HC Deb 30 May 1881 vol 261 cc1646-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to a case tried before the Sheffield County Court on May 25th, and reported in the "Daily News" of May 26th, in the course of which it transpired that a man, whose name is not given in the report, sold his wife to a married man named Moore for the consideration of a quart of beer; and, whether, having regard to the fact that such sales are not uncommon in England, the Right honourable Gentleman will take such steps as may be in his power to remove the impression which appears to exist in some parts of England that the sale of wives is a legitimate transaction?


I do not know whether the hon. Member expects a serious answer to this Question. I find nothing in this affair, except the casual utterance of a drunken ruffian in search of an excuse for his own immorality. There was nothing like a sale that deserves the name at all; and I confess when I see such suggestions as are down in the latter part of this Question, I have only to say that to treat a brutal incident of this character as representing a practice not uncommon in England, and to say that an impression is prevailing that incidents of this kind are legitimate transactions is, in my opinion, at once a waste of time and an insult to the common sense of the House. Everyone knows that no such practice exists. ["Oh!"] Well, Sir, if hon. Gentlemen from Ireland know the case to be different with reference to that country, I have nothing to say; and, for my part, I entirely repudiate the slur that would be cast on the people of this country by seriously dwelling on the gross language of a degraded wretch as if it were representing a national practice and belief as to the law deserving the attention of Parliament.


asked, Whether, in making allusion to Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman meant anything serious?


Sir, I did not mean anything serious at all. I did not think it could be a serious subject. I make no more imputation upon Ireland than upon England and Scotland, I believe the practice to be equally unknown in every part of the United Kingdom.