HC Deb 07 March 1929 vol 226 cc571-3

May I ask leave of the House to make a personal explanation? During the speech yesterday of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Miss Wilkinson), who introduced a Bill, under the Ten Minutes Rule, to amend the law in respect of the state of married women, I intervened and gave some account of the work of the Imperial Conference in 1926 in regard to the nationality of women. The discussion to which I referred took place nearly three years ago, and I based my remarks on my own recollection of what had transpired. Subsequent reference to the published papers of the Conference have shown me, I regret to say, that my memory played me completely false. The position of British women who marry aliens was one of the matters that came under consideration by the Nationalities Committee of the Imperial Conference, and it gave rise to a discussion on which there was a divergence of views greater than I stated yesterday. On one point, however, the Committee were unanimously agreed, that it was of great importance to obtain uniformity throughout the various parts of the Empire in the law relating to nationality. Accordingly, it was decided to recommend to the Conference that further consideration of the question should be postponed, pending the report of the Committee of Experts to whom it was proposed to submit it. The Imperial Conference accepted this recommendation. Much work has been done to prepare the way for the Experts Committee, but the date of the Assembly has not yet been definitely fixed. The report, when complete, will, of course, have to be discussed at the next meeting of the Imperial Conference. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom were, of course, parties to the Imperial Conference and joined in the reference to the Expert Committee. Until the Committee's report has been received and considered by the various Dominions, it is impossible for His Majesty's Government to take any final decision, and I very much regret that I should have misled the House in thinking otherwise. I hope that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East, will accept my personal expression of apology.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he took the unusual course of making an important and, as it turns out, a misleading declaration in the middle of an hon. Member's speech during the introduction of a Bill under the Ten Minutes' Rule?


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East—I am sorry that she is not in her place—made a statement as to the action of the home Government in burking this question. I bad my mind full of the proceedings of the Committee which sat in connection with the Imperial Conference, of which I happened to be Chairman, and I rose to give her such information as I could remember; but I completely forgot certain things relating to the Expert Committee—I had not my papers with me—and I have now endeavoured, frankly and fully, to remedy my mistake.