§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a small Bill. It does not look as if it contained very much matter, but it is none the less very important to nearly everybody who lives in Scotland or who is domiciled there, and it affects the population from the cradle to the grave. There is no record of any legal obligation until 1854 to register in Scotland a birth, a death or a marriage. Before that period there was the parish register, and the Kirk did its best to see that the record of those things was properly kept, but there was no power to insist upon that being done.
Since 1854, we find from the Statute Book that there has been an obligation to register births, deaths and marriages in proper form, and it is now universally necessary for every person to produce, at some time during life, a birth certificate. A system has grown up alongside such registration which makes it necessary in many cases. Apart from the requirements of genealogy and succession, there are regulations with regard to industry. The factories demand birth certificates. There are National Health and Unemployment Insurance, Registration of the People and Widows' and Orphans' Pensions which demand exhibition at some time or other of a birth certificate.
The object of the Bill is to amend somewhat the present regulations. It is necessary to produce a birth certificate in life, and so it is even after one has died, if a tombstone is to be erected, because the birth certificate must be produced in order to show when you were born so that it may be recorded on the tombstone. Under the present provisions as to registration in Scotland—the Acts continued unamended from 1854 until 1910—every birth in Scotland must be registered in the records of the registrar 2248 of the district in which the birth took place, within a period of 21 days, and the entry must be in statutory form. It must contain the name and surname of the child; the date, hour and place of birth; the sex; the name, surname and profession of the father; the name and maiden surname of the mother; the date and place of their marriage; the signature and qualifications of the informant; the date of registration and the signature of the registrar. That is a somewhat long document, but it contains all the particulars that are required by the Statute.
In the course of time, certain laws have been passed, and a child can now be legitimated through the subsequent marriage of the parents, and there may also be recorded in the register the name of its father if a decree has been granted by the sheriff, but there the certificate is different from the extract to which I have already referred. There is a tremendous lot of writing on the back of this extract, setting forth all the details, which are not necessary and really only interest the parties themselves. They are the cause of a great deal of humiliation, and the possessors are sometimes a bit shamefaced through no fault of their own. They should have the same chance as children born in ordinary wedlock.
After all the legislation that has taken place with regard to industry and education, we seem, in the registration of births, deaths and marriage, to be herding people into different pens. We know the importance of pedigree if one has a fancy for a certain kind of cattle, or if one keeps hens or pigeons, because we want to know the pedigree in order to get the right strain, but to saddle people, when they are applying for a bursary under the Education Acts, for a job in a factory, or for any other purpose, with a certificate plastered all over with particulars that proclaim to the world the facts of their pedigree, is unnecessary and undignified in this year of Grace.
The Bill sets out to amend many of these things. It is universally admitted that the illegitimate child should not be caused unnecessary suffering, and many organisations and individuals have shown a great interest in this matter. A great deal of propaganda has taken place during the last 20 years upon this subject. It gives me therefore a great amount of 2249 pleasure to be able to present this Bill to-day, when I know the interest that has been taken, over such a large number of years, in the subject.
In explaining the details of the Bill, I shall find it necessary to run over one or two points. First let us look at the Scottish style of registration, so far as it concerns persons whose births are registered as in the illegitimate form. They are divided into four types. Case A is that in which the mother's name appears in the entry but the father's name is not recorded. Case B is where the father acknowledges paternity at birth, and his name is entered with that of the mother, but there is no subsequent marriage. Case C is where paternity is found by a competent court, usually when the mother sues for alimony. Case D is where the child is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the parents. While the Bill is concerned with every man, woman and child in Scotland, it is not directly concerned with the first two cases, A and B, and cannot go so far as it can with cases C and D. In the case of the last two groups, where certain subsequent events occur which affect materially the original birth entry, the Bill is designed to remove a long-felt grievance. Where a child is legitimated by subsequent marriage of the parents, the original entry in the register of births is not altered, but, instead, a long note explaining that legitimation has taken place is entered in a separate register called the register of corrected entries. Similarly, when the paternity of an illegitimate child is found by a decree of court, particulars of the decree are sent by the clerk of the court to the registrar, who puts this long note in the register of corrected entries.
The result of all this is that, when a person who has been legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents, or whose paternity has been found by a decree of court, applies for an extract of the entry of birth, he is presented with an extract which on the face of it is an exact copy of the original entry, but which has endorsed on the back the full story of legitimation or of the decree of paternity as the case may be. These endorsations on extracts of birth entries are to my mind offensive and unnecessary. It is indeed intolerable that in 2250 such cases extracts of birth entries should go out of their way to emphasise the circumstances surrounding the birth, and the unfortunate people concerned have an undoubted right to new or amended entries of birth in the birth register which will remove all these offensive endorsations. The chief purpose of the present Bill is to give recognition to this right by providing for the re-registration on demand of all births where there has been legitimation by subsequent marriage or where the birth entry is affected by a court decree. When a birth has been registered under the terms of the Bill, that is to say, when a complete new entry has been made in the register, it will be possible to obtain an extract of the new entry without any endorsation, the new particulars being properly incorporated on the face of the extract and not on the back.
I may explain here that legitimation by subsequent marriage became law in England in 1926, through the Legitimacy Act of that year, and that Act provided for the re-registration of births in cases of legitimation. The principles of re-registration are, therefore, already established, although the present Bill goes a little further. We Scotsmen always try to take a step in front when we get the chance. The Bill provides for re-registration in cases where there has been a decree of paternity. In the case of legitimation, re-registration results in an entry of birth which is practically a normal entry in that the names of the parents and the particulars of marriage are properly shown; while in the case of a paternity decree the entry is improved by recording the father's name in addition to that of the mother in the proper place.
Having given the House this little explanation, I want to go over the various Clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 contains a preliminary provision which secures that, in the ordinary case of legitimation by subsequent marriage, no entries are in future to be made in the register of corrected entries. In the great majority of cases, legitimation by subsequent marriage is brought to the notice of the registrar by the parents coming forward with an extract entry of the marriage. In such cases the proper course under the Bill will be to apply for re-registration of the birth, and such re-registration 2251 will remove the need for any entry in the register of corrected entries. In those few cases where legitimation is found by decree of court, and where the person concerned himself seeks a declarator of legitimacy, it may happen that his parents are dead, and the present practice of noting the import of such decree in the register of corrected entries is being retained for the convenience of all the parties concerned.
