|Andrew R.T. Davies AC|
|Gareth Bennett AC|
|Helen Mary Jones AC|
|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|John Griffiths AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC|
|Mike Hedges AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Graham Rees||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Is-adran y Môr a Physgodfeydd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director Marine and Fisheries Division, Welsh Govenrment|
|Lesley Griffiths AC||Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig|
|Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs|
|Robert Floyd||Pennaeth, Trefniadau Pontio’r UE – y Môr a Physgodfeydd, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Head, Marine and Fisheries EU Transition, Welsh Government|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Trafod y Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol ar gyfer Bil Pysgodfeydd y DU: sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig||2. Consideration of the Legislative Consent Memorandum for the UK Fisheries Bill: evidence session with the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs|
|3. Papurau i’w nodi||3. Papers to note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome Members to the meeting? Can I welcome formally Jenny Rathbone to the committee, although she was here last week as a substitute? She is now a member, and can I formally thank Jayne Bryant for her contribution to the committee's work during her time on the committee? Are there any declarations of interest any Members wish to make? We've got no apologies or substitutions, so we can move on to the first item.
Can I welcome Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs? Can I ask your officials to introduce themselves?
I'm Robert Floyd, I'm head of the marine and fisheries EU transition team in Welsh Government.
Graham Rees, head of marine and fisheries, Welsh Government.
Okay. If you're ready, we'll move straight into questions, and I'll go first. To what extent was the UK Fisheries Bill co-designed with the devolved administrations? What involvement did the Welsh Government have in the drafting of Welsh-specific provisions?
I think it's safe to say we didn't get off to the best start with this Bill. So, certainly my officials were not involved at a level I would have liked in the beginning, but since the Bill has been introduced, we have had extensive discussions and I'm very happy with the level of engagement that officials are having. Graham was in London yesterday, and I'm sure we'll hear more about his meeting yesterday later on in the session. I've had many conversations, both with Michael Gove and George Eustice and, obviously, Scottish counterparts. So, as I say, I'm very happy now, but we didn't get off to the best start.
It's been really important that we've worked very hard to make sure our Welsh interests are best represented. I think there's been significant improvements to the Bill due to our input. There were a couple of red lines. I suppose my top red line was that I wanted to make sure there was the extension of Assembly legislative competence that covered the Welsh zone, not just Wales. I thought it was a real inequality that that wasn't the case for our Assembly. So, that, for me, was absolutely the top red line, and I have to say, George Eustice and Michael Gove recognised that straight away and we've managed to secure that. So, I think constitutionally, that's a massive improvement for us, and when we bring our own Bill forward, certainly, that will be—. Well, we wouldn't have been able to do it in the way I would've wanted if we hadn't got that, so I was very pleased that we've got that.
Good morning. Could you tell us a little bit about the purpose of the fisheries management framework agreement?
So, the agreement—so, we're going to have a joint fisheries statement between all four administrations. That will be, absolutely, a key part and key element of the fisheries framework. So, that will set out the shared objectives that we have—that the four countries have—in relation to our fisheries management. Underpinning the statement will be a series of memoranda of understanding that will obviously have to be worked out. That will detail how the four countries will work together going forward. There will be joint governance mechanisms, and very importantly, there'll be a dispute resolution mechanism because I think that's really important that we have that there. Officials are going to be preparing that—that hasn't been done yet, obviously—across the four administrations.
In Schedule 1, there are lots of parts of—. Schedule 1 sets out the procedures that will be needed to bring forward this joint fisheries statement: both how it's prepared and the publishing of it. The contents of the JFS are still under discussion with officials and, obviously, the final contents of the JFS will be influenced by the scrutiny of the Bill as it goes through all the stages.
So, what kinds of things are we talking about? Could you just give us a flavour?
Certainly. In terms of how the parts of the UK look at allocating fishing opportunities, we expect to see that in there. We also have to set out how we'll work together in achieving maximum sustainable yield and that kind of thing. So, really, it's about where the UK needs to work together to bring—
Yes, because I saw in the letter that we received yesterday from the Minister that discussions around the nature of the joint fisheries statements are ongoing and will be informed by the scrutiny of the Bill. Is scrutinising a Bill the best way to come to decisions around some of these issues, do you think?
It's one way but not the only way. Obviously, there will be a lot of stakeholder engagement and there'll be an opportunity to lay the statement here and receive views on it. There will be a broad range of people involved in the design of it.
The important thing for a joint fisheries statement is to respect devolution and, actually, the joint fisheries statement was a Welsh Government suggestion in terms of the Bill because we have the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 that sets out how sustainability should be viewed, and that's not common throughout the rest of the UK. So, we needed a way to be able to deal with the different policies that are in play.
Could I just add one thing? One thing that I'm very pleased about—I think it will be really good that once the JFS is up and running, it's reviewed periodically and we publish a report on it. That's something that I fed in to the UK Government on this as well.
I just wanted to ask, Minister, a bit about the memorandums of understanding and dispute mechanisms. I think you'll understand that I'm a bit worried about that because, to a certain extent, that seems to rely on a level of respect, and Mr Rees has talked about mutual—. Now, it seems to me you've got to that point—you said in your opening remarks that this didn't start very well, but that you feel that you're happy with the process now. But isn't there a risk that not having any kind of legislative framework for the memorandum of understanding and the dispute mechanism and not having anything in the law about how the joint fisheries statements could be reached—does that not leave us depending on the goodwill of, not just Westminster but of all four countries? Is there not a bit of a risk there, and is that not something we should be concerned about?
I think that's obviously an element that does concern us and, certainly, particularly around this Bill, and I don't want to conflate the two Bills because they're very different, but, obviously, because I've been working on the UK Agriculture Bill at the same time I've been working on this, I think you get a feeling from the other Governments about how they want to deal with you and the level of respect et cetera, which, of course, might not be there with the next Government of whatever colour or political persuasion. So, I think you're right—it is about making sure that the structure is correct.
