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Page 72, line 3, at end insert--

("The Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 (c. 1)

In section 282 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 there is inserted at the end of paragraph (b) "provided that the

4 Mar 1996 : Column 143

separation shall not be regarded as likely to be permanent during the period of reflection and consideration provided by section 6 of the Family Law Act 1996.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I cannot be as swift as the noble and learned Lord but I shall be as swift as I can. At present a husband and wife can take advantage of the exemption for capital gains tax purposes only during the fiscal year in which they separate. That is the result of the definition in the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Act 1992 which in turn refers to Section 282 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act l988. That section provides:

    "A married woman shall be treated for income tax purposes"--

as I said, that is transferred to capital gains tax purposes--

    "as living with her husband unless they are separated under an order of a court...or by deed or separation or"--

and this is the relevant provision--

    "they are in fact separated in such circumstances that the separation is likely to be permanent".

Given the Bill's objectives, it has been drawn to my attention that there may be a problem in that the period for reflection and consideration will not work in conjunction with tax considerations in the way in which the Bill is aimed.

If the parties are living separately but reflecting and considering, it would be sad if tax considerations forced them to make over-hasty arrangements for tax saving purposes or to make transfers of property at a time when they should be reflecting upon whether the marriage has broken down.

I understand that this is very much a matter of Inland Revenue practice rather than legislation. I move the amendment to provide that the period of separation shall not be regarded as likely to be permanent during the period of reflection and consideration as a probing amendment in the hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to assist on the general point. I have realised that somewhere between my attempts to get my brain around the issue, providing a draft and it appearing on the Marshalled List it appears to have extended to income tax as well as capital gains tax. That was not what I intended. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the amendment seeks to extend the married couples' allowance to couples who have separated during the period of reflection and consideration. The married couple's allowance is a tax allowance which goes to married couples who are living together. Broadly, in order to qualify for the allowance for a particular tax year a husband must be "living with his wife" (defined in Section 282 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act). Couples who are separated by court order, or who are separated,

    "in such circumstances that the separation is likely to be permanent"--

a question of fact--do not qualify. Once a couple fail the "living together" test, the allowance continues until the end of that tax year but then ceases. If they are subsequently reconciled and live together again, they can make a fresh claim.

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I can see that if the couple have not separated during the period of reflection and consideration they will in all probability be entitled to the allowance. But it would not be right to make it automatically so, because we might have a couple who had been living apart for three or four years and who then decided to start divorce proceedings. It would not be right then artificially to say that they should receive the MCA as if they were living together.

The effect of the amendment would be to ensure that married couples who are in a period of "reflection and consideration" would continue to be entitled to the allowance, even if they fail the "living together" test. So physically separated couples (where one partner had left the matrimonial home) would be able to claim the allowance during that time.

One can see that there could be complexities about this as a general rule. The Bill seems to me to be an inappropriate place in which to change the tax allowance. If it were merely a matter of revenue practice, one might make something of it. To treat couples who have actually separated as if they were living together is contrary to the policy of encouraging couples to focus upon the financial consequences of divorce before they take the step of becoming divorced.

I do not believe that this is an appropriate amendment. Perhaps in the light of that explanation, the noble Baroness will consider whether she wishes to persevere with it. I shall be willing to draw the matter to the attention of the revenue authorities for their further consideration because I am sure that they would wish to promote the policy of the Bill so far as they can. Obviously, I cannot guarantee success if that is what the noble Baroness, in consideration of the matter, would like me to do. Perhaps in the light of my explanation she will give me a note to say what she proposes in this connection in the future.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, that explanation is extremely helpful. I understand that the Revenue interprets the section differently with regard to different taxes. I shall provide the noble and learned Lord with a note and I am grateful to him. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 144 not moved.]

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 145:

Page 73, line 6, after ("6(2)(a)") insert ("and (3)(a)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Modifications, Saving and Transitional]:

[Amendment No. 146 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendments Nos. 146A and 146B:

Page 78, line 2, leave out ("4") and insert ("3A").
Page 78, line 12, at end insert--
("3A.--(1) Section 31 of the 1973 Act has effect as amended by this Act in relation to any order under Part II of the 1973 Act made after the coming into force of the amendments.

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(2) Subsections (7) to (7F) of that section also have effect as amended by this Act in relation to any order made before the coming into force of the amendments.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Repeals]:

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendments Nos. 147 to 149:

Page 79, line 42, at end insert--
("1968 c. 63.The Domestic and Appellate Proceedings(Restriction of Publicity) Act 1968.Section 2(1)(b).")

4 Mar 1996 : Column 146

Page 80, line 14, column 3, at end insert ("in the first place where those words occur").
Page 81, line 7, at end insert--
1982 c. 53.The Administration of Justice Act 1982.Section 16.

Page 80, line 23, column 3, leave out ("and subsection (4)").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

        House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before one o'clock.