In Clause 2, Sub-section (1) provides for the re-registration of births in ordinary cases of legitimation. The Registrar-General is given power to authorise re-registration in such cases. Where the father's name is already recorded, either because he acknowledged paternity when the birth was first registered or because the paternity was later found by a competent court, the Registrar-General will normally be in a position to authorise re-registration on the strength of the evidence of the extract entry of marriage; but when the father's name has not been so recorded, the Registrar-General will authorise re-registration only when he is furnished with a warrant from the Sheriff. This safeguard is necessary, and has its counterpart in the existing Statute, because the fact that the male spouse in the marriage is the father is not apparent from the register, and may involve some form of judicial inquiry, which is a matter more for the Sheriff than for the Registrar-General.
Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 makes the provisions which I have quoted retrospective, so that re-registration will be at once available to the host of people who have been legitimated by marriages which took place in the past. Clause 3 repeals the section in the principal Act containing the provisions which are being replaced by Clause 2 of the Bill. Clause 4, which is rather important, provides for re-registration if the entry of birth is affected by any matter contained in the register of corrected entries respecting his status or paternity. These matters will principally have reference to decrees of court finding the paternity of the child, usually at the instance of the unmarried mother. The Clause also covers declarators of legitimacy, that is to say, those exceptional cases where legitimation is furnished as a result of a court action. Clause 5, which is also rather important, deals with a matter quite apart from the 2252 question of re-registration. It repeals the part of Section 26 of the Act of 1854 which is not only obsolete but is a cause of considerable hardship. The provision in question requires the registrar of the parish where the illegitimate child is born to transmit the register to the registrar in the ordinary domicile of the woman who has the child. For instance, a girl from Inverness is working in Glasgow. She has a child in Glasgow in the maternity home. That child in not only registered in Glasgow but in the home where she lived and, therefore, there is unnecessary publicity which the girl naturally would not want everyone to know. This Clause is wiping out the necessity for that because it is obsolete and serves no useful purpose.
Hon. Members may want to know how many illegitimates are affected. The Registrar tells me that in 1931, 638 decrees of paternity were recorded and 221 legitimations but that a proportion of the total number is not brought to his notice. I hope the Bill will encourage parents to come forward and secure by re-registration that the legitimation of the children is properly recorded. It is considered that there cannot be fewer than a thousand new cases arising each year which are affected by legitimation alone and which will, therefore, benefit by the Bill. The total births in Scotland for 1932 were 92,220, and of these 6,661, or 7.22 per cent. were registered as illegitimate. It has been said that we are not going far enough in the Bill, and I agree. I was going as far as I could get the officials to take me, but since the Bill has been circulated, I have had some communications with the Registrar-General and other officials and, while we are getting two new certificates under the Bill, clean certificates without any writing on the back, I am informed that it will be possible in Committee to introduce a Clause whereby we can get a third, for certifying the age of a person, with no other particulars on it. It will simply say, "Johnny Jones was born at 121a, Princes Street, Edinburgh, on 9th February, 1902," and that would be sufficient for the purposes of the Factory Acts and probably the Pensions Act, where you have to look up the parentage. I understand that cheap certificates are given for some of these purposes. My intention would be that we should have a 2253 general certificate for all these purposes at a very cheap rate—6d. or 1s.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I beg to second the Motion.
I should like to commend the Bill to the House for one reason which has not been mentioned, that, unlike many Bills introduced on a Friday, it does not seek to impose any restraint on the liberty of the subject. Things will be easier than they were previously if the Bill is passed. Also I think the title necessarily appears to give it a scope which in fact it has not got, because it is described as a Bill to amend the enactments relating to the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, whereas in fact it only deals with the question of the registration of births, and certainly it implies no loosening of the marriage tie or anything of that kind. It deals with difficulties which have arisen under the existing law owing to the fact that, when a corrected entry is made in the register of births, the fact has to be endorsed in full on any copy of the extract which may be required by the person concerned.
I am glad my hon. Friend indicated that he would be prepared to consider a more general and limited form of certificate, what I might perhaps call a working certificate of birth, because in many cases—the question of school age and so on—a certificate of birth is all that is required. It is just in the younger years of a person's life that he has most need of that type of certificate. After a man has passed 30 years of age people become much less interested in his actual age than when he was 16 or 17. It is just at that time that it is most desirable that there should be no stigma attaching to a person who is using a birth certificate merely as a means, perhaps, of obtaining work or getting a bursary at school. The Bill does nothing to prevent the full entry of all the circumstances attending the birth in the register and that information will be available in the future as it has been in the past where necessary.
The basis of the Bill, as I see it, is that, instead of insisting in these cases that the register shall be corrected where marriage has subsequently taken place and an entry shall be made in the list of corrected entries in future there will be a re-registration and the information appearing on the certificate will be that 2254 showing the state of affairs at the time the certificate is given. The other information, if it is necessary, will still be available. I think that the Bill is a valuable Bill, and that if it goes to Committee, and my hon. Friend is able to persuade the Committee to introduce the further Clause to which he has referred, it will deal adequately with this rather difficult subject, which is one which has not been dealt with by the legislature for a number of years. If we can have a simple certificate, merely giving the date, and the place of birth and the name of the person, and at the same time we can have in the register full information, so that any persons who have perhaps to prove their nationality, or have to prove more definite particulars of their origin, will still be able to get that information, then we shall have put the registration of births in Scotland upon a sound basis and one which will be to the benefit of all those—and they are practically the whole of the population—who have at some time or another to obtain evidence of the date and place of their birth. For those reasons, I have much pleasure in seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Mr. MILNE
I do not think that anybody will be found to oppose this Bill. It is a modest little measure which can do no harm to anybody, and it seeks to remedy a defect in our system of registration which is a cause of annoyance and distress to many innocent people. I find my name on the back of the Bill as one of its supporters, but I am not one of the authors of the Bill, nor, I fancy, is my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train). I should like to congratulate him on the exceedingly clear explanation which he has given to us of the necessarily highly technical provisions of the Bill, but I very much fear that the very clarity of his exposition has only served to make manifest the serious defects of the Bill. I said that I was one of its supporters. I hope that it will receive a Second reading nemine dissentiente, but before it becomes law it will be necessary, I am very much afraid, materially to amend it in Committee.
I have a suspicion that the Bill is really the illegitimate offspring of the Scottish Office. I see the learned Solicitor-General on the Bench opposite, and 2255 perhaps at a later stage of the Debate, when he favours us with his views on the Bill, he may, with his usual candour, be constrained to admit the paternity of the child. But I said that it has its defects. The main purpose which the Bill seeks to achieve is wholly praiseworthy. Its main purpose, as I understand it, is to avoid all unnecessary disclosure of the history of the legitimation of a child who is legitimated by the subsequent marriage of its parents. Will it achieve its object? I am very much afraid that it will not. Indeed, were it not for the illustrious parentage of the Bill, I should be tempted to describe it as entirely futile.
