HL Deb 23 March 1999 vol 598 cc1263-5

10.50 p.m.

Lord Sewel rose to move, That the draft orders laid before the House on 25th February and 8th March be approved [11th and 12th Reports from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am even more conscious of the lateness of the hour. If it is convenient I shall take the two orders standing in my name together and briefly refer to them. I shall first talk to the adjacent waters boundary order before turning to the consequential modifications order. Both orders have been debated in another place. In view of our previous debates I am slightly hesitant to use the word "technical", but the orders are essentially technical in nature.

The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order is needed to implement the devolution settlement for Scotland in relation to certain maritime matters, most notably in relation to sea fisheries. It does so by establishing a boundary between the waters within the British fishery limits that are adjacent to Scotland and those that are adjacent to other parts of the United Kingdom. In this way it creates a Scottish zone within British fishery limits. In general terms, Scots law for sea fisheries will apply within that zone. I hope that it will be helpful if I set out the relevant provisions of the Scotland Act a little more fully to explain the significance of this Scottish zone and of the maritime boundary.

Under Schedule 5, the regulation of sea fishing outside the Scottish zone, except in relation to Scottish fishing boats, is reserved. Section 126 provides a definition of such a Scottish zone to mean the sea within British fishery limits which is adjacent to Scotland. At Section 126(2), Her Majesty is enabled by Order in Council to determine a boundary to distinguish between waters which are adjacent to Scotland and those which are adjacent to other parts of the United Kingdom. The draft order sets out such a boundary by listing the necessary co-ordinates in the schedule to the order. An illustrative map has been attached to the draft order so that your Lordships can see where the boundary will run.

The boundary follows the normal convention for determining similar international boundaries, that is, a median line between the nearest points of land on either side using the "baselines" which have been established around the coast of the United Kingdom in accordance with international law.

Within the Scottish zone the Scottish Parliament will have competence to make law for sea fisheries and Scottish Ministers will exercise functions in relation to the regulation of sea fisheries. In both cases, of course, the Parliament and Scottish Ministers will have to act in accordance with our international obligations, notably with EU law for fisheries and the common fisheries policy. In practice, therefore, the Scottish zone marks the sea area where the EU law on fisheries, as well as Scots law, will be enforced by Scottish Ministers and their officials and by Scottish courts.

The boundary provided by the draft order has particular significance for sea fisheries. I wish to make it clear—though it should be self-evident—that the boundary has no significance for other matters at sea which are reserved. In particular, it has no relevance to the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production at sea since these are reserved matters.

In addition, noble Lords will see from Section 126 of the Scotland Act that "Scotland" does extend to include the territorial sea around Scotland, and that is relevant to certain provisions of the Scotland Act. One example is Section 75 of the Act, which defines a Scottish taxpayer with regard to the number of days spent by a person in Scotland. In that respect, the boundary provided within the territorial sea will also be relevant for those purposes of the Act. Put briefly, if you have a boat and moor it outside Aberdeen harbour, you do not escape being a Scottish taxpayer.

I now turn to the Scotland Act 1998 (Consequential Modifications) (No. 1) Order 1999. The order is made under Section 105 of the Scotland Act 1998. It makes a variety of amendments to legislation to take account of the Act.

This order contains the amendments which are required to come into force on 6th May and 20th May in connection with the creation of the parliament and the transfer of the Lord Advocate from the United Kingdom Government to the Scottish Executive. It also contains a small number of amendments that come into force on 1st July. A second consequential modifications order will be laid in May to cover the main bulk of the amendments which will come into force on lst July. So, my Lords, we shall meet again.

The order only makes amendments which are considered necessary or expedient as a consequence of the Scotland Act. As I said, this is essentially a technical instrument. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 25th February and 8th March be approved [11th and 12th Reports from the Joint Committee]. —(Lord Sewel.)

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, I could be mischievous and ask what happens if I moor my boat outside Berwick harbour, but I shall not be, as I do not have a boat.

I wish to ask one question on Article 2 of the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order. It helpfully tells us under the heading, "Interpretation", that a "line", in relation to any list of co-ordinates in this Order, means a loxodromic line My simple question is: what is a loxodromic line?

Lord Sewel

My Lords, I was prepared for that question. The world is round; but when we draw a line on a map it is a straight line on a flat map. That is a loxodromic line.

The Earl of Courtown

Well, my Lords, we learn something every night!

My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon told me that the Scotland Act 1998 (Consequential Modifications) (No. 1) Order 1999 was a purely technical order. I shall go no further than that.

A point raised by one of my noble friends in relation to the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order was whether it would help to resolve the ongoing difficulty of jurisdiction in the Solway. I hope the Minister can help me on that matter. If he cannot, I shall be happy to receive his reply in writing.

Lord Sewel

My Lords, this is a significant question. The problem of the Solway boundary has befuddled and bewitched us for some time. It is quite difficult to ensure that one can prosecute successfully because of the nature of the boundary being, to put it in common terms, the mid-point of a channel which itself moves from time to time and which is submerged at high tide. In those circumstances it has been somewhat difficult to know under which jurisdictions prosecutions should take place.

The best that I can offer the noble Earl is that, although this order does not affect the common law boundary, it is our hope and intention that we can move to a situation where the rights, particularly in regard to salmon fishing, are brought into consistency with the new boundary that we are proposing.