§ Baroness Faithfull
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What progress they have made with their programme of reform of family law.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
During the passage of the Children Bill my right honourable and learned friend the Solicitor General announced the establishment of an interdepartmental working party to oversee a rolling programme of work directed at improving family law and business. Its terms of reference were particularly directed towards the implementation and operation of the Children Bill. That legislation is now in operation, and I have decided that the working party's terms of reference should be amended to the following:
The working party shall oversee a programme of work directed at improving all aspects of family law and business. In particular, it shall:
- (a) oversee, co-ordinate and monitor progress of the review of the family justice system set out below;
- (b) report to and advise the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Secretaries of
WA 26 State for Health and Social Security, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other interested Ministers on that review; and
- (c) assess and monitor the resource implications.
Review of the family justice system:
Responsible departments shall consider and formulate advice on:
- (a) the reform of divorce law and practice, including any part which might be played by conciliation and mediation services and how they might be organised and funded;
- (b) the reform of the law governing civil remedies for domestic violence and rights to occupy the family home;
- (c) the functions and organisation of the support services in family proceedings;
- (d) the reform of adoption law;
- (e) the extension of the concurrent jurisdiction of the magistrates' and county courts and the High Court under the Children Act 1989 to other family proceedings;
- (f) the rules governing access to and the reporting of family proceedings;
- (g) the rules governing financial and property division on family breakdown;
- (h) the law relating to the care and upbringing of children and in particular the future role of wardship, and any matters arising from the operation of the Children Act 1989;
- (i) such other reforms of family law as seem appropriate and in particular necessary to the creation of a unified jurisdiction; and
- (j) such other changes in the rules of evidence and procedure as seem desirable to ensure uniform and appropriate means of dealing with family business in all levels of court.