HC Deb 17 May 1927 vol 206 cc995-9

I beg to move, That leave be given to introduce a Bill to confer on Courts in Great Britain jurisdiction in certain cases with respect to the dissolution of marriages, the parties whereof are domiciled abroad, but one of whom is resident in Great Britain. In view of the interest in the subsequent proceedings, I would endeavour to state the objects of this Bill in as few words as possible. In the last Session of Parliament an Act was passed entitled the Indian and Colonial Divorce Jurisdiction Act, the object of which was to enable people living in India, but technically domiciled in this country, to take proceedings in the Courts in India. In the course of the Second Reading Debate on that Measure I raised the question of women who were living in this country but were technically domiciled in other countries because they had been deserted by their husbands who happened to have domicile in those countries, and I asked if it would not be possible to bring them into the scope of the Measure. Unfortunately it was not possible, and that is the reason why I am asking leave to introduce this Bill to-day. There are in every part of the country numbers of women, who are the wives of men from overseas. These men served during the War, and have never lived in this country. Because the husbands are domiciled overseas the women are deemed to be so domiciled. For that reason, although these women might have perfectly sound reasons for instituting divorce proceedings, the doors of our own Courts are closed to them and the object of my Bill is solely to open the doors of our Courts to these women in order that they may obtain justice which at the moment is denied to them. If they were well-to-do, the difficulty would not arise because they could afford to go to the other country concerned, and initiate proceedings there; but the great bulk of these women are poor, and cannot afford to do so, and unfortunately, the Poor Persons Department of the Law Courts is debarred from assisting people who wish to take action in Courts outside this country. Those are the reasons which have led me to ask for leave to introduce this Bill.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY



Does the hon. and gallant Member rise to oppose the introduction of the Bill?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Yes, Sir. I will endeavour, in so doing, to emulate the brev'ty and, I hope, the lucidity of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams). He made out in a few words what sounded like a strong case for this Bill, but there is a great deal more in it than would appear from what he said. This giving of a right to women whose husbands are abroad, and who are legally domiciled abroad, to sue in the Courts of this country for divorce is open to very grave abuse indeed. We are opening here a much wider door than anything contemplated in the Act which we passed last year and to which the hon. Member referred. This is a matter for the Law Officers of the Crown and the Government. It is a much wider thing than the hon. Gentleman would lead the House to suppose, and it is not a fitting subject for a Bill brought in

under the Ten Minutes Rule by a private Member. The Government have all the time of the House at their disposal and can do anything they like in this House, and if a Bill is called for, they should bring it in. The fact that the Amendment referred to was not accepted last year shows that it goes very much further than the hon. Member has made out, and I ask the House to join with me in opposing the introduction of the Bill.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to confer on Courts in Great Britain Jurisdiction in certain cases with respect to the dissolution of marriages the parties whereof are domiciled abroad but one of whom is resident in Great Britain.

The House divided: Ayes, 252; Noes, 74.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Herbert Williams, Major Sir Archibald Sinclair, Mr. Groves, Captain Bourne, Captain Garro-Jones, Mr. Tinne, and Lieut.-Colonel McDonnell.