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The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, my noble friend has read the amendment and, as far as I can understand, the amendment in subsection (2) of it does just that. It says,

Can your Lordships imagine a better way to destroy the idea of reconciliation than to start off by making allegations of fault on the basis of adultery that has destroyed the marriage or conduct that has destroyed the marriage? It is impossible to put these two together and have a workable system.

I would love to go down this road; I would love to stop quickie divorces tomorrow, but the problem is that you have to substitute something better. You have to substitute something which has a chance of working. What I want to substitute is a period for reconciliation, reflection and consideration, and the best way to destroy that is to require the people to make these allegations to begin with. If we do go down this road your Lordships will be seriously damaging the period of reconciliation, reflection and consideration before it gets a proper chance to operate. I am anxious to introduce this new machinery as quickly as possible.

In answer to my noble friend, Lord Coleraine, I said that we need to do it deliberately because I want it to work, but the last thing I want to do is to introduce it against a background which is calculated to destroy it before it starts. I am as keen as anybody to stop these types of divorce but I do not believe you can do it by this means in a way that is likely to be effective.

The second point I want to make is this. As the noble Lord, Lord Meston, has pointed out, all you would be doing is elaborating a procedure which has very little effect. I explained to your Lordships the other day, the previous day on Report, that in my early days it was all fault-based and the idea, for anyone who actually experienced it, that that helped and made marriage more successful and helped to produce reconciliation is just nonsense.

Much as I would like to support getting rid of these divorces quickly, the only way to do it is by introducing a constructive, properly thought out new system asthis Bill seeks to introduce. I believe it will do that if your

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Lordships pass this Bill in something like its present form. However, I believe that the system in the amendment will not do so.

If your Lordships look at subsections (1) and (2) of the amendment, what is the point of subsection (1) unless you wish to give, as the noble Lord, Lord Meston, said, more legal aid money to lawyers? If your Lordships wish that as an aim in itself then you will pass this amendment. But if, on the other hand, you wish me to use the money to help set up something better, then you will refuse this amendment. I cannot see for the life of me what the benefit is of subsection (1) of this amendment. I can see some sense in subsection (2) but for the insuperable problem to which I have drawn attention, namely, that you do not have much of a chance of reconciliation if you have to start off by alleging that the marriage has broken down by one of the named features. I hope that your Lordships who share my view that the sooner we get rid of the present system the better will not support this amendment on the grounds that it does so.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I am grateful to all those who supported the amendment. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who put it as a point of principle, which it is. So your Lordships are free to vote on the amendment as conscience directs.

My noble and learned friend said over and over again that the amendment requires the person seeking a divorce to allege a fault. It does no such thing. It requires nobody to do anything. It proceeds on the basis that for the next two years that is how divorces will be obtained. I do not accept for a moment that because a fault has been alleged in a petition there is no opportunity, no suitable need, for consideration, reflection and, if possible, reconciliation. There are many petitions where the parties can be helped in that way by being delayed for a year and being given assistance with counsellors.

The quickie divorce is such a disgrace to the law and such an affront to the institution of marriage that I must ask your Lordships to support me in the Division Lobby.

7.11 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 95) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 101.

Division No. 1


Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Ashbourne, L. Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Coleraine, L. Craigmyle, L. Cross, V. Elles, B. Fitt, L. Gardner of Parkes, B. Grantley, L. Griffiths of Fforestfach, L. Halsbury, E. Harris of High Cross, L. Howell, L. Kilbracken, L. Kinloss, Ly. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Moran, L. [Teller.] Northbourne, L. Orr-Ewing, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L. Perth, E. Robertson of Oakridge, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L. Stallard, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L. Young, B. [Teller.]


