§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir CHARLES RUSSELL) (Hackney, S.)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, explained that the matter had been originally introduced in the last Parliament by his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his (the Attorney General's) learned Colleague (Sir Horace Davey). A similar Bill had been passed, after considerable discussion, by the House of Lords, and it was now presented to the House in the form in which it left the Peers in the late Parliament. Stated shortly, the object of the Bill was to remove, in certain particulars at least, some of the remnants of the old rule, by which the wife and the mother were regarded as having no individuality and power of their own in regard to the custody of children, but that their individuality and power were merged in the husband. 651 The law at present did not give a widow the guardianship of her child, even if the father had not appointed a guardian, nor had she any right to appoint a guardian by will. The object of the Bill was to set that matter right by giving the mother a natural and proper voice in the guardianship and bringing up of her children.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ MR. INCE (Islington, E.)
said, he must congratulate the hon. and learned Gentleman on the great improvement shown in the treatment of this subject since it was originally brought before the House. When the idea first occurred to someone that it was desirable to legislate on the guardianship of infants, the intention seemed to have been effectuated, as far as he could gather from the first measure, by putting it in the hands of a committee of elderly bachelors and spinsters, who knew nothing about matrimony, and, if possible, less about children. In the first Bill there was to be a sort of duality of control on the part of a father and a mother, so that whenever a father corrected the child it could run to the mother, or when the correction was administered by the mother it could run to the father, with the object that the family should, as soon as possible, find itself in the nearest County Court. He did not think that this setting aside of the laws of nature was likely to be a success; and he was glad to see that the measure had been amended in this particular part. His hon. and learned Friend, however, seemed to be so enamoured of the dual system, that even now he could not give it up. It was extremely unfortunate that the law at present did not recognize the right of the mother; but, that being so, why did his hon. and learned Friend not make the law as he said it should be, and give to the mother who survived the father the sole right and control of the children? While he did not oppose the second reading of the Bill, he should venture in Committee to try to alter it a little more into consistency with what he believed to be the natural law affecting these important relations.
§ Question put, and agreed, to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.652
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present: House counted, and 40 Members being found present.