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Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that British drivers as a whole have a better safety record than other nationalities? With reference to the point raised by my noble friend and namesake Lord Campbell of Alloway, is he further aware that a large proportion of all accidentsaround 30 per cent.involve drivers who have been qualified to drive for only a short time and that most other comparable countries have special arrangements or restrictions, going further than those set out in his first reply today, after a person has passed the driving test?
Viscount Goschen: Yes, my Lords, many countries have such schemes. But, as I said, it is not altogether clear that the schemes per se have the required effect. We have to look at the actual restrictions in individual cases. Some countries have associated lower speed limits, some a total ban on alcohol consumption, and so on. There are a number of different measures. I believe that in general we have a good road safety record in this country. However, there is room for improvement. That is why we have brought forward schemes to increase driver training after a driver has taken the driving test. As part of the "pass plus" system there are associated insurance benefits.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister has given answers about the effectiveness or otherwise of schemes which would indicate whether a driver is a new driver. Would he give a comparable answer to the question of whether a speed restriction for new drivers, such as that imposed in France, has any beneficial effect?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I have sought to indicate that associated with the issue of probationary
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plates are often a wide range of other measures such as lower speed limits, a complete ban on alcohol, and so on. With many of the schemes there are consequent disadvantages as well. We would have to consider that. For instance, by its very nature imposing a lower speed limit can cause problems with other traffic.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, notified the House that he would not be available and perhaps just overlooked arranging for some colleague to ask the Question for him. It is an important and topical Question and I know that the House would wish to discuss it. Under Standing Order 40(2), with the unanimous leave of the House we are entitled to consider this Question. I hope that on such an important issue the House will grant me leave to ask the Question.
The noble and learned Lord said: This Bill in effect reconstitutes marriage as an arrangement for the parties to live together until one of them, without cause to be assigned or shown, gives unilateral notice of one year's duration that the arrangement shall come to an end. Most of the amendments so far have concerned that aspect of marriage and, if I may say so with respect from the Cross-Benches, your Lordships heard a most moving and cogent speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on that aspect. The amendments have also concentrated on the inherent likelihood that a divorce by unilateral repudiation without cause will promote injustice, especially to married women. Throughout those debates, though, there has been a sub-textthe welfare of the childrenand this amendment now brings it to the fore.
When we considered the Child Support Act for the first time it was launched by a White Paper entitled Children come First. In this Bill they come last. Their welfare is postponed to the wish of their parents to be rid of each other; indeed, to the wish of one parent only to be rid of his family commitments undertaken at the time of marriage.
Amendment No. 6 proposes to take the children right out of the danger area and that there shall be no divorce where there are children of the family under the age of 16. That is grouped with an amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, which proposes the age of 18 and raises the question of the age up to which the law should concern itself with the welfare of children. In a letter to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor adverting him to the fact that I was going to ask about the various ages, I believe that he took it that I wanted a reply before the debate and let me have one. I am extremely grateful to him. I believe that it would be advantageous if he were to repeat to the Committee what he wrote to me.
Amendment No. 6, removing children right out of the ambit of danger and the potentiality of harm to them, which is now shown very clearly both in the anecdotal evidence and in the official statistics, is, I concede, a radical proposal. But then a desperate situation requires a radical measure. This was not considered by the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce nor by the Law Commission in its paper, Divorce: the Field of Choice, although it chose a rather narrow field. These matters were not then considered and certainly no one at that time envisaged that we should be faced with the sort of divorce reform to which I referred; namely, the unilateral repudiation of the other spouse after the lapse of one year, nor did anybody at that time envisage that there would be upwards of 200,000 children under the age of 16 years in any one year whose background had been disrupted by the divorce of their parents. So I concede that it is a radical proposal, but one that is called for in the circumstances.
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Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 do not go so far. They merely indicate that the welfare of the children should be considered at the stage of divorce and not merely at the stage of mopping up the consequences of divorce. As I said, Amendment No. 12 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, is parallel to Amendment No. 6, but pitches the age at 18. There is another amendment today, which has been grouped with Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8, and that is Amendment No. 35A. I shall not speak to that because it seems to me that it can be much more conveniently discussed with the important series of amendments starting with Amendment No. 35 tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Faithfull and Lady David.
It was vaguely questioned at the last Committee meeting whether marriage could be properly described as a contract. It was rightly said that marriage is much more than a contract. But saying that it is much more than a contract does not mean that it is anything less than a contract. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, quoted on that occasion from the Book of Common Prayer 1662, which proclaims as the first, and primary, object of marriage the procreation of children and their nurture. The 1928 version is differently phrased, but to the same effect. I imagine that sociologists would readily agree that a primary purpose of marriage in society is the procreation of children and their nurture to become responsible citizens on their own. The noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, has put his name to these amendments. I am very glad because he is the leading figure in this field of sociology and the Committee will be wanting to hear his views now that he has come back to this country. I hope that he is present. I am afraid that I cannot see that far.
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