We think this is the best way forward—certainly, the dispute resolution, and you will have heard the former First Minister going on and on and on about the necessity for dispute resolutions to be part of governance as we leave the EU. And certainly, over the last two years, I've seen a massive movement from the UK Government much more to the same page we're on, but we think this is the best way forward. I don't know if you've got anything else to add, Rob?
Just to add that the Bill also sets out requirements for us to act jointly across the UK and it sets a deadline for introducing the JFS, which I think will help to bring all parties together as well.
Okay, thank you. I saw in the letter again—and I'm sorry, I'm referring quite a bit to this because it gives us a lot of additional information, really—that you say that you're considering bringing forward a Welsh Bill if necessary. So, is there a doubt as to whether a Welsh Bill is necessary?
At the moment, I would say that I fully intend to bring one, it's just the timing of it. Obviously, the legislative programme is very squished, so we need to make sure that we get a slot—
In this Assembly term. As I've said all along: Welsh fisheries and Welsh agriculture in this Assembly term.
Are both expected to pass before the end of this Assembly? And whether they're implemented, of course, is—
Okay. Are there any powers in the UK Bill intended to be time-limited, to be superceded by any potential Welsh fisheries Bill in future, and, if so, which ones?
So, because I haven't got a legislative slot at the moment—that's why there's no sunset clause, for instance; I haven't got that because I think it's really important that we have that flexibility—. I think we will bring additional powers forward in our own Welsh fisheries Bill. One of the reasons I think we'll need a Welsh fisheries Bill—one example I've been given as to what we could bring forward in a Welsh fisheries Bill that we haven't got at the moment is around scallop measures. So, at the moment, we can only—the legislation would only be around scallops in the Wales zone, but afterwards we'll be able to do it in the Welsh zone, which is where all the scallops are. So, that's an example of what we could do additionally.
Okay. The UK Bill is giving you extensive delegated powers, and I'm just wondering, in terms of additional provisions that you envisage will be included in a future Welsh fisheries Bill, will you be sharing some of those with the Assembly, in a sense? Because, obviously, there are concerns about scrutiny of your additional powers and empowering the Assembly to be able to hold you to account is important.
No, I think if we're going to have a fit-for-purpose Welsh fisheries Bill, then we absolutely need the Assembly's input. I've just given you one example of something we could do. We could also have flexible permitting for the Welsh zone. This is why it was so important to get that legislative competence irregularity sorted out right in the beginning. So, the Assembly will then have the same powers as we've got as Welsh Ministers into the Welsh zone. To me, it just was crazy that you didn't have that at the time. So, having that amendment brought in was really, as I say, a very significant constitutional step.
'Brexit and our seas'—it's on its way; it's more or less ready. I had a look at it—I'm trying to think if it was last week or the week before. I sort of intended to go out to consultation around now, maybe the beginning of February, but with, you can imagine, all the uncertainty around a 'no deal', I'll probably launch in March.
It is marine and fisheries, yes. So, 'Brexit and our seas' is a bit of a theme, but it is more or less ready to go. It's had intensive stakeholder engagement—part of the round-table, as you know. The fisheries and marine are well represented on there as well as other groups that we've got. My plan at the moment is to launch the consultation in March.
Thank you. I want to explore the fisheries objectives and the statements a bit more. Are you satisfied that fisheries objectives in clause 1 of the Bill are sufficiently clearly defined, and do you feel that they strike the right balance between being achievable but also suitably ambitious?
I am content. I don't think anybody, really, could disagree with the fisheries objectives. They broadly replicate what's in the common fisheries policy now, so I think that's operable, obviously, within a UK legislative framework. So, I think they just transfer over.
Also, in relation to the joint fisheries statement, I'd expect to see that setting out the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. I don't think, again, it would be appropriate to set that out in primary legislation. I'm sure, as the years go by, we would want to adapt it; we would want to improve it, even. So, I think it's right that it would be in the statement and not in the legislation. We wouldn't want to be amending the Act all the time.
There's certainly sense in that. Can I just turn to some things that are in the common fisheries policy but are not in the objectives? Clause 1 of the Bill, for example, makes no reference to a fair standard of living for fishing industry and coastal communities, which is in the common fisheries policy—or have I got that wrong?
I think that's in clause 1. I'm looking at Rob. That is in clause 1, isn't it?
Yes, we expect that to be covered under clause 1(2)(b).
So, would that be the—? You mentioned, Mr Floyd, earlier, the maximum sustainable yield. We've heard different evidence, I think, about whether that should be included or not. Should that be in the objectives or is that best done in the statement?
Certainly, the objective to fish at levels below maximum sustainable yield are in the objectives. The concern has been around where the CFP sets out that target date of 2020. But we certainly would expect the statement to set out realistic targets for how we would achieve that. There's quite a lot of discussion going on across the UK on MSY.
Yes. Just finally on that particular point, then, again: it's been suggested to us that the discard objective in clause 1 is less stringent and comprehensive than what's in the common fisheries policy at the moment. How would you respond to that, or is that, again, something that could be set out in more detail in the statement?
Well, again, I would say that the legislation that's just going to come over in the withdrawal Act—I would say that would come over completely.
Yes. So, the suite of statutory instruments, as you know, which we are laying at the moment across the UK, amend the common fisheries policy to make it operable in UK law once we've left the EU. Article 15, which relates to the discard objective, is coming across—not all of it, where some of it has to be changed to make it operable, but the detail will be within the CFP rather than within the Fisheries Bill.
Carrying on with discards and prevention provisions, our understanding is that, in the Bill, that only applies to England. We had evidence, I think last week, that if we have different approaches across the UK, that could, in itself, cause a problem and create a potential for fishers to choose to land catches based on the most favourable regime for them. Have you anything to say on that and how do you propose to address that anomaly?
