HC Deb 05 February 1823 vol 8 cc80-1
Dr. Phillimore

said, he could assure the House, that it was with considerable regret he felt himself again obliged to trouble it on the subject of the Marriage act; but the House was so circumstanced with respect to it, that he felt it a duty to submit some alterations therein. It would be in the recollection of hon. members, that after several years, during which bills on this subject were sent up to, and rejected by the other house of parliament, a bill was last year sent up, which, in the opinion of most members, was so well calculated to answer its object, that it did not call for that species of comment to which it had been submitted in another place. He spoke with the less delicacy on this subject; for though he was one of those who were active in promoting the measure, the principal parts of it were not his, but were drawn up by persons the best calculated for such a duty. In that state the bill passed the House of Commons, and was sent up to the other House. It pleased that House, however, to leave only two clauses of the original measure; along with which they sent back a code of amendments clogged with difficulties almost insuperable, making the whole a piece of legislation extremely complicated and inconvenient. When the bill returned, it was late in the session; and the House was in this difficulty—either to reject the measure altogether, and thereby delay the benefit to be expected from those clauses which could be operative in removing the evil, or to allow the whole to pass, and wait till the present session for the repeal of the objectionable clauses. He being the hum- ble individual by whom the bill was first introduced, now felt it his duty to ask for leave to bring in another bill, to correct what he believed would not he denied to be the obnoxious parts of it. It was very natural to expect that objections would arise and clamour be excited against such a measure as that sent down from the Lords. In the first place, it gave great additional trouble to several officers in various departments, to whom no reward was given for such trouble. It also cut off many suits pending in the ecclesiastical courts. These in themselves would be sufficient to excite a clamour against any measure; but besides this, there were serious objections to the enactments of the bill of last session, which it should be his object to remove. The first of these was the number of oaths required to be taken by the parties to be married, and by others connected with them. Many of these were unnecessary and vexatious. The next was the necessity which the bill enacted of having extracts from the baptismal registry of the parties to be married. That was unnecessary, and ought to be dispensed with. Another objectionable part was that which required the several affidavits to be stamped, which pressed upon the poorer classes. Then came another part of the bill which rendered it imperative on the clergyman to read this voluminous act in his church at certain periods. That he considered unnecessary and inconvenient. Besides these, the bill went to take from certain peculiar jurisdictions the power of granting licences. Now, he did not say that such a step might not be a very wise one; but he objected to the manner in which it was done; for in many extensive districts it was now very difficult to get a licence at all. These were the general heads under which he thought that a remedy ought to be applied; but at the same time he should observe, that the House had done right in passing the bill last session. Since its enactment, no such disgraceful occurrences had been witnessed in our ecclesiastical courts as frequently took place before. They had not seen persons who had cohabited together for several years under a marriage, applying to have that contract set aside, on the ground of some technical informality.—The hon. and learned gentleman then moved, for leave to bring in a bill to alter and amend the said act.

Leave was accordingly given.