§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Report stage resumed.
§ LORD STOW HILL
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are purely drafting, and consequential on the adoption by this House of the word "consents" instead of "does not object" in Clause 2 (1) (d). I beg to move.
Page 2, line 24, leave out ("section 2(1) (d) of this Act") and insert ("subsection (1) (d) of this section")—(Lord Stow Hill.)
Page 2, line 29, leave out ("if he wishes to oppose") and insert ("to indicate that he consents to").—(Lord Stow Hill.)
§ Clause 4 [Decree to be refused in certain circumstances]:
VISCOUNT DILHORNE moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 3, line 36, after ("divorce") insert ("or the ground stated in section 2 (1) (e)")
§ The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This clause was closely examined in Committee and I do not intend to go over in any detail the ground then covered. But I should like to remind the House of the extent of the clause. As it stands at present, any respondent to any petition for divorce may invoke this clause. He can do it whether the facts on which the petition are based relate to adultery, cruelty or desertion; or indeed where there is a period of two years' separation with con- 1134 sent (the respondent is not likely to do it then; because he or she would not consent) and also where it is based on a five-year separation. So this clause may be brought into operation by a respondent over the whole field covered by Clause 2 (1). That could happen in respect of a very large number of petitions.
Secondly, every time a respondent takes action to bring this Clause into operation it means that the court will have to consider
all the circumstances, including the conduct of the parties to the marriage and the interests of those parties and of any children or other persons concerned",
and whether there will be "grave financial or other hardship," and whether it would be "wrong in all the circumstances to dissolve the marriage".
§ The noble Lord, Lord Henley, who was present in the Chamber a few moments ago, said a great deal during the Committee stage about a "mini inquisition". The point I want to make, and I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, will contest it, i:; that this process may be invoked at the option of the respondent in any divorce petition. Then you are going to get that inquisition in every case. No matter how scandalous the adultery; how grave the cruelty; how long the desertion—nevertheless, a respondent, by invoking this clause, can at least postpone, and may prevent, the making of a decree nisi; I say "postpone", because there is bound to be delay in view of the investigation which will have to be made by the court. The respondent may be able to establish that the clause should operate and the petition be dismissed.
§ My Lords, the delay might be long and, with the clause as wide as it is, it seems to me that there is a not inconsiderable possibility of it being abused; that some angry respondent of either sex may invoke Clause 4 just out of spite, to hold up the making of a decree nisi. I do not think anyone wants that to happen. As I understood the discussion during the Committee stage, the real case for Clause 4 is in relation to divorces based on the facts stated in Clause 2 (1) (e); that is to say, a five-year separation. The other matters, surely, could be left to be dealt with after the decree nisi as they are now—that is questions of maintenance. In the other cases, surely 1135 there is no need and no case for saying, as I understand it, that the decree should be refused and the petition dismissed. The purport of this Amendment is to limit the operation of Clause 4 to cases in which the petition is founded on a five-year separation; that is Clause 2 (1) (e).
§ It was suggested to me that it should be limited to cases of that character where there was no other charge in the petition; where the charge, if you like, was not accompanied by a charge under paragraph (c) of desertion. I think it would be better—although I do not hold any strong views on it—to say that Clause 4 may be invoked when one of the grounds on which a divorce is given—even if there be other grounds—is Clause 4, because if we did not provide that, it seems to me that there is an appreciable risk that people will try to obtain a decree on the ground of desertion and fight that issue to avoid the possibility of the respondent, if proceeded against under Clause 2 (1) (e), invoking Clause 4. I think we want to guard against that. With the Clause in its present form, it gives opportunities to respondents—and some of them are not always very accommodating—to delay the granting of a decree, and I do not think it serves any useful purpose because respondents in petitions under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) can be dealt with, so far as maintenance is concerned, after the decree nisi has been granted. I hope that I have made this clear and that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, will agree that she has had no difficulty in understanding it. I beg to move.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, may I congratulate the noble and learned Viscount on the lucidity of his explanation? I find myself in the unaccustomed position, and it is a great pleasure to me, not only of understanding him but also of agreeing with him, so that I should like to support this Amendment.
§ LORD GOODMAN
My Lords, I, too, wish to support this Amendment, subject to one minor qualification. I am not entirely clear what the noble and learned Viscount intends in relation to a situation where there is more than one ground (though of course they are now not grounds but justifications) inserted in the 1136 petition. I do not think it is appropriate that Clause 4 should be restricted exclusively to cases where a decree is granted under paragraph (e), and nothing else, because that appears to be the only case of a completely innocent respondent who is entitled to invoke this clause. It should be right to invoke it in other cases. If that is what the noble and learned Viscount has in mind, the House may be well advised to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not accept this Amendment. I think it is quite retrograde. We are asking the court on a petition to consider all the circumstances arising out of the alleged breakdown of the marriage. Why it should be restricted to the particular case where the parties have separated for five years I cannot understand. Why should not the court look at the conduct of the parties, the position of the children, the possibility of grave hardship, in all these other cases? They are just as relevant to the question of a decree. Why should not the court, for instance, look at the case of a petition on the ground of adultery of one of the parties? Why should it not be possible for the respondent to say, "You have been just as bad; you have been worse. In fact you have driven me to this course of conduct; you have even condoned it"? Why should he not be able to say that? The noble and learned Viscount is not able to speak again but I hope that he will think again and try to appreciate why it is not right that Clause 4 should apply only to one sort of case and not to all the others.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I must confess that though I supported the noble and learned Viscount on other occasions, and he has supported me, I am utterly puzzled by this Amendment. He is completely destroying the clause. The most careful thought was given by the promoters of this Bill, and those who advise them, when they drafted this clause. I had a feeling that I heard a murmur behind my back which indicated assent from my noble friend Lord Stow Hill. Is he going to rise up and accept this Amendment? Surely not. He has been so difficult and dug his toes in so strongly on everything else. Now the noble and learned Viscount comes along and seeks to emasculate Clause 4, 1137 which is one of the most important in the Bill. He seeks to make it apply only to cases under paragraph (e). This really is an amazing attitude to take.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Silkin, who has much more legal experience than I have. I approach these matters only on the ground of common sense. I hope that the House will not accept the Amendment, which is of such a destructive character that it would do injustice to a large number of respondents.