I suppose the short answer is, and you will have heard me say this before: it's called 'devolution', so you could have, obviously, diversification of policies. I think the most important thing is that we work collaboratively—we share the same fish, and we need to work collaboratively on this. The most important thing for me is that we're not disproportionately affected, as a nation—that we're not disproportionately affected. So, I would expect—. I'll go back to what I was saying about the joint fisheries policy and about the dispute resolution—that's really important that that's there in case we do think we're disproportionately affected.
England are doing a specific piece of work. So, you're absolutely right, from what you were saying at the beginning. What's being proposed at the moment would only apply to England. So, we're very interested to see what they're going to bring forward and to have a look at the detail of it. But it is really important that we do work collaboratively on this.
Thank you. Mr Rees, in supporting the Minister's response to an earlier question, mentioned the future generations' well-being Act, and we also, obviously, need to consider the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. To what extent do you believe the objectives take account of the Welsh legislative landscape or do they allow you to take account of that in Wales-specific legislation?
So, because the objectives have effectively been lifted from the face of the common fisheries policy with the intention, obviously, of enshrining these objectives in UK legislation, obviously, those objectives are influenced by international obligations. They influence the well-being of future generations Act, so I think they actually align better with our legislation than that of any other country in the UK.
That's encouraging. This Bill doesn't include, and you've touched on this in answer to Llyr, provision for the Assembly oversight and scrutiny of the delivery of the fisheries objectives—there's nothing formally in the Bill that says that you have to report on that. Should there be a requirement, or if it shouldn't be, why not? Or would that be something that might be addressed in a Welsh Bill?
Yes, I think it's absolutely right that the Assembly is able to scrutinise this. So, in relation to the joint fisheries statement, it is right that the Assembly can scrutinise, and I also think we should report periodically on it so the Assembly has a report every three years, say, and you could scrutinise that every three years or so.
Yes, that sounds reasonable. Annually would be much too often, I think—
Yes, I would say three years; it might be five years, but I think that would be, again, a decision that we could take jointly.
And would that be something that you'd envisage putting into Welsh legislation, potentially.
I think it would be easier to have it once every term—once every Assembly term. That would mean that it would fit in nicely; otherwise, you'd be doing things in the first year back, and there might be a change of Government and, once in each term, I think, would be easier and more straightforward.
It strikes me, listening, that if you're going to report about fisheries, that you report according to the cycle of the fish rather than us, since it's going to be the fish we're concerning ourselves with. So, there's a life cycle that is clearly defined, and whether we're somehow adversely affecting that life cycle that then keeps the fish available to us seems the most logical way of reporting, to me, than us just plucking something out of the air, which seems to be happening here at the moment. So, with due respect, I would ask if you could consider that, because, you know, anybody that’s ever watched the life cycle of fish would understand, really, I hope, what I’m trying to say.
I’m looking at my experts here, because that’s certainly not something that I have considered about when we would report on. So, I don’t know if it’s—.
Absolutely. So, the way the fish are assessed is that they’re assessed across the whole of Europe, and that’s not going to change. Some of the work that we’ve been doing with UK Government colleagues is to get an agreement with the science body called the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to continue to undertake the stock at that level, because that’s what makes sense. And the plan is to report on the sustainability of the stock annually. So, there will be an annual report on the sustainability of the stock, which will then inform the negotiations—the coastal state negotiations—which will take place around November each year.
Surely, that would then, if there were any red flags, inform our allocation—
Thank you. So, you’ve said, I think, Minister, already that you do consider that the joint fisheries statement is the best way to deliver the objectives. Could you tell us a bit more about your thinking behind why you do think that’s the best mechanism?
So, as I said, the JFS will form the key part of the fisheries framework, which is what we’re working on with the other UK countries now. That will set out the shared objectives of the four countries. There will be a series of memoranda of understanding underpinning it, and that will really detail how the four policy authorities will work together. It will include, as I say, joint governance and dispute resolutions.
The JFS will only apply to Welsh Ministers. So, it won’t apply to anyone else; it will just apply to us. But, there will obviously be other mechanisms, particularly our own legislation, that will then support the delivery of objectives from other organisations—so, National Resources Wales, for instance, which, obviously, aren't responsible for the management of marine fisheries. That’s absolutely up to us, but, obviously, NRW are responsible for freshwater fisheries, for instance. So, it will be our legislation that will affect that.
The draft JFS will be consulted on and, as I say, it will be scrutinised by the Assembly.
Yes. Given what you’ve just said, I’m just wondering whether the joint fisheries statement should be subject to the approval of the Assembly and other legislatures.
Because we asked you that question in the letter, and you don’t quite answer it.
It’ll be scrutinised. I don’t think there’s any formal approval mechanisms put into the Bill. I think perhaps one of the issues there is that it would have to go in front of all four legislatures across the UK.
Well, yes, exactly. That’s the point. So, do you think it should, then, as opposed to whether it is or not? Should it not be subject to approval?
I think we should certainly look at that, because, as I say, you’re going to scrutinise it, so—
Well, that’s what I’m thinking, and it’s quite a fundamental question, really, because we, you know—.
I suppose the challenge that Rob was trying to illustrate is that, should this place change the statement, for example, and it’s already been approved in Scotland or in Northern Ireland, or in Parliament, then we would have to go back around that route again to get further change, and if Scotland changed it back, then it would come back around this route. So, it’s how we achieve scrutiny within that context, really.
I think that’s the difficulty that democracy places on civil servants, Mr Rees. It might not be desperately convenient, but that’s the way it is. [Laughter.]
It’s a fair point, but, you know, that democratic mandate is important in all of this.
I think, in a sense, Chair, the Ministers answered this. Just to be clear: the joint fisheries statement will put responsibilities on Welsh Ministers, which would then be scrutinised and we'll work out exactly how to further it by the Assembly, but not on other public bodies.
