HC Deb 27 April 1934 vol 288 cc2025-8
Lords Amendment

In page 1, line 18, at the end, insert: and this Act and the Marriage Acts, 1811 to 1932, may be cited together as the Marriage Acts, 1811 to 1934; and this Act and the Foreign Marriage Act, 1892, may be cited together as the Foreign Marriage Acts, 1892 and 1934.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—[Mr. Brocklebank.]

11.36 a.m.


I hope the hon. Member will now stand up and explain exactly what all this means.


It is a purely drafting Amendment and is introduced merely for the convenience of citation. With that very full explanation, I hope the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) will be satisfied.


I am not. I think that the hon. Member should be fair to the House. We have never had an explanation as to what all these Acts of Parliament, which are cited, mean. What does this Bill do, and in what way does it affect the law as it now stands?

11.38 a.m.


I want to say a few words on what is called a citation Amendment. Like every one else, I have not a copy of the Lords Amendments, but I have had the privilege of looking at a copy of this Amendment. In the first place, it cites the Marriage Act of 1811. That is quite a long time ago, and during all the years since then all sorts of things have happened. We come down here to-day, find all these Acts cited, and are asked to pass a law based on citation. The hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), who is usually bursting to explain things on a Friday afternoon, will check me if I am wrong—


You will find it in the Library.


I am very sorry, but I do not know what is the matter with me. That is the first thing we are asked to decide, but no one has given any explanation, and here we are citing an Act which is over 100 years old. As a small illustration, it is a perfect example of the way in which we ought not to do our business. We are citing a whole lot of Acts which go back for 100 years. You might as well cite Acts of Parliament which are much older, but in any case how is a Scotsman or an Englishman who wishes to get married to get hold of the Act of 1811 and be sure that he is all right.? It is very difficult. Then we wander on to an Act of 1832, also over 100 years old. Here are two Acts of Parliament, both over 100 years old, which are cited. Think of all the speeches which many hon. Members have made, brilliant speeches, about legislation by reference. Then you come a little nearer and you get an Act of 1834, and afterwards an Act of 1892. I am not quite sure, but at any rate there are six or seven old Statutes which are cited, and we are being asked this morning to insert them in this part of the Bill. The hon. Member as far as he could gave an explanation of the matter, and I am sure that the House will appreciate the immense trouble that he has taken. I do not ask him to read out all these Acts of Parliament on this occasion, but there is at least one which is vital to our argument. It is time some private Member should say that when a private Member's Bill is brought in it should be fairly clear what is meant to be done. It is indeed time that the legal authorities of the Government brought our laws into order, so that on an important question such as marriage—


The Attorney-General is present—


I am coming to him in a moment—we should have the fullest legal authority on the matter. The Attorney-General, as the hon. Member says, is present. His knowledge of the English law is undoubtedly very great, and I believe he has some knowledge of

the law of Scotland. He may not officially call himself learned but he has a wide experience, and if no one else in the House is able to relieve our minds and tell us exactly what we are doing, I appeal to the Attorney-General, to give us the full benefit of his immense wisdom and learning. I should like to apologise to the hon. Member in charge of the Bill for giving him any trouble in the matter. I have a great regard for his convictions and feelings, and for the valuable work he is doing, and any protest I may make has nothing personal in it. It is simply a duty, which I think should be done in the House of Commons, to protest against a citation of this kind which violates all the best principles of legislation in the House of Commons and all the best feelings of democracy. It is also calculated to give a lot of extra fees to lawyers, which is equally bad. All good lawyers want to simplify the law, and, that being the case, I feel sure that we ought to have a real authoritative pronouncement from some member of the legal profession to clear the matter up once and for all in the official language of the House of Commons.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment".

The House divided: Ayes, 60; Noes, 16.

Division No. 220.] AYES. [11.44 a.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke Harvey, Majors. E. (Devon, Totnes) Rathbone, Eleanor
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Rickards, George William
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Hume, Sir George Hopwood Ropner, Colonel L.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Runge, Norah Cecil
Broadbent, Colonel John James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Knight, Holford Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Castlereagh, Viscount Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Clayton, Sir Christopher McConnell, Sir Joseph Spens, William Patrick
Copeland, Ida Magnay, Thomas Tate, Mavis Constance
Crooke, J. Smedley Maitland, Adam Turton, Robert Hugh
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Meller, Sir Richard James Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) McIson, A. Hugh Elsdale Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Moreing, Adrian C Withers, Sir John James
Grimston, R. V. Moss, Captain H. J. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. North, Edward T.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Palmer, Francis Noel TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pike, Cecil F. Mr. Brocklebank and Sir Gerald Hurst.
Attlee, Clement Richard Edwards, Charles Leckie, J. A.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Lunn, William
Cape, Thomas Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentine L.
Daggar, George Griffiths, T. (Monmouth. Pontypool) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lawson, John James TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Banfield and Mr. Tinker.