§ 3.1 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.
Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Period for reflection and consideration]:
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 4, line 5, at end insert ("the fourteenth day after").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 32 and 71.
§ I have tabled these amendments in order to address the concerns expressed in Committee with regard to the commencement date of the period of reflection and consideration, where it is necessary for notice of the statement of marital breakdown to be served on the other party to a marriage. My noble friend Lord Coleraine moved an amendment in Committee to provide that where the statement of marital breakdown is made by only one party, the period of reflection and consideration should not commence until the statement has been served on the other party. There must, however, be absolute certainty as to the date of the period's commencement, as the divorce or separation process depends upon the passing of a prescribed period of time in order to establish irretrievable breakdown. There is no certain way of recording the date on which notice of the statement has been received by the other party, and in fact that party could go on denying receipt indefinitely. Not only therefore would there be uncertainty in this method, but it could give rise to deliberate obstruction on the part of the other party.
§ The date on which a statement is received by the court is a recorded fact and it is for this reason that the commencement of the period should depend upon this date. However, I have decided to extend the commencement date to 14 days from the date on which the statement is received by the court to allow for service of the statement on the other party. Rules which the Lord Chancellor is empowered to make under Clause 10 can then provide for the statement to be served on the other party within 14 days from the time it is received by the court.
§ Amendment No. 32 then takes the matter further by providing that where a statement of marital breakdown has been made by one party and rules require the court to serve a copy of the statement on the other party, the court may, on the application of that other party, extend the period for reflection and consideration where failure to comply with the rules of service has caused inordinate delay in the service of the statement.
§ Amendment No. 71 is necessary in order to enable rules made by the Lord Chancellor to provide for service of the statement and the circumstances in which such service can be dispensed with or substituted. It is obviously necessary for the purposes of the provisions contained in Amendments Nos. 30 and 32 that rules 11 clearly set out the requirements as to service. It is more helpful for this to be done along with other rules relating directly to the statement and which are made under Clause 10, rather than generally in rules of court.
§ I think that these amendments adequately address the concerns expressed in Committee. They allow for additional time to be granted to parties where there has been inordinate delay, but place the responsibility for proving why there is good cause for extending the period on the party who alleges delay in service of the statement. This should protect against delaying tactics and deliberate obstruction on the part of the other party. I beg to move.
§ Lord Coleraine
My Lords, I am glad to hear from my noble and learned friend that the period for reflection and consideration will start 14 days after the court receives the statement. I quite understand that there are very good reasons why the amendment that I proposed in Committee could not be accepted in substance. I only hope that my noble and learned friend can assure the House that no difficulties will arise in a number of possible situations that can be envisaged. One is the absence on holiday abroad of the spouse who is being served with a statement. The other is possibly the spouse who served the statement interfering and seeing that the other spouse does not receive the statement. I am sure that rules of court cover these matters, but they are of concern.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The purpose of the power to extend given to the court is to cope with any difficulties of the sort to which he referred. It is a fairly general power to deal with matters of that kind and I expect it to be able to be capable of dealing with the sort of circumstances that he mentioned.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness David moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 4, line 6, at end insert ("except where subsection (8) applies.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Irvine, I am moving these amendments.
Amendments Nos. 31 and 43 are in my noble friend's name. Amendment No. 43 is the substantive one which inserts a new subsection at page 4, line 21 which would read:
The court shall have the power to abridge the period for reflection and consideration if (but only if) the requirements of section 2(1) are satisfied and the court is satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of the parties or of any relevant children to dissolve the marriage before such period has elapsed".
My Amendment No. 35 has the same purpose, which is, in very special cases, for the court to abridge the period for reflection and consideration.
§ The point is that it would be a great pity if the vast improvement which the Bill makes—a mandatory year for reflection and consideration—were made excessively restrictive by robbing the judges of any discretion to do justice in the rare cases where a divorce 12 should be granted before the expiry of the 12-month period. Just as there are special cases where a year may be too short, so also the law should be flexible enough to allow for special cases where one year is too long.
I repeat the telling example given by my noble friend Lord Irvine in Committee on 23rd January:
A man who was separated from his wife more than 10 years ago was diagnosed in February of last year as dying from cancer. He and his wife had not divorced; neither of them had seen any need to do so. He was living with his new partner. She became pregnant. He wanted, so far as he could, to provide for her and their child after his death. His lawful wife was entirely supportive. She too was living with a new partner.
