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The Earl of Perth: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask a question. Did I understand him to say that protected region status is already in operation in Scotland?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, Scotland is already a protected region. However, that does not give the protection that the noble Earl hoped for.

Lord Carter: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down can he make an important point clear? If we take the likely scenario that by the end of next year there will not be a potato regime, did I understand him to say that if it was clearly shown that there was unfair competition we could ask the Commission to act under the single market rules?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not wish to commit the Government on such an important matter on the spur of the moment. However, it is my understanding that we cannot act. That is why we need the lightweight regime and why we are fighting for it. At the moment potatoes are neither part of the single market nor part of the common agricultural policy. Therefore, we have no basis for compelling other states to give up their subsidies.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I am sorry to return to the subject. However, if that is the case and, as my noble friend says, there is no chance whatever of having a lightweight regime he is in fact saying that other countries can subsidise their crops as much as they like and we can do nothing. I think that he said something about doing to others as they do themselves. Perhaps that should apply in this case.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I hope that I said that the form of subsidies that they use have not in the past been a form which is damaging to us, because they tend to raise prices in those other countries and therefore make it, if anything, easier for us to export to them. If the situation became wildly different the Government's opinion might be different. However, that would be speculating on a matter which has no basis in the past, or, I hope, in the future.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Lord Lucas: I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.30 to 8.35 p.m.]

Family Law Bill [H.L.]

House again in Committee on Clause 7.

[Amendments Nos.48 to 58 not moved.]

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 59:


Page 4, line 31, leave out ("made") and insert ("received by the court").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment makes a drafting improvement. The word "made" should be amplified to say "received by the court". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 not moved.]

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 62:


After Clause 7, insert the following new clause--

Orders extending the period of reflection

(".--( ) If an application for a divorce order has been made by one of the parties to a marriage, the court may, on the application of the other party, order that the period of reflection is to be extended for a specified time, or until a specified event has occurred.
(2) Such an order (an "order extending the period of reflection") may be made only if the court is satisfied that it would be equitable and just, in all the circumstances, for the period of reflection to be extended.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 62 suggests that the court should be empowered in appropriate cases to extend the usual one year period for reflection. This power could be an added inducement to the parties to resolve matters which otherwise might be possible grounds for an application for an order under Clause 10 to prevent the divorce, in particular if the powers in Clause 10 are to be enlarged as some Members of the Committee propose. The delay which Amendment No. 62 allows could be for either a specific period or until the occurrence of a specific event; for example, the conclusion of a religious divorce. However, again I do not wish to anticipate the arguments which will follow in connection with Clause 10. I suggest that the power proposed in the amendment gives the court more flexibility and control than the Bill at present allows. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor: I indicated earlier the possibility of an extension in some cases but I should think it wise to make the instances very specific. Therefore, I believe that it would be best to take that into account in connection with the hardship bar. It appears to me to distort somewhat the period of reflection to extend it in that way on the application for the divorce order.

I regard it as important to keep the whole structure as simple and as clear as possible. Therefore, with the extension powers that exist in relation to Section 41, and the possibility of the hardship bar being used for

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extension, it is a sufficiently complicated structure for us not to complicate it further. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to agree with that view.

Lord Meston: I am not entirely convinced that the proposal would unduly complicate the provisions in the Bill. It was intended in certain cases to avoid the necessity of invoking the hardship bar. However, I wish to consider the matter further and at this stage beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Chancellor: Perhaps at this stage we should take the question that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

8.45 p.m.

Clause 8 [Attendance at information sessions]:

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 64:


Page 4, line 34, leave out ("(except in prescribed circumstances)").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is grouped with a number of others of which Amendments Nos. 66 and 68 are in my name. They can be discussed conveniently with Amendment No. 64. The rest are in the names of other noble Lords, except for Amendment No. 72 which could more conveniently be taken separately.

The amendments are purely probing. Amendments Nos. 64 and 66 omit the words: "except in prescribed circumstances". In Amendment No. 68 the words omitted are "of a prescribed description". The Committee will wish to know why my noble and learned friend needs the powers and what kind of circumstances or description he proposes to prescribe. I imagine that the provision is not inserted just in case it might come in useful if needed at some time. I believe that Members of the Committee are willing to grant the powers but Parliament is entitled to know why they are required and what is envisaged. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor: The principles that I sought to follow in relation to the information sessions are ones which we discussed in relation to an earlier amendment. I have in mind that there should be meetings to which people would go who contemplated starting proceedings. It is fairly clear that some people would be unable to do so; for example, if a person were housebound, disabled or if going to a particular place might put them at risk of violence. There are other possibilities in which alternative arrangements for the giving of information might be suitable rather than requiring someone to attend a session. For example, it might apply if someone were in custody. There may be other circumstances. I cannot envisage everything

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possible but situations might exist in which it would not be right to require a person to attend such a session. That is the reason for the power.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My noble and learned friend has not dealt with Amendment No. 68 and the words "of a prescribed description".

The Lord Chancellor: The precise nature of the situations requires to be considered in the light of the various possibilities that might arise. The description on page 4 at line 41 applies to the type of document that might be raised. The Bill states:


    "Where one party has made a statement, the other party must (except in prescribed circumstances) attend an information session before ... making any application to the court ... with respect to a child of the family; or ... of a prescribed description relating to property or financial matters".

It might not be everyone who would require an information session. For example, it might be a matter of answering a request from the court which required a statement to be lodged in answer. In that situation it might not be necessary for an information session to be attended. That is the purpose of allowing for a prescribed description of a document to be the foundation for such a requirement.

Baroness Hamwee: Together with the right reverend Prelate, I have my name to this group, to Amendments Nos. 69 and 73 and also to Amendment No. 78.

I need not detain the Committee long with Amendment No. 69, the essence of which we debated yesterday. I tabled the amendment, as I made clear in my speech yesterday, not because the information session should be by way of a meeting but in order to ask the noble and learned Lord whether he had in mind that sessions might be in private. That is the second limb of Amendment No. 69. An information session may be a group session or a private session where the parties did not consent to a group session.

Secondly, I mentioned "an accredited provider" in Amendment No. 69 and Amendment No. 78 deals with that. I seek to suggest that there should be regulations providing,


    "for the identification, qualification and responsibilities"

of the information providers who will undertake the work. Perhaps such accreditation could be considered in more detail after the pilots which the noble and learned Lord proposes.

Thirdly, Amendment No. 73 proposes that in subsection (5) of the clause, rather than the regulations "may" make provision, that the regulations "shall" make provision. I do not know what the right reverend Prelate had in mind, but I wished to ask why it was necessary to provide for matters which could be included in the regulations on the face of the Bill, and why those particular ones had been chosen. If there are to be regulations that deal with information sessions in general, it appears that there is quite a long list of items that will need to go into those regulations, and can go

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into those regulations without subsection (5) being there at all. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can assist as to why those aspects are singled out.


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