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Lord Meston: I am grateful for the response of the noble and learned Lord. The ground that I am proposing is that set out in the amendment; namely, in the case of an application for a separation order, that the marriage has broken down as distinct from the need to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

I must accept that it is a finely balanced argument. As the Bill recognises, it is desirable that there should be a distinct separation order and I am glad that the Law Commission recommended that, having considered the matter carefully. As I have indicated, it is the position under the existing law that a separation order should not be so difficult to obtain. For that reason I question, and have questioned in the amendment, why it now becomes

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necessary to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. It is not a matter on which I wish to detain the Committee at this late hour but I may wish to return to it at a later stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 1, at end insert--
("( ) in the case of a divorce order, there is no child of the family under the age of sixteen;").

The noble and learned Lord said: If Members of the Committee wish it, I am prepared to move this amendment, which is linked with five others. Amendment No. 4 took almost two hours to debate. Amendment No. 6 raises a very important question relating to the welfare of the children of a potentially broken marriage. It makes three proposals alternatively which were not before the Royal Commission on marriage and divorce and, so far as I know, have not been discussed in public since then.

It is now twenty minutes past ten and the Committee has been sitting since three o'clock. Your Lordships are an elderly and unsalaried Chamber which now habitually sits longer hours than the other place whose Members are younger and salaried. If the Committee thinks it fit to embark on the important and controversial questions which arise from this amendment I am reluctantly in the Committee's hands. In my respectful submission, it would be utterly improper.

When we debated the report on the sittings of the House we were assured that we would not be kept late at night. At the moment the House is entirely unrepresentative. As regards this amendment, it is most important that the widest spectrum of views is assembled and I respectfully invite the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, or perhaps my noble and learned friend, to say that enough is more than enough.

Baroness Trumpington: I certainly appreciate the feelings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. However, it is not in my gift to make such arrangements on the Floor of the House. I have sent a little carrier pigeon off to the usual channels and I

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suggest that in the meantime the noble and learned Lord speaks to his amendment. We must carry on in some way until word comes back. I am sorry but the noble and learned Lord must carry on for the moment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I should very much like to follow what the noble and learned Lord said. It is most important that we should listen to what he said. We have been promised that this Chamber would not sit into unearthly hours. Quite frankly, we are now nearing 10.30 at night, and I have to inform Members of the Committee--if they do not already know--that another place rose at 7.30 p.m. this evening.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, said, it is a bit much that the other place, which has elected and paid Members, should go home at 7.30 p.m. because they believe that to go on further on a Thursday night is uncivilised, and that we should be expected to stay here after 10.25 p.m. to consider a Bill, bearing in mind that it is a very important and sensitive piece of legislation and also that we have not very much business in this Session and could find an extra day if necessary.

I see that the Government Chief Whip has now arrived in the Chamber. It may well be that it would be better for me to sit down now to see whether we can make progress.

Baroness Trumpington: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Bill [H.L.]

Belfast Charitable Society Bill [H.L.]

City of London (Approved Premises for Marriage) Bill [H.L.]

Presented, and read a first time.

        House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past ten o'clock.

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