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Lord Irvine of Lairg: My Lords, I wish to say only a few words about the great importance we attach to Amendment No. 52. It enables rules of court to be made authorising representatives to act on behalf of another in domestic violence proceedings. For example, the police could be authorised to seek occupation orders or non-molestation orders on behalf of those entitled to do so themselves. As the noble and learned Lord was good enough to observe, this provision arose out of a new clause tabled by the Opposition at Report stage in the Commons, the principle of which was accepted by the Government. It is the Government's redraft, however, that constitutes this amendment, which we are happy to accept.

I accept that a good deal more thought and consultation will be needed before these rules can be framed. I welcome and agree with the Government's acknowledgement that thinking on this subject is moving ahead and that police domestic violence units are now much more developed than they were. In my reference to the police I should not be taken to exclude any persons other than the police from acting as representatives in these cases. As the noble and learned Lord indicated, there may be others who could more appropriately do so, perhaps in consultation with the police. I hope that consultation with the police and other interested bodies can proceed with all speed towards the drafting of rules and the introduction of pilot schemes.

I believe such consultation to be pressing and urgent. We are addressing the possibility of third parties taking action in the courts on behalf of victims of domestic violence rather than leaving it to a terrified spouse to face the awful dilemma of deciding whether to seek respite from domestic violence, invoking the wrath of the abusing partner, or to stay silent and put up with continuing assault. In most cases the third party who would take that action would be the police, but that need not always be the case. The probation service, the local authority, social services and other welfare organisations may have a part to play.

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The progress of the Bill through your Lordships' House and another place was highlighted by an appreciation of the widespread and appalling nature of violence in the home. It cuts across class, age and ethnic groups. It simply cannot be tolerated in a society calling itself civilised. It is estimated that upwards of 750,000 children are affected by domestic violence. That is one reason why we were so horrified by the hijacking of the original Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill in the other place for no sensible reason. What is the prospect for children who are victims of domestic violence in regard to parenting of their children? What role model will they follow with their own children?

There are women who are all too often even murdered by the their husbands. That necessarily means children who have lost their mother, and those children will also suffer while their father spends long years in prison. Any measure that enables the courts to come to grips with the problem before it gets out of hand, to warn the assaulting party that such conduct will simply not be tolerated, will reap a very rich harvest and save public cost as well as protecting the vulnerable.

I emphasise that consultation on developing the rules envisaged by Amendment No. 52 is an urgent necessity and we will desire to monitor progress closely.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, it is right that we should have regard to the developments mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, in considering the extent to which this clause could be put into operation. It will be useful in dealing with this very important, distressing and difficult situation.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

49 Clause 38, page 29, line 3, leave out from beginning to 'have', in line 5, and insert--
'(2) Where the court is required to consider the nature of the parties' relationship, it is to have regard to the fact that they'.
50 Page 29, leave out line 7.
51 Clause 45, page 33, line 5, leave out from 'issued' to end and insert 'on an application made under section 44(8)'.
52 After Clause 56, insert the following new clause--
Provision for third parties to act on behalf of victims of domestic violence

'.--(1) Rules of court may provide for a prescribed person, or any person in a prescribed category, ("a representative") to act on behalf of another in relation to proceedings to which this Part applies.
(2) Rules made under this section may, in particular, authorise a representative to apply for an occupation order or for a non-molestation order for which the person on whose behalf the representative is acting could have applied.
(3) Rules made under this section may prescribe--
(a) conditions to be satisfied before a representative may make an application to the court on behalf of another; and
(b) considerations to be taken into account by the court in determining whether, and if so how, to exercise any of its powers under this Part when a representative is acting on behalf of another.

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(4) Any rules made under this section may be made so as to have effect for a specified period and may make consequential or transitional provision with respect to the expiry of the specified period.
(5) Any such rules may be replaced by further rules made under this section.'.
53 Before Clause 60, insert the following new clause--
Provision for separate representation for children

'.--(1) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations provide for the separate representation of children in proceedings in England and Wales which relate to any matter in respect of which a question has arisen, or may arise, under--
(a) Part II;
(b) Part IV;
(c) the 1973 Act; or
(d) the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates' Courts Act 1978.
(2) The regulations may provide for such representation only in specified circumstances.'.
54 Clause 60, page 41, line 3, at end insert--
'( ) This section does not apply to rules of court made, or any power to make rules of court, for the purposes of this Act.'.
55 Clause 62, page 41, line 15, after 'that' insert '--
(a)''.
56 Page 41, line 17, leave out 'and'.
57 Page 41, line 19, at end insert '; and
(iii) the amendments of the Maintenance Orders Act 1950, the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, the Finance Act 1985 and sections 42 and 51 of the Family Law Act 1986 extend also to both Northern Ireland and Scotland; and
(b) in Schedule 10, the repeal of section 2(1)(b) of the Domestic and Appellate Proceedings (Restriction of Publicity) Act 1968 extends also to Scotland.'.
58 Page 41, leave out lines 20 to 23.
59 Schedule 1, page 42, line 6, leave out '41 of the 1973 Act' and insert '(Welfare of children)'.
60 Page 42, line 21, leave out '41 of the 1973 Act' and insert '(Welfare of children)'.
61 Page 42, line 39, leave out '41 of the 1973 Act' and insert '(Welfare of children)'.
62 Page 42, line 42, at end insert--
'The fourth exemption
3A. The circumstances referred to in section 9(7)(d) are that--
(a) the requirements of section (Welfare of children) have been satisfied;
(b) an occupation order or a non-molestation order is in force in favour of the applicant or a child of the family, made against the other party;
(c) the applicant has, during the period for reflection and consideration, taken such steps as are reasonably practicable to try to reach agreement about the parties' financial arrangements;
(d) the applicant has not been able to reach agreement with the other party about those arrangements and is unlikely to be able to do so in the foreseeable future; and
(e) a delay in making the order applied for under section 3--

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(i) would be significantly detrimental to the welfare of any child of the family; or
(ii) would be seriously prejudicial to the applicant.'.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 49 to 62 en bloc.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 49 to 62.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

63 Schedule 1, page 43, line 17, leave out '(2)'.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in Amendment No. 63. I should also like to speak to Amendments Nos. 64 to 66.

Amendment No. 63 extends the application of paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 so that it covers Clause 9(3) in addition to Clause 9(2). Paragraph 7 sets out the nature of declarations made under Clause 9 and there is no reason why these requirements should not apply equally to Clause 9(3).

Because of the extension of this application, Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 ensure flexibility to prescribe the particular circumstances in which requirements must be met under this section.

Amendment No. 66 was made to ensure that no one is able to challenge the validity of a divorce order simply on the grounds that information contained within the declaration made under Clause 9 is incorrect.

The amendment addresses a concern put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, in an amendment at Report stage in this House, when he sought to clarify whether the Government intended that false declarations would invalidate any subsequent divorce order.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 63--(The Lord Chancellor.)


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