HC Deb 24 October 1944 vol 404 cc63-94

Order for Second Reading read.

12.38 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Donald Somervell)

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

This Bill extends the jurisdiction of the High Court in England and the Court of Session in Scotland in divorce proceedings. The necessity for it arises, as I am sure the House knows, from the number of marriages that have taken place between members of the Forces from overseas, who are here because of the war, and British women in this country. But to understand the Bill and its necessity, it is necessary that I should say a word or two about the existing limits of the divorce jurisdiction of our courts here. Our courts entertain proceedings for divorce only if the domicile, that is, in popular language, the permanent residence of, the parties, is in this country. There is a somewhat wider extension in respect to nullity proceedings, but I think I can neglect that for the purposes of the argument, because most of the cases with which we are concerned here will be divorce proceedings.

It is useful to compare the sort of circumstances with which the war has confronted us, with what normally occurs in ordinary times. If a man came from overseas to this country for some temporary purpose, and fell in love with an English girl who accepted him, and they agreed to marry, normally no doubt, it would be the common intention that they should go back to his country where his work was, and they might be married here or there. If married here they would, normally, soon after the marriage —perhaps immediately after the marriage —return to the intended matrimonial home, which would be the man's country. When one considers these marriages which have taken place in considerable numbers during the war, one sees how difficult the position is. The man is not in a position to go home. He is here on service, and the date of his return is unspecified. There is another fact on which I shall have to say a word or two later and which has, no doubt, contributed to the number of people who will desire to take advantage of this Bill. Normally, when two people marry, they are able to set up a joint home and live continuously together. In many cases, in these marriages, very shortly after the marriage has taken place, the man has to go overseas to fight, and his wife is left here alone.

As hon. Members will see, in the case of a marriage between a Canadian or an American man and an English woman, the intention of both parties being that after the war they shall go back to Canada or the United States, to the man's home, where he will carry on whatever his work was in civil life, the intended permanent home of such a marriage is Canada or the United States as the case may be. As the law stands at present, if the husband commits a matrimonial offence entitling the wife to petition for divorce, or the other way round, they cannot bring proceedings here because the domicile, the permanent home, is not in this country. Take the hypothetical case of a soldier from overseas who marries an English woman. They both intend, if the marriage is happy, to go back to his country as soon as they can after the war. Suppose he is unfaithful to her, and gives her grounds for divorce. As the law stands she cannot bring proceedings in this country. That might inflict a very great hardship on her and might also have the practical inconvenience that the evidence of his infidelity would be evidence available in this country and might be very difficult to prove overseas.

What, in effect, this Bill provides is that, subject to certain limits which I will deal with later, where a marriage has broken up before the parties have gone back to the country of the husband's home, although the domicile, in the legal sense, is not here, our courts can have jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings. I hope that is a principle which will commend itself to the House. If the parties go back to the country of the man's home, then we think it right that the ordinary rule should apply, and that that country should be the country where divorce proceedings must be taken. I have referred to members of the Forces, but this is not restricted only to members of the Forces. It is restricted—and this is a point on which I want to say a few words—to marriages which took place after 3rd September, 1939, and before an appointed day which will be fixed soon after the end of the war, when the conditions which have led to the problem have ceased to operate. There are two notices on the Order Paper which suggest that we ought to have made this Bill a permanent Bill.

Mrs. Tate (Frome)

Hear, hear.

The Attorney-General

I hear applause. There are two reasons, for the course we have adopted, which will commend themselves to the House. First, I think it would be inconsistent with the general policy which is being followed with regard to legislation in war-time to ask this Parliament to make a permanent and important change in divorce law. It might be said "If it is wholly uncontroversial, let it go through," but I am not clear that it would have been wholly uncontroversial, because this is a matter on which people have very strong views and those views do not always coincide. Many people who are interested in this problem attach great importance to the maintenance of the rule, which has been laid down strictly by our courts, that the proper basis of divorce jurisdiction is domicile or permanent home and they would regard with great jealousy any permanent invasion of that principle. Therefore, there is not the slightest doubt that, if we had brought this Bill before the House as a permanent Measure, we should have had a good deal of opposition, which will be absent to-day.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

The Attorney-General said, "domicile or permanent home." They may have alternative meanings, but I take it that he realises that "permanent home" in this case is a place where one of the persons concerned has never been.