So, any responsibilities that you wanted to put on other public bodies would need to come in Welsh legislation, or in guidance, or however.
Yes. So, it would come through the future generations Act and the the environment Act, as you say, regulations.
Yes, I have some questions on access to our fisheries in Britain, Minister, and firstly, in terms of the licensing system for foreign fishing boats, what would you say are the implications—the practical and financial implications—for Welsh Government?
So, I suppose the main one is we will have more control over foreign fishing vessels—you know, when they do fish within our waters. so that's always been a concern that's been raised with me—that any foreign fishing vessel that comes into our waters doesn't have to comply with our unique Welsh legislation, so that will obviously change. We'll be able to extend our legislation to foreign vessels, so we'll have much more of a level playing field, which we certainly haven't had before. Any access by foreign fishing vessels to any of the UK waters will be subject to negotiation as a coastal state agreement, Obviously, when we come out of Europe, we will then become an independent coastal state, the UK. So, they'll have to have a valid UK annual fishing authorisation to fish within our waters. We'll also, as Welsh Ministers, have the powers to license foreign fishing vessels for Wales and the Welsh zones, so again, we can make sure that there are conditions attached to that, again to fit in with our legislation. So, significantly more powers in relation to that.
So, for example, you could ensure that foreign boats comply with our environmental standards. Do you think you'd have enough flexibility in terms of the number of licences issued for foreign boats?
Okay. In terms of equal access to UK waters for the UK fishing industry, what do you think are the implications there for the Welsh fishing industry, which obviously is quite different to that which exists in other parts of our islands?
So, this is a really important principle, which obviously opens—[Inaudible.]—to the fishing fleets. Any vessel from any part of the UK has as much right to fish in any other specific part of the UK. So, we can go up to Scotland; our fleet can go up there; they can come down here. I know there are concerns around this, but I think what is really important is to ensure we have the appropriate controls in place for each specific fishery and marine environment rather than looking where the vessel comes from. So, for instance, at the moment—I can't remember when I brought this in, last year or maybe the year before—larger engine vessels can't go into our scallop fisheries, for instance. So, I think it's really important that we get that balance right.
I just wondered how you'd enforce that, because it's one thing saying, 'Meeting our environmental standards and the Bill would allow for that to happen.' It's another thing actually being able, on the ground, to make these actions enforceable. So, I was just wondering: has any consideration been given to that and the resource that might be required? Or are we sufficiently robust in our enforcement measures that this is not a concern for you, Minister?
So, you're probably aware we're just having new enforcement vessels, because prior to that, I would say, no, we wouldn't have been able to do it in the way that we will want to after. So, as I say, we can put those conditions there, and I am much happier now that we've replaced our—well, not fully replaced; we've got five—fisheries protection vehicles and, obviously, the rigid inflatable boats. The Rhodri Morgan is out there now. I think the Lady Megan we're launching next month.
No, the Lady Megan's out there; the Rhodri Morgan is just undergoing some training at the moment, so it's nearly there.
Sorry, the other way around. We've invested significant funding—I think it's about £7 million—but I think we had to do that, because prior to that, I would not have been happy, no.
So, we're in a pretty good place when it comes to enforcement, and you used the words you're happy with what we've got.
I will be when they're all out there. As you just heard Graham say, the Rhodri Morgan is currently in training, but once he's out there, then I think we'll have the full lot out there, and I think—. You know, I'm really pleased that we did that, because I certainly—. When I came into post, the two fishing vessels we had were clearly not fit for purpose. So, now, I think we've got a—. Perhaps 'fleet' is a bit too strong a word, but we've got our fleet—
—of five of them. I'm very proud of them, and I think it was only right for our enforcement team that they had—. I mean, the way they live—they can be on those boats for up to four or five days. The way they lived—they were very cramped. So, I would encourage Members—. I'm sure some Members did see the Rhodri Morgan when it was launched outside. Please do go and have a look. I think you did go and look at the previous ones, didn't you? That will reassure you, also, Andrew, that we're in a much better place now.
Just on that important issue, Minister, obviously, despite what you've described about the new capacity that we'll have, there's quite a lot of water to cover. To what extent is this going to rely on a good working relationship between our enforcement capacity and the people out there doing the fishing. Presumably, it's information that's provided that can achieve the best, most effective enforcement.
Absolutely. I think the fishers, I think it's safe to say, they do self-police.
I think that's fair to say. I think they're very keen to pass on information, which is, obviously, very helpful for us.
So, there's like an informal network that applies, really, is there, rather than anything that's more formal.
There are other monitoring arrangements that we have for vessels. So, vessels that are over 12m have to carry a tracking device so that we know where they are. Any vessel engaged in the scallop fishery in Wales—only in Wales—has to carry a tracking device that reports every 30 seconds, I think, in terms of where it is. And there's a lot of intelligence sharing going on between the four administrations, and with Europe as well, around all of this. I was in COBRA the other day, looking at how we join in with other agencies as well, so—.
I suppose—. I mentioned that we'll have more powers. So, one of the things that we'll be able to do, which we can't at the moment, is, because we'll have the powers to be giving out permits, if we know of a vessel that's impinged before, then we won't give them a licence. So, we will have far more flexibility and powers there.
Just while we're on the environmental well-being of the seas, and the fact that you have said that certain vessels would have to have tracking devices, would it not be an opportunity for us in Wales to ask those fishing on the sea that, if they lose nets or any other fishing gear that cause huge problems in the seas—to put something in the legislation that actually puts an onus on people to report that, to say where it is, and then, in turn, for that to be retrieved? Because when we're talking about things like lobster pots and netting, it does an awful lot of damage in the ghost fishing that happens to our waters. So, I just think that it's an opportunity here that we might take in this Bill to put something in that does protect the environment a little bit more perhaps than the protections we already have.
