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Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments (2019 Hague Convention etc.) Regulations 2024

Volume 838: debated on Friday 24 May 2024

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, these regulations form part of the implementing framework for the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial Matters 2019. The purpose of the convention is to establish a set of rules about whether a civil or commercial judgment made in a court of one country may be recognised and enforced in another. Without such a uniform scheme, each country’s domestic rules determine whether a foreign judgment will be recognised and enforced. This can cause uncertainty and a range of challenges for effective cross-border recognition and enforcement.

Following unanimous support in response to the government consultation, I signed the Hague convention 2019 on behalf of the United Kingdom in the Hague on 12 January this year. Once in force, the convention will apply between the United Kingdom and the existing parties, which include not only the EU but a range of other countries including Ukraine and Uruguay. The legislation now before the House is instrumental and necessary for the UK to proceed to ratification of the convention, which will proceed in due course once these regulations have been approved. Parallel processes will be in train in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Joining Hague 2019 will provide greater clarity and confidence for businesses and individuals in their disputes, reduce costs, encourage international trade and enhance access to justice. It will also provide greater predictability as to whether a UK judgment can be enforced abroad, encourage businesses to choose the UK’s world-class courts for international litigation in line with convention provisions and further increase the attractiveness of the UK for international dispute resolution. The convention will come into force for the UK just over a year after ratification, so we will be one of the early adopters of the convention and continue to be a leader in private international law. I beg to move.

My Lords, I warmly welcome this instrument. It is a singular achievement that we have done this. To an extent, it will remedy the EU’s refusal to allow us to accede to the Lugano Convention. As the Minister said, it is extremely important in making sure that litigants who come to this country know that their judgements will now be much more easily enforceable. I add that the Arbitration Bill which was before this House would have achieved exactly the same objectives. It is extremely important to the international position of London as an arbitration and litigation centre that we keep our law up to date.

I thank all noble Lords—the Minister, in particular, as well as the Whips and the Government Chief Whip, the Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and their Chief Whip, and others on their Front-Bench team—and others in the other place for all they did to try to get the Law Commission Bill into the wash-up. A lot of loud noise was made, but it did not succeed.

I want to look forward and say that it is critical that overseas litigants who might choose London to have their disputes arbitrated, whether in contracts now or for the future, realise that this is, I hope, but a temporary hiccup and that we will find the means, with the co-operation of the Government and the Opposition, whichever roles they may be playing, and with the welcome support of those on the Liberal Benches, to go forward without having to go through it all over again. The Bill was agreed. There is one small amendment to be made to clarify something, but I hope we can get it on to the statute book as early as possible. It is a Bill that would help this country make money, and that, I am sure everybody agrees, is an imperative.

I thank the Minister enormously for what he has done while he has been in his position. As a Minister in the Ministry of Justice, he has laboured mightily on many matters, but I thank him in particular for what he has done to ensure that London stays at the forefront in the highly competitive world of dispute resolution in court and in arbitration.

My Lords, I too very much welcome this measure for various reasons, which are set out very well in the Explanatory Memorandum. Some of the features which are set out in it are the care that has been taken to consult at various stages, the response to the consultation, and working together across the various jurisdictions within the United Kingdom to achieve harmony in the way we respond to the challenge that this convention has presented us with. The result is a happy one, and I am very happy to offer my support for this measure.

I join with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, in his remarks about the Arbitration Bill. For the reasons he has given, it is extremely important that this Bill be brought back at the earliest possible opportunity and with the least possible complication. I know that there are procedures that always have to be gone through for Law Commission Bills, but it was very thoroughly debated at all its stages. It was really ready to go and it is a great disappointment that it has been lost because of the calling of the election. I hope that all those involved can move quickly to bring the Bill back, so that we can get the benefits the noble and learned Lord has identified.

Lastly, I join with him in expressing great appreciation for all that the noble and learned Lord the Minister has done in his position on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. It has been a pleasure to work with him and we wish him well for the future.