§ LORD DENNING
My Lords, I express sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, because in all cases under Clause 2 (1) (a), (b) and (c), we are not to have discretion statements in future. The petitioner may be far more guilty than the person who has committed adultery or behaved in the way complained of. The petitioner himself may be exceedingly guilty, and yet paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) may be satisfied. The real basis of the whole position is the irretrievable breakdown of marriage, and I should have thought that Clause 4 could stand as it is and not have this Amendment. After all, the court cannot tell guilt or innocence, and if it is restricted to paragraph (e), it follows that in all other cases, though the petitioner may be very guilty himself, the court is not to inquire into other matters, such as hardship and finance. I would ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I must admit to feeling critical about any Amendment at this stage because I feel, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning said, that we stand in such need of a better system of divorce than prevails at present that we should not quarrel over minor matters. But I do not think that this is a minor matter. I do not see how, on the language of this Amendment, the point that was first made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, can be answered. What happens to a petition which is founded on several grounds? That is what we are talking about at the moment, and we are talking about it at the stage when the petition is lodged.
In my view, the most difficult position is going to arise if somebody alleges paragraph (b)—-which deals with the 1138 question of conduct of living together—as a ground for the breakdown of the marriage. How the court could disregard the provisions of this clause when considering a case under paragraph (b), I find it difficult to understand. I think that a good many of your Lordships feel that the real trouble about the present divorce system is the amount (to be blunt) of dodging and lying that goes on. I feel that if this Amendment is passed, we shall get people putting in a petition under paragraph (b) when the real trouble comes under the other paragraphs. I think that it ought to be a general provision—and I say this in no controversial spirit. I believe that it would be much better if the clause were left as it is, and therefore I hope that the House will reject this Amendment.
THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER
My Lords, I find Clause 4, as drifted, totally illogical, and the Amendment seems to put the matter right. I cannot understand why, simply because a petitioner may also be guilty of certain marital offences, it should be open to the respondent, who is also guilty of such offences and probably worse ones, to evoke Clause 4—that if a decree is granted, he or she will somehow suffer hardship. Any husband divorced by his wife primarily on the ground of his adultery could certainly plead that he would suffer, as a consequence, considerable hardship. He loses his housekeeper; he may even lose now, under the noble Baroness's ideas, his house. Of course he is going to suffer hardship. If he is able to evoke this clause then he could stop the divorce.
This seems to me quite extraordinary. I have always understood, when we were discussing these things before the Bill was drafted, that these rather exceptional provisions in Clause 4 were drafted with Clause 2 (1) (e) in mind and nothing else. They were drafted in order to try to reassure people who, understandably enough, feel the greatest objection to Clause 2 (1) (e) and divorce against one's consent, that everything possible would be done to avoid injustice and hardship. This clause makes sense only if it is restricted to that one point.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not intend to say anything about the merits of this Amendment, but, as drafted, it gives rise to one or two 1139 difficulties, and I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount would consider them. It starts off by adding to the words "the respondent to a petition for divorce" the words "on the ground stated in section 2 (1) ((e)". There is no such ground. If the Bill goes through at all, we are abandoning the matrimonial offence and we are basing the law of divorce on a recognition of the fact that a marriage has irretrievably broken down. Paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and ((e) are not grounds for divorce. Clause 1 is in perfectly clear and simple terms, and it says:After the commencement of this Act the sole ground on which a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to a marriage shall be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.Therefore, paragraph (e) is not a ground at all. There are five situations which are to constitute a prima facie case that the marriage has broken down. So that is open only to rebuttal.
The second difficulty is this. Different views have already been expressed as to whether, if Clause 4 is to be limited in some way or other, it is to be limited where the only situation relied on is paragraph (e), or whether it should be limited to cases where paragraph (e) plus other situations are involved. Different views have been expressed—and I think particularly of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman—as to which of those two positions ought to apply. I do not wish to express any opinion on that; it is a question of policy. But I find it impossible to know how any court would construe this provision. I can envisage a great deal of argument, with some people saying that this Amendment obviously means that Clause 4 applies where the only situation relied on is paragraph (e), and its being equally cogently argued on the other side that it may not mean that at all: that it may mean paragraph (e) but that other situations may be relied on as well. I am not in any way opposing what the noble and learned Viscount wants to achieve, but the actual wording of this Amendment seems to me, with respect, to give rise to considerable difficulties which I hope he will take into account.
§ LORD STOW HILL
My Lords, I appear in a rather unusual role, in that 1140 I wish to align myself with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne. I have frequently complimented him on his lucidity; I always understand what he says, and I have on this occasion. I hope that he will press his Amendment, subject to this: that he has heard what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said on the question of drafting, and he might be prepared to give some further thought to the actual wording he has chosen for the purpose of his Amendment.
I must say, with respect, to the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls that I think the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, is in principle, absolutely right, whatever the actual situation should be if alternative grounds are alleged. I see the points he has in mind with regard to that. But this is a matter, I should have thought, of giving consideration to the wording. If I may say so to the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls, if we are cutting away the matrimonial offence, it would not be desirable, again by a side wind, to re-introduce the old discretionary bars. That is not what Clause 4 is intended to do, nor is it so worded.
The main case, as it appears to me from what the noble and learned Viscount has said, is this. It would be quite ridiculous if a wife petitioner appears before the court and complains for example, of conduct under paragraph (b), and says: "My husband hit me on the head with a hammer; he threw all the plates in the kitchen at me and cut my nose; he then kicked me out of the house and starved me and then abused me. He has done that for six long months, and I really cannot stand it any longer", that he should then be able to say: "Nevertheless, I pray in aid Clause 4. I want the court to say that I have suffered grave hardship and that, in spite of my behaviour, my wife should not be allowed to obtain a decree."
