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Lord Habgood: My Lords, what I am saying is that the operation of the Bill is put at risk unless there is substantial funding, because at the moment mediation services deal with about 15 per cent.--I am quoting off the top of my head--of divorce cases. If that is going to expand to what we hope for under the Bill, it must entail an expansion of central services. One is talking about a whole different scale of operation which will need the funding if it is not to collapse under its own weight.
Baroness Seear: My Lords, I should like briefly to return to Amendment No. 93 which presses that there "shall" be funds available for conciliation. That is a matter which has been of great concern to all of us interested in the Bill throughout these discussions. I should of course declare an interest in that I have a longstanding connection with the Tavistock Institute for Marital Studies.
Without conciliation, the purposes behind the Bill cannot be achieved. Conciliation is not cheap for the individuals concerned. It is carried out usually on a one-to-one basis. It is time-consuming, and it has to be done by properly trained, skilled people who cannot come cheaply. Unless there is a requirement in the Bill that money should be available for conciliation, the purposes of the Bill will be undermined.
Mediation in the sense that the term is used in the Bill is extremely important. It is part of the Bill. We understand that there will be money for mediation in this sense, but mediation without the availability of conciliation, which will not cost money to the people who need conciliation, will not achieve the Bill's purposes. I press the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to recognise that this is at the very heart of what he is trying to do if he is trying to save marriages. On a purely financial basis, we have all heard this evening--we knew before--how much divorce costs. Conciliation, properly done, saves us money. That, if for no other reason, should commend the amendment to the Government.
Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Habgood. One of the problems is that the mediation service--I say this as a fellow patron--has grown and is being used far more than previously. The staff have not only to deal with all the extra cases; they have to raise the money. People who would be good mediators are at the moment having to raise money in the local offices. One of the difficulties is that the mediation service is becoming well known and well used, and therefore needs the money to run the service.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I am worried by both amendments. I oppose Amendment No. 93 because I believe that it is better to retain the word "may" rather than to use "shall". Although in principle I am very much in favour of marriage counselling, I should like to know how anyone judges its success to determine whether the money is being well spent. We have no idea whether many of these counselling services benefit people and in what sort of numbers.
We do not know what standards are expected of marriage counselling. In the health service we are all obliged to fit in with the Patient's Charter and achieve certain results. Will people be expected to achieve certain results with mediation and marriage counselling? I shall be interested to know.
When I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Habgood, I was worried, as I was when I attended the Law Society meeting when mediation was talked about. He confirmed what I said earlier this afternoon, that it is a huge growth industry. Anyone can set himself up--he confirmed this--as a mediator. After I left the Law Society meeting I spoke to several people who had no jobs whom I thought might well qualify as mediators. I said, "There you are, there's an opening for you. Look into that. Find out how you get into this College of Mediators, because it will be something for the future. It might be a job for you".
There must be some standards. The Law Society told us that it has no fixed standards and that anyone can set up as a mediator. The noble Lord, Lord Habgood, has just said that. If these proposals are to be effective, there will have to be proper standards. He said--this has been confirmed by my noble and learned friend--that he will not supervise. It sounded as if no one will supervise. That worries me. We will be building up a huge counselling and mediation industry. We must be sure that it will be run in the right way and to the advantage of people and in support of marriage.
My noble friend Lady Young raised a good point. She said that many of the resources are not being spent on marriage. That is another relevant point. All voluntary organisations are having trouble surviving in terms of funding. At one point we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Habgood, that the mediators were self-sustaining--that was the phrase he used--whereas a few minutes later we heard that they needed all this extra money. There was even a suggestion that legal aid would pay for the mediators. My experience of most things that receive legal aid is that they grow faster than anything that does not receive legal aid. Again, I have reservations.
My greatest concern is to ensure that these people are suitably qualified. I should like to know what standards of qualification are being set up. I should also like an assurance that money given to them will be money well spent.
The Duke of Norfolk: My Lords, when the noble and learned Lord replies, I hope that he will clarify a position which I thought was definite. In earlier definitions in the Bill, "mediation" has meant looking after the break-up of the marriage, counselling the two parties who are to divorce and making arrangements for the sad distribution of assets and for the future of the children.
I, too, attended the Law Society meeting in the Moses Room where it was categorically said that most of the mediators will be lawyers or solicitors who know what they are doing. It was almost a closed-shop debate. I see my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes nodding her head. It was said that only lawyers and solicitors could be mediators and that they would all be rewarded through legal aid.
The right reverend Prelate used the word "mediator" to cover that and in relation to marriage support agencies. As I understand it there are two things: one is mediators dealing with divorces, which is very sad, who are paid for out of legal aid; and then there is this new proposal of marriage support agencies, about which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has spoken, which we are introducing in the Bill. We hope that they will be rewarded by the Treasury through Votes to the Lord Chancellor who will control them with his watchful eye.
I urge that these services are supported strongly and funded properly. The kernel of the Bill is that these agencies will be able to prevent marriages ever reaching divorce. They will succour the needy who are worrying
Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I think that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will agree that the Bill will just not work unless there is adequate provision for mediation and for the reconciliation services. While I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, that there is a need to control the quality of the services available, I support the idea underlying the amendments but question whether they go far enough. I am not so worried about the word "may" as about the words "with the approval of the Treasury". Can the noble and learned Lord convince the House that the Treasury is likely to support mediation and conciliation services to the tune that is required if the Bill is to work? If not, should we not be introducing an amendment to "lay upon the Lord Chancellor the duty of ensuring the provision of adequate services for reconciliation and mediation"? Is it not the case that in Australia the obligation is laid upon government to provide adequate services for mediation?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, two distinct matters are raised in Amendments Nos. 93 and 94 and it is important to distinguish between them. First, the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford changes "may" into "shall". I understand what is behind the proposal but it is obvious that it would not do very well to have "shall" in that position immediately preceding the phrase,
However, we must not lose the perspective to the operation. It is the first time that there has appeared in any statute the authority to give grants for these particular services. I hope that your Lordships will feel that it is a step forward to get such a recognition into a Bill. Obviously, it is not done without a degree of persuasion of others because many people have ideas about how they would like to spend such money and they are in competition with us.
