Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:55 pm on 8th June 2020.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 7:55 pm, 8th June 2020

The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about the caseload, which covid has exacerbated. He will be reassured to know that the senior judiciary and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service are working every day to expand the current capacity, to open more courts as we move away from the peak, and to look at alternative capacity in order to get as many cases running as possible and to deal with what must be an agonising wait for many families and victims. I would say—and I know that the hon. Gentleman would agree—that this Bill is not about the immediate crisis. It has been brought forward after long consideration, and has been dealt with very carefully in the other place. Indeed, it went through most of its stages in this House during the last Parliament, and represents an important milestone in the evolution of our approach to the sensitive and difficult subject of divorce.

I was talking about the perverse position whereby the current attribution of blame does not benefit anyone or serve society’s wider interests. Instead, it can create long-lasting and often bitter resentment at the outset, precisely at a time when couples need to work together to agree arrangements for their children and their finances. Furthermore, the simplistic allocation of blame to meet a legal threshold does not really reflect the reality that responsibility for a marriage breakdown may be shared. Marriages sadly end for a multitude of reasons. Existing law does not reflect that reality, and the truth is that we have stretched the law for a number of years in order to set out behaviour particulars sufficient to satisfy the court and obtain a divorce—a form described by the former president of the family division, Sir James Munby, as intellectual dishonesty.