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That the draft Criminal Defence Service (Representation Orders) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, which were laid before this House on 28 October, in the previous Session of Parliament, be approved.- (Mr. Blizzard.)
That the draft Criminal Defence Service (Contribution Orders) Regulations 2009, which were laid before this House on 28 October, in the previous Session of Parliament, be approved.- (Mr. Blizzard.)
That the draft Criminal Defence Service (Representation Orders: Appeals etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2009, which were laid before this House on 28 October, in the previous Session of Parliament, be approved.- (Mr. Blizzard.)
That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 13183/09 and Addendum 1, Commission Communication on Stepping up International Climate Finance, a European Blueprint for the Copenhagen Deal; and believes that the Commission's views therein provided a basis for the discussion between the Government and other Member States which resulted in European Union Document No. 15285/09, Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council (30 October 2009), in advance of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009.- (Mr. Blizzard.)
That this House has considered the matter of fisheries.
I am pleased to begin this debate. It seems amazing that a year has flown by since the last annual fisheries debate, although we have had many occasions in the intervening period to debate marine and fisheries matters. Although the year has flown by, in the past 40 minutes or so I wondered whether we would get to this debate, but I am pleased that we are here now.
This is the second fisheries debate in which I have spoken. It gives me the opportunity to report progress in the past year, which has been quite a significant year. Common fisheries policy reform is well under way, with the Government leading from the front, and we have worked on IUU-illegal, unreported and unregulated-fisheries and international governance. We also got the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 on to the statute book last month. We are the first country in the world to have a single piece of legislation to protect and manage our seas. This debate is also timely, as it always is, in that it allows me to hear the views of the House before the December European Fisheries Council and to look forward to next year.
However, at the outset I would like to pay tribute-as we always do, and quite rightly-to our fishermen, who face dangers at sea every day, every month and every year to catch the fish that so many of us enjoy eating. I am very sad to report to the House that over the past year 12 fishermen have lost their lives. I know that the House will wish to join me in expressing our sincere condolences to the families and friends who suffered those tragic losses.
Let me begin with the meat of the debate by giving the usual update on the fishing sector's contribution to the economy. As hon. Members will know, the industry has faced catch restrictions to protect fish stocks. Since 2007, UK landings of fish have declined by 4 per cent., with falling catches of mackerel and herring. However, landings of shellfish have increased by 3 per cent. The total value of landings of fish from UK vessels in 2008 was £629 million, a decrease of 2 per cent. from 2007. Although the value of demersal fish was largely the same, prices for shellfish landings showed slight decreases, particularly, as hon. Members in the areas concerned will know, those for nephrops, a key shellfish species for the UK fleet.
Exports of fish and fish products had a value of just over £1 billion in 2008, an increase of 3 per cent. since 2007. The industry-a huge employer in this country, along with its associated ancillary industries-provided employment for 12,761 fishermen in 2008. As we all know, the industry also contributes to the local economies and the culture of coastal communities, which is especially important in these times of economic difficulty. It would
be remiss of me not to mention also the contribution of sea angling, which is popular in our island nation and makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.
Over the past year we have been working on many fronts towards a single goal of achieving sustainable fisheries. That has been very much in the news, as hon. Members will know, with the film "The End of the Line" arousing great interest among the press and public alike and causing much debate. Sustainable fisheries are hugely important for our food security. Across Europe, two thirds of the fish that we eat and up to 90 per cent. of white fish are caught outside EU waters. Over-exploitation, illegal fishing and conflicting demands on the marine environment all impact on fisheries' contribution to our food security. That is why we need to look at what we do not only in the domestic arena and the EU, but internationally.
Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): One of the international issues relates to concerns raised by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation about this year's annual negotiations prior to the European Fisheries Council, and in particular about the catch that the Icelandic fleet wishes to secure and the attitude of the Norwegians, which it says is causing delay in those negotiations. Can the Minister tell us anything about that?
Huw Irranca-Davies: Indeed I can. It is a live issue, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware. In fact, I met fishermen this morning and discussed that very issue, among others. Officials and I were in touch with fisheries leaders throughout the weekend, and we continue to be so. It is unfortunate that this year's discussions between the EU and Norway and other non-EU states are more difficult than normal, for reasons that I suspect the hon. Gentleman is aware of, albeit for the right reasons as well. Where we need to take enforcement action on fishing vessels within and outside the EU, it is right that we should do so, but that aspect has perhaps coloured this year's discussions.
We are actively engaged in those discussions. We want to see a positive outcome, but we remain in live discussion with industry leaders and skippers as they go forward. I pay tribute not only to those stakeholders and the industry, which are engaged in that process as we speak, but to officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Marine Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, who are also out there fighting the good fight. However, it is difficult this year.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): On the subject of the EU-Norway talks, I suspect that one of the sticking points will be the allocation of mackerel quotas. For Scottish fishermen, and Shetland fishermen in particular, that is an absolute red line. Whatever difficulties the Minister encounters, will he please understand that, for the health of that important pelagic sector, compromise could be unhelpful to say the least?
