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Lord Meston: With Amendment No. 67.

The Lord Chancellor: I am much obliged. I spoke to Amendments Nos. 99 to 102 with Amendment No. 67. I spoke to Amendment No. 103 with Amendment No. 6; to Amendment No. 104 with Amendment No. 14; to Amendments Nos. 105 to 107 with Amendment No. 67 and to Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 with Amendment No. 14.

Moved, That the House do agree with the House in their Amendments Nos. 68 to 109.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENT

110 Schedule 9, page 82, line 31, at end insert--
'Transitional arrangements for those who have been living apart
.--(1) The Lord Chancellor may by order provide for the application of Part II to marital proceedings which--
(a) are begun during the transitional period, and
(b) relate to parties to a marriage who immediately before the beginning of that period were living apart,
subject to such modifications (which may include omissions) as may be prescribed.
(2) An order made under this paragraph may, in particular, make provision as to the evidence which a party who claims to have been living apart from the other party immediately before the beginning of the transitional period must produce to the court.
(3) In this paragraph--
"marital proceedings" has the same meaning as in section 21;
"prescribed" means prescribed by the order; and
"transitional period" means the period of two years beginning with the day on which section 3 is brought into force.'.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 110, which is an amendment of some importance. With this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 and to Amendments Nos. 114 to 116 inclusive.

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Amendment No. 110 provides for those couples who have been living apart immediately prior to the new provisions of this legislation coming into force. It seeks to address the situation where parties are in the process of a two or five-year separation period, and have therefore not actually commenced divorce proceedings.

When the Bill went to the other place it provided that parties in such a position would be required to undergo the full process under the new system, with no account being taken of any prior period of separation. Following this amendment the Lord Chancellor may modify the requirements of Part II of the Bill in relation to people who have previously been living apart upon proof of such separation being produced to the court, for a transitional period of two years. I believe that the Bill with the inclusion of this provision will now avoid the difficulties which may have otherwise arisen in some cases, especially where there are children involved and further delay may be detrimental to their welfare.

The other amendments in this group are technical amendments. Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 extend the Lord Chancellor's powers to make consequential amendments to include references in other legislation to enactments amended or repealed by the Bill. Amendments Nos. 114, 115 and 116 make some technical corrections to the transitional provisions in Schedule 9. They provide that other statutes, amended in Schedule 8, shall apply in their unamended form in relation to decrees of divorce or separation granted either before the new law comes into force or under transitional provisions.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 110.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS

111 Schedule 9, page 83, line 9, at end insert--
'1A. If an Act or subordinate legislation--
(a) refers to an enactment repealed or amended by or under this Act, and
(b) was passed or made before the repeal or amendment came into force,
the Lord Chancellor may by order make such consequential modifications of any provision contained in the Act or subordinate legislation as appears to him necessary or expedient in respect of the reference.'.
112 Page 83, line 11, leave out 'paragraph 1' and insert 'paragraphs 1 and 1A'.
113 Page 83, line 20, after 'Part II' insert ', Part I of Schedule 8 or Schedule 10'.
114 Page 83, line 21, leave out from 'affects' to end of line 22 and insert '--
( ) any decree granted before the coming into force of the provision;
( ) any proceedings begun, by petition or otherwise, before that time; or
( ) any decree granted in any such proceedings;'.
115 Page 83, line 27, after first 'proceedings' insert 'or decree'.
116 Page 83, line 28, leave out from 'any' to third 'or' and insert 'such proceedings or decree;'.
117 Page 83, line 30, at end insert--
'( ) In this paragraph, "subordinate legislation" has the same meaning as in the Interpretation Act 1978.'

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118 Page 83, line 45, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV, Part III of Schedule 8 or Schedule 10'.
119 Page 84, line 2, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV, Part III of Schedule 8 or Schedule 10'.
120 Page 84, line 12, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV, Part III of Schedule 8 or Schedule 10'.
121 Page 84, line 15, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV, Part III of Schedule 8 or Schedule 10'.
122 Page 84, line 17, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV'.
123 Page 84, line 18, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV'.
124 Page 84, line 26, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV'.
125 Page 84, line 29, leave out 'this Act' and insert 'Part IV'.
126 Page 85, line 8, leave out 'Paragraphs 9 to 12 shall not' and insert 'Nothing in this Schedule is to'.
127 Schedule 10, page 85, column 3, leave out line 21 and insert--
'Sections 9 and 10'.

128 Page 85, column 3, leave out lines 46 and 47 and insert--
'In section 41, in subsection (1) the words "divorce or" and "or a decree of judicial separation" and in subsection (2) the words "divorce or" and "or that the decree of judicial separation is not to be granted.".'.

129 Page 86, line 2, at end insert 'and",'
130 Page 86, line 4, column 3, at end insert--
'In Schedule 1, paragraph 8.'

131 Page 86, line 6, column 3, leave out '(1)(a), the words' and insert '(1), the words "subject to section 6(3) and (4) of this Act" and, in paragraph (a),'.
132 Page 86, line 9, column 3, at end insert 'and (4).'.
133 Page 86, line 31, at end insert--
'1980 c. 43.The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980.In Schedule 7, paragraph 159.'

