HC Deb 07 February 1860 vol 156 cc614-29

said, he rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to enable the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes to hold its sittings with closed doors. He had hoped that the notoriety of the evil to which he had to direct the attention of the House, and the fact that the remedy he was about to propose was identical with one which had been proposed by her Majesty's Government last year, would have rendered it unnecessary for them to enter into any discussion at that stage of the question. But, as the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) had given notice of his intention to oppose the introduction of the Bill, he (Lord J. Manners) felt it necessary to preface his Motion by a few observations, and to describe the remedy he proposed. But at the outset he might say that it was not his desire in any way to re-open the discussions which had preceded the establishment of that Court. For good or evil that institution was now the law of the land, and whatever his opinion might be, he did not propose to say a word on its effect upon public morality or domestic purity. The evil for which he was then anxious to provide a remedy was one which appeared to him to be purely accidental, and quite unnecessary as a concomitant of the Act of Parliament which established that tribunal. It would be in the recollection of the House that in the course of the debates which had preceded the passing of that measure great stress had been laid on the good which would result to the community at large from the suppression of those painful and indecent details which used occasionally to transpire in what were called crim. con. actions and petitions for divorce to the House of Lords; but he would ask the House whether any change for the better had really taken place in that respect, and whether they could now place in the hands of their children, or of other members of their families, the daily records that were published of the proceedings in the new court with any greater security that their eyes would not light upon whole columns of indecency and moral filth than they could have done before that change in the law had been effected? The reverse was the case, and the question had now come to this issue—a man must either abstain, during the sitting of the Divorce Court, from taking in the daily papers, or consent to place in the hands of his wife and children details of the most indecent and abominable nature. It was a heathen moralist of corrupted Rome that exclaimed— Nil dictu fœdum visuque, hæs limina tangat, Intra quæ puer est. Maxima debetur pueris reverentia. And acting upon that principle, the Legislature some three years ago, at the instance of the present Lord Chancellor, passed a law which had for its object the closing of those fountains of moral pollution which were calculated to corrupt the youth of this metropolis; but it was his (Lord John Manners') deliberate conviction that during the last autumn and winter the evils resulting from the publicity of the proceedings of the Divorce Court were far more widely spread than had been those which had resulted from the indecent publications of Holywell Street. And for this reason: the man who entered that place and purchased one of those publications did so with his eyes open; hut in the instance of the Divorce Court, wherever the English language was read or understood, details equally corrupt and disgusting were by a sort of unfortunate fatality spread broad-cast before the public eye. Hence had arisen the feeling in the public mind to which he asked the House to pay respectful deference. But the evil of which he complained did not end here. Last year the Attorney General directed the attention of the House to another and incidental evil attending the publicity of these transactions, He was no lawyer, but he thought, nevertheless, he should be able in a few sentences to remind the House of the importance of that particular aspect of the question to which the Attorney General had alluded. The Attorney General painted in strong, but by no means in too strong colours, the evils which would result if, by the rejection of the clause then before the House, they virtually compelled the Court to conduct all its proceedings with open doors. That learned Gentleman entreated the House to consider whether for the sake of justice itself the greatest evil would not ensue from enforcing publicity, and pointed out how a young and innocent and pure-minded woman might be compelled, by this system of enforced publicity, to come before the Court, crowded as it generally was with the most abandoned of both sexes, and before the recording pens of the representatives of the public press, to give evidence of a most painful and excruciating character. The Attorney General suggested whether it was not likely, rather than submit to so terrible an ordeal, that in many cases the innocent victim would not shrink from asking for that relief and justice to which she was by law entitled. He left it to those who presided over and who practised in that Court to say whether since the Attorney General had made that appeal the anticipations of the learned Gentleman had not been fully realized. He (Lord J. Manners) had been told that they had been so, and therefore the case he had urged primarily on the ground of public decency and domestic purity had become infinitely stronger; and he felt armed with an additional argument in favour of the measure he proposed to