Increased support for marriage and civil partnerships

Part of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:39 pm on 17th June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:39 pm, 17th June 2020

I thank colleagues who contributed to the robust debates we have had on Second Reading and in Committee. The Opposition are pleased to support the Bill at its final stage. We are correcting an outdated notion that the only reason two people should get divorced is if there is some blame to be laid. We know that that is not always the case in every relationship. Sometimes marriages break down over time—not always because one great wrong has been committed by one party, but because people change, situations change, and compatibility at one time is not always permanent.

It will always be a difficult time in any relationship for two people to acknowledge that the marriage is over, but it is still best for them to part ways. The best role that we as law makers can play in such a situation is to make sure that they are able to part quickly and amicably. This is not just in the best interests of the spouses; it is crucial in limiting the emotional pain felt by children left in the middle as their parents’ marriage is split apart. The Bill will help to limit the turmoil of divorce because it acknowledges that sometimes there just is no fault.

I have enjoyed the specific discussions on the amendments and new clauses and on how the Bill could be improved. Although the proposed changes did not make it into the final Bill, I hope Members will agree that there was real merit in many if not all the issues raised. On some cases, such as families in which the parents are unmarried not getting benefit payments, I hope that the Government will go away and reconsider their position.

I was a little disappointed that the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk, did not have sufficient time when he summed up to address the issue of legal aid. I hope the Government will take that away and look particularly at the issues when there is financial abuse in a relationship.

As I have said, we have made great progress with the Bill in recognising how modern marriages, relationships and families are; it would be a great shame if we failed to recognise that across other policy areas. We do not oppose Bills for the sake of it; we want to do what is right. Today, we have achieved real progress that will have a real and positive effect on people at one of the most vulnerable points in their lives.