that increasing the age at which bass were first exploited would improve long-term yields and boost recruitment to the spawning stock.
The chief policy benefit has been the acceptance that protecting juvenile fish stocks works.
The optimum spawning size for female bass is 42 cm. It is a simple act of conservation science that every species should be given the opportunity to breed once. Not to allow that does not promote sustainable fishing policy. Not to do so would not be in the interests of the environment, or in the interests of the oceans.
The consultation was launched. There was a predicable outcry from the commercial sector, but then there was an outcry from that sector when conservation measures had to be introduced in the American striped bass fishery and in the Grand Banks in Newfoundland. The commercial fishermen now welcome those measures, which were put in place to sustain the stocks and allow them to recover. It is important that as politicians we take the long-term view, not the short-term one. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter took the long-term view in his statement in 2006 when he announced the conclusions of the consultation and his intention to increase the bass minimum landing size to 40 cm from 36 cm, and then on to 45 cm, beyond the optimum spawning size. The DEFRA press release contained quotations from the Ministers predecessor. He said:
I have listened very carefully to the representations made and have not taken this decision lightly. I have accepted the arguments for a bigger minimum landing size to help increase the quantity and size of bass. This will also give better protection for the stocks. There may be short term costs from this measure before we see future gains but it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.
it is vital that fisheries management takes a long term view.
The recreational fishing sector makes a major contribution to our economy and it is important that their voice, as well as those of commercial fishermen, is taken into account in fisheries management.
In the future, I intend to increase the landing size further to 45cm, but subject to the results of a review, in 2010
the measures I have announced today.
The increase to 40cm will bring the minimum landing size closer to the average spawning size for bass...As a result, more juvenile fish will be protected and there would be increased recruitment to the spawning stock. This will in turn increase the number and size of bass available for capture to both the commercial and recreational sector.
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