I should like to glance at some of the provisions of the Bill. The second Clause empowers the Registrar-General to authorise the re-registration of the birth of such child in such manner, and at such place, as may be prescribed. The existing law and practice is that the local registrar is bound by Statute to insert in the local register an entry of the date of the marriage of the parents of the child who has been legitimated. He is bound to do that by Statute. This Clause authorises re-registration, and it authorises re-registration in such manner, and in such place as may be prescribed, but, as I understand it, on a sound interpretation of that expression, the Clause would not permit the Registrar-General in the new registration to omit reference to the date of the marriage of the child's parents. He would still be compelled in any new registration to insert an entry with regard to the date of the marriage, and, indeed, that is highly desirable, and, as I understand it, it is not the intention of the framers of the Bill that that entry should be omitted from the register.
After all, what really concerns us is not the register, but the certificate of birth. The present law and practice with regard to certificates of birth is that the certificate of birth must be a full and complete transcript of all the entries in the register. The more correct description of a certificate of birth is the extract from the register, and the extract must be full and complete. Just as in the case of the register, it is so in the case of the certificate issued by the registrar. The certificate must contain 2256 an entry of the date of the marriage of the child's parents. I was hopeful when I looked at the Bill to find in it some provision providing for a relaxation of that statutory obligation, but I scanned it and scanned it in vain. Accordingly, in future, certificates of birth issued by the local registrar, while, no doubt, they may be in a different form from certificates which are at present issued, nevertheless, will be the same in this respect, and that is what concerns us. They will still contain the obnoxious reference to the date of the marriage of the child's parents. He who runs may read. The certificate will still continue to advertise to the public that the child has been legitimated per subsequens matrimonium.
The problem is, how can we at one and the same time safeguard the integrity of the Public Register as a sufficient and complete record of the child's parentage, and, at the same time, secure the secrecy of the child's legitimation? That problem is incapable of solution. It cannot be done. The best that we can do is to avoid all unnecessary publicity. On the Committee stage something, I gather from my hon. Friend, is to be attempted, and I have no doubt successfully attempted, to put the matter right. I would most respectfully urge upon the Committee the importance of preserving the integrity of the Public Register, and of not tampering with it. The Public Registers have become part of the fabric of our social life. They affect the whole community. It is not merely questions of status. Questions of succession, and questions regarding pension rights all depend upon the faith of the Registers. If the child of a Civil servant—it may be some highly-placed Indian administrator—claims a pension, his claim depends upon his legitimacy, and his claim will succeed or fail according to the accuracy of the Register. Equally, the child of a private soldier, whose father has been killed in the War, who is making a claim for a pension, relies upon the faith of the Public Register. So in regard to succession. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) may say that he has no concern with succession, because that is a matter which concerns alone the capitalist class, the quasi-criminal class.
§ Mr. MILNE
Questions of succession are of interest to the whole community, rich and poor alike, and we in Scotland have always cherished the right of succession. In this respect we differ somewhat from England. I speak subject to correction, but I understand that in England the right of succession is held in less high esteem. The father of a family, animated it may be by some whim or caprice, can with a stroke of the pen disinherit his entire family. Not so in Scotland. The moment a child is born, or the moment it becomes legitimate, per subsequens matrimonium, he has a right to share in the succession of his parents. If a beggar drops dead by the wayside, at the moment of death his legitimate children become entitled to a share of the rags that he wore. The right of succession is of enormous importance to the whole community. It is sufficiently clear that whatever we do we must not tamper with the integrity of the Register.
The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) has suggested a way out. His proposal, and I confess that I am surprised not to find a Clause embodying his proposal in the Bill, is very simple, namely, that the local registrar should be empowered to issue an abbreviated form of certificate, an alternative form, which would set forth merely the date and place of the individual's birth, and nothing more. It would omit all reference to the parentage of the child. A certificate of birth or of anything else cannot be too short or too simple, the shorter and simpler the better. That abbreviated form of certificate would very quickly supersede the older and fuller form. I suppose that lawyers, with their inveterate love of prolixity and disregard of expense, would demand the fuller form. It is suggested that the certificate should be issued at a slightly lower charge. If I understand my countrymen aright and if the abbreviated form of certificate were available at a slightly lower charge, then in a very short time it would entirely supersede the longer, old fashioned form, with the result that in future the individual whose legitimacy has been brought about by the subsequent marriage of his parents would, if he had occasion to require a birth certificate, be able to exhibit the certificate without a blush. Wholly innocent in regard to the history of his parentage he will know that his certificate will be 2258 exactly the same as the certificate used by other people and he will have confidence that the secret of his illegitimacy will remain buried for ever, where it ought to be, deep down under the dome of the Register House in Edinburgh.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Mr. JAMES REID
There may be some lingering idea in the minds of some people that if we make things more easy for an illegitimate child we are encouraging, or at least condoning, immorality. If I believed for a moment that the provisions of the Bill would in any way encourage or condone illegitimacy, I should be a strong opponent of it, but I feel certain that the justice which the Bill proposes to do to the illegitimate child cannot in any way weaken the marriage tie nor encourage any kind of immorality or illegitimacy. There has been a gratifying improvement in the percentage of illegitimate births in recent years. I think the percentage is now down to about seven. If my memory serves me right, it used to be over ten. One welcomes that improvement, but even seven per cent. represents something like 6,000 illegitimate births in Scotland every year, and it is only common justice to do what we can to alleviate the lot of that very numerous body of people, a lot which, whatever we may do, must be to some extent a handicap to them in their careers.
I think the Bill does not go far enough. It makes provision, almost adequate provision, for those children who are subsequently legitimated, but it does not make provision for the much larger number who are not legitimated by the subsequent marriage of their parents. If I followed aright the figures given by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) something like one-tenth or one-sixth of those children who are born illegitimate are subsequently made legitimate by the marriage of their parents. That leaves the vast majority outside the scope of the Bill. It seems to me that we could do something for that very numerous body of people by giving the simple certificate on the lines advocated by the hon. Member. It does not seem to me to be necessary that anything more should be required for the school certificate, for unemployment insurance, or for Factory Act purposes than merely a statement of the name of the child and the date and place of birth.
2259 Some people think that a simple certificate of that kind might give rise to something in the nature of cheating; that a child might produce a certificate which has been issued in respect of another child, an older or a younger child, according as it might be to its interest to show that it was older or younger than was actually the case. I cannot see that that is a very material objection. At the present time it may be possible, although I do not know if it is done, for a child to produce, say, the certificate of its older or younger brother. It subjects itself to heavy penalties, and it would subject itself to equal heavy penalties if it produced the simpler certificate. Therefore, as far as the possibility of cheating goes, that is not a very strong argument against the introduction of the simpler type of certificate.
