HC Deb 28 January 1918 vol 101 cc1403-4

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

I can explain in two or three sentences the scope of this Bill. It amends the law with respect to testamentary dispositions by soldiers and sailors, and its object is to explain and extend Section 11 of the Wills Act, 1837. That Section provided that any soldier being in actual military service, or any mariner or seaman being at sea, may dispose of his personal estate as he might have done before the passing of the Act. In other words, so far as personal estate alone was concerned, a person to whom the Section applied might make a testamentary disposition of his property without writing and without the presence of two witnesses. The object of the present Bill is to accomplish four simple and useful things. In the first place, it explains that the Section I have just referred to not only authorises the persons to whom it applies to make an informal will, but authorises, and has always authorised them so to do, although they may be under the age of twenty-one years. The effect of the explanation is to remove certain doubts which have been raised by a recent judgment of a learned judge of the Chancery Division. The second object of the Bill is to extend the operation of the Section so far as mariners or seamen are concerned. The law already protects the soldier wherever he is, and whatever his ditty may be for the moment so long as he is in actual military service. But in the case of the mariner or seaman its operation is limited to the time when he is actually at sea. The Bill gets rid of this anomaly. It extends the benefits of the provisions of the Act of 1837 to a member of the naval or marine forces whenever he is so circumstanced that, if he were a soldier, he would be in actual military service. The third object of the Bill, and, in a sense, no doubt its primary object, is to assimilate in these respects the law relating to the disposition of real property to the law relating to the disposition of personal property. Section 11 of the Act of 1837 is limited to wills relating to personal property; this Bill gives the same enabling provisions with respect to the disposition of real property. And, finally, in order to get rid of the effect of another quite recent decision, the Bill provides that in the like summary form a soldier or a sailor may by will appoint a guardian of his infant children. This Bill has already been passed through all its stages in another place, and I need not dwell further on its useful and timely provisions. I hope that the House, in view of its simplicity and its urgency, may not only give it a Second Reading now, but may pass it forthwith through all its stages.

Resolved, "That the House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Bill."—[Lord E. Talbot.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and Reported, without amendment; read the third time, and passed.