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The Justice Committee

Last updated: 14 December 2012

 

The Justice Committee held its fourth report into the Pre-legislative scrutiny of The Children and Families Bill

House of Commons
Justice Committee

14 December 2012
Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Children and Families Bill
Fourth Report of Session 2012–13

 

 

 

The Justice Committee held its third evidence session in its inquiry into the Pre-legislative scrutiny of The Children and Families Bill

Meeting started at 9.31am. Ended at 11.11am

Witnesses

The session took take place in the 21st November 2012 at Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster

PARLIAMENT TVHERE |  HANSARD – HERE

 

Lisa Harker, Head of the Strategy Unit, NSPCC, Tom Rahilly, Head of Strategy and Development, NSPCC

Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice, Ministry of Justice, Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (children and families), Department for Education

 

 

 

 

The Justice Committee held its second evidence session in its inquiry into the Pre-legislative scrutiny of The Children and Families Bill

 

 

Meeting started at 9.33am. Ended at 11.14am

 

Witnesses

The session took take place in the 20th November 2012 at  Wilson Room, Portcullis House, Palace of Westminster

PARLIAMENT TVHERE |  HANSARD – ORAL EVIDENCE (Q61-119)WRITTEN EVIDENCE

 

Mrs Justice Pauffley DBE, Family Judiciary, Mr Justice Ryder, Family Judiciary

Clare Chamberlain, Project Manager, Tri-borough Care Proceedings Pilot, Steve Crocker, Deputy Director (Children and Families), Hampshire County Council, Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive, Cafcass, Bruce Clark, Director of Policy, Cafcass

Ken Anderson, CEO, Families Need Fathers, Paul Apreda, National Manager, FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru

 

 

 

 

 

The Justice Committee held its first evidence session in its inquiry into the Pre-legislative scrutiny of The Children and Families Bill

 

 

Meeting started at 9.30am. Ended at 10.59am

 

 

Witnesses

The session will took place in Committee room 15, Palace of Westminster. At 9.30 am

PARLIAMENT TVHERE HANSARD ORAL EVIDENCE (Q1-60)HERE

 

Naomi Angell, Co-chair, Family Law Committee, Law Society

Janet Bazley QC, Family Law Bar Association

Martha Cover, Co-chair, Association of Lawyers for Children

 

At 10.10 am

Jane Robey, CEO, National Family Mediation

Colin Anderson, College of Mediators

 

At 10.35 am

Dr Judith Freedman, Convenor, Consortium of Expert Witnesses

Ann Haigh, Chair, Nagalro

 

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12 September 2012

New Inquiry: Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Children and Families Bill

The Justice Select Committee, chaired by Sir Alan Beith, is undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft family justice clauses of the proposed Children and Families Bill as published on 3 September 2012, and the draft clauses to be published in the Autumn on shared parenting and enforcement of court orders.

Prime Minister responds to letter from the Chair of the Committee – The Operation of the Family Courts

The Prime Minister has responded to the Chair’s letter in relation to the Government’s proposals to change the Children Act 1989 in an attempt to promote shared parenting.

Letter from the PM to Sir Alan Beith MP (PDF PDF 57 KB)Opens in a new window in response to letter from Sir Alan Beith MP, re: Co-operative Parenting Following Family Separation: Proposed Legislation on the Involvement of Both Parents in a Child’s Life

 

 

18 July 2012

Letter from the Chair of the Committee to the Prime Minister – The Operation of the Family Courts

The Chair of the Justice Select Committee, the Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, has written to the Prime Minister in relation to the Government’s proposals to change the Children Act 1989 in an attempt to promote shared parenting.

In the letter, Sir Alan sets out the Committee’s opposition to the insertion in law of a legislative statement changing the present responsibility to safeguard the rights of the child in an attempt to promote shared parenting.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA
11 July 2012

Co-operative Parenting Following Family Separation: Proposed Legislation on the Involvement of Both Parents in a Child’s Life

I am writing to you about an issue of great concern to the Select Committee because it is widely believed that you have taken a personal interest in it and have significantly influenced the direction of policy making;  I refer to the proposal to change the Children Act 1989 in an attempt to promote shared parenting.

The Justice Committee’s Report, The Operation of the Family Courts, Sixth Report of Session 2010-12, HC 518, made clear our opposition to the insertion in law of a legislative statement changing the present responsibility to safeguard the rights of the child in an attempt to promote shared parenting.

