HC Deb 21 June 1968 vol 766 cc1562-6


Lords Amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 5, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert: ( ) The enactments described in Schedule (Enactments Amended) to this Act shall have effect subject to the amendments specified in the second column of that Schedule, being amendments removing the limits of fifty shillings and seven pounds ten shillings imposed by those enactments upon the weekly rate of the payments for the maintenance of a child, and for the maintenance of a party to a marriage, which may be required by order of a magistrates' court thereunder.

3.34 p.m.

Mr. Qnintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

I suggest that it will be convenient to take at the same time the following five Lords Amendments:

No. 3, in Clause 2, page 2, line 10, leave out Clause 2.

No. 4, in Clause 3, page 2, line 23, leave out subsections (1) and (2).

No. 5, in page 2, line 31, leave out from "Act" to "may" in line 32.

No. 6, in Clause 4, page 2, line 40, at end insert: (4) Section 15 of the Matrimonial Proceedings (Magistrates' Courts) Act 1960 is hereby repealed.

No. 7, in page 2, line 40, at end insert new Schedule—

Enactments Amended
The Guardianship of Infants Act 1925. In section 7, in subsection (1), paragraph (c) of the proviso shall be omitted.
(15 & 16 Geo. 5.c.45.)
The Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957. (5 & 6 Eliz. 2. c. 55.) In section 4, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), the words ' not exceeding fifty shillings a week'shall be omitted.
The Maintenance Orders Act 1958. (6 & 7 Eliz. 2. c. 39.) In section 4, in subsection (3), for the words from' whichever ' to the end there shall be substituted the words ' the rate of payments specified by the order as made or last varied by the original court'.
The Matrimonial Proceedings (Magistrates' Courts) Act 1960. (8 & 9 Eliz. 2. c. 48.) In section 2, in paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (l), the words 'not exceeding seven pounds ten shillings' shall be omitted; and in paragraph (h) of that subsection for the words from 'payments by way of a weekly sum ' to ' fifty shillings ' there shall be substituted the words ' weekly payments.
The Matrimonial Causes Act 1965. (1965 c. 72.) In section 24, in paragraph (a) of subsection (2), the words " at a rate not exceeding seven pounds ten shillings a week ' and the words ' at a rate not exceeding fifty shillings a week in respect of each such child' shall be omitted; and in paragraph (b) of that subsection for the words from ' at rates ' to ' rate aforesaid ' there shall be substituted the words ' an order increasing'."

We can leave Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 5, to leave out subsection (3), to be dealt with separately.

Mr. Hogg

Certainly, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Although these Amendments appear to effect a radical alternation in the Bill, they make only two changes of substance. When we passed the Bill I disclosed that I introduced it very largely because I was aware of the pendency of the Graham Hall Report and in order that early effect should be given to it.

Between Second Reading and now the Report appeared. It declared in favour of the removal of all limits in the maintenance orders affected by the Bill, which was designed to cover exactly the same grounds as the Report. On consideration, although my opinion might have been different unaided, I accepted the Report in its entirety, and their Lordships passed a series of Amendment designed to give effect to it. These are technical Amendments.

The only other matter dealt with is something that, although technically a matter of privilege, is, I believe, a matter commonly waived by the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I believe that it will be for the convenience of the House if we deal with that separately.

Mr. Hogg

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Amendments either give effect to the Graham Hall Report or deal with a provision which has been overtaken by the Finance Bill.

3.36 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)

The Government support the Amendments. As the House will appreciate, they were moved by the Government in another place.

When the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) introduced the Bill he was generous enough to include a long Title sufficiently wide to allow a change of the nature that has taken place. At that time the Graham Hall Committee had not reported, but it was assumed that changes of this nature would be made. The assumptions that no limits for these maintenance orders would be recommended proved correct.

I should like to summarise the heart of the Committee's most valuable Report. It found that for the majority of cases the effective limiting factor is not the limits now set by magistrates' courts but the means of the parties, but that in a significant minority of cases the means of the parties would have allowed the court to make a larger order but for the statutory limits. In other words, the evidence indicated that the present limits are irrelevant to the majority of cases and obstructive to a minority.

The Committee looked for means of establishing new higher limits that would be free from the disadvantages of the present limits. A limit of £10 a week was discussed, but ultimately the Committee came down in favour of abolishing limits altogether. It was impressed by the unsolicited arguments in favour of abolition from such bodies as the Association of Children's Officers, the Justices' Clerks' Society, the Magistrates' Association, the National Association of Justices' Clerks' Assistants, the National Association of Probation Officers and the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child. Accordingly, it recommended the abolition of the limits that apply in matrimonial, guardianship and affiliation proceedings.

I should like to add my own congratulations to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, since I was not at the Home Office when the Bill was introduced. In the few years I have had the privilege of being a Member of the House, like everyone else I have appreciated the wide range of qualities he possesses. It is not always that hon. Members on this side of the House appreciate this in the heat of controversy, but amongst the very many admirable qualities the right hon. and learned Gentleman has there are compassion and deep humanity.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

I take the opportunity to say how very much I welcome the changes. I, too, pay special tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg); he has provided the opportunity for this change to be made much sooner than it might have been had we waited for legislation to be brought about as a result of the Graham Hall Report.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I also congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). I was one of the sponsors of his Bill. I also thank the Under-Secretary for what he has said. I also want to place on record our deep gratitude to Miss Graham Hall for her Report. It was an admirable one and well thought out. Great pains were taken, and she hurried it up when my right hon. and learned Friend was fortunate enough to get his Bill in the Ballot. I would express our gratitude to Miss Graham Hall and to her Com- mittee for the deep thought given to the matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 2, in page 2, line 5, leave out subsection (3).

Mr. Hogg

I beg to move, That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Perhaps I may be allowed to thank the Under-Secretary whom I wish well in his appointment, the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), and my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) for their kind words.

There is technically, privilege involved in this, but I think it is one of the privileges that we should be wise to waive and, commonly waive.

The position is that under the Income Tax law only small payments ordinarily escape the net of deduction at source, and until recently they did. We put in in this House certain Amendments to my original draft designed to cover the position, but they have now been overtaken by the Finance Bill. Therefore, there is no need for them, and the Lords have removed them on the suggestion of the Government.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

The Government support the Amendment. This, again, was introduced by the Government in another place. It has the effect of carrying out by an Amendment to Clause 17 of the Finance Bill recommendations contained in paragraphs 162, 163 and 164 of the Report.

Question put and agreed to.

Remaining Lords Amendments agreed to. [One with special entry.]


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question put forth with, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60A (Second Reading Committees), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).