HC Deb 22 October 1919 vol 120 cc134-6

It shall be unlawful for any alien to enter into a contract of marriage with any British subject without first obtaining a licence authorising such marriage from a Secretary of State.—[Mr. Bottomley.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


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

This new Clause is one in which, unlike the other, I have no kind of personal interest. I have purposely used the phrase "any alien" instead of the phrase "any enemy alien," because I take it, in the case of enemy aliens, there would be very little opposition. The laws of almost all the countries in Europe relating to marriage differ from each other, and differ fundamentally from the laws of this country. Nobody, I believe, can say what is the present law in France relating to marriage without the consent of parents, even if a man is thirty years of age. It applies equally to almost every country in the world, and, inasmuch as we are dealing to-day with alien perils and alien restrictions, I do not know how far the Government will accept the principle of this Amendment, which will leave the Home Secretary in the exalted position of exercising a function which, I believe, hitherto has been confined to certain ecclesiastical functionaries. There is a good deal of genuine substance in this Amendment, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not shy at it.

9.0 P.M.


I beg to second the Motion.

One hears of cases of young women marrying, and indeed of men marrying, but certainly of cases over and over again where a girl has been married abroad, and finds out to her cost, when it suits the man to cast her off, that she is not the lawful wife at all. I think this Amendment will do something towards ameliorating that state of things I have long felt that it should be the law that where two persons, one British and the other of foreign nationality, propose to marry, a certificate as to the validity of that marriage should be a sine qua non before the banns were allowed to be put up, because we ought, in the interests of our own people, to take care that these mixed marriages should never take place without they were lawful in both countries, and not merely in this country.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

It seems to me that this Clause is very much a leap in the dark. I do not know how much it affects the case of Britishers resident abroad who wish to marry in that country—sailors, for example, in a foreign port. I do not know whether the hon. Member for South Hackney has considered the case of the sailor in a foreign port where there is probably not a British Consul. If that sailor wanted to get married, unless I am very much mistaken, he would have to wait until he got home and obtained the consent of the Secretary for State under this Clause. It is rather sweeping. Does it apply to Americans? I should like to know the effect in the American States if this Clause were adopted. I do not think it would improve the relations between the two countries. After what has happened in the last five years, it would be most unfortunate to put this sort of spoke in the wheel of good relations. If there is one thing to which our people object it is bureaucracy, and yet here you are introducing it into the question of marriage. Before these people can know whether they can get married they have to get a document, signed, sealed, and stamped by a lot of officials in Downing Street. There is a strong movement now amongst the clergy, especially in the East of London, to make the marriage ceremony hedged about with less difficulties and less financial cost. They want to make marriage easier, and yet here you are putting obstacles in the way of a lawful union. I do hope the Clause will not be pressed. There is the case of a soldier friend of mine who married a French girl in the retreat from Mons. He has apparently to get permission after the event. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] The thing will result in all sorts of complications. I hope the Amendment will not be pressed, and if it is, that my right hon. Friend will not accept it.

Major BAIRD.

I do not see why this particular question should be apportioned to the Home Secretary. To put this matter in his province is putting something about which really he cannot be a good judge. Year after year we, in this House, encroach more and more on the liberties of the people; but one thing we have left alone up to now is their marriage. I hope the day is far distant when a man has got to see somebody sitting in a Government Office—I do not care which—in Whitehall, and consult him as to arrangements which he proposes to make in the future before his marriage can be carried out. I hope the Amendment will not be accepted.

Question put, and negatived.

The following new Clause stood on the Paper in the name of Lieut.-Colonel RAYMOND GREENE: No alien shall be eligible to vote at any Parliamentary or municipal election whether his or her name appear as a registered voter or not.


This proposed Clause has somehow got on the Amendment Paper by mistake, proper notice apparently not having been given of it previous to the sitting of the House. It is also, I may say, beyond the scope of the Bill.