HL Deb 18 July 1979 vol 401 cc1432-48

3.16 p.m.

Lord SIMON of GLAISDALE rose to call attention to the Third Report of the Law Commission on Family Property and to the need to reform the law of married women's property; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper. I am sorry that only a few noble Lords have put down their names to speak in the debate. I am quite certain that that is not due to any lack of interest in the subject; indeed, the number of witnesses and the weight of evidence given to the Law Commission is proof to the contrary —particularly the evidence given by the Married Women's Association. I think that your Lordships have suffered from the lack of Order Papers, from the difficulty of coming by the Law Commission's Report —I myself had to borrow the Printed Paper Office's only copy—and finally there was the cancellation of the first balloted Motion.

Your Lordships will unfortunately be thereby deprived of hearing my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman speak on this matter, on which he is a great authority, since he is engaged in judicial duties at this moment. I am particularly sorry because I know that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was anxious to hear the views of your Lordships on the Law Commission's proposals. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, is to speak because he is an incomparable authority on this matter. At any rate, the debate gives your Lordships an opportunity to hear about the thinking of the Lord Chancellor himself on these questions.

There are three reasons why reform of the law is called for, and is urgent. The first is that the present law is unjust. That is the almost universal view of people who have looked into this matter. It was accepted by the Law Commission itself. It is quite true that most married people live in what lawyers would call " community of goods "; they share their earnings, they share their property, they make provision for their joint retirement on an equal basis, and each generally leaves his or her property so that the wife or husband has at least a life interest. But the law does not exist primarily for those who need have no recourse to it. It must have regard to what has been called the pathology of personal and social relations, and the pathology in this field, where it exists, is unfortunately virulent. The Law Commission has made an exhaustive study of the problem and particularly its repercussions.

If I may say so with respect, the report seems to me in every way a model one, ending up with three draft Bills for your Lordships' consideration. I should like to pay a tribute, if I may, to the Law Commission, which seems to me to be one of the outstandingly successful institutional innovations of our time. We owe a great deal to my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman, as its first chairman. He developed the brilliant idea of the consultative document, the Green Paper, which has been subsequently adopted by Governments and which has proved extremely valuable in this instance. Perhaps I could mention also the name of the late chairman, Mr. Justice Cooke, who was chairman of the Commission at the time when this report was published and submitted to Parliament. His early death was indeed a very great loss to the law.

My Lords, that is the first reason why reform of the law is urgent and called for —that it is unjust. The second reason is that, as a result of the 1969 divorce law reform, the financial and proprietary position of married women is now significantly worse than that of divorced women, and that surely is an intolerable position. I spoke of the injustice, and when one examines the injustice of the present law one sees that that indicates clearly, in my respectful submission to your Lordships, the type of reform that is necessary. Husbands and wives per form differently their complementary functions in society. Your Lordships will remember the horrifying opening of Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, with the babies in test tubes. But until we arrive at the time of test-tube babies, men and women, husbands and wives, have to perform different functions for the continuance of society. The wife has to undergo nine months of discomfort; 12 or 24 hours, possibly more, of pain and peril; and even if, afterwards, she can resume an economic activity, her financial and economic prospects have already been impaired, and will continue to be impaired, because, when the small child has measles, on the whole it is the wife and not the husband who has to take time off from work to look after the child.

In other words, the wife, by performing her function as home-minder, releases the husband to be the bread-winner; and when you get a co-operative division of labour in that way, it means that the person who makes sacrifices acquires rights. The wife, by releasing the husband to be bread-winner, acquires a right to share in the loaf that he brings home. That should be vindicated by the law: in fact, it is not. That is mainly for historical reasons. The position of married women was first of all safeguarded in the Court of Chancery when they developed the married women's separate estate, and then by the Married Women's Property Acts of the last century, which method of law reform really compares very adversely with that with which your Lordships are concerned after an exhaustive investigation by the Law Commission.

In the last century there was a vociferous group of professional women who were clamant that their professional earnings should not pass into the possession of their husbands. That was perfectly reasonable at the time. They enlisted under the banner of John Stuart Mill. But it meant that, in vindicating the interests of those professional women to acquire and retain separate earnings, the law took yet a further step away from the community of goods, which is what the division of labour indicates and, indeed, what is indicated by the promise made at marriage, …with all my worldly goods I thee endow ", which is certainly not the legal position.

