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Baroness Faithfull: As a patron of the mediation service, I should like to make just one short point. Questions have been asked about the legal position on

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advice given by mediators. A husband and wife who seek the services of the mediation service work out between them the legal position with regard to property, money and so on. All the cases that the mediation service work out with the family are advised to go to a solicitor to find out whether the arrangement is satisfactory. Some research was done and it was found that out of 100 cases that went to a solicitor, in only four cases did the solicitor say that it was not quite right. The other 96 cases were quite correct. The mediation service advises everybody to go to a solicitor after they have been to the mediation service to ensure that the legal position is correct.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. That reinforces the rather cheerful frame of mind in which I found myself at the end of the intervention of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. In that situation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 83 to 86 not moved.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 88:


Page 5, line 22, at end insert ("and").

The noble and learned Lord said: I am not sure whether Amendment No. 85 was moved. There is a group of my amendments which is grouped with that one. I do not know why, except that they might all be drafting amendments. The amendments to which I want to speak are Amendments Nos. 88, 94, 156, 157 and 168.

Lord Elton: Will the noble and learned Lord tell us whether he is speaking to Amendment No. 85, which I thought had been dealt with together with Amendment No. 11 yesterday, or is he speaking to another amendment whose number I did not catch?

Lord Meston: I can clarify the position. I spoke to Amendment No. 85 yesterday.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: Amendment No. 85 was called and a series of my amendments are grouped with it. I wish to speak to my amendment and I have indicated those which I consider ought to be grouped with it. I am generally in the hands of the noble Baroness when it comes to grouping but I hope that on this occasion she will not stop me from speaking.

My point is a very small drafting point that I can put quite shortly and without troubling the Committee to look at the Bill. This is a well drafted Bill and therefore I feel confident in asking for this point to be considered. It arises in those circumstances where one has, say, paragraph (a), paragraph (b) and paragraph (c). The style of draftmanship at the moment is strictly grammatical. The wording is:


    "(a) ... (b) ... or (c)".

or:


    "(a) ... (b) ... and (c)".

One has to look back from the last to see what is intended at the beginning. That is particularly inconvenient when the last paragraph is over the page. In each case I have put in "or" after "(a)" where it is disjunctive and "and" after "(a)" wherever it is

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conjunctive. All I ask is that if my noble and learned friend considers that there is anything in the point he will ask the draftsman to discuss it with his colleagues. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: The answer is yes. We have not yet reached Amendment No. 88 and Amendment No. 85 has not been moved. But the answer is yes and I hope that that may satisfy my noble and learned friend.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I suppose I am entitled to say thank you and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 87:


Page 5, line 21, leave out from ("parties") to ("and") in line 25 and insert ("(to which no objection has been notified to the court by the other party) that--
(i) he has no significant assets and does not intend to make an application for financial provision;
(ii) he believes that the other party has no significant assets and does not intend to make an application for financial provision;").

The noble and learned Lord said: I spoke to Amendment No. 87 earlier and will consider the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Meston, in relation to it. However, I felt it right to include it as it was intimated to be a government amendment. That does not preclude further consideration of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Meston, yesterday. I beg to move.

Lord Meston: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that indication. It occurred to me also that some provision should be made for those declarations to be in some way scrutinised by the courts. I am concerned about the provision and the possibility that it may be misused. The bare declaration of one or indeed both parties that there are no significant assets and the statement that it is not believed that the other party intends to apply to the court is something which the court should look at with some care.

The Lord Chancellor: Those documents are before the court as a prerequisite of making a divorce order. The court will therefore have a chance to look at them. I do not know whether the noble Lord has any other specific point in mind. The intention is that the court will have the documents as part of the fundamental jurisdiction to grant the divorce order. If there is anything sinister about the documents or something appears to be wrong, I shall expect the court to take account of that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Cox): Amendment No. 88 was pre-empted by Amendment No. 87.

[Amendments Nos. 89 to 95 not moved.]

On Question, Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 96 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Hardship: orders preventing divorce.]

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[Amendment No. 97 not moved.]

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 98:


Page 5, line 41, leave out ("the other") and insert ("either").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 98 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 103, 110, 111 and 117. These amendments are the first which take us into Clause 10.

Earlier today the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor pointed to the potential use of Clause 10 to protect those who do not consent to divorce in special circumstances. Amendments Nos. 98, 103, 110, 111 and 117 are drafted to deal with the problem of those for whom a secular divorce does not terminate the marriage in the eyes of their specific religious group and for whom a religious divorce may also be required. As I understand it, this is a particular problem in Islamic and Jewish law. The arguments were rehearsed briefly by myself and more fully by the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, at Second Reading. I hope that it is only necessary to repeat them briefly.

It is perhaps important to appreciate two points, which I understand to be common to both Moslem and Jewish marriage law. First, the observant cannot remarry without a religious divorce; a secular divorce is not enough in the eyes of their particular faiths. Secondly, in both cases it is only the husband who can initiate the procedure and therefore, by that very fact, the wife is at some disadvantage. The result in practice is that the husband's willingness to initiate the procedure becomes a bargaining counter in the financial proceedings. I can tell the Committee from experience, acting for Jewish clients, of long sojourns outside the door of the court, wandering up and down the corridor, negotiating in effect the price to be paid for the husband to initiate the GET procedure. Therefore, it seems necessary in this Bill to take the opportunity to right what many regard as an injustice. It will enable a true, clean break to be achieved and both the parties to have the right to remarry according to their religious beliefs. It gives the wife in particular the right to negotiate on equal terms.

Apart from the practical problems which I have described and my experience of it in practice--and I know of other matrimonial practitioners who have experienced the same, one can almost say week in and week out--very recently there has been a clear and scholarly analysis of the problem in a book entitled Family Law and Religion by Carolyn Hamilton. Reading that book I realised that this problem was before Parliament only recently in the sense that a provision was introduced for consideration by another place in 1984 as an amendment to what was then the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Bill. The amendment was introduced to aid both Moslems and Jews in obtaining a religious divorce, but apparently the amendment was withdrawn because the Government, in the form of the then Solicitor-General, suggested that the provision was not suitably drafted for introduction into that particular Bill. It was suggested that consultation would follow with the relevant religious bodies and that the issue would be reviewed by the Government for future action.

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I do not know what has happened as regards the Government in the intervening 10 or 11 years, but I can say that the way in which these amendments have been brought back before Parliament show that considerable care has been taken in their drafting. I hope that an opportunity can now be taken to address the imbalance which I suggest exists for certain categories of people. I beg to move.


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