HC Deb 30 July 1906 vol 162 cc583-4

Order for the Second Reading of the Bill.

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


said this was a Bill of real importance, and it was not his fault if it came on at a quarter to one in the morning. The proposal in the Bill was that a marriage with a deceased wife's sister celebrated in a Colony where it was legal was to be treated in this country as legal. With that proposition he did not quarrel. It was a reasonable concession to make. He ventured to ask the Government whether they could see their way to extend the provisions of this Bill generall to all the marriage laws of the Colonies. The larger question of the Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill did not appear to arise in this case, but with regard to the suggestion he had made he would like to have the right hon. Gentlemen's views.


said the noble Lord was quite right: the general Question of the deceased wife's sister did not arise in this Bill in any way. The argument for this Bill was solely the Colonial argument. It had been brought to the notice of the Colonial Office on previous occasions that there was a real grievance connected with marriages of this class contracted in the Colonies. Great pain was caused to people whose marriage was quite legal in the Colonies, but who, when they came over to this country found themselves under a social and almost a moral stigma, and who were in addition to that exposed to a disability in respect of inheriting real estate. That the Government desired to remove. Our Colonies would cordially welcome the removal, and it would be regarded throughout the Empire as a graceful and wise act on the part of this House. His noble friend, whose view on this point he himself shared, asked why not make it more general? Why fix it to one particular degree. The Government were very anxious to do that because the principle upon which the Colonial Office acted in this question was to make the procedure of the marriage laws of the Colonies legal in this country. But upon investigation, great difficulties were discovered of an indefinite character. It would be going somewhat beyond the limits to which they were prepared to go to say that real estate in this country should change hands in pursuance of any law of marriage that should be made in the Colonies. That would be going beyond the principle the Government admitted. He hoped this explanation would enable the House to come to a decision upon this matter.


only desired to emphasise what the hon. Gentleman had said. When he was in Australia in the previous year he found there was a very strong feeling about this matter. There was a perfectly unanimous feeing in favour of this Bill, which would be received in the Colonies in general, and in Australia in particular, with general satisfaction.


said he could not help thinking it was unfortunate that the Government had not thought fit to adopt the larger view on this question which would have covered the Colonial question. By this Bill the Government had established a principle in favour of the rich as against the poor.