Defra has appeared to confirm that Mark Spencer (pictured above), the new minister of state at Defra, has taken on formal responsibility for fisheries. In the first press release from the department after the end of the official mourning period for Her Majesty the Queen, the Nottinghamshire MP was quoted supporting the new round of the UK Seafood Innovation Fund, with particular reference to aquaculture.
In a rapid reshuffle, Defra also confirmed that Trudy Harrison has been appointed as parliamentary under secretary. She apparently replaces Cornwall MP Steve Double, who was announced and then very quickly unannounced a few days later. Trudy Harrison at least represents a fishing constituency – her ‘red wall’ seat of Copeland includes Whitehaven.
A second junior appointment was subsequently confirmed last week, with North Cornwall MP Scott Mann also being announced as a parliamentary under secretary at Defra. As with the other appointees, no mention was made of his areas of responsibility.
Ex-fisheries minister Richard Benyon, now Lord Benyon, sitting in the House of Lords, retains his position as an under secretary of state. Under the previous administration, he held responsibility for biosecurity and rural affairs, with no marine responsibilities at all.
Fishing News contacted Defra shortly after the appointment of Ranil Jayawardena as the secretary of state for confirmation of the new responsibilities within the department, but had received no substantial response as we went to press.
Elsewhere, fishermen in North East Scotland will be aware that Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid is the new minister for Scotland, having previously held an informal role as the ‘prime minister’s envoy for fisheries’ under the Boris Johnson leadership.
One casualty in the department has been the firing of a close friend of Boris and Carrie Johnson, Lord (Zac) Goldsmith, from his role at Defra, though not his other roles across government. At Defra he spoke out widely on animal welfare issues – which is thought to be the reason behind his removal from the department, to pave the way for less rigorous agricultural trade deals – as well as on blue marine issues. He was the UK representative on the International Whaling Commission, and led on international high seas conservation issues.
Zac Goldsmith is believed to have been behind the knee-jerk announcement from Boris Johnson that he wanted to ‘ban scallop dredging’. The announcement – which came as news to former ministers George Eustice and Victoria Prentis, who had not discussed the matter with the PM – is widely rumoured to have occurred shortly after an informal conversation between Lord Goldsmith, the then PM and his wife Carrie.
Lord Goldsmith also represented the UK, through his position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, at the UN assemblies held in Lisbon and New York this summer. The UK spoke out strongly at these talks in favour of the need to extend international protection beyond the 200-mile EEZ, to bring in binding international agreements about management of fish stocks and the environment on the high seas.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.