So the logic of putting right the present injustice really leads to a system of community of goods—that is, a sharing of goods. That was the system adopted at one time in the Middle Ages in this country. It has been widely adopted on the Continent, particularly in the French civil code; but, although it was put forward for consideration in the working paper of the Law Commission, it did not find approbation generally and, in their first report, with which your Lordships are not concerned today, they turned it down as a means of dealing with this problem. I myself remain a convinced community of goods man, but a long time ago I used to be a politician and I learnt that the best is frequently an enemy of the better. The Law Commission's proposals are distinctly better, and I certainly would not wish to lose them by pressing views which I do not think are now politically feasible.

The Law Commission treated this matter under three main heads. The first one was co-ownership of the matrimonial home; the second was securing the wife's occupancy of the matrimonial home by largely technical amendments to the Matrimonial Homes Act 1967; and the third was giving the wife some rights to the use and enjoyment of the contents of the matrimonial home. The co-ownership of the matrimonial home was very widely accepted. When the Law Commission took a sample of opinion they found that 91 per cent. of married men and 94 per cent. of married women were in favour of some form of co-ownership. The Law Commission therefore proceeded on the basis that that was desirable, and worked out in a truly dazzling fashion the details of its implications.

The main matter they considered and allowed for was a right to opt out of joint ownership by making other arrangements of ownership; and that seems to me to be right. Also, the other main exception that, where the donor of the matrimonial home indicates that it is for one spouse or the other, the co-ownership provisions do not apply. The scheme seems to me to be fair and just; the argument of the Law Commission seems to be entirely convincing; the draft Bill is really a model and 1 very much hope that the Government will accept and implement the proposals.

The second book of the report does not really need detailed examination. It is to improve the wife's rights of occupancy in the matrimonial home and it is largely designed to effect improvements in, and to correct defects in, the Matrimonial Homes Act. Again, I welcome their proposals. There is only one matter to which I would venture to draw your Lordships' attention and that is Schedule 2 to the draft Bill. That re-enacts the Matrimonial Homes Act with such amendments as have been made in the past and also with the amendments proposed in the draft Bill. In other words, it is a consolidation; and I venture to suggest that it would be convenient if, when the Bill comes before your Lordships' House, that particular schedule should be referred to the body which commands the expertise on this subject, the Joint Select Committee on Consolidation Bills, of which at the moment my noble and learned friend Lord Keith of Kinkel is the chairman. I do not ask the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack to answer that directly now but I ask that he should give favourable consideration to the suggestion.

The third matter considered was the use and enjoyment of the household goods. The Law Commission, as a result of discussion and comment on their working paper, have fundamentally changed their minds on that matter. They originally proposed to give a wife a right of property in the household goods. They have now changed their minds about that. I, myself, think that that is a pity. I think that the difficulties were very much exaggerated and I think that that is shown by the fact that the recent (1976) New Zealand statute dealing with the matter not only provides for joint ownership of the matrimonial home but also enjoins joint ownership of its contents. Again, I would not wish to see the best oust the better. I regard what the Law Commission recommend as distinctly better. What they recommend is a procedural remedy; that either spouse may apply to the court to have the use and enjoyment of the household goods protected.

The only other matter that I think needs to be mentioned in connection with the commission's third proposal leading to their third draft Bill is that they include the car among the household goods. Personally, I think that that is quite right and that the way they deal with it is quite right. Many American courts have developed the idea of a matrimonial car, and the English courts have tinkered with this idea for some time until it was found not to work at all; and it seems to me to be an illustration of the far more satisfactory method of law reform through Law Commission investigation as opposed to law reform by the judiciary, except in the very narrow sphere of lawyers' law. There is another example in this very field. The courts, obsessed with the unfairness of the law about the matrimonial home, tried to develop the idea of a married woman's equity (licence) to occupy the matrimonial home. That broke down utterly on investigation. It threw up all kinds of anomalies and I am quite sure that it is the sort of matter where one should be guided by the Law Commission.

