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Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I do propose to move my amendment when it is called. But, in the meantime, I associate myself with the thanks that have been expressed by the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Meston: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 is an entirely sensible and valuable improvement to the Bill. I hope your Lordships will support it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, line 5, leave out from ("the") to end of line 7 and insert ("end of the period for reflection and consideration.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I have to say that if it is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 18 by reason of pre-emption. I beg to move.

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Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 16, Amendment No. 17:

Line 2, after ("for") insert ("reconciliation,").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I had omitted to notice that today was the 29th February. However, during the supper adjournment I had a proposal of marriage from a noble Baroness whom I greatly admire. I had to decline it though on the ground that the Bill provides for serial polygamy and not simultaneous polygamy.

The amendment that I am now moving to my noble and learned friend's amendment puts in the word "reconciliation" before "reflection and consideration". It is linked with other amendments in the grouping. It should be linked with a great many others. It should also go into amendments tabled after I tabled my amendment. That can be tidied up at Third Reading. The amendment is entirely consonant with the thinking of my noble and learned friend that the year period should be used for opportunities of reconciliation, and it is for that reason that I have, wherever the period is mentioned, sought to include the word "reconciliation".

When this Bill was presented it was rather thin both on reconciliation and on children. My noble and learned friend has responded in a number of respects in amendments to concerns that were expressed. In addition to that the insertion of the word "reconciliation" is the sort of guidance that is very useful to a court of interpretation. It shows the sort of approach that the court is meant to have by the framers of the Bill. As I said, not only is this amendment technically desirable, but I believe and hope that it is entirely consonant with my noble and learned friend's intention. I beg to move.

The Earl of Perth: My Lords, I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, on this amendment. I may be right in believing that the word "reconciliation"--although I know that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has it in mind--nowhere appears in the Bill. If I am right in that, then I feel very strongly that the purpose behind this amendment should be accepted.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, certainly what my noble and learned friend has proposed is entirely consonant with what I have in mind. Therefore, I entirely agree with the sentiment behind this amendment and the spirit in which it was put by my noble and learned friend and by the noble Earl, Lord Perth.

In the Bill I have tried to express the idea of reconciliation as clearly as I can in the words that we have used. Their purpose is to see whether the marriage can be saved. It is another way of expressing the idea of reconciliation. The consideration that I have asked for, if there is a happy ending, will be reconciliation as a result of that consideration. Sadly, I cannot be sure that in every case that will be the outcome. Therefore, to use the word "reconciliation" in the manner proposed here may have that kind of slightly misleading context.

I am anxious to do everything I possibly and properly can to promote reconciliation. I know that my noble and learned friend believes it is possible that this amendment

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will help in that connection. But, as I have said, I have tried already in the Bill to put that forward as clearly as I can. The period is for the parties to reflect on whether or not the marriage can be saved. That is the process by which reconciliation is reached. So when I speak of "reflection and consideration" I am referring to reflection in the first part as to whether the marriage can be saved. If that has a good outcome it will be reconciliation. So the spirit of this amendment is already in the title of the period as defined in the Bill.

I am reluctant to turn down any verbal improvements that can be made to the Bill, and if my noble and learned friend sees a good answer to what I have just said, I am certainly willing to consider further whether the amendment should be made.

Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, and with great respect to the noble and learned Earl, Lord Perth, is he not wrong in saying that reconciliation as a concept finds no place in the Bill? Is it not a fact that in Clause 6 we find a specific provision designed to promote reconciliation, that during the period for reflection and consideration, there is provision for disregarding that period in counting towards the year where the parties desire to attempt reconciliation? Is not reconciliation acknowledged within the body of the Bill as a worthy objective which the Bill encourages?

9.15 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, when he referred to "the noble and learned Earl, Lord Perth" was referring to me or to my noble and learned friend. I think, from the context, that he was probably referring to myself. I did not say that there was no reference to reconciliation in the Bill as presented. I said that the Bill was rather thin on reconciliation. We have had a number of amendments designed to flesh out that part of the Bill.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for the conciliatory way in which he has dealt with my amendment. In view of what he said, I think that my proper course is to ask your Lordships for leave to withdraw it. It is the sort of amendment that can properly be made on Third Reading, but I should like to examine closely my noble and learned friend's reasoning and possibly to lobby him in the meantime. However, as of now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to Amendment No. 16, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 16 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 3, line 8, leave out ("to be disregarded in calculating") and insert ("not to count towards").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 19, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 39, 40, 41, 42, 121, 122, 127 and 128.

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I have tabled these amendments to address the concerns expressed in Committee with regard to the use of the phrase "is to be disregarded" in reference to a period of time which will not form part of the period of reflection and consideration when the running of the period has been suspended by notice given by the parties.

An amendment was tabled in Committee to what is now Clause 6 by the noble Lords, Lord Meston and Lord Jakobovits, to replace those words with the phrase, "shall not count". The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also expressed concern in Committee with regard to the interpretation of that phrase. As I understand it, the phrase "is to be disregarded" is considered to be ambiguous because as well as meaning that a period of time may not form part of the period for reflection, the phrase can also be taken to mean that any such period should be ignored and therefore have no effect on the period of reflection in terms of suspending it. I have taken the advice of Parliamentary Counsel and the proposed Amendments Nos. 39 and 41 which redraft subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 6 are intended to make the position clear; namely, where a couple notify the court that they wish to attempt reconciliation and require additional time to do so, the period of reflection and consideration is suspended.

I have also proposed Amendment No. 19 to Clause 4(4) to replace the phrase,

    "to be disregarded in calculating",

with the words "not to count towards". The period of Clause 4(3)(b) is a specific length of time and I believe that the words proposed in the amendment make it clear that any period during which an order preventing divorce is in force cannot form part of that specific period.

Amendments Nos. 121, 122, 127 and 128 to Schedule 2 are consequential upon the drafting changes which I propose to Clauses 4 and 6. I beg to move.

Lord Meston: My Lords, I welcome the amendments as providing a great clarity to the Bill which seemed, to me at any rate, to be lacking in the Bill as originally drafted. I would go further and say that there remains a concern at the requirement in Clause 6 that to stop the clock a system of formal notice is required; in other words, if a couple decides within the year to have a reconciliation, which may take up a substantial part of the period, but does not go through the formality of filing a notice with the court, that period of reconciliation does not stop the clock. That remains a fundamental problem with the Bill as presently drafted. That may be something that needs to be considered further on Third Reading. Meanwhile, I welcome the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Statement of marital breakdown]:

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