Family lawyers have welcomed proposals to give courts more power to split pensions in divorce proceedings – but have urged the Government to speed up their introduction.

Last week the Commons social security committee published a report recommending that divorcing wives should be able to apply for a percentage share of their husbands' pensions.

But the report stopped short of recommending a 50-50 pensions split – a figure which the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, had been pushing for, but which has been rejected by the Government.

The report recommends that the proposals should come into force in April 2001 – a year after the Family Law Act 1996 is due to change the divorce laws.

Solicitors' Family Law Association (SFLA) chairman David Salter said it would be lobbying the Government to bring the date forward to April 2000, because the pensions sharing scheme would not be back-dated. He said family law solicitors had reported a rash of divorces, as spouses with money sought to beat the timescale.

Salter said: “There is no doubt some husbands want to avoid pensions sharing like the plague and are cracking on with divorces now.”

Hilary Siddle, chair of the the Law Society's family law committee, welcomed the proposals, which she said would help create workable pensions splitting legislation.