Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Hylton is right about Armenia. However, as regards Cyprus, does the Minister agree that the overwhelming majority of the present population of northern Cyprus wants the Turkish Army to stay, in exactly the same way as, for example, the great majority of the present population of the Sudetenland want the Czech Army to stay and the great majority of the present population of Haifa and Jaffa want the Israeli Army to stay?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am sure that the people of Cyprus would like to see lasting peace in their country. In order to achieve that, we must proceed through the arrangements which the United Nations has in place and with which it is trying to proceed. We supported the United Nations Security Council Resolution 789 of 1992 which called for a reduction in the level of foreign troops and we reiterated that position at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Cyprus in 1993.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, will my noble friend give the House any further information about the talks on

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1252

confidence-building measures which have resulted in at least two meetings between President Clerides and Mr. Denktash? Has there been any progress along the lines suggested by, for example, the Council of Europe?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as my noble friend explained, there have been talks between the Turkish Cypriots and the Cyprus Government on a number of matters, including the confidence-building measures. While progress has been made, no progress has been made overall. We are urging the parties, as is the United Nations, to have further talks in an endeavour to take matters forward.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, if the Turkish Government do not bring to an end within six months that blockade which is causing so much suffering in Armenia, is there not a strong case for expelling them from NATO?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we are anxious to resolve the problems in Armenia. That would not necessarily be achieved satisfactorily by taking a legalistic view of the problems.

The Earl of Shannon: My Lords, as the country is a co-signatory, along with Armenia and Turkey, to the Helsinki Final Act, Clause 6 of which says that the signatories will not attempt to coerce each other by any means—economic or otherwise—could not the Government take more positive action over that blockade of Armenia? We should remember that 24th April of this year will mark the 80th anniversary of the slaughter in 1915 of one and a half million Armenians as a means of ethnic cleansing.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I explained earlier, we believe that the best way to solve the problems of Armenia is through the OSCE-Minsk initiative.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, while I accept the dangers of isolating those in favour of democracy and human rights in Turkey, will the Minister tell the House whether pressures have been brought to bear, and if so, what effect they have had on the Turkish Government in the context of negotiations with the European Union over a customs union with Turkey?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we have frequently drawn those matters to the attention of the Turkish authorities, most recently at the Quint meeting in London at the beginning of this month.

Private Clegg

3.32 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have authorised the initiation of procedures intended to secure the discharge of Private Clegg from the Army.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My Lords, Private Clegg's commanding officer was bound to do so under

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1253

Queen's Regulations. It does not automatically follow, however, that that will lead to Private Clegg being discharged from the Army.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply, but will he explain why he was not guided by the precedent of Private Thain who, in very similar circumstances, was convicted of murder a number of years ago? When the similar case came before Ministers at that time, they directed that he should not be discharged.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I believe that the cases are different and I do not think that it is necessarily helpful to make comparisons between the case of Private Clegg and the case of Private Thain. Each case is individual and must be treated as such. I know that my noble friend is more familiar with the case of Private Thain than I am because he was involved at the time, but it is evident from my researches that the Army chain of command considered, as did my noble friend, the case of Private Thain's discharge under Queen's Regulations. But that case was determined to be so exceptional that he was retained in the Army.

I repeat what I said in answer to my noble friend's first Question. It does not automatically follow that merely initiating the proceedings will lead to Private Clegg being discharged from the Army.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, as a matter of information, will the noble Lord give the House an idea of precisely what those procedures are and at what point Ministers can intervene to influence them one way or another, regardless of whether or not it is the affair of Private Clegg?

Lord Henley: My Lords, it goes through the entire Army structure and the case is considered with the utmost care at a number of different levels. The important point is that ultimately it comes to the Army Board which has discretion to decide in the end whether Private Clegg is discharged or retained. I assure the noble Lord that the Army Board is chaired by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does not the behaviour of the Parachute Regiment, both at the time of the Clegg incident in trying to obstruct the course of justice and in its members exulting in their canteen over the loss of civilian lives, make that regiment totally unsuitable for duties in support of the civil power? Will the Government make sure that that regiment's postings are adjusted accordingly?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not believe that that is relevant. Also, it is a rather disgraceful slur on an honourable and fine regiment.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Henley: My Lords, nor do I believe that that is relevant to the case of Private Clegg. The individual facts of that case should be considered purely in relation to him.

