HC Deb 07 June 1899 vol 72 cc589-92

Order for second Reading read.

MR. THOMAS SHAW. (Hawick Burghs)

The main object of this Bill is to abolish the law of primogeniture in Scotland. All reasonable men who are not actuated by prejudice are in favour of the principle of this measure. The law of primogeniture is an anachronism which cannot be defended on any social or political ground, and one that has too long survived on the Statute Book. That being so, I beg to move the second reading of this Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the Bill be now read a second time.


Whatever may be said about the law of primogeniture, I think the House generally will agree that it has lasted so long that it should not be done to death at a quarter past five on a Wednesday afternoon. This Bill does a b lot of other things besides doing away with the law of primogeniture, and will make a considerable change in the position and rights of husbands, wives, and children with respect to heritable property. It goes on with a clause by which it abolishes the possibility of making entails in Scotland. (Hear, hear.) The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear," but I doubt very much whether he has considered what the practical result of the provision would be. While it would leave a man power to tie up his property by deed so far as any property is concerned, so far as the Finance Act is concerned, it would place the unfortunate Scotchman in an infinitely worse position than his English brother. I only mentioned this fact to show that legislation at 5.15 on a Wednesday afternoon is not very safe work, and I do not think my hon. friend can believe seriously that we can take this Bill at such an hour. There are also other considerations of another kind. The House will remember what I attempted to suggest so far as Scotland is concerned. Anyone who wishes to leave his heritable property between his children can do so, if he is so minded. There is no popular force of feeling behind this Bill, and what I venture to say is that when you are going to make a general change in the laws of succession which have been in force a long time, and are well understood, it is a matter which requires very grave consideration. And I may also point out that it is a matter which ought to be taken up by the responsible Government of the day, and not put forward by a, private Bill. I am not complaining that it has been brought forward by a private Bill, but I do say the House can scarcely be expected to pass such a Bill at this time of the day. I beg to move the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

MR:BANBURY (who was very imperfectly heard)

was understood to say: Whether or not the law of primogeniture ought to be abolished is a matter which requires great consideration. It seems to me that this Bill, if passed, is going to alter a law which has been in existence for centuries. (Cries of "Divide.") Hon. Members cry "Divide." As I said before, this Bill, if passed, is going to alter a law which has been in existence for centuries and after a debate of three minutes, when a Member gets up who does not often trouble the House, to express his views upon the subject, hon. Members cry "Divide"

It being half-past five of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Wednesday, 21st June.