Equally, one can think of profligate cases of adultery. It seems to me that when one spouse complains that the other has behaved rather like a rabbit in his sexual activities, it is a little unreasonable that that other should be allowed to claim that Clause 4 should prevent him or her from obtaining a decree of divorce on the ground of that profligate conduct. That, if I interpret it correctly, is what 1141 the noble and learned Viscount principally has in mind. I thought that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter put excellently what I am trying to put in less adequate form. I very much hope that, while the noble and learned Viscount may wish to reconsider the language he has chosen and to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in any fresh language that he selects, he will invite the House to support him in the principle of this Amendment, which I feel is quite acceptable.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, this is indeed an unusual experience. I have made new allies, and I fear that I have made some new enemies. It is the first time in the course of this debate that I have incurred the ire of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, for the clarity with which he expounded the reasons behind this Amendment. I listened with interest to my noble and learned friend Lord Denning. I think he had it a little wrong in thinking that one was concerned here with questions of guilt or innocence. I was concerned with this possibility, which I am sure would weigh with him: that if you are going to allow Clause 4 to operate over the whole field, you are putting a very powerful weapon in the hands of every respondent, male or female, to hold up the grant of the decree nisi; and you are putting a heavy additional burden on the courts to investigate every single case in which Clause 4 is invoked. I think that would be a very serious detriment. I can see no advantage, because provisions for finance, maintenance and all those matters in other cases can be dealt with after decree nisi.
I cannot have made myself clear to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Perhaps I dealt with this point too shortly. I said I realised that there was a difficult question as to whether you can make Clause 4 apply only when the petition is based on paragraph (e) or whether you should make it apply when it is based on paragraph (e) and other paragraphs. I do not feel strongly about this question, but I have tentatively come to the conclusion that Clause 4 ought to apply whether the petition is on paragraph (e) alone or paragraph (e) and other grounds. The reason I 1142 put forward that argument is that if it is on paragraph (e) alone there will be a great temptation to other petitioners to by-pass Clause 4 by adding some other allegation—for example, desertion or cruelty—in the hope of avoiding the operation of Clause 4. I do not feel strongly about this matter, but that was the reasoning behind why I wanted it to apply every time that paragraph (e) was relied on, whether alone or in conjunction with some other ground.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has criticised and, if I may say so with great respect, rightly criticised the drafting of this Amendment. It leaves a lot to be desired. The word "facts" ought to have been used instead of "ground", and it should have been made clear it was intended to apply to paragraph (e) standing alone or with paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). I do not know whether there is a great division of opinion—I hope there is not—about this point. I am in two minds as to the best course to take. I want the wording to be right.
If it would please the House, and if the House would think it the right course, I would withdraw the Amendment and table for Third Reading another Amendment which I hope I shall be able to agree upon with the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. Perhaps that course would be the best one to take. Alternatively, if there is a real division of opinion, we could get an expression of it now, and I would undertake to move an Amendment later on to put it into the wording which would meet with the requirements of the draftsmen. If there is a division of view and people want to test it perhaps we had better test it by voting and get the Amendment correct later. But I am perfectly prepared to withdraw the Amendment and move it again on Third Reading. I think the view of the House is that I should ask leave to withdraw the Amendment—
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, before the noble and learned Viscount does ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, I wonder whether he could tell us precisely the spirit in which he approaches this matter. Frankly, I believe that not only paragraph (e) but paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) also should be included in this provision. Is it his intention, when he brings forward his 1143 redrawn Amendment, to make it all-inclusive in the manner I have suggested?
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, no, I cannot say that it is. I am intending to limit Clause 4 to cases based on Clause 2 (1) (e), whether based only on Clause 2 (1) (e) or on Clause 2 (1) (e) in conjunction with other paragraphs. In my view the other cases, so far as the financial provisions are concerned, can be dealt with after decree nisi. We ought not to open the door to action by respondents in those other cases under Clause 4, because if we do we shall run a severe risk of completely clogging up the machinery. I do not believe there is much use in debating this matter further. I should like to have the opportunity of consulting with the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, before Third Reading, and I hope to get the aid of the experts in drafting, so that at the next stage we can put down an Amendment which will not be open to criticism from its language, although there may be some criticism for what it in fact achieves.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 4, line 5, at end insert: '
("(2) If a petition for divorce is presented more than twenty-five years from the date of the celebration of the marriage and the respondent does not consent to a decree being granted, the court shall dismiss the petition.")
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have put down this Amendment because I find it hard to believe that if a marriage has lasted for 25 years or more you can say that it has irretrievably broken down. Twenty-five years—or perhaps 30 years—is a long time for the parties to make up their minds about this, and I should like to see this Bill so amended that any divorce after 25 years of married life should be by mutual consent. My real object in putting down this Amendment was to try to give some protection to the fair sex. Although I like certain aspects of this Bill, I would say that, on the whole, it appears to be slightly biased in men's favour. Therefore, it is not entirely fair.
§ It is true enough that during 25 years of marriage a husband and wife are bound to have appalling rows; they might get very bored, and have all sorts 1144 of differences of opinion. But is marriage to be reduced to a point of total selfishness? If so, it will not be a fit institution in the future in which to bring up a new generation. I have always regarded the family unit as a basis of our civilisation—in fact the basis of any civilisation. Mr. Jenkins, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave us, I understand, a little lecture the other day on civilisation. He told us that in his opinion the present age in this country was the most civilised age we had ever seen. How he arrived at that conclusion I find it hard to understand, with the great increase in crime and drug-taking.
§ Although I am all for freedom of thought, freedom that becomes licence is something with which I disagree. If this Bill goes through as it is at present drafted then marriage as an institution, and the ties of marriage are bound to be weakened. To my way of thinking you should strengthen the wife's position and not seek to diminish it. We all know that on the whole it can be said that women, especially if they have had children, may age more quickly than men. Whereas a man of 55 or 60 years of age can go and find an attractive young wife, it is not so easy for a woman of 55 or 60 years of age to marry again. Therefore under this Bill she is at a great disadvantage. It is quite possible, of course, that the respondent may be a man, but on the whole, after 25 years of married life the respondent is more likely to be a woman. This Amendment will help to protect the woman.
