§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I beg to move, in page 8, line 13, at the end, to insert:(3) This Act shall come into operation on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight.This Amendment is substantially more than a drafting Amendment. The point was raised in Committee, by myself and others, particularly with regard to the fact that desertion is to be made a ground of divorce, that numbers of British subjects have occupations abroad or at places distant from those which have been their homes, and their partners for one reason or another have refused to join them at the places where they carry on their occupations. In many such cases technical desertion must have occurred, but nevertheless those wives who have refused to join their husbands, or, which is an exceptional case, those husbands who have refused to join their wives, never dreamed that by so doing they might possibly find themselves liable to be divorced. If this Bill is to come into operation at once, although in such cases the parties may have separated without any intention at all of committing the offence of desertion, the one party might be put in a legal position to divorce the other. In these circumstances we urge that a reasonable period of time should be allowed to elapse between the date when the Bill becomes law and the date on which it comes into operation, so that the persons concerned in cases of that type may have ample opportunity to review their position, and spouses who may have been guilty technically of desertion may reconsider the situation and make up their minds whether they desire to continue apart and run the risk of being divorced or whether they desire to bring the period of separation to an end and rejoin their spouse.
572 This concession has been suggested in answer to that criticism, and, on the assumption that the Bill, if it becomes an Act before the end of July, would come into operation on the 1st January next. If adequate publicity is given, not only in this country but elsewhere, to the effect of the Measure, as we hope will be the case, it may be that that time will be sufficient, but I do not feel altogether satisfied that it will be sufficient, because I realise that, if the Bill becomes law, the whole administration of the divorce laws of this country will require very serious consideration by those responsible for it. The 1st January next, although it would go a long way to meet the point, is perhaps too early a date, and it may have to be reconsidered in another place, but at any rate it would meet the main objection that I have in mind, and would give a reasonable number of months in which the parties could reconsider their situation and a fairly substantial measure of protection.
§ 11.31 a.m.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I do not desire to add anything to what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), but I should like to take this opportunity of thanking him, not only for moving this and preceding Amendments, but for the constructive criticism which we have had from him and which has resulted in these Amendments. I hope that all criticism of this Bill will be as constructive as that which we have had from him.
§ 11.32 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I do not think the House ought to assent to the arbitrary fixing of a date such as this without a fuller explanation than has yet been given as to why this date has been chosen. My reason for saying that is that the Bill in itself provides for certain extended grounds for divorce, and two of those grounds rest on a definite time factor or qualifying period, namely, desertion and insanity. Without some fuller explanation, it certainly is not absolutely clear to me, and possibly is not absolutely clear to other Members, whether these qualifying periods will have to commence after the suggested date, namely, 1st January, 1938, or whether, 573 on the contrary, the Act is to be retrospective in its effect. If it is to be retrospective in its effect, it appears to me that a very serious situation will arise, and one which this House ought to consider very carefully before assenting to it. There are some precedents in this matter, not with regard to retrospective legislation as a whole, but with regard more particularly to cases of this kind.
The precedent that I would like to mention is that of the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1923. The House will recollect that that was a Measure to enable a woman to obtain a divorce on the ground of adultery alone without the attachment of cruelty which formerly had to go with it. When that Measure was introduced into this House, by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton (Sir C. Entwistle), the Bill itself would have been retrospective in its effect, but I think it is significant to note that, under pressure exerted from all quarters of the House, the promoter accepted an Amendment which made Clause 1 of the Bill, now Section 1 of the Act, read as follows:It shall be lawful for any wife to present a petition to the court praying that her marriage may be dissolved on the ground that her husband has, since the celebration thereof and since the passing of this Act, been guilty of adultery: Provided that nothing contained herein shall affect or take away any right of any wife existing immediately before the passing of this Act.It appears to me, without having had the benefit of the full explanation for which I ask, that you are making it possible for people to present petitions where part of the alleged matrimonial crime, if I may use the expression, has occurred before the passing of the Act. In other words, we are going directly contrary to the precedent which Parliament insisted should be inserted in the case of the Matrimonial Causes Act, and we are undertaking retrospective legislation. Certainly before assenting to this Amendment I should like a further explanation of it and, unless I receive a satisfactory one, I should like to suggest that something of this kind should be added, not to-day but possibly in another place:except that no petition for divorce under Section 2 (b) of this Act shall be presented to the High Court before a period of three years has elapsed since the passing of this Act, and no petition for divorce under Section 2 (d) shall be presented to the court before a period of five years has elapsed since the passing of this Act.574 Only by the insertion of words similar to that can we be assured that rights existing before the Act shall not he taken away except as the result of actions committed after Parliament has changed the law. That is a fair principle to enshrine in all our legislation, and certainly without further explanation we should not assent to the insertion of the Amendment.
§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Fyfe
My hon. and gallant Friend asked the House to enshrine a principle which he attempted to define. A principle has been enshrined from time immemorial in construing legislation, namely, that Acts of Parliament which are introduced to deal with something which it is generally agreed requires redress are construed as retrospective without the word being inserted. I should be very doubtful indeed if to-day the House wanted to do anything to attack that principle which has been acted on by the courts in the past.
§ 1.39 a.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I am puzzled by my hon. and gallant Friend's speech because, as far as this Amendment is concerned, he would be much worse off without it than if it were adopted.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I am quite aware of that, but this is the only occasion on which I can raise the point that I wish to make.
§ Mr. Strauss
If I understand from that that my hon. and gallant Friend realises that it is futile to oppose the Amendment of course I have nothing further to say.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.40 a.m.
Mr. De la Bère
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Third time."
I should like to thank the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General for their impartial guidance throughout the Bill. They have guided the House with absolute fairness, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all that they have done. The Bill will do a great deal to alleviate the suffering that has been caused in the past. I wish, also, to thank the author of the Bill, at whose request I introduced it. No man could have given more of his best, and I should be ungrateful if I did not pay that tribute to him. I may have to leave the House before the conclusion of the Debate to go 575 to my constituency, but it is out of no disrespect to the Bill. It is with the most profund thanks to all who have supported it that I say these few words and I feel that, when it goes to another place, it will become the law, which will stand for all time as something for the benefit of this nation which we all love.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
I beg to second the Motion.
The Bill has had many hours of meticulous examination in Committee. It had more than usual support on Second Reading. It has been treated very fairly by those who opposed it, and it stands in its present form, not a perfect piece of legislation, but a compromise between two opposing schools of thought in the House and in the country. There is much in it to which sincere opponents may well take exception, and there is much in it which those who support it would like to see strengthened. Its opponents have been helpful and reasonable in their attitude throughout, and I trust that they will realise that those who wish to see a drastic reform of our marriage laws have surrendered much which they hold to be of value in order to meet their views. The marriage laws have been under consideration four times since 1912. The proceedings of the Royal Commission of that year were, so far as the greater part of the Bill is concerned, virtually unanimous. With regard to those points on which we differ from our opponents, they were the recommendations of a very strong and influential minority. Public opinion has developed steadily since then, and I believe that the proposals embodied in the Bill have the support of the vast majority of thinking men and women in all classes of life. The change in the attitude towards marriage has been much canvassed in the Press. There is far less in the belief that the marriage tie has been loosened than is popularly supposed. The respect for marriage among certain classes may have weakened, but it has strengthened in other directions. The relief that the Bill will afford to parties who have been deserted will be very great indeed.
We have heard much of the spate of petitions which will be presented as soon as the Bill becomes law. We have heard less of the spate which is now in progress in anticipation of it becoming law. Those 576 who think that we are making divorce easier should reflect that in all probability a large number of the cases that are now being presented are being presented in the fear lest this Bill will make collusive divorce so difficult that, if it is to be gone through, it had better be gone through at once. I cannot doubt that this Bill, by making it possible for a woman or a man who has been deserted to effect a fresh union within a reasonable time, will greatly reduce the amount of illegitimacy which is now to be seen in our statistics. But these statistics do not really represent the facts. A report very recently presented to this House on Maternal Mortality shows that of all illegitimate births registered by the Registrar-General in Manchester 58 per cent. are first births. The remainder are second third, fourth, or fifth births; that is to say, they are not the offspring of rash and irregular unions, but of men and women living honourably together who have been precluded by the state of our laws from regularising their union by marriage, owing to the fact that one party has been deserted. Once this Bill becomes law—and it does not in any way affect the legal status of those who have been born and registered as illegitimate—I am confident that we shall see a steady reduction in the number of births registered as illegitimate. That itself will be a great good.
There is no difference on any side of the House as to the importance of the marriage contract, but there are some whose voices we so persistently hear who feel that there are great objections to the first Clause in the Bill dealing with the five-year period. I beg of them to bear in mind that public opinion would not have given this Bill the welcome that it has had the Clause not been inserted. We cannot reasonably expect that public opinion would have supported this Bill in general had that Clause not been there. We may dislike it, we may feel that three years would be better, and that some element of judicial discretion should be allowed in exceptional cases. The only answer that we can give to that is, first, that this Bill is a compromise, admittedly, and, secondly, that the number of divorces in respect of which petitions are presented during the first five years is small. The great majority of cases where a petition for divorce is presented refer 577 to marriages which have lasted for more then five years. There is nothing like so strong a case on the merits as is suggested for either removing Clause 1 or for reducing the period. I am prepared to agree that there may be a strong case for judicial discretion, and it is possible that that may be dealt with in another place on its merits. I can only say here that, as one whose name appears, in however humble a capacity, on the back of the Bill, I would not have put my name to the Bill but for the acceptance of this Clause, and I feel bound to support it against any opposition on the ground that we are, as a House, substantially committed, in relation to the public at large, to this Clause, that we have silenced much opposition that would otherwise have manifested itself by inserting this Clause, and that, therefore, the House should be willing to accept it.
I wish to say no more except that I commend the Bill most earnestly as perhaps the most constructive piece of legislation that has been put forward by a private Member for the last 10 years. It has been the fruit of much activity outside this House and within. No Bill could have been more freely canvassed, and, with the greatest confidence, I beg to second the Motion that it be read the Third time.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months." May I join with may hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) in what he said as to the assistance given to the Committee by the Law Officers of the Crown—the Attorney-General, and the Solicitor-General—and how much we appreciate the consideration and assistance given by the senior Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), and the assistance of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) in securing substantial concessions in the Bill. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) says that the vast majority in this country are in favour of the Bill, I believe that he is suffering under a delusion. Those of us who are in contact with a great variety of local organised opinion in this country must have felt, since the Bill was 578 introduced, a steady current growing, indicating a deep-seated objection to the Measure. There are in this country thousands of families who feel that though this Measure makes concessions in very severe and hard cases in our social life, it is, at the same time, striking at the very root of the highest conception of the religious and social obligations which have regulated family life in this country for many generations.
A Bill of this kind, introduced as it has been by a Private Member, ought to have been introduced at the instance of the Government themselves. This, question, as an hon. Member has said, has occupied the attention of Parliament and departmental committees for a long time, and a Bill which is so far reaching in its effects upon the social structure of this country ought to have been brought before Parliament by the Government themselves. Then we would have had the full influence of the machinery of Government to make the Bill more acceptable, as I think it ought to have been made, to the whole of the people of the nation. It embodies, at least, facilities for the extension of divorce. It strikes, in the judgment of many of us, at the very superstructure of family life, and in a land like this, which has been attached to high Christian principles for nearly 2,000 years, and where the family has been the unit of society, we cannot introduce legislation of this kind without danger of serious injury to the whole of our national life.
I said something in my former hurried observations about the effect of this legislation upon some of our older citizens. I have here a letter which I have received from one of those benevolent philanthropic gentlemen of the legal profession who give much of their time to advisory work in relation to divorce. This gentleman writes me from Cambridge House, and says:For some weeks I have been attending the Poor Man's Lawyer at Cambridge House in the Walworth Road, where barristers and solicitors give free advice. There are nearly a dozen of us, and every week each gets at least one, and occasionally as many as three applications for divorce advice; and from what the applicants disclose, it looks as if the Bill will not be long in doing social damage far beyond the imagined scope of its remedies.This is a serious indictment of the Bill from an authority in actual contact from 579 day to day with these difficult and embarrassing cases of divorce among the people.
§ Sir John Withers
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the writer of the letter gives any grounds for his assertions?
§ Sir P. Hannon
His grounds are those of personal experience in dealing with these cases from day to day. My hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) will understand better than anybody how much that brings the case home to the writer of the letter. He himself has been most helpful throughout the various stages of this Bill, giving us the advantage of his wide experience in cases of this kind. In this letter I am quoting a gentleman gives his actual experience.
§ Sir J. Withers
He gives his actual experience, but I want to know on what grounds he bases his contention that this Bill will do a national injury.
§ Sir P. Hannon
He has not given me any positive reasons which have led him to that conclusion, but it seems to me that if we open the doors of divorce wider, if we offer greater facilities for proceedings by which family life can be broken up, we are tending in the direction of inflicting that serious injury to which the writer refers. There is a very large volume of opinion in all the Churches against this Measure One regrets very much that certain distinguished ecclesiastics have registered their view in favour of the Bill. I venture to suggest that in our great national Church and in the Catholic Church and among much of the Nonconformist opinion in this country, there is a strong feeling against the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Only this morning I met a very hard-working and honourable colleague of mine in this House, who does not belong to my party, who gave expression to the precise point of view which I am now putting to the House. He gave it as his opinion that spiritual organisations throughout the country feel deeply that the Bill will inflict grave harm, and in many cases injustice.
I do not think the Bill gives adequate consideration to the position of children. I know that my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University has considered carefully, thoughtfully and sympathetically every point which has been 580 put to him on behalf of the children, but, at the same time, we are, under this Bill, creating circumstances in which much suffering will be caused among children, particularly the children of the poorer classes. The introduction of insanity as a ground of divorce has some very dangerous aspects. No one can define precisely the limits within which insanity may be said to exist. The Solicitor-General helped the Committee considerably in that respect, but, nevertheless, it is difficult to draw the line, and to say exactly at what point insanity ceases, to estimate, say, the extent to which a woman of nervous temperament is influenced by the actions of her husband and may lead him to apply for divorce.
Now that we have come to the Third Reading I should like to say that I, and those who share my views, have put our case in the best way we could, and that I am particularly grateful to my colleagues who have worked so hard in constructive criticism of the Bill. We have felt a deep-seated spiritual obligation to oppose the Measure, and I would say that as long as I am in this House, or take any part in public life, I shall never be a party to an extension of the means by which family life can be broken up or the sanctity of family life assaulted by legislation in this House; and in the strong feeling which I have expressed I think that I have been giving expression to the deep-seated convictions of millions of people in this country.
§ 12 n.
