HC Deb 11 February 1840 vol 52 cc156-8
Mr. Labouchere

rose in pursuance of notice, to move that all divorce bills be referred during the present Session to a select committee of nine Members. He stated, that he considered this course the best calculated to give satisfaction to parties concerned in such cases, and to the House, as the details would be subjected to the examination of a committee of Members, some of whom, as Sir E. Sugden, and Sir C. Grey, had held judicial offices.

Mr. Hume

said, that the Government ought to have removed this inquiry from the House long ago. The House had already too much business to attend, and ought not to be burdened with what was only the mockery of a judicial inquiry. He would remove divorce cases altogether from the House, and with the view to the more mature consideration of some means of getting rid of them, he would now move that this debate be adjourned to any day within a fortnight most convenient to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Labouchere

hoped his hon. Friend would not press the adjournment, as the plan which he proposed was admitted to be better than that which at present existed.

Sir R. Peel

had no objection to try the plan of a select committee up stairs on divorce cases, but he would not take from the House the power of inquiry at its bar in such cases where it might deem such inquiry necessary. He had no doubt that in most cases the reference to a select committee would work well, but the fact that the House reserved to itself the power of going into a severe scrutiny, and of examining the parties at the bar, would operate as a salutary check on fraud and collusion. Indeed, one great object of Parliament keeping to itself the decision in such cases was intended to guard more strictly against cases of fraud and collusion. If the House was to continue to be a party to an act of Parliament, it ought not to delegate its right of inquiry to a select committee in all cases, but should reserve to itself generally the power of inquiry at its bar in cases where it might have ground to suspect fraud and collusion.

Mr. Law

concurred with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the House should reserve to itself the power of inquiry generally whenever it saw it necessary. He thought it of the utmost importance that all divorce cases should be by act of Parliament.

Mr. Warburton

had very strong objections to sending the inquiry, in cases of divorce, to a secret tribunal. He had understood that to be so from the observation of one speaker, but he could not say which. He would object to any inquiry with closed doors. [No, no.] Well, then, he was to take it that the inquiry was to be open. But to this he would object. The giving to Parliament exclusively the jurisdiction in divorce cases was to give to the rich an advantage, such as it was, from which the poor were excluded. It seemed to be an assumed axiom that Parliament, and Parliament alone, was to decide in such cases; but that would be making the law unequal; it would be making one law for one class, the rich, from any advantage of which the poor would be excluded. To that he would not be a party.

Mr. Goulburn

would maintain, when the proper time came for the discussion, that it was necessary to reserve to Parliament the right of ultimately deciding on divorce questions.

Amendment withdrawn. Original motion agreed to, and committee appointed.