The Department for Education has now published its Consultation which contains four possible draft clauses designed to promote shared parenting.  The Committee remains strongly opposed to this policy and all four variants; it appears to be legislation to remove a perception which has no foundation in fact.

In coming to this conclusion in our Report we heard evidence from a number of organisations on both sides of the debate.  Like the Family Justice Review, we concluded that the idea of promoting shared parenting by changing the wording of the Children Act 1989 was seriously flawed:

 

  1. To promote shared parenting through legislation undermines the paramount principle of the welfare of the child;
  2. There was no evidence to suggest that Judges were not starting from a position in favour of contact being maintained with both parents;
  3. The majority of applications resulting in no contact were abandoned by the applicant parent;
  4. It would be wrong, by a change in the law, to imply that parents have rights over children rather than responsibilities for children;
  5. A legislative statement, however drafted, which inserts concepts for furthering “involvement”, will be equated in the minds of warring parents as a right to equality of time;
  6. The Australian evidence showed that cases where the child’s or parent’s safety was at risk were not being effectively filtered out of the shared parenting scheme by the courts;
  7. The proposal takes little account of the fact that 90% of separating parents do not use the courts, and that the remaining 10% of cases that do reach court are frequently those with multiple problems.  Attempting to further parental involvement in this 10% of cases by changing legislation is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the issues in these cases;
  8. Contrary to the stated aim of reducing the number of Court cases, the Australian experience showed that the insertion of a legislative statement was likely to lead to some parents being less willing to negotiate and resolve arguments over child contact outside court; and
  9. Extensive litigation seems likely to result from parties litigating to reconcile two competing principles – the welfare of the child and the duty to promote shared parenting.

 

In their Final Report, the Family Justice Review agreed with us that no legislative statement promoting meaningful relationships should be introduced because “… the core principle of the paramountcy of the welfare of the child is sufficient and that to insert any additional statements brings with it unnecessary risk for little gain.”

We have yet to be provided with any evidence or argument that properly counters the evidence we and the Family Justice Review considered before concluding that there should be no changes to the current legislation.

We do not consider that the current draft clauses avoid the pitfalls of the Australian experience.  It appears that the Department for Education considers that avoiding words such as “equal time” or “meaningful relationship” is enough in itself; we disagree.

On 13 June 2012 the Parliamentary-Under Secretaries of State for Justice and Education appeared before our Committee to discuss shared parenting and other issues relating to the family courts.  We were extremely concerned that insufficient consideration appeared to have been given to how the presumption in favour of shared parenting would be rebutted, despite the failure to effectively filter out cases involving safety fears being a key failing of the Australian reforms.

We remain of the view that the introduction of a statement will simply lead to confusion, and will risk undermining the central principle of the Children Act 1989 that the welfare of the child is paramount.  It remains unclear to us how the Government intends that the two tests will work in tandem in the difficult cases that end up before the Courts.  The Consultation Paper and information we have received so far makes no effort to engage with the criticisms of shared parenting, nor properly explain how the pitfalls of the Australian experience will be avoided, beyond stating that they will be.

The Committee is keen to scrutinise the Children and Families Bill, and we have received a letter dated 5 July 2012 from the Minister of State for Children and Families setting out the Department’s proposed timetable for pre-legislative scrutiny.

We remain extremely concerned that clearly expressed and well researched conclusions of our Committee and the Family Justice Review are being ignored.  We would ask you to respond to our concerns, and explain why the Government considers such reforms to be of benefit to families, and in particular, children.

I am writing in similar terms to the Secretary of State for Justice, the Minister of State for Children and Families, and to the Parliamentary-Under Secretaries of State for Justice and Education.

 

Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP
Chair
Justice Committee

 

 

13 June 2012

Justice Commitee took evidence on operation of the family courts

The Justice Select Committee held a one-off evidence session with relevant Ministers following up on its earlier Report, ‘Operation of the Family Courts.’

Witnesses

  • Jonathan Djanogly MP, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice; and
  • Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education

Further Information

 

 

14 July 2011

Justice Committee publishes report on the operation of the Family Courts

Family Courts will need to be more prepared to cope with litigants representing themselves following Government reforms to Legal Aid – MPs on the Commons Justice Committee have warned in a new report.

The Chair of the Justice Select Committee, the Rt. Hon Sir Alan Beith MP said;

“Many family disputes could be better dealt with by mediation than in a court.