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1254

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, reverting to the Question on the Order Paper, will my noble friend say whether or not Ministerial approval was given before that procedure was initiated?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I assure my noble friend that Ministers were informed, but under Queen's Regulations it is a matter for the commanding officer. I could write to my noble friend and specify the relevant paragraphs of the Queen's Regulations. It is a matter for the commanding officer of that unit to initiate the appropriate proceedings.

Lord Richard: My Lords, does Private Clegg have the opportunity to make representations as regards staying in the Army?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that Private Clegg does have those opportunities and will be encouraged to make the appropriate representations either by himself or through his representatives at the appropriate time.

Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill [H.L.]

3.37 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill is an important part of my ongoing programme for family law reform. This Bill makes provision for the reform of the various discretionary remedies which exist in family law in order to deal with two distinct, but inseparable problems: providing protection for one member of a family against molestation or violence by another and regulating the occupation of the family home where the relationship has broken down, whether temporarily or permanently. The Bill provides for a single consistent set of remedies—"non-molestation orders" and "occupation orders"—which will be available in all courts having jurisdiction in family matters.

In past times consideration of domestic violence was often marginal, even though any sort of violence in the home can have a devastating effect on family life. I am concerned to ensure that the civil law in this area gives as much support as possible to the victims of domestic violence, in partnership with the criminal law.

The present Bill is the result of recommendations made in the Law Commission Report entitled Domestic Violence and Occupation of the Family Home (Law Com. No. 207) which was published in May 1992. The report was widely welcomed. The Bill gives effect to almost all of its recommendations. In addition, the Home Affairs Select Committee published a report on domestic violence in March 1993 which generally supported the Law Commission's proposals.

It is clear that the current statutory framework in this area is unsatisfactory. Past enactments have dealt with particular situations or strengthened the powers of specified courts. That has led to criticisms that the

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1255

current system is piecemeal, complex and confusing, with different categories of applicant having to apply to different courts for different remedies, whether under the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1976, the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates' Courts Act 1978 or the Matrimonial Homes Act 1983.

The Law Commission saw the aims of this Bill as threefold. The first was to remove the gaps, anomalies and inconsistencies in the existing remedies, with a view to synthesising them, so far as possible, into a clear, simple and comprehensive code. Secondly, it thought it obviously important that any reform should not reduce the current level of protection. Indeed, this Bill improves that protection. Thirdly, it thought it desirable to avoid increasing hostilities between the adults involved, so far as that was compatible with providing proper and effective protection, both for adults and for children. I must say that the Government agree with those objectives and believe that they have been achieved in the current Bill.

The Bill repeals and replaces the whole of the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1976 and the Matrimonial Homes Act 1983, together with relevant parts of the Domestic Proceedings and Magistrates' Courts Act 1978. Much of the existing law in the area is, however, re-enacted in the current Bill. In addition, the existing law has been strengthened in a number of ways.

Eligibility to apply for the remedies in the Bill is based on the concept of persons who are "associated" with one another by way of certain family or domestic connections or are parties to the same family proceedings. The Bill considerably widens the categories of persons" who may apply for orders. The new list consists of: current and former spouses and cohabitants; persons who live or have lived in the same household, otherwise than merely by reason of one of them being the other's employee, tenant, lodger or boarder; certain close relatives; parents of a child or persons who have or have had parental responsibility for that child; and parties to the same family proceedings.

The Bill also provides that any child who is living with or might reasonably be expected to live with either party to the proceedings is protected, together with any child in relation to whom an order under the Adoption Act 1976 or the Children Act 1989 is in question in the proceedings and any other child whose interests the court considers relevant.

As I mentioned earlier, the two types of order which will be available are non-molestation orders, prohibiting particular behaviour or molestation generally and occupation orders with a variety of possible terms, either declaratory or regulatory. The current power to exclude the respondent from the home or a defined area around it has been retained.

Clauses 7, 9 and 10 of the Bill deal with the court's power to make occupation orders. Applicants for occupation orders fall into two categories, those who are entitled to occupy the home by virtue of a legal or beneficial estate or interest or a contractual or statutory

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1256

right, including rights of occupation in the matrimonial home (referred to in the Bill as "matrimonial home rights") and those who are not.