The Attorney-General

Yes, I realise that, and I thought I had made it quite clear. Let me repeat it for the benefit of my hon. Friend who is, I know, interested in this problem. I pointed out the contrast between now and peace-time. When a man, in peace-time, comes from a foreign country, falls in love with a woman here and marries her, there is normally no obstacle to an immediate return to his country. That would become his country of domicile. But in the special circumstances of war-time, which do not operate in normal times, there is a gap between the time when the marriage takes place, and the time when the married couple can return, as they intend, to the husband's home in his own country. Let me go back to what I was saying. If we had attempted to make this Bill a permanent Bill there would have been great controversy. I do not want—and it is unnecessary for me—to express any strong view as to how far something like this Bill might reasonably commend itself to a future Parliament. My hon. and gallant Friend the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) takes the view, I think—although he was not able to embody it in the Bill with which his name is so readily associated—that something on these lines would be an improvement if this country and other countries could agree. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) clearly take the same view. Let me point out that if this Bill becomes an Act, not only will it not preclude a future Parliament from adopting their views, if it agrees with them, but it will afford very relevant and important evidence of how an extension of this kind works.

Mrs. Tate

Are we, then, to understand that the appointed day is not certain, and that we might be asked at the end of this Parliament to change, or do away with the appointed day?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that what I said had anything to do with the appointed day. That day will be fixed after the end of the war, when the conditions which have given rise to this problem have disappeared. I was saying that the fact of this Bill becoming an Act, and operating for a time—a considerable period, because it will go back to marriages which took place before the passing of the Act—will afford evidence which will be relevant, and may be of use to those who, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Senior Burgess for Oxford University, think a case can be made out for a permanent extension of something on these lines. One argument used against my hon. Friends by those who, take a different view is that if you have an extension to this country you may have conflicts. They may be wrong; it may be that, in practice, that sort of conflict will not arise. Nevertheless, we should have encountered difficulties, if we had sought to make this Bill permanent, but if a future Parliament desires to make a permanent change on these lines, it will be assisted by seeing the effect on a Statute Book of the extension which is at present proposed.

I have dealt generally with Clause 1, but there is an important provision in Sub-section (1) (b) about which I would like to say a few words. Under the Act of 1937—to which I have already referred in connection with my hon. and gallant Friend the Senior Burgess for Oxford University—there was a provision that the presentation of a petition should not be allowed within the first three years after a marriage, unless the case was one of exceptional hardship for the petitioner, or exceptional depravity on behalf of the respondent. That provision contemplated a normal case where, after the marriage, the husband and wife had been able to live continuously together in their home. In a good many of the cases with which we have to deal that has been impossible, because the man has gone overseas. The vast majority of marriages are happy, but it must be said that in many cases the break-down of marriages has been due to the fact that the husband has had to leave his wife and go elsewhere. We felt, therefore, that it would be a hardship and, indeed wrong to sustain this three years' provision with regard to these marriages. You may say that the provision was not absolute, but that would have increased the costs, and meant another application and another complication. We felt that the circumstances through which a marriage broke down, justified us in saying that this three year's provision should not apply.

I have been asked the purpose of the first provision of Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, which deals with the case where parties of a marriage have resided together in the country in which the husband was domiciled. For the purpose of this proviso the whole of the United States of America, the whole of India, and so on, are to be treated as one country. Although the husband's home might have been in one particular State in America the proviso operates if the couple go back to the United States, whether they go back to the original State or not. Subsection (3) deals with the possible case where, after marriage, the parties change their intended domicile. Clause 2 contains the necessary adaptation to Scotland, and Clause 3 deals with Northern Ireland, and is put in to remove a possible doubt. As the House may remember, the Parliament of Northern Ireland is precluded, in general terms, from legislating in respect of matters arising out of a war, and it might be said that this legislation fell under that ban.

Clause 4, which is a little complicated, deals with recognition in other parts of the Empire of decrees or orders made by virtue of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, and also deals with our recognition here of decrees or orders which might be made in their courts, under similar legislation to this. We cannot, of course, legislate for the Dominions. Whether they recognise decrees or orders under this Bill will be for them to decide. We have, of course, kept them fully informed of what we were proposing to do, and such comments as they have made have been favourable. With regard to the Colonies, subject to any exceptions or modifications that might be made by Order in Council, decrees or orders made under this Bill will be recognised there, and we, also, will recognise their decrees or orders under similar legislation, should it be passed. With regard to the Dominions, if they pass legislation similar to this, extending their jurisdiction, we will recognise their orders if they recognise ours on a reciprocity basis.

