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Equality

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2010

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce legislation necessary to secure equality between spouses to enable them to sign and ratify Protocol No 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights by (a) abolishing the common law duty of a husband to maintain his wife, (b) abolishing the presumption of advancement in respect of gifts between husbands and wives, engaged couples and fathers and their children, and (c) amending section 1 of the Married Women's Property Act 1964 in respect of money or property derived from housekeeping allowance so that it applies equally to husband and wife, and to equalise the position of civil partners in respect of housekeeping allowances by amending the Civil Partnership Act 2004. [HL804]

The Government are committed to signing and ratifying protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights as soon as the necessary legislative changes have been made.

In order to fulfil Article 5 of the protocol, which demands equality between spouses, it is necessary to abolish the common law duty of a man to maintain his wife, abolish the presumption of advancement in respect of gifts between husbands and wives, engaged couples and fathers and their children, and to extend this provision to Northern Ireland, and amend Section 1 of the Married Women's Property Act 1964 to provide that money or property derived from a housekeeping allowance will belong to both spouses in equal shares (in the absence of an agreement to the contrary).

It would also be desirable simultaneously to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to equalise the position of civil partners in respect of money or property derived from housekeeping allowances, although we do not think it is strictly necessary in order to fulfil the requirements of article 5 of the protocol.

We will continue actively to seek a suitable legislative vehicle for these changes.