§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Sir A. Beit
I beg to move, in page 4, line 7, after "presented," to insert:or failure to comply with a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights.Not only has the Bill been modified and watered down, but it appears from Clause 5 that the existing law relating to judicial separation, apart from divorce, has been adversely modified. The present law, I understand, is that a judicial separation is granted after two years' desertion or in case of failure to comply with a decree for the restitution of conjugal rights. Proceedings for such restitution can be, and often are, instituted by the deserted party soon after the act of desertion, mainly because, in the case of the wife, it is her only hope, apart from police court orders for maintenance, of getting alimony, and, when it is converted, as it can be under the existing law, into a judicial separation, it is the only hope of getting custody of the children. The Clause as it stands not only increases the two-years period of desertion to three years, but omits any reference to restitution of conjugal rights, 1383 thus in our opinion doing away with a very valuable method of redress, since, as I have said, it is only by seeking a decree of restitution that the aggrieved party can claim custody of the children on that decree being converted into a judicial separation. If I am right in what I have said, I very much hope that the House will see its way to insert this Amendment.
§ 3.9 p.m.
It is true that by this Clause, in the course of the general tidying up which we hope the Bill will do, the period for judicial separation on the ground of desertion is increased from two years to three years. There are two principles in the Bill. One is to provide divorce in proper cases, and the other is to encourage wherever it is possible the element of conciliation and delay. I gather that what is really worrying my hon. Friend is the position with regard to the ancient remedy of the decree for restitution of conjugal rights. That is really an anachronism, and I think it is agreed by expert lawyers that it should be abolished. The position is that it will remain as the result of this Bill, although, as my hon. Friend rightly says, it will not be employable as a means of getting a judicial separation for desertion. It will, however, be available to a wife who has not yet been deserted for the qualifying period. I think my hon. Friend is wrong in saying that, upon a decree for restitution, there is no means of dealing with the children as he will see if he looks at Subsection (2) of Section 193 of the principal Act.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
I beg to move, in page 4, to leave out lines 18 to 37.
This Clause was the subject of prolonged discussion in Committee, and the promoters of the Bill were extremely kind and considerate to those of us who were very much concerned for the future relationship which must subsist between the summary jurisdiction courts and the higher courts. When you provide in a Measure of this kind that evidence taken in courts of summary jurisdiction is to be used in divorce proceedings in a higher court, or even in an Assize court which 1384 deals with divorce cases, the House ought to travel warily and cautiously, and take every means that can be devised to prevent any abuse or misinterpretation in the presentment of evidence of that kind in the higher court. When you embody in the Bill, as set forth in Sub-section (2, a), conditions for the acceptance of evidence given in proceedings in a summary court of jurisdiction without alleging any further grounds, the House must be extremely careful before it consents to legislation of that nature. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) has frequently pointed out that the proviso to some extent provides a safeguard, but I do not think it does, and this would be a better Measure if the Sub-section and its proviso were removed.
I am the last person in the world to suggest that we should not provide ample facilities for poorer people to have the fullest measure of justice in the administration of the laws, but I think in this case we are opening the door far too widely to the opportunities of divorce. I stand by the fundamental principle of maintaining the unity of family life, and I believe that this Sub-section does, in fact, strike a severe blow at the possibilities of conciliation, the possibilities of restoring friendship and family unity again to persons who are the parties to a divorce. I urge upon the House before it commits itself to the approval of this Sub-section to have more definitely before it how precisely cases of judicial separation in the courts of summary jurisdiction are to be made the basis of judicial proceedings and of divorces in the divorce courts. I feel so strongly on this point that I shall be bound to divide the House on my Amendment.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
I beg to second the Amendment.
