HC Deb 20 November 1995 vol 267 cc332-3
29. Sir Michael Neubert

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what definition is given to the term family in its use by his Department. [514]

Mr. John M. Taylor

I share with my hon. Friend the fact that there is no one legal definition of "family". Even in its general sense, it is a word that is capable of many applications.

Sir Michael Neubert

Will my hon. Friend concede that the term "family" is ordinarily associated with the institution of marriage, the mainstay of our society? Does he agree that to use it in other than a strict defined sense, as in the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill, further undermines our most important institution, and aids and abets those on the left and elsewhere who are dedicated to its downfall? Will he undertake to ensure that his Department does not use the term inadvisedly, lightly or wantonly in future?

Mr. Taylor

I am quite sure that my Department will not use the word lightly. I do not believe that the legislative proposals undermine marriage. If they discriminate at all, they discriminate against violence and they provide the courts with a range of remedies. Furthermore, they simplify the rules of the magistrates court, the county court and the High Court so that on this subject all the procedures are the same.

If my hon. Friend wants me to make a comment about marriage, I shall. I quote my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who said the other day: A successful marriage is surely the most satisfying of all relationships between human beings. To have such a marriage is a precious privilege".

Mr. Gunnell

Does the Minister agree that the law should provide equal protection for all children, irrespective of the marital status of their parents?

Mr. Taylor

Yes, the welfare of children, irrespective of the marital status of their parents, is the absolute paramount consideration that should govern the judgment of any court of law.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that, when things go wrong, people have others to turn to? They can often turn to their families. Some who get into trouble with the law can turn to the probation service. Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to its work of trying to help people to get back on the straight and narrow?

Mr. Taylor

With the greatest of pleasure, and wholeheartedly.