Joint Committee On Human Rights Seventeenth Report

Appendix 6: Fishery Limits (United Kingdom) Amendment Bill

Letter from the Chair to Mr Austin Mitchell MP

As part of its function to consider human rights in the United Kingdom, the Joint Committee on Human Rights examines all bills introduced to either House with a view to reporting to each House on their compatibility with Convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, and with other rights which arise in international law under human rights instruments by which the United Kingdom is bound. The Committee is currently considering the human rights implications of the Fishery Limits (United Kingdom) Amendment Bill, which you introduced to the House of Commons.

As you know, the Bill would amend the Fishery Limits Act 1976 in various ways. Among other effects, it would:

require all fish caught within British fishing limits to be landed at a port within the British Islands and reported to the Ministers and made available for inspection; and

make it a criminal offence (with a potential prison sentence) to violate those requirements.

The Committee is concerned about the possibility that these provisions would be likely to interfere with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions under Article 1 of Protocol No 1 to the ECHR.

In the light of this, the Committee is considering whether to draw the attention of each House to the implications of the Bill for those rights. The Committee understands the difficulties which the sponsors of private members' bills, with limited resources, often face in responding to questions from the Committee about the human rights implications of their bills. Nevertheless, without suggesting that you are under any obligation to respond to its concerns, the Committee would of course give full weight to any representations which you might wish to put before it.

The Committee is likely to be deciding on 17 November 2003 whether, and if so how, to report to each House on the Bill, and so would be unable to take account of representations received after 14 November 2003.

5 November 2003

Letter from Mr Austin Mitchell MP to the Chair

This is a late response to your letter of 5 November which I have only just received. You say the committee is concerned that two provisions of my Fishery Limits Bill interfere with peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

I'm afraid you have misread the bill. The requirements that fish be landed is not as you quote it "and" reported but "or reported" This can hardly be an interference with human rights because the fishermen catch the fish under quota. The provision is taken from the regulations for the Common Fisheries Policy coupled with the regulations enforced by HMG on quota hoppers, i.e. foreign vessels registered as British which are now required to land a proportion of their catch at British ports.

I realise that you will be deciding this issue on l7 November but I do hope you'll take this explanation into account. On a personal level I'll delighted for your committee to rule that these provisions interfere with the rights of fishermen under Article I of Protocol No l because in ruling that you will be ruling that the CFP as at present operated infringes the rights of British fishermen and quota hoppers registered as British but foreign owned. As a critic of the CFP and the impositions it makes on the rights of British fishermen to fish in their own waters that will be wonderful ammunition for me so please go ahead and use my late representations as a reason for not considering my arguments However it might be fairer to you to say that whatever my personal feelings you should be made aware of this.

16 November 2003

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