§ A man who has had a wife for 25 years or more can, under this Bill, abandon her, though she has probably devoted all her life to bringing up his children. We have clauses in the Bill, I agree, to provide for her financially and so on, but money is not everything and it is no compensation for loneliness. To-day especially children grow up very quickly. There are improved means of travel and they like to be independent, and they are therefore liable to fly away abroad, and there is no guarantee that the deserted wife will have the companionship of her children. In any event, it is not a fitting duty for children to take the place of, or to give the same companionship as, her life's partner, As I have said before, money is no compensation for loneliness. One cannot buy oneself out of moral responsibilities.1145
§ I see a number of right reverend Prelates opposite. What do they really think the marriage lines are for? For better or for worse; in sickness or in health.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, will the noble Viscount be a little more explicit? Is it the intention of this Amendment that the husband should be locked up with the wife; should be forced to remain in the household night after night?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
No, my Lords, of course not. I will come to that point in a moment. The noble Lord has jumped the gun.
One can almost say that the marriage lines will have to be re-written. I think that under this Bill they will appear to be rather a confidence trick. However, the point is that the elderly or middle-aged woman may have her husband go away and be separated from him, but she has the legal protection and prestige of having a husband. I have known some sad cases of elderly women whose husbands have gone off, and if these women had had their husbands with them they might not have been swindled and suffered other unpleasant experiences.
Marriage is a woman's whole life. In some respects it could be called a career, but it is certainly a woman's whole life. This Bill is going to bear rather hardly on some women, and as I am always very pro the fair sex I do not want them to be unfairly treated. If this Bill as drafted becomes law it will surely negate the great sense of security in marriage that women have. If women feel that marriage is no longer secure and can no longer offer them security, they may even abandon marriage altogether. Some people might find certain aspects of that attractive, but of course I am speaking seriously. That would obviously be a disastrous thing for the State and for civilisation. I think that if we do not give women security in marriage there will probably be a great crusade for equal pay for equal work for women. So we shall not have it all our own way. As I say, if women cannot have 100 per cent. security in marriage they will want to stand on their own feet, and they can do that only if they get equal pay for equal work, which of course 1146 they have been trying to get for a considerable time. I say again that I introduced this Amendment because I want to see justice, and I am rather frightened because certain aspects of this Bill appear to me to be rather unfair to women in certain categories. I beg to move.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, although I think the views of the noble Viscount are very gallant towards women, I cannot support his Amendment, because the cases he is thinking of are the less usual cases. In most cases if a marriage lasts for 25 years there is a pretty good chance that it will make a century. The noble Viscount said (my noble friend Lady Summerskill was not here a: that moment, but if she had heard it I think she would have risen up in arms) that marriage is the whole of a woman's life.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I think that for most women it is. I agree with the noble Viscount.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I dc not think that that is the way the world is going. Women have other interests and other concerns than just the family, because they are in a very bad way when they become older if their interests are restricted to only the family. But I have known cases where a woman has waited until all her children have grown up, and even married, and has then divorced her husband (he has usually been not a very good husband) and has lived more happily ever after.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, may I say just one word, because it was so delightful to hear the noble Viscount being so gallant? It is very unusual, and it was very refreshing. It is perhaps significant that when he was paying a tribute to marriage I popped out of the Chamber to tell my husband that I should be late for dinner. I can only say this to the noble Viscount. I fully appreciate his point, but I have not stressed it throughout the passage of this Bill, or during the discussions that have been taking place during the last two or three years, because one cannot compel two people who loathe each other to live together. Therefore, the only logical approach to that position is to say that if the circumstances described by the noble Viscount arise after 25 1147 years of married life, during which the wife has devoted herself to the family, if divorce then comes, at least she should be assured of some adequate financial provision. I have stressed the financial side, not because I approach marriage in a materialistic way in any sense at all but because I feel that this is the only logical approach.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I feel that I must enter a small protest against my noble friend's Amendment bcause what he is really saying is that men regard women as merchandise, and when they have had the merchandise for 25 years it is very likely that they want a change. I repudiate that; I think it is most unfair. So far as I can see, my noble friend does not understand that the charms of women who have gained in experience, and probably in beauty too, are very great indeed.
What the noble Viscount is saying is not fair. He is putting forward a kind of Indian Summer Amendment, and I object to that very much. On the other hand, there may be occasions—and in fact I know of one—where a man and wife remained together for 25 years because of the children. They were determined that their children should not realise (if you like to put it this way) that they had fallen out of love, and they went to remarkable lengths to give their children an upbringing in an unbroken home. But after all that, is it not reasonable that in such a case they should have the same chance as people who have not been through all that long period because they believe precisely what my noble friend believes in; namely, that a family ought to be kept together, and particularly while the children are there? It is not fair to charge the male sex with having this almost universal feeling that after 25 years it would be nice to have a change, if we could.
§ LORD STOW HILL
My Lords, I hope the House will not accept this Amendment. I listened with the greatest interest to the fascinating, analytical and philosophical approach of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, to this difficult social problem. I go with him a long way. I also am pro the fair sex. I also accept that money is not 1148 everything, and I agree with him that marriage should not be abolished. However, those considerations do not lead me to think that this Amendment is one which should be supported.
I think the case that has sprung to the mind of all the speakers on this Amendment is very much the same sort of case as that mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. One constantly comes across the case of a man and woman who do not get on but who have children. If there were no children they would long since have fallen apart, their relationship would have ended in divorce and they might have made other happy unions, but in an unselfish desire to maintain the family unit together until the children have reached adult age, they have stayed together for that one reason for over 25 years. That is highly meritorious on their part.