§ Commander Bower
In rising to second the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill I should like to associate myself with the remarks which have been made as to the very great assistance we have received from the Solicitor-General and also o pay a tribute to the good feeling which has existed all through the proceedings between the promoters of the Bill and ourselves. I have no intention of dealing with any of the details of the Bill; we have threshed them out thoroughly in Committee and on Report, but I wish to make it as clear as I can that we continue to oppose the Bill, and must reaffirm our absolutely uncompromising hostility to any attempt to extend the grounds for divorce, which is what this Bill does, despite the wording of its Preamble. The fundamental principle to which we adhere is the complete indissolubility of Christian marriage, which was accepted, practically 581 universally, for 1800 years as one of the foundation stones of our Christian civilisation. I do not think that is any bigoted view of Roman Catholics, or High Churchmen, or any other kind of Churchmen, but that it is a view which was definitely accepted by the very great majority of our people until quite recent times. I cannot help feeling that a great many of the people in this country, as well as a great many hon. Members, do not realise how very recently this great change in the laws of marriage came into force. During the whole of the medieval period the English temporal Courts never pronounced at all on marriage. Until 1857 indissolubility was a legal quality of every English marriage, as Lord Campbell said in the well-known case of "Warrender v. Warrender." That statement by Lord Campbell has been cited with approval by the House of Lords and in 1927 in the case of Salvesen v. van Lorang, Lord Dunedin said:I venture to say that before 1835 any English lawyer would have said that the law of England is that an English marriage is indissoluble by any Court; it is something that cannot be broken, is indissoluble in essence. Proof of this may be found in the argument of Sir John Campbell, Attorney-General, in the Warrender case, where he says, 'It may be considered as absolutely certain that the Bar of England could not have furnished a single counsel who would have set his name to the opinion that judicial indissolubility was not a legal quality of every English marriage.' I think all early English decisions, certainly up to 1835, and, I think, up to 1857, must be read in the light of the general opinion of the indissolubility of an English marriage.I think that quotation demonstrates clearly how rapid has been the falling away lately from the old standard which worked so well and lasted so many hundreds of years. I should like to make one more quotation, in connection with the well known case of "Russell v. Russell," in 1924, when Lord Sumner, in the course of his judgment, used these words:My lords, I am afraid that the sanctity of married intercourse passed into the limbo of lost causes and impossible loyalties in 1857. You cannot give to the spouses the legal right to have their married life investigated in open Court with a view to its formal and legal termination without being prepared when necessary to violate the sanctity of that life.That is our complaint, which is a complaint not only against this Bill but against the whole idea of the secularisation of the question of marriage and 582 divorce. We consider that if any amendment of the present law is required we should go back to the old conception of complete indissolubility. Of late years things have got worse and worse. Only recently in the case of Nachinson it was decided by the Court of Appeal that a marriage between persons tinder the Soviet law, which empowers either of the spouses to put an end to the marriage by a mere notification to the Registrar without any interference by the court, was, in the contemplation of the English law, a marriage. Of course, such a decision is a complete degradation of the whole conception of marriage to the level of the Soviet law. [Interruption.] Hon. and learned Members, of course, will be perfectly familiar with the particular case and with all the comment it has aroused and with all that has been written upon it. We feel that the Bill is yet another step in that direction.
We base our case on the maintenance of the old, well tried and well established system of Christian ethics upon which the whole of our Western civilisation is based. The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) stated the other day that the more enlightened opinion of the country called for the Bill. We may then regard the hon. Member as the spear-head of enlightened opinion in the country, and behind him what do we get? We get a motley crew of Communists, Atheists, Agnostics, modernistic Churchmen and that most ghastly of present day phenomena, the journalist Church man. A Canon of St. Paul's the other day wrote an article in a newspaper which has a large circulation entitled "I believe in Divorce." That is a new form of creed to me as a Christian. I wonder how much that reverend gentleman, that pillar of the Established Church, received for the article. I should like to know the exact number of pieces of silver. We feel that it is fundamental to base our whole outlook on life on Christianity and Christian ethics, and that we have a right to ask the motley crew who support this Bill upon what they base their outlook on life. If they want to do away with Christian marriage, what are they going to put in its place? We believe that the family, not the State, not the individual, is the unit of Christian civilisation, and that all legislation of this kind tends to destroy the unit of the family and break clown Christian civilisation. I do not 583 want to give too many quotations, but I should like to read to the House a letter I received the other day from a grand old man who represented my own constituency for many years as a Liberal Member of Parliament. He wrote to me as follows:My political views are now of no consequence, but marriage should not be a political question and I cannot resist telling you that I heartily support you in your stand against facilitating divorce. It is not so singular as it might appear to the public that you, a Roman Catholic, and I a decided Protestant, agree on this question. Although I am no longer a Quaker I am proud to think that all my progenitors were Quakers during more than 200 years and all kept their solemn promises made in the sight of God to take each other until death should separate them. I believe that Quakers never are divorced and it is difficult to understand how other Christians cannot maintain this standard. It is certain that blessing and happiness has been the result and departure from it is below the Christian standard and not in the general interest. The more it is maintained the fewer will be the number of unhappy marriages and of parents separated from their children. In every case of maintaining morality and in securing human happiness there must be vicarious sacrifice voluntarily or imposed—the few must sacrifice themselves, or he sacrificed in the interest of society in general. If the inviolable sanctity of marriage is upheld it makes the entry into matrimony serious, it induces effort to make the best of things if things do not go smoothly and it is a protection for the children. It has surprised me to see so many members of the Church of England to which I belong and even members of the clergy and of the bench of Bishops supporting the loosening of the marriage ties, the breaking of the solemn vows made at its altars, sacrificing the interests of the majority for the minority and lowering the sanctity of family.—[Interruption.]
§ Commander Bower
This is a private letter and perhaps the hon. Member will not be so keen to sneer when he hears the last few lines. This is a letter written by an old man of 80 years. He says:I am afraid we are on the losing side. I have often been so without regretting it, but as old fashioned Quakers would say, 'I have peace in it,' conscious that I was doing right, which one is not always in political and party strife.And the letter is signed by Sir Alfred Pease. Some hon. Members seem to think there is something funny about the letter. How can any decent Christian find anything funny at all in such a letter? The attitude of hon. Members 584 who laugh is rather like the attitude they showed on the Report stage. When an hon. Member mentioned the Mothers' Union there was at once great guffaws of laughter, until another hon. Member pointed out that there were many thousands of members in the Mothers' Union all of whom had votes. Then the laughter turned into sympathetic cheers, the sincerity of which was probably in inverse proportion to their volume.
§ Commander Bower
I certainly claim to be a Christian, and that is exactly what happened on that occasion; it is within the recollection of hon. Members.
§ Major Dower
We are not trying to joke with my hon. and gallant Friend, but, on the other hand, is he entitled to call those who are in favour of the Bill "a motley crew"?
§ Commander Bower
Well, shall I say a variegated collection of individuals. My remarks were not directed against my hon. and gallant Friend who, I am quite certain, did not laugh on the occasion to which I refer. We who are opposing the Bill are, at any rate, thankful for one thing. While the Government should have taken a greater interest in the Measure and should have dealt with this problem in a Government measure, we believe that a Government Measure might have been very much worse than the present Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
The House can be unanimous on that.
Commander Bower: This is perhaps the most important piece of legislation introduced in this generation. Who remembers the burning political questions of 30 years ago? To-day they are forgotten, and in 3o years' time problems such as the Special Areas and unemployment in this country will also be forgotten. But Christian marriage, we hope, will still remain. This is a matter which deals with the basis of Christian life, and if the Bill is passed it will simply have the effect of removing one more of the all too few remaining sheet-anchors which prevent our civilisation from drifting into chaos.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
In rising to oppose the Amendment I would first of all express my appreciation of the work that has been put into this Bill by the Mover of the Resolution. I am certain that all of us desire that when he leaves this House to journey to another place to-day in order to interview some of his constituency colleagues he will celebrate what I am sure will be the passing of the Third Reading by securing from his friends every beneficent consideration which he deserves. I was rather surprised that the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last in his exhortation to us to return to Christian ways and Christian teaching did not exhibit more of that teaching in the spirit of his remarks. I am sure it will be of some service to him if on the conclusion of today's proceedings he will read certain portions of the New Testament dealing with Christian humility and charity. But I am certain that the hon. and gallant Member did not mean to express himself in the way he did. His unfortunate attitude was no doubt due to uncontrolled intensity of feeling.
I was not at all impressed by the reference he made to a certain writer whom he quoted. I, too, could quote from many letters I have received, not only from the aged and infirm, but from the young and virile, and I could quote not only from those who support this side of the House but from those who are hostile. I am certain that all of us could spend a good deal of our time reading from letters we have received, both from those who are suffering under the present law and from those who are happily married like myself, and who because of their religious conviction desire to see the law amended and altered. After all some of us who are supporting this Bill and who think perhaps it does not go far enough in some respects, do so because of our religious conviction. Why should it be always assumed that those who are orthodox are religious and that those who are unorthodox are irreligious? Why should the hon. and gallant Member assume that what he so fraternally called "motley crew" are not as convinced in their religious outlook as those who are opposed to the Bill?
§ Commander Bower
I merely pointed out that we base the whole of our case 586 on the maintenance of the old and well tried system of Christian ethics, and that hon. Members opposite have apparently no common ground on which to replace that system.
§ Mr. Sorensen
All I need say in reply to that is that the opponents of the Bill have no common ground of hostility to the Bill. When the hon. and gallant Member refers to Christian ethics and the accepted basis of Christianity, I would like to know whether he himself would agree to the interpretation of Christianity as it was practised in the middle ages. Does he wish to go back to the rack, the thumbscrew and the stake? In those days a great majority of the exponents of Christianity felt it highly desirable at times to express their love of humanity by burning some specimens of humanity at the stake. I rather feel at times that there may be some evidence for the theory of re-incarnation and I have been wondering, if that theory be true, whom we are re-incarnating. I suspect that in one case exhibited this morning it is Rip Van Winkle and in another case Torquemada!
So, too, when one of the speakers today referred to the strong currents against the Bill, I say that on the contrary my knowledge of men and women in varying walks of life and of different creeds convinces me that the majority of people in this country believe that this Bill is a sane Bill, a wise Bill and in the deepest sense of the word a Bill which will promote the highest welfare of humanity. Surely it is obvious that those of us who are married, those of us who have families and therefore treasure our homes, are not supporting this Bill because we want to undermine the marriage bond or because we think lightly of family life. When one speaker was referring in rather pompous terms to this Bill as likely to undermine marriage, I wanted to ask him whether he thought that the present situation regarding the stability of marriage was all that could be desired, or whether indeed he was willing to accept the fact that as matters now stand marriage is frequently a travesty. Every one knows the existence of thousands of cases of broken homes due not to the operation of this Bill at all.
What is the solution of this problem? As it is can we say our family life is all 587 that is to be desired? Obviously even the last speaker would not accept that view. Then I would ask him to appreciate this: We are anxious that this Bill should pass in order that family life in the real sense of the word might have a better and liner chance of being successful. I have already referred to the fact that I approach this question from a religious standpoint, and I would urge on the opponents of the Bill these two facts: First, the Bill is not a compulsory Bill; it is an optional Bill; it does not compel any one who has religious objections to divorce forthwith to get divorce; those who do not wish to take proceedings for divorce can remain in exactly the same position as now. What the Bill does is to say to those who have no conscientious objections against taking proceedings for divorce that they shall have wider facilities for taking such proceedings. In other words, the Bill does not apply to those who have religious objections; it applies to those who have no such religious objections. Secondly, I would urge the opponents of the Bill to realise that an attempt to impose their particular religious convictions upon others who do not accept those convictions is not in the interest of their religion or of mankind.
§ Sir P. Hannon
In expressing opinions in this House we are entitled, apart from any religious convictions of our own, to stand up for the elevation of the whole moral quality of the nation.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I thoroughly agree, but what I object to is the assumption so often expressed that those who support the Bill are not also standing up for the raising of the moral quality of the nation. We are as convinced as others of the necessity for a high level of married life. In many respects those of us who are supporting the Bill have a higher moral regard for marriage than others. Let me state the reason why. At the present time divorce is possible. It is no good those who are opposed to divorce ignoring that fact. For good or for ill, in this country divorce is possible in certain circumstances. Let me say, in passing, that to be logical, sincere and consistent the opponents of this Bill should initiate legislation to repeal even the existing facilities for divorce. They do not do that, for reasons which are no doubt their own. But we have divorce facilities in this 588 country, and this Bill proposes facilities for divorce on what I think are higher grounds than those already existing.
At the moment adultery is the only way by which divorce can be secured. It is suggested that the offence of adultery is the greatest crime of all, whereas this Bill proposes that a case of persistent and determined desertion shall be a ground for divorce proceedings. Of the two, I suggest that it is more necessary to make persistent and prolonged desertion a ground for divorce than it is to make adultery the only one. After all, adultery, however regrettable it may be, may be a casual and incidental act, and there may still exist between the one who has committed adultery and the spouse a deep bond of affection, but in the other case, where there is a withdrawal of one party from the other, there is no further communion of personalities, and in fact the real marriage bond is broken. For that reason, this Bill places marriage on a higher plane, because it says that where, in fact, a marriage has ceased to exist, that marriage, with due safeguards, shall be brought to a conclusion on the application of the innocent party. Therefore, I urge upon hon. Members who oppose this Bill an appreciation of the fact that we are desirous of seeing marriage placed upon a higher plane altogether, in the interests of the parties concerned, in the interests of the country and in the interests of the children.
I know that opinions in the House vary on this particular question, and they are bound to vary. I know full well that those opinions are not only opinions, but sometimes convictions. Nevertheless, I urge upon those who are opposed to the Bill to recognise that we who support it do so not merely because we know of many cases of cruelty and hardship, but because of a principle, that principle being that marriage should rest not upon cruel coercion and unwise compulsion but upon the free attachment of the parties concerned. I do not wish to see the shadow of the handcuffs over marriage. I do not see anything sacred or holy in two people being handcuffed together when they despise one another. I want to see people who are joined together in matrimony remain so as long as they possibly can.
On many occasions I have done my utmost in every way to bring together couples who have been or may be parted, 589 and I shall continue to do that. I have always urged that whenever there are differences of opinion and disagreements, the adjustments that marriage involves should be faced courageously. In that spirit they are faced in a number of cases and after years of travail and tribulation the couple come together and go forward to a deeper understanding of their real married life. But there are occasions when that cannot take place, when in fact the marriage bond is completely broken, and when it is no longer a spiritual bond but a rusty, vicious chain; and in those cases it is in the higher interests of the human spirit that we should frankly recognise that the true bond is no longer there. Just as there are hon. Members who recognise the need for separation, let us be honest and recognise that when there is prolonged separation, deliberate desertion on one side, or even when there is a case of established, permanent insanity, there is then no longer real communion, not simply of the body, but of the spirit, and the marriage in fact no longer exists and the fact should be decently recognised.