I agree that a simpler and cheaper certificate would readily supersede the old-fashioned certificate for almost all purposes, and it would be no use if it did not, because the whole object of bringing in a simpler certificate in order to help the illegitimate is that the majority of people shall use it, and therefore, in the case of those using the simple certificate, people will not be able to infer, "Oh, this person would only have got a simple certificate by being illegitimate. If he or she had been legitimate he or she would have produced an ordinary certificate." If that had been the position, that only the illegitimate child would produce the simple certificate, of course the whole object of the change would be defeated, because anyone seeing the certificate produced would know at a glance to which class the child belonged. Therefore, if the simple certificate is to be introduced in the interests of the illegitimate child it must be introduced on such favourable terms that its use will soon become almost universal, so that there would be no possible inference from its use that the child using it is an illegitimate child.
There is, however, one point that wants to be borne in mind, and here I have no doubt that the learned Solicitor-General will keep the House right. I believe that a certain proportion at least of the registrars in Scotland are still paid by the fees which they receive from issuing certificates, and it may be that 2260 if we introduce a cheap certificate at 6d. or 1s., in place of the present one which, I believe, costs 3s. 1d., the fees of the registrars will be seriously diminished. We do not want to do an injury to anyone in the community, and it may be necessary for the Scottish Office to consult with the Treasury on this matter. I feel sure, however, that neither the Scottish Office nor the Treasury will allow a very small financial difference to stand in the way of a reform of this importance. I merely mention the matter in passing because I think it is a point that has to be kept in mind.
There is one other addition to the Bill that I would suggest, though it is of less importance. At the beginning of this Parliament this House passed in the Children Act provisions for the adoption of children. The adoption is done under the supervision of the court, and there would be no difficulty about the production to the registrar of probate of evidence of adoption. It seems to me that if there is an argument for bringing the register up to date, so to speak, by incorporating reference to legitimation by subsequent marriage, that argument is equally strong for bringing it up to date by incorporating a reference to adoption of the child. Personally, I cannot see any technical objection to that, or any practical objection by way of administrative difficulty. I ask the Solicitor-General to consider the matter before the Committee stage, though perhaps he would not wish to say anything about it to-day.
I would like to pass to what is actually in the Bill. As I read Clauses 1 and 2, Clause 1 applies only in the few cases where there has been an actual decree of legitimation, and Clause 2 applies to all cases where there has been no actual decree but where legitimation has taken place by reason of the subsequent marriage of the parents. Quite properly in cases where there is no actual decree of the court the matter is not left in the hands of the local registrar, but the Registrar-General must see that any corrected entry is in order. But in the proviso at the top of page 2, I think that rather unnecessary safe-guards are required. Suppose that two married people go to the Registrar-General and produce a certificate stating that a child is their child. Suppose they forward 2261 their marriage certificate. I cannot see why the Registrar-General should not be empowered to accept the word of the two parents for such evidence of marriage without it being necessary to go to the sheriff for a warrant. Obviously, unless both parents concur, it is necessary to go to the sheriff, because although the mother may have had a child before marriage and thereafter may have married a certain man, it does not necessarily follow that the child is legitimated or that it is the child of those two parents. Therefore, it would never do to allow any correction to be made without the order of the court, unless both parents concur in stating that this was their child, that they had subsequently married and that it was now a legitimated child.
§ Mr. REID
Obviously, the child would not be legitimated if the relationship was incestuous. As to adulterous relationship I am not quite sure. But it does not seem that that is a sufficient objection at first sight. After all, in the summary procedure which will be brought before him in order to get a warrant of this kind, is the sheriff going to find out things that would not be called into question by the Registrar-General?
§ Mr. REID
A question, however relevant, by someone who has no material for cross-examination is not very likely to discover the truth. If they are willing to break the law they are equally willing probably to tell a lie. I do not see that the summary procedure before the sheriff is any real safeguard in preventing misuse of this procedure. But that is a pure Committee point. I thought it right to raise it now so that the Scottish Office might have notice of any possible Amendment when the Bill reaches Committee. To the rest of the Bill, so far as I can see, one can take no exception. I particularly welcome Clause 5, which abolishes an obsolete provision under which notice has to be given to the Registrar where a child is born and the district where the mother had her home.
Though often forgotten in legislation nowadays, it is a salutary general rule 2262 that unnecessary provisions of this sort should not be passed, and that when they exist they should be repealed. They only put temptation in people's way to tell lies, and unless they serve any useful purpose they are far better out of the way. I am glad to see that the hon. Member who introduced the Bill has taken this occasion to repeal an unnecessary provision of that sort. It may be that there are still more unnecessary Sections lurking in some of the Acts, and when the time comes it may be that we should add more for repeal. That again is a matter for the Committee stage.
On the whole I think that the hon. Member has performed a public service to Scotland in bringing the Bill forward. One sometimes finds that Bills are brought forward, not so much for their public usefulness, as because they might appear attractive to certain persons who have votes. This is not a Bill of that kind. It does a genuine public service, and I am sure that his country will be glad that the hon. Member has chosen to bring in a Bill of this character.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not wish to make an extended speech on this matter, but I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) on having brought forward this Bill. Unlike the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne), I do not cast any doubts upon the genuineness of the parentage of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cathcart has taken responsibility for the Bill before the public, and I congratulate him on having done so. I agree with the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) that it is not what is known as a vote-catcher, but I have no doubt it will be appreciated in Cathcart and that the hon. Member now representing that division will not disdain any votes which may come to him as a result of his action. I am glad that he has brought forward this Bill, although it does not affect the huge mass of the people. In my period as a teacher, not on many occasions but on a few, I have had this problem brought to my notice. Where it was necessary, in the ordinary school routine, to see the birth certificate of a child I have seen the distress of mind caused by the mere production of a birth certificate which bore the brand of illegitimacy on its face 2263 and even the effect on an innocent person like a teacher was sufficient to make me ready and willing to do anything I could to remove that stress.
Like other hon. Members, I want to examine the Bill very closely in Committee, not with any desire to impede its progress to the Statute Book, but rather with a desire to speed it on its way as quickly as possible. There are three points in regard to which I and my colleagues who sit on these benches will give the Bill the closest scrutiny. The first point is that the whole process will be made as cheap as possible; the second that it will be made as simple as possible, and the third that it will be made as effective as possible. I am not as much concerned as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife about the effect which this will have on sucession. It is true that all Scotsmen have a right of succession, but in the case of the overwhelming majority it is a right which is only possessed in the most abstract form. The things to which they succeed are the right to labour and the right to be poor. Those are the conditions which govern the majority of the people of Scotland in so far as succession is concerned.
