HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 c366W
Keith Vaz

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans he has to take forward conclusions reached at the Special European Council in Tampere in October 1999. [121892]

Mr. Lammy

Following the Presidency conclusions arising from the Tampere European Council, the Department has been keen to support the development of civil judicial co-operation on the basis of mutual recognition.

We are actively co-operating with the EU in taking forward its civil judgment enforcement programme: we are currently finalising agreement on a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims and conducting negotiations pursuant to the Commission's Green Paper on small claims and a European Payment Order. We expect further items on that programme will he brought forward in the near future, including a European system for attachment of bank accounts (to prevent the removal of funds which may be the subject of a judgment).

We are supporting work to improve cross-border arrangements in the field of family law, and in particular, extending the principle of mutual recognition to all decisions on parental responsibility, by establishing clear rules for attributing jurisdiction and proper arrangements for co-operation between national courts and authorities. This will greatly benefit families where there are cross-border disputes concerning children. Negotiations on the Parental Responsibility Regulation are nearing completion and steps on mutual recognition in the field of wills and succession will follow in 2004.

Also in 2004, we expect close co-operation with the Commission in taking forward work on alternative means of dispute resolution, in which field the UK has considerable expertise.

We will continue to lay stress on the principle of mutual recognition. We wish to ensure, as the EU grows and develops, that respect is maintained for the separate traditions of individual member states, and we are conscious of having a significant asset in our common law system. This has been, and will remain, central to our input into such issues as the Commission's Action Plan on the convergence of contract law.

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