Marriage agencies urge Mackay to persevere with Bill

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DONALD MACINTYRE

Political Editor

Confident expectations that Lord Mackay's Bill to reform divorce law will now be in the next parliamentary session were further reinforced yesterday when a coalition of Britain's leading marriage and family agencies urged the Government not to drop the measure.

About 16 agencies, including Barnardo's, Save The Children and Relate, have written to back the Lord Chancellor's proposals.

The Bill would introduce no-fault divorces after one year, end "quickie" divorces on grounds of fault and encourage couples to seek mediation.

The Lord Chancellor's Bill is expected to go ahead but with the proviso urged by Tory business managers that its passage will be by free vote to limit the impact of what could otherwise be an embarrassing backbench rebellion over some of its proposals including the end of fault, and an obligation on couples to take a preliminary step towards mediation.

The agencies are also exerting pressure on the Lord Chancellor to resist attempts to make radical amendments to the Bill as it passes through the Lords and Commons. Ministerial resistance to Lord Mackay's Bill has declined sharply after he was forced to withdraw his Bill on domestic violence in the current session.

But the letter said: "The United Kingdom has the highest divorce rate in the European Union and our present divorce laws do little to save saveable marriages or to protect the interests of children. Indeed they often make matters worse.

"We particularly support the Lord Chancellor's intention to remove the facility of a 'quickie' divorce using the fault-based grounds." They also welcomed plans for a minimum period of 12 months for all divorces.

Dr Jack Dominian, director of One Plus One, the marriage research charity, said: "I welcome the divorce reform proposals because I believe they can turn the rhetoric on family values into concrete support for the marriages of British couples."

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