HL Deb 29 June 1982 vol 432 cc190-203

5.4 p.m.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD DERWENT in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Amendment of Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975].

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Mishcon

Maybe I can helpfully commence all the speeches that I have to make—and I shall try to be as brief as possible—by saying that, following upon the Second Reading, and with the great assistance of the Lord Chancellor's department, there are amendments before your Lordships which will put this Bill, to which your Lordships were good enough to give a Second Reading, in a tidy, concise and clear form. It is against that background that I move the first amendment which is before your Lordships. This new clause, and the two which follow it, are designed to replace Clauses 1 and 4 of the Bill. This first new clause simply describes the rule of common law with which the Bill is concerned; namely, the rule which precludes a person from acquiring any benefit from an unlawful killing for which he is responsible. May I—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Derwent)

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think it would be more in order if we dealt with the first Question, That Clause 1 stand part, and then move to new clauses afterwards.

Lord Mishcon

I am most grateful for that correction. May I so do?

Resolved in the negative, and Clause 1 disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 1: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("The 'forfeiture rule'.

In this Act, the 'forfeiture rule' means the rule of public policy which in certain circumstances precludes a person who has unlawfully killed another from acquiring a benefit in consequence of the killing.").

The noble Lord said: I repeat my gratitude and, in order to spare your Lordships, I shall not repeat the first observations which I made and which I hope your Lordships will remember. I had got to the stage o saying that this Bill in no way alters the law, and certainly neither does the clause which your Lordships are now considering. The drafting of new Clause 1 is in general terms. It speaks of "acquiring a benefit", because the rule itself has often been judicially described in that way, and because it applies to a range o different kinds of benefit.

It will be observed that this new Clause 1 also speaks of unlawful killing. This is wide enough to cover not only the old felonies of murder and manslaughter, but also such crimes as causing death by reckless driving or infanticide. There are no authorities as to whether the rule applies in these cases, but on general principles there would appear to be no reason why it should not. The inclusion of the expression "in certain circumstances" will ensure that the new clause will not affect the question whether or not the rule is applied in such cases, which will remain a matter for the common law. It is not even certain that the rule will always be applied in all cases of manslaughter.

The authorities down to and including Re Giles, which was reported in 1972, suggest that it will, but in the most recent case of Regina v. Chief National Insurance Commissioner ex parte Connor, which was reported in 1981, 2 Weekly Law Reports, page 412, it was said in the Divisional Court, and it was the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice who reported the judgment, that, It is not the label which the law applies to the crime which has been committed but the nature of the crime itself which, in the end, will dictate whether public policy demands the court to drive the applicant from the seat of justice. Where that line is to be drawn may be a difficult matter to decide, but what this court has to determine is whether in the present case what this applicant did was sufficient to disentitle her to her remedy". However, the court nevertheless held that the wife convicted of the manslaughter of her husband was not entitled to a widow's pension, although the Crown Court did not deal with her more severely than placing her on probation for two years. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor

I shall not repeat myself in the subsequent amendments. I simply rise to confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said at the outset of his remarks. At Second Reading I undertook to give to the promoters of the Bill the advantage of the technical assistance in drafting which my office sometimes has at its command in order to ensure that the Bill, if it should meet with the approval of the Committee in other respects, would be technically correct so far as the drafting could make it. That does not alter the stance of neutrality which the Government adopt traditionally in relation to Private Members' Bills, but it does mean, I hope, that it will not fail for want of good draftsmanship. Therefore I am happy, with that qualification only, to accept the noble Lord's amendment and the others which stand in his name.

Baroness Phillips

I know that one always puts one's head into a noose in this House, either as an English-woman speaking in Scottish Bills or as a non-legal person speaking on matters that both Front Benches seem to consider to be their particular prerogative, since they are concerned with the law. I was not, unfortunately, present during the Second Reading of the Bill, but having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I find it all rather astonishing, to say the least. The noble Lord cited the case of a woman who, I understood him to say, had committed manslaughter and who was denied a widow's pension, but he did not mention, unless I misheard him, infanticide and murder. Bearing in mind the kind of violent society in which we live, I find it astonishing that we should be sitting here quite dispassionately discussing whether somebody who has unlawfully killed another may benefit from what would have been that person's entitlement. I question whether this is the right moment to bring forward this kind of legislation. I know that I am going to be a lone voice. However, I feel that I should voice that point of view at this time.