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)


The Attorney-General

Yes, and reverse Lend-Lease. It is desirable to have reciprocity in these matters. Under legislation which was passed after the last war to deal with this matter it was made conditional on reciprocity. We did not think that was right. There would have been difficulty in applying it to foreign countries, apart from the Dominions. We think we are justified in asking the House, to give extended jurisdiction, and we have done our best to see that we get reciprocity, if it is possible. I think that explains the main principle of the Bill, and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Parker (Romford)

As one who has very recently been married and is very happily married, I hope the House will not consider it inappropriate that I should speak in support of a Bill to increase the facilities for divorce. I should like to say on behalf of the Labour Party that we support the Bill and think it meets a very real need. With regard to the Amendment which is on the Paper in the names of the hon. Members for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) and Frome (Mrs. Tate), we do not think this is an appropriate occasion to raise matters which would be better dealt with in some general overhaul of the divorce law. I can speak as a strong supporter of the earlier reform of the divorce law which the hon. and gallant Gentleman took such a large part in getting carried. I voted with him in the Lobby on every occasion necessary in supporting that Bill. But in order to get that reform it was necessary for opinions on this critical subject to crystallise. It is still a matter on which there are many different views and, if we are to have a further reform of the law, which I believe to be necessary, it should be one on which there is general agreement and it should cover not only the points raised in this Bill but others also. Therefore we are not prepared to support the Amendment.

We take the view that some legislation may be necessary following the war, particularly if difficulties arising from many wartime marriages between British subjects are to be dealt with. The point about a three years gap between marriage and divorce may need looking at again after the war. The general question should be dealt with as part of a general overhaul of the divorce law, but with regard to marriages between British subjects and Dominion and Foreign Servicemen, we think that raises very special problems which must be dealt with here and now. The extent of these marriages is much greater than many people imagine. A friend of mine who served on an Australian ship which came to this country tells me that at the time it left Australia only 10 per cent. of the crew were married. They served in British waters and, after six months, 60 per cent. had married British wives. That is probably exceptional but there have been a great many marriages and there are bound to be some which have not turned out happily.

In the normal course of events people from the Dominions or America marrying British wives will go to those countries and settle down. Should difficulties arise at a later stage they can be dealt with under the divorce laws of those countries, but in the peculiar circumstances of the war, where there may be a long gap between the marriage and the settlement in the country of the husband's domicile, difficulties may arise and, if a marriage is not successful, it is very unreasonable to expect the wife to have to travel all the way to America or to Canada to obtain a divorce when the required evidence is in this country. There are greater difficulties arising with regard to other of our Allies. A great many Poles have come here and there have been many marriages, particularly in Scotland. In their case, should a divorce be wanted, husband and wife will have to go to the husband's country to get a divorce. We do not know when that country may be free or when things may settle clown so that the law can work in a reasonable way. At any rate, it is particularly unreasonable to suggest that a Scottish girl married to a Polish soldier should be expected to have to go to Poland to get a divorce. There are also problems as to what will be the frontiers of the country when the war is finished, and a man may come from a place which may not be under its jurisdiction. It may be quite a time before conditions settle down in different parts of Europe.

The case for a Bill of this kind is very important, and it is very necessary that there should be provision to enable a divorce to take place speedily if so desired. There are other problems. Some foreign Servicemen may have lost their families and homes, or they may not have accurate information whether their families are still in existence. In many cases people may believe that their families have perished in the German invasion and evidence may come to light later that they have survived. Many problems of that kind may come up and it is desirable that British women should be able to get the matter dealt with in British courts. I do not wish to make any reflection on serving men from Allied countries. They have behaved in a right and proper way and have been a credit to their countries. But among large bodies of men there are bound to be a few black sheep and it is necessary to provide for difficulties that may have arisen owing to their conduct. The Bill meets a limited but a very real need and we will give it every support.

