HL Deb 20 April 1950 vol 166 cc1072-4

5.36 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Discharge and variation of maintenance orders registered in summary or sheriff courts]:

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, after subsection (1) to insert as a new subsection: (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section, a court in any part of the United Kingdom may take notice of the law in force in any other part of the United Kingdom. The noble and learned Viscount said: In rising to move this Amendment may I say that I am sorry my noble and learned friend Lord Merriman is unable to be here because, as the Committee know, he has been seriously ill. I am glad to say that he is on the mend, and he has asked me to say that he wholeheartedly supports this Bill. Those of us who know him realise the vast experience and knowledge that he has of this matter.

This particular Amendment is supplemental to subsection (1) of Clause 22, which gives a summary or sheriff court in which a maintenance order is registered for enforcement under Part II of the Bill power to make a variation in the amount payable under the order. Briefly stated, the principle of Part II is that, when an order has been made in a court of one part of the United Kingdom and the defendant is, at the time when enforcement is sought, in another part of the United Kingdom, the order may be registered in the court of the other part of the United Kingdom having jurisdiction over the defendant and enforced by that court. As regards the discharge and variation of orders so registered, the Bill provides that in general these matters shall be dealt with, not by the court in which the order is registered but by the court which made the order. But an exception has been made with regard to the variation of amount in summary and sheriff courts, since experience has shown that this is so closely connected with enforcement that the court which enforces the order (that is the court in which it is registered) should have power to vary it as to amount.

Under subsection (1) of Clause 22 this power is subject to the restriction that no such variation shall impose on the person liable to make payments a liability to make payments in excess of the maximum rate, if any, authorised by the law for the time being in force in the part of the United Kingdom in which the order was made. In Scotland there is no legal maximum in the amount that may be ordered by a sheriff court, but there are maxima in the amounts that may be ordered by a summary court in England and Northern Ireland. For example, in wife-maintenance orders a summary court in England may award up to five pounds a week for the wife and up to thirty shillings for each child, but no more.

This Amendment enables the court in which the order is registered and which is making a variation in amount to take judicial notice of these maximum rates. The Amendment overcomes the difficulty that as the maxima are matters of foreign law they would otherwise have to be proved as matters of fact by expert witnesses. These particular matters are not in the least likely to be the subject of controversy, and the adduction of the evidence of practitioners of the country in which the order was made before the court in which the order is registered, which would be necessary in order to prove them as questions of foreign law, would give rise to inconvenience and expense such as the importance of the matter hardly justifies. It would, for example, be rather ridiculous to call an expert in English law in a Scottish court to prove to a Scottish judge, what he knows quite well, that there are maxima in England—such as that limiting payment to £5 per week in the case of a deserted wife. That is the object of the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 35, at end insert the said new subsection.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedules, agreed to.

House resumed.