We could certainly look in the Welsh fisheries Bill—. I'm not sure we could do anything in the UK Bill, but certainly in our own Bill, we could look at that.
Looking at clause 18, from the UK Government's perspective, it looks like a good read—it looks like we're going to take back control—but, unfortunately, we haven't agreed anything with the EU around quotas or how these would operate. So, it seems fairly meaningless, given that the EU has repeatedly said that they won't allow tariff-free access to our fishing unless they have reciprocal rights for European boats to fish in our waters. So, it seems to me that this is—it's a good piece of PR, but we know nothing, really, about how this is going to operate.
So, this is a red line for me. This is probably the only outstanding red line for me now. So, we firmly believe that clause 18 impinges on devolved matters. The UK Government doesn't share our view on this, and, although I've had discussions with George Eustice, particularly, around this, who I think, is in agreement, it is somewhere where we've got to continue to work on, because, if—. As I say, red line, I would not be able to recommend consent of the Assembly on the entire Bill unless this is sorted. And I am encouraged—. Graham was in London, as I said, yesterday, for meetings, and we certainly are encouraged that they are moving on that.
We're all in agreement that at the top-level fishing opportunities for the UK, it's the Secretary of State who will be setting that, in conjunction with us. The fisheries council—you know, we've been having in December a fisheries council with the EU—it works very well. I cannot complain at all about the work that we do as four countries, and I'm convinced that we will be able to carry on doing that. But our concerns really centre on the very broad way that this power has been written. So, the way it's drafted at the moment, as you say—the Secretary of State could unilaterally set quotas for us. He could set our quota for scallops in Cardigan bay. He could set the number of days it's open, for instance—that is completely wrong—if it was linked to an international agreement. So, an absolute red line for me. I am encouraged. Lots more discussions are going on. I don't know if Graham has got anything that he can say about yesterday's meeting. I don't know if this came up at all.
It did come up. It's still very early days and we, at official level, will be exchanging some letters around it. The key issue, really, is around the 'international obligations' term, because that is incredibly broad and does cover everything. What I was seeking yesterday from DEFRA officials is an agreement that, should that impinge on devolved powers—devolved administrations' responsibilities—they should write to the Minister and seek agreement, and, if the agreement isn't forthcoming and they decide to move forward and implement anyway, that they come and explain to the National Assembly for Wales and to Parliament why they've done so, and give Ministers the opportunity to also put those views to the National Assembly for Wales and to Parliament as well, which is an established mechanism and an inter-ministerial agreement that we've got more broadly around these areas where reserved and devolved sort of overlap.
Sorry, just on that, particularly, because there are clear parallels here to the World Trade Organization issue with the agri Bill. Now, I have seen a letter from the Secretary of State to yourself outlining some sort of protocol, but, really, it doesn't do anything other than just explain what the status quo is.
I am, yes. It doesn't give me confidence that actually, fundamentally, there's anything different than what they propose to do at the moment.
Well, I am on about the WTO, but I just—I get the same feeling for the fisheries. I mean, really, there hasn't been a shift on the UK Government side. It's just a case of, 'We'll write to you and let you know. You tell us what you think, and then we'll decide.' Well, I'd have hoped that would be common decency anyway, but—
So, we continue to work—. We think that this should be considered as part of the fisheries management framework as well. So, you know, at the moment, I'm still not happy but, obviously, I need to catch up with Graham about yesterday's meeting to see what we can do further. As I say, I would not be able to recommend this Bill as a whole—and I think we've got to take it as a whole—to the Assembly unless this is sorted out. So, it is—. There are further discussions, and I will—just to reassure Members—bring forward a supplementary LCM.
But I'm just comparing—. I'm just quizzing what your bar is here, because the bar for the WTO one seems to me to be pretty low.
Yes. Sorry, it's just—. I know we are drilling into this a lot, Chair, but it's actually quite important, isn't it? So, for me to understand—because I'm coming at this halfway through—Minister, you are saying to us that clause 18 is not okay as it stands.
Good, because we don't think so either; I certainly don't. But the arrangements that Mr Rees was just outlining in the exchange of letters—that wouldn't satisfy you with regard to your being concerned about—. If your response to me needs to be, well, you need to go and talk that through in a bit more detail with Mr Rees, then I'm happy with that, but I think it's something that we might want to come back to.
Yes, that's fine. So, Graham just outlined the steps that have taken us a little bit forward yesterday. We need to have a look at that, and, as you say, if it is just, 'We write a letter and you reply', then, even if it's the Welsh Government and the Assembly—which it would be under the inter-governmental agreement; it would be us and then, obviously, they would have to write to you as well—I don't know that that would be enough. So, I'm very happy to send a note to the committee, if that's okay with you, Chair. But I'm just going to ask Graham: following the meeting yesterday, have you got another meeting set up to discuss this?
We have fortnightly teleconferences to—
So, maybe in two weeks' time, after we've got some further information, that might be a more appropriate time to inform the committee.
We generally accept that things are fairly fluid, so notes will always be helpful.
But, just to clarify, because when you relate to the implementation and creation of international treaties—it says that, doesn't it? I think you said that in your earlier submission, you did. You said about international treaties. So, it's about trade, basically.
International treaties is a reserved matter. The text of the clause here talks about international obligations, which is a very broad term. It could include treaties. It could include other, existing mechanisms that are already in place, which is where it becomes uncomfortable, because it makes the power very wide then.
We absolutely accept international negotiations are reserved, but, as Graham said, it's the international obligations—
The stakeholders we heard from last week were suggesting that, really, unless we tackle the historic misdistribution of fishing quota, the benefits to Wales are going to be absolutely marginal. So, I wondered if you agreed with that, and what action you intend to take.