The House will realise that this Clause is directly consequent on the passing of Clause 1, which frankly I welcome. In addition to that, it has a provision which seeks to make the law cheap, and especially for poor persons. Nevertheless, I feel bound to support my hon. Friend in this Amendment. Let the House consider what it is doing. It is placing upon the magistrates, upon J.P.'s, upon anybody who can grant a separation order in the country at present, an altogether new and onerous duty. They will be 1385 burdened with the doubt, present all the time in their minds, whether what they are doing in 1937 will not in the year 1940 be made the cause of divorce. In my submission the proviso does not, in fact, safeguard our case. There are no depositions, no shorthand notes in a magistrates' court. There is no means by which anybody in the High Court can look over and supervise the evidence which was given before the court of summary jurisdiction, and so far as I can ascertain there is nothing to invoke inquiry in any particular case by the High Court. The proviso, therefore, seems to me inadequate, and we are putting on local Benches a task which, although their work is a fine work and on the whole they do it very well, is not the work for which they are in fact competent.
§ 3.19 p.m.
I perhaps might assist the House if I observe that, although we are discussing the deletion of these words, I think we are discussing in fact the words of the Amendment which stands in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and myself, and which we propose to substitute for most of these words. It is only a matter of drafting. This Clause was subjected to a great deal of discussion in Committee, and I thank the hon. Member for the Moseley Division (Sir P. Hannon) for acknowledging that the untidiness of the Clause in its present form is due to the fact that we have tried to meet the Catholics.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I was not speaking for the Catholics but for 7,000 members of the Women's Union of the City of of Birmingham.
The Clause is very important because it is essential for the working of Clause 1. If adultery occurs in the second year of the marriage it might be very difficult sometimes in the sixth year to prove it, and, therefore, we propose that if a separation order has been granted on grounds constituting grounds for divorce, it may be used as the foundation for a divorce later on, but not automatically, in accordance with the terms of Sub-section (2, a). The purpose of the Sub-section is to carry out an important principle, and that is to encourage conciliation and delay wherever possible. We are against judicial separation as a permanent state of life. 1386 It is a good thing for a short period in order to give opportunity for conciliation, but we do not want people who might desire to get a divorce to be prejudiced by the fact that they chose in the first instance to go for a separation. The main charge against the Clause is that of magistrates granting separation orders which may be made into decrees of divorce later on. My position is that if there are benefits to the community in the Clause, and I think there are, any proposal to confine them to the High Court would be a species of class legislation which I should be very sorry to see. I hope the House will agree that it is not a great danger to the State to give to those whose lives in these respects are governed by the magistrates, the same kind of advantages as are granted to those who go to the High Court. I do not know that I have been coherent in my explanation, because it is a difficult matter.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
As regards the Clause in the form in which it stands on the Order Paper, owing to Amendments accepted in Committee it does not carry out our intention, but with an Amendment which is to be proposed later on I hope that the House will accept the Clause. It does not, in my view, really add any very serious new grounds of divorce or means of getting divorce. Let me briefly give the history of the Clause. We objected to the original Clause because it provided that if there had been a judicial separation or a separation order on any of the grounds constituting grounds for divorce, then at the end of three years there was machinery to turn that order into divorce. That was strongly objected to and the promoters have accepted a proposal that, instead of it being an automatic process, the person wanting a divorce will have to present a petition for divorce in exactly the same way as if he or she was proceeding for the first time.