In addition, the Bill will strengthen the enforcement powers held by the courts. For example, where there has been violence or threatened violence, the court will be required to attach a power of arrest to any specified provisions of an order in favour of any eligible applicant, unless, in all the circumstances, it is satisfied that the applicant or any child will be adequately protected without such a power.

In the case of ex-parte orders, the court will not be under any obligation to attach a power of arrest, but it will be able to do so in cases where there has been actual or threatened violence, provided that it is also satisfied that there is a risk of significant harm to the applicant or a child if the power is not attached immediately.

The Bill also gives the High Court and county courts the power to remand and to issue arrest warrants. The High Court and county courts are also given the power to remand for medical examinations and report. In addition, those courts will be able to make an order under Section 35 of the Mental Health Act 1983 remanding for medical reports a person arrested under a power of arrest or an arrest warrant where there is reason to suspect that he is suffering from mental illness or severe mental impairment.

It will still be possible for the court to make emergency ex-parte orders where it would be just and convenient. However, before doing so, the court will need to have regard to all the circumstances including certain factors set out specifically in the Bill.

The Bill makes amendments to the Children Act 1989 to enable the court to make an ouster order for the protection of children when making an emergency protection or interim care order. That will permit the removal of a suspected abuser from the home instead of having to remove the child. I very much hope that the provision will be used to give further protection to children in appropriate cases.

The Bill extends to cohabitants the power to transfer tenancies, at present contained in the Matrimonial Homes Act 1983. It also provides for the court, if appropriate, to order the payment of compensation by the transferee to the transferor, when it makes an order for the transfer of a tenancy. In deciding whether to exercise both those powers, the court must again have regard in particular to certain criteria set out expressly in the Bill.

I mentioned earlier that the Government are not seeking to implement every recommendation contained in the Law Commission's report. The recommendation that the police should have the power to pursue civil remedies on behalf of an aggrieved party was rejected because it would have involved a novel extension of police powers from a criminal function to a civil function. It would have required the police to decide whether to seek an order on the basis of brief contact with the parties, amounting to no more than a snapshot of a particular incident. In addition, it would have imposed significant and unaccustomed responsibilities upon the police for which the service has neither the resources nor the requisite expertise.

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1257

The other significant policy departure from the recommendations of the Law Commission concerns the categories of people entitled to apply for orders. The categories proposed by the Law Commission of: persons who had at any time agreed to marry each other; and persons who have or have had a sexual relationship with each other were rejected, because the persons within them may not have the same domestic link as those in the other categories. In some cases, the relationship might have been brief and the parties would never have lived together. There might also be problems for the courts of definition and proof, which would not apply to the other categories. If that happened, it would undermine the principle that domestic violence remedies should be able to be obtained swiftly in emergencies. Of course, that does not mean that there would not be other remedies available to such people; but it means that the simplified form of procedure available under the Bill would not be available to them for the reasons that I have given.

I believe that the Bill will make a considerable contribution to the interests of victims of domestic violence. I also believe that it is uncontroversial in party political terms. We all appreciate the damage which can be inflicted by perpetrators on victims and on their families. I commend the Bill to the Special Public Bill Committee as a candidate for the non-controversial Bill procedure. Indeed, I have had some discussion in that respect. I believe that it is appropriate that that should be done.

I hope that noble Lords will feel that what I have said today illustrates my belief that the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill provides a firm a comprehensive foundation for the reform of the civil remedies for domestic violence. Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House for Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.47 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, your Lordships will wish me to express our gratitude to the noble and learned Lord both for introducing the Bill and for his clarity and succinctness in doing so. There is a text which I was encouraged to recite in my youth, "Ask and ye shall receive". Some months ago a number of us were concerned with the wasteful logjam of unimplemented reports from the Law Commission. We asked the Government to explore ways of channelling them on to the statute book. Our reasoning was not that the proposals are simply technical and unconnected with policy. Indeed, there is no point in recommending law reform unless some objective can be secured and the reform has some impact on practical living. Nor did we suggest that the proposals were necessarily wholly uncontroversial. Any proposal of practical importance is likely to admit of some differences of view, although it may not entail a major policy clash.

We have sought to point out what we know from experience; namely, that Law Commission reports are based on careful research, wide consultation and clear thinking.

23 Feb 1995 : Column 1258

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page