§ 1. Mr. Abse
asked the Minister without Portfolio if he will extend the terms of reference and the membership of the Committee now dealing with the law of succession relating to illegitimacy so that all the present legal disabilities suffered by the illegitimate may be reviewed; and if he will ensure that the Committee will be enabled to review the working of the Affiliation Act.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Sir Eric Fletcher)
The Committee sitting under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Russell is considering not only the law of intestate succession relating to illegitimacy, but also the desirability of extending the Inheritance (Family Provisions) Act, 1938, so as to include illegitimate dependants. The working of the Affiliation Proceedings Act is essentially a matter for the Home Office, which is responsible for keeping the Act under review. It would not be appropriate to refer that matter to Lord Justice Russell's Committee.
§ Mr. Abse
Would not the Minister regard it as desirable, when we have a Committee considering the legal disabilities of the illegitimate, and when it is well known that there were representations made by all women's organisations about the narrowness of the terms of reference, that we should choose this moment to refer to the Committee matters such as the unsatisfactory working of the Affiliation Act, and can he not hold out some hope that, when there are some 2 million illegitimate people in this country, they can look forward to some committee being appointed which will examine the workings of the Act and to giving an opportunity for some legal, formal recognition of the paternity of putative fathers as occurs in so many other countries?
§ Sir E. Fletcher
The matters which can be conveniently referred to the Committee regarding the disabilities of illegitimates have been referred to the Committee. As I said just now, the working of the Affiliation Proceedings 1295 Act is a matter for the Home Office, and it is not necessary, if any changes are made in the operation of that Act, for the Committee either to inquire into or report about them.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Would the Minister say how often this Committee has sat to date and when it is expected to report?
§ Sir E. Fletcher
I cannot give the number of sittings without notice. If the hon. Lady will put down a Question I will answer that. I am hoping that the report will be received reasonably soon.