The lawful husband had substantial pension policies. Within a few months he was able to obtain a divorce from his wife with her full agreement and of course the co-operation of the courts. The divorce was finalised in June of that year; he died in September. His new wife now has the benefit of a widow's pension under his occupational scheme, to the great benefit of not only herself, but also of their child. Happily, the child was born last summer".— [Official Report, 23/1/96; col. 961.]
I think that is a really telling example. No doubt it could be said that the couple should have divorced earlier, and in a sense therefore they were the authors of their own misfortune. I suppose that is true, but they did not. It would be extraordinarily harsh to say that they have only themselves to blame. I believe that no court should be prevented from doing justice in such an exceptional situation.
§ Presumably, the noble and learned Lord will argue, as he did in Committee, that a year for reflection and consideration is the minimum period necessary to demonstrate that the marriage has irreparably broken down. I accept that in the generality of cases. The question is whether that is necessary in every case. I suggest that the example I gave illustrates that it is not necessary.
§ Noble Lords will observe how narrow is the exception proposed under Amendment No. 43. The court has to be satisfied that it is necessary in the interests of the parties or any relevant children to dissolve the marriage before the year has elapsed. The word "necessary" signifies the highest conceivable threshold that would have to be surmounted before the subsection could be invoked. Necessary means that which is indispensable; that which cannot be done without. It is in sharp contradistinction to the word "reasonable", which would signify much broader discretion in the courts.
The noble and learned Lord also argued in Committee that there should be no circumstances in which the one-year period should be shortened—I quote him—
because it is necessary to send out a clear signal that marriage is an important relationship and that a year is required before it can be dissolved once one or both of the parties has initiated the necessary procedure".
I do not believe that the clear signal is diminished by so narrow an exception as proposed by the amendment.
§ I observed from my reading of the discussions at Committee stage that the noble and learned Lord did not respond directly to the example given in Committee by my noble friend Lord Irvine. I invite him to do so. Does not he agree that justice obviously requires that a divorce be granted in less than a year in that case, and that the Bill should not be so rigid as to deny it?13
As I said, Amendment No. 35 has the same aim but the application would be made by,
a person authorised by order of the Lord Chancellor".
That I hope will make the amendment more acceptable to him. Originally, the idea was that the application would be made by local authority social services; but, arguably, it might be more appropriate to empower court welfare officers or perhaps a guardian ad litem.
§ The point of having an authorised person rather than enabling the parties to make such an application is that we understand that the noble and learned Lord is determined not to permit a breach of the compulsory year because his main argument against the current fault-based divorce and his main defence of the Bill's reforms are that the new legislation prevents a "quickie" divorce. If he allows the parties to apply for the year to be abridged, he loses that line of defence.
§ The amendment is, therefore, framed to allow for the extreme circumstance, when neutral third parties are concerned that children are suffering because of the delay in obtaining a divorce. For example, social services might become involved because of concerns raised by the child's school or doctor. Alternatively, the court welfare officer might become aware of the situation because of Children Act private hearings during the year.
§ What kind of cases would be likely to trigger such an application? First, it must be accepted that the cases would not be about children needing to be protected from one of the parents. Children Act Section 8 contact orders (access), residence orders (custody) and prohibited steps or specific issue orders (about schooling or religion) can all be obtained during or before the compulsory year of reflection. Similarly, occupation orders under the Bill can be obtained during the year in cases of domestic violence.
§ So the kind of cases where a social worker or court welfare officer might want to apply for the final divorce to be speeded up would be relatively rare and would be about issues not directly about the child's upbringing or protection. For example, a speedy divorce might be needed for reasons of terminal illness, as in the case mentioned earlier by my noble friend; or where there were questions of nationality or immigration which would crucially affect the children—for example, where the children have British nationality but the mother does not and will be deported if she does not remarry, or where a new partner has a job opportunity in Britain but cannot enter without the citizenship obtained through remarriage. Some states will not allow cohabiting couples to enter and that can cause particular problems where an individual wishes to enter one of those states to fulfil an employment contract, and so on, and the couple wish to go abroad with the children of the family, as a family. A speedy divorce may be needed where the children are in poverty, which is affecting their welfare because the financial arrangements cannot be finalised until after the divorce; or where the children are suffering extreme psychological and emotional distress from the delay in finalising the proceedings—for example, if one of their parents has committed a grave offence, perhaps killed one of their siblings, but is still 14 lawfully married to the other parent and is damaging the family through delaying tactics in the divorce proceedings; or in order to clarify the child's paternity, for example, where the new partner is in fact the child's father.