In concluding my remarks, I emphasise again that I do not base my support of this Bill purely on physical grounds. The physical pact in marriage is highly important, but it is the spiritual pact that is more important. Where that spiritual pact is broken, the marriage surely ceases to be a sacrament and becomes an outrage. I urge very earnestly the rejection of the Amendment and the passage of this Bill in order that, by its passage, it shall bring some relief to thousands of innocent human beings, and also place marriage on a higher plane than unfortunately exists in present circumstances.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Crowder
I oppose this Bill because I believe that by providing additional grounds for divorce, we shall also be making it much more easy to obtain, and therefore, we shall increase the number of divorces. I have risen with some diffidence to put forward as briefly as I can what I believe to be the point of view taken by those members of the Church of England who oppose this Bill. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for West Levton (Mr. Sorensen), I do not for one moment wish in any way to accuse those who support the Bill of trying to disintegrate marriage or to 590 lower the standard of marriage, but I maintain that the provisions of the Bill will have that effect, and therefore I oppose it. If divorce becomes easier to obtain, if young people who are growing up see that divorces are taking place so frequently among their friends and that their friends remarry and practically no notice is taken of it, they themselves will be inclined to marry much more easily, especially when the desertion Clause in the Bill enables people to be divorced in what may be called a much more respectable manner than is possible at the present time.
I do not want to bring into this Debate any particular religious teaching, but as a Christian nation we must base our principles upon religious teaching. On moral and domestic grounds, therefore, we should be guided in this matter to a certain extent by the principles and ideals set before us and not by some idea of our own. I cannot agree that marriage should not be lasting and that it should be dissolved simply because two people do not get on well together. I cannot look upon marriage as a thing to be arranged to suit different people with different temperaments. In my opinion, it is the people who must alter themselves, and it is not for us to alter the law to suit them.
There is then the question of the children, who are always the worst sufferers in any case of divorce. After all, the family is the unit of the nation, upon which ultimately all depends. We must avoid in this country a state of affairs in which marriages will be contracted without due and proper reverence. If We are not careful, we shall see that there is practically no sense of duty inculcated into the minds of those who are going into matrimony. I know it will be argued, as it was in Committee upstairs and on the Report stage, that the children will suffer just as much when their parents are separated; but in my opinion the alternative of divorce which is advocated is worse for the children when their parents re-marry, because they have two fathers or two mothers, one step father or stepmother, alive at the same time, and personally I think it is better for the children, although I know it is the lesser of two evils, that when the parents are both alive they should be separated and should not be allowed to re-marry.
591 In separation cases there is always a chance that the parents may come together again, but once they have been divorced there is no chance. It has been argued that separation leads to immorality. Against that argument, may I with some diffidence make this submission? If you do not believe that re-marriage is right while the other partner is still alive, you cannot make it morally right by passing an Act of Parliament. Therefore, I hold that we should do better to leave the law as it is, and not to legalise the further grounds of divorce proposed in the Bill.
I agree with previous speakers as to what the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) has done in regard to this Bill, but, in my opinion, the only two Clauses of the Bill which will be of any real benefit to this country are Clause 4 which was inserted on the proposal of the hon. and Learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and Clause 2 which was proposed by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers). Clause 4 will be of great benefit to the country and the people and Clause II takes away from the clergy the obligation to marry divorced persons in church. If divorce were made more difficult, parents would more frequently sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of their children, and there would not be so many divorces or so much bickering and trouble. If divorce were made more difficult people would find some way of getting on better than they do now.
We hear a lot about the unhappy marriages, but it is open to question whether any changes such as are proposed in the Bill will benefit the people concerned in those cases, and they may only lead to the breaking-up of more homes. We know, of course, that there are hard cases, but, as has been said on many occasions, we cannot make laws for hard cases alone. There are many cases which are not talked about and in which reconciliation takes place. We have no note of those cases and they are not tabled in our statistics, and if we relieve one hard case by this Bill we shall have a thousand more asking for relief, and asking that further causes of divorce which this Bill does not carry should be legalised. As regards the question of lunacy, may I say that I think that too much is made of the 592 physical side of marriage. If the ideas which have been expressed on this point are carried to their logical conclusion, what about cases where a wife or husband becomes a cripple or a permanent invalid?
This is a Christian country with an established Church, a fact which is duly recognised by Clause 2 of the Bill, and the Established Church, to my way of thinking, is pledged to uphold the sanctity of marriage and not the sanctity of married life. There is a good deal of difference, and it involves something which lies at the heart of the Church's life—something more than the relief of individual hard cases. As legislators we ought to encourage people to look upon marriage as a lifelong relationship and not discourage them by passing laws which make divorce easier. Instead of thinking out how we can best encourage the ideal of marriage which I have mentioned either by means of teaching in schools or in other ways, all that we do is to bring in a Measure for making divorce easier. It is worth while, I submit, to try to keep the life of the nation on a high moral level. I think hon. Members on both sides will agree to that proposition. The only difference between us is that some of us do not think that the Bill will have that effect.
I do not like Clause 1, because I think that this proviso whereby no divorce can be obtained for five years may be a step towards trial marriages or what are called in America "companionate marriages." As regards cruelty, I think it is very dangerous to make it a cause for divorce and there is no definition of it at all in the Bill. As regards desertion, I do not believe that there are so many genuine cases of desertion in this country with no collusion, and I would only ask how many people are convicted in this country of knocking their wives about? As for lunacy, how many people want release from partners who have had the misfortune to become mentally affected? Why is so much interest taken in the small percentage of hard cases. I am afraid it is owing to sentimentality. We are a sentimental and soft-hearted nation, but however soft-hearted we may be, there is no excuse for turning our backs on an ideal and rejecting a principle.
I believe that if this Bill is passed and the public become accustomed to divorces 593 being granted for a variety of causes, further legislation will be demanded to deal with other hard cases not now covered by the Bill, and the logical outcome in the end will be divorce by mutual consent. Let us bear in mind that marriage is an outstanding means of benefit, and that divorce will always be its enemy. As I feel that this Bill will extend the opportunities of divorce, and as we have no machinery, or very little machinery, for educating people to go into the reasons of marriage and consider what marriage means, I oppose the Third Reading.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
I realise that all those who have opposed the Bill have done so on the most sincere grounds, but I think some of their arguments have been a little extraordinary. The hon. Member who has just spoken concluded by saying that we had no machinery for upholding the sanctity of marriage. Does he really maintain that the Established Church is not effective machinery? That seems an extraordinary argument. The hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) said that marriage had been considered unbreakable until very recent times, and he wanted us to go back to what he called the good medieval age. Our laws may not have admitted the breaking of marriage in the medieval age, but I believe that the medieval age was infinitely more material and less religious, in the true sense, than the age in which we live. I believe that this Bill and the demand for a change in the divorce laws comes, not from a desire to loosen the bonds, not from a lower conception of marriage but because to-day we wish religion to be, as it really ought to be, a thing of the spirit and not only of the word. We wish to see reality in this age, and no religion which is merely a religion of the word and of law can stand.
To-day, as we all know, we have by the law of the land admitted that marriages do in certain cases break down. All who have watched that law in operation know that the ground of adultery for which divorce is given is no longer the ground for which divorce is actually obtained. It is obtained very frequently by alleged adultery and actual perjury. We want to see that state of things ended. One hon. Member spoke of the large number of divorces among the poor. That, of 594 course, is not the case. The proportion of cases of divorce among the poor is smaller than that among the well-to-do. Although the ground of adultery for which we to-day grant divorce is very often present in the cases of marriages which break down among the poor, they to- day cannot afford to prove adultery, and they go to the courts for separation because of either desertion or cruelty. One hon. Member—I think it was the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Crowder)—asked if it was really maintained that there were many actual cases of desertion in marriage in this country to-day. I think that if the hon. Member spent one morning in any London police court where matrimonial cases were being heard, he would realise the very large number and the infinite tragedy of the cases of desertion in poor homes. It is those cases that we wish to remedy.
Marriage can never be broken down by any law that is passed. I believe there is to-day a very sincere regard, not only for a very high standard of marriage, but for a high standard of national life altogether. I do not believe that in any age there has been a deeper regard than there is now for a high standard of conduct, but we wish to acknowledge that where a marriage has really broken down, there should be some opportunity of restarting for those unhappy people. If the law is disregarded, you very dangerously undermine Government, and you certainly very dangerously undermine democratic government. To-day the divorce law is the laughing stock of the country, whether you believe in divorce or whether you do not. Under this Bill, when it is passed, we believe that there will be a greater regard for the law and a greater reality in it, and that is one of the reasons why we so heartily support the Bill. The hon. Member for Finchley said he was very dissatisfied with granting divorce for insanity, and that much too great a stress is laid on the physical side of marriage. If we are granting divorce for insanity, he said, why not bring in cripples? But surely that is exactly the argument. We grant divorce for insanity because companionship, not the physical relationship, is completely at an end, but in a marriage where there is merely a physical disability, such as being a cripple, it is another matter. The truest and most beautiful marriage may still exist in such a case, 595 and it is because we are not stressing the physical side of marriage that we believe in this Bill.
We want marriage to be true marriage, marriage in reality, marriage of the spirit. I can understand, as all of us can, that people may oppose all divorce and may believe that marriage, once contracted, is a lifelong and indissoluble bond. Perhaps to people who are true Christians that is the case, but there have been extremely few true Christians in the history of the world up to date. We do not legislate only for those who can attain a truly Christian standard of conduct. We have to make our laws for the people whom we represent, that the laws may be respected, that they may be just, and that they may be upheld. The present law of divorce is neither just, nor respected, nor upheld. The Bill which we are trying to pass to-day will do much to increase respect for the law and to uphold the bonds of true marriage, and it is for that reason that I give it my heartfelt support.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I should like to take this opportunity of supporting the Bill, for several reasons. The first is because it is optional and does not compel any who do not desire to be divorced to have divorce forced upon them. Further, it appeals to my commonsense, to my sense of common honesty, and to my sense of humanity, and it appeals because of the experiences that I have had personally, differing entirely from those that were mentioned by the hon. Member for the Moseley division of Birmingham (Sir P. Hannon) and the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower). The hon. Member for Moseley quoted from a letter that I think he had received from somebody whom he described, no doubt rightly, as a very eminent lawyer, who gives his time to speaking to people who desire information with regard to the law and, no doubt, other things too. All of us who do our duty and who live in our constituencies are doing that sort of thing every day. I represent one of the divisions of Walthamstow, and I have lived in Walthamstow for 35 or 36 years. Since I came into Parliament every morning in my life, except when I happen to be away, which is not very often, I sit in my house listening to people who desire 596 to ask me for advice and assistance in one way or another, and I think I could probably say with truth that I have met many more people who have asked me for advice in regard to matters in connection with their married life and the possibilities of divorce than has the very much more eminent lawyer to whom the hon. Member for Moseley referred. Because of the experiences that I have had in that way I have come to an entirely opposite conclusion from that come to by the lawyer in question.
I suppose that all of us come to our decisions because of what we feel and because of the honesty that I hope all of us have, and I was very sorry to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland, in giving the experience of a very old gentleman, 80 years of age, and the opinions that he had formed, refer to those of us who take a view opposite to his own as just a motley crowd. I was also very sorry to hear him suggest that, because a certain very eminent and popular churchman wrote an article in the Press in favour of the Divorce Bill, he was influenced by the amount that he would receive for that article. That can hardly be a very Christian sentiment, and people who stand up in this House or anywhere else and base their arguments upon their strong Christian beliefs ought to have a little more Christian charity when they are referring to other people who belong to the Church to which they themselves belong.
§ Sir P. Hannon
My hon. and gallant Friend is not here to reply to the observations made by the hon. Member opposite, but I think I can say in justification of what he said that when he used the word "motley" he was referring to the great mass of the people outside this House who are raising all sorts of reasons in favour of divorce. I do not think he said a single word that was unworthy of him.
§ Mr. McEntee
I differ entirely. I thought that remark—and I think most people will agree with me—was meant to be a sneering one. What could have been the hon. and gallant Member's meaning when he referred to the article and asked, "I wonder how much the writer got for it." What could be the meaning of that? We can only judge 597 that he meant to infer that the writer was more influenced by the amount he got for the article than by the purpose for which the article was written. The Preamble to this Bill says:Whereas it is expedient for the true support of marriage, the protection of children, the removal of hardship, the reduction of illicit unions and unseemly litigation, the relief of conscience among the clergy, and the restoration of due respect for the law, that the Acts relating to marriage and divorce be amended.When I get a Bill such as this and see such a Preamble, I ask myself whether it is true, and I base my support or otherwise of the Bill on my belief whether it is true or not. When I examined this Bill as an outside observer—for I took no active part in its promotion or in the Committee stage—I was influenced by the arguments I heard and the experiences that I have had, and on them I am supporting the Bill. May I take the opportunity of saying to the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) that I hope I shall be able to make my peace with him on this occasion, because on the last occasion when I spoke I appeared to be making war on him. I should like to congratulate him and those who were associated with him on the fine piece of work they have done in promoting this Bill and in carrying it to its present stage. I hope that they will be successful in having it carried to its final stage on the Statute Book.
One of the arguments of the opponents of the Bill is that it will break up family life, but is it not broken up already in these cases? What is the use of talking about family life in relation to the cases that will come under the Bill? Can there be any real family life in cases where the judge grants a divorce? The family life has already been broken up before a case can reach the court, unless, of course, it is called family life where two people are compulsorily living together, where there is no bond of sympathy between them, and where their life is what is called a "cat and dog life." Every humanitarian feeling that we have points to the fact that it would be much better to allow them to be separated. If they are to be separated, it is much better that they should be separated in a decent way under the law rather than in an indecent way, as they are in many cases at the present time.
598 Another argument is that we must consider the children. Everybody agrees with that, but are we not considering the children very much better by carrying this Bill through than by defeating it? I should like to be able to believe that all the Members opposing the Bill who have given reasons for their interest in the children, have as real an interest as it appears to be. There are many ways in which children are suffering more acutely than can possibly be caused by anything that this Bill can do, but I do not see those hon. Members working very much to assist the children who are suffering in other ways. I have seen cases in my own personal experience, and I have seen it in the case of a close friend of mine, where there is really no family life and where a divorce would not only be a happy release, but the proper thing to do. I have seen the children living in such conditions that it would be far better if they could be removed from their surroundings even by the divorce of their parents. It would be better for the children and for the parents too.
The hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland made a reference to the Mothers' Union and suggested, rather unwisely and very unfairly, that some of us, when we heard that the Mothers' Union was a large body and had a great number of voters among its members, changed our tune. He is wrong, and he is doing himself and other hon. Members an injustice. I had a letter from the chairman of the Mothers' Union in which she told me of the great number of members she had. I also had letters from members of local branches of the Mothers' Union telling me that the national chairman of the Union had no right to assert what she did on behalf of the Union. There are four branches of the Union in my constituency, and they wrote to me expressing their opinion against the Bill and asking me to oppose it. I wrote very courteous letters, as I always do, and said I was sorry I was unable to agree with them, but that perhaps they might be able to put some arguments before me that might influence me. I asked for an opportunity of meeting them and discussing the matter with them. Not one had the courtesy to reply. No doubt they will have the opportunity of reading this speech, and perhaps their consciences may have something to say to them. I think that one reason why they did not reply was a strong political 599 reason, but, apart from that, they did not apparently think that they had a very strong opinion for the position put up by the Mothers' Union. I am glad to have the opportunity of saying how much I appreciate this Bill. I am an old enough Member of the House to know that it has been here before. It is an old friend, and old friends, if you are persistent enough, finally come to see you again. This old friend has come to see us again, and I hope it will not go empty away.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Some of us who have strong feelings on this matter take up what, perhaps, is not such an extreme point of view as that which has been expressed by certain hon. Members this afternoon. I should like to support the greater part of the Bill. The definition, for instance, of the grounds on which divorce can be obtained is certainly a fairer and better definition, and will create more sense of reality in the law governing divorce than exists at the present time. Nor can I say that I feel particularly shocked that under this Bill it will become possible for certain people to obtain divorce who under the existing law would be unable to obtain divorce. There is nothing to my mind which is particularly shocking in that proposal.
