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The Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill 2019-2021 was introduced in the House of Lords on 27 February 2020 and had its second reading on 17 March. It had its second reading in the House of Commons on 2 September 2020 and all remaining stages on 6 October. The House of Lords considered a number of Commons amendments and made further amendments on 19 November. The House of Commons is due to consider those amendments on 24 November.

The Bill as introduced into the House of Commons contained only one substantive clause, which would give domestic effect to three international agreements governing aspects of private international law: the Hague Conventions of 1996, 2005 and 2007. These provide frameworks for determining jurisdiction and enforcement in international disputes covering child custody and maintenance, and civil and commercial matters.

The UK currently participates in these arrangement as a result of its former membership of the EU, as well as EU wide measures governing cooperation in cross border legal disputes. At the end of the transition period the UK will need to make alternative arrangements, including gaining membership of the Hague Conventions in its own right.

Clause 2 of the Bill as originally introduced in the House of Lords would have provided for a power to implement future international agreements on private international law via secondary legislation, limiting Parliament’s oversight of such arrangements. It met with significant opposition in the House of Lords, and was removed from the Bill at Report stage. Amendments were tabled in the Commons to reinstate clause 2 and related provisions. The House of Lords agreed to these amendments and made a number of further amendments designed to constrain the use of the delegated power provided for by clause 2 in response to the concerns raised.

The Bill would extend to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Legislative Consent Motions were agreed by the Scottish Parliament, and by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Annex A to the Explanatory Notes sets out the relevant devolved responsibilities.

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