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Mr. Robert Flello presented a Bill to make provision in relation to the Osborne Estate: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 20 October, and to be printed [Bill 75].
Mark Tami, supported by Chris Ruane and Mr. Iain Wright, presented a Bill to confer power to require estate agents to belong to an approved redress scheme; to make provision about redress schemes and their approval; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on 20 October, and to be printed [Bill 74].
Mr. Iain Wright presented a Bill to enable orders under section 16A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to be made in connection with location filming; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on 14 July, and to be printed [Bill 76].
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish the common law duty of a husband to maintain his wife; to abolish the presumption of advancement in relation to married or engaged couples; to amend the Married Women's Property Act 1964; and to make provision as regards property derived from an allowance made by a civil partner for the expenses of a civil partnership home or for similar purposes.
The Family Law (Property and Maintenance) Bill is a technical but plucky little measure that is intended to abolish or equalise three relatively minor rules of law that treat husbands and wives unequally. The changes are needed to enable the United Kingdom to ratify article 5 of protocol 7 of the European convention on human rights. The UK Government have given a commitment to ratify that protocol, and they must do so on a United Kingdom-wide basis. Delay in amending the law in England and Wales also delays ratification in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
"Spouses shall enjoy equality of rights and responsibilities of a private character between them, and in their relations with their children, as to marriage, during marriage and in the event of its dissolution. This Article shall not prevent States from taking such measures as are necessary in the interests of the children."
The three relatively minor rules of law to which I referred are, first, the common law duty of a husband to maintain his wife. I should make it clear that this has nothing to do with so-called common law marriages. It has to do with legal marriages. Both husbands and wives have access to statutory remedies in the courts for obtaining maintenance or ancillary relief, as it is called, in the unfortunate event of the breakdown of their marriage. For example, statutory remedy may be obtained through the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates Courts Act 1978, and via the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
In addition, there is a common law duty, as we lawyers call it, for a husband to maintain his wife, yetunequallythere is no corresponding common law duty for a wife to maintain her husband. In order to equalise the position between spouses, clause 1 would abolish that superfluous common law duty. Thus both husbands and wives would, equally, obtain maintenance through the statutory remedies.
The second change introduced by the Bill would be the abolition of the common law rule on the "presumption of advancement" between husbands and wives. Again, that has nothing to do with so-called common law marriages. It has to do with legally married husbands and wives. At present, there is a common law rule that states that where there is no evidence to the contrary, if a husband transfers property to his wife, he is presumed to be making her a gift. However, if a wife transfers property to her husband, the presumption is that no gift is intended, and instead the wife is basically presumed to be making a loan. Clause 2 would abolish this archaic rule, so that there would be no presumption in favour of one spouse on the basis of gender.
The third rule change would be to money or property that is saved up or brought from what is termed a "housekeeping allowance". Under section 1 of the
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Married Women's Property Act 1964, as all right hon. and hon. Members will recall, if a husband pays a housekeeping allowance to his wife, any savings or property derived from that housekeeping allowance belong to the husband and wife in equal shares, unless they have a specific agreement to the contrary. So if, for example, the wife saves her housekeeping allowance from the husband and buys a sofa, that sofa will belong to the couple equally.
However, if the wife pays a housekeeping allowance to the husband, the money or property derived from it belongs to the wife only. So if the husband saves his housekeeping allowance, the sofa would belong to the wife alone. Such inequality cannot be right in this day and age. Hence, clause 3 would amend the provision, making it apply to both spouses equally, so that property derived from a housekeeping allowance is jointly owned by the husband and wife in equal shares, regardless which of them paid and which of them received the allowance.
The intention of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was that civil partners should have parallel rights to those of married couples. Therefore it is necessary for an amendment to be made to the Civil Partnership Act 2004. That would be achieved by clause 4, which would extend the equal provisionthe jointly owned sofa, so to speakto civil partners in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. As I understand it, the law in Scotland already applies equally to husbands and wives, and has been applied to civil partners, so no amendment is required in respect of Scottish law.
Rob Marris accordingly presented a Bill to abolish the common law duty of a husband to maintain his wife; to abolish the presumption of advancement in relation to married or engaged couples; to amend the Married Women's Property Act 1964; and to make provision as regards property derived from an allowance made by a civil partner for the expenses of a civil partnership home or for similar purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 December, and to be printed [Bill 73].
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