This Bill, as has been fairly said by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), cannot affect those who hold strong religious convictions. It can only affect those who do not recognise the lasting and binding nature of the marriage contract entered into within a church. It can only affect those who cannot ever conceive that faith will make a contract lasting and who only recognise what one might call the legal form of contract which can be terminated by the agreement of both parties, or by the desire of one deliberately to break that contract. No man-made law can really affect religious beliefs or faith. It may make the practising of that faith more difficult, but it can never affect the faith itself which is already in existence in the hearts of men and women. At this particular time in history we have to look at the difficulties and dangers suffered by those who hold strong religious views in totalitarian States, and the way those dangers and difficulties are being fought and overcome.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Accepting the hon. Member's assertion that faith is God-made, will the hon. Member not agree that the interpretation of that faith is human, and that human interpretation varies tremendously from age to age?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I do not wish to get involved in a theological discussion with the hon. Member. I want to make it clear that I do not believe that the argument of those who oppose this Bill that it is cutting at the religious life of the people, is really a sound one in that regard. I oppose the Bill on other grounds. I say that it is unsatisfactory for us to legislate in any way which may be interpreted as weakening any religious faith or, it may be putting Parliament itself into opposition or into a position where it can be supposed to be attacking religion as such. The pulpit, unfortunately, is frequently used as a platform whence projectiles can be hurled against Government and Parliament. That is distinctly undesirable, but how much more undesirable is it that Parliament should be interpreted as attacking in any shape or form the Church, or any form of religious denomination, or any religious faith? If we are weakening the sanctity of religious contract, then, I think, we are putting ourselves into a dangerous position.
The hon. Member also said that the Bill aims at assisting those who wish to obtain divorce. I think that is a fair interpretation of what he said. It does aim at that. If it does not aim at that, it has no purpose whatever. If that be so, there is one provision in the Bill which completely destroys the effect of that intention. How can you possibly say that the Bill aims at assisting those who wish to obtain divorce when you deliberately say that divorce shall not be obtained for five years? It seems to me that that provision has many dangers and difficulties. I will touch on two of them. How can the churches attempt to persuade those of weak faith of the lasting nature of the contract of marriage, and that marriage should be approached in that if at the same time Parliament says, "There is a limit of five years to it"? I am not saying that everybody who contracts marriage in the future will look upon the definite life of marriage as one to be terminated in five years by Act of Parliament, but 601 I suggest that the work of the churches and those who wish to persuade young people entering into marriage of the spiritual nature of that contract, and that the spiritual contract and the spiritual life are of immense value to them, when at the same time this House says: "You can try marriage and you can break it off if you like in five years by Act of Parliament"; will be made much more difficult.
Is it not the case that on the same reasoning they would be forced to tell their people that the spiritual life of marriage lasts for only six months.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Yes, but nobody could ever interpret six months as an outside limit. Nor would the hon. Member suggest for one moment that the five years exactly, takes the place of the six months under the existing law.
There is also the practical aspect of the objections to the five-year limit. The five-year limit opens up a field of utmost brutality to a great many people who under the existing law would be able to rearrange their lives in a better way. I cannot conceive of anything more horrible than that some mistaken young man or young women should find themselves allied to those who possibly by their skill or by their vicious art have inveigled them into marriage, being tied to them for five years, even by name alone. I believe that if this Bill passes into law, including the provision with regard to the five-year period, we shall be acting in a most brutal way and, far worse than that, we shall be adding enormously to the number of illicit unions in this country.
The hon. Member for West Waltham-stow (Mr. McEntee) said that the Bill would enable people to be separated in a decent way, but I think it will do exactly the reverse, and will bind together for five years, people who ought to be separated. We shall be making a brutal mistake if we pass the Bill containing the five-year limit.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Pritt
I support the Bill, and want to say a word or two about the objections which have been raised largely upon religious grounds. No one is compelled to institute a petition for divorce by reason of the passing of the Bill. If we look at 602 the objection put forward by members of the Roman Catholic Church, who have a very simple and logical teaching, we see it is based upon the principle that—with a few exceptions—no marriage shall be dissolved. If those members want to impose the principle upon other people they must make out a very strong case. I am not, of course, a Roman Catholic, but I live in close association with Roman Catholics, and I understand their point of view. They say that any relaxation of the existing marriage law will, morally speaking, break up the nation. If they are right in that teaching, I quite understand their opposition to the Bill. It logically follows, as the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) frankly admitted, that they ought to seek to repeal any existing divorce legislation in this country.
If it is really the case that the dissolution of civil marriages, for one cause or another, morally breaks up a nation, why is it that most people in Western Europe recognise that, on the whole, the Swedes and the Danes are among the best, the cleanest, and the most sound and moral people in Europe? They have a very wide divorce law, far wider than anything in the Bill. A great many hon. Members, and a certain number of people in the country, have a feeling in regard to the ideal of married life. We may claim, without undue hyprocrisy, that the normal state of married life for most married people is to live together in mutual companionship and fidelity. That is the ideal, and to say that there ought not to be divorce for people who fall gravely short of it is as illogical as saying that, because health is the ideal, it is wrong to provide medical treatment for people who, unfortunately, fall ill. I do not think there is anything in that argument.
Another argument which is often put forward is that freer divorce will break up family life and do harm to the children. When people are living wholly separate, they have not much family life, and when people are living together, though they are separated in body, mind and in sentiment, and often the mere presence of each other is extremely trying, which is the ordinary state of mind of people who are held together by social obligations, or because they think they are doing the best for their children, although all real affection between them 603 has gone, their family life, whether one speaks from the point of view of the ordinary person or from that of psychology would be calculated to fill the psychological treatment homes for people whose nerves have broken down under the strain. I cannot think that holding together people who want to be separated is any good at all to what we call family life.
With regard to the children, I concede that to pass at intervals from one parent to another is no good. To live alone with one parent only may not be good for children, although, of course, it is the life in which a great many children are satisfactorily brought up by a husband who has lost his wife or a wife who has lost her husband by death; but I am quite sure that children who are brought up in a home where two parents are present but living in disharmony, suffer more than others. To keep a home together for the sake of the children is to commit very grave mental and spiritual harm to three people, if there is one child, to four people if there are two children and to five people if there are three children. The Bill does not go very far, and in some respects is retrocessive, but on balance, I should say, apart from any religious question, that it will certainly increase the number of people living happily together in matrimony and the number of children who are not subjected to the mental and physical strains to which they ought not to be subjected if one can possibly help it.
One point in the Bill I want to criticise a little more strongly. I know the admirable motives which have led to the introduction of Clause 1—admirable, if not wholly consistent. A great deal of unjustified criticism may be warded off by it, but, at the same time, as it stands, with the absolute bar of any divorce for five years since the date of marriage, it will create, in some cases—not many thousands, but certainly a substantial number—for three or four years all the evils which the Bill is intended to avoid being created for a longer period of time. If, in another place, a provision were introduced giving the court power of discretion to relax that rule in a proper case, I believe it would be a jurisdiction which the court would have not only no difficulty in exercising but would be willing to exercise. It would be there as a 604 compromise. It would maintain a rule which must satisfy a great many people that, normally speaking, you are not to bring your troubles to the court the first time you have them but you must think over them for a long time, and it would empower the court to deal with the cases which arise of cruelty or hardship.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I am glad to have an opportunity of making my remarks at a later stage in the Debate. Earlier, there was a somewhat unfortunate skirmish between hon. Members who maintained that they had strong religious views themselves and either criticised those of other people or suggested that those other people had none. I wish to dissociate myself entirely from any contest of that kind. I think we must say and feel that in this House there are Members of all kinds of religions, and certainly, unless we happen to know definitely of individual private cases to the contrary, we must give them full credit publicly for holding those views as sincerely as we hold ours, although they may differ from us.
I should like to make a few remarks about the religious aspect of the Bill. I think the great cleavage lies in the fact that some of us who happen to hold certain religious views feel that we are bound and obliged, on account of those views, to take a certain hard-and-fast, rigid, view, which we do take, upon matters of this kind, while other Members, just as religious as ourselves, but of denominations in which there is not the same rigid application of their views to particular points of our nation existence, do not feel constrained to make any such application, and are, therefore, freer to make their criticisms and express their views upon the Bill, and upon the great questions that it raises, without any such restriction.
I should like to go on to say that for my part I make no apology for having taken the attitude that I have taken towards this Bill. I was glad that in the early stages, when the Bill was receiving its Second Reading, this whole question should be aired and ventilated; I felt that it had been bottled up too long, and I am glad we have had the full discussion that we have had, both on the Floor of the House and upstairs 605 in Committee; but I feel that I am under an obligation to press a particular point of view as strongly as I can and on every opportunity that may offer itself. In the Second Reading Debate I remarked that at one time the expression "Christendom" conjured up a vast and almost universal system holding sway over the whole known world, or at any rate over Western Europe, where most of the populations that we in these Islands were concerned with then resided. I went on to say that those days had passed away. Nevertheless, this State is still a Christian State; that is to say, the Powers that conquered this State were identified with Christianity, and not with one of the other religions that existed in the world. The Mohammedans did not conquer this country. If the Mohammedans had originally conquered this country, I do not doubt that to-day we should be debating, in much the same way as we are now, some modification of the laws of the Koran. But we have, instead, the Christian culture permeating strongly through all our national life, and I, for one, feel obliged, wherever I can, to exercise my humble influence, however small it may he, to insert into our legislation the strongest, and most powerful Christian bias that I can get put into it. I feel that I have an obligation to do that, and, therefore, I make no apology for taking up the attitude that I have taken up with regard to this Bill.
Turning to one or two of the features of the Bill as it remains after the changes that have taken place in it, I should like to associate myself with the views expressed by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) about Clause 1. I entirely agree that the good effect of the would-be concession to people of my views that Clause 1 is supposed to hold out is wholly illusory. If there is a case for the civil power at some stage to declare that according to its laws the marriage tie should be severed, it places an entirely artificial restriction in its way to say that it must not exercise that power for five years. I think that undoubtedly the law, if it is going to say that it will sever matrimony, should be free to do it at any time, and certainly I should hope that, when the Bill goes to another place, the promoters will lend their good offices towards the introduction of some Amendment to that effect.
606 I think there is no doubt that one of the reasons for the introduction of the Bill was that the present divorce laws are being brought into contempt. There is no need to go into details beyond a simple reference to quasi adultery and perjury. That is the situation with which we are confronted to-day. It seems to me, however, that the remedy lay with His Majesty's Government—that when His Majesty's Government saw some of their laws being brought into contempt, all that they had to do was themselves to bring in a Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Amendment) Bill and tighten up the law on the lines which have actually been followed in one of the Clauses of this Bill. I should like to pay my tribute now to the generous way in which the promoter of the Bill accepted during the Committee stage a Clause to that effect which was brought forward by, I think, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens). I think that he has—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—a real and genuine intention to make divorce easier than it is, and I think there is no doubt that the insertion of this Clause in the Bill will to some extent make divorce a little more difficult than it is. That will be an offset to the provisions in the other direction; but, taking into account both the extended causes which have been inserted in the Bill and the new tightening up of court procedure, I believe that the extended causes will win the day, and that divorce will in fact, when this Bill has become law, be very much easier than it is at the present time.
One thing that I profoundly regret is the provision as to the time when the Bill will come into force. Earlier in today's proceedings I made some remarks against an Amendment which was moved on behalf of the promoters to provide that the Bill should come into force on the 1st January, 1938. I know quite well that, if no such Amendment had been put down by them, the Bill would have come into force immediately on receiving the Royal Assent, but, no Amendment having been put on the Paper by my hon. Friends and myself, that was the only opportunity I had of putting forward my point of view that legislation should not be retrospective. This is not the appropriate occasion, perhaps, to debate that question very fully, because no such Amendment is in the Bill, and it would be out of Order to develop that theme very far, 607 but I hope that Parliament, before the Bill becomes law, will discuss and deal in a right way with this question of retrospective legislation.
Many of the arguments used in support of the Bill have been to the effect that it will give relief, that it will end suffering in certain hard cases which have arisen, where marriage is said to have broken down, or indeed in the case of someone who is described as being tied to a partner who has become incurably insane. There, again, when you come to consider questions like these, a cleavage of opinion manifests itself. When you set out to legislate, you can either say you are going to direct your legislation in a remedial direction in removing individual suffering and hard cases, and make that consideration paramount, or you can, on the contrary, say that the principal factor that you have to take into account is the family system and what will be the effect of any alteration in our laws on that family system.
If we bring in legislation which admittedly relieves hard cases, will it at the same time weaken our family system? I believe most profoundly that that is the very regrettable effect that it will have. By making divorce so much easier to obtain, I am afraid it will act as a rival snare which will induce people who would normally be just strong-minded enough to maintain their marital duties and conduct intact, to take advantage of the new opportunities held out to them under the Bill. There is no doubt that there will be couples who will believe that they can no longer endure life with one another who, while shrinking from making any arrangement, and without either of them committing adultery, will not shrink from committing desertion and will obtain divorce in that way. I rather gathered that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Hammersmith said that when two people did not wish to live together any longer because they felt their existence so irritating or burdensome with each other, they should have an opportunity of severing the tie. As soon as you admit such a principle as that, you are getting very near indeed to the principle of divorce by mutual consent. It is not in the Bill, but I think it is implied. Once you admit the principle of divorce by mutual consent, all this elaborate procedure of a court trial seems to me little 608 more than futile, and it would be far better to have a simple Bill brought in declaring that, whereas it is inexpedient for couples who do not wish to remain tied to one another for life to do so, they can apply to the nearest Post Office for the appropriate form.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I do not think I had better refer any further to what the hon. and learned Gentleman said, because it would be very far from my wish to overstate or misrepresent it. Textual repetition will suffice for my purpose, and I leave it at that. If the Bill is carried into law, it will take us nearer the stage, which we have not yet reached, whereby the State does not put any bar on people forming a union and then dissolving it at will. There is nothing at present to prevent two people who no longer wish to live together having a separation. It is the remarriage which is ate important part of the Bill. It is not so much divorce but the expectation of a new marriage which was so attractive to the promoters and those associated with them. I feel sure that when the people of the country some years hence—because I think it will be some years before the effects of the Bill are made manifest—come to consider the effect of the Marriage Act, 1937, the clearest thinkers will associate themselves with some words that were spoken by Theodore Roosevelt and quoted by Lord Parmoor some years ago in another place.Divorce is a bane for any nation, a curse on society, and a menace to the home.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Sir J. Withers
I should like to associate myself with the thanks which have been given to the Solicitor-General and others, and also to thank the Whips for giving us this opportunity of discussing the Bill this Session. I support the Bill generally, subject to a few observations which I wish to place on record, as I should not like it to be thought that I agree with it as it actually stands. I support it entirely as a civil measure. I do that, apart altogether 609 from any denominational religion. It is a purely permissive Bill, and it is the business of the religious bodies to advise and control their members so that, if any particular denomination does not approve of the Bill, it should not take up the facilities that are given.
