HC Deb 06 August 1839 vol 49 cc1386-8

The Solicitor-General moved the order of the day for a Committee on the Bastardy Bill.

Lord G. Somerset

thought the alterations did not go far enough, and one clause contradicted the other. The bill proposed to transfer jurisdiction in cases of filiation from the Quarter Sessions to the Petty Sessions. In that object he perfectly agreed, but he could not approve of a bill, proposing that all the clauses in the Poor-law Act should be applicable to this bill. The Poor-law Act was one of extreme difficulty of construction, and if the judges were sometimes at a loss to solve the points that arose from it, surely it was objectionable to hand them over to justices. A specific clause should declare the law. He thought, too, that parties accused of being the putative fathers should have the power of appeal on entering into recognizances for full costs. He did not think it fair that the characters of individuals should be concluded by the decision of two magistrates. This was a bill not to give protection to the mother; but to prevent parishes from being injured. He wanted to know, therefore, why the liability of the putative father was only to begin after the birth of the child. The mother might be taken into the workhouse two months before the birth, totally unfit to work, and chargeable on the parish. He, therefore, thought that the liability of the father for maintenance should commence the moment the mother became chargeable to the parish. He wished the hon. and learned Gentleman would consider the points to which he had adverted more particularly.

The Solicitor-General

did not think that any of the three points suggested by the noble Lord would be prejudiced by going into committee. As recorder of a burgh, he himself had experienced considerable difficulty in construing the present law. He was aware there were several conflicting decisions, and, before the report was brought up, he should endeavour to frame clauses in order to remedy the defect.

Bill went through committee.

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