Under the Clause the fact that he had got an order three years ago need be the only matter which a poor petitioner may allege in the first instance, and he could go to the court alleging the order he had three years before and the court, if it thought fit, could accept that as evidence of ground for divorce, subject to certain safeguards, that there had been no cohabitation in the meantime, or collusion or connivance. In the second place— 1387 and this is the important part—the court can require on the hearing of the petition additional evidence as to the grounds of divorce in exactly the same way as if it were dealing with the divorce petition for the first time. It does not give any new grounds for divorce, but it does in certain instances give a poor petitioner who has had an order granted by a magistrate for judicial separation a little assistance in getting his petition through on evidence relating to the order. I do not think that it will affect many cases. This is really machinery and effects nothing new. It is, in my view, a proposal which the House can accept safely. It only makes it cheaper for poor persons to get divorce than would otherwise be the case.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Viscount Wolmer
The hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) has not addressed himself to one fear which I know is present in the minds of many people who are opposed to the Bill, and that is that these words will add very much to collusion. It seems to me that anyone who desires to avoid publicity will be able to get an order in a police court in circumstances in which the matter might not be reported at all, and after the three years such an order could be made into a divorce. When the hon. and learned Member says that he does not think there will be many people affected, because they will not be inclined to wait that period of time, I am not sure that I agree with him. Undoubtedly publicity in these matters is a great deterrent, and we had an instance of this, when the House some years ago passed a Bill, a very excellent Bill, which, however, led to a great increase in the number of divorces because people thought there would be less publicity. From that point of view this proposal may also add to the number of divorce cases, and it may be the means by which something in the nature of collusive actions can be taken.
There is a question I would like to ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford or the Solicitor-General. In Clause 4 there is imposed on the court the very necessary duty of satisfying itself that there is no collusion. Would the magistrates' court have the same legal duty, the same opportunity and the same powers of doing so as are conferred on the High Court by Clause 4? I would 1388 like to have an assurance on that matter, because as I read these two Sub-sections, the decision of the magistrate is to be taken as proof of certain facts. If the magistrate has not the same opportunity of inquiring into those facts and of satisfying himself that there is no collusion, then it appears to be a dangerous point. Moreover, there is no official shorthand report of police court cases. That is a matter of very great importance. It will be impossible for the High Court to have anything before it except the bare decision of the magistrates and such newspaper reports as it may be able to collect.
§ Viscount Wolmer
There is no shorthand report. I ask the Solicitor-General whether it is the intention that more complete notes should be kept in this respect?
§ The Solicitor-General
I am afraid the Government would have to consider very carefully what the consequences would be if the whole of this Bill became the law.
§ Viscount Wolmer
I think these two Sub-sections ought not to be passed light-heartedly. Time and again the promoters of the Bill have assured us that they do not wish to make divorce easier, and to increase the number of divorces. I believe that we have here a wide loophole under which publicity could be avoided, and collusion might be practised; and that it is one of the things which might lead to a very great number of easily-obtained divorces. We have to remember that the passing of an Act of Parliament frequently has unexpected results, and in a matter of this sort, which no Government likes to handle and which therefore has to be dealt with by private Members, it is very difficult to get speedy amendment if we make any mistake. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) will bear me out on that point. That is the danger of trying to deal with the whole of the Report stage in half a day.
The Mothers' Union—[Laughter.] I am not in the least ashamed of quoting the Mothers' Union in this connection. It is a thoroughly representative body containing some very able women who have devoted an enormous amount of time to the study of this question. The opinion of the Mothers' Union on this 1389 matter ought to be received with respect and not with laughter. The Mothers' Union has devoted an enormous amount of time to the study of this question. Women are particularly concerned to see that divorce is not made too easy in these days. I was always a supporter of women's franchise, and one of my reasons was that I felt that women's opinion on the question of divorce was very important. I think the Mothers' Union, whether you agree with them or not, have made a valuable contribution to the discussion of this matter, and have given an enormous amount of trouble and ability to its consideration. They are much concerned with these two Subsections and therefore, unless we have an assurance from the Solicitor-General or the promoters of the Bill, that those fears which I have endeavoured to express are not likely to be justified, I shall certainly vote with my hon. Friends on this Amendment.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Crowder
I agree with the Noble Lord about the great work done by the Mothers' Union to uphold the sanctity of married life in this country. They have stood by their ideals while a good many other people in this country have not done so but have wobbled and have told us that we may do this or that. But the Union have gone straight out, from the beginning, to uphold their ideals. I do not see that the Poor Persons' Act has anything to do with this Bill. I would not support any Amendment which would differentiate between poor persons and others, but this is not the place in which to deal with that matter. If the law is to be altered to deal more adequately with poor persons, it is a matter for the Government and not for a Marriage Bill or Divorce Bill. It seems that the King's Proctor cannot be called in by the magistrates when they are dealing with applications for separations, and therefore a separation case may come up later, to be made into a divorce without the King's Proctor ever having inquired into it.
