The speech made by Stephanie Peacock, the Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in the House of Commons on 8 February 2021.
Whoever is to blame, the fact is that shellfish farmers and fishermen are not able to export their most valuable product to their most important market. The rule banning imports from third-party countries of untreated shellfish from class B waters has been in place for decades. The Secretary of State claimed in front of the House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee last week that the EU had changed its position on how the rules would affect the UK. He had originally told the industry that the ban would be lifted in April, but we now hear it will not. On that basis, will he publish and put in the Library all the correspondence between his Department and the EU that demonstrates why he believed a change would occur? Can he explain to the House today what mechanism he expected the EU to use to make that change?
The letter that the Secretary of State has published today is welcome, but it does not answer those questions. It refers to contact in September 2019, when the UK’s future trading agreement still was not clear. Many fleets are unable to sell their catches and exporters unable to ship and trade. What assessment has his Department made of how many businesses and employees are affected by the situation? What provision has his Department made to use some of the £23 million compensation fund that the Government recently announced to support the businesses who are unable to trade and how long will that support last? A multimillion pound industry has ground to a halt overnight. Jobs and communities are at risk. Unless this situation is resolved, the UK shellfish industry will not survive.