The effect of the Amendment would be that those very people who, perhaps, when they have discharged what they rightly regard as their duty towards their children, would like to separate in a real sense and lead their independent lives, will not be able to do so. I hope the noble Viscount will agree with me that that would be a most unfair result. It is not as if—at any rate so far as our debates on this Bill have gone—the principle has not been accepted that after five years there should be divorce at the instance of one party despite the wish of the other. That has been accepted, but the noble Viscount wants to ensure that it should not apply where the marriage has lasted for 25 years. The result would be that the meritorious cases that I have described and which have been referred to by previous speakers would be put at a great disadvantage and would not be able to achieve the wish they have harboured secretly for so many years. I hope that for that one consideration the noble Viscount may feel that it would not be right to press his Amendment.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I wish to make only a brief comment. Of course one can only get a divorce on the ground that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There may be cases where it has irretrievably broken down even though the parties have been married for 25 years, but it is not very likely. The very fact that they are together would be at 1149 least presumptive evidence against the marriage having irretrievably broken down. But might not one of the by-products of this Amendment be that the party who wants a divorce would say, "I really must get in before the end of the 25 years "? He might consult a calendar and say, "I will start my divorce proceedings a month before the 25 years are up, otherwise I may be too late".
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, regarding the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, I did not in fact mean that all women regarded marriage as their whole life and career, but I think a considerable number do. In regard to the question of financial provision, I think we are all inclined to look at this Bill from our own point of view. The average man in this country cannot afford to keep two or three women, and I am afraid that when financial provision comes to be made the man will not have any money to make proper financial provision for his wife. It is all very well if you are a rich man, but the average man is not rich.
There is another point, that the single woman, the woman who has remained unmarried, has presumably had a career and has managed to amass some money. She probably has some capital, so she will be far better off than the married woman who has been deserted after 25 years; and if she has been deserted by a poor husband she will not get any worth while money from him. She will have given her whole life to him, after having borne his children, and presumably the remainder of her life will be void. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, quite rightly said that there are some extremely attractive women of 60 and over, but to be fair—
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Viscount, he referred to single women. Surely he is not suggesting that there should be divorce for single women?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, the noble Lord obviously misunderstood me. I was saying that if women had not been married they had an opportunity to amass some money, whereas the married women have not had such an opportunity. At least, they might find it difficult.
1150 I will of course withdraw the Amendment, but I wanted to bring out those points. I still maintain that to my way of thinking this Bill may turn out to be unfair to some women, and I think that would be a pity. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Power to rescind decree nisi in certain cases]:
Page 4, line 14, leave out ("not to object") and insert ("to consent").—(Lord Stow Hill.)
§ Clause 11 [Short title, constriction, commencement and extent]:
§ 6.29 p.m.
LORD BYERS moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 6, line 34, leave out from ("on") to end of line 36 and insert ("1st January, 1971").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the Committee stage a similar Amendment to this was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and after an important debate it was withdrawn for further consideration. During the debate at the Committee stage a number of speakers expressed apprehension that we were intending to pass a measure to make divorce easier without satisfying ourselves that suitable financial arrangements would be available to the respondent, or what I suppose used to be called the "innocent party". This was particularly worrying—and I can understand it—to certain noble Lords who seemed to believe that the Law Commission will come forward next year with a measure that will fundamentally affect the results which may be expected to flow from this Bill.
§ Because of this concern various suggestions were put forward, which are represented in other Amendments which follow mine on the Marshalled List. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, wanted to be certain that the operation of this measure would be delayed until what we might call the new Matrimonial Property Bill came forward or, indeed, was safely on the Statute Book 1151 —or shall I call it the Financial Provisions Bill which is envisaged? And he wanted to do this whether it was earlier or later than January, 1971.
§ There was a further proposal, again represented by an Amendment on the Marshalled List, that different parts of the Bill should come into operation at different times. And the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, proposed that the Bill when it becomes an Act should not operate until an Affirmative Resolution had been passed by both Houses. Faced with that, I thought it right to put down this Amendment again, to see whether the date of January 1, 1971 was an acceptable compromise. I make no secret of the fact that I should prefer to see this Bill operate at an earlier date, but in deference to those who have misgivings I have put down this later date of 1971 in the hope that the House may accept it.
§ I want to make only two main submissions, because the debate in Committee was a full debate, and far better speeches were made by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, than I can hope to make. First, I think that we ought to agree to set a firm date, a date by which those members of the public affected by this new Bill when it becomes an Act will know that it will be in operation. Many people are living in misery and they have been in that state for some considerable time. In my view they are entitled to know that Parliament has set a term for their frustrations and that they will not have to continue to live in a state of very unhappy uncertainty. While I fully appreciate the compassion and praiseworthy motives of those who seek to satisfy themselves on the financial protection, all those proposals which have been made and are being made do impose delay, and they do prolong uncertainty.
§ The suggestion that the date of commencement of the Act should be subject to an Affirmative Resolution in both Houses, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, in my view makes the position of those involved even more worrying, because the Bill could be prevented from coming into operation by a vote of either House; and I do not 1152 think it fair that the people who are waiting should feel that even at that stage the Act could be snatched away from them by a vote in either House. I should not like to think we should be a party to encouraging this doubt to hang over legislation, a doubt which in itself prolongs human suffering.
§ As to the protection which may or may not be afforded under any new measure which comes forward next year, I am no less concerned than the next noble Lord. I want to see the situation improved very much along the lines suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and others in all parts of the House, and I would certainly support the whole idea. I am particularly concerned with the position, for instance—and I have recently come across such cases—of married women who are deserted by their husbands who go abroad. The husband transfers all his assets abroad, takes up with another woman; and at the present time, I am advised nothing can be done about it. I want to see that situation put right. The parties to the divorce, especially the respondent, have a right to expect better protection than they have at present, and I am quite sure the Law Reform Commission will come forward with important proposals.
§ I think we must recognise that the financial provisions of this Bill are far better than anything we have had up to now; and certainly under Clauses 4 and 6 what are called the Draconian proposals go a very long way to improve the situation. I will not quote this part of the Bill; noble Lords and noble Baronesses know it. But it says that the court shall do everything in its power virtually to see that there is proper protection; and in the last resort the best job that can be done in the circumstances is done.
