§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
moved the third reading of this Bill, suggesting that any Amendment which the Government might wish to make should be introduced in the other House.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he desired to promote the object which his hon. and learned Friend had in view, but not by the means of machinery which would defeat its object by placing our Courts in antagonism with foreign jurisdictions. He was willing to give Her Majesty power to negotiate treaties with foreign powers whereby British subjects abroad should be empowered to make their wills according to the law of this country, and whereby foreigners residing here should be able to make wills according to the French law. Her Majesty should then have power to make that the law by proclamation; and that being done, the property of British subjects, whether at home or abroad, would be distributed on the same principles by both Courts, and the wills made by them would be recognised equally by both; but in the absence of everything like reciprocity he could see no advantage in allowing British subjects residing abroad to make testamentary instruments in accordance with our law. There was an important point, too, in which the Bill was wholly defective. At present, if an Englishman died in France, or a Frenchman died in England, with property around him, but having none of his relatives with him, there was no rule as to who should take possession of that property and preserve it for distribution amongst the rightful heirs. As this Bill stood, then, there was no adequate remedy for the evils which it was intended to obviate, and he trusted that under these circumstances his hon. and earned Friend would withdraw it for the present, upon the assurance that he should, in conjunction with his hon. and learned Friend, be prepared to introduce early next Session a measure to accomplish the object which the Bill proposed to effect.
§ MR. MALINS
expressed a hope that he Attorney General would allow the Bill to be read a third time, inasmuch as it was highly expedient that the existing law in reference to those wills of English residents which happened to be made abroad 1205 should undergo alteration. If legislation upon the subject were deferred until next Session, the consequence might be very serious, owing to the number of English subjects who were living in foreign countries. At present, if an Englishman died abroad there was danger lest the Courts at home should pronounce, as they had recently done, that he had lost his English domicile. On the other hand, the French, lawyer would laugh at the notion that he had acquired a French one; and thus several of these unfortunate persons might in the meantime die without being enabled to dispose of their property to their relatives in this country as they would desire. No State in the world could complain of our saying to our subjects abroad that wherever they might reside, their wills, made according to our forms, should be valid in our own Courts. He hoped the House would pass the Bill as a temporary measure—say, to continue in force one year.
§ Bill read 3° and passed.