§ Sir J. Haslam
Will my hon. Friend tell us why we have any laws or regulations of any description in those conditions?
§ Sir J. Withers
I think, on the whole, the religious bodies will support the law, as far as I know, but this is objected to as a matter of conscience. If it is a matter of conscience and religious conviction, surely it is a matter for the religious bodies. We are not all English churchmen, Roman Caholics, Methodists or anything of that kind. We are dealing with the public. I certainly think each denomination must look after its own members. There is no reason why it should not.
Coming to the detailed points to which I wish to draw attention, I raised them very strongly in Committee but I was overruled. I did not like to raise them again, because I did not wish to waste time but, as some of them had been touched upon, I should like to explain what I think about them. I agree that the limit of five years in Clause r is excessive. It is not only a period of five years, because you cannot start the case until five years from the date of the marriage. The petition has then to be presented and has to be heard, which means another six months and you have to wait another six months between the decree nisi and the decree absolute, which makes the period six years. That is too long a time. Either the period should be shortened as I suggested upstairs, or some power should be given to the court in cases of extreme urgency or hardship to allow them to proceed. It is horrible to think that a young girl, should marry someone and find out only after marriage that she had married a horrible person with whom she could not possibly associate, on sexual grounds for instance. Such a person would have to be tied up six years before anything could be done. I do not think that that is right. I am all in favour of not having rash and stupid marriages, and having, say, a period of three years put into the Bill to stop people rushing into marriage recklessly. On the 610 whole, I am sure that when the Bill gets to another place that provision will be dealt with pretty severely.
I do not think that Clause 4, which relates to collusion—I am very much averse from collusive action—will really do, for the following reasons. I think that the present power given to the Court is ample, and as I said on Report, you can perfectly well carry out the investigations given to the court under the present law. The proposal is impracticable, because you cannot prove a negative. If one goes into the matter he will find that the court will take a very much longer time to go into each particular case, however simple it may be. It has to be investigated, and parties have to prove affirmatively that there is no collusion, and so on. If you want to be able to try cases with the rapidity with which they have been tried recently you will have to double, treble or quadruple the number of judges trying divorce cases.
§ Mr. Crossley
I cannot help feeling that the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. I do not think the court has to go into each case in order to prove that there is no collusion. If the court is satisfied on the evidence that there is no collusion, it can take affirmative action, but if the court for any reason has any suspicion that there has been collusion, then it can require further evidence. I suggest that in practice that is a totally different thing.
§ Sir J. Withers
I do not think so at all. The court has to satisfy itself that there is no collusion, and if it is unable to satisfy itself that there is no collusion, it has to go into the case. This will take very much longer. Clause 5 providing for a decree of judicial separation under the Summary Jurisdiction Act being treated as a ground for divorce is entirely a new precedent. There is no reason why such cases such not be treated as corroboration of a petitioner's story. A petitioner has to prove the case, and there is no reason why he or she should not say, "So many years ago I obtained a judicial separation order from a Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Here it is, and it confirms my story." That is all right, but to make it a ground of itself cannot be right.
Clause 11 is a curious Clause. The present law is that innocent parties to a divorce can claim to be married in 611 Church. The law is sought to be changed by the Bill, which leaves it entirely in the discretion of the particular incumbent of the parish to say whether he will marry or whether he will not. Surely, that is not dignified from the point of view, either of the Church or of the State. We are entitled to ask the Church to say exactly what is their doctrine on the remarriage of divorced persons. They ought to say either they will allow all persons to be married in Church, or allow the innocent parties only, or none. It ought not to be left to the discretion of the individual clergy to say what the practice of the Church should be. We ought to have some more definite law on the subject. The law at present is definite that innocent parties can claim to be married, but it can be left entirely to the individual discretion of the clergy.
A clergyman officiating in the Established Church in a celebration of marriage acts in two capacities, principally from the religious point of view as an officer of the Church, but also, to a certain extent, as a representative of the State. The State ought to give its servants quite definite instructions as to what they should do. It would he a dreadful thing if a judge, in trying a case of murder in which the jury had found the prisoner guilty, should have the option, because he had perhaps religious or conscientious scruples, to say, "I do not propose to sentence this man to death. I do not like the death penalty, so I will not do it, but I will sentence him to imprisonment for life." For those reasons the Church ought clearly to specify what the doctrine is, and it ought to be provided for in the Bill. It is very desirable, from the point of view of the State, that it should be done. I hope very much that these points will be put right in another place, and, subject to that, I support the Bill.
§ 1.54 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel R. S. Clarke
This Bill is a matter to which I have given a great deal of thought, and I have attended practically every Debate on it, and I had the honour of serving on the Committee upstairs. I have also endeavoured to consult many shades of opinion about it, both of those belonging to the Church and also social workers. I feel that it is the general concensus of opinion in the country that our present law requires some 612 alteration. One ought to remember two things in this connection. First, one is very apt to regard this matter from the point of view of the people living immediately around oneself, and not to look at it as widely as one should from the point of view of all classes of the population, and, secondly, we should remember that the Royal Commission in 1909–10 reported in favour of some alterations. Many of those alterations are embodied in the present Bill, and since the time of that report there has undoubtedly been a trend of public opinion in favour of the alteration. At the same time I am certain there is a strong feeling that, if possible, nothing should be done to make divorce commoner, more particularly what is generally termed collusive divorce. I am certain we are all agreed that that is a thing which is detrimental to character in this country and, I believe, detrimental to the whole structure of the law itself.
I think, too, that one must be careful in making alterations not to go too far. I felt that the Bill as presented here for Second Reading did go too far, and on Second Reading I was one of the minority who opposed it. Since then the Bill has been considered in Committee. It was a very thorough Committee, which took 10 days for the work, and when it came back here from Committee it was a very much better Bill. For one thing, the King's Proctor was retained and, indeed, his position was considerably strengthened. I do not want to go into details, but in other ways a number of points to which I objected were met—I do not mean that they were met because I pleaded for them, but they were met. There was the omission of drunkenness, which I think should not be included as a ground of divorce, because it is a matter in which one partner can do so much to influence the course of life of the other. Therefore, on the Third Reading I shall support the Bill.
One matter which did cause me and, I have no doubt, a lot of other people a great deal of thought is the inclusion of desertion as a ground of divorce. One cannot escape the fact that that will probably increase the number of divorces. At the same time, I think it will have a beneficial effect which will outweigh that possible increase in divorce. Among a great part of the population marriage to-day is largely affected by economic considerations. It is an extremely difficult thing 613 for a man with children to go out to work and leave them at home with nobody to look after them. In the same way a woman who is deserted finds it difficult to go out to work to support children who have to be left at home. In either case some union or some association with a fresh partner becomes necessary, and at the present time, when desertion is not a ground for divorce, that often leads to illegitimate children, which I think is a worse evil, possibly, than an increase in the number of divorces. I feel, too, that desertion is not likely to be collusive, because it is a method which would take too long, and even if it were I feel it has this advantage—if one can use such a term—that it will give time for people to think again and, possibly, come together again. I do not wish to say anything more except that though this Bill has occupied a great deal of time, I feel that the time has not by any means been wasted. Marriage is an integral part of the foundation of our social system, and before any change is made in the laws controlling it, the very deepest thought is necessary.
§ 2 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
In rising for the last time to oppose this Bill my first feeling is one of intense relief that the long labours of opposition are drawing to a close. It has not been a pleasant task, but I think the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) will agree with me that taking any prominent position on either side in connection with this Bill has brought on us just the sort of publicity which a Member of Parliament probably most detests. The opponents of this Bill have tried in Committee and elsewhere to bring themselves to a high level and to oppose it on its merits. They have never obstructed. We obstructed on one single day in Committee upstairs when we considered that we, the minority, had not been properly treated by the promoters, but we have never on any occasion obstructed the Bill. That was borne witness to by the senior Burgess for Oxford University in a letter which he wrote to the "Manchester Guardian" in which he completely dissociated us from comments about obstruction to this Bill.
§ Mr. Crossley
He was generous, but he was true, and it is just as well to be generous. The hon. Member, in a letter which he wrote to another newspaper, was not so generous, and did not have such a strict regard for the facts. If he had looked up the times of the speeches he could have verified things for himself. At the same time there has undoubtedly grown up an opinion, all over the country, that the opposition to this Bill did obstruct to some extent. The newspaper "Truth" went so far as to accuse us of talking for a whole Friday on a minor Bill about transport when that discussion was, I think, organised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who, I regret, is not in his place, in order to prevent the consideration of a Bill about ice cream, and in any case there were on the Order Paper on that day two other controversial Bills. If we repudiate obstruction as opposed to the idea of a democratic system of government, we equally repudiate the idea that we ought to hurry with indecent haste through legislation of this calibre and importance, and we have no quarrel with the promoters for requesting, or with the Government—if there be a Government at the moment—for granting the request for proper facilities for a full discussion of this Bill.
My last fling in opposition, without in any way labouring the point, is to say that there is between us and the promoters of the Bill a disagreement of principle. We consider that marriage is not merely a civil contract. We regard it as a sacrament, and that distinction is important, in spite of the contention that this is only a permissive Bill. The force of that contention must be admitted to a considerable extent, but the main reason for our opposition to the Bill does come on the grounds of a general belief that the weakening of the ties of marriage has proved disastrous in countries where they have previously been weakened.
Having said that, I should like, briefly, as I want the House to understand exactly what it is doing, to point out both where marriage has been strengthened and where, I believe, it has been weakened by the Bill. I think it has been strengthened by the Clause which allows no divorce for five years. There will, I know, be hard cases if the Bill is left as it stands, and there always 615 are hard cases. I know that it has been called the co-respondent's charter, and I know that there may be a good deal to be said for the principle that if divorce is right ever, it is right always, where cause for allowing for divorce arises. At the same time, I cannot help thinking that this provision will not only make couples intending to be married think very carefully as to whether they are fit to enter into that state, but will also give them a compulsory period in which they will get over the most difficult of all periods of married life, from the end of the second year to the end of the fourth year. I have been married for ten years. I welcome that provision. I believe it will do a great deal in this country to prevent that conception of marriage which has to some extent crept in from the United States among certain sections in the country.
Then I believe we have done one other thing which has made the Bill a much better Measure than when it went to Committee. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) objected to the Clause about collusion—I thought on entirely wrong grounds. I think he has misapprehended what will be the practice of the court. The practice of the court will merely be that if it is not satisfied that the case is not a collusive case it may demand further evidence, and while it is true that it is impossible to prove a negative, it is perfectly possible to prove a positive. There is a positive in this case to be proved—the positive fact that you have gone off with another woman.
§ Sir J. Withers
The hon. Member will see in Clause 4 (1):On a petition for divorce it shall be the duty of the court to inquire, so far as it reasonably can, into the facts alleged and whether there has been any connivance or condonation on the part of the petitioner and whether any collusion exists between the parties and also to inquire into any counter-change which is made against the petitioner, if the court is satisfied on the evidence thatThe court has to be satisfied.
§ Mr. Crossley
I am not a lawyer and the hon. Member is, and I must leave that point to the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens), who says that I am right. I do not think my version is wrong. In regard to divorce for adultery, it always seems to me that 616 divorce for adultery unaccompanied by desertion is a most unfortunate and inadequate reason for divorce. Isolated cases of adultery are doubtless to be condemned, but as a cause for breaking up the marriage, as a cause for creating suffering to children, which will be caused by divorce, I think it is inadequate. At least something will be done by the Bill to avoid that most sordid of all forms of adultery, the collusive hotel divorce. It is true that under the Bill another form of collusion is allowed, but it seems possible to eliminate collusive adultery in the future under the Bill. Certainly the Divorce Court thinks this power is necessary to be granted for eliminating this horrible and sordid abuse from our national life. I welcome also this Clause.
May I now turn to the three reasons why I think the Bill weakens marriage? Divorce for desertion is in very truth divorce for incompatibility. Desertion itself may be on two grounds. A man may desert his wife and go away with another woman, or without another woman, for a long time, intending never to come back to her, not paying her any money, simply casting her out of his life. On the other hand, a man and woman may say "We do not desire to go on living any longer with each other. I will pay you £100 or £200 a year." They come to a perfectly amicable agreement, and the amicable agreement extends to the children, who will probably go and live with each parent for a part of the year. Under that perfectly amicable agreement, a collusive agreement, divorce after a period of three years will be able to he granted.
§ Sir J. Withers
No. I must point out to the hon. Member that separation by agreement is not desertion.
§ Mr. Crossley
There may be separation by agreement to this extent that the deserting party may give money to the party who is deserted, and that is so near separation by agreement that it strikes me as being almost the same thing. I shall be glad to be told, perhaps by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford, that my interpretation is wrong. The real danger of divorce for desertion is that we are allowing divorce for incompatibility in the future. Then there is divorce for cruelty. We are allowing a party who has been divorced for cruelty 617 to re-marry. If it is physical cruelty, that cruelty will be perpetrated again on future wives, and that strikes me as being a serious fault in the legislation. We are also allowing mental cruelty as a cause for divorce in certain circumstances. I deprecate that very much, because you never know where that process is going to end. Mental cruelty, as we know, means something very different, doubtless, from mental cruelty as interpreted in the Law Courts.
§ Sir William Wayland
Are there not many instances where mental cruelty is much worse than physical cruelty?
§ Mr. Crossley
I disagree with cruelty in all forms as a cause for divorce. I think that there is a line to be drawn beween mental and physical cruelty. Mental cruelty may of course on certain occasions be worse but this is a dangerous provision and it may easily grow.
Now I turn to the other cause of divorce which we now admit—insanity. It is true that it has constantly been misunderstood that divorce for insanity will apply only to the incurably insane. It is doubtful whether many physicians will in fact admit the incurability of many mental patients, and it is doubtful whether this provision will apply to more than a very few people. But the apprehension which it is causing in sanatoria throughout the country is, I am told, already most marked. It is part of the nature of the disease of mentally deranged people for them to lose their sense of proportion, and I am told on really excellent authority that many patients are so afraid of the provisions of this Bill that they have already suffered very serious setbacks in their condition. [Laughter.] I do not know why that statement should be regarded with levity. What I have stated is a fact. It is not a very serious objection to the Bill perhaps, but it is worth putting before the House. In addition to that, I cannot avoid feeling that this particular provision about insanity is going either to prove inoperative or unjust. I do not believe it is going to be of considerable value in our law.