introduce, namely, that of simple justice to those unhappy individuals. The remedy he proposed to apply to the evils of which he complained, and to which he did not wish further to allude, was of an obvious character. It was not his intention to give a single instance of the indecency of those publications, nor to condescend to the mention of any one particular report. The facts to which he had referred were known to every Member of that House, and the evil of which he complained was patent on the surface. The remedy he proposed for this notorious evil was simply that already suggested by the able Judge who presided over the court in question, sanctioned by the highest authorities in the House of Lords, and recommended by the ablest lawyers in the Upper House—a proposition which had been urged upon the attention and consideration of that House by the learned Attorney General himself. That remedy was simply to grant to the Divorce Court the privilege of conducting its proceedings with closed doors whenever in its discretion it seemed fitting to it to do so. Such a privilege had been exercised by the Ecclesiastical Court and the House of Lords, when between them they managed the divorce business of the country. It was at present possessed by the Courts of Chancery and by the analogous courts of Scotland, France, and other countries, and according to universal testimony, it might be safely entrusted to the discretion of the eminent Judges that presided over the Divorce Court. That being the simple remedy proposed for the evil referred to, he was at a loss to see how his proposal could be so objectionable as to procure for it the unusual honour of being opposed at that stage. He might be told of the well known adage that "Publicity was the soul of justice." To that maxim he respectfully bowed. He was willing to admit its truth, which indeed was obvious. But he would meet it with another maxim, equally obvious and of equal acceptation "There is no rule without an exception." Now, he thought the exception in the present case was founded on the paramount interest of public decency and domestic morality. He was not going beyond the mark when he said that nine-tenths of the statute laws of the land were in reality exceptions to general and well-received principles. Take the case upon which such public interest was manifested at present, they were all most anxious for, and in expectation of, the perfect, speedy, and he hoped lasting, restoration to health of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order that the right hon. Gentleman might, on Friday next, be able to explain to the House those reasons that had induced Her Majesty's Government to depart from the well-known and received maxim of political economy in the negotiation of a treaty of commerce with the Emperor of the French. If hon. Members, too, would cast their eyes upon the paper of the House for that night they would find mention made of three Bills for the enactment of provisions in direct violation of certain well-received principles of political economy. The exceptional legislation three years ago with the view of putting a stop to the indecent publications of Holywell Street was also in direct violation of a well-received principle. No doubt it was then exclaimed that "an Englishman's house was his cas- tle." Notwithstanding the recognition of this popular maxim, however, the House departed from the rule and permitted an exception in the paramount interest of decency and public morality. Well, he simply asked the House to adopt a similar course now. Perhaps it might be said that the remedy was unnecessary, since it was already in the power of the Court to close the doors; but whatever might have been the case previously that argument could no longer be used after the introduction of the Bill of last year, which showed that the presiding Judge, the legal authorities of the House of Lords, and the law officers were of opinion that he did not possess the power of closing the doors of the court until the Legislature gave it by statute. No one, he thought, would contend that this power might not be exercised as advantageously for the public interests by the Judges of this court as it had heretofore been exercised in the Courts of Chancery; and if such a discretion were permitted, to whom could its exercise more properly be intrusted than to that distinguished man who presided over the Court of Probate and Divorce? In bringing forward this Bill he was actuated by no indirect wish either to damage or to prop up the new system of divorce by law. He scorned the motives which had been imputed to him, and he attributed no unworthy objects to others. The evil, he contended, was patent, flagrant, and increasing; the remedy was simple, obvious, and innocuous; and it came before them recommended by the heads of the law, and by the very founders and framers of that Court in which he proposed that it should be put into operation. If there were those who believed that any other remedy was capable of being applied to this admitted evil, let them propose their plan, and he would most cheerfully support it; but meanwhile, he entreated the House not to withhold its sanction from the introduction of a measure directed to so desirable an end, and recommended by so great a weight of authority. With these few observations he begged leave to move for leave to introduce the Bill of which he had given notice.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes to hold its Sittings with closed doors.