1.8 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

This is a subject in which I have taken a sustained interest for many years. As long ago as 1927 I introduced a Divorce Jurisdiction (Overseas Domicile) Bill. It was not a party Measure. It had the backing of the present Air Minister, one of the Members for West Ham, the late Captain Bourne, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Production, and the then Member for Dartford—a good mixed bag. Our wisdom produced a Bill which occupied three-quarters of a page, and I think it was a better Bill than this, which occupies four pages. It applied to Scotland but not to Northern Ireland and we used the words "Great Britain." There is only one word in it that I would alter. This Bill is too timid. The problem will always arise, though not so frequently, in peace-time. When I was Member for Reading, two Reading women married Australian soldiers. The men were sent back to Australia and said, "As soon as we have a home fixed up we will send for you." Both the women, who had never lived out of England, had never even been abroad for a holiday, obtained complete evidence that their husbands had set up housekeeping with other ladies in Australia. They had not the money to go out there and the courts here were shut to them. Let us see what the Government did in 1926. It was because of the Bill of 1926 that I drafted mine. An Act to confer on the courts of India and other parts of His Majesty's Dominions jurisdiction in respect of the dissolution of marriages the parties whereto are domiciled in England or Scotland. I agree that the people were domiciled here but not living here. We said: "Let the courts of India be open"—I am only asking that it should be round the other way—"without limit of time." It involved the same principle. It was to enable soldiers and British civil servants in India to obtain divorce without coming home to Britain. This problem of domicile is difficult, but the ordinary citizen is not nearly so perturbed about it as certain judges. They are so respectable that they do not get divorces and they do not know where the shoe pinches. I am not quite happy about the three year Clause. This Bill has passed through another place, where all the bishops sit. I do not know whether they have time to read all the Bills. I remember when this House passed a Bill to make it legal to have marriages later in the day than used to be the case, and the whole of the bishops missed it, because they were not there that day. I am wondering whether this Bill has received the endorsement of the ecclesiastical authorities. I hope, if the Attorney-General cannot now agree to a wartime Measure, he will consider the drafting of a wider Measure so that we can have a permanent Act to protect these people who have never left this country but are deemed to have a home in a country to which they have never been and for that reason find the doors of our courts shut against them.

1.13 p.m.

Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)

With the necessity for a wider measure of reform of our divorce laws I am in complete agreement, but I think the limited objective of this Bill will commend it to all sections of the House. There are many thousands of our women who, during the war, have married men from overseas, and inevitably some of those marriages have gone sour. As I understand it, under the divorce law to-day those women, if they wanted relief, would have to go to the courts of the country of their husbands' domicile. I think it is vital that those unfortunate women should have an opportunity of seeking relief in our own courts. For that reason I support the Bill, because I think its objective is humane and because it will give these women relief under easier conditions and will enable them, if they wish, to get re-married.

1.15 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, while welcoming the principle of the Bill, declines to give a Second Reading to a measure which limits its benefits to women married during the period of the present war. I have listened carefully to the arguments of the Attorney-General for the defence of this Bill, but I am completely unconvinced by such arguments as he used for making it a limited Measure. If we carry his arguments to their logical conclusion, they mean that every Act of Parliament that is brought before the House must be only for a preliminary period to see how it works and whether it should remain on the Statute Book or be altered by a further Measure. His arguments are indeed an actual encouragement to Trial marriages. We all know cases in the war of men, some men, who have not been able to overcome the prejudice of our girls to enter into an illicit association and who have offered marriage as a means of securing their ends. We also know of great numbers of men who possibly feel, indeed believe, that their wives are dead. This specially refers to men of foreign countries who have been cut off from contact with their homes for so long. I would like to put before the House one or two arguments in favour of extending this Bill to include women who married in the last war and who are in the same position as those for whom this Bill legislates.

It is obvious from the terms of my Amendment that I have no evil or destructive intentions towards the Bill, but I feel that the House should not part with it until it recognises how limited it is and what tragic cases exist in every constituency which are not covered by this Measure because it is not applicable to cases arising from the last war. It is no good saying that there are far more cases affected this time and that it is not necessary to go back. The principle is the same and as much unhappiness is caused in both sets of cases. The woman who was married and deserted as the result of the last war and is unable to obtain a divorce has as good a case as a woman in a similar position in this war. I cannot believe that the technical difficulties which have been hinted at by the Attorney-General should be any obstacle towards an Amendment of this Bill before it leaves the House. The Attorney-General described at some length what the Bill sought to do. I have read it carefully, and I would like to put my version of what the Bill seeks to do. I admit that it is an admirable Bill, and I have no criticism to make of it except in regard to its limited scope.