Before I conclude I would make three general observations about divorce. One is that every country which has had easy divorce has suffered in its national prestige—every country or every people. I would give three examples. Take Rome under the emperors. I doubt whether 618 there was a stronger cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire than the wholesale way in which the Romans divorced each other. Anyone who reads Gibbon can draw his own conclusions as to that. Marriage simply became a form of respectable concubinage and the family disappeared. Take the Mohammedan civilisation in its great days. Nothing undermined that so much as easy divorce. From being one of the most virile people in the world they sank back after all their conquests and became comparatively servile and petty quarrelling races. The last example I give is that of the United States of America to-day, where in certain sections of the population the whole attitude to marriage is a scandal and a degradation. I hope that hon. Members will not think that I speak too strongly, but that attitude has begun to creep in among certain sections of our own population.
One other remark I wish to make is in regard to the children of divorced people. It is true, of course, that to live in an unhappy home is horrible. The worst of all horrors is where the parents are divorced and the children go to live with each parent in turn. That leads them to regard marriage as an event of comparatively minor importance, and to think that marriage can easily be got rid of at any time that suits the parents. I cannot avoid thinking that, looked at solely from the point of view of the country, that is a most dangerous process to assist. I have ended my last appeal on this subject, which I shall be so glad to leave. There is only one further thing I would say. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill there have been compliments galore for the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert). Throughout the Bill he has treated us with the utmost courtesy and consideration. He has proved himself to be not only a most esteemed humorist, but a most able Parliamentarian. The only thing I hope is that when the Bill is through he will not think of leaving us next time:From its genial author I'llDivorce my hatred of his BillTrust for our pleasure and his prideThat Oxford may remain his bride.Let no pseudo-scientist,No abstruse economist,No physician, dull, despondent,Prove successful co-respondent.But despite this sorry blunderThem let no men put asunder.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I rise to support the passage of the Bill. I was the one and only Member who spoke against this Bill on Second Reading, and I divided the House against the Bill. The reason why I took that attitude was that as I read the Bill in its original state it appeared to me to be one of the most deliberate attempts—I think I used the expression "hypocritical," shrouding itself as a Bill in support of marriage—to make divorce in every respect very much easier in this country. The Bill not only added a lame number of grounds for divorce, but it made no attempt whatever to deal with any of the existing scandals, known not only to the profession but to the public, in connection with the existing law. It abolished the King's Proctor; and it appeared to me really to be a way by which persons in this country could practically get divorce at will. It further made no attempt whatever to deal with the question of the children. In those circumstances not only did I speak against the Bill, but in Committee I endeavoured to oppose the Bill word by word, line by line, and Clause by Clause. At a very early stage in Committee it was quite clear that the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) and those who were with him were just as desirous as many of us that the Bill should be turned into a Bill that would not only deal with many of the provisions connected with our present divorce law, but would really be a constructive Measure, which would assist the people of this country. I wish to add my tribute to the courtesy and kindness with which a very great number of drastic Amendments was accepted by the promoters with a view to making the Measure a workable one.
I believe that, in the first place, the Bill goes some stage towards dealing with many of the existing scandals of our divorce courts, and secondly, in connection with the additional grounds of divorce, it appears to me to give additional facilities which are limited and which, at any rate, are the views of a great many rational and—I think I may claim—deeply religious people. When the Bill was introduced I did not feel, and I do not feel now, any very deep objection to some limited extension of the grounds of divorce. Certainly I 620 feel that a continuance of the present situation would be far more disastrous for the country than would be the situation if we could see our way to meet the views of a large section of our fellow countrymen who think it desirable that there should be some additional grounds of divorce.
Of course, there are deep-seated feelings on both sides of the House. There are those people, whose views have been voiced this afternoon, who firmly and honestly believe that there should be no ground for divorce, or at any rate that only adultery should be a ground, and that view is based upon certain religious beliefs. At the other extreme there are those people who feel that the contract of marriage should be exactly the same as any other contract, and should be determinable by the mutual consent of the two parties to the contract. I think it is wrong to say that the view that marriage should be determinable by mutual consent is one which is held, in the words of a previous speaker, only by those who are atheists or agnostics. It is not. It is held by many deep-thinking people that it is very difficult logically to say why a contract of marriage should not be determinable on exactly the same grounds as any other contract entered into by people of full age and responsibility. I do not believe that we can deal with the dissolution of marriage on logical grounds. I do not believe that logic enters into the minds of those people who get married or those who want their marriages dissolved. I should have thought that both the formation and dissolution of marriages was, as a rule, actuated in 99–9 /10th cases out of 100 by motives on any ground except that of logic. I do not think we can possibly apply any very logical standard to the extension or maintenance of the grounds of divorce in this country.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is one dividing line. If any ground of divorce amounts to mutual consent, one is entering upon the slippery slope which cannot stop short of what has been called colloquially the Post Office registry form of divorce. The moment the parties can dissolve their marriages by mutual consent, I can conceive of no way in which this House will ever be able to stop short of the Post Office registry system. Therefore, in considering the proper grounds of 621 divorce, I made up my mind to oppose strenuously any ground of divorce which appeared to me to involve consent by both parties. Secondly, I felt that the grounds of divorce should be limited to events which had in fact made the marriage ineffective and broken it up for good. It seems to me that, continuing adultery as a ground of divorce, and adding to it desertion, lunacy and cruelty, the promoters have found three grounds in the case of which the marriage is in fact broken up completely, but into which no consent of both parties enters, at any rate in theory.
Let me say a few words about those grounds. Desertion means strictly legal desertion, where one party leaves the other party without the will of the other party. Nothing short of proof that it is desertion will enable the parties to obtain a divorce on that ground. In the case of lunacy, the lunacy has to be incurable and proved to the court as such. Among hon. Members there must be a great deal of knowledge of how difficult it is to get doctors to certify that a particular person is an incurable lunatic. I do not believe that into that category there will come a very great number of cases. But I do not think the House could accept anything less than incurable lunacy on that ground. The third ground is cruelty, and I still have the very greatest doubts as to whether cruelty should be retained as a ground of divorce. The reason I have those doubts is that the causes in Clause 2 of the Bill which are made the additional grounds for divorce are linked up with the summary procedure in front of the magistrate's court, and if the bench of magistrates grants a separation order on any grounds which may be a ground of divorce, at the end of three years that separation order is prima facie evidence that the parties ought to have a divorce.
The reason I am very frightened of leaving cruelty as a ground in the Bill is that I believe that in a great number of cases separation orders are granted for cruelty by benches of magistrates on evidence which would not be evidence of sufficient cruelty for a ground of divorce. I believe it is a good thing that in the magistrates' courts on some evidence of cruelty on the part of either spouse, a separation order should be granted, but I am frightened that if the Bill goes through as it is, some benches, when they get an application for a separation order 622 will say, "Three years hence this may be used as a ground for divorce. We cannot grant a separation order on this evidence; there must be much more substantial evidence. Go back and let your husband beat you again." I am afraid that if the Bill goes through in this form as regards the ground of cruelty, separation orders may be more difficult to obtain. Alternatively if that should not result, the procedure in the Divorce Division will not give that beneficial assistance to certain classes of the community which was the chief argument in favour of this additional ground of divorce. I say so, not because my hon. Friends and I would object to cruelty being made a ground of divorce as such but because we feel that the definition of cruelty and the circumstances in which cruelty is to be a ground of divorce, require to be more clearly developed and specified than they are in the Bill. I believe that these three additional grounds of divorce, none of which takes place by the consent of the parties and all of which, in fact, break up the home hopelessly, may legitimately be accepted without placing the country in peril of going over the precipice to divorce by consent.
The House should realise, however—coming back to the ground of desertion—that the Bill in this form raises an anomally which is felt to be a serious anomally in many cases. Parties who have found that they could not live together, who have separated by agreement and who have been living apart by agreement for years, will get absolutely no relief under the Bill, whereas the husband or wife who has caused separation by the much more unkind method of deliberate desertion, of walking out of the home without the consent of the other partner will be able to get relief under the Bill. But, as I say, my view is that you cannot have logic in connection with divorce. If you had logic, you would have no divorce, and once you start off with divorce, you have to try to find some grounds which will assist people, in accordance with what I believe to be the general wish of the population, and at the same time you must try to protect marriage by not giving people the chance of divorce by consent.
That brings me to the other part of the Bill to which I ask the House to attach great importance. Under our present system we have nearly reached a 623 position in which people are getting divorces by consent on the pretext of adultery. As introduced, the Bill contained no provision to stop that kind of thing. To-day the Bill does contain such a provision. I shall not attempt to resolve the dispute between my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) on that point, but there is a Clause in the Bill which has the purpose I have indicated and it is believed that the Clause will make it more difficult than it is at present to obtain collusive divorces by consent. If the wording of the Clause is not right, I am sure that that wording will be put right in another place should the Bill receive a Third Reading here to-day. But when the Bill comes comes back to this House, unless that Clause remains either in its present form or in a stronger form, I shall do my best even at the last moment to prevent its final passage, because I believe that that is the sheet anchor of this Measure. If you are to have additional grounds of divorce, you must at the same time try to make impossible divorces of the type which are going through at present.
In addition, there are one or two other useful Clauses which deal with the present situation. The Bill does not however attempt to deal with the question of children. That there will be additional divorces after the Bill becomes law there can be no question. Therefore, there will be a larger number of children of divorced persons to be dealt with. Some of us who are interested in these questions having given this point the greatest consideration, came to the conclusion that these children could only be dealt with by administrative changes in the practice of the different Divisions of the Court and could not be dealt with by any provisions in the Bill. I feel that the present position, in which divorced persons have to go to court and incur enormous expense in getting the children dealt with by the Divorce Division or the Chancery Division of the High Court, requires to be looked into, particularly if we are to have an increased number of divorces, some of them affecting the very class of persons who cannot afford the cost of applications to the court in relation to the children. Therefore, one of the great 624 changes which the passage of the Bill will, I think, entail in administration will be the provision of a better system of dealing with the views of parents as regards children. I cannot see why there should not be some officer of the court to whom divorced or separated parents could go with their disputes as to what should be done with the children. I throw that out as a hint in the hope that it may be taken up in due course.
One has thought very hard over this Bill, which obviously, for the first time, goes beyond the grounds of divorce recognised by certain great religious bodies. One has had to ask whether it is wise to take that step. I feel that the opinion of the country has, since 1912, moved strongly in favour of some additional grounds, and I believe that the additional grounds here proposed can be justified on the lines that I have suggested. I believe that if you include machinery to make collusive divorces more difficult, there is much to be said for such a proposal. Anyone is a fool who prophesies the results of a divorce Measure and anyone who prophesied, in 1923, that the last amendment of the law in this respect would result in the way it has resulted, woud not have been listened to in this House. But judging the Bill as a whole, in a common-sense way, I believe that the harm anticipated by me and by those who have assisted me in my criticisms of the Bill—and for whose assistance I am very grateful—will not be as great as we thought. I believe that, on the whole, the Bill will probably do more good than harm to the country and therefore I propose to support its Third Reading.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Mr Lyons
Like my hon. and learned Friend, I was in opposition to this Measure when we entered upon its consideration in Committee. Unlike him I am still in opposition to it. I realise that there are substantial differences between the Bill, as it is to-day and the Bill as it was originally presented but there are still tendencies in this Measure of a far-reaching character to which I object, and I propose to offer the House the reasons why I am going to record my vote against the Third Reading to-day. There is no doubt that the view which, I think, is the view of the great mass of thinking people of all sections of this country is 625 that we must recognise that the right to divorce is an essential part of life as it is to-day, and it is not because I belong to any section of the community that desires to prohibit divorce that I am opposed to this Bill. I recognise that divorce is essential in many cases, but I also recognise that the whole foundation of the life of this country rests upon a proper respect for the unity of the family life of this country, and because I think that this Bill is opposed to that principle, I venture to speak against it.
It is extraordinary that while we recognise that divorce is open to people on grounds which the law of the land sets forth, yet we suggest by Clause 1 of the Bill that where those grounds exist no petition for divorce shall be presented to the court unless five years have passed from the date of the marriage. In other words, so far as I appreciate the position for the first time we are going to say to an aggrieved individual that, although he has a grievance for which the law provides a sufficient remedy, we will prevent his going to the court and securing that remedy for a period of five years. I oppose any such attempt to prevent any person in this country going into our courts in order to get a remedy to which the law says he is entitled, and I venture to think that this Clause was put in merely as a sham in order to get support for other provisions of the Bill which are open to the greatest objection, and in order that my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) and those who support him in presenting this Bill, who desire to have this piece of veneer put in, may have some cover for saying that this is a Bill to make it more difficult to get divorce, when in point of fact it ought in reality to be known as the Easy Divorce Bill, while yet producing the great hardship in preventing any person getting a legal remedy in proved circumstances for a period of five years. My final observation upon that Clause is that if a remedy exists for any aggrieved person in a matter accepted by the law as one for which a legal remedy is available, that remedy ought to be open at any time to that person.
A great deal was said by the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) to the effect that this is a Bill which will prevent collusive divorce. I think 626 there is nothing in the Bill that will stop arranged divorce. Unless the country is ready to accept as a ground of divorce something like incompatibility of temperament or proved difficulty between two persons who are married to each other in living together, I think, try as you will, you have got to accept the risk that some kind of fiction will inevitably be introduced, or some matrimonial offence arranged, to get a divorce. It might be a very good thing to say that if a man or a woman can show that after they have been married to each, other for a time they are so unfitted one to the other that married life is proved unsuitable there should be ground for dissolution of marriage without the commission of any offence and without either party to the marriage sacrificing self-respect. I might not approve of it but if that were done and if that position were accepted, the House would then have to face it and consider it, but until you have that accepted, you are bound to have a set of circumstances where some kind of make-believe will be adopted in order to get a divorce on one of the grounds provided.
In regard to the additional grounds which this Bill does provide, I want first to consider the additional ground where the respondent is incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for the period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition. I think that is a most dangerous ground and one which I hope the House will show by its vote that it will not accept. Who today can say how far or to what extent the word "incurable" can be applied to any person who, unhappily, is for the moment of such unsound mind as to necessitate care and treatment? When after five years a woman who has been required to have care and treatment for unsound mind happily recovers, as we know many people do recover, and then finds that without her knowledge she has been divorced in her absence—because obviously a person of unsound mind cannot prevent the proceedings—who is to maintain this unfortunate woman when she finds that her first husband is married to another woman? Is she to be dependent on public assistance because unhappily she has been the victim of some disease of the mind which has made it 627 necessary that she should be in an institution or under care and treatment for a period of five years?
