§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Clause 1, Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 16, after the word "ordained," to insert the words—
And which shall within eighteen months after the passing of this Act have been entered in the register of marriages in the territory in which they have been solemnised, in accordance with the law or usage for the time being in force in such territory."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."1836
§ * THE ATTOENEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
I have considered the point raised last night by my hon. and learned Friend, and I think it is desirable there should be some fixed time in order to prevent marriages solemnised some 20 or 30 years before being rendered valid under this Bill. I would suggest, however, that instead of his Amendment we should insert—And which shall, within two years after the passing of this Act, have been registered at such place, and in such manner as the High Commissioner shall, by proclamation within six months after the passing of the Act, prescribe.That, I think, would better meet the object the hon. and learned Gentleman has in view.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
I am quite satisfied with the words my hon. and learned Friend suggests, and therefore I beg to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 16, after the word "ordained," to insert the words—
And which shall, within two years after the passing of this Act, have been registered at such place, and in such manner as the High Commissioner shall, by proclamation within six months after the passing of the Act, prescribe."—(Mr. Attorney General.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
When I looked at the Act of Fiji it seemed to me the position taken up by my hon. and learned Friend was a reasonable one, but my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Baron H. de Worms) and myself felt we could not prescribe the mode of registration. I have, therefore, proposed this Amendment in substitution of that of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. O. MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
The Amendment seems a reasonable one, and I hope it will be accepted.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)
Will the Attorney General consent to three years instead of two? I cannot speak for Basutoland, but I know that in other parts of the colonies it is a common occurrence for people in the wild districts not to have any communications for 12 and 18 months at a time. I know of places, even in Australia, where an 18 months' notice would be of no avail.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
I think the suggestion is worthy of consideration. Of course, I am not personally acquainted with the actual character of these colonies, and am glad to receive any practical suggestion. I think it is a very reasonable proposition that the total time should be three years, and I fancy my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Tomlinson) would not object to the alteration.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, line 1, to leave out the word "two," and insert the word "three."—(Mr. Molloy.)
§ Question, "That 'two' stand part of the Amendment," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That 'three' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, again proposed.
MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen)
I beg to move the insertion of the words, "with the consent of both parties to the marriage or the survivor of them," after the word "registered." These Validation Acts are very excellent in their object, but this is a peculiarly sweeping measure, because it applies to a territory which formerly did not belong to the British Empire, and it refers to matters which occurred in that territory at a time when it did not belong to the British Empire. It is proposed that anything called marriage which is celebrated by a minister of any denomination duly appointed or ordained shall be rendered valid. I find no distinction drawn between British subjects, when both parties are British subjects, when only one of the parties is a British subject, and when neither party is a British subject. It would be quite within the scope of the Bill that a marriage between two persons, say of French extraction, should be made valid by registration, although that marriage might not be valid according to the law of France. It is given to one of the parties to go within a limited time to register the marriage. Persons who may have gone through some ceremony of marriage in these territories may find themselves married without their consent, and even against their consent. It seems 1838 to me there would be no serious practical objection to requiring the consent of both parties to the registration, because if both parties consented no wrong could be done to either of them. And, in the same way, if one of the parties happens to be dead, it would be only reasonable that the survivor alone should have the right to register the marriage.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in line 3, by inserting after the word "registered," the words "with the consent of both parties or the survivor of them."—(Mr. Hunter.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
There is another reason why the Amendment should be accepted, and that is that the Bill does not require any notice of the intention to register to be given by the person registering to the other person of the marriage.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I strongly advise the Attorney General not to accept this Amendment. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunter) had any knowledge of the kind of life which is led in these wild districts he would not have moved an Amendment of this kind. If you are going to leave it open to one of the parties to refuse to have the marriage registered, you play into the hands of a man who, for instance, having become tired of his wife, wishes to go off and enter into another alliance. By adopting this Amendment you will be really undoing nine-tenths of the good done by the Bill.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
I cannot accept the Amendment. We propose that the mode of registration shall be prescribed by the High Commissioner. If there is one question which ought to be dealt with by the Local Authorities, it seems to be such a question as whether or not the marriage should be registered on the application of two or of one of the parties. I can conceive, if we adopted the Amendment, that the Act might be defeated by a person who desired to get rid of his wife.
I am afraid I must take the sense of the Committee upon this Amendment. The sole point of my suggestion is to prevent a man or 1839 woman being married against his or her will.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 199.—(Div. List, No. 267.)
§ Amendment proposed, to add after "Commissioner" the words "in South Africa."—(The Attorney General.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I had intended to move the insertion of a proviso at the end of the clause, but from an intimation I have received from the Attorney General, it is unnecessary that I should now trouble the House with it. To prevent misunderstanding, however, I will state that my Amendment was for the purpose of providing that no entry should be permitted in the register without 21 days' notice to both parties; but as the Attorney General has privately promised that the point shall be raised by the Chief Commissioner, I will not trouble the House with the Amendment.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered to-morrow.