said, his reason for taking the rather unusual course of resisting the introduction of the Bill was, that the matter had been fully discussed and decided in the last Session of Parliament. The Divorce Court Bill came down with a clause introduced by the Lord Chancellor, with the object of accomplishing that which was proposed by the present measure. It was supported to some extent by the Attorney General; but the feeling of the House had so strongly manifested itself against closing the doors of this court that the clause was rejected without a division. After this express decision, he believed the House would now declare its opinion that the present Bill was inexpedient and unnecessary. He imputed no motives whatever to the noble Lord; he believed that he was actuated alone by the sincere desire of suppressing what he considered indecent reports of the proceedings in that court; but he hoped to show the House in a few sentences that such a course would be highly injudicious. The noble Lord had referred to the practice of the Ecclesiastical Courts and the Court of Chancery; but if ever the Court of Divorce—which as at present administered enjoyed the sanction and confidence of the public—were to adopt the same rules for the administration of its business as the old Ecclesiastical Courts to which reference had been made, it would soon fall into utter contempt and disrepute. The Lord Chancellor, it was true, equally with the Judge of the Divorce Court, had power, with the consent of counsel acting for both parties, to retire into a private room and hear the case, if he thought proper to do so; but he entertained great doubt whether the Lord Chancellor could close his court against the public, and he believed that if a case of trespass were brought by any person who had been excluded, it would be established by the constituted authorities that the Court of Chancery was a public court, and the Lord Chancellor had no right to close it. The notion that closed doors would effect the object the noble Lord had in view was quite delusive. Why, if it were known that a sort of mysterious Court was sitting at Westminster Hall, whose avenues were unapproachable to the public, and that cases were going on there which might not be reported, a prurient curiosity would at once be engendered, and they would have all sorts of erroneous reports furnished either by reporters in wigs and gowns or by attorneys or their clerks; and a morbid desire to procure them would be evidenced on the part of the public. Was the noble Lord, who had cited no instance which occurred since last Session in support of his argument, prepared to extend the principle of his Bill to the Police Courts, and other courts of criminal jurisdiction in this country? Yet a charge of perjury had arisen out of proceedings in a suit before the Divorce Court, which it became requisite to try before one of the criminal tribunals, and the details of which occupied day after day the columns of the public journals. The better course, he believed, was to repose confidence in the taste and good sense of the press, which, since the decision in August, had not abused the power of publishing cases from that court. Hon. Members who had acted as counsel in cases of this nature would bear him out in the statement, that since that period cases had occurred involving details of the most filthy or disgusting character, and yet no such details had been given to the public. These cases might be safely left to the judgment of the press, for if there existed a prurient desire on the part of the public to have these details, they would be furnished in a much more objectionable way than at present. The debates in that House were at one period forbidden to be published; and Dr. Johnson told the translator of Demosthenes that he got from the door-keepers and uniformly published imaginary debates; and that he always took care that "those dogs of Whigs" always got the worse of it. The noble Lord was of opinion that by the reports which appeared from the Divorce Court a public scandal was occasioned; but he considered that a vital principle was at stake in the matter, and that although the maxim might be trite it was still as true as when Bentham wrote it, that publicity was vital to the administration of English justice, and to the confidence which the people of England reposed in it. He should therefore conclude by moving, as an Amendment, the Previous Question.

Whereupon Previous Question put—"That that Question be now put."


said, a remark had once been made by Swift, which the present Motion of the noble Lord fully verified. This was, that "the nicest persons had the nastiest ideas." The proposition of the noble Lord seemed to have originated in the same state of feeling that possessed the American lady whose sense of modesty was so wonderfully acute as to be offended by the naked legs of her pianoforte. If the noble Lord had taken into account the end which was sought to be attained by the Divorce Court, he would, he thought, have arrived at a different conclusion. That Court had been created for a mixed object; it affected not merely private rights and obligations, but also public obligations. It not only determined whether a man should be divorced from his wife, but it went further, and declared why he should be divorced, and by that means it affected public morality. If the Court was shut up, one of these great means of operating upon the public morality would be utterly taken away. He was aware that it had been said that the English notion of morality was confined to picking a pocket and seducing another man's wife. But there were other things which he read daily in