Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 14 June 1989



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Dame Janet Fookes

Adley, Mr. Robert (Christchurch)

Bendall, Mr. Vivian (Ilford, North)

Boateng, Mr. Paul (Brent, South)

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas (Upminster)

Cathie, Mr. Alex (Montgomery)

Cohen, Mr. Harry (Leyton)

Couchman, Mr. James (Gillingham)

Dickens, Mr. Geoffrey (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Evans, Mr. John (St. Helens, North)

Field, Mr. Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fraser, Mr. John (Norwood)

Gardiner, Mr. George (Reigate)

Goodson-Wickes, Dr. Charles (Wimbledon)

Ground, Mr. Patrick (Feltham and Heston)

Heathcoat-Amory, Mr. David (Wells)

Litherland, Mr. Robert (Manchester, Central)

Lye11, Sir Nicholas (Solicitor-General)

Steinberg, Mr. Gerry (City of Durham)

Mr. D. J. Gerhold, Committee Clerk

3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 14 June 1989

[DAME JANET FOOKES in the Chair]

Draft Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (Amendment) Order 1989

10.30 am

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell): I beg to move, "That the Committee has considered the draft Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (Amendment) Order 1989. The purpose of this Order in Council is to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the convention by which Greece—the Hellenic Republic—acceded to the 1968 Brussels convention on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, and to the 1971 protocol. The Brussels convention was drawn up between the six original member states of the European Community under article 220 of the treaty, which provides that member states shall enter into negotiations with each other with a view to securing for the benefit of their nationals, among other things the simplification of formalities governing the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments of courts or tribunals. The convention established a scheme to determine the international jurisdiction of the courts of the member states, and to facilitate recognition and introduce an expeditious procedure for securing the enforcement of judgments within the Community. The 1971 protocol confers jurisdiction on the Court of Justice of the Community to interpret the convention. On becoming a member of the Community, each state undertakes to accede to the Brussels convention and to the protocol: this is acknowledged in article 63 of the convention and in article 9 of the protocol. The United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland acceded by convention signed on 9 October 1978 and the Brussels convention is now in force in each of those states. It has been in the United Kingdom since 1 January 1987, by virtue of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. In turn, on joining the Community, Greece acceded by a convention signed on 25 October 1982. The convention on the accession of Spain and Portugal, the two final states, was signed on 26 May. Section 14 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 provides that Her Majesty may, by Order in Council, make such modifications of the act as Her Majesty considers appropriate in consequence of any revision of the Brussels convention or of the protocol. Such revisions include, in particular, any revision connected with the accession to the 1968 convention of one or more further states. Although the draft order runs to some 20 or more pages, in essence it is very simple. It makes only 4 those changes to the 1982 Act which are directly consequent upon Greek accession to the Brussels convention: it makes no changes of substance. Articles 3 to 6 effect necessary amendments to the definitions contained in section 1 of the Act to include the Greek accession convention, referred to as "the 1982 Accession Convention", and to include Greece within the definition of "contracting state". Article 8 amends section 3 of the 1982 Act to permit consideration by United Kingdom courts, in ascertaining the meaning or effect of any provision of the Brussels convention or the accession conventions, of the report on the Greek accession convention drawn up by two eminent Greek academic lawyers. Section 3 already permits reference to the corresponding reports on the Brussels convention and on the earlier accession convention—the 1978 convention under which the United Kingdom acceded. The bulk of the order comprises the schedules; these are explained in Article 7. They replace schedules 1 and 2 to the 1982 Act which contained, respectively, the text of the Brussels Convention and of the 1971 protocol, each as amended by the 1978 accession convention. The new texts reflect the further amendments occasioned by Greek accession. It is most important that practitioners, academics and others should have the current texts set out in a convenient form, and in one place. Schedule 3 represents an additional schedule—schedule 3A—to the 1982 Act and sets out what might be called the operational elements of the Greek accession convention: the transitional and final provisions, the procedure for entry into force, ans so on. The order is entirely technical in scope. It extends the territorial application of a most valuable convention. The 12 states have also undertaken to ratify the Spanish and Portuguese accession convention before the end of 1992. This will mean that all 12 member states will be ratified. When this is done, we shall have a common market in judgments throughout the Community. The order represents the penultimate stage in that process and I commend it to the Committee.

10.35 am

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood): I thank the Solicitor-General and his advisers for setting out the arangements in a single document. It is always a nuisance to have to look through a series of documents, especially of this complexity, to find a common code—in this case, relating to the enforcement of judgments. We are particularly grateful that this method has been adopted. In other contexts, such as immigration matters which would be dealt with in a constituency such as mine, I find it especially galling to have to look through about half a dozen conflicting and amending documents to find a simple code of law that applies to a constituent. There is always a danger of becoming chauvinistic about our system of justice. We often think that our system is the best. On the criminal side, we think about the long periods of remand in custody under 5 the law in Italy and the bail bond system that operates in Spain. There are great dangers inherent in doing that. Yesterday, I had a complaint from a constituent who is incarcerated in a European gaol and who claims that his human rights are being breached because he is unable to use the telephone regularly. At the same time, I read that less than 100 years ago, in Britain, Oscar Wilde had to climb 6,000 feet a day on the treadmill in Pentonville. It is difficult to make comparisons between differing systems. Our system of enforcing judgment works fairly well. There has been a considerable increase in the efficiency of the working of the High Court. Can the Solicitor-General say whether there have been complaints from legal practitioners, the Bar Council or the Law Society about the way in which the convention works in practice in other countries? As he knows, procedural obstructions or long delays in other jurisdictions, or, indeed, in ours, can defeat the effective operation of a convention such as this. I should like him to confirm that the convention 6 works speedily and efficiently and to the satisfaction of United Kingdom practitioners.

10.37 am

The Solicitor-General: I am grateful for the comments from the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser). It is convenient to have the arrangements in one document instead of having to spend time thumbing through a number of them. As to the practical working, the United Kingdom has used the convention since 1 January 1987 and there have not been any complaints. More widely in the Community, where it has worked for much longer, it has been found to be a very useful procedure.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved "That the Committee has considered the draft Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (Amendment) Order 1989.

Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Fookes, Dame Janet (Chairman)

Adley, Mr.

Bendall, Mr.

Couchman, Mr.

Dickens, Mr.

Field, Mr. Barry

Fraser, Mr.

Heathcoat-Amory, Mr.

Lyell, Sir N.