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The Navy Lark

July 20, 2017

All quiet on the consultation front. Which is as you would expect, really, because this is not a government embarking on a frenzy of domestic legislation on which it needs to consult, but holding its fire ready for the transposition and/or abolition of EU law after Brexit.

Except…

…well, there are still more than 40 open consultations listed on gov.uk. There are equality and other impact assessments around the HS2 proposals, open access restrictions proposed on different Nature England sites, odds and ends of changes to the way statistics are compiled and…

This. Proposed cessation of the Ministry of Defence’s military aid to civil authorities I wondered what it might be about.  Surely the MoD weren’t going to stop helping out in times of disaster; fear, fire, foe, flood?

No. It’s an odd thing. It seems to be a proposal to stop telling us about something we’re not much interested in, but not to stop doing the thing itself.

This is an annual publication that provides information on the number of vessels boarded by the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron (RN FPS) within British fishery limits, and the number of court convictions and financial administration penalties (FAPs) issued as a result of the boardings.

We are proposing to cease production of this publication

The consultation closes on 14th August and it’s only a one page document and I honestly recommend you read it in full, because, well, I just don’t get it. Under “reasons for the proposed change” it says

The number of vessels boarded by the RN FPS has fallen from 1335 in 2006/07 to 460 in 2015/16, a decrease of 66% over the decade. The number of convictions and administrative penalties has fallen from 53 in 2006/07 to 4 in 2015/16, a decrease of 92% over the decade.

The number of web-hits for the publication page has fallen from 535 in 2015/16 to 343 in 2016/17, a decrease of 36%.

Something that is happening less and less, and being enquired about less and less, so we can stop publishing stats about it? Well OK then but I still have questions. First of all, presumably people will still be able to make a request for the figures under the Freedom of Information Act (or by asking their MP to ask a Parliamentary Question). Does’t it cost more to respond on request than it would cost to carry on chucking the figures routinely onto a website?  Seriously?
Secondly, does it cost money to collect the figures in the first place? Is there some process (“Damn it Caruthers, we may have caught the blighters but there’s still a thirty-six page form to fill in explaining how we did it”?) involved in compiling the figures in the first place that’s going to be stopped?
And finally… well, Brexit, I suppose. Isn’t policing the UK’s fisheries going to be a higher priority for the RN after Brexit, and wouldn’t you therefore expect these stats themselves, as well as interest in them, to go up substantially in the next few years? Remember the Cod Wars? The timing of this seems weird to me.
But, hey, what do I know? I’m neither a fisheries nor a naval expert and maybe this all makes sense to the people who know about it. Wouldn’t you think, though, that before you issued a consultation document you might have read it and maybe wondered whether you’d included sufficient detail for other people to understand where you’re coming from? Particularly if you’re going to say “As long as there is no objection during the consultation period, the cessation of the report will proceed as planned and the June 2017 bulletin will be the final annual report produced.” No objection? None? Anyone?

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