HL Deb 23 March 1989 vol 505 cc842-3

12.17 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this order looks complicated, but I can assure the House that it does not raise novel questions of social policy. It is designed to maintain the present arrangements. As my maiden contribution in this House, it is difficult to envisage a less controversial measure. The purpose of the order is to retain the current relaxed evidential regime which applies in simplified divorce actions in Scotland, but with reference to the provision of the Civil Evidence (Scotland) Act 1988.

That Act will come into force on 3rd April. When that happens, Section 8 of the Act will apply to divorce actions as well as other actions concerning family relationships. Subsection (3) of that section is a statutory statement of the current practice; namely, that evidence required to establish the grounds of divorce must come at least partly from a source other than a party to the marriage. However, the divorce actions which are dealt with under the simplified divorce procedure which has been in operation in Scotland since 1983 can proceed on the basis of the evidence of the pursuer alone.

If Section 8(3) were allowed to apply to simplified divorces, the existing relaxed requirements would be replaced on 3rd April with a stricter regime. That would be entirely inappropriate when one of the aims of the 1988 Act is the removal of technical barriers to the proving of an otherwise justifiable case. The order before the House therefore disapplies the requirement in Section 8(3) where simplified divorces are involved. As I have indicated, the order simply maintains the status quo.

I hope that I have fully explained to the House the basic purpose of the order. I shall, of course be very happy to explain it in more detail should noble Lords wish to have an elaboration on this particular branch of the law of Scotland. However, at this stage I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Fraser of Carmyllie.)

Lord Macaulay of Bragar

My Lords, there is no opposition to the approval of this order which in fact brings a measure of civilisation to the very controversial field of divorce law. It gives me great pleasure to rise on this occasion to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, first of all upon his appointment to the office of Lord Advocate and secondly upon his excellent and short maiden speech. We look forward to hearing his future contributions in your Lordships' House. Perhaps I may say that we have been friends and working colleagues for a large number of years and I hope that that relationship will not be diminished by the fact that on occasions in your Lordships' House we shall be sitting staring at each other.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, It would be improper for me to join in the meat of this discussion, but I think that it is very proper for me to welcome to the Dispatch Box both the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay. It is a rare privilege indeed to be able to congratulate together two maiden speakers and to say how lucky they are to have such a subject with which to open, a subject on which there will be absolutely no controversy at all, whatever they say. As to the meat of the business, I have nothing more to say.

On Question, Motion agreed to.