the papers by which he was much more affected. He constantly saw in the reports of the Police Courts that men were brought up for thrashing their wives, almost beating out their eyes, and nearly taking away their lives. These things went on from day to day, and disgraced the people of England in the eyes of Europe and of the world; but no one got up and said that they ought not to be made public. Another great object which had been effected by the publicity of proceedings in the Divorce Court was the dispelling of the idea that immoral practices were confined to the upper and lowest classes of society; and it had been shown that among the middle class what was particularly recognized by Englishmen as immorality as was rife as in any other, and he thought this a very great benefit; he hated shams, and he believed the morality of the middle class to be as great a sham as had ever existed. There ought, then, to be a degree of healthy hardihood in a man's character which would enable him to bear this exposure. The noble Lord had stated that it was impossible to put a newspaper into the hands of one's wife or daughter since the establishment of the Divorce Court. This statement he denied altogether; and he maintained that nothing had been more creditable than the conduct of the public press on this question. They had the most filthy details before them—aye, and from the middle class too, and they had not shocked any decent man's or woman's mind by what they had disclosed. Were they to live in a fool's paradise? Was it right that the middle class should continue to appear as models of angelic purity, when they were as earthly and immoral as any other class? No; let truth be told. The noble Lord stated that the Judges of the criminal courts bad the power of shutting out women and children. Yes; but how was it done? In a criminal case, the Judge has the depositions before him, and knows what is going to be proved is of a character that women and children had better not hear. The Judge of the Divorce Court could not do this; and, as a Judge, would act only on his individual caprice, and he would ask the House whether it could expect from a court of justice the advantages it was intended to produce, if it was left to the caprice of the Judge to decide what was fit to be made public? When the name of Sir C. Cresswell was mentioned, no one was more ready than he (Mr. Roebuck) to bear testimony to his merits; but though the law would he everlasting, the Judges would change. Each Judge would act on his own opinion; one might exclude the public, the next might take a different view of the case. Then they might have a prurient Judge—there were such things—who might delight to make jokes before his Court that he would not dare to utter if the press was present. Even now, with the control of the press, he could put his finger on Judges whose jokes did no honour to an English court of justice. One great use of a court of justice was to serve as a guide to the morality of the people. The people would be shut out from one of the best schools for teaching morality, and their imaginations would picture the secret proceedings a thousand times worse than anything the public was likely to read. The Motion of the noble Lord, therefore, though made with the best possible intentions—hell was paved with them—would do the greatest possible mischief, and he should oppose it.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had argued the question as if obscene publications could do no harm to public morals. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No.] He could not now take that line of argument, the House having three years ago passed a statute prohibiting the sale of such publications. In the works prescribed by that statute there was nothing that equalled in grossness the reports of the Divorce Court that appeared in some of the newspapers. He admitted this reproach did not apply to the respectable journals; but there was a class of newspapers that derived their most attractive matter from the Divorce Court, It was stated that the Lord Chancellor and other Judges could hear cases in their private rooms with closed doors, but by a decision of Sir Cresswell Cresswell that was no longer possible in his Court. He had chosen to decide, because this House had rejected a clause giving him power to exclude reporters from his Court, that therefore it was not competent for him to exercise the power possessed by the other Judges of hearing cases in a private room. The Divorce Court, therefore, no longer possessed the power of the other Courts. The argument had been urged that it would be a grievance to the public if publicity were not given to the proceedings of these Courts; but it should be remembered that publicity was a grievance to the suitors. The most refined as well as the lowest of women might be concerned in cases of this nature, and to women of every class of society the publicity to which their cases were exposed acted, in many instances, as an absolute denial of justice. The tendency of all recent legislation had been to make justice easy to be obtained by every one, as in the creation of County Courts. If the Legislature had done so much where only money was concerned, it was the more bound to do something for the class of cases that affected public morality and decency. By the old system the evidence in such cases was given in writing, not vivâa voce. Notwithstanding the insinuation of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he should support the Motion of the noble Lord, trusting that the House would act in the decision of the question with a due regard to the interests of decency and purity.


