Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-First Report


MUTUAL RECOGNITION OF DECISIONS ON PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY


(22652)

COM(01) 505

Draft Council Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matters of parental responsibility.


Legal base: Article 61(c) EC; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: 27 September 2001
Department: Lord Chancellor's Department; Scottish Executive Justice Department
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 30 January 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared



Background

  2.1  On 5 December 2001 we considered a draft Council Regulation which would establish a scheme of rules of jurisdiction for all civil proceedings relating to parental responsibility, to provide for recognition and enforcement of orders made in such proceedings and to provide for a system of cooperation between central authorities of Member States. Maintenance obligations would be excluded from the scope of the Regulation, but otherwise it would apply to all civil proceedings relating to the care and protection of children, including those brought by or against local authorities.

  2.2  We noted that the draft Regulation departed from the generally accepted principle of following the child's habitual residence (which is the rule under both the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions in this field)[5] by introducing the concept of the 'continuing jurisdiction' of the courts of the Member State in which the most recent judgment was given within the preceding six months.

  2.3  We also noted that the Regulation would depart from the rules of the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions in relation to child abduction, by overriding the effect of Article 13 of the 1980 Hague Convention. (This allows a court in the place to which a child has been wrongfully removed not to order immediate return where there is a grave risk that return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place him or her in an intolerable situation).

  2.4  We noted a number of other detailed differences between the proposed Regulation and the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions, and we questioned what useful purpose was being served by the adoption of yet further variations from international standards in this area. Our other principal concern was over the question of external competence. The Ministers had drawn attention to the effect the proposal might have on the freedom of Member States to sign and ratify the 1996 Hague Convention. We therefore asked the Ministers if a decision had been taken on whether the UK would opt-in to this measure, and for their assessment of the scope for ensuring that adoption of the present proposal could be linked to adoption of a proposal to authorise Member States to sign and ratify the 1996 Hague Convention, and thereby to overcome any problem caused by the conferring of external competence on the Community in this area.

The Minister's letter

  2.5  In his letter of 30 January 2002, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr Michael Wills) explains that in December 2001 the United Kingdom notified the Presidency of its intention to participate in this proposal.

  2.6  The Minister provided a copy of the Commission proposal for a Council Decision authorising the Member States to sign the 1996 Hague Convention, and this has also been formally deposited[6]. The Minister agreed that it was undesirable for there to be variations from existing standards in international agreements and stated that the UK would continue to argue in negotiations that any variations would have to be justified and that the aim should be for the text of the proposal to follow and be aligned with the provisions of the Hague Conventions of 1980 and 1996 Conventions.

  2.7  The Minister also commented that the UK would continue to seek ratification of the 1996 Hague Convention by Member States and the Community without further delay and to argue strongly that ratification should not be delayed to await adoption of the Commission's proposal for a Council Regulation on parental responsibility.

Conclusion

  2.8  We are grateful to the Ministers for their explanation of the Government's approach to this proposal, and we support their desire to align it as closely as possible with the provisions of the 1980 and 1996 Hague Conventions. We also agree that the present proposal should not be used as a device to delay ratification of the 1996 Hague Convention by the Member States.

  2.9  We shall hold the document under scrutiny, pending the deposit of a revised text.


5  The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction and the 1996 Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. Back

6  (22984) See paragraph 10 of this Report Back


 
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Prepared 26 March 2002