Lord Mishcon

There is no question of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, being in any way a lone voice. I do not blame her in the slightest, but if she had waited for Clause 3 of the Bill she would have seen that murder not only is excluded, at the request of another place, but also is excluded by this Bill.

The Lord Chancellor

As regards infanticide, it was a statutory offence—as the noble Baroness will probably know, being a magistrate—under which a woman originally, apart from statute, would have been guilty of murder, had she committed it. But even in the days of the death penalty the judge would always have carefully explained, in the relevant circumstances, that the death penalty would never be inflicted, although it was mandatory upon him to pronounce it. Before putting on the black cap he would always have explained that to the woman. It is only in the rarest conceivable case that a woman who has committed the infanticide of a very young baby during the period (which I forget for the moment, but it would be a very few weeks) could possibly benefit from that baby's estate. There will be cases in theory, but whether one has ever arisen in practice I am not quite sure. It is certainly a very remote possibility.

Lord Mishcon

As always, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his intervention.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.14 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 2: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Power to modify the rule

.—(1) Where a court determines that a person (in this section referred to as "the offender") who has unlawfully killed another is, apart from this section, precluded by virtue of the forfeiture rule from acquiring any interest in property mentioned in subsection (4) below, the court may make an order under this section modifying the effect of that rule.

(2) The court shall not make an order under this section modifying the effect of the forfeiture rule in any case unless it is satisfied that, having regard to the conduct of the offender and of the deceased and to such other circumstances as appear to the court to be material, the justice of the case requires the effect of the rule to be so modified in that case.

(3) In any case where a person stands convicted of an offence of which unlawful killing is an element, the court shall not make an order under this section modifying the effect of the forfeiture rule in that case unless proceedings for the purpose are brought before the expiry of the period of three months beginning with his conviction.

(4) The interests in property referred to in subsection (1) above are—

  1. (a) any beneficial interest in property which (apart from the forfeiture rule) the offender would acquire—F
    1. (i) under the deceased's will (including, as respects Scotland, any writing having testamentary effect) or, the law relating to intestacy or by way of ius relictiius relictae or legitim;
    2. (ii) on the nomination of the deceased in accordance with the provisions of any enactment;
    3. (iii) as a donatio mortis causa made by the deceased; or
    4. (iv) under a special destination (whether relating to heritable or moveable property); or
  2. (b) any beneficial interest in property which (apart from the forfeiture rule) the offender would acquire in consequence of the death of the deceased, being property which, before the death, was held on trust for any person.

(5) An order under this section may modify the effect of the forfeiture rule in respect of any interest in property to which the determination referred to in subsection (1) above relates and may do so in either or both of the following ways, that is—

  1. (a) where there is more than one such interest, by excluding the application of the rule in respect of any (but not all) of those interests; and
  2. (b) in the case of any such interest in property, by excluding the application of the rule in respect of part of the property.

(6) On the making of an order under this section, the forfeiture rule shall have effect for all purposes (including purposes relating to anything done before the order is made) subject to the modifications made by the order.

(7) In this section— property" includes any chose in action or incorporeal moveable property; and will"includes codicil.").

The noble Lord said: This second new clause enables the courts to modify the forfeiture rule as it applies to a defender. The courts are given discretion to order that the rules shall not preclude him from acquiring part of the interest which he would acquire by succession as the result of a death, the size of the part being for the court to determine, according to the justice of the case. The new clause enables the court to modify the undoubtedly rigid all-or-nothing aspect of the present rule. At present the rule either applies or does not apply. There is no middle course. Indeed, the right honourable and learned gentleman the Solicitor-General referred to this matter when the Bill was in another place and said that it was a part of our law which quite obviously needed to be looked at.