§ I think that many speakers have given the impression that any new Bill which comes forward will be able to do far more than in fact it can do. Where we are dealing with the sort of case I have quoted, of the man who goes abroad and takes his assets, we may be able to devise a fairer system, by arrangements between different countries, and similar steps. Where there is a family with a reasonable income and some property, the Bill can provide for fairer apportionment and reasonable arrangement; but where the family income is a low one, any financial 1153 arrangement is bound to create the most difficult problem, as it does to-day. Some noble Lords have given me the impression that they thought that under some new Bill to come forward next year the court might be empowered to increase the family income in some way, or to create new assets, or print money. I am quite sure this is absolutely impossible.
§ I do not believe that anybody is going to take seriously the suggestion made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, that we should have cash awards to people in low income groups on the sole ground that they wish to get a divorce. I do not think there would be much public sympathy for a policy of that sort. The fact is that, whatever is done, any redistribution of income in the £10 to £15 a week class is bound to cause some hardship. Under this Bill, I believe it is right to say, provision has been made so that the courts will be able to do the best they can in very difficult circumstances. I think it is therefore up to us not to prolong uncertainty but to do the best we can for the people who are suffering at the present time. I would ask the House to accept this as a compromise measure. By 1971 we shall know a great deal more about the proposals to be made, but even if we do not, I do not see that we can go much further in this measure than we have done at the moment. I beg to move.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, thought fit in the course of moving his Amendment to refer both to the Committee stage and also to the other Amendments now upon the Marshalled List. He has put forward his suggestion as a compromise. My difficulty is that I do not think it is a very satisfactory one. I can see no reason myself why a great deal of this Bill should not be brought into force at the earliest possible moment after its enactment. I can see no reason why, for instance, the provisions relating to divorce on the facts stated in Clause 2 (1) (a), (b), (c) and (d) should not be brought into operation immediately. Where there is a special case for delay is where the divorce is based on the fact of separation for five years and it is brought against a person who is, or is said by many to be, wholly innocent.
1154 The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, has received a letter which has been referred to many times in this debate, giving certain assurances. My criticism of Lord Byers's Amendment is that it does not give the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, much room for movement. It is to give him that, which I hope he will accept, that I have put down the Amendment which is No. 13. That would enable him to bring different parts of the Bill into operation on different days. I say straight away, in case it may save time, that the Amendment may be entirely wrongly drafted, but I took it from an existing Act; so I hope that in this case the wording is right. The idea is to enable the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, to do that. After all, why should one delay the operation of the greater part of this Bill to an arbitrary date, January 1, 1971? It seems to me unnecessary, and it seems to me unnecessary to be so specific. Suppose the Government get on with their legislation more quickly than they have done in the past; suppose the Bill is introduced, enacted and brought into operation months before January 1, 1971. I think that is not impossible. Then can we really justify the delay? I feel that there is a strong case for a measure of flexibility here. It may be that January 1, 1971, will be too soon; one cannot tell.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, talked about the hardship of petitioners who have been separated for so long and who cannot get a divorce against someone who under the existing law has not committed any matrimonial sin. One is perhaps apt—I think the noble Lord, Lord Byers was—to look too much at one side of the picture. I should not like to see that kind of decree granted until the best possible provision, financial and otherwise, had been made for the divorced spouse. It is true that in Clauses 4 and 6 this Bill seeks to make such provision as can be made. But, as I understand it, the Act we are concerned with deals with other matters which depend not upon the husband's income but the various related benefits under our social services schemes, and all that.
I am trying to take this point shortly and to speak to two Amendments at once in the hope that we can save time. Leaving on one side the question of an Affirmative Resolution, could ore not 1155 take Amendments Nos. 13 and 15 together? That would mean that all the Bill, except the parts relating to Clause 2 (1) (e), could be brought into operation straight away and without an Affirmative Resolution. Then you can bring into operation Clause 2 (1) e) directly after the new promised Act has been brought into operation; so there would be no gap so far as the respondent was concerned. So far as I can see, that would be the happier arrangement. I do not like fixing a completely inflexible date. I would give the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor more liberty of movement. The best thing of all would be that both Houses of Parliament should have an opportunity of seeing whether, in the light of the new measure which is promised, they would wish to bring this Bill, or parts of it, into operation. That may be too much to hope for.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, whose Amendment is the one now under discussion, will think again and not press his Amendment to-night, for this reason: he might combine Amendment No. 13 with his, in the sense of providing that the Bill could be brought into operation on such day or days as the Lord Chancellor thought fit, but—and this is a possible alternative—in any event not later than a particular date. That is one possible compromise. I shall be interested to hear what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, says. After our friendly debate on this Bill, it would be a pity that we should perhaps end up by way of friction, and I hope that we may find a solution which is mutually acceptable. For myself, I should be prepared to trust the Lord Chancellor to do what I am sure are the wishes of the House, and to give him more flexibility than the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, would allow.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, it seems to me that the noble and learned Viscount who has just spoken is asking that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack shall have discretion or as much freedom of action as is possible. I hope I have understood him correctly. For my part, I think there is a great deal to be said for the Amendment, by reason of the fact that it sets a time beyond 1156 which it would not be possible to go. It seems to me that the wish of the noble and learned Viscount is already in the Bill. Clause 11 (3) says:This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.I do not think you can have any more freedom than that.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, the noble Viscount will appreciate that that applies to the whole of the Act, not different parts.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I am well aware of that, and that makes me all the more in favour of supporting some sort of extended time limit. I quite understand that this may not entirely fall into line with what the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, desires. But I can see nothing seriously wrong with the amendment and in the absence of any better assurance, I think it would be a good thing to support it.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am sure that the House will be glad that this will be the last speech I shall make on this Bill, because in my opinion we could have telescoped the last four Amendments into one. I concur with everything that the noble and learned Viscount has said, and also with what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said. I am sure that our object is the same. I would have supported this Amendment on the assumption that during the next Session legislation would be introduced which would protect the woman who is compulsorily divorced—the woman whom we now call "paragraph (e)". I am quite happy that much of the rest of the Bill should go on the Statute Book immediately. But I have said this many times: the real victim of this Bill is that particular woman.
