HC Deb 05 February 1969 vol 777 cc381-3
9. Mr. Dewar

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to reform the divorce law in Scotland in view of the present proposals for England and Wales and the recommendation of the Scottish Law Commission.

Mr. Ross

As I told the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) on 21st January, while this has never been thought a suitable subject for Government legislation, I am willing to consider a request for drafting assistance should an hon. Member come forward with a Bill on lines which appear likely to be generally acceptable.—[Vol. 776, c. 95.]

Mr. Dewar

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him if he will not agree that it is highly unsatisfactory that so important a matter should be left to the lottery of the Ballot for Private Members' Bills? In view of the declared expression of opinion made by the Law Commission and of the fact that the English Bill recently before the House received its Second Reading in terms of Scottish votes cast, could my right hon. Friend not go a little bit further and say he will use his influence to try to get time for any such Private Member's attempt?

Mr. Ross

No, I do not think so. In this respect, we are following tradition, and I think, on reflection, it is a fairly wise tradition.

Mr. David Steel

If the General Assembly in the coming May endorses the recommendation of its committee, and falls into line with the Bill going through the House for England and Wales, and in view of the Law Commission's opinion, surely, in those circumstances, the Secretary of State must accept that it would be entirely wrong to leave our divorce law unreformed, simply to await the chance of a Private Member's success in the Ballot in some future year?

Mr. Ross

I am glad that the hon. Member raised that question. The report before the Assembly at its last meeting was something which many of us would hesitate to legislate for, and he must know that the Assembly sent it back to the Presbyteries and that Edinburgh and Glasgow, which are the only two to have considered it, have thrown it out. So we had better wait and see what the Church of Scotland decides.