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Lord Haskel: My Lords, devolution will bring real benefits for the people of Scotland and Wales and the costs will be met from within the spending totals approved by Parliament for Scotland and Wales. They will come out of the block grants or revenue raised.
Lord Marsh: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, there is a misunderstanding for which I apologise. I am not asking about the block grant. I am merely asking to what extent there will be a charge on Scotland as opposed to England?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I repeat my reply. The costs will be met from within the spending totals approved by Parliament for Scotland and Wales. Scotland and Wales have their block grants. The costs of the exercise will be met from those funds.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend saying that if the block grant, which is agreed by this UK Parliament, is a given amount and that if the Scots decide to reduce taxation in Scotland by, say, threepence, then that will have no bearing on English taxpayers who will not have to pay additional tax to finance additional spending or reduced taxation in Scotland? That is the question: the English want to know the answer.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the only reasonable interpretation of his response to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, is that the costs of the Scottish parliament or assembly--whatever it is finally called--will be a charge on the taxpayers of the United Kingdom rather than those of Scotland for whose benefit, one assumes, it is to be brought into being? Does he consider that to be a reasonable approach?
Lord Carter: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are committed to policies which will ensure the health and safety of people at work and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable members of the workforce. The European Commission has been considering how to extend the scope of the working time directive for some time. If proposals are made to include British fishermen in European Union working condition schemes such as this they will be considered on their merits.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reassuring Answer. I am glad that his experience of agriculture and fisheries is being used, despite the demanding duties of his job as Government Chief Whip.
Will the Government ensure that the Commission is aware that most British fishermen are no longer employees of large trawler-owning firms but are share fishermen or self-employed individuals, and that fish do not conform predictably to routines so that at times fisherman have to work long and irregular hours?
Lord Carter: The industry has not been able to get rid of me that easily! As the noble Lord knows, a share fisherman is someone who is a master or crew member of a British fishing boat manned by more than one
Lord Molloy: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is a very important issue to British fishermen? If he has not seen their representatives, will he give the House an assurance that he will do so? If he has seen them, will he continue to see them because this is an extremely important issue to British fishermen?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, if eventually the Government have to accept some European Union working conditions for our fishing industry, will they make certain that the same conditions are applied to the Spanish fishing fleet?
Lord Carter: My Lords, we have not yet even seen the White Paper. It would be no kind of negotiating stance to indicate now what our position might be. However, I am sure that from long experience of the subject the noble Lord is aware that there are derogations under the working time directive--I can read them out if he would like--and that is just the kind of issue that we shall be taking into account.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether these decisions are likely to be taken by a qualified majority vote or unanimity in Brussels and what hope he has of achieving success under either system?
Lord Carter: My Lords, in order to forestall a thought which might be in the noble Lord's mind, perhaps I might say that extension of the working time directive has nothing to do with the common fisheries policy or the social chapter. Therefore, it will be taken under the rules which apply to the working time directive.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, as regards safety, is the Minister aware that periods of watches and rest periods can be safely arranged within crews, whose situation is not similar to that of long-distance lorry drivers or factory workers?
Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. In the eight sectors which have been excluded from the working time directive there are areas such as air, rail and road where safety factors for the pilots and drivers apply. That would certainly be the case if we were considering the directive for fishermen.
As regards fishing, if there were to be--I emphasise "were to be"--an extension of the working time directive, we would have to consider the fact that fishermen must work when the fish are running and must get the fish back to port in the best condition. All such factors would be taken into account when we started negotiating. But we have not yet even seen the White Paper.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, the noble Lord said, and it is a reasonable enough stance, that the Government would not wish to show their hand in negotiations on this matter. However, will they show their hand immediately as regards one aspect of the working conditions directive? I refer to others who work at sea; namely, in the offshore oil industry. Is it not already clear to the Government that if the directive were to be applied to their working activities, far from improving safety there would immediately be a real risk to their lives, not least as a result of the increased number of necessary helicopter flights? In those circumstances, cannot the Government immediately signal the fact that we are not prepared to tolerate an extension in respect of that industry?
Lord Carter: My Lords, that question is wide of the Question on sea fishing, but the noble and learned Lord is right. Those are exactly the kind of facts which must be borne in mind in such considerations. Although we have not seen the White Paper, there have been extensive negotiations with the Commission in its preparation. Although we have not seen the final document, that is exactly the kind of point that has been hammered home.
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