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Weekly Parliamentary Preview

The Right Ethos’ Guide to the week ahead in Parliament  – Week commencing: Friday 21st June 2019


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On divorce, not as a Brexit metaphor

While all eyes are focused on the Conservative Leadership (and maybe that of the Lib Dems and UKIP, but those contests haven’t quite taken the public imagination in the same way) Theresa May has been working on her legacy. She clearly doesn’t want to be remembered as the Prime Minister who couldn’t Brexit.  In the past few days and weeks, she’s focused on human trafficking, pledging ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050 and trying to get through an extra £27 billion on education.

Next on the list, in the dying days of her Premiership, is a Bill designed to make no-fault divorce a possibility for those that want one.  The current system is set up so that unless you have been separated for two years, one of a married couple has to sue the other for divorce. That has to be accompanied by a reason.

A couple might choose irreconcilable differences, but then a list of unreasonable behaviours must be created. There is no right of reply for the person who has been ‘unreasonable’.  Another choice, with no list, is to blame adultery, in which case the document then includes a third person, normally listed as unknown.

In short – even if the split is perfectly amicable (and let’s not forget that a marriage can break down for many, many reasons), the law enforces some kind of acrimony, accusation and antagonistic behaviour.  This makes what is already almost always a sad and difficult time even harder. Unnecessary pain is caused.

Which is where this new law comes in. The law wants to create no-fault divorces, where couples can just say that there is an ‘irretrievable breakdown’.  There would be a six-month process to give everyone time to breathe and reflect. The idea is to allow couples to split in a way that’s caring, loving, maintaining compassion, humanity and civility.

In many circumstances, there are children whose very existence means some form of relationship is necessary for many years to come. A different relationship from what has come before. One of the points of this legal change is that this new relationship, to be worked out going forward, doesn’t have to be born in the anger and finger-pointing of the current divorce system.

There are those that oppose these measures. They believe that marriage is a life long commitment and shouldn’t be easy to escape. People have made their vows to each other, often in front of their nearest and dearest people. These vows should mean something. Sometimes, if marriages are worked on and people take the time and effort, they are savable.

Over the decades of marriage, of course, there will be some bad times as well as the good. That’s how this human experience works. But if you bail when it’s difficult, you’ll never experience the satisfaction of it coming right again. And if that’s the case, a tempting and easy divorce procedure might encourage people to get out when the going gets tough. That’s not how it should be. Nobody is suggesting that it should be impossible to get a divorce, just that it shouldn’t be an inviting and painless process. That would create a single-use plastic marriage.

Regardless of those objections, it looks like the Bill will have a fairly easy journey through the Commons. Labour have suggested that they are in favour of the principles. The first steps come on Tuesday when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation BIll gets it’s Second Reading, which is a general debate on the ideas, followed by a vote.


The Week Ahead

Sunday – Who likes leadership chat? Good! That’s what will be keeping both Ridge (9am, Sky News) and Marr (10am, BBC One) busy this morning.

Monday – The commitment to have a ‘net-zero’ emissions target by 2050 will be put into the book of laws. They’ll do it by amending Labour’s 2008 Climate Change Act.  There will be some opposition to this move. Right-wing website Guido Fawkes suggests it might cost a trillion pounds and that businesses and households might have to pay.  Despite this, expect the change to win by a fairly large majority.

Tuesday –  The divorce bill (discussed at length above) is up in the Commons.  The Lords are passing a Bill needed to free up some government money to help prepare Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Wednesday – PMQs is odd at the moment. Last week there were many, many missing from the government benches. Presumably, it was all machinations over the new leader, but, whatever the reason, it doesn’t feel like PMQs is very meaningful right now. We probably won’t see one with Boris Johnson until September, so, for now, we must lower our expectations of the Wednesday lunchtime slot.

After that, we’ve got an SNP Opposition Day. At the time of writing the topic hasn’t been confirmed.  My hunch is that it will start with ‘Br’ and end with ‘it’. Oh, and then we’ve got a General Debate on Armed Forces Day.

Over in the Lords, it’s their turn to vote for the 2050 ‘zero-emissions’ measure.

Thursday–  To be fair, by recent standards, this is a fairly busy few days. With interesting debates and votes. Sure, it turns out that there is nothing at all worth mentioning about what’s going on this Thursday, but we’ve had our spills and thrills for this week. Isn’t it lucky there won’t be anything to distract you from those important emails that need sending today?

Friday –  No Parliament today.

About The Right Ethos

The Right Ethos was set up after our founder, Jonathan Dearth, had worked in the campaigning sector for 13 years, for campaigning organisations including Amnesty International, Shelter, Liberty and the World Development Movement. It was set up as a response to multi-sector recruitment consultancies moving in on the charity sector, and in particular not recognising that people who work for campaigning organisations are motivated by justice and long term change.