However, there will still be cases which go to court and there will be significantly more litigants in person following changes to legal aid.

Courts are going to have to make adjustments to cope with more people representing themselves in what are often emotionally charged cases.”

Children, Schools and Families Act 2010

The MPs are also calling on the Government to scrap the provisions in the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 to allow media access to Family Courts following universal condemnation of the plans. The report recommends that Ministers reformulate proposals to increase transparency in Family Courts putting the views of children centre stage.

Sir Alan Beith added:

“Greater transparency in the administration of family justice is much needed, but it has to be balanced against the equally important requirement of protecting the interests of children.

Ministers must go back to the drawing board when it comes to granting media access to family courts and properly consider the views of children who may be affected.”

Family Justice Panel

The committee rejects the Family Justice Panel’s Interim Report recommendation that a statement be introduced into legislation to “reinforce” the importance of a child having a meaningful relationship with both parents.

The MPs believe it ought to be obvious to the courts, and to parents, that a child deserves a meaningful relationship with both parents but that inclusion of a statement in the law could create confusion and the mistaken impression the law had changed.

Australia

The committee heard evidence from Australia that family law reforms there had obscured the overriding importance of the best interests of the child.

Costs

The committee also calls on judges to reduce the costs and delays in case management associated with expert reports. Judges should be encouraged to, where possible, insist on joint reports and require clear explanations of why additional assessments are needed, ensuring the parties’ solicitors work together to reduce the number of questions for the expert.

Reforms

Government plans to fold Cafcass into the proposed new Family Justice Service do not go far enough, according to the report. The committee calls for this to be the first step in a series of reforms designed to transform the body into a less process-driven, more child focused and integral part of family justice.

Further Information

 

 

 

05 May 2011

The operation of the Family Courts

On Tuesday 10 May the Justice Committee will hold its sixth evidence session on the operation of the Family Courts inquiry when evidence will be heard from:

At 10.30am

  • Dr Rae Kaspiew, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Institute of Family Research

At 11.00am

  • Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England; and
  • Jenny Clifton, Principal Policy Advisor (Safeguarding), Office of the Children’s Commissioner

The session will take place in Committee Room 17

The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking. Visitors who wish to attend the session should enter via the Cromwell Green entrance (next to St Stephen’s entrance), House of Commons. Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

Further information 

 

 

 

21 April 2011

Operation of the Family Courts

Committee to hold 5th evidence session

 

On Tuesday 26 April the Justice Committee will hold its fifth evidence session on The operation of the Family Courts inquiry when evidence will be heard from:

At 11.00am:

  • Jonathan Djanogly, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice;
  • Catherine Lee, Director, Access to Justice, Ministry of Justice; and
  • Tim Loughton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education

The session will take place in Committee Room 8


The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking. Visitors who wish to attend the session should enter via the Cromwell Green entrance (next to St Stephen’s entrance), House of Commons. Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

Further information

 

 

 

21 March 2011

The operation of the Family Courts

Committee to hold 4th evidence session

 

On Tuesday 22 March the Justice Committee will hold its fourth evidence session on the operation of the Family Courts inquiry when evidence will be heard from:

At 10.30am:

  • Martha Cover, Co-Chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, representing the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children

At 11.00am:

  • Baroness Howarth OBE, Chair;
  • Anthony Douglas CBE, Chief Executive; and
  • Bruce Clark, Director of Policy, Cafcass

The session will take place in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking.
Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

Further information

 

 

 

18 February 2011

The operation of the Family Courts

Committee to hold 3rd evidence session

On Tuesday 1 March the Justice Committee will hold its third evidence session on the operation of the Family Courts inquiry when evidence will be heard from:

At 10.30am:

  • Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the Family Division

At 11.30am:

  • Dr Judith Freedman, Consortium of expert witnesses to the Family Courts;
  • Judith Timms, Policy Adviser, Nagalro; and
  • Harry Fletcher, Napo

The session will take place in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House.
The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking.
Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

Further information

 

 

 

20 January 2011

Operation of the Family Courts

Committee to hold 2nd evidence session

 

On Tuesday 25 January the Justice Committee will hold its second evidence session on The operation of the Family Courts inquiry when evidence will be heard from:

At 10.30am:

  • Jonathan Ewen, Director North East Barnardo’s and Director of Family Placement;
  • Barbara Esam, Policy Lawyer,  NSPCC; and
  • Fiona Weir, CEO, Gingerbread

At  11.15am:

  • Stephen Cobb QC, Chairman, Family Law Bar Association;
  • Jane Wilson, Member of Resolution National Committee and Chair of the Resolution Domestic Abuse Committee; and
  • Linda Lee, President, Law Society

The session will take place in Committee Room 5 at 10.30am.