§ This amendment was not discussed at Committee stage. It has the support of a very wide range of organisations. Although sympathetic to the noble and learned Lord's determination to hold firm, everyone believes that there must be some machinery to allow the 12-month period to be shortened, albeit with great difficulty and in very exceptional circumstances, if the welfare of children is threatened. As my noble friend said in Committee, why may the year be lengthened under Clause 9 but, if these amendments are to be opposed, never abridged in special and unusual cases? There should be flexibility both ways. Judges should be trusted to identify those unusual and special cases in which one year is either too long or too short. I beg to move.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I support the amendments and in particular Amendment No. 43, to which I put my name. This is a "free vote" Bill but I trust that I shall not infringe that principle if I observe that Procrustes was not a great liberal. I understand very well the pressures that the noble and learned Lord is under to keep down any exemptions to the one-year period. Nevertheless, in terms of realism and common humanity, we must allow that there are limits to the extent to which one single legal principle may fit every individual case.
These amendments are only concerned with exceptional cases. They are concerned with cases where significant physical or mental harm is likely to result to the parents or to the children from a delay in the divorce. They cover a number of possible situations—for example, cases of mental health. I personally have known cases in which it was essential to the mental health of one of the parties that the marriage should be dissolved; that the parties should feel free of it and be able within their own minds to start again. In the cases that I have known, happily, recovery was in the end complete.
That is not the only case. There are cases in which it is vitally in the interests of the children for the marriage to be dissolved and they should know that they will not need to deal with the person again. The case in my mind was referred to the local women's refuge. I apologise to the House for mentioning the details but we must deal with reality. The father was in the habit of buggering the children with a carefully sharpened pencil. In a case like that, divorce within less than a year was very much in the interests of the children, the mother and everybody else, including social services, which would otherwise have had to pick up the pieces.
That is the kind of case that I have in mind when I speak of Procrustes. We do not want to be precluded from showing mercy in such a case for the sake of a formula or an abstract principle, however good that principle may be. There are also straightforward cases 15 of domestic violence. One can very easily underrate the determination and indeed the cunning of a man of property who approaches his wife in that spirit after divorce.
I appreciate that the recent tragic events in Birmingham and Bristol are sub judice. Nevertheless, I hope I may say that I have received representations in relation to these particular amendments from a close neighbour of the dead woman in that case. I believe that the relevance is clear enough.
There is also a case which was reported in the Independent on 1st February concerning a woman who refused to allow a contact order with her children and is facing the threat of gaol. The man had raped her and threatened her with guns. He appeared to have no willingness to cease to do so. In those circumstances she believed that contact was not in the interests of the children. I am inclined to take her point.
As long as there are dealings through lawyers it is perfectly easy to discover addresses. I have known cases of men of this type impersonating police officers in order to get information. As I said, determination cannot be underrated. Not everybody involved in this type of case, especially if they are accidentally involved, appreciates the risks involved. The risk of unauthorised disclosure of an address is considerable, when every such unauthorised disclosure may risk a life. These risks are not to be multiplied beyond necessity. So I believe that there are cases where it is conducive to the safety, and possibly even the life, of some of the parties that it should be possible to conclude a divorce quickly and to put the whole issue behind us. I am happy to support these amendments.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has put forward cogent reasons why there must be exceptional cases where exemption must be granted. I am a little concerned that Amendments Nos. 35 and 43 are not parallel.
Amendment No. 35 mentions an,application by a person authorised by order of the Lord Chancellor",which means that the cases are clearly limited. Amendment No. 43 states:it is necessary in the interests of the parties or of any relevant children".Amendment No. 35 refers only to the,best interests of any child of the marriage".Therefore, if my noble and learned friend is going to consider having this specific principle of exemption in very dire cases, it should be under the authority of somebody nominated by the Lord Chancellor himself or herself. It should also cover both the parties as well as any children of the marriage.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I support the point that my noble friend Lady Elles has made. It will not surprise the House to recognise that I am very concerned about shortening the period of a year, which I would prefer to see extended. I can just see that there may be very limited cases where that might be necessary.
