HC Deb 17 December 1969 vol 793 cc1343-4
40. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to implement the proposals for divorce law reform contained in the Scottish Law Commission Report, "Divorce—the Grounds Considered", Command Paper No. 3256.

Mr. Ross

This has never been thought a suitable subject for Government legislation but I have made it clear on a number of occasions that I should be willing to consider a request for drafting assistance should an hon. Member come forward with a Bill on lines which appeared likely to be generally acceptable.

Mr. Dewar

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not a matter of drafting as much as a matter of time that is at issue, and that when so many representations have been made, from the Scottish Law Commission, the Church of Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland, it would be very unsatisfactory if Scots Members were not given a chance to come to a decision on this important matter in the same way as English Members last Session?

Mr. Ross

My hon. Friend should appreciate that he must obtain the will of the House in respect of the principle, on Second Reading. The last occasion when this was done in respect of Scotland was when a former hon. Member—Mr. Forbes Hendry—managed to obtain a Second Reading on the nod on a Friday afternoon.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Will the Secretary of State refrain from the bad habit of other Government Ministers of providing time for selected Private Members' Bills, and instead treat all such Bills on their merits? Will he not give preference to divorce Bills or other hobby horses of hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar)?

Mr. Ross

If we are to treat all Bills on their merits we must remember that some may merit special treatment.

Sir M. Galpern

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite the report of the Scottish Law Commission on divorce reform, there is widespread opposition in Scotland to any fundamental change in the divorce law, especially on the question of unilateral divorce after separation for five years?

Mr. Ross

That is a valid point. That is why I say that this matter requires the consideration of the House.