§ Mr. Lyons
That is all very well, but one has to consider the economic position of these people, and it is no good referring to a provision for settlement when you are dealing with a man of small means who has to maintain his wife and family and who has got married again while his wife for five years has been suffering from some disease of the mind. I suggest that that is a kind of proposition which has never received the consideration which it ought to have received from those who have been anxious to bring in this Bill. It is difficult in any case to use the word "incurable," but of all the things to which I think the word cannot be applied it is some kind of disease of the mind. Take the case of a woman suffering from some mild attack of mental disorder. I should have thought that the knowledge that if for five years she required care and treatment for that disorder, that in those circumstances she could be divorced, and that her matrimonial home could be ended without any real knowledge by her, that would have been the greatest attack that you could make on that woman in her mental state and would have been more likely to bring on and increase some kind of serious mental disease than anything else. That, again, is one of the reasons why I shall oppose this because I believe it will deal rashly with a class of people in straitened circumstances who should not be singled out for attack.
§ Sir W. Wayland
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the very small number of cases of lunatics and people of unsound mind who recover after five years? Has he had any experience? It is a very small percentage.
§ Mr. Lyons
It may be so, but the word "lunatic" does not occur in this Bill. The only provision about unsound minds is—incurably of unsound mind and has been continuously under care and treatment for a period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition.628 There is not a word about certification or about any technical classification. Apart from that, even if the figures of recoveries are very small, I would still say, for the sake of those few people who are put in this invidious position, that this provision should never have been introduced.
I want to deal with another extension of the ground of divorce, namely, where the respondent has deserted the petitioner for at least three years preceding the presentation of the petition. It will not help in the large number of cases where people have separated by agreement because of various acts showing that the continuance of married life is impossible, or the many cases where husband and wife have been separated by consent. Many hard cases will go without any remedy. When hon. Members have said that they have known of hard cases where husband and wife are separated and that they will welcome this Bill, I would ask them to remember that this provision will give no remedy at all to the whole block of cases of people who are living apart because of the impossibility of getting along together a few years ago. I suggest that this provision will give a still further collusive ground to those persons who want to arrange that desertion shall take place because they do not like the word "adultery." By the convertible nature of this Bill a finding of a justice that desertion exists can be used at a later stage to found a petition for divorce under which a finality of marriage can be granted.
I want to say without any unfair criticism of the great work done by our lay justices, that some of the most difficult cases to bring to a proper conclusion before a magisterial court are applications under the Summary jurisdiction (Married Women's) Act. Difficulty has been experienced over and over again. A Bill is before another place to cause those applications to be heard more or less in camera. On the result of that application an order can be made which is not only effective for the purposes for which the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women's) Act was intended, but will be sufficient to enable a divorce petition to be based on it without any further proof. There might have been a good deal to be said for desertion found by a High Court Judge in the divorce 629 court which cannot be said for this Measure. If it had to be proved in the divorce court, a case for including desertion might be made.
It may well be thought by a number of my colleagues in the House that some kind of alteration to the divorce laws is needed. That may be so, but I venture to think that if alteration is needed of what, after all, is a fundamental matter affecting the whole social structure of the country, namely, the marriage laws, it should have been the result of a Government Measure. It is not in any way a matter which is fitting for promotion by a Private Member in a Private Member's Bill. It was said by my hon. and learned Friend just now that marriage is a contract, and that if events which have broken the marriage occur, the marriage should be ended. This Bill bundles together the matrimonial offence and the visitation of disease.
I am not opposing divorce in proper circumstances. It is part and parcel of the life of this country that it should exist on proper grounds, but there is a great difference between an act which is clearly a matrimonial offence committed by either husband or wife, and the visitation of a disease which nobody can prevent. I do not see how we can say that a certain consequence will follow adultery, which is a matrimonial offence, and that the same thing will happen if a person is visited by a disease which makes her mentally unsound. There is no connection between the two things. If it is to be said seriously that a thing which puts an end to marriage should be sufficient for the purposes of this Bill, whether it be a matrimonial offence or not, how can anyone distinguish between a disease of the mind and a disease of the body? It is not said in this Bill that if anyone suffers from a disease which makes him permanently paralysed it should he a ground for divorce. If it is to be said that a disease of the mind is to be a ground for divorce, how can we deny that disease of the body should be a ground?
My hon. and learned Friend said that we should never enter on the slippery slope. The acceptance of this Bill, however, is an entry on the slippery slope, and I hope that when the Vote is taken hon. Members will not be misled by some of the things that have been said about this Bill and the remedies it will afford, for they are wholly illusory, but will vote 630 against the Bill and wait for such time as the Government of the day thinks, after reflection and consideration, that a proper Measure should be introduced. I am not referring in my remarks to the Report of 1912, because 25 years ago is a long time, but if the Government are really satisfied that an alteration should be made, either in the grounds of divorce or in the way in which divorce is being obtained, or if they are satisfied that judicial fraud is taking place and that people are getting divorces when they have no right to them, it is their duty fully to review the circumstances and then to bring forward a Measure to alter the law in the way in which it should be altered instead of leaving it to a private Member.
My hon. Friend said that the opposition to the Bill will finish to-day. It will not. If this Bill passes, the mass of the people in this country, who are not bigoted against divorce and have no scruples against divorce as such, but who believe in the maintenance of family life, will go on opposing the Measure. This Measure will not be acceptable to the vast majority of the people of this country who want to respect the obligation of family life and who believe that the matrimonial engagement is something more than mere words, rashly spoken. The Bill bunches together in a way that is indefensible various grounds for divorce which are quite distinct from those which represent the commission of a matrimonial offence and which have been for a long time, and should be, accepted as grounds for divorce. Putting disease such as a visitation of unsoundness of the mind into a Bill like this, on the same level as adultery and other matrimonial offences, will arouse the indigation of the great mass of thinking people. For these reasons, I object to the Bill now, as I have done in its various stages through the Committee proceedings, and I shall record my vote against it, hoping that the House, on reflection, will take a similar view and say that the Bill shall not be given the Third Reading.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Thurtle
I do not propose to follow the hon. and learned Member into the somewhat narrow legal points that he has raised, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that he said that in principle he was in favour of divorce on proper 631 grounds. He, apparently, wants to be the judge as to what are proper grounds. That is characteristic of the whole of the main opposition to the Bill, and it is for that reason that I have intervened. I want to chide, perhaps more in sorrow than in anger, the opponents of the Bill for what I consider to be their intolerance. The main opposition to the Bill has come from those with Roman Catholic and high Anglican views, and I submit that their opposition is, in effect, the opposition of intolerance. We are not seeking to impose upon Roman Catholics or churchmen any kind of marriage law. We are leaving it to them in their own moral and sacerdotal sanctions to observe it as they please, and we are asking them to allow other people who have not those same sanctions and have not those same beliefs to get redress for what they regard as legitimate grievances.
I am a little disappointed, particularly with the Roman Catholics, that they have taken up this view of being intolerant to those who do not agree with their point of view. I should like to look back into the history of about 100 years ago. At that time liberal-minded men in this House, who believed in liberty, were fighting passionately to rid Roman Catholics of their disabilities, just as they fought to rid the Jewish people of their disabilities. They fought then because they believed there should be equality for all, toleration for all, and that the fact that a man held a certain religious belief should not bar him from enjoying any of the rights of citizenship. That is perfectly sound.
§ Sir P. Hannon
In what respect are those who belong to the Roman Catholic faith in this House intolerant? What is the hon. Member's definition of intolerance? Does he mean that because we stand up and speak for the highest standard of morality for our people we are intolerant?
§ Mr. Thurtle
The hon. Member has mistaken my point. The Roman Catholics are fully entitled to stand up for their own point of view. They are entitled to act in regard to marriage as their beliefs dictate, but, not content with pursuing their own point of view and with our allowing them to do so, they seek to impose that point of view upon others. That is why I said 632 they were intolerant. It is the most presumptuous form of intolerance, the intolerance of the minority. They are in a very marked minority in this country, and they have no right to seek to impose upon the great mass of British people the views which they hold. I submit respectfully to the Roman Catholics, that when they take up the attitude which they have displayed to-day and upon other occasions, they justify the old gibe of Macaulay that when they are in the minority they want toleration and respect for their point of view, but when they think they can exercise power they deny toleration and liberty to others.
I would say to the Church of England, also, that those members of it who are taking up this attitude are also being intolerant, because they are presuming to speak for the people of England. I do not want to say anything disrespectful to the Church of England, but we must face the fact that for many years the membership of the Church has been rapidly declining. Church attenders are only a very small minority of the people, and we can safely assume that the point of view of the Church of England in regard to divorce is not that of the great mass of the people. If anyone challenges that statement, I would remind them that in the election of 1929, an hon. Member of this House, whose name I will not mention, fought an election on this very question of divorce in the City of London. All the forces of the Church were mobilised against him, and the Roman Catholics fought him to the best of their ability. There was no Socialist candidate, and divorce was the sole issue of that election. [Interruption.] Well, there was a Liberal. Anyhow, divorce was the dominating issue. The result was that that hon. Member received a larger majority than he had ever had before in his life. That simple illustration shows that the elaborate pretensions and large assumptions of the Church authorities that they represent the point of view of the people of this country are wrong.
I know that the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) wishes to speak. He deserves an opportunity of saying the final word on the Bill. I congratulate the people who have had the courage to bring in this Bill, in face of the sort of clerical intimidation which is 633 exercised in these matters. It requires courage to bring in a Bill of this sort. I would like to thank all those associated with me who have fought so hard for the Bill, and particularly the hon. Member for Oxford University. I would also like to thank the Government for having been enlightened enough to give us additional time in order that the Bill might get its Third Reading. In my judgment this Bill will do something—not a great deal, but something—to bring relief to people who are at present suffering, through no fault of their own, cruel hardships; and it will also do something to bring the law of this country in regard to marriage to a more enlightened level than that on which it is at the present time.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Major Dower
With regard to the election mentioned by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), as I happen to have been concerned in that election I should like to point out that, although from what the hon. Member said it might be considered that this issue had been raised by a member of the party on the benches behind me, the fact is that he never once mentioned that point. The unpleasantness came in from, I regret to say, a member of my own party, and he came in at the bottom of the poll.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Beaumont
I am bound to say I regret the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), because, whether intentionally or otherwise, he has grossly misrepresented the attitude of those who oppose this Bill. I myself am neither a Roman Catholic nor a high Anglican, and it is from no desire on my part to impose my views with regard to marriage on other people, nor any desire to prevent all forms of divorce in this country, though I believe divorce to be wrong, that I oppose this Bill. I oppose it because I believe perfectly sincerely, just as sincerely as those who support the contrary view, that the changes it proposes will be worse than the disease that it seeks to remedy. I am far from hoping that anything I can say at this time will affect the views of those who support the Bill, but the whole of the debates upon it have been marked, I think, by tolerance and understanding of other people's views on the part of both sides on a matter on which people feel 634 very deeply, and I am sorry that that has been marred by the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch.
I oppose the Bill from a point of view rather different from any that has been put forward so far. I agree that the present law is highly unsatisfactory, and that change is necessary, but I do not like this change. I want a much more fundamental change. My own views are perfectly plain. I believe divorce, or rather, the remarriage of divorced persons, to be wrong, but that is a personal opinion, and I do not want to impose it on the hon. Member for Shoreditch or anyone else. Their views on marriage are their own. Their arrangements for their after-life are also their own, and it is not for me to alter any dispositions to that end that they may see fit to make, nor do I think it is desirable that this House should try to make any such alteration. But here is where I join issue with the Bill. This country, in the main, is a Christian country; the majority of marriages here are Church marriages, and I object to a Measure which is going to legalise a breach of Church law with regard to Church marriages. There are two aspects of marriage, the religious and the social, and I take the view that they should he kept perfectly distinct.
There was an Amendment down which you, Sir, did not see fit to call which gave effect to these views. Had it been carried I should not be opposing the Bill now. I do not mind what divorce laws the State has for civil marriages. Make them as wide as you like. What I take exception to is the legalising of the practice which is far too common to-day of people deliberately going to church taking vows, which, if they mean anything at all to them, should be sacred, of an indissoluble tie, knowing full well that they intend to break them if things do not go right. I regret that the House has legalised that in the past, and it is a pity that it should widen the grounds on which it can be done. I agree, to a certain extent, with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) that you cannot apply the strict rules of logic, but surely, before you voluntarily subscribe to such a binding contract, you can think whether you mean to keep it or not. There is a view that marriage is a contract which should be as breakable as any other. Civil marriage, certainly. If you de- 635 liberately enter into a contract which has no freak clause, there is no particular reason why you should be relieved artificially from it, particularly if you have, as you have in this country, and as you should have, a form of contract which has a freak clause in it. I dislike the Bill primarily for this reason.
It is a change in a direction which has been advocated very strongly and cogently by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) long before he was a Member of the House, and I should like to add my congratulations to him for his successful handling of the Bill. When he introduced it, most of us thought the odds were anything up to 1,000 to one that it would ever obtain the Third Reading. It has got to this stage by the most skilful Parliamentary handling and, as an enthusiastic Parliamentarian, if nothing else, I wish to add my congratulations to the many well deserved ones which have been showered on him. This change is a small advance, from his point of view, in the direction of widening the ground. The experience of other countries has shown that, the minute you start to widen the ground on which divorce is allowed, you get to the state, whether you like it or not, when, in effect, divorce by consent becomes the practice. The question of cruelty has been raised and the differentiation between mental and physical cruelty. I can only recount the story of an American friend of mine who sought divorce on the ground of cruelty. When she was asked what form it took, she said, "He once twisted my wrist". That is not the kind of thing for which we want to legislate, and I believe the Bill opens the door to that kind of thing.
I should like to make it clear that the definition of cruelty does not include what they mean at Hollywood by cruelty. It is danger to life, limb or health, bodily or mental.
§ Mr. Beaumont
I entirely appreciate that point, and should like to say again, if I have not made it clear, that I do not believe that the consequences which I fear are the intentions of the promoters of the Bill. I am convinced that most of them are just as keen on the preservation of the marriage tie as we are. I only think that they are misguided in their views as to the effect it will have. Under all systems, you get hard cases. 636 I do not believe that this Bill will materially relieve hard cases, but that it will create them. I agree with my hon. Friend that the case of children of divorced persons is worse than that of children living in an unhappy home. If I may introduce a lighter touch, I will again quote the case of an American cousin, who has three step-fathers and three step-mothers, and three mothers-in-law and three fathers-in-law. I do not believe that the Bill will have the effect its promoters intend, and that it will, in course of time, have the effect of loosening the marriage tie. It perpetuates a system, which I believe to be vicious, of allowing the divorce of Church marriages. It does nothing to distinguish between the social and the religious side of the matter, and for these reasons I shall go into the Lobby against it.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
May I join in the general chorus of congratulation that has been showered upon the hon. Member the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), and also express my appreciation at any rate of the tone and the method of the opposition adopted by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) and his friends? I dissociate myself, as one who has voted consistently with the majority, from the remarks made by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). He did not, as I did, serve upon the Committee, but the Senior Burgess, who, after all, is as good a judge as most, paid tribute to the absence of obstruction on that Committee, and it is fantastic to say, whatever are our views on the Bill, that two days in this House is too much to devote to the Report and Third Reading stages of a Bill of this character. The supporters of the Bill and its opponents are so much opposed to each other that it is very difficult for either side to advance any argument which carries great weight with the other. There are profound convictions engaged on both sides.