I think I may say this about Scotland without stating more than the truth—that while our law on this subject has been in advance of the law in England, our public opinion on this matter is very much behind that of England. While we were ready to legitimate the child of parents who subsequently married, our habit of national censoriousness tended to continue the stigma. In England, without the legal recognition of legitimacy, there was less tendency to brand the child concerned. I hope that this legislation will not merely make things better for the illegitimate child in the purely legal sense, but that it will tend to get out of our minds the habit of attaching to the child some stigma that may or may not attach to the parents but which certainly should not be attached to the child.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
Those of us who start life with the inestimable advantage of being Scotsmen number among what some benighted Southerners may think an unnecessarily large number of national boasts the boast that our laws are in many respects in advance of the laws of 2264 England. In regard to our marriage laws, for example, it is very easy indeed to get married in Scotland. In fact if you are unmarried you have to be rather careful about taking part in a mock marriage ceremony at a tea party in Scotland or you may find yourself tied up for life. But in spite of all these facilities for easy marriage a certain proportion of the people in the past have not taken advantage of them until after the birth of one or more children. Whatever may be the degree of what the Americans call moral turpitude attaching to the parents in those cases it is obviously grossly unfair that any stigma should rest upon the children.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has alluded to the distress caused to school children by having to produce evidences of illegitimacy. One particular case which was brought forcibly to my notice a few years ago occurs to me. It is not possible for me to enter into details because the last thing I want to do is to give any indication in my own part of the world as to the person to whom I am alluding. Sufficient to say that in this case a boy was born in circumstances which the passing of this Bill would affect. From a position of the utmost humbleness he raised himself by the power of a brilliant intellect to the beginning of what will probably be a very successful academic career. There is not the slightest doubt that up to the present that youth has been caused great distress of mind by having to produce at various stages of his career the proof of his illegitimacy and that difficulty will probably continue to exist for him a few years longer. It may be that, socially, owing to the misdirected snobbishness of certain people, it will hold him back. In any case it is bound to cause him great distress, and that is a situation which ought to be put right as soon as possible.
The hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) has done a public service in adopting this Bill whatever its parentage may be. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) has congratulated him upon the clarity with which he presented his case. I am sure we all subscribe to that but there is no reason why the hon. Member for Cathcart should attempt to conceal his meaning by unnecessary verbiage. He is not a lawyer. It may be that this Bill will require a good deal 2265 of examination in Committee, but I think it is a Bill which will be acceptable to Scotland as a whole. It marks an advance in our laws even from their previous high state of efficiency, and I am sure that everyone in Scotland will be grateful to the hon. Member for Cathcart for undertaking the responsibility of running this small but very important and very praiseworthy Measure.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
I also join in congratulating the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) on having introduced this Bill. Every hon. Member who has spoken and I am sure every hon. Member in the House agrees that such a Measure is necessary and that the people as a whole are entirely in favour of it. I do not think that anybody with any idea of fairness and justice can wish to see the continuance of the difficulties which have arisen in the past, or to cause the child who has been born illegitimate the pain and the distress of having to produce the present kind of birth certificate. Those who realise what this means will be grateful, not only that this Bill is being brought forward but that the whole matter is being looked into. Those of us who have taken an interest in the legislation which has been passed dealing with the matter, not only in Scotland and England but in other countries, realise more and more that this is a subject which must be tackled almost in a worldwide way.
I had the honour of being one of the delegates at the recent Assembly of the League of Nations, and this subject was discussed at the committee which dealt with the subject of child welfare. Hon. Members will see in the report of the work of the League, between the 13th and 14th Assemblies, a note on that particular subject. On page 103 it will be found that the Child Welfare Committee noted thatcertain countries had endeavoured to attenuate the disadvantages arising from illegitimacy by issuing extracts of birth certificates and other official documents, in order that the illegitimate origin of the persons concerned might not be made public.That Committee of the League passed a resolution to the effect that the Government members and non-members of the League should be asked to submit their 2266 opinions. We are all in agreement in approving of what is in the Bill, but I think many of us are not agreed that all is in the Bill that might be there, and we look forward to an opportunity of amending it. Though I agree with what has been put forward by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) I would ask hon. Members to consider the difficulties which have been found to exist in other countries, in dealing with measures of this kind.
Again, may I refer to the League of Nations Child Welfare Committee which has gone into this subject very carefully? The Secretary General in May of last year was requested to ask all the different Governments to furnish him with their observations on the extent to which they would be able to act upon the resolution dealing with documents concerning the illegitimacy of a child not being made public. The Report of 20th June, 1933, gives a summary of the opinions received from Germany, South Africa, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, United States, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Rumania, Sweden and Switzerland. I am interested to see answers sent in. The information received shows that in very few countries has it been possible as yet to introduce a satisfactory abridged certificate which will be of use for the purposes that we want. A number of States provide for the use of abridged certificates which do not expose illegitimacy. They are Germany, the Province of Ontario, Canada, some States of the United States, Finland, for the elementary school child only, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, but even in those cases the result seems to have been rather disappointing. The abridged certificate in Germany has not been widely taken advantage of. Although there are no actual statistics of the issue, the Registry Office at Frankfort-on-Maine estimates the number at about 5 per cent. of the certificates issued. It is cheaper in Germany and there is everything in favour of its being issued, but it is not sufficient for purposes of adoption, marriage or claim to a legacy. The abridged birth certificate in Germany is issued on request for a charge only one-third of that for the full extract copy of the birth register. For pension schemes, insurance, and public relief 2267 systems a form is used which does not expose illegitimate birth in the case of subsequent adoption or legitimation through marriage of the parents. The same applies in Prussia to the form for registration of children in school and for marriage. In Switzerland the report states:The issue of abridged extracts is rare as in practice these are generally not sufficient.I think, though I am in agreement with the wish that more should be put into this Bill if possible, we have to realise that we shall be faced with great difficulties, which have been experienced by other countries. The United Kingdom, in their information to the League of Nations, made that perfectly clear. There was the issue of a "certificate of registry". It was more a certificate of registration which was not in itself a birth certificate though it contained certain brief particulars such as the name of the child and date of birth as well as the date on which the duty of registration had been performed. This was not found to be satisfactory, and a few years ago the Registrar-General decided on its withdrawal and the issue of another certificate in amended form on which are entered even fewer identifying particulars. The difficulty that we have to realise is that we have to get if possible a form of abridged certificate which at the same time cannot be widely used for fraud. The fact that these certificates are used in a fraudulent way is known all over the world.