Thus a widow who had killed her husband, who might therefore deserve to be deprived of his liquid assets, would also be liable to be turned out of the matrimonial home if it belonged to him. If the nature of the case was such that, like the Connor case to which I referred only a moment or so ago, the court did not think it necessary to impose a custodial sentence, that could be somewhat harsh. The new clause places no restrictions on the proportions in which the court can divide the benefits to which the offender would have been entitled, apart from the rule, except that it cannot grant him the whole of the benefits he would have had, since that would be tantamount to disapplying the rule, and the court's powers to do that are not to be affected by the Bill.

Subsection (1) ensures that the court's powers under the section will be available whenever the forfeiture rule, as described in the first new clause, applies. The subsection refers simply to "the court". This term is not defined because no definition is necessary. The forum will be determined by reference to other factors. For example, if the offender is seeking to claim a legacy under his victim's will, he will, like any other beneficiary in a comparable position, start administration proceedings against the personal representatives. Alternatively, the personal representatives could themselves start such proceedings if they desired directions from the court. Such proceedings would be brought in the Chancery Division; or, if the estate was worth less than £30,000, it would be brought in the county court. On the other hand, a dispute over a nomination under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965—that would come under Section 23 of the Act—would go to a magistrates' court if the rules of the relevant society so provided.

Subsection (2) lays down the criterion by which the court's discretion is to be exercised. As regards "other circumstances"—I am quoting from the new subsection mentioned in the amendment —"as appear to the court to be material", the purpose is that the court should not be precluded from having regard to such consideration as the needs and resources of the offender and of others who are interested in the estate. However, unlike Inheritance Act applications where the applicant starts with no rights under the will at all or, at most, with rights which he claims are inadequate, in cases under this clause the offender prima facie has rights or would have, apart from the forfeiture rule. Therefore, the matter should not necessarily be approached in the same way as an Inheritance Act application. These other considerations are, therefore, not spelled out but are covered by general words.

As to subsection (3), your Lordships will see that it sets a time limit on the commencement of proceedings for an order under this clause. If I remember correctly, it was the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor who referred to this matter as one of the difficulties created by the Bill as it appeared first before your Lordships at Second Reading. The difficulty to which he referred was the difficulty of personal representatives who would not know whether or not they could proceed to distribute the estate. The discretion, or the additional discretion which this Bill will confer on the courts in relation to the forfeiture rule, will inevitably bring with it an element of uncertainty. Personal representatives administering an estate can at the present time with reasonable confidence treat a convicted murderer or manslaughterer as precluded by the forfeiture rule and proceed accordingly without going to the trouble and expense of seeking directions from the court.

In future, however, the personal representatives would, if this Bill is passed, have to bear in mind the possibility of proceedings under the Bill. The best way to meet their difficulties is, it is thought, to fix a deadline after which the personal representatives will know for certain whether or not there will be proceedings under the Bill. Subsection (3) accordingly provides in effect that a convicted person must commence proceedings for an order under this clause within three months of conviction, failing which the court would have no power to make an order modifying the rule. In other words, if he did not start proceedings within that time, the personal representatives would be safe to treat him as excluded.

Subsection (4) lists the inheritance and analogous interests in respect of which applications could be made. Broadly speaking, they can be described as rights of succession to property. This is in line with the provisions of the original Bill, except that subsection (4) also covers special Scottish interests, statutory nominations, and, lastly, donatio mortis causa. Subsection (4)(a)(i) deals with inheritance by will or the intestacy rule. I understand that under Scottish law it is possible for some writings not readily recognisable as wills—for instance, certain provisions in marriage contracts—to be given testamentary effect as if they were wills. The words in subsection (4)(a)(i) ensure that they are covered by this clause. Turning to (4)(a)(ii), this deals with statutory nominations. As your Lordships will know, some statutes and statutory instruments authorise persons who own, or who are entitled to, certain types of property to dispose of them by nominations during their lifetime but which take effect on their death. Examples which will readily occur to your Lordships are savings in public securities such as National Savings Certificates, and property in industrial and providence societies.