Huw Irranca-Davies: I understand fully the point that the hon. Gentleman quite rightly makes. I am pleased to inform him not only that we are in ongoing discussions trying to hold that line, but we have written in a similar tone to the commissioner.
Huw Irranca-Davies: As I said in my previous answer, that is exactly our position. However, the EU-Norway talks this year and the December negotiations in the EU Council are more difficult than ever. All I would ask from the hon. Gentleman is an element of faith-
Huw Irranca-Davies: Indeed, and some good sense. We are playing the hand of cards that we have been dealt. We have the red lines that I have indicated and we have written to the Commission. That is the basis of our negotiations, but it is also the basis of the parallel discussions that Marine Scotland and so on are having, so we are arguing exactly the same point as the hon. Gentleman's Scottish National party colleagues in the Scottish Executive. I have to say that things are extremely difficult. However, the undertaking that I would make to him is the same as the undertaking that we have made to the fleet, which is that we will keep a frank dialogue going as the process goes forward. I do not know what the outcome will be, but that is our position.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I thank the Minister for being characteristically generous with his time. Can he tell us what progress he has made with the EU in discussing the dumping of fish? Dumping is an obscenity that affects all sectors of British waters and is something that we need to stop.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I will return to that point in a moment as part of my substantive remarks. However, one thing that we are agreed on across the UK and all the devolved Administrations is that we do not have to wait for common fisheries policy reform to make movements on discards. There are things that we can do right now. Last October-I think it was October, although time does fly-we signed the Aalborg agreement with colleagues in Germany and Denmark. Under that agreement we agreed to pilot the use of CCTV cameras on boats to monitor what is landed in the nets and to try to uphold the principle of landing more fish and killing less, thereby avoiding discards. I would also say that part of our strength and our credibility with the EU is what we have done in the last few years on real-time avoidance of spawning grounds, on the conservation credit scheme in Scotland, on avoiding juvenile stocks and so forth. There is a lot we can do now, but fundamentally-I shall return to this in a few moments-this is an issue requiring extremely radical CFP reform.
I was talking about international fisheries and food security. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that half the world's fish stocks are already fully exploited and at risk of disappearing altogether. A report by the World Bank, to which I often pay regard, has estimated that at least $50 billion dollars of wealth are lost because
of poor governance of the world's fisheries. There is a note of optimism as well, which is the flipside of that report, in that if we can improve the governance and management of fisheries, we can actually harvest more and also protect the marine environment.
To increase our food security, we are working to improve fisheries governance globally, building awareness of the benefits of well managed fisheries. Over the next three days I am visiting Ghana, partly to deal with forestry, partly to increase the Government's lobbying for Copenhagen, but partly on account of the governance of fisheries. Enabling consumers to recognise that their fish comes from well managed stocks is part of ensuring food security. Supermarkets are increasingly sourcing their fish from sustainable stocks, and initiatives such as the Marine Stewardship Council's "blue tick" labelling scheme are a step in the right direction to help consumers to make sustainable choices. We also have to make sure that our own fisheries are sustainable.
I was pleased that the House found time to debate the reform of the common fisheries policy on 27 October. I have made it clear that I want the UK to lead the reform of the CFP and I will just quickly recap where we are, as this is crucial. At the European Council of Fisheries Ministers in May, I set out the UK vision for future sustainable fisheries, which places ecologically sustainable fisheries at the heart of reform.
In September, we published a discussion paper on CFP reform setting out four key priorities. These are fish populations within safe biological limits; a prosperous and efficient fishing industry; recognition of the valuable contribution that fishing makes to local communities; and fisheries management integrated with management and conservation of marine resources. For too long, fisheries issues have been dealt with in a silo, which is to their detriment, as we have seen over recent decades, and to that of the marine environment as well. These issues need to be mainstream and part and parcel of cross-government thinking within the UK and of cross-departmental thinking within the EU.
With the help of the Marine and Fisheries Agency, we have held meetings around the coast-I say that, but they were also in Edinburgh-to hear local views on CFP reform. Last week, I discussed with colleagues in the devolved Administrations and a wide range of stakeholders the feedback on the discussion paper and the challenges to be addressed. This is helping us to ensure that when the UK responds to the European Commission's Green Paper on reform of the CFP later this month, we are recommending radical but realistic reform. This will include people in the fishing industry themselves taking more responsibility for implementing the CFP; more long-term management to reduce uncertainty for fishermen-too often, we hear fishermen saying that they cannot plan a month, let alone a year or five years ahead when they go to their bank manager; ensuring decisions are based on sound science; and reducing, or wherever possible eliminating, wasteful discards.
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