Thank you, Mdme Dep. Speaker.
Hastings and Rye, and all along the South Coast, has a strong and vibrant fishing community. In Hastings the very soul of our town has built over centuries on the success and longevity of our fishermen and their fleet.
From our fishermen to fishmongers, restaurants and festivals, to the weekly sea shanty recitals in our Old Town, our fishing community is intertwined into every aspect of Hastings and Rye’s daily comings and goings.
That is why it is so important as a Member of Parliament, as a Government, we continue to support and encourage our fishing communities to grow and flourish. They are the very hearts and souls of our coastal towns and villages.
We know that surveys show that most British fishermen voted to leave the EU, in order to wrench themselves clean of the Common Fisheries Policy and to ensure we had sovereign control over our territorial fishing waters. However, it is clear that there are difficulties in negotiating the new fishing arrangements post-Brexit.
We only have to look at the ‘scallop war’ in 2018 to have some idea of what the French fishermen, for example, might inflict on British fishermen if they do not get their way on future fishing policy. Moreover, we need only to read the reports that fishing rights are becoming an increasing barrier to a successful trading relationship with the EU in the current Brexit negotiations.
It is with this context and backdrop that we must consider this Bill. And there is so much to praise and welcome in this Bill. Underpinning everything is the Government’s commitment to sustainability, also reinforcing the fishing industry’s commitment to sustainability, ensuring healthy seas and healthy stocks for future generations of fishermen.
These include a commitment to fishing sustainably, an objective seeking to reduce the wasteful practice of discarding fish, and a new climate change objective which recognises the impact of fishing on the health of the ocean and our planet. This Bill introduces new
fisheries management plans which will allow a holistic, sustainable approach to be taken when managing our fisheries. The Bill also includes new powers to protect the marine environment surrounding our coastline and powers to implement the technical measures necessary to manage fishing activity in UK waters effectively. This is all to be welcomed.
Honourable members may be aware that I have consistently argued for my local fishermen, who manage an under-10 metre fishing fleet, for reassurance on Clause 12 of the Bill - that no foreign vessels will be permitted to fish, or be granted licences to fish, in our 12 nautical mile waters off the UK coast. Earlier this evening, my Hon. Friend gave the clarity and reassurance needed and gave ‘the wording we wanted to hear’.
Local fishermen have explained to me that, over the decades, a distrust has built up with successive UK Governments. Many fishermen believing that they, their families, communities and livelihoods were sacrificed in 1973 in order to secure access to the single market.
This is why fishermen in Hastings and Rye were seeking reassurance; to have faith in this Bill and faith in this Conservative Government that they will not be sacrificed again. I am grateful – no, proud - of this Government for the stance it has taken on Fisheries and our sovereignty and the reassurance given this evening, which will provide the basis for trust to be restored and built upon.
For nearly 50 years, the Common Fisheries Policy has dictated where UK fishing boats can operate and how much they can catch. It has also given EU nations access to British territorial waters. Leaving the Common Fisheries Policy will have a dramatic impact on coastal communities across the country.
So today, I have come to the Chamber wanting to support this Bill, with its many clauses and provisions that are to be celebrated and welcomed.
And it is on the point of sovereignty of our territorial fishing waters that I am most determined we get right for our fishing communities, who have suffered under the Common Fisheries Policy for far too long.
That is why the clarity and reassurance that I, and the fishing communities in Hastings and Rye, were given today is welcome and gratefully received and why I am delighted to be able to support this historic Bill today.