134 Page 87, line 4, at end insert--
'1986 c. 53.The Building Societies Act 1986.In Schedule 21, paragraph 9(f).'.

135 Page 87, line 4, at end insert--
'1986 c. 55.The Family Law Act 1986.In Schedule 1, paragraph 27.'.

136 Page 87, line 4, at end insert--
'1988 c. 34.The Legal Aid Act 1988.In section 16(9), the word "and" at the end of paragraph (a).'

137 Page 87, line 7, column 3, at end insert--
'In Schedule 11, paragraph 6(b).'.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 111 to 137 en bloc. I spoke to Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 with Amendment No. 110; to Amendment No. 113 with Amendment No. 14; to Amendments Nos. 114 to 116 with Amendment No. 110; to Amendments Nos. 117 to 127 with Amendment No. 14; to Amendment No. 128 with Amendment No. 6 and to Amendments Nos. 129 to 137 with Amendment No. 14.

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Your Lordships will be glad to know that once I have moved, with your Lordships' leave, that the amendments be taken en bloc, I shall have completed the Motions that I wish to place before your Lordships on this matter and we now come to the last Question on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 111 to 137.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Maximum Number of Stipendiary Magistrates Order 1996

9.34 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this order is made under Section 13(4) of the Justices of the Peace Act 1979. That Act set the maximum number of stipendiary magistrates outside Inner London and the City of London Commission areas at 40. This draft order seeks to increase the number to 50. No one in this House is a more ardent supporter of the lay magistracy than I am. Its role is pivotal to the administration of justice, both criminal and civil, and to the fabric of society. Its continued good health depends essentially on sufficient numbers of suitable people from all walks of life being willing to put forward their names for consideration. To aid both recruitment and achieving a balance of people from all sections of the community, I need to be aware that people should not be asked to sit too many times. For about 15 per cent. of benches where sittings are too high for comfort and where other measures are not sufficient, the deployment of a full-time stipendiary magistrate may assist in my view.

I turn to another aspect of my approach to considering whether a stipendiary magistrate appointment to a bench may be made. I use as a yardstick the view of the Magistrates' Association. Once a bench reaches a situation in which it is not possible to function without the assistance of a stipendiary magistrate I have to consider the matter. Thereafter, the issues to be considered include the structure of the bench, the maintenance of effective links among the lay magistracy, the spread of experience and how often a bench is manned by two justices instead of three, as should be the general rule. It may be that a large bench can manage perfectly well. On the other hand, it may be that it cannot.

It is my duty to ensure that justice is administered effectively and efficiently. That entails cases being disposed of with reasonable promptness and there being no build up of unacceptable delays. If there are and there appears to be no other realistic prospect of overcoming the difficulty such as recruiting more justices or temporary stipendiary assistance, clearly it would be prudent to consider bringing in a stipendiary magistrate.

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The responsibility for considering whether or not it is right to bid for a full-time stipendiary rests with my local advisory committee, after consultation with the Magistrates' Courts Committee and benches in the area. I have said before, and am glad to repeat it now, that I believe in and rely upon the common sense of the magistracy. They have given their service voluntarily and they will know what is in the best interests of the administration of justice in their areas. Since 1988 the number of authorised provincial stipendiary magistrate posts has grown from 17 to 40. At no time have I had to impose a stipendiary magistrate against local wishes. There is no reason why this good sense should not continue to prevail. I hope that the House will agree to this order.

There can be no doubt that the idea of stipendiary magistrates arouses apprehensions from time to time within the lay magistracy. The theory is that there is a hidden plot to replace them, or that other options have not been pursued vigorously enough. Alternatively, the idea may be based on the belief that it is wrong for one person to be both judge and jury. I shall deal briefly with those points. There is absolutely no plot to replace the lay magistracy. It is too important for that to be even a remote possibility. The whole point of local consultations is to ensure that there is a good case for a full-time stipendiary magistrate appointment. I would wish to be assured on that point as well before authorising any full-time appointment. While I understand the worries about a single person sitting, it has to be remembered that stipendiary magistrates have played a significant role in the administration of justice since the middle of the last century, and Parliament in its wisdom has endorsed that approach.

Nevertheless, it is important to establish an understanding of the respective roles of lay and stipendiary magistrates--a point recognised by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice which reported in 1993. I therefore established a working party drawn from the lay and stipendiary magistracy, the Justices' Clerks' Society and my department to examine those roles. The working party has informed me of various steps which, if not already in existence, soon will be to build on the good relationships which generally exist. Therefore, there is a sound base on which to build for the future. A copy of the report of the working party is in the Library of the House.

I have no plans to abolish the lay magistracy, and no one in my department would advise me to do so. Outside Inner London there are nearly 30,000 lay magistrates and at present 40 authorised stipendiary posts. The strength of the lay magistracy has grown year by year from 28,667 at the end of 1989 to 30,326 at the end of 1995.

In conclusion, your Lordships will, I hope, agree that the effect of the order will be to help maintain the lay magistracy and benefit the administration of justice. Without it, it would not be possible to provide full-time stipendiary support where it now appears to be needed. I beg to move.

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Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].--(The Lord Chancellor.)


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