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Lord Lucas: My Lords, however much I may do to respond to the noble Countess's request my effectiveness will be much less than hers.

Business: "Sea Empress" Question

3.22 p.m.

Lord Berkeley had given notice of his intention to ask Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, in view of the fact that at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Goschen will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the "Sea Empress", I suggest that that will provide an

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opportunity for a full Answer to be given to the noble Lord's Question. I understand that the noble Lord is content to wait until then. I hope that that course of action will meet with the approval of the whole House.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I shall therefore not proceed to ask my Question.

Broadcasting Bill [H.L.]

3.23 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Inglewood, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order--

Clauses 1 to 31, Schedule 1, Clauses 32 to 65, Schedule 2, Clauses 66 to 71, Schedule 3, Clauses 72 to 92, Schedule 4, Clauses 93 to 95, Schedule 5, Clauses 96 to 98, Schedule 6, Clauses 99 and 100, Schedules 7 and 8, Clauses 101 and 102.--(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Education (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the order of commitment of 11th December last be discharged, and that the Bill be committed to a Scottish Select Committee.--(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Humber Bridge (Debts) Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.--(Viscount Goschen.)

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, can my noble friend say what will be the total cost of this unhappy enterprise to the taxpayer?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we discussed the issue fully on Second Reading and there was a further discussion in another place. The measures provided for

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in the Bill allow the rescheduling of the debt. It is not yet decided how much of that debt will be rescheduled in the manner outlined on Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Viscount Goschen.)

On Question, Bill passed.

Family Law Bill [H.L.]

3.25 p.m.

Report received.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern) moved Amendment No. 1:


Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

The general principles underlying Parts I and II

(". The court and any person, in exercising functions under or in consequence of Parts I and II, shall have regard to the following general principles--
(a) that the institution of marriage is to be supported;
(b) that the parties to a marriage which may have broken down are to be encouraged to take all practicable steps to save it;
(c) that a marriage which has irretrievably broken down and is being brought to an end should be brought to an end--
(i) with minimum distress to the parties and to the children affected; and
(ii) without costs being unreasonably incurred in connection with the procedures to be followed in bringing it to an end.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 1 follows our consideration in Committee of an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, to insert a clause setting out the general objectives of the Act. During that debate it was clear that a number of your Lordships supported the inclusion of such a provision. I indicated in general terms that I was anxious to consider the matter and therefore I am happy to bring forward this amendment, which I hope reflects the mood of the House on this important issue.

It is important that the amendment is included at the beginning of the Bill as it sets the framework for all those who will be concerned to operate it, whether it be persons exercising functions under Parts I and II or whether it be the court making decisions under these provisions.

I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, and those who supported him for making the suggestion. This is an important amendment to the Bill and an improvement. It serves as a useful assertion of the framework within which the Bill should operate. I therefore have pleasure in begging to move Amendment No. 1.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2:


Line 3, leave out ("Parts I and II") and insert ("any provision of this Act").

22 Feb 1996 : Column 1146

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, for his part in paving the way to my noble and learned friend's amendment and to my noble and learned friend in going so far to meet our wishes.

In moving Amendment No. 2, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 which are grouped with it. However, Amendment No. 5 raises different issues and I propose to move it separately.

The advantage of the statement of principles on the lines tabled by my noble and learned friend is that it gives a guideline to the interpretations of any matter in a measure which might be obscure or ambiguous. Secondly, it is a general guide to the way in which a statute should be interpreted when it comes before the courts.

It is an alternative to dealing with the matter by Long Title which is the method I would generally prefer if only because otherwise the Long Title serves no useful purpose at all. However, in this case, I agree that it is more convenient to proceed in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, dealt with it in Committee and the way it is dealt with by my noble and learned friend's Amendment No. 1. That has the support of several precedents mentioned in Committee and approved by the Renton Committee on legislation.

There have been a number of criticisms of some decisions made under the 1969 Divorce Reform Act and its consolidation in 1973. I do not believe that some of those decisions would have been criticised if a statement of principles such as that we have before us and susceptible of improvement had preceded the 1969 Act. As it was, judges had to do their best to carry into effect what they conceived to be the general objective of the 1969 Act. What they saw was a desire, a mechanism, to make divorce ever more facile, if necessary at the expense of justice. That being so, a number of decisions of the court inevitably took that direction, at the expense of justice. In using that term, I shall go no further than the White Paper which led to the Bill now before the House. The whole of chapter 2 deals with shortcomings in the existing law, which is in effect the 1969 Act. Indeed, one paragraph uses the word "injustice".

As regards my noble and learned friend's amendment, we are grateful to him for it as far as it goes. But there are one or two curious omissions which are bound to raise questions. First is the provision referred to in my Amendment No. 2 which draws attention to the important matter of the institution of marriage in relation to Parts I and II. That makes it significant that there is no reference to Part III. The relevant principle proclaimed in my noble and learned friend's amendment is that the institution of marriage is to be supported. Is that of no significance in relation to Part III which deals with domestic violence? I venture to ask why that is omitted.

Amendment No. 4 is purely a verbal alteration but I think it important. The words I seek to omit are,


    "a marriage which has irretrievably broken down".
It is a matter which will be taken up later in a number of amendments to be moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is unnecessarily provocative to refer

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in the statement of principles to that formula to which there is grave objection. What I suggest is a more neutral term; namely, "is being dissolved". I cannot see that my noble friend's amendment loses anything by that change and, as I said, the phrase is much less provocative. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Stallard: My Lords, I believe that it is appropriate at this stage to express my gratitude to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the remarks he made in moving the amendment and his acceptance of the general sense of the amendment I moved in Committee. I believe that he encompassed most of the points I made. Of course, I am still very much concerned about reconciliation, but that will be dealt with at a later stage of the Bill. I believe that the noble and learned Lord's proposed amendment covers the points I made. I am quite happy to express my gratitude for his positive response to that amendment and for writing a provision into the Bill. I obviously reserve my position as regards future remarks on later amendments which may be relevant.


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