Turning to a matter that I mentioned a moment ago—that of donatio mortis causa, which is referred to in subsection (4)(a)(iii)—such gifts made during the life time of the deceased but recoverable until any time at until his death have not been the subject of any judicial decision, so far as I or anyone advising me can trace, in relation to the forfeiture rule. However, because they are in certain respects analogous to legacies, it is quite possible that a court would hold that they were covered by the rule, and therefore they are mentioned here so that relief can be given in respect of them if necessary and if appropriate.

Subsection (4)(a)(iv) refers to special destinations, and here I had to be advised, as always in respect of Scottish law. I am told that under Scottish law, a special destination is a provision in the title deed to property saying to whom the property will pass on the owner's death. It may be found in the title deed of heritable—we would know it as real—property or in a document of title relating to moveable—we would know it as personal—property, for instance a share certificate. Such a provision is given testamentary effect even though it is not a writing of the deceased person. I suppose the most common example is where a husband and wife own a house in common and the title deeds provide that on the death of either partner, his or her share will pass to the survivor. It appears that the clause should apply to property passing under "a special destination" as it applies to property under will.

Subsection (4) (b) deals with the situation where, for example, a remainderman under a trust kills the tenant for life and thereby would succeed to the property but for the forfeiture rule. That situation is not otherwise covered by subsection (4) (a) because the offender is not succeeding under the deceased's will or in any other way provided for in that paragraph. Subsection (5) specifies the orders which the court may make, and subsection (6) makes the provision necessary to ensure that the court order takes priority over the forfeiture rule. Lastly, subsection (7) contains two interpretations. The gloss on property—if I may use that expression—is to ensure that debts and similar things are covered. So far as England is concerned—and by that I mean England and Wales—this subsection reflects the corresponding interpretation in Section 25(1) of the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.24 p.m.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 3: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Application for financial provision not affected by the rule

.—(1) The forfeiture rule shall not be taken to preclude any person from making any application under a provision mentioned in subsection (2) below or the making of any order on the application.

(2) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) above are—

  1. (a) any provision of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; and
  2. (b) sections 31(6) (variation etc. of periodical payments orders) and 36(1) (variation of maintenance agreements) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and section 5(4) of the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1976 (variation etc. of periodical allowances).").

The noble Lord said: The insertion of this new clause means that we are covering the other kinds of case which the old Clause 1 of the Bill was intended to cover—namely, where even apart from the forfeiture rule, the offender stands to get little or nothing under the victim's will or the intestacy rules but where, apart from the rule, he might have been able to apply for and be granted financial relief out of the estate under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

As I understand it, there is no reported case on whether the forfeiture rule operates to debar an offender from making an application under the 1975 Act for provision out of his victim's estate or, even if he is not debarred from making such an application, whether it operates to debar the court from making an order in his favour. This clause is designed to make it clear that the rule does not of itself debar either of these things. Subsection (1) is the main provision. That simply states the proposition that the forfeiture rule shall not be taken to preclude applications under the enactments listed in subsection (2) or the granting of relief on such application. Subsection (2) sets out the relevant enactments. Subsection (2)(b) covers analogous provisions of the divorce legislation. I believe that may satisfy your Lordships by way of an explanation of what this new clause seeks to do. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [Application to the court for relief by widows]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Resolved in the negative, and Clause 2 disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Mishcon: moved Amendment No. 4: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Commissioner to decide whether rule applies to social security benefits.

— (1) Where a question arises as to whether, if a person were otherwise entitled to or eligible for any benefit or advantage under a relevant enactment, he would be precluded by virtue of the forfeiture rule from receiving the whole or part of the benefit or advantage, that question shall (notwithstanding anything in any relevant enactment) be determined by a Commissioner.

(2) Regulations under this section may make such provision as appears to the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient for carrying this section into effect; and (without prejudice to the generality of that) the regulations may, in relation to the question mentioned in subsection (1) above or any determination under that subsection—

  1. (a) apply any provision of any relevant enactment, with or without modifications, or exclude or contain provision corresponding to any such provision; and
  2. (b) make provision for purposes corresponding to those for which provision may he made by regulations under section 115 of the Social Security Act 1975 (matters relating to adjudication).