I do not like to press my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack, but he could rise now and assure us that this legislation will be introduced in a certain time. Then we could accept the noble Lord's Amendment now, because that is all we are waiting for. We are awaiting, and trying to think of the best date which can be thought of in order that the cart should not be put before the horse. That has been said time after time in this House. We are waiting 1157 only to be assured that this particular woman will have financial protection, and then the measure can go on to the Statute Book. I think that this is the general feeling of those who have put their names to the last four Amendments on the Marshalled List to-night. It is certainly my view.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, there seems to be general agreement that the coming into operation of this Bill should not be delayed beyond January 1, 1971. Surely this difficulty could be resolved if Clause 11 (3) were made to readThis Act shall come into operation on such day prior to January 1, 1971, as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.That would make it obligatory. On whichever date the Act, or any section of the Act, should come into operation, at any rate it should not be later than January 1, 1971.
§ LORD GOODMAN
My Lords, I personally would be strongly in favour of the immediate enactment of this Bill when it receives the Royal Assent, for reasons that I sought to explain during the debate in Committee, when I hoped that the arguments that commended themselves to me might be demonstrated to be wrong if they were wrong. I had no such demonstration, and I believe them to be right. But as a compromise proposal I would support the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Byers. Certainly it must be better to have a specific date when people know when their rights will be defined.
I wonder, however, whether I may detain your Lordships for one moment in an effort to reassure you that you will not be doing anything prejudicial to the rights of the ladies whose interests have been so powerfully canvassed so often in this House, if in fact you were to enact this Bill immediately; and certainly you will not if you enact the Bill on January 1, 1971. I was frankly puzzled by the suggestion on the part of the noble Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, that those parts of the Bill which, it seemed to me, are demonstrably weak in relation to the financial provisions now in existence should be introduced immediately, but that that part of the Bill which contained its own self-contained, very effective financial code, should be deferred.
1158 So far as the famous paragraph (e) and the two new grounds are concerned, they are supported by financial provisions in the Bill. No one has demonstrated or suggested that those financial provisions are not as good as you can get. They are. Shed of the wishful thinking, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, so rightly said, that the Government are going to be able to produce some means of improving the income of improvident adulterers—for which, so far as I know, no such proposal exists—the financial provisions now in the Bill are as good as you can get. They are that the order to be made is to be a fair and reasonable order, or it is to be the best that can be achieved. No one can do better than that. Moreover, these financial provisions have the great advantage that by way of improvement over the financial powers given to the Judiciary at present obtaining, they can make every kind of order; which power, in some cases, is not at present available. The judge can require that there should be a settlement of capital; he can require that arrangements should be made for the long-term financial interests of the ladies concerned; he can make any kind of financial order that he pleases which, in his opinion, is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. He has complete and absolute discretion in this matter. Nothing better can be thought out.
In fact, if we turn our minds to the famous letter written by the Law Commissioners to the Lord Chancellor, it will be remembered that they made no promise of anything better in relation to these matters. What they say is that they will produce something better for the existing grounds of divorce when: there is, and is acknowledged to be, a deficiency in relation to the powers of the Judiciary. The Law Commissioners are not promising any better financial provisions than are contained in Clause 6 of this Bill, and we can wait until Doomsday—and shall wait until Doomsday—for the hopeful proposal in one of these Amendments that the Bill shall not be brought into power until an Act has been passed to improve the financial provision of divorced wives. No Act will be passed to improve the financial position of divorced wives. Nobody has any intention of passing any such Act. This would be a fiscal measure, requiring 1159 that some financial provision be appropriated by the Government, for it to be available for divorced wives. It is obviously a completely fanciful notion. We are, if I may say so, held back by entirely fanciful and chimerical fears about the financial provisions of this Bill. What I am quite certain of is that your Lordships are not to be shaken in the view that there should be an opportunity to have a look at what the Law Commission are going to produce.
It would seem to me that the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, is entirely sensible. By January, 1971, whatever it is that is going to be produced will be produced, and it is not going to be anything that will be profoundly encouraging to those who are destitute of adequate means to maintain two households. But whatever it is that is going to be produced will have seen the light of day. I would strongly recommend your Lordships to follow the course which I propose to follow, that is, if the noble Lord, Lord Byers, presses this Amendment to a Division, that we support him and have a firm date.
As I started, I conclude by saying that the apprehensions in this matter are fanciful, and nothing will emerge from the Law Commissioners, or anyone else, to improve this situation in relation to the two new grounds of divorce already established in the Bill. What may happen is that better powers may be given to the judge in relation to grounds for divorce which are being granted every day of the week under the inadequate powers they already have.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, it may save time, and it might be convenient, to discuss all the four Amendments to Clause 11 together—and at any rate Amendments 13, 14 and 15 are all competitive with each other. Though I support them all, I address myself chiefly to Amendment No. 14, which stands in my name. I mention two things that this Amendment does not seek to do. It does not have the effect of imposing a delay, as Amendment No. 12 does, though I grant that that is a precise delay. There is no attempt in my Amendment to suspend the Bill beyond the period that is essential for the preparation of the framework in which the Bill is to operate.
1160 We know from the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, at the Committee stage, that he thought 18 months was about right. If I recall rightly, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, also in the Committee stage, thought that it would take until Easter 1970, nine months, in order to prepare the rules.
It is factors like these, and other factors of this kind, that will impose any delay there is to be, not the requirement set out in my Amendment for a debate on an Affirmative Resolution in both Houses. Nor does this Amendment involve yet a further debate on the content of the Bill. That will have been settled once the Bill has received the Royal Assent, and surely all noble Lords and Members in another place know that its contents cannot be altered by any further debate, any more than can the debates on an ecclesiastical measure, or a set of regulations laid before Parliament for approval.