16 I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady David, whose sincerity in all this I greatly respect. I felt that the longer she spoke the more cases she adduced that might be covered by this amendment. Therefore, one has to recognise that once one widens the number of cases which can be shortened, one is going to get into a similar position to that which occurred under the 1969 Act when everything was speeded up by the special procedure a few years later. Once again, I believe that we have to be very careful about the signal we are sending out.
The same applies to the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. I believe he said at the beginning of his remarks that he wanted the amendment to cover "significant physical and mental harm", which was undefined. That was a very sweeping statement. There may be very exceptional cases—the noble Earl quoted one—which I can just see. I shall be very unhappy if this measure is widened and we find that the year is being shortened—it could easily be shortened—by an increasing number of, as yet, undefined specific cases.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if my noble and learned friend is disposed to look kindly on this amendment, which I rather doubt, I hope that, following the remarks of my noble friend Lady Young, he will look at it only under the most straitened circumstances. It could easily be the beginning of the opening of the floodgate which removes the one-year minimum which is an essential feature of the Bill.
As the amendment addresses the question of changing the minimum time, I hope that in replying to the debate the noble Baroness will explain why she is considering changing it in one direction only. There must be cases where an extension is appropriate, as, for instance, when one of the parties is on a foreign posting and the spouse cannot accompany. In that case, no prospect of reconciliation will exist until the spouse returns to this country, which might be, let us say, in nine months' time.
As regards the compellingly unpleasant case quoted by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I would have thought—I am not a lawyer and I realise that I may be mistaken—that the protection required may be that of a court order and not necessarily the acceleration of the separation of the parties by divorce proceedings. That said, I believe that we should go very carefully indeed before we reduce what many of us regard as an already irreducible minimum.
§ Lord Habgood
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said on this occasion. Like her, I listened with growing alarm to the number of cases adduced by those putting forward these amendments, particularly when one bears in mind the report from the family mediators. I believe that in about one-third of the cases that come for mediation, some element of violence is discerned within the marriage. If that is the kind of proportion that we are talking about, it seems to me that we are opening a very wide door indeed.
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, the principle on which this Bill rests is that the irretrievable breakdown 17 of a marriage shall be arrived at in the situation where the relationship has broken down and has remained so for at least a year, notwithstanding any efforts that the parties could put forward to heal the relationship. That appears to me to be a general principle. Therefore I am extremely slow to make any exception to it at all, because the kinds of hardships which have been mentioned in the examples given by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl are examples which can be dealt with, at least for the most part, by the protection which is available under the provisions dealing with domestic violence. As regards the case to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred, I would certainly think that that was possible.
The noble Earl said that as long as lawyers are in contact there is always the chance of a leak about the address of the other party. I expect that is true, but there are other sources of leaks as well as lawyers' offices. It does not appear to me that that is a good reason for allowing a divorce to take place more quickly. It seems to me that the dissolution of the marriage is distinct from the protection of parties and children during the marriage. The purpose of Part III is to ensure that there are effective means of protection of parties and children from violence during the marriage.
The case which the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, mentioned previously, and which the noble Baroness mentioned today, is a very special circumstance. However, that occurred under the existing law. The fact is that, if the law is changed, in the future people will have to take account of what that new law is. There is an adage which suggests that bad law can arise from too much consideration of particularly hard cases. We need a principle in this matter which emphasises the importance of the year as the test of whether a ground for divorce exists. I cannot see that the mere existence of circumstances such as have been mentioned in any way shows that that was not so. Of course, I agree that, where there is cruelty and the like, the prospects for reconciliation are not good. On the other hand, even in that situation there are the elements of protection to which I have referred. For my part, therefore, I am not at all anxious to make any exceptions in this area. That is one reason why I think that it is equally difficult to extend the period. One wants a definite period which is clear, about which everyone knows, and in respect of which there are no exceptions. That is the way in which I invite your Lordships to deal with the matter.
This appears to me to be an important matter of principle in the Bill and I suggest that your Lordships deal with it in that way. I had assumed that the principle of the Bill was so strong that a free vote would not be required on this matter, which is more incidental than other matters relating to the grounds for divorce.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, although I am extremely grateful for what he said about court orders, does he understand that there are some cases in which the woman's life can be made safe only by concealment of her whereabouts?
