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The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words on this amendment. The Government have tabled amendments that cover some of these Scottish issues, which are very well thought through.
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In a way, if the opportunity were open to me, I would prefer Amendment No. 41 to my Amendment No. 42. The same would apply to Amendment No. 47 rather than Amendment No. 48, which are in this group. We are in rather difficult territory at the moment.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I remind noble Lordsif they need any remindingthat the Scottish clauses in the Civil Partnership Bill achieve the same policy purposes as Part 2, but they have been drafted to reflect the special characteristics of Scots law. In view of the fundamental change in the definition of civil partnership, following the earlier amendment, I shall not be able to move the Scottish amendments tabled on behalf of the Scottish Executive.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, surely it is the case that whatever the disagreement about the character of civil partnershipwe could spend a lot of time on thatit is important that it is entered into responsibly. Therefore, it seems to me that, with respect, what the Minister has just said has no logic. How the partnership is entered into is important, whatever its character. Therefore, it seems to me that this is an amendment that can work.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I beg to differ. I believe that there is an absolute logic in the position that I am taking. We are harmonising English law with Scottish law. If the definition of civil partnership has changed in English law as a result of the vote earlier, we are not comparing like with like. Many of the amendments that the Government were to propose came to us as a result of helpful interventions by the Law Society of Scotland. I anticipate that in due course I shall be able to do the job that I had hoped to do this afternoon, which was to make absolutely sure that there was no conflict between English law and Scottish law in this very important matter. This afternoon I am unable to move the government amendments for that reason.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, however the Bill is drawn up, whatever it coverswhether it covers one group or a wider group, as a result of the earlier amendmentit is important that Scottish law, in particular in relation to these amendments, should be properly written into the Bill. The object of the Law Society of Scotland, as I understand it, in making these suggestions both to the Government and to ourselves, was to improve the way in which Scottish law will apply to whomever it applies. Whether it applies to the narrow group that the Government originally intended, or to a rather wider group, as a result of the decision taken by the House earlier, the Scottish law should be right.
When the Minister reflects on this matter, he will consider that the Scottish law should be right in either case. It seems to me that at least some of the amendments
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should apply, whether to the narrower group or to the wider group of people. That is particularly true of government Amendment No. 41, which my noble friend the Duke of Montrose said he prefers to the earlier version.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am afraid that I must disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Cope. In the speaking notes for Amendment No. 41 the phrase "civil partnership" is on every other line. Civil partnership now does not mean what it meant when we started at eleven o'clock this morning.
That is not something that I can do anything about; it is a reality that I have to confront at 5.20 this afternoon. If I talk from my notes about civil partnerships in England and compare them to civil partnerships in Scotland and what needs to be done to harmonise the two concepts, I shall get into a terrible muddle. I cannot do so because we are now dealing with two very different terms. I apologise to the House for taking this stance, but I have been put into this position, as have all Ministers, by the amendment moved this morning and carried by the House.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Like my noble friend Lord Cope I am equally puzzled. I understood that the Bill and the legislation we have in front of us about civil partnerships exactly matched the legislation on marriages and that whatever group one is talking about, if one wishes to parallel the legislation on marriages one would use exactly the same phrase.
The noble Duke said: My Lords, the amendment rewords Clause 110 to make a more positive statement of competency for interdict proceedings in the Court of Session or sheriff court. The clause is required
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because Clause 109 follows closely the wording of Section 14 of the Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act, which created the concept of matrimonial interdicts.
The provision currently employs a double negative. The society is of the view that this could be more clearly expressed. There is no logical necessity to follow the earlier statutory provision, which in any event relates to matrimonial law. I beg to move.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am in exactly the same position as I was on the previous group of amendments. I have nothing to say to the proposed amendment of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose.
The noble Duke said: My Lords, the amendment deletes the provision for dissolution on the basis of desertion. Clause 113(3)(b) reflects the provisions contained in Section 1(2)(c) of the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1976.
The Scottish Law Commission has recommended that desertion as a basis for establishing the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage should be abolished. Accordingly, it is appropriate in relation to the civil partnership that this thinking is reflected in the law.
The amendment reconstructs the law relating to dissolution and judicial separation. The Scottish Executive has published a consultation paper on family law reform called Family matters: improving family law in Scotland. It contains firm proposals for two years. I beg to move.
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