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Baroness Young: My Lords, I feel that we have had a short but useful debate on the matter. I have been interested in all the points that have been raised. I wish to assure the noble Lord, Lord Meston, that, even were I contemplating a divorce, I could not possibly afford his fees. My experience of lawyers does not quite bear out what he said. You can ask them for advice and you are fortunate if you receive a clear statement. Lawyers are always much too clever in covering themselves. You find that when you consider what they said, it was not as helpful as you thought at the beginning. One thing is for sure: it is certainly expensive. I agree with the noble Lord that this is not a big issue on which we should divide the House. Nevertheless, it is worth raising on this occasion.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for his support. The noble Lord is quite right on the point he drew to the attention of the House. There are two groups

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of people who are particularly affected by divorce. One is older women who are left by their husbands for younger women; and the other is men who seem to be left in increasing numbers by their wives effectively turning them out of the house. That is a very undesirable development. In that case, the wife is just as much at fault as the man is in the other case. It is a matter that we should consider.

The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, were very valuable. It will be very interesting to see whether some of the dangers to which he pointed become evident in the Bill as it stands.

My noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale has been assiduous in raising in particular issues of fairness towards the spouse who does not wish the divorce, or indeed the wife who remains at home to look after the children and does not earn a salary, qualify for a pension and so on, and to try to make quite sure that such people get an equal benefit.

I entirely agree with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that to introduce this amendment would mean major change. Clearly it would be quite inappropriate to introduce such a measure at this stage. It would need extensive consultation and consideration. I recognise that at the end of that process we might feel that there was no benefit to be gained. However, it is right to consider the proposal. It clearly seems to work and is seen to be fair in Scotland. In this very complex world we are looking for fixed points, and it might well be helpful to parties to know much more accurately when they enter into a divorce what would be the result. That is one of the uncertainties. I am told repeatedly that one of the greatest causes of acrimony is the division of the assets and the fighting over them. It is bad for everybody, particularly for children. If that can be avoided in any way, it is certainly worth considering. I was very pleased to hear that the noble and learned Lord is considering taking this matter up with his advisory committee and consulting about it. It is certainly something that we should examine. As I said, it is not a

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matter that we could include in the Bill this evening. I am satisfied with my noble and learned friend's remarks and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7 [Transfer of certain tenancies on divorce etc. or on separation of cohabitants]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 62, line 17, leave out (" 33(5)(d)") and insert (" 33(6)(d)").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 48. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 60:

Page 69, line 29, leave out from ("satisfied") to end of line 30 and insert--
("( ) that the circumstances of the case are exceptional; and
( ) that it would be just and reasonable for the variation to be so made.".").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 54. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

An amendment (privilege) made; Bill passed and sent to the Commons.

Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lords, in our debates there have been sharp differences. I recognise that those who have opposed some of the central provisions of the Bill--

Lord Elton: My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I believe that the Bill has actually been passed. I do not know whether it was accidental or not, but it has been passed.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: That was speed!

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am sorry. I did pause to see whether anyone wished to enlighten us at this hour. I then put the Question and I understood the House to agree.

        House adjourned at half past ten o'clock.

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