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Baroness Young: Before my noble and learned friend rises to reply, I should like to put a question to him. I do not think that anybody can quarrel with this particular amendment.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: I can.

Baroness Young: I bow to the superior wisdom of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon. I am quite certain that there is a lot in it that I have not seen. But leaving aside his point--

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: With the consent of the Treasury.

Baroness Young: Yes. Having been an ex-Minister myself I have in fact seen that before. I do not have much sympathy with my noble and learned friend on anything to do with this Bill. However, on this particular point, I see that he must put that in, whatever the noble and learned Lord says.

There is a rather more serious point that I make on this amendment with regard to paragraph (a)--the provision of marriage support services. I am very concerned about much of the briefing material that has been sent to me by organisations that purport to support marriage. On reading them, it is perfectly clear that what they support is marriage as a kind of o la carte menu on a series of lifestyles. I shall not go into that matter now. However, it seems to me that there are a great many organisations which, when one comes down to reading about what they are doing, are not supporting marriage. They say that if it is difficult, one may do something else and so on. It is a very serious point that I make. If public money is put into anything, it should be put into making quite sure that we are supporting marriage and not a sequence of, what I understand is now the politically correct term, alternative lifestyles.

Baroness Elles: Before the noble and learned Lord replies perhaps I may put my question to him. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, drew attention to the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill and the financial effects of the Bill. There is mention of the effects of public service manpower. Will the marriage support services be entirely confined to voluntary organisations--of which my noble friend Lady Young has spoken so strongly--or will they also apply to certain professional bodies being set up by the Government; or will they rely on the Churches? By whom will the marriage support services be fielded? What kind of people are they?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: Adverting again to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, my noble and learned friend will correct me if I am wrong but I understood the memorandum to mean that there will be a saving on legal aid and that will go

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to financing the mediation services, those two items balancing out. This amendment would impose additional cost. It would help very much if we could be told what would be the cost of the amendment annually so far as can be envisaged.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I hope that I can like this amendment. I should very much like to be able to like this amendment. I hope that it is not just a sop to those who are opposed to the Bill. For example, the amendment speaks of:

    "(a) the provision of marriage support services".

I should like to know exactly what those support services are. The amendment continues:

    "(b) research into the causes of marital breakdown".

I know that one of the great causes of marriage breakdown is lack of money. I want to know what the Government intend to do to ensure that married couples get more money--are allowed to keep more of the money that they earn. The amendment goes on:

    "(c) research into ways of preventing marital breakdown".

I said at an earlier stage of the Bill that, although the Government have expressed their intention of bolstering marriage and their belief in marriage, all their actions have contributed to undermining marriage, particularly in relation to financial support for marriage. Indeed, over a long period of time, they have reduced the allowances of married couples, especially the married man's allowance, which has made it more difficult for married couples to exist and easier for couples to exist financially if they are not married. If we believe what is said in this amendment, we believe that the Government wish to put that kind of thing right.

It has also been government policy to favour the single person. I do not particularly object to that. If two people live apart--cohabit rather than marry--they can have two tax allowances. But if they are married and the wife remains at home and has no income of her own, they can only have one tax allowance plus a very much reduced in value married man's allowance. I have advocated for a very long period of time that the two allowances should be transferable. Where, in fact, a woman does not go out to work, she will then be able to hand her personal allowance over to her husband who is in work or vice versa.

Those are matters that have to be examined. If marriage is to be strengthened, it is necessary to enable one of the partners at least, if they wish to do so, to remain at home and look after their own children. It is absurd for us to give financial and tax encouragement for women to go out to work and a detriment for them to stay at home and look after their children.

If this amendment means that all those matters will be investigated--they are, believe me, very serious matters--then I am very much in favour of it. I do not want to delay the Committee beyond the dinner hour, though I could speak on this issue for a long time. I simply say to the noble and learned Lord the

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Lord Chancellor that if that is the intention and if we want to get to grips with the financial difficulties and indeed other difficulties faced by married couples, then I am all in favour and this is an amendment by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that I could support.

7 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: I am grateful for the support that this amendment has received. It is a considerable move from the present position. It puts on the statute book very clearly recognition of the importance of the three subject matters referred to. The phrase,

    "with the approval of the Treasury"

is one which my noble and learned friend and I have discussed in a number of different contexts over quite a period. I believe that the phrase has appeared in statute both before and since my noble and learned friend was a distinguished Treasury Minister.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said that the Prime Minister, as First Lord of the Treasury, can do anything. I suppose, subject to the law, that that may be true, but it is not the Prime Minister who is going to make these grants but the Lord Chancellor. Therefore, it is only natural that he should be subject in this respect to the First Lord of the Treasury. I am grateful for what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said in this connection. I shall do my best to get as much as I can and for it to be properly used for the purposes of this provision. Exactly what I shall be able to get from year-to-year may vary very much. I am unable to make estimates about that because it will depend on the success of the scheme. In my view, one of the matters of extreme importance is showing to what extent the work supports marriage and helps to prevent marital breakdown. The more successful the scheme is, the more likely it is to be supported. As Members of the Committee have observed, success in that connection--apart from the human relationships and those with children, which we all value as important--has important consequences for public finance.

The purpose of this clause is to enable the Lord Chancellor, with the approval of the Treasury, to make grants in connection with the provision of marriage support services. That envisages that they will be carried out by the Churches or other voluntary bodies of that kind. Many other different types of organisations are envisaged.

I particularly refer to what my noble friend Lady Young said. This clause will condition the power to make grants and therefore it emphasises the point made by her, that under this clause it will be legitimate to fund only those services which are for the support of marriage. That is what the clause says. It will clarify the matter. That is one reason why it is wise to keep the provision in this way, but it does not mean, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked when we debated this matter before, that children are not included. The provision focuses on marriage as the matter being supported.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, remarked on the tax treatment of married women. I see the point that he makes. He has advocated it over

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more than 17 years, but as yet he has not been successful. We have made a change in respect of any other income that the married woman has. There is separate assessment for her income. In the good old days, as some would see them--but that is not a view which I share in this respect--the income of both was aggregated. I believe that we have made some progress. The noble Lord would like to make more and he will no doubt continue to wish for that.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Perhaps I may make the point that that is so, but to take advantage of the situation the woman has to have some income. I fear that in most families a woman not at work has no income at all and that is the problem.

The Lord Chancellor: I understand that. I have to look at what has been done. Where people have between them income-bearing property, it is possible, as long as it is not a pension or a salary, for the woman to get the full benefit of that income and therefore the full benefit of a separate assessment. I understand that if she has no income she cannot get tax allowances. That applies whether she is married or single. In other words, though the noble Lord compared the married state with the unmarried state, he must compare like with like.

In the noble Lord's example of unmarried people the woman has to have no income, and if she has no income, she will certainly not receive any kind of tax allowance. Therefore, in comparing like with like, I believe that this Government have improved the situation although not as yet to the state that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, would like to take it. We have made progress and I hope that the noble Lord will be generous enough to acknowledge that. I also believe that we have made progress with this provision. The approval of the Treasury is a small price to pay for having this power in the Bill.

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