Sir, the most convenient course when there is any doubt as to the provisions of a Bill is to agree to the Motion for its introduction, in order that those provisions may be afterwards explained by the hon. Member who wishes to bring the subject under the consideration of the House. In this instance, however, I am bound to say the noble Lord has treated the question as if he were debating the Bill on the seconding reading. He has made a speech of a somewhat controversial nature, and he has removed all doubt as to the nature of the measure which he seeks to introduce by saying that it was a repetition of the proposal made last Session. Therefore, not entertaining any doubt as to the vote which I should give on the second reading, I am prepared, though contrary to what I consider to be the most convenient practice of the House, to vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone. Now, Sir, I will proceed to discuss this question as if the question before us were the second reading of the Bill. The proposal of the noble Lord is in fact to bring in a Bill, the effect of which would be to create a privileyium with respect to the Court of Divorce. He does not propose to alter the general law of the country with regard to trials in which indecent matter, matter which is unfit for general perusal, may be given in evidence before the Court, commented upon by the counsel, or stated in his charge by the Judge to the jury. He docs not propose to introduce a general measure including every civil court, every criminal court, and the preliminary proceedings before magistrates, but he proposes to establish a separate rule with reference to the Divorce Court. Well, now, Sir, my objection to this Bill rests upon its being a peculiar and discriminating measure. If the noble Lord had proposed a general measure with respect to all courts, I might have been disposed at all events to go to a second reading of the Bill; but it appears to me that unless he is prepared to lay down a universal rule there is the gravest objection to the singling out of the Court of Divorce as a subject of exceptional legislation. On what ground does the noble Lord rest this exceptional—this differential measure, if I may so term it? It may, perhaps, be argued that trials in which highly indecorous and obscene matter is introduced do not come before our criminal courts. Now it must be a matter of notoriety that cases far more gross in their literal description occur in the administration of the criminal law than occur before the Court of Divorce. I do not wish to pain the House by a more minute allusion to such cases, but it is notorious they do occur. Now what is the course which the Judges pursue on such occasions? They order the women and children out of court, and that, I presume, is in accordance with the law of the country. I presume that a woman who was ordered out of court under such circumstances would have no action of trespass. But there is no attempt to drive reporters out of court under such circumstances, or to carry on the proceedings with closed doors, which is what the noble Lord proposes shall be done in the Divorce Court. The Lord Chancellor, I think, sometimes retires into a private room, and hears counsel there, the public being altogether excluded; but those cases arc purely exceptional; and I believe that the exclusion takes place not because there is anything to shock public decency, but because the private interests of the parties render such an arrangement desirable. Such a. power is undoubtedly exercised, but it is rarely exercised by the Lord Chancellor. Now, Sir, under these circumstances it does not appear to me that a sufficient case has been made out for subjecting the Court of Divorce to special legislation. We know that when cases similar to those now tried in the Court of Divorce came before the House of Lords and before the Ecclesiastical Courts they were reported at great length—the cases tried in the House of Lords especially, which sometimes had lengthened interrogatories introduced into them by some noble Lords, and the evidence was duly reported in the newspapers. I do not remember, however, that any Peers of Parliament ever had such a regard for public decency as to insist on the examinations taking place with closed doors, although, be it borne in mind, it would have been competent to the House of Lords, without any special legislation, to exclude strangers during the reception of the evidence on a private Bill. Nevertheless I am not aware that any of the noble Lords who have had so much experience in the administration of justice ever resorted to that contrivance for the purpose of preventing the publication of that class of cases. Under these circumstances, and not thinking it necessary for the protection of public morality to subject the Divorce Court to this special legislation, I shall vote for the Amendment. I cannot conceive that there is any reason for doubting that the ordinary law and the ordinary practice of newspapers with respect to the publication of details of this kind will afford less protection to the public interest in the case of the Divorce Court than in the case of other courts.


said, he did not deny the existence of the evil for which the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) sought to provide a remedy, but he could not on that account consent to arm the Judge of the Divorce Court with a power which he regarded as unconstitutional, and which he believed would be found to be detrimental to the public interest. The noble Lord, in dealing with the subject, had made some observations which showed that he laboured under an erroneous impression with respect to the practice of the Court of Chancery, for it was only in certain cases, such as those affecting the relations between guardian and ward, parent and child, husband and wife, and then only when no question of a dissolution of the marriage tie was involved, that the Lord Chancellor disposed of cases in private; taking that course, it should be remembered, not because of the injury which a hearing with open doors might do the public morals, but out of regard to the feelings and interests of the parties themselves and their families. In the case of the suits which came before the Divorce Court, however, the matter was entirely different, for they involved not only questions bearing upon family relations, but questions deeply affecting the public whose interest it was to know what the causes were which had led to so important a social disruption as the breaking of the marriage tie. Let him for a moment suppose that such a step could be taken without the knowledge of the public, where, then, he should like to know, would any adequate safeguard against collusion between the husband and wife desirous of a separation from one another be found? He should, moreover, wish to be informed in whom the discretion as to whether a particular case should be heard in public or with closed doors, was to be vested? Was it to be a point on which the parties to the suit might themselves decide? If so, it would often happen that the wishes of the different parties would clash, inasmuch as the offending wife or husband, as it might be, would naturally seek for that secrecy which the innocent petitioner or respondent would as naturally desire to avoid. He might, however, be told that the Judge was the person to whom was to be committed the authority to hear a cause in private or not, as he might think fit; but to the proposal to confer such a discretion upon our Judges he could only say that while they themselves would be the very last persons to wish for such a power, which was of a character much too arbitrary to be intrusted to the hands of any public functionary, however high, he believed its exercise would have the effect of removing that check upon the violation of the marriage vows which the fear of publicity now supplied. Entertaining these opinions and a strong repugnance to the principles of the Bill, he should vote for the Amendment.