I am not among the promoters of the Bill, and I desire, although I shall vote for it this afternoon, to deliver a criticism of one Clause in particular, because if it remains as it is after it has emerged from another place, I shall find, with others, great difficulty in knowing how to vote when the Bill returns to this House. Let me deal first, however, with what is 637 by universal admission the great change made by the Bill, and that is that it allows divorce for desertion. That has been represented by some as though it were the "thin edge of the wedge" or as something which took us "over the edge of the slippery slope," or whatever is the simile which Members have thought fit to adopt, and they have ignored entirely the fact that this particular reform is one which has been in operation in Scotland for centuries. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) talked of the decline of nations which had followed when they enlarged the grounds of divorce. The grounds of divorce in this Bill have been adopted by most civilised countries, and the principal reform has been in operation in Scotland for centuries without leading noticeably to the decline of that country in its own or anybody else's estimation.
There is another point in connection with desertion which I would bring to the attention of opponents of this Bill. Many of them have said that they do not object to divorce for adultery, the ground on which it is at present allowed in this country. In a great number of cases of desertion adultery also exists but cannot be proved. Desertion is the great matrimonial injury which is suffered by the poor. The husband perhaps disappears to some far corner of the world, and, if the petitioner could find him, or afford to have him watched, it would soon be discovered that there were grounds for divorce even under the existing law. But the wife cannot discover where he is or afford to have him watched. She can prove desertion only and it is not unfair to say that unless we grant divorce for desertion, a large class which at present suffers will remain without a remedy.
Let me come to those features of the Bill which cause those of us who in general support it, considerable worry. The intention of Clause 4 may be good, but I agree with the senior member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) and others that its wording is extremely unsatisfactory, but like the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) I have so much faith in the great legal skill which will be brought to bear upon it in another place that I think that there is every likelihood of what is wrong in Clause 4 being put right. Let me come now to that Clause which, I believe, 638 will cause widespread injury and suffering if it remains unaltered. It is Clause I of the Bill and was referred to particularly by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). This first Clause, as it stands, introduces a wholly novel provision such as does not exist, I believe, in the law of any other country in the world. It is, I think, questionable and more than questionable. It will cause such appalling suffering in certain cases that if it remains in its present form many of us will not know whether we are in favour of the Bill as a whole.
Three grounds have been put forward in justification of that Clause. It is said, first, that it will be a deterrent against ill-considered and hasty marriages. I desire to be fair to the argument, and there may be some force in it, but in the vast majority of cases the two parties are so much in love that neither of them has the slightest doubt that their affections will last for at least five years. The number of hasty marriages which will be prevented is, I think, quite infinitesimal. Again, it is said that it will be a deterrent against unnecessary or hasty divorces. I do not believe there are many people who contemplate divorce who do not first carefully consider whether there is not the possibility of reconciliation. I will assume that there may be some, but their numbers are altogether insufficient to justify this unique introduction into our law.
The third argument, mentioned for the first time in this House by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) is that the Clause is a compromise. The hon. and gallant Member went on to make the rather astonishing suggestion that it had silenced much opposition in the country. That is not the case, in my opinion. The Mothers' Union has poured more scorn on this Clause than on almost any other part of the Bill, and there are very few opponents either in this House or outside who are reconciled to the Measure by this Clause. Let me give a few figures. It is true that the majority of existing divorces do not take place in the first five years. The fact is that some 14 per cent. of divorces, or about one in seven, take place in the first five years and will fall within the provisions of the Clause. They will include, no doubt, many of those divorces where collusion 639 may be suspected or which terminate marriages which attracted great publicity, which were fashionable, and have become rather notorious. It may include a certain number of these marriages among a small section of society, but it will also include—and this is the vitally important point—some of the most deserving of all cases which come before the courts, cases in which the greatest hardship will be inflicted if the remedy of divorce is not given.
There are a number of cases known to every member of the Bar where, foolishly perhaps, or, having been misled, a woman contracts a marriage with a scoundrel who deserts her at once, goes away with another woman and founds another family. If divorce is to be granted at all you want to remedy the evil as soon as possible and not as late as possible. Again, the injured petitioner may be of such an age that six years later—it will take six years under the clause before the divorce can be granted—she may be past child-bearing age. Is the law of England to say to the injured party, "You have been disgracefully injured, our law recognises a remedy, but it says that you shall never bear a legitimate child." The Clause as it stands at present is preposterous and I hope that it will be drastically altered in another place. I doubt whether there is any justification for this Clause appearing in the Bill at all, but, if there is, at any rate the period should be reduced and at the very least a judicial discretion should be allowed. The Clause has no parallel in the law of any civilised country, and I believe has no judicial support in this country whatsoever. I would point out that the opinion of this House has never been taken upon it. On the Second Reading there was no chance as we had to vote for or against the Second Reading of the Bill as a whole, and on the Report stage the Amendment which raised this point was not called. Therefore, this House has never pronounced upon the provisions of the Clause. I trust that in another place the Clause will receive the consideration it deserves, and that when the Bill is returned to this House it may be returned either without the Clause or with a very much better Clause substituted for it. Subject to that, I shall have no hesitation in supporting the Bill in the Lobby.
§ 3.41 p.m.
Let me, first of all, thank the many hon. Members who have said far too kindly things about myself, and then may I, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bére), to whom sufficient credit has not been paid for the courage which led him to adopt this dangerous cargo, though it is not quite as dangerous now as it was then, and on behalf of all the private Members who struggled with it, may I say how deeply we acknowledge the great kindness and consideration which we have had from every quarter of the House, from His Majesty's Law Officers and Whips and finally from our late Prime Minister himself, whom we ought to thank for giving us this day? Whatever the verdict may be in the Lobbies, although I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) that I should have liked to see the Government take on this difficult task, I think that, whatever the vote may be to-day we—I do not mean the promoters, but the whole body of private Members—have struck a good blow for democracy and for the machinery of this House, about which I have made some perhaps foolish criticisms from time to time, because we have shown that, given a good cause, good heart and good will, it is possible for the humblest and newest private Member to bring the most difficult and self-appointed task to the final arbitrament of a Third Reading in this House.
I must not forget to pay my tribute to the conduct of our opponents in what might have been a bitter controversy, but has not in fact been so, because it is true that we are better friends now than when we began. Let me finish my encomium by expressing regret at having the other day done some injustice to hon. Members opposite who have been such grand supporters of this Bill.
Listening to this very interesting Debate, I have been thinking that our opponents, whose sincerity I respect very much, are to some extent, though not entirely, the victims of phrases. One phrase that has been ringing throughout the Debate is the old favourite, "Hard cases make bad law." That, I believe, to be the real foundation of their case, and I would now dwell upon it. What does that phrase mean? It means 641 that when you have a law which is in principle sound and which appears to be working, you are not, in a single exceptional case, for a simple freak of fortune, to break down the principle of that law. But if the exceptions are seen to be not a few, but numerous and innumerable, and if on examination they are seen to proceed naturally and inevitably from the very essence of that law, then that old maxim ceases to have any validity and the right maxim is that, "Bad law makes hard cases."
Let me pass to the most important question of lunacy as a ground for divorce, and show how inconsistent is the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester. First of all he tells us that hard cases make bad law. And then he talks about the exceptional cases—the one in a million chance—of a divorced lunatic recovering. No one will think that the promoters of the Bill have not considered all these new grounds with the greatest care and seriousness and with a special anxiety in these cases of lunacy. I have not time to go into the whole case, as I could; but I would point out that there are safeguards in that respect which do not appear in the Bill, partly because it is a Private Member's Bill and partly because some of the real safeguards will be instituted by rules of court which will, I understand, be laid upon the Table.
But I think all those who have been associated in this controversy will do the promoters the credit of admitting that we have not founded our case upon the "hard case" argument. Besides making the claim that the Bill will relieve human hardship, we claim that it will do some good to three venerable institutions—the Church, the law and marriage itself, and I must ask those who oppose the Bill what solution have they of the problems which we are endeavouring to solve? Everybody agrees that the present situation is very far from satisfactory. You have collusion, perjury and arranged adultery; you have the law being derided and deceived; you have the Church, sometimes unfairly, being blamed; you have the Church of England bishops and clergy breaking the law, a situation which we remove by Clause 11.
What have our critics to offer? Nothing but a blank negation. Apart from the question of relieving unhappi- 642 ness, I ask hon. Members to realise that if the Bill were to die to-day, this question would not die. It would remain, ugly and dangerous. Therefore, let us now take courage and sweep this dangerous question out of the political arena perhaps for a quarter of a century. I would like to refer to one passage in the Report of the Royal Commission, because my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Camborne (Lieut.-Commander Agnew)—who, by the way, I omitted from my list of apologies, and I regret the brusqueness with which I spoke to him the other day—has always twitted the promoters of the Bill about our "lack of principle." I would remind him of the principles on which the Royal Commission proceeded. The Commission said that (1) No law should be so harsh as to lead to its common disregard; and (2) No law should be so lax as to lessen the regard for the sanctity of marriage. That is my answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland, who asked what is the common ground of the supporters of this Bill.
I would like now to say a few words to the many weighty critics of Clause 1. I have been told by many who have congratulated us on the harmony with which we have advanced so far that we ought to omit Clause 1. That reminds me of an experience which I have often had where, in a play, there was a piece of dialogue ending in a laugh. When the play was being cut, some stage manager said: "I should take out that piece of dialogue if I were you," and everybody, except the author, was extremely surprised when the laugh no longer appeared. I am sure that without that Clause, we should not be here to-day.
It is not a sham. It is not a "sop." I believe the Clause will have good effects. It will save marriages; it will discourage rash marriages and rash divorces. It is true, as the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) said, that at the moment the Bill would affect only about 17 per cent. of divorces—700 out of 4,000 cases. Still I think that Clause 1 will save many marriages, will discourage both rash marriages and hasty divorces and have a good effect on a small section of the community which does tend to regard marriage as a "temporary alliance." It is true that there will be hard cases. Some of my hon. 643 Friends have spoken about the poor girl who has been deserted by her husband in the second year of marriage and who will not be able to get a divorce for three years. I would point out that, at the moment, that poor girl would be tied to that husband not for three years but for life, and it is necessary in this matter to weigh the unhappiness of a few for three years against the unhappiness of thousands for life. It may be that five years is too long a period, and some hon. Members have suggested that in another place this provision may be modified. For some strange reason I am not a Peer, and I have very little influence in another place, but I myself could not be a party to any abandonment of the principle of Clause 1, or to any substantial modification of its provisions without thinking myself guilty of a breach of faith to many who have supported the Bill.
I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) for his earnest and eloquent speech, and especially for the exceptionally beautiful poem with which he concluded. He mentioned what has been called mental cruelty, or as it has been called "Hollywood cruelty." The definition of cruelty here is the definition which was accepted by the ecclesiastical courts for hundreds of years, and it does not include anything in the nature of mental cruelty.
I would say one more word to those who have approached this question from the religious point of view. There are two lines of objection to these proposals: One is the general social line and the other is the religious line. Occasionally they overlap, but they do not entirely coincide, and there are doubtless many who could be persuaded to support these proposals on social grounds, but who would find themselves unable to agree with such reforms upon religious grounds. They take the view that we should abide by the words, "Whom God hath joined let no man put asunder," and leave it at that.
I am and have been most anxious to avoid saying anything which would wound anybody, but I would like to say to those who genuinely feel in the way I have indicated that I wonder whether they can be sure that in taking that attitude, they are truly interpreting the 644 message of Christ. Christ, after all, was a Christian; he was, I think, a realist; he liked to tear away the shams and subterfuges and to get down to the heart of things. I am very certain that He did not say to the woman taken in adultery that "hard cases make bad law." We know what He said to the Pharisees. I do not say this to raise a laugh or to cause a wound, but I wonder what He would have said to the General Council of the Mothers' Union; I wonder what he would have said to any happily married mother and wife who is so confident that her happiness is due to her own virtue and that the misfortunes of others are due to their own fault, that she will not accede to any alteration in the law even to lessen the unhappiness of those others. I maintain with all solemnity and reverence that there is not a single word in this Bill of which He would not approve; I say, on the other hand, that there are many deplorable things in the present situation which He would resent. I hope that I shall not be thought to have done wrong in saying this, but that, after all is the assumption, in some of the letters we receive, that we are breaking God's law.
I would like again to thank the House, in every corner of it, for its indulgence, and I would like again to thank His Majesty's Government for the opportunity which they have given us to-day. This Bill does not do all that we should like, but it does a lot, and it does enough, I am sure, to take away this question for a long time. Even now, humbly conscious though we are of our deficiencies and very grateful for the benefits we have received—I do not propose to use the language of appeal. No, Sir, We say, Sir, the Private Members, proudly, that we have, by the grace of God and by the good will of this House, given to His Majesty's Government and to our country a great opportunity to clear away this tiresome and dangerous question for a very long time. We say that this is a Bill that not only will increase the sum of human happiness, but that will be of great benefit to many valued institutions. Finally, if I may use again that Name which I have dared to use already, we say that above all, in the finest sense of the word, this is a Christian Bill, and hope the House will give it its Third Reading by a very large majority.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."646
§ The House divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 37.645
|Division No. 196.]||AYES.||[3.58 p.m.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Furness, S. N.||Pathick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Pilkington, R.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Asshetor|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Apsley, Lord||Groves, T. E.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Assheton, R.||Guy, J. C. M.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Harvey, Sir G.||Ridley, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rowson, G.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hulbert, N. J.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Joel, D. J. B.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Bracken, B.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Selley, H. R.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burghley, Lord||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Channon, H.||Lee, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chater, D.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Southhy, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Spens. W. P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||McEntee, V. La T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Cocks, F. S.||MacLaren, A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Thorne, W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Thurtle, E.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon H. D. R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Cross, R. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Viant, S. P.|
|Daggar, G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dalton, H.||Milner, Major J.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Montague, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Day, H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Dobbie, W.||Nayler, T. E.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Doland, G. F.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Nicholson, Hon. H. G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Duggan, H. J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Ede, J. C.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Paling, W.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Palmer, G. E. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Emery, J. F.||Parker, J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Parkinson, J. A.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Patrick, C. M.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Peake, O.|
|Frankel, D.||Petherick, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Alan Herbert and Mrs. Tate.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Grimston, R. V.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Stuart, Lord C. Criohton- (N'thw'h)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Wells, S. R.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||McKie, J. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Denville, Alfred||Maitland, A.||Sir Patrick Hannon and Lieut.-|
|Goldie, N. B.||Moreing, A. C.||Commander Agnew.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.