Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 17 of Session 2003-04                   20 September 2004


Details of a new inquiry into the way that the courts deal with family cases, particularly child custody and access cases, have been announced today by the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

The Committee 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

The Committee's inquiry has been prompted by Government moves to reform the family court system and will include an appraisal of the Government's own proposals, as set out in the consultation document Parental Separation: Children's Needs and Parents' Responsibilities (Cm 6273). 

Details of oral evidence sessions will be issued in due course.

The Committee will be receiving copies of all non-confidential responses to the Government's consultation. It would, however, welcome any additional submissions which interested parties may wish to make directly to the Committee on the Government's proposals. These should be sent to the Clerk of the Committee at the above address by Monday 1 November 2004. An electronic version in MS Word or Rich Text format should also be submitted, either by e-mail to or on a disk and this should be accompanied by a letter stating clearly who the submission is from, together with relevant contact details. Attention is drawn to the guidance on the submission of evidence which can be found at


1. The government's current proposals come in the form of a Green Paper entitled 'Parental Separation: Children's Needs and Parents Responsibilities' issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs in July 2004.  The paper recognises that "the current way in which the courts intervene in disputed contact cases does not work well". 
2. The Government's Green Paper consultation is due to end 1 November 2004.
3. Although responsibility for policies relating to children, parents and families generally now lie with the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Constitutional Affairs has retained responsibility for the operation of the family courts system.  The inquiry will not cover areas of responsibility covered by the Department for Education and Skills. 
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. Media Enquiries: Ad¨le Brown 020 7219 0724 / 07711 155 722
6. News Release: 17


Media Enquiries: Adele Brown, Tel 020 7219 0724 / 07711 155 722, email: 

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