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The Fisheries Bill 2019-21 [HL]  provides a framework for fisheries management after the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is no longer part of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The Bill is intended to underpin the UK’s management of fisheries as an independent coastal state, when the UK Government will be responsible for setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in UK waters.

This is the second time a Fisheries Bill with this aim has been introduced. The previous Fisheries Bill 2017-19 was presented in the House of Commons on 25 October 2018. The Bill fell after completing Committee stage, when Parliament was prorogued for the December 2019 General Election. The current Fisheries Bill, as it was presented in the Lords, was similar in content and aim to the previous Fisheries Bill 2017-19.

Fisheries management in the UK (including quota distirbution) is devolved, with different approaches taken by the four administrations. A Concordat for UK fisheries management was reached in 2012 which established common practice across the UK nations for vessel licensing, effort management and fishing quota distribution. Legislative consent for this Bill has been granted by the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Governments.

There were five successful amendments to the Bill at Report stage in the Lords, which took place on 22 June and 24 June 2020. An amendment to drafting on distribution of fishing opportunities was accepted by the Government. Four others were successful on division. They made the sustainability objective the prime fisheries objective in the Bill; created a national landing requirement for 65% of fish caught in UK waters to be landed in the UK; established a quota reserve for new entrants and under 10m vessels; and mandated Remote Electronic Monitoring on fishing vessels.

The Government also made a number of amendments. These included removing the specified time period of a year for setting TACs; amendments throughout the Bill to reflect the change of name of the National Assembly of Wales to Senedd Cymru; and an amendment to clarify that reference to EU legislation related to British fishing boat and quotas. Schedule 10 was amended “to incorporate further amendments to retained EU law which we would have otherwise undertaken through secondary legislation”, to ensure changes are made in time and relieve pressure on the secondary legislation timetable.

Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons took place on 1 September 2020. The Committee Stage took place during 6 sittings between 8 and 15 September 2020. During Committee Stage the Opposition amendments made to the Bill in the House of Lords were removed by the Government; except for Lord Lansley’s amendment which the Government did support. Further Government amendments were made. There were a number of divisions on Opposition amendments, but none were successful. Report and Third Reading of the Bill took place on 13 October 2020. The Government made a number of substantial amendments, including providing powers to regulate in Crown Dependency waters to meet international obligations.

Considerations of Commons amendments to the Fisheries Bill and Ping Pong took place in the House of Lords on 12 November 2020. None of the Lord’s amendments, removed by the House of Commons, were reinstated. The Fisheries Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 23 November 2020.

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