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, yes, I do. That is an important factor in proper safety. However, I cannot 18 link that inevitably with the question of an order of divorce. It seems to me that adequate steps to protect the location of the woman can be taken quite apart from an order for the dissolution of the marriage. To me, they seem distinguishable and distinct.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, this has been a useful discussion and I am grateful to all who have taken part in it. I appreciate, of course, that my noble friend's amendment and mine are slightly different. Points have been made about that. Obviously, that needs to be discussed, but I have been impressed that there has been a certain amount of support for the fact that there could be the exceptional case which needs exceptional treatment. I am glad to have the powerful support of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Both the noble Baronesses, Lady Elles and Lady Young, agreed that there could possibly be special cases. I am heartened by that.
I realise that the amendments have probably been drawn too wide and need to be tightened up. I must admit that the noble and learned Lord's response was rather as I had expected, but I am surprised that he does not see that there could be some special case which needs a special provision. I should like to take the two amendments away and to discuss them with my noble friend in the light of the discussions that we have had today. I think that it is pretty well inevitable that we shall come forward with one amendment at the next stage of the Bill, but for today I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 4, line 6, at end insert—
(3B) An extension under subsection (3A) may be for any period not exceeding the time between—
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 30. I beg to move.
§ [Amendments Nos. 33 and 34, as amendments to Amendment No. 32, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 32 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 35 not moved.]
§ Lord Northbourne had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 36:
Page 4, line 6, at end insert—
("( ) In the case of any marriage where there is a child of the marriage under the age of 16, the period for reflection and consideration shall be 18 months unless upon application to the court
by either party or by a person representing the child or children the court decides that the period shall be one year because—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was debated very late on Thursday when many of your Lordships were not able to be in your places. It is an important amendment which needs to be fully discussed. It proposes an extension of the 12-month period for reflection to 18 months in cases where there are children under 16 in the family and where only one parent has lodged a statement of breakdown. It also contains a provision for the court to reduce that period to 12 months, but not less, where to do so would be in the best interests of the child.
§ The amendment would give more time for more couples to achieve reconciliation. That means that fewer children would suffer the trauma of permanent breakdown and divorce. I believe that the amendment deserves to be fully debated and, if necessary, voted upon at Third Reading. Therefore, I do not propose to move it today.
§ [Amendment No. 36 not moved.]
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 4, line 10, leave out subsection (5) and insert—
("( ) Subsection (6) applies if, at any time during the period for reflection and consideration, the parties give joint notice to the court that they are attempting a reconciliation but require additional time.").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment which is intended to clarify the position where people attempt reconciliation during a period of reflection and consideration. It arises from our consideration of this part of the Bill in Committee. I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 38, which is an amendment to this amendment, but I assume from what my noble and learned friend has already said that he will not seek to move it.
§ Clause 6(6) provides for the period of reflection and consideration to be suspended where a couple jointly give notice that they require time to attempt reconciliation. The noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, expressed concern in Committee about the situation of couples wishing to attempt reconciliation but who do not want to stop the running of the one-year period. The noble Lord thought that, because there was no specific mention of reconciliation without notification to the court, parties might think that it was not an option open to them and that consequently attempts at reconciliation would be discouraged. That is the last thing that I want to do.
§ I indicated in Committee that I would consider whether that provision could be further clarified. The amendment that I have proposed is directed at emphasising that the time that the parties ask for in giving notice to the court of an attempt at reconciliation is additional to the one-year period for reflection and consideration. The parties can attempt reconciliation at any time during the period without affecting the running of the period for reflection and consideration but, if they want more time, they can suspend the running of the 20 period by jointly giving notice. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent couples from privately attempting reconciliation or to prejudice them if they do so.
§ I have already spoken about similar amendments relating to reconciliation and I do not think that I need to elaborate on them at this stage, except to say that, as far as I am concerned, the whole purpose of that period is to encourage the possibility of reconciliation. Therefore, this amendment is intended to clarify the drafting doubt which was raised on the last occasion. I beg to move.
§ Lord Meston
My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord confirm that it is still the position, even with Amendment No. 37, that the only way in which the clock can be stopped is by way of a formal notice to the court?
§ The Lord Chancellor
My Lords, yes, that is the intention. It should be absolutely plain when the period on the clock comes to an end.
