European Court of Justice Cases

Oral Answers to Questions — Advocate-General – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 12th February 2002.

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Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South 2:30 pm, 12th February 2002

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

Photo of Dr Lynda Clark Dr Lynda Clark Advocate General for Scotland, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Advocate General for Scotland

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.

Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

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?

Photo of Dr Lynda Clark Dr Lynda Clark Advocate General for Scotland, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Advocate General for Scotland

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 rulings 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 rights of audience and I hope that a suitable case will arise.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

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?

Photo of Dr Lynda Clark Dr Lynda Clark Advocate General for Scotland, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Advocate General for Scotland

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—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Sometimes complex matters can be brief.