§ Mrs. Ewing
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the fishery closures in the Moray Firth; what assessment he has made of the cause and source of the Captain's Field oil spillage; and by what means local fishermen will be able to pursue damages for loss of fishing opportunity. 
§ Mr. Dewar
[holding answer 9 December 1997]: The imposition of the exclusion zone on 21 October under Part I of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 followed the discovery of hydrocarbon contamination and associated taint in samples of shellfish (Nephrops) together with elevated levels of hydrocarbons in sea-bed sediment. Further testing subsequently confirmed that round fish taken from the area were uncontaminated and free from taint and the restrictions on these species were lifted on 14 November. Restrictions will remain in place for flatfish and shellfish until results of analysis show that these species are unaffected or no longer affected.
Originally it was considered that the contamination may have been caused by the oil spill from the Captain Field in August. However it is now clear that this was not the case. The scope for fishermen to pursue compensation claims will be dependent on an exact source of the contamination being established. Meanwhile it is very much in the interst of the fishing industry that contaminated catches do not find their way on to the market.
The Department of Trade and Industry has undertaken an investigation into the circumstances of the Captain oil spill and a report has been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. As the Procurator Fiscal's own investigation is currently underway no further information can be given at this stage.
§ Mrs. Ewing
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if the proposed Scottish Executive will be able to hold bilateral talks with(a) the Spanish Government, (b) the European Parliament, (c) the European Commission and (d) the Irish Government on fishing issues. 
§ Mr. Dewar
[holding answer 9 December 1997]: Relations with Europe are the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament and Government. However, the Government intend that Ministers and officials of the 625W Scottish Executive should be involved in negotiations with our EU partners. This will extend to bilateral talks on fishing issues, where the role of Scottish Ministers and officials will be to support and advance the single UK negotiating line which they have played a part in developing.