Absolutely agree with that—the most important things is that Welsh fishermen receive their fair share of fishing opportunities, and I don't think that's been the case, and certainly we've had reports that clearly demonstrate that that's not the case. So, you're absolutely right: we need to change the way fishing opportunities are allocated within the UK. That's absolutely fundamental, otherwise there will be no re-balance. So, I absolutely agree with that statement.
So, to really change things, it seems to me, it's not just about the colour of the flag that's doing the fishing, it's about where the catch is landed. So, there's nothing in the Bill about the proportion of the UK quota that has to be landed in the UK. Is that something you've had discussions with the Secretary of State on?
It is, and you wouldn't really expect this to be done through legislation; it's done administratively. It's done administratively now, and I think we would expect it to be done administratively going forward. I don't think you would expect to have this in legislation.
Okay. But, unless we achieve that, we're never going to get more sustainable fishing communities.
I agree, so it's about making sure that we have the right quota management rules going forward.
Okay. But then you're highly dependent on the way in which the UK Government negotiates with the EU-27 on this very important matter.
Yes. But, as I say, the fisheries council, it's exactly the same as when we were 28—well, we're still 28, but you know what I mean. At the December fisheries council, the UK, as the member state, negotiates, but I've always felt I've had an equal place around that table in the fisheries councils that I've been involved in since I've been in post. So, I think we've got a very good structure to work on, but, obviously, instead of going to the December council, we'll be going to the November council as an independent coastal state.
Okay. So, the Bill talks about transparency, but doesn't include any mechanism for determining how fishing opportunities are going to be shared between UK fishing authorities, and so is this something that you consider to be an administrative matter as well and therefore wouldn't be in the Bill?
Absolutely, I would expect that to be done administratively. And I go back to what I'm saying—it's really important that we get the correct allocation of fishing opportunities. It's something that I'll be working on during the consultation. I want to work with stakeholders on it; they've got very, very firm views. I know there are concerns, but I think this is a piece of work that we will take forward with stakeholders.
Just picking up on what Jenny Rathbone has said about if we don't get this quota business right then everything else really doesn't—you know, it's not going to make any big changes. Is this something that might be addressed or might be set out in a statement about—? So, if it's not in the Bill, is that—? Because I think if you—. It would elevate it beyond just a purely administrative matter, because it's an administrative matter at the moment and Wales is getting a really rubbish deal. I know there are historical reasons for that, but might that be something the statement could address, or set the mechanism out?
Certainly, and because we've got the quota management rules—that sets out how the quota is shared, that's published, that's freely available, that's very transparent, but certainly I think that is something that we could look at as part of the statement.
It's very difficult for us to scrutinise what impact, if any, this is going to have beneficially, in terms of the absence of any criteria for redistributing UK fishing opportunities. Greenpeace points out that 25 per cent of the current UK quota is controlled by five businesses, and, not surprisingly, they're all on The Sunday Times rich list. So, unless there is a redistribution of what is a public asset, we are going to continue just to see conglomerations being private beneficiaries of what is part of our patrimony. So, you don't think there's anything that needs to be in the Bill to give that commitment to making a fairer distribution.
So, I think we have made progress here. I think initially I said that we didn't have the best start, and certainly—the early drafting that was done by the UK Government, that was certainly the case. But I think the input we've had will enable us to be able to develop our own allocation criteria, if that's what we wish to do. So, we've had an amendment—is it article 17 that's been amended—much more in line with our own unique legislation that will then enable us to have those allocation criteria. I don't know if Graham wants to say any more.
So, the current—. What we were looking to do originally was not to have article 17, which is under clause 20, apply in Wales. Because we've got well-being of future generations, which really no-one else in the UK has, that can help inform how we move forward, how we make sure there's community benefit for how things are allocated, for example. But what that appears to have done is introduced a degree of confusion, because we need a consistent way of, at a high level, how we administer the distribution across the UK, because it's the same fish. So, what we're looking at at the moment is how we can reapply clause 20 to Wales.
So, we're looking to put an amendment in. Am I right that Scotland and Northern Ireland are also—
Okay. So, there doesn't seem to be anything in the Bill around the requirement, in some circumstances, to have video recording on fishing boats, and I would have thought this Bill is the place to have it, because you want any boat that's fishing in UK waters to have this, because it gives you much better control over what is being fished and what is the level of discards. It's difficult enough policing the seas anyway. Surely this would be using modern technology to make the job easier.
Certainly. In terms of fully documented fisheries that have CCTV cameras on board, it is certainly very important we know exactly what we're catching out of the sea, whether that's thrown back or it's landed on—
However, I think what we need to consider is the proportionality of those kind of actions. So, CCTV cameras on board are fine if you've got quite a large vessel, but we've got smaller ones here in Wales, which it might not really be practical—.
I agree. I absolutely agree, but I was about to come on to a question about the under-10m boats. But over-10m boats, would you not expect that to be a condition of licence, Minister?
We have the powers now to do that. We can make it a licence condition, so the powers already exist.
You can. So, you don't think it needs to be in the Bill. You can just have it as—
The key difference is, as the Minister said earlier on, that those conditions will now apply to European vessels fishing in our waters, whereas they didn't previously. So, that's the key change. We could always apply it to UK vessels in our waters using licence conditions, but it was never a level playing field, because European vessels didn't have to comply with that. Now, through the UK Fisheries Bill, they would; licence conditions would apply to them equally.
Okay. So, we can assume that that would be standard in large vessels in the future.
Yes, but of a certain size.
Just lastly, how do you think the Bill supports the development of the local, low-impact fishing sector—the under-10m boats?
So, obviously, the Bill's got a wide range of enabling powers. It doesn't make any specific provisions for small-scale fishing vessels or fisheries at all, but it gives us the tools to be able to do that. So, again, when we bring forward our fisheries Bill, we can look to doing something specific around—. Because, if you think about it, our fleet's mainly small.
