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Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have been dying to interrupt him on the question of the private finance initiative, but I did not do so because I think interruptions are a bit of a nuisance, especially in a time-limited debate. But before the noble Lord finishes, I hope he can be helpful to me. I find it difficult to get precise facts and information about how many instances of the private finance initiative there are successfully working within universities. If there is information available within the noble Lord's department, I hope that he will be so kind as to write to me at some future date.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I should like to write to the noble Lord on that issue, but on the wider issue of private finance throughout the whole of government I believe there are lessons which the higher education sector can learn from others. I shall certainly write with greater detail because I think, having already exceeded my 20 minutes, now would not be the time to embark on a new debate.

Lord Annan: My Lords, it only remains for me to rise and thank everyone who has spoken in the debate. It has been a remarkable debate and I thank noble Lords for attending. I hope that I may make one point to the Minister. Despite what he said, I have the feeling that in the past years antagonisms, and rather unhappy ones, have arisen between universities and successive Secretaries of State. Would it be possible for the Secretary of State to meet the vice-chancellors en masse and, having heard what they have to say, the Secretary of State could say, "I have heard your problems; may I tell you some of mine?", because she has problems which concern the funding of schools. If we cannot get school education right, the universities will be turned into remedial teaching institutions for their first-year students. I do not know whether the Secretary of State would be bold enough, or indeed wise, to appeal to a Dunkirk spirit in the universities. However, it looks to me as if that is what she will have to do if no further funding is forthcoming. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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Fishing Interests: European Court Judgment

6.22 p.m.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I understand that this may be a convenient moment to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Statement reads as follows:

    "Madam Speaker, it is helpful to have this opportunity to develop further the points that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, my honourable friend the Minister of State and I made yesterday in immediate response to the text of the Factortame judgment.

    "Let me first deal with the court's judgment. It is a stage, albeit an important one, in the action brought in the UK Divisional Court against Her Majesty's Government for damages in respect of the losses that Spanish and other owners of fishing vessels incurred as a result of their exclusion from the UK register and consequent inability to fish. The Divisional Court sought guidance from the European Court and the latter has now ruled that member states are obliged to make good damage caused to individuals by breaches of Community law attributable to the state where the national legislation was responsible for the breach in question and where the breach is sufficiently serious. Importantly, the court also ruled that it is for the national courts to decide whether such a breach has occurred and what damages are available.

    "There has been speculation about the damages that might be payable. It is far too early to comment because it is for those involved--namely, the Factortame applicants--to decide whether to proceed with their action, and if so, to substantiate any claim to the full. The court's judgments in this and the earlier Factortame cases have highlighted the fact that quotas allocated to each member state do not always benefit the fishing communities of that member state. This is because the eligibility for quotas and their administration by member states has to take account of general treaty provisions, for example on the right of establishment and the freedom of movement. This has certainly undermined the benefit which the UK fishing industry has been able to secure from the fishing opportunities available to it under the common fisheries policy.

    "It is clear that we should not go on as we are. That is why both the Deputy Prime Minister and I explained to the House yesterday that the Government are looking at all the options. These include pursuing treaty or other changes at the IGC. What we want to do is to achieve measures that enable member states to ensure that fishing opportunities arising from their national quotas provide real benefits to their own fishing communities and not to others".

There endeth the Statement.

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6.25 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer that was given in the other place to a Private Notice Question put down by my honourable friend Dr. Gavin Strang. This is a sad day for British fishermen, for the British taxpayer, and, I would add, for those who support, however sceptically, the principles of the European Union. I wish to repeat a remark that I have made before; namely, that the common fisheries policy, as it begins to be worked out, is beginning to make the common agricultural policy look like a beacon of common sense and sweet reason.

We should be quite clear what this means. It means that the Spanish and other fishing vessel owners are to be compensated for loss of trade despite deliberately joining the British register to fish against the British quota and then landing their fish, unchecked, in Spain and elsewhere outside the UK. Will the Minister confirm that 103 fishing vessels with a significant Spanish interest, and 39 boats with a significant Dutch interest, are still on the British register, and they represent some 28 per cent. of the total British fleet, and, as regards some species, over 40 per cent. of the quota?

A Written Answer given in another place yesterday was referred to in today's Statement. In the Written Answer Mr. Hogg stated,

    "There is an inconsistency underlying the quota regime of the common fisheries policy in that the quotas allocated to each member state do not always benefit the fishing communities of that member state".--[Official Report, Commons, 5/3/96; col. WA 130.]
That is the understatement of the decade!

The cost of the judgment has been estimated at £30 million. I know that the Minister will say--this was mentioned in the Statement--that he is not able to comment on these estimates. However, I wish to ask him about the costs of the action. The Statement confirms that the quantum of damage is for the British courts to decide. I am not a lawyer but, as I understand it, costs usually follow the compensation. Is it possible that the final figure, including costs, could be well in excess of the various estimates that are being mentioned at the moment for the costs of the compensation for damage?

The Government say--this is a welcome conversion; this has been pressed by the Labour Party for some time--that they now intend to try to use the renegotiation of the treaty at the IGC to reform the common fisheries policy. Will the Minister confirm that any such renegotiation will have to be unanimous, and will therefore be open to veto by any single member state? We know that the Spaniards obviously have a veto. Will the Minister also confirm that whatever happens at the IGC will not affect this judgment? As I understand it, the renegotiation of the treaty cannot be retrospective. Therefore, whatever success the Government achieve at the IGC will not affect the judgment which has just been handed down.

There has also been mention that alongside the renegotiation through the IGC, some use might be made--or attempt to be made--either of the European regulations, or of a protocol to the treaty which would achieve much the same effect. Could the Minister

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confirm that this is in the Government's mind as an approach and, if so, is it correct that this would be the subject of the qualified majority voting and not of the unanimity which is required for a fundamental reform of the treaty? Is it also a fact that the Factortame case has much wider implications because it enables an individual, including employees, to claim damages against a member state in that state's courts, if damages have been suffered, providing the member state has broken a Community law? As I understand it, that is the nub of the Factortame judgment and it has now been upheld by the European Court. This could have substantial effects outside the fishing industry.

As a final point, much has been made of the effects of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 and the Merchant Shipping Regulations Act 1993 on this matter. I am not merely seeking here to make a party point. My own party in the other place and here has supported the principles of the Merchant Shipping Act. It is a fact, I believe, that there was legal advice at that time which suggested that the Act as amended by the Government would lead to this outcome. It is a point, I understand, that was raised in Committee in the other place at the time but the Government rejected the argument. It now seems, and this is not hindsight because others were saying it at the time, that the licensing route might have been a much safer way to deal with this matter rather than the course that the Government adopted for the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. May I remind the Minister of what he said when we debated the common fisheries policy on the 14th February, Hansard column 667, when he said,

    "On the other hand, Factortame was concerned with provisions in the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which were designed to achieve much the same end, but in the context of special registration rather than licensing, by requiring that vessels should be mainly British owned and controlled."

I understand that warnings were given at the time that the route the Government were following for special registration had a chance of leading to this outcome, and it seems that those who supported the idea of achieving the effect that the Government wanted through the licensing route in fact were correct. We will certainly support the Government in their efforts to renegotiate the treaty so far as the CFP is concerned, but I have to say that they might find that somewhat easier to do if they did not have the semi-detached attitude to the European Union which is their current stance.

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