I suggest that this Clause may open the door, not only to more divorces but to other undesirable developments such as divorce almost by consent. If in 1940, say, a judge granted a decree of judicial separation to a wife on the ground of constructive cruelty in an undefended case, in 1943 that wife could ask that the judicial separation should be converted 1390 into a decree of divorce. If another judge hears the case then, is it to be suggested that he is likely to constitute himself a court of appeal from the first judge, or will he hear all the evidence again? He is much more likely to take the evidence which is already available and grant the decree straight away. Separation orders, having the full effect of judicial separations, are made much too lightly in courts of summary jurisdiction in cases of desertion and wilful neglect. If we are to allow those orders which have been so easily granted in the magistrates' courts, to be turned into divorces after three years, we are indeed opening the floodgates. The fact that magistrates' courts do grant these judicial separations too easily, has often been commented on in the divisional courts. Therefore, I support the Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew rose—
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I do not desire to detain the House unduly and I am aware that our sitting must end at Four o'clock, but I am also aware that the subject which we are discussing is of vital importance and I think the promoters of the Bill will agree that there has been no obstruction this afternoon on the part of those opposed to the Bill. But, of course, we are considering a particular Amendment, and it is far better that that Amendment should be given proper consideration than that a speech should be attempted with interruptions as to whether or not there is obstruction. First of all, I must say something about the last line of the words which it is desired to leave out. If hon. Members will look at the Bill they will see at the end of the proviso that the court may require evidence, other than the original evidence, on which the decree was originally got in the lower court, and that if it is not satisfied with that evidence, the court "may" dismiss the petition. I have a fundamental objection to these words staying as they are, because if the court is not satisfied with the evidence that is tendered to it, not only should it have the power to dismiss the petition, but it ought to have a positive order or mandate to dismiss the petition. The words should be "the court shall dismiss the petition."
1391 Far more important than that is to do what not only the promoters desire, but what I think we must all desire, and that is to bring the resources of the law of divorce, like other laws, within reach of all those people who cannot afford at any time to go to the High Court. We certainly desire that they shall have the benefit of litigation available to them, although they cannot afford to go to the High Court. Is this the best way to do it? I submit that it is not. The best way is surely that which was, after mature consideration, recommended by the Majority Report of the Royal Commission. They considered this question of whether magistrates' courts should have the power to grant decrees for divorce under any exceptional system, and they came to the conclusion that with the best will in the world the magistrates' courts were not equipped by their very nature to carry out the extra and serious burdens
§ that would be imposed upon them. But those who supported the Majority Report did not leave the whole question in that purely negative state. They made a positive suggestion; they recommended that in the county courts the judges should, if necessary, be appointed commissioners of assize and that petitioners could go to them and obtain a proper and efficient hearing of their suits for divorce. No one desires to stop the increase of divorce which will arise under this Bill soley because a large part of it will be among poor people who, up to now, have not been able to get divorce at all. What we do want is to give these people the most efficient litigation, to which they are entitled as much as any other people in the land.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'on,' in line 21, stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 45.1393
|Division No. 144.]||AYES.||[3.45 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Dower, Capt. A. V. G.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Markham, S. F.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Duggan, H. J.||Mathers, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Ede, J. C.||Maxton, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Elmley, Viscount||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Fildes, Sir H.||Messer, F.|
|Apsley, Lord||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Foot, D. M.||Montague, F.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Frankel, D.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Morgan, R. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Barr, J.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Batey, J.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Muff, G.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Groves, T. E.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bevan, A.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Blair, Sir R.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Paling, W.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Parker, J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Hollins, A.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Bracken, B.||Hopkin, D.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Cassells, T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Potts, J.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Latham, Sir P.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Channon, H.||Leach, W.||Ridley, G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leckie, J. A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Chater, D.||Lee, F.||Rowson, G.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Lewis, O.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cocks, F. S.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||McEntee, V. La T.||Selley, H. R.|
