Select Committee on Social Security Fifth Report


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the Institute of Legal Executives (PS 10)

  Thank you for your recent letter inviting the Institute to respond to the House of Commons Social Security Committee outlining any comments and concerns on the proposals in the Government's Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill. The Institute responded to the consultation paper issued by the Department of Social Security in June 1998, and a copy is enclosed with these papers.[48]

  The Institute is pleased to have been given the opportunity to provide comments on what is an important development in the division of property on divorce. Unfortunately it has not been possible to offer a detailed technical analysis of the relevant clauses and schedules of the Bill, or of the Fifth Report from the Social Security Committee of Session 1997-98 (HC869).

  However, the Institute would like to make the following points:

  1. The process of law making which has led to this Bill is to be applauded. Pensions legislation is both technical and complex. A pleasing amount of the Bill is straightforward and understandable even to those without a specialist pension background. Undoubtedly the time spent on consultation and the manner in which it was carried out, and the use made of pensions and family law experts, contributed to this clarity.

  2. The Social Security Committee in its report indicated that Ministers' intentions on legal aid should be announced before the Bill is presented to Parliament. The Institute emphasises the need for legal aid advice and representation to be readily available to couples who are involved in considering pensions division on divorce. Expert assistance will be needed to guide individuals to the right conclusion for themselves and their families, and to ensure adherence to the sometimes strict requirements in the Bill.

  3. The Institute welcomes the inclusion of those divorcing overseas within the provisions of the Bill.

  4. The Institute makes the point that the court, when endorsing an agreement made by the parties to a divorce, whether via a Consent Order under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or as a qualifying agreement under the Family Law Act 1996, is exercising a judicial function and not merely an administrative function.

  5. Finally the Institute welcomes the flexibility introduced in Schedule 3 paragraph 3 (Clause 24B (3)) so that information not available to the court on one occasion, and which leads to the detriment of the party without that information at the time of the pension sharing order, can be brought back before the court and a further order made.

  If you need any further information or clarification on the points raised, please contact me.

Mrs Diane Burleigh


2 March 1999

48   Not printed. See HC 869 p. li. Back

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