HC Deb 12 February 2002 vol 380 cc62-3
27. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South)

If she will make a statement about recent European Court of Justice cases which have had an impact upon Scots law. [32359]

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark)

The European Court of Justice hears a large number of cases every year raising issues of Community law. Because Community law has a binding effect on the laws of member states, depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, any such judgments can have an impact on Scots law.

Mr. Tynan

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that comprehensive answer. She will be aware that in Hamilton, South the European Court of Justice is an important and topical subject. How many cases have emanated from Scotland and how many times has she appeared in the European Court of Justice?

The Advocate-General

Very few cases from Scotland have gone to the European court of justice. The most recent such case is that of Booker Aquaculture, which concerned a reference from the Court of Session that asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on whether the right of property, as recognised by Community law, required that compensation be paid to farmers whose fish had to be destroyed under measures imposed by a Council directive for the control of diseases. Although some of those cases and ruling are highly technical, my hon. Friend is right to think that they are important for his constituents.

I have not yet had the opportunity to appear in the ECJ. I have the rights of audience and I hope that a suitable case will arise.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)

What criteria does the Advocate-General use for intervention in the Court of Session? She will be aware that in a recent case, the court was moved to criticise the fact that she had neither appeared nor been represented, although she had said that the case involved a matter of some importance in the context of her responsibilities. Precisely what criteria does she use in determining whether she should intervene?

The Advocate-General

In the case to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers, one of the judges took a view with which I would beg to differ. The case concerned an interpretation of a United Kingdom statute. The law in Scotland was perfectly plain according to three judges, and the law in England and Wales was perfectly plain according to the House of Lords.

In every case, I have to make a decision on what added value I can give as Advocate-General. I also have to decide whether it would be useful to use public money to extend a case as a result of my intervention. Every case turns on its own merits. I can advise the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I gave detailed consideration to this case before making a decision on intervention. As it happens, I intimated that I wished to consider intervention when I still had time to consider the case. [Interruption.] Such matters are complex—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Sometimes complex matters can be brief.

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