HC Deb 28 October 2003 vol 412 c150
17. Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute)

What assessment she has made of the implications for subsidised ferry services sailing to and from ports in Scotland of the recent European Court ruling in the Altmark case. [133823]

The Advocate-General

The operation of subsidised ferry services in Scotland is devolved. It is therefore for the Scottish Executive to consider what implications, if any, the Altmark case may have for ferry services in Scotland. In the event of a challenge in the Scottish courts, I would of course have to consider whether I wished to intervene if a devolution issue were raised.

Mr. Reid

Negotiations with Europe are the Government's responsibility, but if it were ruled that the subsidised ferry services did not need to go out to tender, the Scottish Executive could give the CampbeltownBallycastle route straight to CalMac without having to go through the long and involved tendering process. Could the Advocate-General please look at her law books and reach a conclusion? The present unfair situation helps no one.

The Advocate-General

The matter is complex, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman understands. It is not as simple as he suggests for me to look at my law books and to come up with a solution, much as I should like to do so. As I have explained, a process is available that is similar in some ways to the process used in the Altmark case. A challenge was made in the German courts in that instance, and a reference was made to the European Court for clarification. Although there are parallels, the issues involved are not identical; but if the matter cannot be resolved by agreement, there is always the process whereby a challenge can be made and an authoritative ruling from the European Court of Justice can be obtained following an application by the Scottish courts to Europe.