HC Deb 07 December 1926 vol 200 cc2073-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


It will be remembered that, in moving the Second Reading, the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State, said that this Bill did not apply to Northern Ireland. That seemed to me to imply scone limitation of the rights of equal citizenship that we have always claimed, and I ventured to disagree in that regard. I also demurred to the statement that there were no facilities for divorce in Northern Ireland, mentioning that I was Personally aware that a Bill had been introduced and passed through Parliament. There therefore appeared to be a conflict of opinion between myself and the Noble Lord. What the Noble Lord was speaking of, however, were facilities for divorce by the Courts, and he was entirely correct as to that. What I was speaking of was the quite different procedure which is followed in regard to divorce in Ireland.

All the jurisdiction that the Irish Courts have in this matter is that the Judge may pronounce a decree a mensa et thoro, which is equivalent to a judicial separation. If the aggrieved party desires, or feels that he or she has justification for, anything further, a Parliamentary agent has to be approached and a Private Bill presented. The apparent difference between myself and the Noble Lord really arose from a certain incompleteness of expression on my part. He was good enough to say that, if the view that I had presented were correct, he would, and he did, in fact, in the most generous way, agree to keep the Bill open, so that representations might be made. This is a Bill which proposes to confer on the Indian Courts precisely the same powers with respect to divorce which the Courts in this country enjoy, and that may be perfectly correct so far as England and Scotland are concerned, but, as I have indicated to the Committee, the Irish Courts have no power to divorce, and, therefore, the Noble Lord was quite justified in his point of view that it was not possible to transfer to an Indian Court, with respect to Northern Ireland, powers which the Northern Irish Courts did not possess. Therefore, what looked like a difference of opinion between the Noble Lord and myself is entirely extinguished. All that could be done in the circumstances would be for my countrymen to exercise, in choosing a spouse, that prudence which has always been their leading characteristic, and thus make it unnecessary for any question regarding these powers to arise in their case. I thought it was due to the Committee and to the Noble Lord that I should make this explanation.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.