HC Deb 06 May 1868 vol 191 cc1873-4

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that this Bill be now read the second time, said, that its object was to get rid of the delay which now occurred in the despatch of business in causes of divorce. In any case delay in legal proceedings was a source of annoyance and expense, but in no branch of the law could the evil thus caused be more seen than in suits for the dissolution of marriage. It was desirable to make the proceedings, when once commenced, as expeditious as possible. At present, even in undefended cases, suitors are unable to obtain a decree dissolving the marriage under two years. The delay need not exist if the House would agree to the three propositions contained in the Bill. The first proposition was to shorten the time allowed for appealing against the decisions or rules nisi in all cases of divorce. He wished to make the practice of the Divorce side of the Court at Westminster the same as that on the Probate side of the same Court—namely, that notice of appeal in any case should be entered within one month after the hearing and decision of the cause. At present appeals against decrees in the Divorce Court could not be lodged during the Parliamentary Recess. The Bill would abolish that prohibition. The second proposition was to take away the right of appeal in undefended cases; for he could not think that any person, either man or woman, who had a good defence, would hold it back till the appeal and submit to have a decree pronounced by default. The third proposition was to make the right of appeal to follow directly upon the decree nisi, instead of parties having to wait till the decree was made absolute. He understood that this last provision was the one which was likely to meet with most opposition. It would, perhaps, be urged that such a permission would be an anomaly in the practice of Courts. But it must be remembered that for some time after the institution of the Divorce Court there was only one decree which was final; and that the decree nisi had been introduced, only to give the Queen's Proctor an opportunity of intervening if collusion was suspected. As between the parties the decree nisi was final if a third party did not intervene. He believed the only effect of the present system of delay was to enable parties to extort money by a threat of appealing, which it was never intended to carry out. The great object of his Bill was to put an end to delays which could serve no good purpose.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. C. Forster.)


said, that on the part of the Government he would not object to the second reading of the Bill, because he believed that his hon. Friend had hit upon one defect in the present state of the law, and that his Bill provided a remedy for it. He meant that part of the present law which provided that no appeal should be lodged in the House of Lords while that House was not sitting. He regretted that he could not go further in his support of the Bill. When the other matters came under the consideration of the Committee he must hold himself free to object to the clauses. An appeal on a decree or rule nisi did not exist in any other Court, and he could not see why it should be allowed in the Divorce Court.


was sorry that the Government had limited their support to such a narrow portion of the Bill. He had read the Bill and he could not see what objection there could be to its provisions, the whole of which had no other object than to stop unnecessary delay.


said, he approved that portion of the Bill which required the appeal to be lodged after the pronouncing of the decree nisi. According to the present state of the law, the decree nisi was really an absolute decree to take effect on a certain day, unless the Queen's Advocate or some other party should intervene before that time.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.