UK’s move on fishing rights ‘is a constitutional threat to island’

THE only Guernsey-born member of the House of Lords said the UK government’s approval of a clause that could enable it to legislate on fisheries without the island’s consent is a constitutional threat.

Baroness Pitkeathley, nee Bisson, is a Labour Life Peer who has sat in the Lords for 23 years. (28919975)
Baroness Pitkeathley, nee Bisson, is a Labour Life Peer who has sat in the Lords for 23 years. (28919975)

Baroness Pitkeathley, nee Bisson, is a Labour Life Peer who has sat in the Lords for 23 years. She attended Capelles School and Ladies’ College. While she was a regular visitor to the island of her birth up to the 1980s she still comes back as often as she can and says Guernsey has a place in heart.

Complying with self-isolation requirements meant she could not be in the Lords on Thursday when what is known as a permissive extent clause was added to the Sea Fisheries Bill, clearing the way for it to become law, despite objection from Guernsey and Jersey. Though she watched proceedings remotely, she said comment could be made only in the chamber, which was why Lord Faulkner of Worcester read a statement on her behalf.

‘The move was not so much about sea fisheries but a constitutional one and it all comes down to trust in relationships,’ she said.

There had been a trusting relationship between the UK government and the Channel Islands for decades and it required mutual respect.

‘To bring this in at very short notice with no communication and without consultation undermines that relationship,’ said Baroness Pitkeathley.

‘Although the minister [Lord Gardiner of Kimble representing the UK government] was as reassuring as he could be in his response, he did not categorically say that this sort of thing would not happen again.

‘Not a single speaker in the Lords approved of this course of action and the minister had a very uncomfortable time.’

Lord Gardiner did say the consultation with the Channel Islands would continue and Baroness Pitkeathley said she was sure that her colleagues in both Bailiwicks would follow that up. The bill would get Royal Assent very soon, she said, and that would be that.

Baroness Pitkeathley said she would have loved to have been able to be in the chamber in person where she could have spoken.

Speaking her words on her behalf, Lord Faulkner said Channel Islanders often referred to the mainland or the other side.

Every islander had relatives, friends, connections ‘over the other side’ and it was almost taken for granted that the interests of the two jurisdictions coincide, even while recognising and being proud of their own distinctions.

‘It would be a source of great distress that this trust should be undermined as this legislation threatens to do and is surely not in the long term interests of either my home island or those of the government,’ said the Baroness via Lord Faulkner.

Baroness Pitkeathley is president of the All Party Parliamentary Group of the Channel Islands which, she said, would keep a close eye on the issue.

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