HL Deb 18 December 1984 vol 458 cc559-61

4.18 p.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Cameron of Lochbroom

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Cameron of Lochbroom.)

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, we extended a welcome to this Bill on Second Reading and we confirm that welcome now. We do so for three reasons. The Bill deals with and clarifies the law and makes it more certain, although from my own experience that does not always happen when we seek to clarify the law. Secondly, it comprehensively deals with the subject it covers: aliment financial provision on divorce and matrimonial property. Sadly, those are matters of increasing importance to a growing number of people. It is probably a sad reflection on the mores of the present age, but we have to face the facts. Thirdly, it implements promptly and faithfully two reports which have received widespread support from those mainly concerned.

I think that we should congratulate the Lord Advocate on managing to proceed to legislation so quickly not only with this matter but with now about three reports of the Scottish Law Commission. As the person who set up that Law Commission, I am certainly gratified by the kind of work that it has been doing and even more by the speed with which Governments realise the importance of such work and speed it into legislation.

No purpose would be served by attempting at a later stage to repeat amendments that we have put down, but that does not mean to say that they are not important. Some people may have thought that an amendment seeking to import a word such as "material" before the phrase, "change of circumstance", was unimportant. It is not: far from it. Some people may have thought the same about the term, "conduct of parties" and the argument that we had as to whether we should enlarge on that or qualify it in some way. Those arguments are not unimportant—they are certainly not to the people involved.

We are legislating on very personal matters involving people's futures. They are worthy of further consideration, which I am sure that they will be given elsewhere. I hope that the Government and the Lord Advocate in particular have not closed their minds to the possibility at a later stage of re-examining these points that we raised and doing something about them.

We congratulate the Lord Advocate, first, on his good fortune in having found Government time in which to bring forward this legislation and, secondly, on the way that he has handled the Bill. As I say, it must be of considerable satisfaction to the hardworking Scottish Law Commission and all its members and advisers that their work has so quickly borne fruit. We congratulate the Government on the Bill and welcome it.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, from these Benches I would simply echo—perhaps a little more briefly—the welcome that the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, gave to the Bill. We had a useful discussion on it. It improves the forms and to some extent clarifies the law relating to family affairs in Scotland. For that reason alone it is to be welcomed. As the noble Lord, Lord Ross, said, we are in debt to the Scottish Law Commission and to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for his presentation of the Bill. There are some intriguing historical incidents behind the development of the law in this context, but I would not for a moment dream of dwelling upon them at this stage of the Bill. That might spoil the welcome which we have both been concerned to give it.

Lord Cameron of Lochbroom

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, for what they have said in recognising that this is an important piece of social legislation, and, indeed, as the noble Lord indicated, based upon two reports of the Scottish Law Commission. I should like to endorse his views about the commission's recommendations which have given birth to this Bill and again state my appreciation and that of the Government to the commission for its most careful and most valuable study.

I should also like, if I may, to express my own gratitude to those of your Lordships, and in particular the noble and learned Lords, Lord McCluskey and Lord Wilson of Langside, for the analysis and detailed attention which they have given to the provisions of the Bill. It is perhaps not unfair to suggest that much of the criticism was directed, at one point, to the fact that the Government had followed the commission's recommendations too closely, and, at another, that they had not followed them closely enough.

However, it is fair to say to your Lordships that the Government are giving further consideration to a number of the points raised, but the comments which your Lordships have made confirm the view that this Bill is one which amends a complex area of the law in a way which is both necessary and reasonable. Therefore, it is good that it has come through your Lordships' House in the way that it has.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.