HC Deb 17 June 2003 vol 407 c205
9. Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute)

What plans he has to seek changes to European Union regulations regarding state aid to maritime transport services; and if he will make a statement. [119410]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson)

The UK supports the European Commission in its aim of clarifying the interpretation of the current legislation. To this end, the European Commission, on its own initiative, presented proposed revisions of Community guidelines on state aid to maritime transport to member states.

Mr. Reid

Will the Minister try to persuade our EU partners of the need for flexibility in the regulations? The Scottish Executive are having difficulty implementing the regulations as they stand. For example, there are endless consultations on the future of the Dunoon-Gourock route, and while that is going on, Dunoon pier is in danger of falling into the sea through lack of repairs. There were consultations and tender documents drawn up for the Campbeltown to Ballycastle route, but so far they have not borne fruit. Will the Minister please go to Brussels and try to get some flexibility and common sense into the regulations?

Mr. Jamieson

The Government recognise the importance of those ferry services to the islands. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Commission will shortly publish the revised guidelines regarding state aid for maritime transport. That will give the flexibility that he wants, and benefit some of the smaller services in particular. However, the implementation of those policies will be for the Scottish Executive. Although Scottish nationalism has taken a bit of a hit in recent months, 1 am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not advocate that those matters should be taken on centrally by the Westminster Government.

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