By Jasmin Gray
A Tory MP has blasted Michael Gove over the future of the UK’s fishing industry, telling him that fishermen “don’t trust you to deliver”.
Sheryll Murray – who represents the coastal constituency of South East Cornwall – grilled the environment secretary over the access French fishing vessels currently have to UK waters, saying she was “very angry”.
“I received some photographs this morning from vessels in Plymouth that have got their decks covered in sea bass, for which they have no quota and they have to throw it back,” she told Gove at a meeting of the Commons environment committee on Wednesday.
Murray continued: “Please don’t think that what you are doing and the extension of the transition period isn’t going to affect the very industry that you’re trying to save, because it will.
“Sea bass is probably a high-value fish – basically those vessels are effectively throwing away almost £10,000 back into the sea now, because they’ve no quota.
“Mr Macron’s fishing fleet are allowed to catch it and take it back to France free of charge and basically land it,” she added. “Please remember that we are actually allowing other member states to come in, take a UK natural resource and take it back free of charge at the moment – just remember that.”
Calling Murray’s argument a “very powerful point”, Gove said such issues would be dealt with by the new fisheries bill.
“The allocation of bass and the allocation of a number of stocks in the English Channel is inequitable,” the cabinet minister said. “That will change when we’re an independent coastal state.
Reminding the committee that there are UK fishermen in French waters, he added: “Once we are in control of our own waters, then will be able to decide who comes in and on what terms.”
But Murray said that the fishing industry “can’t trust” Gove. “They don’t trust you Secretary of State,” she told her fellow Conservative MP. “They really don’t trust you to deliver.”
The committee also used Gove’s appearance to quiz him over a report published last week which suggested there could be a shortage of chemicals used to treat water if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.
But Gove told MPs drinking water would still be completely safe to drink in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
“It is the case that the water industry is reliant on chemicals that are imported from the EU in order to ensure that we have pure and safe drinking water,” he said.
“But it is also the case that the overwhelming majority of those chemicals come in to ports which are not in the narrow straits – they come in through Immingham (in Lincolnshire) rather than through Dover – some come through Dover.
“It is the case that, prudently, we have talked to the water companies, and I have been talking to the regulator, to make sure that those chemicals can be sourced.
“So … if we leave without a deal, then we needed to take appropriate steps to mitigate.
“We are taking those steps. So, it should be the case that our water will be – in fact, it will be the case that our water will be completely safe to drink.”