HC Deb 01 July 1974 vol 876 cc22-4
54. Mr. Loveridge

asked the Attorney-General when he expects the working party of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission set up in May 1972 to consider the basis of jurisdiction of courts in the British Isles to make custody and wardship orders and the question of the recognition and enforcement of such orders in other parts of the British Isles to complete their task.

The Attorney-General (Mr. S. C. Silkin)

The working party is also considering the recognition and enforcement of custody orders made overseas. The subject has wide international implications and I regret that I cannot at present say how long the working party will need to complete its task.

Mr. Loveridge

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the sad case in my constituency, where a mother, relying on a custody order from a court in England, allowed her son to visit Scotland, only to find that she lost the custody of her son because of the action of a Scottish court? She found that the English court order had no legal force in Scotland and that she had not even an enforceable right of access to her son while he remained in Scotland. In view of this domestic sorrow, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his colleagues, take steps to speed up the review of jurisdiction between courts of England and of Scotland?

The Attorney-General

I am well aware that there are problems of the kind referred to by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware, from some notorious cases that have occurred, that there are similar difficulties between this country and countries abroad. It is important—and it is the view of the Law Commissions—that the whole of these matters should be looked at together and not the one in isolation from the international aspect.

Mr. Ancram

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make clear that his answer in no way implies criticism of the Scottish courts and the way in which they handle questions of custody, as there are people in Scotland who believe that the Scottish courts' view of custody is as good as if not better than that taken by courts in England?

The Attorney-General

What I said was certainly not intended as a criticism of anyone, or of any procedure. This is a matter which should be considered in depth.

Mr. Dalyell

Is there a timetable for this consideration, because it is an important matter?

The Attorney-General

There cannot, unfortunately, be a timetable, because it is a matter which has wide repercussions. I assure my hon. Friend that the Law Commissions are regarding it as a matter of importance and urgency, as it obviously is. It is much more important that we should get it right than that we should produce an answer quickly which may be wrong. My hon. Friend must bear in mind that the law of other countries is involved, in addition to that of our own.

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