§ [Amendment No. 38, as an amendment to Amendment No. 37, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 37 agreed to.
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 39:
Page 4, line 13, leave out from beginning to first ("the") in line 15 and insert ("The period for reflection and consideration—
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendment No. 39 with the earlier amendments. I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 40, as an amendment to Amendment No. 39, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 39 agreed to.
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 41:
Page 4, line 17, leave out from beginning to ("any") in line 19 and insert—
("(7) If the period for reflection and consideration is interrupted under subsection (6) by a continuous period of more than 18 months,").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.
§ [Amendment No. 42, as an amendment to Amendment No. 41, not moved.]
§ On Question, Amendment No. 41 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 43 not moved.]
Lord Meston had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 43A:
After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—
EXTENSION OF PERIOD OF REFLECTION
(".—( ) If an application for a divorce order has been made by one of the parties to a marriage, the court may, on the application of the other party, order that the period of reflection is to be extended for a specified time, or until a specified event has occurred.
(2) Such an order (an "order extending the period of reflection") may be made only if the court is satisfied that it would be equitable and just, in all the circumstances, for the period of reflection to be extended.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not propose to move any of the amendments in this group. I hope that progress may be made in bringing forward a refined version of Amendment No. 60A at Third Reading as the most suitable way to deal with the important matter of religious divorces that is covered by this group of amendments.
§ [Amendment No. 43A not moved.]
§ Clause 7 [Attendance at information sessions]:
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendments Nos. 44 to 51:
Page 4, line 22, leave out ("attending information sessions") and insert ("information meetings").
Page 4, line 24, leave out ("The party or parties") and insert ("A party").
Page 4, line 25, leave out ("session") and insert ("meeting").
Page 4, line 26, at end insert—
("( ) In the case of a statement made by both parties, the parties may attend separate meetings or the same meeting.").
Page 4, line 28, leave out ("session") and insert ("meeting").
Page 4, line 34, leave out ("session") and insert ("meeting").
Page 4, line 35, leave out ("regulations made by the Lord Chancellor") and insert ("prescribed provisions").
Page 4, line 36, leave out ("those") and insert ("the party or parties").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 44 to 51 are consequential upon the change from the words "information session" to which I referred earlier. With the leave of your Lordships, I move Amendments Nos. 44 to 51 en bloc.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford had given notice of his intention to move Amendments Nos. 52 and 53:
Page 4, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) Those attending information sessions shall be offered a counselling session with an approved marriage counsellor.").
Page 4, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) For the purposes of this section, an approved marriage counsellor is a person currently accredited as such by an organisation approved by the Lord Chancellor to provide marriage counselling, or a person currently accredited by a body approved by the Lord Chancellor, who has undertaken specialist training in couple counselling and marital interaction.").
§ The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I do not intend to move the amendments standing in my name. Amendments Nos. 52, 53, 58 and 59 have already been debated. I am grateful to receive the assurance of the noble and learned Lord in that earlier debate. He said that he wished to consider whether, in relation to the information session, it was possible to make provision for greater detail in primary legislation without endangering the necessary flexibility. I understand the difficulties that have been expressed by the noble and learned Lord but, as I am sure he knows, there is widespread concern on the part of the range of marriage support agencies that there be some mention of those bodies and marriage counselling at the information session.
§ In relation to the other two amendments which deal with approved marriage counsellors, I entirely understand the concerns that have been expressed by the 22 noble and learned Lord. However, the question arises as to how to stop unauthorised and untrained marriage counsellors offering themselves at marriage information sessions. I very much hope that it will be possible for the noble and learned Lord to enter into discussion on an amendment of which he may approve.
§ [Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 not moved.]
The Lord Chancellor moved Amendments Nos. 54 to 57:
Page 4, line 39, leave out ("The regulations") and insert ("Regulations made under this section").
Page 4, line 40, leave out ("sessions") and insert ("meetings").
Page 4, line 41, leave out ("and").
Page 4, line 42, at end insert ("; and
(c) for the giving of information to parties (otherwise than at information meetings) in cases in which the requirement to attend such meetings does not apply.").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 54 to 57 arise out of the earlier amendments. I beg to move these amendments en bloc.
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ [Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 not moved.]
Baroness Faithfull had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 60:
After Clause 7, insert the following new clause—