My Lords, there is one final matter that I would mention; that is the courts that are proposed to deal with this problem. They include the county courts. Since considerable expertise and sensitiveness is required in this field of litigation, I respectfully ask again that consideration should be given to the system of family courts, a hierarchy of family courts, which was proposed in the locus classicus of the Finer Report, in which the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, had a principal hand. Again, I do not want to ask the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack to commit himself today beyond saying that he will have another look at the problem. I beg to move for Papers.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, it would be hard to over-estimate the importance for ordinary citizens and for society of the subject raised with great legal authority and clarity by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. During the last 100 years there have been far-reaching changes in the effect which marriage has upon the property of spouses, because the law governing matrimonial property in part reflects and in part helps to shape the community's attitudes to the family and to relationships within it. Today, this law has a vital bearing upon the social situation and status of a woman and upon the most widely spread form of property. Indeed, family property is the only property which most of us will ever possess. For these reasons, despite the very difficult technical and legal problems which the regulation of matrimonial property has produced, reform cannot be left exclusively to the lawyers. It is for Parliament to define what are the familial and social objectives to be secured; it is for lawyers to devise the legal techniques which will secure the desired results. It is therefore proper for a layman to speak, although he does so with great trepidation.

A brief glance at the social history of this branch of the law will demonstrate quickly the present need for reform. The common law virtually stripped a woman, on marriage, both of her existing property and of her capacity to acquire property for herself in the future. We twain ", said her husband, have become one flesh and, as far as our property is concerned, I am he ". Oddly enough, this was the property régime which, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, pointed out in his Holdsworth Lecture, was brought into being when the bridegroom pronounced the words: " With all my worldly goods I thee endow ". Few were thereby affected, for the common law served only the common people whose poverty protected most of them from all anxieties concerning rights in matrimonial property.

Had the rules applied to the wealthy, the property of a wife and thus, through her, of her kin, would always have been at the mercy of her husband and his kin. To prevent this, equitable devices had been invented and refined to enable a married woman to have a separate estate out of which she could not be kicked or kissed by her husband. The object of this protection was not to secure the equality of husband and wife or even the comforts of rich men's daughters, but to keep family properties intact.

By later Victorian days, demands for cheap law, greater equality between rich and poor and between husbands and wives produced a series of reforms which included the seminal Married Women's Property Act of 1882, within the influence of which we still live. This Act gave all wives a separate estate in their property. Equity had tempered the wind to the well-fleeced. This statute protected the whole flock by extending to them the same rights as every English gentleman had for generations past secured by marriage settlements for his own daughters. The Act was hailed by law reformers and by the women's movement as a triumph for equality of the sexes.

Thus, it is easy to see how the concept of separation of property within marriage became for lawyers and laymen alike associated with equality between husbands and wives, though in fact there was no necessary connection between them. Indeed, the consequences of this Statute were the opposite of those sought by its promoters. The Married Women's Property Act unintentionally institutionalised inequality in the economic relations of husbands and wives. By preventing husbands getting their hands on their wives' money, the statute denied wives rights in their husband's money. And in the real world, it was mostly the husbands who had the money.

However, as long as wives were in prospect or in fact financially dependent on their husbands, the assumed connection between equality and separation of property caused few legal or social difficulties. The chief troubles stemmed from the great extension of married women's employments during and since Hitler's war, and with the resulting reduction in wives' dependence on husbands as sole bread winners and the growth in wives' contributions to family budgets. In recent decades, many families have become economic partnerships in which the role of wives is no longer exclusively to free their husbands to earn by looking after the home and the children. They often do this for periods in accordance with the requirements of family building and child care. But for much of the time they contribute to the family pool earnings derived from part or full time work.

Moreover, people nowadays think of marriage as an equal partnership, even though it may be based on different and unequal contributions. In this partnership, all earnings and nest eggs brought in are thoroughly scrambled in the process of living together and turned into a community of family assets. The norm of separation of property has no relevance to the way that most of us live now, except in relation to third parties.