Acton, L. Addison, V. Allenby of Megiddo, V. Beloff, L. Birdwood, L. Blaker, L. Boardman, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L. Brabazon of Tara, L. Burnham, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Carnegy of Lour, B. Carnock, L. Carter, L. Chalker of Wallasey, B. Chesham, L. [Teller.] Clanwilliam, E. Colwyn, L. Courtown, E. Craigavon, V. Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Cumberlege, B. Darcy (de Knayth), B. Dean of Harptree, L. Denham, L. Dixon-Smith, L. Donoughue, L. Dormand of Easington, L. Dubs, L. Dundonald, E. Elton, L. Faithfull, B. Falkland, V. Flather, B. Gainsborough, E. Geddes, L. Glenarthur, L. Goschen, V. Graham of Edmonton, L. Grey, E. Habgood, L. Haddington, E. Hamwee, B. Harris of Greenwich, L. Haskel, L. Henley, L. Holderness, L. HolmPatrick, L. Hooson, L. Howe, E. Inglewood, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. Jeger, B. Jenkins of Putney, L. Kinnoull, E. Lawrence, L. Lindsay, E. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Lockwood, B. Long, V. Lucas, L. Lyell, L. McColl of Dulwich, L. McConnell, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.] Mackintosh of Halifax, V. Marlesford, L. Mason of Barnsley, L. Mersey, V. Meston, L. Miller of Hendon, B. Monkswell, L. Mountevans, L. Moyne, L. Munster, E. Northesk, E. Oxfuird, V. Park of Monmouth, B. Perry of Southwark, B. Peyton of Yeovil, L. Phillimore, L. Rawlings, B. Redesdale, L. Renton, L. Russell, E. St. John of Bletso, L. Seear, B. Shaw of Northstead, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B. Stedman, B. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.] Taylor of Blackburn, L. Taverne, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L. Tordoff, L. Trumpington, B. Wade of Chorlton, L. Wilcox, B. Wise, L. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I should like to say that I was quite wrong, and I have already apologised in writing to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, in preventing him from speaking when it was his right to do so. It is, of course, open to any noble Lord to speak to any amendment at the point when the Question is put.

I beg to move that consideration of the Report stage of the Bill be adjourned until twenty-past eight.

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

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Contracting Out (Management Functions in relation to certain Community Homes) Order 1996

7.20 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Contracting Out (Management Functions in relation to certain Community Homes) Order 1996, laid before the House on 16th January, be approved.

Your Lordships will recollect that the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 included powers of demonopolisation of the provision of secure accommodation in residential children's homes. That measure was brought forward after full consultation with local government and the voluntary and private sectors. The power was implemented in May last year. Also included in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act was a power to enable local authorities to contract out the management of existing secure accommodation in community homes and, with the consent of managers, in controlled community homes.

That power will be implemented shortly. The statutory instrument before us today relates to an order-making power included in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and will enable local authorities to contract out the management of open (non-secure) accommodation in community homes. We have consulted on this measure with interested parties, including local government organisations.

All the powers that I have mentioned are interrelated. They support the Government's policy towards the child care system, which is to encourage a wide and diverse range of providers as in other aspects of social services. We believe that local authorities should be able to bring the philosophy and experience of the voluntary sector or the particular skills of the private sector to bear on the management of children's homes. Local authorities should also be able to choose from a range of options in their search for the most efficient and effective ways of providing accommodation for "looked after" children.

Residential care remains an important element in the options open to local authorities in placing looked after children. It represents a positive choice, not a last resort, and the quality of care should be of the highest order. This measure offers local authorities greater flexibility in making arrangements for such care.

I should like to reassure your Lordships that local authorities will continue to be responsible for decisions about the placement of children in their care and they will continue to have proper regard for the rights and welfare of young people.

I should also like to make it clear that, as soon as a legislative opportunity presents itself, the Government will bring in a power to enable local authorities to contract out open accommodation in controlled community homes. The lack of such provisions presents an anomaly which, because of parliamentary time constraints, we were unable to rectify when the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 passed through this House.

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This matter has already received consideration in the Standing Committee of the other place, where it was not opposed. Indeed, it was described by the Opposition as largely "uncontentious".

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th January be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Miller of Hendon.)

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