At the 14th Assembly of the League of Nations in October, on the 5th Committee, the subject came up time after time, and when dealing with the subject of the traffic in women and children. It was put forward that many of these unfortunate people showed birth certificates which were not their own but were fraudulent, and more and more it was pointed out that it is a very difficult thing, when a birth certificate is produced, to be certain that it is the birth certificate of the person producing it. That ought to be borne in mind. It is no use simply having a form with name and address and date of birth unless we are sure that the person presenting it is the real person represented 2268 thereon. After the discussion at Geneva when those points had been put forward from the different countries, including the United Kingdom, a resolution was passed, because it was realised that at present no definite and satisfactory scheme had been put forward by any country:This question of abridged certificates and other official documents is, as is well known, one of the aspects of a comprehensive inquiry into the status of the illegitimate child which the child welfare committee has for some years been pursuing. Obviously the manner in which the question of illegitimacy is dealt with varies considerably from one country to another, and it was not the object of the Child Welfare Committee to induce all countries to amend their laws on this subject. It only wished to stimulate serious consideration of the possibilities of introducing such Amendments.It seems to me that there is the desire for some form of abridged certificate. Would it not be possible that some such certificate might be used without the danger of fraud for the younger persons for production at schools and for bursaries which have been referred to? For those beyond the school age, a fuller certificate, the form for which we have not yet found, will have to be asked for. What we want is that this Bill, if possible, should be enlarged. We realise the difficulty of extending it, but I would ask the Government if they have any idea of putting forward suggestions as to how this could be done. We want a form which will combine the advantages of non-disclosure of illegitimacy with the safeguard of establishing that the person presenting an abridged birth certificate is identical with the person named thereon. I would again say that we want this subject more and more explored, as it is very important. This Bill is a first step in the right direction and I hope we shall see the Bill passed, not merely in its present form, but if possible amended so as to bring an even greater measure of relief for these people.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE
We have had a very meticulous and critical examination of this Bill by the legal representatives from Scotland, but I would like to speak purely as a man-in-the-street, and I welcome the Bill as an indication of a more tolerant and understanding outlook on the part of the people of Scotland with regard to this matter. The people of England have given a very unusual lead 2269 in this matter. It has not been their prerogative in the past to teach doctrines of understanding, but in regard to this particular case they have done so. Scotland has adopted the wisdom, the sanity and humanity of the English view: hence this Bill. I have never been able to understand what some of us were brought up to believe that the sins of the fathers must visit the children. It seems so utterly out of accord with all sense of justice and fair play. Why damn the child because of the sin or the mistake—more tolerantly put—of its parents, and why cast this slur and stigma on the child, possibly during the very important years when it is trying to get a job, or is at school, or later on is hoping to indulge in the holy state of matrimony? It seems to me so ridiculous. The child's character is the same; its intellect is the same, whether its parents have been united in the bonds of matrimony or not. Why, therefore, should it be selected to be treated as a pariah? Therefore, I welcome particularly the proposal of the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) to bring Scotland ahead, and up-to-date with recent modern and humane thought.
There are only two points in the Bill with which I do not agree, and which, I think, if my hon. Friend will look at them sympathetically, merit change or amendment. Take the case of the soldier in France who has a child by a foreign mother. There was no marriage. After the War the mother was brought back to this country, while the child remained a foreign subject because of being born in France or Belgium. What is to be the position of that child? I do hope that the learned Solicitor-General will give us his views on that point, as it affects a great number of ex-service men and their children who are condemned to bear the stigma without any possibility of getting rid of it. Then with regard to the question referred to by the hon Member opposite, of the children who have not been subsequently legitimatised. Surely a certificate should be equally given to those who are not legitimatised. It seems to me that the illegitimate child who has not been made legitimate by subsequent marriage, is in a far worse position than the legitimatised child, and needs far more consideration and care. It is not very different from the child who has been legitimatised. The father, perhaps, has not acted up to what he should 2270 have done, or there may have been difficulties preventing marriage from taking place; but that unfortunate child is left totally out of legislation, condemned for the rest of its life to bear this slur and stigma. The Bill will fail to deal with the real vital issue unless means can be found to bring within its scope the child who has not been legitimatised, and I hope that the Solicitor-General and the hon. Member for Cathcart will consider these two very important factors.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
I am sure that all of us, as previous speakers have said, will congratulate the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) on bringing in what seems to us to be a very necessary Bill. It is not altogether perfect, and, in fact, I think one very important point with regard to what we call the extract register of births is not within the four corners of the Bill, though I think in the discussion to-day it has been suggested that that will be amended. That is, as I understand it, a new form available for most purposes, if not for all. The hon. Member drew attention to difficulties if such an extract were to be considered for all purposes, but for practical purposes there ought certainly to be a provision for an extract bearing merely the name, place of birth, the date, and practically no other evidence. At present, even under the amendment of the law and the new corrected register of entries, if the father was the father before he married the mother, that is bound to appear, as I understand, in the extract provided under this Bill, because the date of birth and the date of marriage is to be given, and, of course, in that case the extract bears out the fact that the child at one time was illegitimate. That does seem to make a rather invidious distinction between the legitimate and the illegitimate child for all practical purposes. It seems to be a flaw in the Bill, and I do hope that in the Bill a simple form, and without bearing the least touch of this stigma, may be worked out by the Law Officers and the Committee when it reaches the Committee stage.
The Noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) talked about the great superiority of our Scottish marriage law, and I am inclined to think he was perfectly justified, but, as he admitted, it 2271 has its difficulties. I think we have all survived the difficulty he mentioned of mock marriage at a tea party. Most of us, I think, have avoided being married at a tea party. At the same time, that is the kind of difficulty that complicates marriage and proof of marriage in Scots law.
In Scotland, marriage is purely a contract by consent between the parties. It requires nothing else but that consent and that must be de presenti; that is to say, not in the future, but here and now, for all time they say, "We are man and wife"; and for the protection of the female it is also provided that a promise of marriage subsequente copula, on the strength of the promise, if the girl can prove that promise before the act took place, also constitutes marriage. I think that is only fair to all parties. The only difficulty is the proof and the Scottish law is very extraordinary with regard to that. We know that besides a statement made before witnesses if the parties are by "habit and repute" living as man and wife that constitutes marriage, but there is an even more extreme case that I would like to quote because it always remains in my mind as a very interesting instance of the extremes to which Scottish law presses its principles.
