Environment minister Rebecca Pow has praised the role of freedoms she said were linked to Brexit as a Bill to ban the import of detached shark fins continued to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.
The Shark Fins Bill, sponsored by Independent MP Christina Rees, received its third reading in the Commons on Friday and will now progress for further scrutiny in the House of Lords.
Boris Johnson promised as prime minister in 2019 to use Brexit to champion animal welfare – including a ban on shark fin exports and imports.
Last August, the Government announced a “world-leading ban”, tied in with ending trade in foie gras and controls on fur coats, but the proposal was subsequently dropped after a backlash from ministers who reportedly argued it would be “unconservative”.
Shark finning – removing the fin from a shark and discarding the rest of the body back in the water – is already banned in the UK, but the Bill will see the import and export of detached fins banned as well.
Ms Rees used to sit as a Labour MP but had the whip removed last year while a complaint is investigated by the party.
Ms Rees (Neath) told the Commons: “The produce of shark fins, it’s a traditional delicacy in shark fin soup, mainly in the Asian communities.
“But we don’t intend to ban that at all. We just intend to ban the import. So if the shark is ethically landed, and it’s dead, and the shark fins are then removed and then made into soup, then that’s fine.
“Only sharks landed with their fins naturally attached will be available for sale. This is widely accepted as best practice.”
Tory MP Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Mon) said: “It’s barbaric that we still allow the import and export of detached shark fins. And I fully support this Bill, which would not only protect this species but also make a significant statement to the world about the UK’s commitment to seeing an end to the trade in shark fins.”
Labour’s shadow minister for environment Alex Sobel welcomed the Bill, but said: “Today, we’re having (Ms Rees) bring forward this Bill, when actually it should have come forward in a broader Bill about animals abroad by the Government.”
Ms Pow said supporting the Bill was “another measure which will be added to all the other work we’re doing as a Government internationally to help with shark conservation”.
She told MPs: “When we were in the EU it would actually have been extremely difficult to take action on this issue, and any restrictions on the shark fin trade would have needed agreement from all member states.
“So the really great news is that we’ve now got much more freedom to introduce stricter measures and we are demonstrating through this Bill that we are doing exactly that.”
Responding to Labour, she said: “I think this demonstrates we consider this so important that we specifically allocated time and wanted to support this individual issue because it will make such a difference.”