HC Deb 11 June 1940 vol 361 cc1169-71

Order for Second Reading read.

4.22 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M.Cooper)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill, which comes from another place, is the counterpart of a similar Measure passed during the last war, and, I think, it requires very few words from me to explain it to the House. Its purpose is to facilitate the marriage of two persons one of whom is on war service. War service is defined in Clause 2 of the Bill in unusually wide terms to cover service during the war period, not only in any of His Majesty's Naval, Military, or Air Forces, but also to cover anyone in the nursing or other auxiliary services of any of those Forces, and any other service during the war period, whether within or outside the United Kingdom, in any British ship. So the House will observe that the term is sufficiently wide to include women as well as men, and to include the Merchant Service and all the auxiliary services in addition to the Fighting Services.

The necessity for the Bill arises in this way. Under the existing law, before a regular marriage can be contracted, both parties—that is to say, each party—must have a 15-days'residential qualification in order to give the necessary notice to the registrar, and the certificate is not issued until seven days have elapsed. Obviously under present conditions, as under the conditions which prevailed during the last war, these requirements cannot be satisfied in cases where one of the contracting parties is on war service. Accordingly, the Bill proposes that where one of the parties to the intended marriage is on war service the notice may be given on the strength of the other's residential qualification, and, further, that the certificate may be issued, not seven days, but one day after notice has been given. In other words, the preliminaries to a marriage are reduced to what I might fairly describe as the minimum consistent with the necessities of the case. There is one special reason present in this case which was not present during the last war, which renders this Bill specially desirable. Under an Order made on 1st July,the Act which was passed last session, the Marriage (Scotland) Act, 1939, which we were accustomed to refer to as the Gretna Green Act, will come into force. Therefore, the benefits to be derived from this Bill will be all the greater, because of the abolition of irregular marriages.

The Church of Scotland at the General Assembly which recently took place passed an Act of Assembly, the precise terms of which I have not been able to obtain, the effect of which is, substantially, to do for marriages preceded by banns what this Bill does for marriages preceded by notices. Accordingly, if this Bill is passed, identical requirements will prevail, both for marriage in the Church by a minister, and marriage of a civil type before a registrar. I think that these explanations are sufficient to justify the Bill.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

I think it is right that a Measure of this kind should be passed at this time to deal with marriages during a time of emergency, such as the war in which we are engaged at the present time. The Lord Advocate has made an important point when he says that from the beginning of July it will be all the more necessary to have this relaxation of the law which will then be in force. I do not think there is any need to comment upon the Bill any more than the Lord Advocate has done. He has explained it very clearly, and I am sure that on these benches there will be a unanimous desire that it should be given an early passage into law.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time. Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Thursday.—[Sir J. Edmondson.]