SOUTH Dorset MP Richard Drax says he is facing red tape in a bid to get compensation for fishermen affected by the winter storms.
He has been investigating what support is available and tried to ask a question today in Parliament after being contacted by fishermen who were unable to go to sea for almost two months.
Mr Drax said: “These fishermen are suffering. Their incomes have totally collapsed and they have gone through savings and overdrafts. As small businessmen, they have nowhere to turn for help. In addition, many have lost their kit and some have even seen their boats destroyed.”
The MP added: “I have spoken to Ministers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, DEFRA and the Cabinet Office. Today I attempted to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Questions.
“The problem is that the compensation schemes announced so far are very prescriptive.
“For example, although the Deputy PM specifically mentioned compensation for loss of earnings for fishermen in his speech on February 21, that does not appear to be correct. The hardship fund he mentioned, the Business Support Scheme, is funded by BIS but managed by DEFRA. I spoke to DEFRA Minister George Eustice today and he confirmed categorically that loss of earnings for fishermen is not covered.”
Mr Drax said there had been a ‘ridiculous situation’ where claimants hoping for help have been passed from ‘pillar to post’ only to be told finally that this fund will pay out only for flooded premises.
He added: “The rules governing the other fund – the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), which is managed by the Maritime Management Organisation (MMO) – are even more arcane. Fishermen may apply for replacement of lost or damaged kit, so long as they registered their fishing boat more than five years ago.
“If your boat is newer than that, even if you have been fishing for 50 years, you are out of luck. The rules are completely inflexible and in my view, incomprehensible.
“If you are fortunate enough to have registered your boat more than five years ago, you can apply to the MMO/EFF for 60 per cent of the value of the equipment lost. It can take 10 weeks for approval. Yet if you get a loan and buy the equipment yourself in order to get back to work, EFF will not pay for it. You just have to wait, thereby losing even more income.
“It is a Catch-22. No matter where they turn, these fishermen can’t win.
‘What matters is that with every day that passes, the fishermen are in more difficulties. And I believe we are letting them down.
“I will continue to look into this but I have been told by the Minister that I am up against EU bureaucracy and the chance of these rules being changed is small.”