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH1

Official Report of the Committee on the

Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

Monday, 4th March 1996.

The Committee met in the Moses Room at half past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard. But the House has agreed there shall be no Divisions in this Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

I should also explain what will happen if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting. This Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division bells are rung and will resume after 10 minutes.

On Question, Title postponed.

Clause 1 [Constitution, functions and membership of Deer Commission for Scotland]:

Lord Pearson of Rannoch moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 15, at end insert ("welfare,").

The noble Lord said: I shall start by declaring the two interests which I declared at Second Reading and in the Select Committee in Edinburgh in that I own a deer forest and that I sit on the Stalking Committee of the British Field Sports Society. Amendment No. 1 is grouped with Amendments Nos. 19 and 85, to which I shall also speak. Amendment No. 1 would require the new deer commission to further the welfare of deer, as well as their conservation, control and sustainable management, which are already mentioned in Clause 1 as being statutory functions of the new commission. So it would add the deer's welfare to the commission's responsibilities.

I shall not weary the Committee with a repetition of my Second Reading speech, but nearly all of the 50 or so amendments to which I and some other noble Lords have put our names have been tabled with the welfare of deer in mind. I mention this because there is the outside chance that there may be some people outside this House, and perhaps even one or two Members of the Committee, who might make the mistake of thinking that some of our amendments have been tabled more with the welfare of deer forest owners in mind than that of the deer, or indeed of the natural heritage.

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH2

To put this fear into perspective let me say at once, as I indicated at Second Reading, that there are certainly a number of deer forests which have not shot enough deer in the past, and some which are not doing so today. This Bill comes at a time when that situation has been improving rapidly in recent years, thanks largely to the setting up of our deer management groups guided by the Association of Deer Management Groups which now speaks for over 90 per cent. of the Highland land mass, and thanks also to the new collaboration which exists between the groups and the Red Deer Commission. That collaboration is underlined and supported by the new harmony which has broken out with Scottish Natural Heritage--it is a harmony which owes not a little to the amendments passed in this House in 1991 when SNH was set up.

I would just remind any Members of the Committee who might think that some of our amendments are slanted too much in favour of land owners that that was precisely the charge made against our amendments in 1991, and yet those amendments are now generally regarded as having proved beneficial to the natural heritage, the land owner, and the wider interests alike. I trust that they may serve as something of a track record for the work which lies ahead of us on this Bill.

I regret that our new Select Committee procedure in Scotland did not include making perhaps the briefest of reports about those matters on which the committee was in broad agreement. That would have been helpful to this stage, and to subsequent stages, of the Bill. Be that as it may, if there was one matter about which there was such broad agreement, I should have thought it would be that the new commission should have the duty of looking after the welfare of deer. As I recall it, all our witnesses agreed with that. Indeed, even my noble friend the Minister said that the Government:

    "see the welfare of deer as being unavoidably central to their control, their conservation and their sustainable management."

I am sure that we all agree with that, but it leads many of us to go on and say that the word "welfare" should therefore be on the face of the Bill.

In Amendment No. 85 I have attempted a definition of the word "welfare" in that context, and I should like to quote it for the record:

    ""welfare" includes the concept that deer are living within the capacity of their normal range,"

at the time of year in question,

    "which should support them in a healthy condition and that management to achieve this requires the removal, by taking or killing, of old and unhealthy animals or for the purposes of reducing the herd to a number which does not exceed the capacity of their normal range, by means which do not cause unnecessary suffering."

When the amendment suggests that deer should be living

    "within the capacity of their normal range",

that implies that they should not be so numerous as to be damaging the natural heritage interest. The definition may not be ideal--I suspect it is not--and no doubt it can be changed, but I trust that your Lordships can see that it is put forward in good faith.

I have to confess that I was a little worried when my noble friend the Minister implied that it is not necessary to have the word "welfare" itself on the face of the Bill,

4 Mar 1996 : Column CWH3

but that it is somehow presumed to be included in the words, "conservation" or "control" or "sustainable management". It is not. Each one of those expressions could disguise considerable unnecessary cruelty to our wild deer, and that is what this amendment is aimed at preventing.

Finally, there are a few dark--if rather silly--rumours being put about by those who do not wish to see the word "welfare" on the face of the Bill. On the one hand, those of us who represent the sporting interest in deer are being told that having "welfare" on the face of the Bill might come to mean that we could not shoot them. We are told that that may be especially true when contraceptive schemes have reached a stage of perfection, which is well over the distant horizon at the moment. On the other hand, it is being suggested that the welfare of deer is incompatible with the drastic reduction in numbers which is sought in certain quarters.

Both those suggestions seem irrelevant to me, especially when set against what is to me an imperative with this Bill; that is, that whatever carrying capacity may eventually be decided for our deer range, our largest wild mammal should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering when its numbers are reduced. I therefore commend the amendment to the Committee. I beg to move.

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