Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005

– in the House of Lords at 4:09 pm on 26th May 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

My Lords, the order deals with a number of different matters that have been grouped as miscellaneous items. The items are discrete and stand alone: I shall speak briefly on each of them.

The first items, in Part II of the order, are changes in the law relating to deeds and other instruments. Apparently, it is current practice for certain transactions to be executed by way of a deed. Existing law dictates that a deed must be signed, sealed and delivered, which is an expression that is well known in many forms. However, the practice of sealing a deed is somewhat anachronistic in 2005. Some of the rules relating to deeds have come under scrutiny in recent times by the Law Reform Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland.

The order contains provisions that remove the requirement for the sealing of deeds by individuals. It also contains related provisions that will improve the law in that area and will bring a more modernised approach to such transactions. It is a small but important piece of law reform.

Similarly, that part of the order also abolishes two common law rules that the advisory committee considered were anomalous and required repeal; namely, the rule in Pigot's case—for further particulars I draw attention to Article 8 of the order and paragraph 5 of the Explanatory Memorandum—and the rule in Bain v Fothergill—again, for further particulars, I draw attention to Article 9 of the order and paragraph 6 of the Explanatory Memorandum.

Part III contains important amendments to existing domestic violence law in Northern Ireland. It contains reforms that will strengthen civil protections for victims of domestic violence and is in line with the Government's commitment to enhance the law in that area and to tackle the problem of domestic violence in a structured and coherent way. Those civil protections will operate in tandem with other initiatives that the Government are taking to address the issue, which centre on the strategy in Northern Ireland called Tackling Violence at Home.

Part IV contains provisions necessary for Northern Ireland to comply with Protocol 7 to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The convention requires the law to treat a husband and wife equally. The current common law rules that are addressed in the order do not match that requirement.

The final part of the order contains various repeals and amendments of existing legislation. I draw particular attention to the repeal of trading stamps legislation. As I said, this is a miscellaneous rag-bag, which moves from deeds to domestic violence and trading stamps. None of those would have been justified on their own, but they are all necessary changes. That is why an opportunity has been found to do them. The change in trading stamps legislation is a parallel repeal that is being considered in relation to the rest of the United Kingdom by the House. It will be a useful deregulatory measure for business.

In summary, the order is quite technical, but I think that it will be welcomed by those who are affected by it. Clearly, it touches the footprints of people's lives in many ways. I am happy to commend it to the House, and I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 7 January be approved.—(Lord Rooker.)

Photo of Lord Glentoran Lord Glentoran Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland

My Lords, this is another statutory instrument which we are happy to support. On reading in the Explanatory Notes about the consultation process, it is clear that considerable consultation has taken place. Part of it went before the Northern Ireland Assembly prior to its suspension, and both the Law Society and the Office of Law Reform were involved. I have received no communication from the Law Society, which I am sure would have been in touch had there been any problems. I also passed it across to my noble friend Lord Kingsland, the shadow Lord Chancellor. I am happy to support the order.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Other Whip, Spokesperson in the Lords, Northern Ireland Affairs

My Lords, we too support the order in that it is a general tidying-up exercise, particularly given the helpful Explanatory Notes. It brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with that which has existed in England and Wales since 1989. It has certainly taken its time to do so.

I was particularly interested in paragraph 8 of the Explanatory Notes. It talks of how in Northern Ireland savings from a housekeeping allowance paid by a husband to a wife, and any proceeds thereof, belong to the husband. The rule does not apply where an allowance is paid by a wife to her husband and is thus discriminatory and outdated. I could not agree more.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

My Lords, I think that I am the only member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee present in the Chamber. When the noble Lord started on his "signed, sealed and delivered", I thought it sounded familiar, and once he moved on to trading stamps, it became totally so. Both matters were brought before the committee in a deregulation capacity. It is extremely encouraging to a member of the committee to find that we get double productivity in that something that we have considered already is passed on automatically to Northern Ireland and is then carried through.

While I am on my feet, I say to the Minister as a warning shot that while he very kindly answered my question on the first order by responding with the word, "Yes", I remind him of an occasion when a memorandum was put before Arthur Balfour by his civil servants. It stated: "Prime Minister, there are two things we could do. A and B". Arthur Balfour simply wrote the words, "Yes. AJB", and put the note in his Red Box. The civil servant said, "Prime Minister, we were actually seeking a choice". Balfour replied, "You were not seeking a choice. You were telling me that there are things we can do, and I agree with you".

I asked the Minister, "is it A or B?", and he replied by simply using the phrase of Arthur Balfour: "Yes". On another occasion I shall come back and ask him to explain it more clearly.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

My Lords, the first question was followed by the question, "Or B". So the answer "Yes" left me in some state of ambiguity.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

My Lords, the noble Lord was correct in what he assumed to be the case. I shall have to check Hansard for the question, but I think it was, "Would this have happened?". The answer to that was "Yes". I thought that that was a fair answer. I am now being accused of giving answers that are too short, but I accept the spirit in which the point has been made.

I am grateful for the support for the order and I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.