HC Deb 04 July 1918 vol 107 cc1981-3

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,909, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of the Registrar-General of Births, etc., in Scotland."—[NOTE.—£3,000 has been voted on account.]


I should like to refer to one matter about which I have had considerable correspondence now for four years with the Scottish Office in regard to the question of the registration of the death of men who have taken part in the War. At the present time a man may suffer the most terrible consequences of the War, and the only thing the relatives have is an intimation from the War Office that their son, or father, or whoever it may be, has been killed. I have been in correspondence with the Scottish Office, and I am sorry to say they have found difficulty in carrying out my suggestion that they should record the deaths of all these persons, certificates of which should be supplied to them by the War Office. My reason for raising this question is that a great many difficulties may occur in the future, more particularly with regard to property and the right of succession. It is quite possible in the case of persons who receive information of the death of their relatives that the certificate may be lost, and accordingly no one in the future will be able to refer to the fact as to how such persons had come by their death. That may raise a great many difficulties in Courts of law, and it may affect property, and in the absence of the certificate great complications may arise. That may be a very fruitful source of revenue to the legal profession, but as it may cause great hardship in regard to the persons who have met with their death I think their deaths should be recorded at the Registrar-General's office. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to see that where a death has been absolutely proved it should be recorded in the journal of the registrar's office. It is a very simple matter, and it can be done if my right hon. Friend will only do something to see that it is carried out.


The matter raised by my hon. Friend is, I agree, a matter of importance. The difficulties to which my hon. Friend alluded arise in consequence of the non-applicability of the terms of the Statute to particular facts, and I am afraid the important question he has raised is one that can only be dealt with by legislation. My information is that no suitable opportunity has occurred for introducing legislation on that subject, and that is really all I can say. The only explanation is that the Statute does not fit the particular case. Legislation is required, and I have no doubt my right hon. Friend will remember what the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh has so fairly and properly said on this point.


The Solicitor-General says this can only be done by legislation. May I point out that we have had a good deal of emergency legisation passed without discussion, and I am quite sure that no difficulties would be raised in this House, and the very last place where any difficulty would arise is in the House of Lords. Therefore, I would suggest to the Scottish Office that they should frame a Bill, and I am quite sure my hon. Friends would not say a single word to retard the passage of such Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.