Okay—mainly small, and mainly fishing shellfish. So, isn't that the biggest danger for us, in that we're fishing for shellfish, which is better delivered live to whoever is going to consume it, and, in the conflict over access to other people's markets without tariffs versus access of foreign boats into our waters, there's a danger that Welsh fishermen will—you know, their needs will come last versus the refrigerated boats?
Absolutely. So, all work we do on quotas, if they haven't got a market, or if there are tariffs or—. Most of our shellfish are caught and delivered within 24 hours live. So, if we have—you will have heard me say in the statement on Tuesday in the Chamber around a 'no deal' that we're just going to see mortality, we're going to see fish not reaching their destination in the state that we would want them to. So, it doesn't matter if we get the best quotas in the world, if there's no market and there are tariffs, et cetera, at the other end of the trade agreement, and the trade details aren't right, then I really fear for the aquaculture industry here.
The stakeholders were extremely hostile to the 2012 fishing concordat. Is that part of your administrative negotiations?
I am aware of concerns—stakeholders have raised it with me—and I've said it needs to be reviewed in light of the exit. Obviously, the fisheries framework that recreates this concordat needs to be reviewed.
Thanks, Chair. Some of the stakeholders actually thought that we could possibly achieve some more diversification of the Welsh fishing industry with investment. Now, the UK Bill does provide powers for the Welsh Ministers to provide financial assistance to the fisheries sector. Are you satisfied that those powers, as they're drafted in the Bill, will enable you to respond to support the needs of the fishing industry, and how do you intend to use those powers?
I'm happy with the powers; what I'm not happy with is I've got no assurance about funding post 2020 in relation to the European maritime and fisheries fund. I'm quite happy with the powers, although a lot of the detail will need to be set out in regulations. The problem is that we just don't know what funding we're going to get, although we were told we wouldn't lose a penny. So, obviously, that's what we're pushing for.
Yes, I understand the lack of certainty, which feeds into the next question, which you may not be able to shed any more light on, given what you've just said. What timeline are you working towards for establishing a financial assistance scheme?
So, at the moment, because it goes in cycles, we've got funding through the European maritime and fisheries fund till the end of 2020, so it's not something that we've been working on; it's probably a little bit too early, because there's a lot to discuss, as you can imagine. So, we're not, as you say, very far ahead at the moment.
The scheme will be established by regulations—. Sorry. The financial assistance scheme could be established by regulations made under the affirmative procedure, which provides limited opportunity for Assembly scrutiny. Would you give a commitment to publish and consult on any financial assistance scheme and regulations in draft?
Yes, absolutely I would want to consult and then, obviously, it's the affirmative procedure, so the Assembly would have the opportunity to scrutinise.
You touched on some of the financial implications in your answers to Gareth Bennett, Minister. What is your assessment of the financial implications of the legislation? Are there any numbers or figures you can give us in the context of how historically that might play out?
As I say, we've got—. Do you know the figure that we have at the moment? Would you know for the EMFF?
Yes. It's around £15 million, isn't it?
£15 million. So, I would expect the same amount of funding. I know we don't fund our fishers in the way that we fund our farmers, but I would absolutely expect at least the same level of funding to come forward.
But not so much about the same level, but, obviously, this is new legislation coming through, so just trying to understand: are there any greater cost pressures because of this legislation—
—that, obviously, will fall at the feet of Welsh Government Ministers? Or, given the figures you just talked about there, is everything contained within existing expenditure levels?
There will obviously be additional cost associated with the Bill. For example, I chair the control and enforcement work for the whole of the UK in relation to the implementation of our preparations, so we're developing, for example, a single issuing authority to do with the licensing of foreign vessels. We're having to extend the monitoring and surveillance work that we undertake and the record keeping that we have of capturing entry and capturing exit into our waters. So, there will be additional costs and we're working through those at the moment. But those are additional costs associated with Brexit. So, Minister, I suspect you would want to have an agreement with Treasury about how those costs are picked up, because they're not—
Can you give us an idea of the ballpark you're talking of, an understanding? I don't want an exact figure, a ballpark figure. We're talking about—.
It wouldn't be huge in those terms, because we're just talking about additional numbers of people and we would only pay a proportion of that based on the impact in Welsh waters. So, we'd probably pay around about 5 per cent of the overall total. The current—
Well, we're still working that through, but, to give you an example, the current UK fisheries management centre, which monitors third vessels in our waters, that costs around about £0.5 million a year to run. So, that's going to need to extend, possibly, by another £250,000, and then we might end up paying 5 per cent of that, for example.
And those discussions are happening, as you said, Mr Rees, in the group that you're chairing, I think you said then.
I'll keep on the monitoring and enforcement, but move on outside of the costs and to the regulating of illegal and unreported incidents. Do you think that there's a need, now, for any change to the monitoring and enforcement regime as it exists, going forward?
No. I think the—I have to say, I think the EU one that we have at the moment is pretty gold standard. If there is illegal unreported, unregulated fishing, if you're caught doing any of that, it's pretty drastic; your boat is destroyed and you're never allowed to work in the fishing industry again—am I right, again? Yes. And that's if you own it, if you're a partner in the business, if you were on the boat when it was caught—that's the wrong word—and, as I say, it's pretty drastic. So, I don't really think we can probably improve on that.
And that's all been saved as part of the withdrawal Bill, so that will become UK legislation.
—I have to say. I suppose that is one way of stopping it, and you definitely won't get any repeat offenders.
So, that's pretty good. But are there implications of the Brexit negotiations, and what are they? We've talked about negotiations on customs and trade for the aquaculture, but it can't just reside there, so, more widely, have you looked at the potentials and anything that we can do, perhaps, to negate or help?
