HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc409-10W
49. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the steps taken to eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex from those fields of law and administration which are within the control of his Department; and in which matters such steps have not yet been taken.

Mr. Maudling:

The list of measures taken, or in process of being taken, is lengthy, and is shown below. Other fields of law which may be thought to contain an element of discrimination and are under examination from that aspect in my Department are those relating to change of name, street offences, and the acquisition through a parent of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by children born abroad.

Following are the measures taken, or in process of being taken, to eliminate unwarranted discrimination on grounds of sex from fields of law and administration within the responsibility of the Home Office, or with which the Home Office is closely associated.

Measures taken

Where an elector is out of the country on business at the time of an election and is accompanied by his or her spouse, both are to be treated as absent voters and entitled to vote by proxy.

Steps have been taken in the Attachment of Earnings Act 1971 to improve the machinery for enforcing maintenance orders, for instance, by requiring a husband who is subject to an attachment of earnings order and is in arrears with his payments to notify the court of changes of employment.

Payments under maintenance orders through magistrates' courts in England and Wales are now to be sent by post, unless otherwise requested.

The Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1972 protects the rights of women in obtaining maintenance payments from husbands who are overseas.

In process of being taken

The Government has undertaken, if possible by amendments introduced during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill, now before Parliament, to replace the present property qualification for jury service (which in practice excludes many women) by a qualification based on citizenship as evidenced by inclusion in the electoral register.

Legislation is to be introduced to provide in England and Wales that both parents shall be given equal rights of guardianship over their children.

The Matrimonial Proceedings (Polygamous Marriages) Bill, now before Parliament, will empower courts to grant matrimonial relief (including divorce, annulment, judicial separation and financial provision) to parties to a marriage entered into under a legal system which permits polygamy, whether or not the marriage is, in fact, polygamous.

The Affiliation Proceedings (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, now before Parliament dispenses with the necessity for the mother of an illegitimate child herself to give evidence in support of an application for an affiliation order; and extends to three years from the birth of the child the period during which the mother has the right to take proceedings.