Party Manifesto analysis – by the Angling Trust
With the outcome of the General Election on a knife edge and polling just a few days away, the Angling Trust has completed a review of what the main political parties are offering to do for fish and fishing. A trawl through the manifestos of the Conservative, Labour, LibDem, UKIP and Green parties has revealed strengths and weaknesses in them all.
Last month the Angling Trust published a comprehensive Manifesto for Angling and invited the five main parties to sign up and comment. Labour was the first to sign and Shadow Fisheries Minister Angela Smith said:
'Labour is proud to have a strong tradition of support for Angling. We recognise not only the economic contribution that anglers makes but also the role they play up and down the country in working to improve our water and marine environment. The manifesto for angling contains some positive ideas for how the next Labour Government can both improve our natural environment and support Britain's most popular sport. We worked constructively with the Angling Trust when Labour was last in Government and we look forward to doing so again.'
However, Labour's own environmental policy is one of the weaker on offer and their own manifesto makes almost no reference to fish or fishing.
The Conservatives have been keen to point out their record in government with new controls on cormorants and support for angling projects. They did agree, following a meeting between the Trust and the Prime Minister, to include a promise to deliver a sustainable bass fishery. The Tories are also committed to concluding important projects like the Thames Tideway Tunnel to improve water quality.
Whilst they've yet to sign up to the Manifesto for Angling the Conservatives' most prominent angling MP and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group George Hollingbery said:
'Angling is one of the biggest participant activities in the UK and important to the country at many different levels. The Angling Manifesto hits all the right notes: we know how beneficial angling can be to those that are involved and should encourage more people to pick up a rod; with so many people involved already, we know that a number of areas of government policy should always recognise this very large interest group; and we know that angling is a force for good when it comes to the environment and the health of our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.'
As expected the LibDem and Green manifestos are strong on the need for greater environmental protection with commitments to reduce water abstractions through wider water metering and construction of new reservoirs. However, neither party has anything to say about angling and has not yet responded to the Angling Trust's manifesto.
UKIP has the most comprehensive manifesto section on fishing of all the political parties but is exclusively focussed on the marine environment with strong support for continued exploitation of sea fish stocks by the UK commercial sector. They support measures to conserve bass stocks but oppose the three fish bag limit on recreational sea anglers. UKIP have acknowledged, but are yet to respond formally to the Manifesto for Angling.
Angling Trust Chief Executive Mark Lloyd said: 'We are pleased to have secured strong responses from both Labour and Conservative parties ahead of what will be a finely balanced election result. This means that anglers can be pretty confident that we will continue to receive good support from whoever is the major party in the next government. However, there is still a long way to go before we can get all politicians to recognise just how important it is for the nation’s 3 million anglers to look probably look after the rivers, streams, lakes and coastal fisheries upon which our sport depends.'