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The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 10:


Page 5, line 35, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations made under subsection (5) must, in particular, make provision with respect to the giving of information about--
(a) marriage counselling and other marriage support services;
(b) the importance to be attached to the welfare, wishes and feelings of children;
(c) how the parties may acquire a better understanding of the ways in which children can be helped to cope with the breakdown of a marriage;
(d) the nature of the financial questions that may arise on divorce or separation, and services which are available to help the parties;
(e) mediation;
(f) the availability to each of the parties of independent legal advice;
(g) the divorce and separation process.
( ) Before making any regulations under subsection (5), the Lord Chancellor must consult such persons concerned with the provision of relevant information as he considers appropriate.").

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The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the above amendment arises out of the earlier debates in which a number of your Lordships queried what kind of information the information meeting is designed to include. I have explained that it would not be wise to be too prescriptive on the face of the Bill regarding the content of the information meeting as this is a matter we wish to pilot extensively to ensure that we find a format and content which best meets the needs of couples at a very difficult and distressing time in their lives.

However, in the light of the debates that we have had, I have felt it right to bring forward such an amendment in which I have sought to achieve a balance between maintaining the flexibility that we need to ensure that the system works effectively into the future and giving your Lordships a clear indication as to the type of information which we intend to include and which, if I have understood noble Lords correctly, they most wish to see given. The list of information to be included is not intended to be exhaustive and the regulations could provide for other information if that was thought necessary following the pilot.

I intend to review the regulation-making power to ensure that regulations will be able to address the issue of those organisations and services about which it would be appropriate to provide information as a number of your Lordships have expressed concern that there should not be an obligation to provide information about any service regardless of its motives or standards of service. That is a sentiment with which I fully agree. I have also, in response to an amendment from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, specified on the face of the Bill that there will be consultation in framing the regulations which will support the information meetings.

I hope that my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale, whom I believe would prefer that such a commitment to consultation was not given on the face of the statute, will be able to accept that part of the amendment because of the pressure for it from some others. My noble and learned friend's point of view is that I would, in any case, certainly do it; but I believe it is comforting to have it on the face of the statute.

In formulating regulations which are likely to rely extensively on a practical testing of a number of models of information giving, I believe it is right to make clear that this is an exercise in which the expertise of those involved in the field will be sought. I believe that noble Lords know from what I said earlier that I attach a great deal of importance to the information meeting, not only as regards its content but also as regards ensuring that such information is given effectively so that people know what is available to them in the way of assistance.

I have also emphasised that I should wish for assistance to be available earlier than that in those areas where it seems to be wise to have it--indeed, we have already discussed that aspect--but these are

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the regulations intended to deal with the situation where people first come into contact with a process of a legal kind to seek dissolution of a marriage. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for bringing forward the amendment. I know that a wide range of marriage support organisations will be most grateful for the fact that the regulations will now include a reference to,


    "marriage counselling and other marriage support services",

and also for the fact that there is now a requirement for the Lord Chancellor to consult. I believe that that is a way in which the services offered can be kept properly under review and also ensure that only properly authorised and trained people from properly authorised organisations will be able to offer their services. I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord.

Baroness David: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble and learned Lord for introducing the amendment, which I believe is partly in response to Amendment No. 75 which I tabled on Report. On that occasion the noble and learned Lord said that he would bring forward an amendment on Third Reading. I am very pleased to see the paragraph which incorporates,


    "the importance to be attached the welfare, wishes and feelings of children",

in the amendment. I know that the children's organisations will also be very pleased to see the amendment.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, I should like to join the noble Baroness, Lady David, in welcoming the amendment. I also thank my noble and learned friend for paragraph (b) as regards the,


    "welfare, wishes and feelings of children".

That issue was debated during earlier stages of the Bill. We are most grateful for the fact that my noble and learned friend has recognised the importance of that particular aspect of the problem.

The Earl of Perth: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord for tabling the amendment. I do so especially because I see that,


    "marriage counselling and other marriage support services",
are set out in paragraph (a) in the list of requirements.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I should like to join in the chorus of welcome for the amendment. However, can my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor give me reassurance in one particular? Whenever we introduce a catalogue or criteria or contents into a subsection of a Bill, we are reminded of the legal dictum, expressio unius est exclusio alterius--the inference being that paragraphs (a) to (g) are really very important and that nothing else much matters. That is advanced if one puts forward a package amendment, given that the words "in particular" are

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mentioned in the prolegomenon, if that is what it is, of the subsection. I merely ask my noble and learned friend whether, on reflection, he feels that this shuts the door on anything else. Might he, perhaps, put in something a little stronger than "in particular" in case changing circumstances make it desirable for a further item--for example, under paragraph (h)--to be included?

Baroness Seear: My Lords, the fact that we have nothing to say from these Benches does not mean that we do not entirely agree with it; because we do.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the amendment refers to "Regulations". I am not quite sure whether those regulations will be brought forward by negative or affirmative orders. Can the noble and learned Lord clarify the situation?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I believe that I am right in saying that the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee suggested only one change in connection with the period where it was thought that an affirmative resolution procedure was appropriate. My noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale took up the matter and I have given effect to that, but, obviously, I would want to consult pretty widely. I hope that your Lordships will have no reason to invoke any kind of procedure against regulations that I would make under that head.

I am extremely grateful for the support this measure has received. I do not think I have taken the point against a Back Bench amendment to which my noble friend Lord Elton referred. In the context of an amendment such as this, I do not think that would be a good point. Therefore, I hope I would not take it. This amendment seems to me to be perfectly adequate to allow for measures other than those listed here. The phrase,


    "the importance to be attached to the welfare, wishes and feelings of children",
strikes me as an extremely effective way of raising these issues. We have considered various amendments during the period that the Bill has been before us. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady David, and my noble friends Lady Elles and Lady Faithfull and many others who have taken an interest in this aspect of the matter feel that this measure is effective.

I believe that we can make available effective information and that may be better than instituting formal legal requirements in the context of the Bill. I am also glad that marriage counselling and other marriage support services head this list of measures. My noble friend Lady Young has previously expressed concern about precisely what is covered. The fact that we have referred to marriage counselling and marriage support services at the head of the list of measures should underline the fact that they are covered. I am grateful to your Lordships for the support which has been given to this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Arrangements for the future]:

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6.15 p.m.

Lord Meston moved Amendment No. 11:


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