Of course, the judges have known this better than the rest of us and have for a generation of imaginative and creative law-making been teasing the justice of partnership rules out of the principle of separation of property in disputes between husbands and wives. The Divorce Reform Act led Parliament to step in when marriages are being dissolved and the courts have now wide discretion to rearrange a family's finances and property. But it would be a fallacy to believe that property issues between spouses which require legal determination arise only when marriages collapse. As the Law Commission put it in the report which we are now considering: In our view it is a poor and incomplete kind of marital justice which is excluded from continuing marriage relationships and allowed to operate only when those relationships end ". And we might add that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, explained, it is a cruel absurdity to put a divorcing wife in a superior position to that of a still married wife in her role in respect of her rights over matrimonial property.

From a layman's point of view, I believe that any reform of matrimonial property law must satisfy two tests. The reform should give expression to the morality of family life, as approved and practised by most citizens; and the reform should result in fairness and certainty so that married couples—and those who have dealings with them—know where they stand. No doubt the necessary legal techniques will be complicated; but this is not incompatible with giving effect to principles which are widely approved, understood and respected.

In my view, the Law Commission's report fully satisfies these tests. The Commission, under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, not only developed the technique of giving wide consideration to working papers and assimilating the resulting comments, criticisms and political objections, but they also, as stated in this seventh annual report gave …careful thought to ways and means of making greater use of the social sciences both in determining law reform priorities and in the preparation of proposals ". One result of this approach was their commissioning in 1971 a national random sample survey of the attitudes of married couples to matrimonial property. This was the first occasion when social research on any scale was harnessed to law reform, and I hope that the Commission have not forgotten the intentions of their 7th Report.

Among much other information, the survey showed that slightly over half the population were owner-occupiers, of whom 52 per cent. had their houses in joint names. Of those who did not, some 90 per cent. said that each thought of the home as a joint possession. Three-quarters of the wives had contributed earnings made before or during the marriage to the purchase of the home and of its contents, and half of them regarded their work in the home as an equivalent contribution. There was no doubt that many couples thought of themselves as engaging in a partnership, of which the home and its contents were the main tangible asset.

Thus the Law Commission have a sound, empirical basis for their insistence that the matrimonial home is a unique form of property and one to which a unique law of co-ownership should apply. They have a sound basis, too, for the chief reform of the law which they propose in their report; the introduction of a statutory scheme for co-ownership of the family home, subject to the two exceptions mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. Co-owner-ship is coupled by the Law Commission with protection for either spouse in the use and enjoyment of the household goods, and this would be a corresponding right to that of occupation of the home afforded by the Matrimonial Homes Act 1967, which the Commission also proposed should be amended.

I think that the proposals of the Law Commission have great merit. They are in accord with actual behaviour within the family and with prevalent notions of the proper relationships between the spouses. They will give reality in our social and economic circumstances to the intentions of the framers of the 1882 Act by establishing a clear and simple principle, and they will introduce certainty of rights and thus enable a wife, perhaps struggling to preserve a marriage, to act with confidence about the future. Certainly, in many circumstances, she cannot at the moment act with confidence about her future. Most importantly, the Law Commission's proposals will remove the last great legal inequality suffered by wives in England and Wales. Of course, technical legal difficulties may arise, but they ought not to be allowed to become delaying obstacles to this overdue reform. I welcome the report of the Law Commission and the opportunity provided by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for debating it.

3.54 p.m.


My Lords, may I first apologise for the fact that by some error my name does not appear on the list of speakers: I note the disappointment that surrounds me as I rise to speak! I should like to make four observations before dealing with this very important report. The first is that my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones would have wished to address your Lordships on this matter today but he has a very pressing and important engagement and asks, through me, to be excused. The mantle which he graces has temporarily fallen upon my inadequate shoulders and I know that, with your usual kindness, your Lordships will fail to notice how badly that mantle fits.

Secondly, may I say to your Lordships that I am sure my noble and learned friend would have wanted to express, as I do, thanks to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for giving us the opportunity in this short debate to deal with this report and for having made such a lucid, clear and informative speech as he did this afternoon.

Thirdly, may I make it completely clear that I am merely expressing personal and respectful views to your Lordships and in no way am I communicating the views of my noble and learned friend or indeed those of anyone sitting behind me at this moment. It is a matter which I believe comes outside the normal purview of politics and I believe that your Lordships may perhaps be anxious to hear some personal views, which I will venture most respectfully to give.