It is pretty downbeat, I think, at the moment, when you look at what could happen, particularly in the 'no deal' scenario, and I mentioned about shellfish. I mentioned scallops; whelks, the same. We've got an EU trade agreement to the South Korea markets—I mentioned this in my statement on Tuesday. So, we are—. Obviously, the shellfish industry is pretty vulnerable at the moment, as is the whole, really, I think, of the Welsh fleet fish and shellfish market. So, we've started holding workshops with the fishing sector. In the way that we had the engagement prior to 'Brexit and our land', we've started doing the same now with the fishers to try and see what they think we can do, because I do think, obviously, they've got the knowledge and they can help us in that way, but trade agreements are going to be so important, obviously, for fisheries. As I say, we can get all the best quotas in the world, we can improve our quotas in a way that we've wanted to, but, if there's no market and the trade agreement isn't right, then it's pretty bleak.
Okay, well, that's not so good. Is there—? Have we examined—? If we can't get trade agreements, then the only other option for any of these goods is for them to be traded within the UK, quite obviously, where there won't be any tariffs. Has any work been done in terms of—I'm sure there would've been—the amount of available food to the consumption of that food, and whether we could look at perhaps increasing that? Because there's no point in trying to catch something you can't sell, but if you can increase the internal market from which it is available, then at least you can perhaps minimise some of the impact.
We've certainly looked at that and I think whereas, on the agricultural side, the Welsh lamb domestic market has possibly shrunk, I think the fish market has probably increased; I think people certainly eat more fish than they used to. Certainly, when I was a child, we rarely ate fish, and I think people's eating habits have obviously changed. So, I think that is an opportunity.
I think public procurement is another opportunity. Again, in questions yesterday, I mentioned that—and I'm not saying it's as wildly wonderful as we would hope it to be—I do think there are opportunities around public procurement, and I know the Welsh Government are looking to hold an event around what we can do when we come out of the European Union around public procurement. So, I think there is a piece of work to be done there, but I still think that trade agreements and non-tariffs are the most important thing for the fishing industry.
Can I come in on procurement, something I feel very strongly about? The problem is that with health, for example, the health board would procure. It would procure for all the hospitals in the area and, as such, it's only the big players that can be bidding. If they were only asked to look at it for one hospital, especially one small hospital, smaller suppliers could be attempting to get in, but if you just look at the supply to hospitals, as with local authorities, because it's for the whole area, then it's the big suppliers who are going to pick up, if not all, nearly all. Have you talked to your colleagues who are responsible for things like health and education about trying to looking at procurement to procure smaller quantities to smaller units, in which case you're going to create a chance for smaller suppliers?
I have had early discussions. It's certainly something at a Cabinet level I think we're going to discuss also. But I think you're absolutely right, and I remember, when I was health Minister, it was incredibly frustrating that you couldn't procure local produce in the way that you would want to. The First Minister was relating a story to me the other day, where he was trying to get Welsh, I think it was bacon and sausages, when he was health Minister, into the system over a weekend, and it was just impossible to do so. So, I think there are major opportunities here for not just fish, but for fruit and veg, and meat. Whilst the rules are very, very strict under the EU—and I'm not saying they're not going to be strict going forward—I think there are opportunities there and, certainly, those discussions have started.
We as a committee—I'm not sure who else was here at the time—were told that the rules in the European Union weren't that strict, and that you could specify specific—. Apples were talked about, but you could choose a specific type of apple to procure, which is, apparently, how the French and Italians are incredibly good at it. They actually specify a certain type, which means that their own local suppliers have got a huge advantage. So, I think that sometimes people hide behind European legislation. There are opportunities if you say, 'It has to be this', then sometimes it's only locals who can procure.
I think your point is that if the health boards, for example, broke their contracts down and, instead of contracting for the whole health board, did it hospital by hospital, you wouldn't have to leave the EU to be able to do that local procurement, but this is taking us a bit off piste, I guess, Chair.
I will continue with my question. I did work very hard on a procurement policy with the previous Minister, so I do understand the details, and we drafted that, Jane Hutt and I, with considerable work across the sector and, in this case, it was the construction sector. So, is it worth pursuing that with this sector? We already have a template for the way that it was done some four years ago. That could be used as a template for doing it in all sectors, because it was effective and it worked really well. And it does work within the procurement rules that already exist, so you don't have to start from scratch. I just think—and that was the reason for my initial question—that we can look at helping, rather than waiting for the trade agreements that we were promised would only take a night and we are now finding take years, as a way forward, because it is absolutely vital to this industry, and I represent an area that has just about all the coast in Wales and most of the fishing, of the type that we're discussing, within it. So, it isn't a matter of saying, 'We can't do anything'; its a matter of saying, 'What can we do?', and using what's already been done as a template for moving this forward.
Yes, I'm very happy to look at that. I mentioned that the Welsh Government is having a major event—and I want to say it's 21 February—around this very issue. So, I'll certainly make sure that—. I know I've been invited to attend but unfortunately I can't because I'm in north Wales that day, but certainly I'll make sure that whichever Minister is organising it has a note of that.
Okay. Does anybody else have any other questions they would like to ask? No. Well, can I thank you, Minister, and your officials for coming along and answering our questions, and we look forward to seeing you again shortly? Thank you.
We've got a number of items of correspondence to note. There's correspondence from Michael Gove to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs regarding the UK's Agriculture Bill; correspondence to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs regarding achieving a low-carbon pathway; correspondence from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs regarding the committee's report on the Welsh Government budget; correspondence from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs regarding the committee's report on the climate change (Wales) regulations; and finally, correspondence from the Minister for Economy and Transport regarding the committee's report on the Welsh Government's draft budget. Are we happy to note all those?
With regard to the timing of receiving those reports in relation to the budget, they were very, very late and, actually, after the event in one instance. So, I think we should register our concern with relevant Ministers as a committee. I know it's been discussed elsewhere as well—in finance; that's why I'm raising it—but I think it's a point that we should individually make as a committee as well.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from item 5 of today's meeting? Is that agreed. Yes.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:37.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:37.