HC Deb 12 August 1853 vol 129 cc1681-2

Order for Third Reading read,


said, if this Bill were passed, the law would be in an anomalous state, for a wife would be permitted in civil actions to give evidence for or against her husband, whilst in criminal proceedings she would not be permitted to give evidence against her husband. He mentioned this subject with the view of directing the attention of his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General to the Report of the Common Law Commissioners, with the hope that he would next Session introduce some measure to carry their recommendations into effect. He also wished to call the attention of his hon. and learned Friend to another subject. Early in the present Session, he (Mr. Wortley) called upon the Government to consider the propriety of making provision for permitting witnesses to make an affirmation instead of an oath, when they objected to taking an oath on religious grounds. Shortly after he made that suggestion, the Common Law Commission recommended that such permission should be given, and he understood that a Bill would be founded upon their Report; and his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General promised that there should be inserted in the present Bill a clause which would give that permission to witnesses. A clause to that effect was inserted in the Bill, but afterwards withdrawn in consequence of the opposition of the hon. and learned Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger).


said, he was very well aware that the Bill, which he trusted was then about to pass, dealt in a very summary manner with a very difficult question; but he thought they were not prepared to go further upon the present occasion than the Bill professed to go. The Bill which would be introduced next Session by the Government, founded upon the Report of the Common Law Commissioners, would make a proper provision for witnesses who entertained religious scruples to the taking of an oath, and would, he hoped, amongst other things, amalgamate, or, as it was called, make a fusion of the functions which were at present exercised by the several Courts of Law and Equity in this country.

Bill read 3°, and passed.