said, that from the observations which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, it was to be inferred that he could hardly be aware that the reason why the clause—having a similar object as that which the Bill of the noble Lord proposed to effect—had not been pressed to a division when it came down from the House of Lords last Session was, that it was so worded as not to meet the interests and take into account the feelings of parties to the suit and their families, but was based solely upon the ground of the shock to public decency which the publication of the evidence in trials in the Divorce Court involved. The noble Lord, on the other hand, asked permission to introduce this Bill on the ground of the interest of suitors, not in all cases, but in instances in which suitors would otherwise be practically deterred from seeking a remedy unless this restriction on the publicity of proceedings were imposed. It so happened that since the House last discussed the question the Court had, on two occasions, thought fit to deny to itself the right of proceeding with closed doors. The first was a case in which the wife charged cruelty against her husband under circumstances peculiarly revolting; and the second was one in which the wife sought to annul the marriage on a ground which had already been hinted at, and when for the first time in this country, and the first time in Christendom, a modest woman was placed in the witness-box and obliged in presence of the public to speak to details to which he could only darkly allude. That was not a question of indecency or adultery, or in which any of those details occurred which issued in pamphlets from Holywell Street and were published so largely in penny papers; it was one of a totally different nature, which it was impossible to contend could not be safely conducted in private by such Judges as now presided in the court. All he said was that under certain circumstances, subject to whatever restrictions Parliament might impose, the Judges of this court should have the power of deciding that particular cases should be heard without an audience. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had asked how the Judges were to distinguish the cases which ought to be heard in private; but the hon. and learned Member must have forgotten that every material fact must be stated on the face of the petition and pleadings, and the Judge had therefore the full means of knowing whether the details would be not only painful to hear and improper to read, but whether the enforcement of a public hearing of these matters would be destructive to the interests of families who were parties to the suit. He did not, of course, know what shape the Bill might assume on the second reading; but he felt confident that any Bill with such a general object as he had described might readily be moulded into a form by which substantial justice would be done without any of those mischiefs which had been anticipated as the possible result. He regretted that the hon. and learned Attorney General was not in his place that evening. He had read his speech on this question when formerly before the House, as conclusive in favour of some legislation on the subject. It was an unanswerable argument in favour of a power being given to this Court to close its doors in certain cases. He therefore protested against the rejection of the noble Lord's Motion; he should most certainly give him his support.


replied: The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) in his opening statement remarked that this proposal had already been discussed and decided in the House of Commons. No doubt the Attorney General had made a most gallant defence in favour of this clause, and afterwards withdrew it. But he (Lord J. Manners) believed that if the House of Commons had really been present in body on that occasion as it was now, the Attorney General would never have yielded to metropolitan pressure as he had done on the eleventh of August last year. He felt great difficulty in answering the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), for he could hardly put himself in the mental position of a man who could regard and describe the Court of Divorce as it then existed as a great school of morality. He (Lord J. Manners) would ask the hon. Member when he next spoke on the subject to define what, in his opinion, was the greatest school of immorality. He was at a loss to see how the hon. Gentleman could say that the disclosures in that court could tend in any degree to the promotion of morality. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had given the House several reasons against this clause, which, whatever force they might have now, had surely as much force last July and August, when he was a consenting Member of the Government to bring in this clause, in favour of which he could say nothing now. But where was the right hon. Gentleman when the Lord Chancellor and other Members of the Government carried the clause in the other House, and the hon. and learned Attorney General so ably advocated it in the House of Commons. Had anything occurred since that time to make the Bill less useful now than it was then, or did the House not know that from one end of the country to the other there was a universal wish that some such measure should be adopted? The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Mallins) said there were far more indecent cases tried before the criminal courts than in the Divorce Court; but he forgot that, whereas in those courts these cases were the exception, the Divorce Court was occupied almost exclusively with cases of this sort. He understood there was now upwards of 600 cases waiting to be tried before this court, while in the other courts such cases came few and far between. He had brought forward this Motion solely in view of public morality and decency, and he trusted that what the House and the Government thought advisable and necessary last year would not be thought unnecessary or unadvisable now,

The House divided:—Ayes 83; Noes 268: Majority 185.