I remember a professor of Scottish law pointing out that there was actually a case with regard to inheritance which some Members seem to think does not matter, but it is, after all, an important point. There was an elderly spinster who lived in one parish and a minister of the Established Church or of the Free Church of Scotland who lived in another. They met at a tea party, and there they certainly did not get married, but they were attracted by each other. They never met again, but from their separate parishes they conducted a correspondence, and that correspondence developed so that it was obvious that they regarded themselves as man and wife. When he died, she put forward her claim as widow under the Scottish law, and, although there was nothing definite in that correspondence to show at what precise date they first recognised themselves as man and wife, it was decided, taking the whole gist of that correspondence over that period of years, that long before the death of the minister this lady was his wife, and she 2272 made good her claim to her part of his estate. I give that as an illustration of the peculiar difficulties which we have with regard to proof as to whether there was a state of matrimony or not.
In view of these things, it is very desirable that with all these additional difficulties we should not be behind England in the humane and practical steps that they have taken for giving what I may call a clean bill of health to the child producing its certificate for all purposes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) raised the point with regard to children that were conceived out of wedlock, one of whose parents was a Scottish ex-service man and the other a French or Belgian woman. He seemed to think that they laboured under peculiar difficulties as compared with children whose parents were Scottish. The woman's domicile follows that of her husband. Consequently, if she comes here and is married, the child, although it may be claimed for the purpose of serving in the army as a French subject, is a Scottish subject, and it is entitled to be legitimated by subsequent matrimony as if it had been the son or the daughter of a Scottish woman.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MOORE
That is my point. According to the French law if that child is a son it would be forced to serve in the French army and is a French subject for all other purposes. It cannot be a Scottish subject and a French subject at the same time.
§ Sir P. FORD
My hon. and gallant Friend is getting into a complicated and difficult region. I remember that the professors, when I once studied law without much effect, pointed out that it was even doubtful whether the subject was called private international or international private law. There are these difficulties, but it does not make the least difference to the status of the child in this country. There may be an obligation on it to serve in the French Army, and this may have to be dealt with by an international convention, but that does not affect the status of the child in this country or detract from whatever goes to its advantage in the way of legitimation by the subsequent marriage of its parents in this country; and it will be no different in position in regard to the certificate it can get. I would not have 2273 the Solicitor-General, in the speech which he will deliver to clear up difficulties, be burdened with that point, because, although it was a thoroughly sound point to go into, it really answers itself. After all, the attitude towards these matters in Scotland is not quite so censorious and severe as it used to be. The main purpose of the Bill—not fully carried out—is that the child, wherever it has to produce the certificate of its birth, can produce something quite simple, merely the most important matters, namely, the name of the child, and the date and place of birth without any stigma of illegitimacy.
The most important part of this Bill, it may be said paradoxically, is not in the Bill at all. I understand it will not necessitate further legislation owing to any change in Title, for this Bill is merely a Bill which will amend registration of births, deaths and marriages. Consequently, I do not think there will be any difficulty when we come to the Committee stage of having a Clause, which will no doubt require careful consideration by the Law Officers and the Committee, to get over the difficulties which the hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) pointed out, particularly with regard to succession, because, after all, the Crown is interested in these cases. In the case of a bastard who remains a bastard and dies intestate, the Crown becomes ultimus haeres, there being no legal kin. The Crown then collars the whole of that subject's property. The Crown therefore has an interest in it and by the Crown in this case we really mean ourselves, who are very interested as taxpayers. Consequently, there is a point here which has to be considered, and we must see in the matter of all this legislation that there is somewhere where, for proper legal purposes, the whole data can be gone through; yet it is only right that the child should get a form of certificate without any taint. This is not yet included, and is only foreshadowed in this Bill, but I hope that it will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. On the understanding that that matter will be looked into and properly dealt with, I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. Jamieson)
I think all Scottish Members, and indeed everyone in 2274 Scotland, will be very much indebted to the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train) for having introduced this Bill. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) did throw some reflections on the legitimacy of the Bill and suggested that it was the illegitimate offspring of the Scottish Office. Although I will not say anything more with regard to it, there is no doubt that the hon. Member for Cathcart has admitted the parentage of the Bill, and, if there is any truth in the allegation of the hon. Member for West Fife, all I can say is I hope that, as regards the future of the Bill, there will be a close alliance between the hon. Member for Cathcart and the Scottish Office which will remove any doubt in future as to the legitimate status of the Bill. The hon. Member for Cathcart said the Bill affected the whole population of Scotland from the cradle to the grave. In one sense it does, but only in the limited application of Clause 5. The main provisions of the Bill do not deal with the whole population, but only with a small and, I am glad to say, a decreasing percentage of the population.
The Bill deals with two classes of persons who, through no fault of their own, have had the misfortune to be born illegitimate—those who are subsequently legitimated by the marriage of their parents, and those who do not attain that fortunate position. As regards the first class, it has long been part of the Common Law of Scotland that a child born out of wedlock, of parents free to marry at the time of the conception of the child, becomes legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the parents, and that that legitimation takes place as from the date of the marriage. In that event the child is entitled to the same rights and is subject to the same obligations as if born in lawful wedlock. He succeeds on intestacy, and his position is the position of a lawful child. But while that is the position under the Common Law, under our present Statutory Law regulating the registration of births that child is put under a handicap which, in my opinion, is both intolerable and unwarranted. When his birth is registered it is, of course, necessary that he should be registered as illegitimate. He has to be registered under his mother's surname, and there having been no marriage, there is, of course, no entry of the date of the marriage of the parents; but on production of evidence of the subsequent 2275 marriage of the parents the Registrar has to make in a register called the Register of Corrected Entries, an entry recording the fact of the marriage, and that by that marriage the child has been legitimated.
That procedure is, of course, quite right, but when the child comes to require a birth certificate for any of the many purposes for which one is needed—usually it is to prove his age—he gets a certificate on which the whole of the history is endorsed, not on the face of the certificate but on the back of it. I think it might be interesting to the House, if I read exactly what appears on the back of one of these certificates. I have here an actual certificate. Of course I shall not read the names, but I will call the illegitimate child A. B. On the face of the certificate he is registered as A. B. There is no name of the father, but his mother's name is inserted as C. B. On the back of the certificate there is a reference to the Register of Corrected Entries in the parish and county stated, and then it goes on to say that in a certain column of that register, before the name of the child's mother, there has to be inserted the father's name, X. Y., an agricultural labourer, who had been adjudged to be the father of the child in an action relating to its parentage brought at the instance of C. B. in the Sheriff Court. That is an instance where parentage had not been acknowledged, but was subsequently decided by a decree of the Courts. In this particular case the parents subsequently married, and we get on the back of the certificate a further entry. There is a reference to the Register of Corrected Entries and this endorsation:The child named A. B., whose birth is registered under entry number … has been legitimated by the subsequent marriage of his parents, such marriage being registered in the District of … on 1st March, 1928. The above insertion is made on the authority of an extract of the said marriage.That is the history plastered on the back of this certificate, so that when that person, although enjoying the status of a legitimate person, has to produce evidence of his birth, the whole history is advertised to whoever has to look at the certificate. In my opinion it is offensive and wrong that a person 2276 who, in the eyes of the law, is legitimate, has to advertise in that way that he was born a bastard. The provisions of this Bill will remove the endorsation on the back of the certificate. No registration of a corrected entry in the Register of Corrected Entries will take place, but when the parents, or one of the parents, comes along with a certificate of the marriage, or sufficient evidence of the marriage, then the Registrar will authorise the re-registration of the birth. The child will then be registered not under his mother's surname but under his father's surname, and the entry will be in the ordinary form, and an extract-certificate will be given, when required, which will give no prominence to the status which the child unfortunately had had at birth.
