Friday, 19 June 2020

Campaign response - Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill

Many constituents have been writing to me to express their concerns about the so-called ‘no-fault’ divorce provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.

They have also asked if I could support a series of amendments tabled by Fiona Bruce MP and Sir Edward Leigh MP to the bill. Fiona and Edward are both esteemed colleagues and friends of mine that I have worked with on many previous occasions, especially on conscience issues like abortion and end of life issues where MPs can freely disagree with the stance that the Government is taking. 

I fully understand the concerns many constituents have expressed to me and in particular the potential for ‘no-fault’ divorces to be allowed and the impact that can have on society. Marriage is one of our most important and valued institutions, and no one wants a marriage to break down – I speak as a fellow Christian and a former church leader.

The bill received its Second Reading in the Commons on 8 June. Unfortunately due to other parliamentary business that I had to attend to on that day, I was not present to debate or vote on the Second Reading of the Bill. 

I have, however, been assured by ministers that the bill is not designed to weaken the institution of marriage or make it easier for couples to seek a divorce, but to minimise the harm and conflict that can arise from the legal process, once both parties have agreed to divorce. Divorce will always be one of the hardest decisions anyone has to take. 

I was further assured by ministers that the Government is following through on the funding commitments made in the last Budget to support organisations providing vital counselling work such as Relate and important initiatives such as the troubled families programme, as well as research work to bolster the effectiveness of family hubs, where work can be done to support families in conflict who are struggling and having difficulty keeping together.

Divorce brings far-reaching effects on children, on the wider family and on other relationships. 

No law can ever prevent or even remove conflict at a time of great personal and family upheaval.

What the law can do is to minimise the potential for couples to entrench positions against each other, and to encourage couples who have been unable to reconcile to approach arrangements for the future as constructively and cooperatively as possible, reducing conflict and its impact on children. 

On these points I do agree with the Government that there is merit in this bill in helping to bring about resolution to a difficult situation.

But I will continue to monitor the impact that these new provisions may have and seek further opportunities to speak up for marriage and family unity.