(3) The power to make regulations under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4) Section 166(2) and (3) of the Social Security Act 1975 (provision about extent of power to make regulations) shall apply to the power to make regulations conferred by this section as it applies to the power to make regulations conferred by that Act, but as if for references to that Act there were substituted references to this section.

(5) In this section— Commissioner" has the same meaning as in the Social Security Act 1975; and relevant enactment" means any provision of the following and any instrument made by virtue of such a provision:

The noble Lord said: This new clause is designed to deal with the social security aspects of the Bill, which were also mentioned on Second Reading. Unlike the clauses covering succession rights, this new clause does not alter the scope of the forfeiture rule or give the adjudicating authorities any new direction to grant relief from the forfeiture rule. It simply provides that in all the situations that can be envisaged where the question of the application of the forfeiture rule could arise, in relation to entitlements to a state benefit, that that question shall go direct to be determined by a commissioner rather than starting at the bottom of the adjudicating ladder. Although the purpose of this new clause is thus fairly simple, its provisions—as is so often the case with the law relating to social security—are somewhat complex. With your Lordships' permission, I will go briefly through the subsections.

Subsection(1)secures that if a forfeiture rule question arises under a relevant enactment, and that relevant enactment is defined in subsection (5), that question is to be determined by a social security commissioner. Subsection (2) will enable the Secretary of State for Social Services to make regulations providing for the reference to the social security commissioners by other statutory determining authorities under the relevant enactments of forfeiture rule questions arising under those enactments.

Subsection (3) secures that regulations made under the clause will be subject to annulment by a resolution of either House of Parliament, Subsection (4) extends to regulations made under this clause general provisions relating to the making of subordinate legislation under the Social Security Act 1976 and other relevant enactments. Subsection (5) contains definitions of commissioner and of the relevant enactments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Exclusion of murderers from benefit]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Alport)

The Question is, That Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill? As many as are of that opinion will say, Content? To the contrary, Not-Content?

Several noble Lords


The Lord Chancellor

No; Content. Leave it to me.

Lord Mishcon

I would be grateful if the Question could be put again.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is, That Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill? As many as are of that opinion will say, Content? To the contrary, Not-Content? I think that the Contents have it.

Several noble Lords


The Lord Chancellor

Clause 3 deals with the question of murder, raised by the noble Baroness. I thought it had been inserted by request of the Commons to exclude murder, and I thought the noble Lord's intention was to continue to include it.

Lord Mishcon

The intention is not only there but it has been put there more clearly by the new Clause 5. That is the purpose of the new Clause 5, to which I will come in a moment, if your Lordships agree that Clause 3 should not stand part of the Bill.

Resolved in the negative, and Clause 3 disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 5: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

("Exclusion of murderers.

Nothing in this Act or in any order made under section [Power to modify the rule] or referred to in section [Application for financial provision not affected by the rule] (1) of this Act shall affect the application of the forfeiture rule in case of a person who stands convicted of murder.").

The noble Lord said: I thought the Committee was in fact murdering my amendment, but now I come, if I may, to a very short statement, which is that, Clause 3 having been left out, it be replaced by this new clause. It is simply a drafting improvement. It makes no change of substance. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [Interpretation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?

Resolved in the negative, and Clause 4 disagreed to accordingly.

Lord Mishcon: moved Amendment No. 6: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

("Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland.

. An Order in Council under paragraph 1 (1)(b) of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (legislation for Northern Ireland in the interim period) which contains a statement that it is made only for purposes corresponding to the purposes of this Act—

  1. (a) shall not be subject to paragraph 1(4) and (5) of that Schedule (affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament); but
  2. (b) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House.").

The noble Lord said: I understand that Clause 4 should be dropped from the Bill because in the light of amendments already made it is neither necessary nor appropriate. I beg to move, therefore, that the clause be left out.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

It has been left out. I have called Amendment No. 6.

