HC Deb 19 March 1891 vol 351 cc1433-4
MR. WOODALL (Hanley)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether his attention has been given to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage, which was presented in 1868, and to the opinion expressed by that Commission that one uniform system was in the highest degree desirable; that the difficulties in the way of the attainment of that object were not insuperable; and that it was the duty of the State to make an earnest endeavour to overcome them; whether the Government will be prepared to give effect to the recommendation of the Commission that the State should be absolutely impartial and indifferent as between the members of all religious denominations, and should found its legislation as to marriage upon the necessity and duty of regulating its civil conditions and effects; and whether, to this end, the Government will consider the propriety of referring to a Select Committee the various proposals now before the House for altering the laws affecting the celebration and registration of marriages among Nonconformists, with instructions to consider the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and to obtain evidence from the Registrar General and others as to the operation of the laws proposed to be altered?

*THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster

I have seen the Report of the Royal Commission on the Laws of Marriage, presented in 1868, and although it is doubtless desirable that the Laws of Marriage should be assimilated, yet, looking to the time that has elapsed since the Commission reported, it is evident that the subject is one of considerable difficulty. I am, therefore, unable to hold out any hopes that the Government, with a very limited time at their disposal, will be able to deal with the matter in the course of the present Session. With regard to the Bills now before the House for altering the laws affecting Nonconformist marriages, it will be for the House itself to decide, when the Bills reach the Committee stage, whether it is desirable that they should be referred to a Select Committee.