HC Deb 09 March 1871 vol 204 cc1748-50

(Mr. Thomas Chambers, Mr. Morley.)

COMMITTEE. [Progress, 8th March.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Amendment again proposed, in page 1, line 8, to leave out all the words from the word "heretofore" to the second word "or," in line 9, both inclusive."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)


said, it would be well that the Committee should understand the question before it. The effect of the clause as it stood would be to legalize the marriage of persons who had taken it upon themselves to act in violation of the law, and that was a most important question, upon which they ought to have the opinion of the Government. There were many cases in which persons who had thus married had afterwards separated, and the question was, were these persons to be held as married in spite of themselves?


said, that these marriages up to 1835 were not void, but voidable, by the action of the Ecclesiastical Courts; but since then they were void ipso facto.


said, a great deal of confusion had been caused by, and much misrepresentation employed as to the word "voidable." Every marriage within the prohibited degrees was only voidable up to 1835; so that the most horrible alliances of the nearest kindred belonged to that class up to that date, and equally with the one now under discussion, could only be prevented by a sense of common decency. All the argument used on the other side on that subject tending to show that any particular indulgence was shown to this particular degree was simply misrepresentation.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he would say supposing some person should turn up who demanded a return of legacy duty on the ground that, being a son of a deceased wife's sister, he would be bound to pay 10 per cent on the property left him; whereas being now legitimate, he would be entitled to the property free of duty?


said, the answer would be that the money being lawfully paid would not be returned.


appealed to the Prime Minister to state his opinion and that of the Government upon the question of giving to the Bill the retrospective action proposed, observing that if it were passed in its present shape others who happened to contract marriages hereafter within degrees remoter, but yet forbidden, would come to Parliament with an irresistible claim to have these marriages legalized.


, having remarked that no Government had hitherto been called upon to declare its views on the question, and admitting that it was far from being free from difficulties, thought his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. Chambers) had exercised a wise discre- tion, on the whole, in giving validity to the marriages referred to in the clause. The Act of Lord Lyndhurst for the first time gave validity by retrospective action to what was undoubtedly a violation of the law. It became certain that such an example would be followed by continuous efforts to alter the law in some respects, and they were bound to take that into consideration in making allowance for persons who had contracted these alliances since 1835. It appeared to him that the dictates both of equity and policy were in favour of the course taken by his hon. and learned Friend, always supposing that he had—as he believed he had—provided completely for the protection of proprietary rights.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 133; Noes 98: Majority 35.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time To-morrow.