HL Deb 15 June 1971 vol 320 cc493-4

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Secretary of State for Home Affairs is likely to introduce legislation to improve the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act 1920 by extending it: (a) to foreign countries and (b) to affiliation orders.]


My Lords, legislation for this purpose is being prepared and will be introduced when Parliamentary time permits.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask whether he is really unable to to tell us whether we may expect this in the next Session; since this legislation was a project of the last Government and they would have introduced it this Session, and also in view of the many deserted wives who are waiting for the legislation? Can he not give us more hope as to when it will be introduced?


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord put the same question to the Lord Chancellor in the course of a Bill which I see described as the Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Bill. My noble and learned friend, the Lord Chancellor, said then what I must repeat to-day. It is not in our minds what was the intention of the previous Government; but I can say that preparation of the Bill is now well advanced. It is not possible for me to give a firm date for its introduction at this stage.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say why it cannot be expedited? This is an extremely important matter for many women who are unable to trace their husbands and who are in sore need so far as maintenance is concerned. It has been a pressing problem for many years. Does not the noble Lord think that he might be able to give a date very soon for the introduction of this legislation?


My Lords, the Government are well aware of the defects of the Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act 1920 and that they need remedying. It is a complex subject. A Bill is now near completion but the need for this measure has to be reconciled with the special demands of other items for Parliamentary time.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say why the Government are not treating this matter as one of urgency? It has been held up for a very long time. We should like to see the extension of the provisions as soon as possible.


Yes, my Lords, the Government recognise the need for legislation in this field, but it is not possible for me to give any more precise indication than that at this stage.


My Lords, may I also press the urgency of this matter by reminding the noble Lord that men are now crossing to Dublin in order to avoid maintaining their children? Can the Government go on justifying this position?


My Lords, I do not think that my previous answers could possibly have been regarded as justifying the previous position. I have said that there is a need for change. There is reciprocity already with Commonwealth countries but, as the noble Baroness correctly said, the arrangements do not extend to Eire. This is another case where there is a need for improvement.

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