Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 1 of Session 2004-05                         24 November 2004


Family Justice: the operation of the family courts - future evidence sessions

The Chairman of the House of Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee has today withdrawn an invitation to give oral evidence that he issued last week to Fathers 4 Justice, following an incident on Friday 19 November in which the Children's Minister, Margaret Hodge, was handcuffed by a protester and a conference was disrupted.

Committee Chairman Alan Beith MP said:

"This conduct is completely unacceptable for two reasons: it involves a direct assault on someone and it disrupts other people's freedom of speech.  The Committee is interested in rational discussion of issues relating to Family Justice and that is not possible when action such as this takes place.

"On 17 November I extended an invitation to Fathers 4 Justice to give oral evidence to the Committee.  Friday's incident means that I have no choice but to withdraw that invitation.

"We have already accepted evidence from Fathers 4 Justice and shall continue to be ready to accept further written evidence from them, since they claim to represent a large number of people. Fathers 4 Justice will also be able to comment in writing on the oral evidence which we receive from other witnesses."

The Committee has already invited a number of other groups representing fathers' interests to give evidence including Families Need Fathers and the Equal Parenting Council.

1. The Committee's inquiry will be investigating a number of key areas including: whether the family court system is being run effectively; whether family court judges have sufficient powers; issues surrounding delays caused by the current system; whether people using family courts are getting the service they deserve.
2. The Committee's interest in this area partly flows out of work it undertook in 2003 when it published a report into the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) which led to the dismissal of the board of CAFCASS.
3. A full list of those giving oral evidence along with evidence transcripts can be found on the Committee's website:
4. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Peter Bottomley MP, Mr Hilton Dawson MP, Mr James Clappison MP, Ross Cranston QC MP, Mr Andrew Rosindell MP, Mr Clive Soley MP, Mrs Ann Cryer MP, Keith Vaz MP, Mr Jim Cunningham MP, Dr Alan Whitehead MP
5. Press notice: 1

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