The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking. Visitors who wish to attend the session should enter via the Cromwell Green entrance (next to St Stephen’s entrance), House of Commons.

Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

 

Further Information

 

 

 

11 November 2010

Justice Committee hold evidence session on the operation of the Family Courts

Committee to hold first evidence session of its inquiry

 

On Tuesday 16 November the Commons Justice Committee will hold its first evidence session in connection with its inquiry into the operation of the Family Courts.

Witnesses

At 10.30am

  • Craig Pickering, Chief Executive, Families Need Fathers;
  • Lynn Chesterman, Chief Executive, The Grandparents’ Association; and
  • Nicola Harwin, Chief Executive, Women’s Aid

At 11.15

  • Dr Julia Brophy, Oxford University; and
  • Dr Lynne Harne, Bristol University

The session will take place in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House at 10.30am.

The session will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis as seating is limited and there is no system of tickets or advance booking. Portcullis House is the building directly above Westminster Station and visitors who wish to attend should enter via the entrance in Victoria Embankment.

Please advise security staff that you are attending a committee meeting and they will direct you.  You should allow at least 20 minutes to go through security.

Further Information

 

 

 

20 July 2010

The working of the Family Courts

Justice Committee announces new inquiry

 

The Justice Select Committee is to launch an inquiry into the operation of the family courts, it was announced today. The Committee is calling for written evidence and is particularly interested in receiving evidence which addresses the following issues:

i) The effect of CAFCASS’s operations on court proceedings, and the impact on the courts of the sponsorship of CAFCASS by the Department of Education;
ii) The impact on court proceedings and access to justice of recent and proposed changes to legal aid;
iii) The role, operation and resourcing of mediation and other methods in resolving matters before they reach court;
iv) Confidentiality and openness in family courts, including the impact of the recent changes in the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010.

Call for evidence: Written evidence should be in Word or rich text format with as little use of colour or logos as possible, and sent by e-mail to justicecommemo@parliament.uk.

The body of the e-mail must include a contact name, telephone number and postal address. The e-mail should also make clear who the submission is from. The deadline for submissions is 13 September 2010.

Submissions must address the terms of reference. They should be in the format of a self-contained memorandum and should be no more than 3,000 words. Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document must include an executive summary. Further guidance on the submission of evidence can be found at www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/witness.cfm

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere, though previously published work can be referred to in a submission and submitted as supplementary material. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee.

PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THE JUSTICE COMMITTEE IS NOT ABLE TO INVESTIGATE INDIVIDUAL CASES.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by printing the evidence, publishing it on the internet or making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives.

If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

For data protection purposes, it would be helpful if individuals wishing to submit written evidence send their contact details in a covering letter or e-mail. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

 

Justice Committee – Membership

The members of the Justice Committee were appointed on 12 July 2010

 

Member Party
Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith (Chair) Liberal Democrat
Steve Brine Conservative
Mr Robert Buckland Conservative
Nick de Bois Conservative
Rehman Chishti Conservative
Jeremy Corbyn MP Labour
Christopher Evans Labour/Co-operative
Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd Plaid Cymru
Seema Malhotra Labour
Robert Neill Conservative
Yasmin Qureshi Labour
Karl Turner Labour

 

The Justice Committee was appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and associated public bodies, (to include the work of staff provided for the administrative work of courts and tribunals, but excluding consideration of individual cases and appointments, and excluding the work of the Scotland and Wales Offices and of the Advocate General for Scotland); and administration and expenditure of the Attorney General’s Office, the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office (but excluding individual cases and appointments and advice given within government by Law Officers)   Commons Select Committee >The Justice Committee

 

The government’s position is that much of the analysis in the Select Committee’s report chimes with the emerging findings from the Family Justice Review, and is similar in its diagnosis of underlying issues and areas for improvement in the current system If you would like to receive press releases from the Committee please email the Justice Committee

Permanent link to this article: http://operationfatherhood.org/the-justice-committee/