|Dalton, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Day, H.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Macquisten, F. A.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Dobbie, W.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Doland, G. F.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Thurtle, E.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Touche, G. C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Viant, S. P.||Wise, A. R.|
|Spens, W. P.||Walkden, A. G.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Tate, Mavis C.||Watt, G. S. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wayland, Sir W. A||Mr. De la Bère and Mr A. P.|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Whiteley, W.||Herbert.|
|Thorne, W.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Grimston, R. V.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Holmes, J. S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Kelly, W. T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||McKie, J. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Denville, Alfred||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Ritson, J.||Lieut.-Commander Agnew and|
|Sir Patrick Hannon.|
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Viscount Wolmer
If I did not follow the eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), I hope he will forgive me, but I did not hear a single argument in favour of the Amendment he has just moved. I understand that these words were inserted during the Committee stage in response to an Amendment moved by my hon. Friends which the promoters of the Bill accepted on the assurance that if these words were in they would meet a great deal of the objection of the opponents to the Clause.
§ Viscount Wolmer
If I did not properly apprehend the meaning of my hon. and learned Friend, he has only himself to thank because he did not favour the House with the slightest reason why he moved this Amendment. No doubt those who disagree with my hon. Friend are un- 1394 usually dense, but certainly it has not been made clear. I want to have an assurance that the effect of carrying this Amendment is not in any way to broaden the scope of the Bill.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Spens
I beg to move, in page 4, line 25, to leave out from "the," to the end of the Clause, and to insert:grounds on which the decree or order was granted constitute grounds for divorce under this Act, present a petition for divorce on those grounds; and in a case where the ground is desertion, any period of desertion immediately preceding the institution of the proceedings for the decree or order shall, if the parties have not resumed cohabitation and the decree or order has been continuously in force since the granting thereof, be deemed immediately to precede the presentation of the petition for divorce.On any such petition for divorce the court may treat the decree of judicial separation or the order having the effect thereof as sufficient evidence of the grounds on which it was granted, or may require further evidence of those grounds, and all powers of the court in relation to petitions for divorce shall be exercisable in relation to any such petition as aforesaid.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Viscount Wolmer
I wish to protest against the Report stage of an important Bill being treated in this way. Here we have a proposal to introduce a novel and complicated provision into this Clause.
May I anticipate any objection on the part of the Noble Lord by saying—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up".] The effect of the words which we are now proposing to introduce into the Bill in place of the words to be deleted will be exactly the same.
§ Viscount Wolmer
What does my hon. Friend mean by saying that the effect of them will be exactly the same? He has not given us the least explanation of the effect of these new words, although he thinks it is necessary to substitute them for words which are already in his Bill. My hon. Friend must forgive me if I am careful about accepting his assurances on a matter of this sort, because although I am certain he does not wish to deceive the Committee, it must be remembered that he looks at this question in a very different way from many of us; and if I misinterpreted my hon. and learned Friend's intentions on the last Amendment, it was because he did not think it necessary to explain. I accept at once the assurance that the words as they were in the Clause before are covered by the Amendment which is now moved, but I did hope we should have some explanation, especially from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), who is a lawyer, as to the effect of the Amendment. With the exception of half-an-hour I have listened to the 1396 whole of this Debate, and I have not heard any explanation of the object of this new sub-section, or part of a subsection, which the promoters of the Bill are moving. Is it moved to meet a purely technical difficulty? Is its object to make the Bill wider or narrower? Is it to cover some case which had not been foreseen? I venture to say to the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) that when he is piloting a Bill through this House it really would be as well to explain the provisions in such a way that even the densest person can understand them.
§ Commander Bower rose—
§ It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.