Lastly, may I say as a preliminary observation that the Commission which prepared this report deserves the appreciation of all of us. The members worked very hard; they produced working papers and they listened to arguments and evidence. If I venture to express a view, which is really a query about the means and not the ends which they have endeavoured to reach, I am sure that your Lordships will realise that I do it with the greatest possible deference and I repeat that in no way do I quarrel with the ends which they were endeavouring to reach.

I suppose that one day this report will be known as the "women's matrimonial home charter". As your Lordships have heard, the report deals with three main headings. The first is the interest of spouses in their matrimonial home. The second, is the suggested improvements to the rights of a wife—since it would normally be the wife—to occupation of the matrimonial home. The third, is the use and enjoyment of household goods. There is criticism of the present law, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, mentioned this. He said that the law was unjust. He could have said in addition that it is highly technical and also uncertain in application. When he said it was unjust, he certainly meant, too, if I quote the wording of the report rightly, that it was " inappropriate in substance ", because the matrimonial home is dealt with in our law in almost precisely the same way, except for certain rights of occupation, as is the ownership of other property.

The report says, your Lordships may think most correctly, that the matrimonial home is something different and that in many cases it is the major, possibly the only, asset of the couple. It is the result as a rule of the joint contribution of both husband and wife. It is not only the financial contribution that counts in regard to a matrimonial home: it is the care, the work and all the things that the noble and learned Lord mentioned in introducing this matter—even, if I remember correctly, the occurrence of measles in the household! It is essential, too, for the family as a whole. Your Lordships are not merely considering husbands and wives but also the position of the family unit. As the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, said, it is indeed a unique item—he, too, was quoting from the report—and therefore there is need for a unique law.

It has been mentioned—your Lordships may think correctly—that it is not right that our law should limit a decision as to ownership rights as between a husband and wife, when the marriage ends either by death or by divorce, and that there should he an innate right in a wife in the matrimonial home after marriage. I have an idea that up to this stage all your Lordships will be agreed on the merits of the principle behind this report. and the only niggling doubt that I venture to put before your Lordships is whether the solution suggested in this report—and I do this with the utmost deference—consists of too many complexities. It is the suggestion of a statutory right of co-ownership, with legal formalities that flow, with rights of spouses to contract out, if I may put it that way, within two years of marriage: and there are other complexities which I wish to draw quickly to your Lordships' attention. Indeed, the report itself says: It cannot be denied that the provisions which we propose for co-ownership arc complicated and difficult". In any such new legislation which would have to deal with this matter, if the scheme were adopted—and I repeat that the aim behind the scheme is a more than meritorious one—one would have to define the extent of what is the matrimonial home and to sever what is not the matrimonial home. The common law wife is not provided for. If a couple are lucky enough to have more than one matrimonial home, the scheme says that it applies to all of them, and the scheme furthermore says that it is intended to be permanent. in other words, if the user ceases to be that of a matrimonial home, then the statutory co-ownership still applies.

It may be thought, and I put this forward with all humility, that the same object could possibly be reached—and I know that some of my colleagues in my own profession are thinking along these lines, but have reached no conclusion as yet—that most of the ills that we are trying to cure, or, to put it more positively, most of the justice that we are endeavouring to secure, could be secured by a statutory presumption of a joint tenancy by husband and wife in regard to the matrimonial home, that presumption only to be rebutted by just cause to be adduced before our courts. I know that that leaves gaps in the way of a sole owner—although, in most cases, there is joint ownership, as we have heard—and in the way of receipt of the purchase monies in order to make sure that the wife receives her share of a sale. There may also be gaps in connection with the need, when a first or second home is sold and there should be a home supplied in its place, to see that that replacement home is secured. But I cannot help thinking that, to a large extent, one could cover those needs by implementing some of the rules that we already have in regard to the need for two trustees when one has a trust, and the receipt by those two trustees of purchase monies and matters of that kind.

I do not intend to develop these themes before your Lordships today. The only doubt that I have in my mind is the whole complex new legal system that this scheme would set up. I do not have the slightest doubt about the justice of it and need for it, and if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is right that it is better to adopt a scheme quickly, even though it be complex, if you are after justice and are after it quickly, then no doubt in due course the views that I have expressed will be, as they may deserve to be, ignored by your Lordships or by whoever else, apart from your Lordships, may legislate upon this matter.