The second point that I wish to make bears exactly on the matter raised by my noble friend Lady Young. The grants referred to under Clause 18 are in connection with the provision of marriage support services, which I would take to mean services being in support of marriage and not in connection with other types of relationships such as those she mentioned.
Secondly, I believe that research into the causes of marital breakdown is extremely important. It includes the issue to which my noble friend Lord Elton referred. If one of the causes of marital breakdown is that people get married young without adequate preparation for marriage, which is a defect which could be replaced or repaired, that would be covered by the proposal. I am not saying which project we would wish to support. As I have explained, we have already studied fully the types
I explained during the course of the Bill that many people associate large costs with marriage breakdown. I have no doubt whatever that there are such large costs. Therefore, it is obvious that, if one can demonstrate that £1 spent in this area prevents large costs in other areas, the case for securing Treasury approval would be strong because the Treasury is no more anxious than any of your Lordships to pay out taxpayers' money consequential on marital breakdown if that can be prevented.
Therefore, one of the matters which must be attended to in any funding of projects under this clause is the arrangement made by those seeking the funding to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work. Some who have already been funded have given some demonstrations of the extent to which their work is effective. I believe that something of that kind is essential in this type of progress. Therefore, I strongly take the view that adequate support for these headings is required. The level of support which from year to year these services will receive will depend crucially on the extent to which they can demonstrate success in the objectives to which I have referred.
I have noticed that one of the objections sometimes made to the Bill is that it will produce a great army of people hitherto out of work who will suddenly find employment in this area. Your Lordships may take it that I have no intention whatever of moving down that road. I believe that such work is skilled work and that it is capable of being tested in a way that is not easy as regards much other work. My noble friend Lady Gardner referred to the health service. Your Lordships know that it is not always easy to be absolutely clear about the effectiveness of a particular treatment. Indeed, to some degree medical negligence litigation is concerned with that very problem.
I believe that this particular type of work in aggregate is capable of being tested quite profoundly. Therefore, I say to the right reverend Prelate that, first, an amendment of this kind would not be textually suitable and, secondly, that it is important that any arrangements made in this area involve a test of their success. I strongly support that type of service and I believe that it has much to offer. As the right reverend Prelate said, the importance of this Bill is that it emphasises how central to our nation are the institution of marriage and support for that institution.
Your Lordships may take it that on the basis that I have explained I shall certainly give my commitment to do everything possible to produce as good a service as one can. However, that must depend on the service demonstrating its success in avoiding the development of marriage breakdown. Standards and so forth will be reflected in the degree to which the services are successful. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel that that is appropriate in this connection.
As regards Amendment No. 94, I have already made a grant towards developing standards for the mediation profession. However, as regards legal aid, I am expecting that mediation will prove to be a useful and more appropriate alternative to legal aid in many of the disputes that will be covered in the subject matter of this Bill. That too requires skill and my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes may rest assured that there is no question of my authorising the payment out of legal aid money to anyone who is not appropriately qualified to act as a mediator. I believe that during the course of the remarks I heard it said that the Law Society was saying that there would be a good number of lawyer mediators. I believe that it is a good profession for lawyers to follow. It has a most distinguished ancestry.
There are also people other than lawyers who may have these skills. Again, it is right that they should be developed. This process is capable of being tested because mediated agreements will be the result in these situations, and the question will be how effective they are and how well they last. So all of this is capable of being tested in a very realistic way.
The noble Lord, Lord Habgood, said that the mediation services would like more money if they can get it. I have not come across many services that are not in that position. On the other hand, these matters are being developed. They have been supported and--subject to the sort of help I have already given in respect of developing the standards to be expected in mediation when this Bill comes into effect--it is right that we should leave matters on that basis. The ultimate funding of mediation, under this Bill, will arise through the legal aid fund, by arrangements properly made under the terms of the legal aid statute as amended by the later provisions of this Bill.
I hope I have answered your Lordships' questions, particularly the point raised by my noble friend Lady Young. It is quite clear that the power in this Bill to make grants is expressly defined as relating to the support of marriage and marital breakdown and the causes and cures of that.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his reply. I know that we are all grateful that Clause 18 is there at all. We recognise that it is a considerable achievement.
As to the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I am quite clear that the main focus of all the agencies whose names I quoted earlier--education or research or marriage counsellors--is marriage in one form or another. Of course, those agencies will probably have slightly different philosophies because, as I mentioned before, they include the Jewish Marriage Council, the Tavistock Institute for Marital Studies, One Plus One and the Catholic agency, Marriage Care. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, the focus of the Bill is clearly on marriage.
I do not have a full set of figures but there are two points which relate to the questions raised. A recent Relate study shows that 25 per cent. of couples who were living apart at the start of counselling were living together six months after the completion of counselling. Secondly, 10 per cent. of couples who thought that their marriages had ended said that as a result of attending counselling with Marriage Care they had discovered the energy to start again. Those figures are by no means definitive, but I am sure their work would be open to any scrutiny. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.