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Balance of Competences

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 16 May 2013

I wish to inform the House that, further to the Foreign Secretary’s oral statement launching the review of the balance of competences on 12 July 2012, Official Report, column 468, and the written statement on the progress of the review on 23 October 2012, Official Report, column 46WS, the Ministry of Justice has published its call for evidence in the area of civil judicial co-operation, which includes family matters.

The report will be completed by December 2013 and will cover the overall application and effect of EU instruments in the area of civil judicial co-operation.

The call for evidence period will last 12 weeks. The Ministry of Justice will draw together the evidence and policy analysis into a first draft, which will go through a process of scrutiny before publication towards the end of 2013.

The report will focus on article 81 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU), using this and the jurisprudence emanating from it as a legal base.

The Ministry of Justice will take a rigorous approach to the collection and analysis of evidence. The call for evidence sets out the scope of the report and includes a series of broad questions on which contributors are asked to focus. Interested parties are invited to provide evidence in relation to the impact or effect of the competence in their area of expertise. The evidence received—subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act—will be published alongside the final report in late 2013 and will be available on the new Government website:

The Department will pursue an active engagement process, consulting widely across Parliament and relevant committees, businesses, the devolved Administrations, judiciary and legal practitioners in order to obtain evidence to contribute to our analysis of the issues. Our EU partners and the EU institutions will also be invited to contribute evidence to the review. As the review is to be objective and evidence based, we plan to encourage a wide range of interested parties to contribute to ensure a high yield of valuable information.

The result of the report will be a comprehensive, thorough and detailed analysis of the findings and aid our understanding of the nature of our EU membership; it will provide a constructive and frank contribution to the wider European debate about modernising, reforming and improving the EU. The report will not, however, produce specific policy recommendations.

I am placing the call for evidence in the Libraries of both Houses. They will also be accessible through the balance of competences review pages on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.