HL Deb 08 September 2004 vol 664 cc558-9

2.53 p.m.

Lord Shutt of Greetland asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the intestacy provisions will be updated so that, when a death occurs and there is no will, a surviving spouse can, in the majority of cases, continue to live in the matrimonial home.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin)

My Lords, on intestacy, a surviving spouse is entitled, where there are children, to the statutory legacy of £125,000 absolutely and a life interest in half the remainder. Where there are no children, the figure is £200,000 and half the remainder absolutely. The Government will consult this autumn on revising the current levels of the statutory legacy, and we will set out in the consultation paper our proposals for change.

Lord Shutt of Greetland

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful response. I am delighted that consultation is to take place. Will the Government bear it in mind that the property that was worth £125,000 in 1993 is, on average, worth £300,000 in Yorkshire and £430,000 in central London, and that when 70 per cent of the population do not at present leave a will, there will now be considerable hardship in cases where a surviving spouse does not have the ability, by law, to remain living in the house? Will the noble Lord also consider the possibility of the figures arising from the consultation being indexed in the future? It has been 11 years since there was a change—indeed, there were only seven changes last century.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, the first two issues and many others will certainly be considered in the consultation paper on increasing the statutory levels. Indexation is an interesting issue and the Government will be reflecting on that as part of subsequent reviews. The priority, at this stage, is to look at the current statutory levels and see if, as I think is self-evident, they require adjustment upwards.