I only desire, again with humility, to correct, if I may, what was a slip—and I know that the noble and learned Lord will want that to be corrected in the Official Report—when he gave certain statistics; namely, in regard to the 91 per cent. of husbands and the 94 per cent. of wives who said that they thought that the matrimonial home should be owned equally. I think I heard him say that that was a survey that was carried out by this Commission. Indeed, it was not. It was a survey that was carried out in 1972 by the General Division of the Office of Population Censuses. That division and that group gave those figures and the Commission duly considered them.

I move on quickly to the second matter dealt with in this report; that is, the right of a wife to continue to occupy the matrimonial home. Only because these points have not been brought to your Lordships' attention by previous speakers, due to the difficulties of summarising a lengthy report of this kind in a short debate, your Lordships may allow me just to point out some of the difficulties which this report highlights. There is a right for a wife to register against a property, against the matrimonial home, which protects her in regard to her occupation of the matrimonial home. But the present law has difficulties in it, as the report points out. There are difficulties where the house is mortgaged and a husband defaults. There is a question of the right of the wife to succeed to a statutory tenancy on the death of a husband from whom she is parted, although she may live in the home, because the present Act talks in language of living with her husband at the date of death, and if the husband has left the home and she is still there she does not get the protection that she should.

There is the position of a widower. We have heard up to now of the rights of the wife. Occasionally, there are rights which are vested in mere men and the position of the widower is not protected by our present law in regard to occupation; it is only the right of the widow which is so protected. Lastly, there is a questionable position in regard to the right of a wife of a tenant, after the landlord obtains a possession order against the tenant. In regard to all these matters, the report makes recommendations with which no one, in my humble submission to your Lordships, could quarrel at all.

Finally, may I move to the third section, which deals with the use and enjoyment of household goods. I should like to tell your Lordships in clear terms what the proposal is. It is a proposal that at any time during the subsistence of the marriage, except where a judicial separation decree is in force, the court should have power on the application of either spouse to make an order against the other spouse for the use and enjoyment of household goods.

" Household goods " are defined as items needed to meet the ordinary requirements of his or her daily life ". The order can include an order not to remove the household goods and an order to deliver the household goods, and, in either case, an order not to sell the household goods. And it is recommended that the courts' powers should not be limited to emergency situations. Articles under hire-purchase agreements and similar agreements are excepted. Caravans, which are not part of realty, are included and houseboats are also included. There is the right, too, by way of sanction for the court to impose punishment on the grounds of civil contempt and to award compensation in addition to any penalty that the court may invoke as a result of the breach of an order.

All this takes place during the subsistence of a marriage. The doubts that I have, with respect, are that at a time when our courts are already over-full with cases, and when one does not want to tempt husbands and wives into courts of law while the marriage is still subsisting—and I repeat that these applications are not limited to emergencies—is it correct, is it being better than the best (and I shall revert to that in a moment) to recommend that these rights should be given to a husband and a wife to bring every quarrel about the use and enjoyment of household goods before our courts of law, be it—


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to make one point. Are not the only alternatives either to give the wife property in the household goods—which the Law Commission, after consideration, turned down—or to let her enjoy, so far as she can, an empty house?


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord heard me say that I proposed to revert to his own phrase " the better may sometimes be more desirable than the best ". I was going to revert to it by saying that I thought that the Commission's first thoughts on the matter were not only better but the only practicable thoughts one could have. In my humble judgment, the wife must have a right vested in her in regard to the joint ownership of household goods. If their imagination is employed on this for one moment, I do not think that noble Lords could regard this as a practicable alternative to a consideration of the right of ownership being vested in a wife in half of the household goods. Ought we to encourage—as this scheme does, as I have said—an automatic application to a court of law in order to decide a dispute of this kind between husband and wife and then to end up with a use and enjoyment order and nothing more?

I end as I began. First, I apologise that your Lordships did not hear the far more authoritative and clear voice of my noble and learned friend from this Front Bench. I repeat that the views which I have expressed are purely personal and again I repeat, as I sit down, that I have not the slightest doubt about the merits of the principles behind the proposals. I have merely ventured respectfully to suggest that there may be more easy and practicable solutions.