The other class dealt with are those who are born illegitimate and remain illegitimate, where the father does not come forward along with the mother to admit maternity and sign the register at the time the child's birth is registered. If subsequently the mother obtains a decree against him, then an entry is made in the Register of Corrected Entries and an endorsation, such as I have read to the House, appears on the back of every extract certificate which that child may require at any time in his life to produce. It seems to me there can be no good reason why a person who, through no fault of his own, has the misfortune to be born illegitimate should have to flaunt his bastardy when, may be, he is applying for a job, when he seeks to enter some society, to insure his life, or to do any of the other things which necessitate production of a certificate of the date of his birth.
There is one other class dealt with by the provisions of Clause 4. It is not a large class, but it is not inconsiderable. The hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford), whom I must congratulate on his remembering so well the law that he learned in the time before his admission to the Bar, referred to irregular marriages in Scotland. I am informed that there are a considerable number of cases where parents have actually contracted an irregular marriage; that is to say, that in the eyes of the law they are actually married but, the marriage not having been per- 2277 formed before the Church or authority having been given by the Sheriff to register it, they have actually registered their children as illegitimate. In those cases it sometimes happens that, either at the instance of one of the parents or where both the parents are dead at the instance of a child, an action is brought to declare the marriage a legal marriage and that the parties were married de facto according to the law of Scotland, or to declare that the child was legitimate. In these cases also Clause 4 will operate to allow the offspring of that marriage to be properly re-registered as legitimate children. Accordingly, the provisions of the Bill with regard to re-registration get rid of the obnoxious endorsations which at present exist. They present no difficulty from the practical point of view and—what perhaps is of more fundamental importance—they can be fitted into the present registration system in Scotland without impairing its efficiency or the adequacy and reliability of our national records. With the Bill the Government are in complete sympathy, and the proposals contained in it are such as we can recommend to the consideration of the House.
The chief criticism which has been made in the friendly reception which the Bill has received from the House has been that it does not go far enough. I think there is great force in that argument. While the Bill is a step in the right direction, there is no doubt that it does not, as framed, completely meet the purpose which I hope will be finally met by it. While an extract of the re-registered entry will not flagrantly advertise the stigma which attachs to the one-time illegitimate child or to the bastard who still continues to be a bastard, a careful perusal of the certificate would undoubtedly disclose the fact. In the case of the continuing illegitimate there would be no date of the marriage, and the mother's maiden surname only would appear and not both her maiden surname and her married surname. In the case of the legitimated child the date of birth would be a date prior to the date of the marriage as recorded.
The suggestion is that there should be a short form of certificate recording only the child's name, place of birth and date of birth. I was very interested in the 2278 point made by the junior hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) with regard to the consideration that has been given by the League of Nations to this question of the principle underlying the whole Bill. When the Clause is put forward we shall certainly give very careful consideration to whether or not a short form of certificate can be devised which will at the same time be sufficiently comprehensive to avoid as far as possible any sort of fraudulent use being made of it. I think it probable that a certificate on the lines suggested might be introduced, and if it were issued at a cheaper rate than the present extract it would undoubtedly become popular and would probably supersede the present method of obtaining the full extract. Certainly, in all cases where it was only necessary to prove the applicant's age, it might become so popular that the hon. Member who introduced the Bill might be immortalised by its being called the cheap Train ticket. I hope that before the Bill reaches Committee the hon. Member will confer with my right hon. Friend and perhaps myself on whether a Clause providing for such a certificate can be properly fitted into our present system.
Certain other matters must be considered, and one of them was referred to by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid), namely, that certain of the registrars are paid not by salaries but by fees. One would have to consider the possible financial result to them of such a change, but, if the hon. Member will confer with us or put forward a Clause, I can assure the House that it will receive consideration.
We have had various criticisms—or perhaps not so much criticisms as suggestions. Most of these were Committee points, but I should like to refer to one of them. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk put forward the suggestion that provision might be made in this Bill for the adoption of children to be noted in the register. It is not very often that the hon. Member is caught napping. I see that he is not in his place. If he refers to the Adoption of Children Act, 1930—the Scottish Act—he will find a whole code contained in that Act providing for an order authorising adoption being intimated to the Registrar-General and the appropriate marking being made 2279 in the register. Obviously, the question of adopted children does not come within the scope of the Bill. This Bill is dealing with re-registration, and it will not be possible and no useful purpose would be served by re-registering where the adoption of a child has taken place. Only certain of the duties of parenthood are transferred from the actual to the adopted parents—the duties of maintenance, custody and education—the child still remains for other purposes and for purposes of succession the child of his actual parents.
I will not take up the time of the House with comment upon the legal discussion which took place between the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) and the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford). This is neither the time nor the place to discourse upon matters of international private law, but no doubt that matter will be more usefully pursued in Committee when the Bill reaches that stage. One point which, I think, it is very important to emphasise is that the provisions of the Bill will not make any difference in the material which requires to be entered in our registers, which contain a very excellent system for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. When information is required to trace pedigrees for purposes of succession, or for any other purpose, that information will still be available, and, even if the "cheap ticket" is introduced, it will still always be possible to get an extract of the full entries which are contained at the present time in the register. I would remind the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)—although he is not in his place—that this affects not only questions of succession but a further question. The relationship of parent and child, while it confers certain rights upon the parent, imposes upon the child the duty of maintaining his aged father, if the father is not in a position to support himself. For that purpose, as well as for purposes of succession, it might be necessary that a pedigree should be produced. The Bill relieves the Registrar-General of Scotland of the function, which was not a proper function for him to perform, of visiting upon the children the sins of the fathers. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, and that it will be sent to Com- 2280 mittee, where it can be further considered. I believe that when amended the Bill will form a very useful part of the statutory law of Scotland.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.