Lord Mishcon

I only wanted to make sure it had been left out. With regard to this new clause, since the law of Northern Ireland—and, if I may, I will speak to Amendment No. 9 as well in order to shorten the Committee's proceedings—is broadly similar to that of England and Wales as regard the forfeiture rule and its operation, this new clause, which goes with Amendment No. 9, enables corresponding provision to be made for Northern Ireland, but by Order in Council subject to negative rather than affirmative resolution in Parliament. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 [Short title, commencement and extent]:

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 17, leave out ("Relief from").

The noble Lord said: This amendment would shorten the Short Title of the Bill from"Relief from Forfeiture" to simply "Forfeiture". There are two drawbacks to the existing Short Title. Again, if I remember correctly, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor cast some eye upon the name previously given to this Bill and it was not a very favourable eye, for the reason I am going to mention. There are two drawbacks to the existing Short Title. One is that it is very similar to an expression which has a particular meaning in an entirely different area of law; namely, the law relating to leases. In that context it is usually phrased as "relief against forfeiture", as, for example, in the heading to Section 38 of the Supreme Court Act which was passed last year. The similarity is close enough to be a potential source of confusion.

The other drawback is that the Bill is no longer entirely about relief from forfeiture; in particular the new clause about social security to which I have just spoken is only about jurisdiction—it does not confer any new discretion to grant relief. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 2, line 18, at end insert— ("(1A) Section [Commissioner to decide whether rule applies to social security benefits] of this Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may appoint by order made by statutory instrument; and sections ["The forfeiture rule"] to [Application for financial provision not affected by the rule] and [Exclusion of murderers] of this Act shall come into force on the expiry of the period of three months beginning with the day on which it is passed.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment inserts a new subsection into Clause 5 to make provision for the commencement of the Bill. Its effect is, first, that this clause, Clause 5, and the clause about corresponding provision for Northern Ireland will come into force immediately upon Royal Assent. Secondly, the clause concerning the jurisdiction of Social Security Commissioners will come into force on a date to be appointed by the Secretary of State. Lastly, the rest of the Bill will come into force three months after Royal Assent is given. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 9: Page 2, line 19, after ("Act") insert (",except section [Corresponding provision for Northern Ireland],").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment in conjunction with Amendment No. 6. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mishcon had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 10: Page 2, line 20, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: I do not propose, with your Lordships' leave, to move Amendment No. 10. It was originally tabled on the ground that Clause 5(3) was unnecessary and that its wording would no longer fit in with the revised structure of the Bill. But those advising me have asked for a little more time to enable them to consider further whether some express provision would be desirable to clarify the application of the Bill to deaths which occur before its commencement. In those circumstances, I hope the Committee will agree with me that it would be better to defer the whole question until the next stage of the Bill, and I accordingly do not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 11: In the Title, line 1, after ("relief") insert ("for persons guilty of unlawful killing").

The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' leave, may I speak to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. With regard to No. 11, as your Lordships will see, it is after "relief" to insert, "for persons guilty of unlawful killing"; and then No. 12 is to leave out from "rights" to the words on the Marshalled List and insert the words, to enable such persons to apply for financial provision out of the deceased's estate and for the question whether pension and social security benefits have been forfeited to be determined by the Social Security Commissioners".

Both these amendments are consequential on the changes already made in the Bill. The Long Title thus revised would state accurately what the Bill now does. In particular, the Bill no longer amends the inheritance provisions of the Family Dependants Act 1975, and provides in part for special jurisdiction to be vested in Social Security Commissioners. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Morris moved Amendment No. 11A: In the Title, line 2, leave out ("rights") and insert ("interests in property").

The noble Lord said: In the course of the Second Reading of this Bill, which now bears hardly any resemblance at all to the original Bill, I must confess that the inclusion in the Long Title of the word "rights" jarred slightly. Far be it for me to try to outdraft parliamentary draftsmen, but the major reason why it does jar is that I believe that the term "rights" should more properly be reserved for the fundamentals of our law rather than its minutiae. When I turned to the vade mecum of the non-lawyer, namely, the Oxford Companion to Law, I was delighted when I looked under "right" to read, "a much ill-used and over-used word".

