Government pushed on future of fishing industry by Waveney MP
PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 20 April 2018
The impact of fishing post-Brexit in Lowestoft took on national significance at a debate in the House of Commons.
The debate on Wednesday, April 18, was led by Waveney MP Peter Aldous with the parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment and Suffolk Coastal MP, Therese Coffey, speaking on behalf of the government.
Mr Aldous also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the following day to argue the case for a reallocation of fishing quotas to help smaller boats catch more fish, an option not included in the Brexit transition deal agreed in March.
In the debate he said: “We need to be in a position whereby fish caught in the exclusive economic zone off the East Anglian coast are landed in local ports, thereby benefitting local people, local businesses and local communities.”
Dr Coffey, responding on behalf of the government, said: “The Government’s future vision for fisheries will be laid out in a white paper, to be published in due course, which will be followed by a fisheries bill that will give us the legal powers necessary to manage our fisheries in the future and enable us to develop a truly UK fisheries policy, in particular by controlling access to our own waters and setting fishing opportunities.”
Under the terms of the transition deal following Brexit on Friday, March 29, 2019, fishing in Waveney and along the Suffolk coast will still be forced to follow the same rules which applied while the UK was a member state, until the end of the transition period in December 2020.
Mr Aldous added on Thursday: “The under 10 fleet [fishing boats under 10m long] will continue to whither on the vine if we do not do something over this next two or three-year period.
“What the government need to be doing is to reallocate fishing quotas from the larger ship fleet.”
Legal precedent for such a move has been set, with former fishing minister Richard Benyon succeeding in 2012 when he took a case to court to allow the government to do so.
The points were put to Michael Gove, secretary of state for the environment, on Radio 4. He said: “The court said we could do that [reallocate unused quotas] but the courts also said that we needed to do so in a fashion that took into account the interests of those who hold the quota which meant that we could not do it instantly.”
Sonia Barker, leader of the Waveney Labour Group, said: “The Waveney Labour Group is still very concerned that the Government has ‘sold down the river’ the fishing community of Lowestoft with its recent Brexit deal.
“Why are we saying this? It is because the reassurances to the fishing community in Lowestoft given last month by the Conservative government minister for the environment, George Eustice were shown to be worthless.”
She urged Mr Aldous to get “proper reassurances from the government, not platitudes.”