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Mending the nets after the fish have swum

March 18, 2010

It has been a busy few days, and I have made progress…

For some time now I have been lobbying and cajoling – writing emails; making phone calls. Arguing the case with Government; and arguing inside my own party, that we Liberal Democrats need a cast iron policy to guarantee the voice, the rights and the future of our small boat fishermen.

Since my meetings with Paul Joy and Ronnie Simmons early last year, accompanied by Sharon Bowles, one of our Lib Dem MEPs for the South East, I have been pre-occupied by the shamefulness of the Labour Government’s refusal, time after time after time, to give a fair share of UK quota to our inshore sector.

The Observer reported recently that the constituency is to have a visit by this very same Minister for Fisheries some time before the General Election.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a letter in the Rye paper and online, asking if any wags had a fishing equivalent for the old catchphrase ‘closing the door after the horse has bolted’? The best one I have had back so far was from our Facebook campaign site ‘We are backing the Hastings & Rye fishermen’ and it is this: mending the nets after the fish have swum…

It’s too late now for Labour to mend the nets. Too late for Labour to regain any credibility on this issue. The Government has sold the under-10 metre sector down the river.

It is at the Government’s door that the tonnes of dead fish, thrown back into the sea due to their ridiculous rules should, by rights, be left to rot. The stink of betrayal wafts over the net huts, and will waft on until a General Election can provide some sort of deep clean.

Michael Foster our Labour MP is quick to say that the Conservatives have no plans as to how to tackle the problems for our under-10 metre boats.

He also says it of the Liberal Democrats, but that isn’t true.

In partnership with local fishermen, I drafted a policy motion to put to my Party’s Spring Conference in Birmingham on how the under-10 metre sector can be protected.

Last week, I met up with Andrew George MP, the Lib Dem Shadow Fisheries Minister, and persuaded him to write to Nick Clegg, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Chair of our party’s Federal Policy Committee, in order to put a comprehensive policy review in respect of the wider fishing industry at the top of the party’s policy agenda.

On Sunday, at Lib Dem Conference in Birmingham, I spoke in the policy debate Growth that lasts: a fair, green and sustainable economy, and told the 2,000 delegates just how important it is for our party to support traditional industries which are already committed to and accredited in respect of their environmentally sustainable practice.

This is exactly the situation for our local fishermen – who have their Marine Stewardship Council accreditation. They just want to be helped by Government to get on with what they do best – make their living in an environmentally sound way.

On Sunday too, Nick Clegg revealed that our General Election slogan will be ‘Change that works for you – Building a Fairer Britain’.

It’s an important message. Lib Dems are not offering the kind of change that the Conservatives offer – change that works for them, and for the beneficiaries of their unfair tax proposals.

We are not offering the kind of change which Labour is offering – no change at all, and another five years of Gordon Brown.

The Liberal Democrats are offering change that works for you: fairer taxes, a fair education system, a fairer and greener economy, and a fairer, reformed and transparent political system.

As long as I have anything to do with it, we will also being working our socks off to create a fairer fishing industry.

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