My amendment seeks to replace the word "rights" by the term used in the Bill in the main, "interests in property". Your Lordships will notice that in the new clauses throughout the amendments the term "interests in property" appears in addition to the word "benefit" in the very first new clause.

On the other hand, I can understand certain objections to the wording "interests in property" in substitution for "rights", in that the new clause which deals with social security benefits refers to them as "entitlements" or "eligibilities" for any benefits or advantages. These benefits and advantages are normally settled by way of cash or cash equivalents, which in themselves are a property right, or indeed a chose in action or chose in possession, which would be covered by the term "interests in property". However, I would have no objection at all to some other term in substitution for "rights" because my dislike for, "rights" is stronger than my affection for, "interests in property". The word "entitlements" might well form a better drafting amendment than one suggested in the Marshalled List. However, I depend very much on advice from learned and not so quite learned Lords on this matter. I hope that this might be considered helpful to the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

I was hoping for the assistance upon this matter of a very noble and a very learned Lord, but I see that I am not to have it because he is still observing his benevolent neutrality. I should like again to thank him not for the neutrality but for the benevolence which has made his officials be of such help to me. If your Lordships have had any learning at all this afternoon, would you kindly attribute the learning to the officials of the Lord Chancellor's Department and not to me.

Incidentally, I congratulate the noble Lord on getting through the powers-that-be in order to put down this amendment. I had understood, it may be quite incorrectly, that one could not move an amendment to the Title unless it was consequential upon some other amendment that either one had put down or somebody else had put down to the Bill and which had gone through. If I am wrong, then the noble Lord is right; if I am right, then the noble Lord is to be congratulated on his ingenuity at getting through our traditions.

Having said that, I must say that, although I cannot see any great harm being caused by the amendment, I do not think that it would achieve any useful purpose. The one thing that it would produce is a grammatical oddity, because at the moment the Long Title speaks of "inheritance and other rights" or, in full, "inheritance rights and other rights". With the amendment it would, if set out in full, read: inheritance interests in property and other interests in property and therefore would look extremely odd. I am sure that the noble Lord would not want to press the amendment. I promise him to consider what he said with those who are advising me. At the moment I am sure that he will not take that as an undertaking at all to reconsider the present Title, but I certainly will give consideration to what he has been good enough to say this afternoon.

The Lord Chancellor

I do not want to escape from my duty of impartiality as regards this matter, but I would just say to my noble friend that I am not sure that I share his belief that the word "rights" in English law ought to be confined to fundamental rights. I think that there might be a great deal of inconvenience attached to it if it had this confined meaning, despite the vade mecum to which he has had recourse.

However, there is an objection to this amendment which I think is inescapable and which has not anything to do with the technical rules of the House. The fact is that the Bill affects pension rights and rights under the Social Security Acts generally, and those are not interests in property. Therefore, to restrict the Title in this way would have something worse, I think, than a drafting difficulty attached to it.

Lord Fraser of Tullybelton

I should like to add one note in agreement with the last two speakers on the question of rights. One of the classes of interest in property referred to in the new subsection (4)(a) is legitim and ius relicti and ius relictae. Those are always known as legal rights in Scotland—the rights of the spouse and the children to succeed. It would not make sense to call them anything other than legal rights. So that is a further reason for retaining the word "rights" in the Long Title.

Lord Mishcon

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lords from whom, as usual, I have learnt.

Lord Morris

I am most grateful to all noble and learned Lords who have spoken, and not for the first time I have learnt a very great deal. On reflection, I, too, am not very happy about the "interests in property" insertion and prefer the single word "entitlement" but as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has so kindly suggested that he will consider the matter, I am very happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 12: In the Title, line 2, leave out from ("rights") to ("; and") in line 4 and insert ("; to enable such persons to apply for financial provision out of the deceased's estate and for the question whether pension and social security benefits have been forfeited to be determined by the Social Security Commissioners").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.