HC Deb 06 June 1957 vol 571 cc122-4W
Miss Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the hardship caused to women who are prevented from obtaining or enforcing maintenance or affiliation orders because they are unable to obtain the man's address; and if he will consider whether arrangements can be made for such an address which is known to a Government Department to be made available to the woman or the court.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The Government have been giving careful and sympathetic consideration to this question and it has been decided to permit the disclosure of addresses from certain official records subject to a number of necessary safeguards.

The information will be disclosed only from social security records held centrally by Government Departments. The Department concerned will make every effort to trace the record of the missing man whenever application is received, but whether it can be traced will depend upon the identifying particulars given by the applicant; an address will not be supplied by a Department unless it is satisfied from the particulars furnished that the record of the man has been reliably identified.

In the case of proceedings in a magistrates' court in England and Wales under the Summary Jurisdiction (Separation and Maintenance) Acts, the Guardianship of Infants Acts or the Bastardy Laws Amendment Act, the address will be supplied to the clerk of the court on application by him certifying that it is required for the purposes of the enforcement of an existing order or to enable the woman's application for an order to be heard by the court and that he is satisfied that the woman has made every reasonable effort to discover the whereabouts of the man by other means. The address will not be given by the Department direct to the woman or her solicitor and it will be given to the clerk of the court only on the understanding that it will be used solely for the purpose of the proceedings and will not be disclosed to the woman or anyone else except in the normal course of the proceedings.

Where the address is required for the purpose of taking proceedings in the High Court either to obtain or to enforce a maintenance order the information will be supplied on application to the Registrar of the court, who will pass it on to the wife's solicitor or to the woman herself, if she is acting without a solicitor. In this type of case also the information will be given only on the understanding that it will be used solely for the purpose of the proceedings and that every reasonable effort has been made to trace the man by other means.

I am authorised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to say that in Scotland, where the Clerks of Court are not concerned with the service of processes, the address will be disclosed, in the circumstances to which I have referred, to the woman's solicitor or, exceptionally, if she is not legally represented, to the woman herself.

Statutory authority is not necessary to permit disclosure and the new procedure will operate at once. The tracing of the addresses will, however, involve a small additional expenditure and the Government will take an early opportunity to introduce legislation to authorise Departments to incure expenditure for this purpose.