My Lords, I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Ponsonby is going to intervene, but I would just like to endorse entirely what the noble and learned Lords, Lord Thomas and Lord Hope, have just said. I speak as a member of the Public Bills Committee, which was so well chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and I hope my side of the House or the Minister’s side of the House will quickly bring back the Arbitration Bill, for all the reasons given by the two noble and learned Lords.

My Lords, I too welcome this measure, but I want to take this opportunity to echo the very generous words of praise from my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. My noble and learned friend Lord Bellamy has been a tremendous Minister. He has worked absolutely tirelessly under great pressure and it is no fault of his that we are losing the Arbitration Bill, which really is important. I think it is important that this point is made and it is very important that whoever wins the election understands that this Bill is important for the City of London which, whatever one’s political views, brings enormous sums of money into this county and generates a lot of tax.

In the same breath, I am also very sorry that the litigation funders Bill, which I think was effectively uncontested—although it could probably do with a minor tweak—has also been lost. I very much hope that that is brought back and sent through quickly in the autumn. That Bill is also very important for the London legal market. I am not talking about small sums here and cases in the Competition Tribunal and so on could be taken elsewhere. It is really important that they stay in the United Kingdom and that we keep our top legal services.

My Lords, I add the support of these Benches for everything that all noble Lords have said, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who led the special committee on the Arbitration Bill. I agree with him and other noble Lords about the Hague convention regulations, but I also express considerable concern about the loss of the Arbitration Bill and the Litigation Funding Agreements (Enforceability) Bill.

With others, I pay tribute to the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, generally, and to the noble Lord, Lord Roborough, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart of Dirleton. We had the three government Ministers involved in this House on a delegation yesterday to try to save those two Bills. We have not succeeded, which is a great shame. I hope that we can unite to bring some pressure on the powers that be to improve the wash-up procedure so that Bills of great importance to the British economy can be taken through during the wash-up where there is absolutely no controversy about them, as is the case with both these Bills. They both could have been dealt with last night and today before Prorogation and they have not been. That is going to cause a big delay and it is a great shame. I hope the delay will be kept as short as possible.

My Lords, we on our side support the statutory instrument and recognise and endorse everything the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, said regarding the importance of recognising the Hague convention and being one of the first adopters of the new convention and, as the noble and learned Lord explained, the ratification process and the importance of the UK maintaining its status as a world leader in its courts system.

I agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, said, about the Arbitration Bill. I well remember the Second Reading debate in the Moses Room, where the Back Bench was replete with retired Supreme Court judges—which, as the only non-lawyer taking part in that debate, was a very instructive process for me.

Every noble Lord who has spoken has really made the same point about the Litigation Funding Agreements (Enforceability) Bill and the Arbitration Bill. All I can say is that, from my side, I also did what I could to try to get these Bills to be recognised, but, as the Bills started in the Lords, that was a problem. I recognise what the noble Lord, Lord Marks, says about improving the wash-up procedure, because these are not politically contested Bills yet they are very important for UK plc. In the future, I will very much do what I can to make sure that my political party, whatever its position, will do everything it can to get these Bills on the statute book as quickly as possible.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and I particularly thank those who have been kind enough to express personal regards in remarks about me—to which I would respond only that no one operates individually and I have a wonderful team in my private office. I have magnificent officials in the Department of Justice. I have very strong ministerial colleagues both in this House and in the other place. We work as a team and it is that team that keeps us, as it were, in orbit and it is to them that one owes the warm thanks of this House.

The main point made by all noble Lords is to express unanimous disappointment, regret and frustration at the loss of the Arbitration Bill and the Litigation Funding Agreements (Enforceability) Bill. I can only agree with those sentiments and express the profound hope for both those measures, particularly the Arbitration Bill, under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, where so much work was done was done by the special committee, at Second Reading and elsewhere that it would be an enormous regret and a very serious black mark on our processes if all that had to be done again.

I very much hope that, whatever Government is in power, that Bill, in particular, is brought back as soon as possible and that we are not defeated or held up in any way by inflexible and archaic procedures. The same applies with equal force to the litigation funders Bill. With those brief comments, I commend the regulations.

Motion agreed.