The purpose of Amendment No. 14, which it serves in conjunction with Amendments Nos. 13 and 15, is to ensure full Parliamentary control not so much over the content of the Bill, which has been secured by the thorough scrutiny it has already had, but rather over the timing and the context, or the circumstances of its commencement, about which a good deal of anxiety and doubt still, in my judgment, remain. There is this uncertainty about the financial provision in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has said. This is a point which, if need be, Amendment No. 15 will deal with on its own. There are also other matters which, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned at Second Reading, were being looked into by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, and there are others which I specified at the Committee stage and which I will not weary your Lordships with again.
There is a further reason why I believe the procedure provided for in Amendment No. 14 is particularly needed It is because on the one hand this has been introduced as a Private Member's Bill, and, on the other hand, it is one of the most far-reaching pieces of social reform we have had to deal with in this decade. In the case of this Bill and one or two others in this social field, the case for its being a Private Member's 1161 Bill has been well made, and is well understood. It does not mean that it has not been thoroughly thought out; it does not mean that it has not been properly drafted, and it does not mean that it has not been properly discussed. This Bill has been thoroughly thought out; it has been well prepared and expertly drafted, and, with the skilful eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, behind it, and the time provided for its full discussion in this House, we can be content about what is actually in the Bill. But the fact that it is a Private Member's Bill means that Her Majesty's Government are not as fully committed to it as they would have been had it been Government legislation. There are no Whips on, and there have not been. But once the Bill is on the Statute Book it has the same status as any other Statute, and it deserves to operate in a framework as fair and as well founded as any other Government legislation. It also deserves to come into operation with all reasonable despatch. This consideration does not perhaps have all that weight when we are legislating for social reform that only affects minorities such as murderers, homosexuals and abortionists, but I submit that it has very great force when we are dealing with a Bill which reaches out to, and may affect, every family in the land.
Nor does this consideration apply only to this Bill. Only yesterday another Private Member's Bill, the Employer's Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Bill, received its Second Reading in your Lordships' House. That Bill, when it is enacted, will affect every employer in the land, but it was quite clear, as I listened to the Government spokesman being questioned by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn about the framework which is being prepared for this Bill to operate in, that Her Majesty's Government have hardly even begun to set it forward. So that there again there would appear to be a case for the same procedure as is proposed in our Amendment No. 14, and for the same reason. There is a case for Parliament's controlling the commencement of a Private Member's Bill—when it is a Bill of wide-ranging significance—after it has been enacted, in order fully to satisfy itself and to assure the public outside that all is set fair for its commencement.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ LORD STOW HILL
My Lords, I think I can address your Lordships shortly, because I absolutely agree with every word uttered by the noble Lords, Lord Byers and Lord Goodman. May I say to the noble and learned Viscount that I hope he will not think there is any question of the debate ending in asperity—certainly not on my part—but I cordially disagree with him. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, was absolutely right when he said that it is not fair that people should be left in suspense. January 1, 1971, is a date a long way away from to-day: they will have to wait nearly 18 months; but they will be given certainty.
My noble friend Lady Summerskill said that the only persons who were the victims of this Bill were ladies who would be inadequately provided for. With great respect, she is completely and absolutely wrong. There are an enormous number of people who are waiting to know when they can have their situations straightened as a result of the enactment of paragraph (e), and it would be quite unfair to leave them in a state of completely unnecessary suspense. So I should have thought the first thing one should aim at was a fixed date. That is what I had in mind when I originally put down an Amendment in the same terms as that which the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has moved.
When we last debated this subject, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made what I thought was an extremely helpful intervention. He indicated two things, as he has done on many previous occasions. The first, was that, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said, the measure which he has it in his power to introduce is not going to revolutionise the situation—very far from it. On the contrary, the most Draconian powers are now contained in Clauses 4 and 6 of this Bill, and it is extremely difficult to envisage their being improved upon. They are in addition to the existing powers, which are contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965, which have operated for many years and about which there has been no complaint. So these new powers will be added to what already exists and it really is not possible, in any real sense, to improve upon them.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has made it perfectly clear 1163 that that is the case, except in some respects. He has made it perfectly clear (I hope he will correct me if I am mistaken) that it is his intention to introduce the measure which he has in mind between, I think, November of this year and April of next year. I do not know whether he has any further proposals from the Law Commission than those contained in the letter which he read out during our Second Reading debate. But he must have—indeed, he has intimated that he has—a very clear idea of what he has in mind; and if he introduces between November this year and next April the measure to which he referred, the whole of 1970 has to go by and, unless something very surprising takes place, the two Houses of Parliament will, I should have thought, have ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with the nature of his proposals, then to examine them and to import into them such changes as they think necessary. It is possible that that process might finish before January, 1971, but surely it is worth a greal deal to have some certainty of date.
I am quite certain that I speak for those people in the country who are longing to know whether this Bill is going to be passed and when it will come into operation, if I say on their behalf that they will be overjoyed for this measure to be postponed a little until January, 1971, so long as they now have a certainty, first, that it is going to get on to the Statute Book; and, secondly, that it is going to come into operation not later than that date. I earnestly hope that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, will ask the opinion of the House on his Amendment.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, may I ask one question? How does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor intend to introduce the financial provisions? Will they be in the form of a Bill or of some other kind of Instrument?
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and all I want to do is to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, has said. In my view, 1164 all the other proposals which have been put forward, very sincerely, have the defect that either they are asking for piecemeal legislation (and we all know what that means: some of the pieces get lost on the way) or they are imposing delay; or, in an attempt to give flexibility, which I appreciate, they are creating or prolonging uncertainty. That is why we are asking as a compromise, but as a clean compromise, for a date to be set for this Bill to come into operation. I hope that when I press this Amendment, as I intend to do, we shall have support in the Division.
§ VISCOUNT DILHORNE
My Lords, I think Amendment No. 13 cannot arise, as Amendment No. 12 has been carried; but if it could arise I should not move it. Also, I shall not move Amendment No. 15 either.