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Aberdeen By-pass: Representations

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sewel: The Government have received several representations on the issue of an Aberdeen by-pass linking the A.96 and A.90. Some have expressed support and others opposition to the proposal.

Responsibility for the link, which is not a trunk route, rests with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils.

Law Officers: Appearances as Counsel

Lord Rawlinson of Ewell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Solicitor-General (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Attorney General has appeared as counsel in Ahmed v United Kingdom in the European Court of Human Rights.

I have appeared as counsel in R v Secretary of State for Transport ex parte Factortame in the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal; in R v Customs and Excise ex parte Shepherd Neame in the Divisional Court; in Attorney General v Blake in the Court of Appeal; and in R v Lord Chancellor ex parte B in the Divisional Court.

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Fisheries Council, 8 June

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 8 June.[HL2236]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): We chaired the meeting of the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 8 June. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Morley, represented the United Kingdom together with my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, Lord Sewel.

The Council agreed by qualified majority, with France and Ireland voting against and Italy abstaining, a ban on high seas drift nets. The use of drift nets to catch tuna and swordfish will be phased out by 31 December 2001. The UK favoured a shorter phase-out but several delegations were sympathetic to arguments for a longer one. The compromise of 3½ years secured the necessary qualified majority and was accompanied by a commitment that in 1998 the number of vessels licensed to fish with drift nets in each member state will be at least 40 per cent. below the number that fished in 1995, 1996 or 1997 in that member state. In a joint statement, the Council and Commission agreed to decide before the end of 1998 on compensatory measures to help fishermen adapt to the ending of the drift net fishery.

The Commission proposal on drift nets has been on the Council's table since 1994. The UK Presidency made it a priority to reach an agreement in order to protect dolphins in particular and I am delighted that, after a long and hard negotiation, this has now been achieved.

The European Commission introduced a proposal to strengthen fisheries monitoring, inspection and surveillance, together with an action plan for further improving enforcement under the common fisheries policy over the next two to three years. In an orientation debate, the UK welcomed the prospect of more effective and consistent enforcement and called for an annual report from the Commission to enable the Council to review progress. We concluded that there was agreement that the Commission's proposal addressed key areas where enforcement can be enhanced and a decision should be taken at the Council's next meeting in October. The action plan will be used as a framework for improving control standards.

There was also an orientation debate on a communication from the Commission on options for the future of the Community's fisheries market regime. In a wide ranging discussion, delegations, including the UK, generally shared the Commission's view that it is important to maximise the value of scarce fish resources, maintain competitive catching and processing industries in an increasingly global market and take account of consumers' concerns. Many delegations agreed that changes to both the internal and international aspects of the current market organisations are called for. The Commission will now take account of the

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points made in drawing up detailed proposals for consideration by the Council.

The Council considered a communication from the Commission reporting on steps taken to follow up discussions by North Sea Ministers at a meeting in Bergen in 1997. The Council unanimously agreed conclusions stressing the importance of integrating fisheries and environmental policies and of making further progress in implementing the Bergen commitments. It also invited the Commission to provide a full report on further progress next year.

The European Commission reported on preparations being made for the review of the common fisheries policy in 2002.

The Council had a preliminary discussion of the implications for fisheries of the reform of the structural funds under Agenda 2000.

The Council also adopted a decision providing for ratification by member states and the Community of the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Species. This will in due course add the 15 EU member states to the list of countries which have ratified the agreement. It will become law when 30 countries have ratified.

Fishing Prohibitions

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which seas or in which areas of oceans fishing needs to be prohibited in order to ensure that viable levels of relevant fish stocks may survive for future food supply.[HL2151]

Lord Donoughue: Different types of fishing are restricted or prohibited in many areas of the world's seas in order to conserve fish stocks. However, there are no total prohibitions on fishing in order to protect stocks in UK waters.

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Total prohibitions in certain areas could benefit fish stocks if they were sufficiently large and well targeted, if they could be effectively enforced and if they were not undermined by an increase of fishing effort in other areas. The idea is under current consideration by fishing interests and fisheries scientists in this country and internationally.

Beef Export Ban: Legality

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Union is legally empowered to prohibit British beef exports to countries outside the European Union.[HL2061]

Lord Donoughue: The Government challenged the European Union's export ban on UK beef in the European Court of Justice. On 5 May 1998 the Court upheld the validity of the export ban, including the ban on exports to third countries.

Cattle Tracing System: Launch Date

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect that a computerised cattle tracing scheme, similar to that in operation in Northern Ireland, will be available in Great Britain; and whether they are able to assist in bringing forward the likely start date.[HL2070]

Lord Donoughue: As my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced on 20 April, the computerised cattle tracing system for Great Britain will be launched on 28 September 1998. Plans for the launch are well under way. The time remaining is needed to complete testing of the computer and other equipment, and to train staff. We do not anticipate that the launch will be advanced.

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