The Bill seeks to allow a British woman married to a man domiciled in the Dominions or anywhere outside Britain, who wants and has a right to divorce, to secure it in the British courts irrespective of the divorce laws of the country where her husband is domiciled. I had hoped that the Bill arose out of a series of questions I put to the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Lord Advocate during the last Imperial Conference, which I thought was an admirable time to confer with our Dominion representatives about this subject, which affects the Dominions as much as ourselves. If that is true, I would like to tell the House why I put those questions. Since putting them I have received scores of letters from all over the country giving cases of real tragedy, hardship and unhappiness which this Bill does nothing to rectify.

In order not to weary the House, I have selected only two cases which are good examples of the tragedies which are not relieved by this Bill. The one refers to a Scottish woman, a constituent of mine who married a soldier from Newfoundland; and the other to an Englishwoman who married a citizen of Eire. The Scottish woman married a soldier from Newfoundland in Scotland in the last war. She had two sons by him. Both have now grown up, they are married, and they are serving with great distinction in the Services. He deserted her after the war, left her in Scotland, went back to Newfoundland, and married again. He has brought up a large family by another wife. The Scottish woman has never seen him since, but she uncomplainingly accepted the burden of bringing up her family alone, She did so magnificently, but at great cost to her health. She never sought divorce because, like many Scotswomen, she was too proud or too sensitive to expose her deserted position to her neighbours. The position now is that, after a lifetime of comradeship with a childhood friend who always wanted to marry her, she would like to have the companionship of which she has been defrauded all these years, but she cannot have it. She is faced with two alternatives. There is no divorce law in Newfoundland. Therefore, she cannot get a divorce there even if she had the money to get there. She cannot get a divorce in this country because, under British law, she is married to a subject of Newfoundland. She is, therefore, left with the alternatives, either to live in sin, or to go on in loneliness for the rest of her life.

Mr. McGovern

How did the husband get divorced?

Sir T. Moore

He did not as there is no divorce law in Newfoundland. He just married a Newfoundland woman.

Mr. McGovern

A case of bigamy.

Sir T. Moore

If there is no divorce, I suppose there is no bigamy. This woman cannot secure a divorce in Newfoundland and cannot get a divorce here, and this Bill does not help her.

The other case is that of a woman married to an Irishman domiciled in Eire. There are no divorce laws in Eire, and this woman is subject to the same restrictions as the woman in the other case. Soon after her marriage, she found that her husband was a pervert, a sadist and a confirmed adulterer. Although she suffered much cruelty to body as well as to mind, she determined to do her best to make the marriage a success. She stuck it for six months, but although her spirit was nearly broken she decided to carry on for the sake of the baby that was coming, doing so against the protests of her friends. For 11 more years she stuck it, but eventually, four years ago, she could bear it no longer and she left him. If her husband had been English she could have got a divorce under the Act which was introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert).

Mrs. Tate

I think that my hon. and gallant Friend is misleading the House. The husband would not have needed to be English; he only needed to have been domiciled in England.

Sir T. Moore

That does not affect the strength of my argument, which is to prove that, as there is no divorce law in Eire, owing to their peculiar situation, the woman is unable to get a divorce there. She cannot get one here either, although she could have got a divorce under the Act introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University. This woman is still young and attractive. She has a young son who badly needs the supervision and care of a father. She gets no help from this Bill, but is left to continue her life of loneliness and desolation.

The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

I am anxious to get my hon. and gallant Friend's examples right. Could he add one fact with regard to each case? Did the wife ever make a matrimonial home, in the first case in Newfoundland, and in the second case in Eire?

Sir T. Moore

I was trying to cut down the description as much as possible in order not to take up time—

The Solicitor-General

It is a material point.

Sir T. Moore

The woman who married the Newfoundlander was taken out to Newfoundland immediately after he was demobilized, and then he brought her back to Scotland for the purpose, I suppose, of getting rid of her. The man's excuse was that he would have a better opportunity of work in Scotland, so he brought her back and then deserted her. The other woman visited Eire once for a brief period early in the married life, but she has never been resident there.

These are two cases I have selected out of many to prove my point that this Bill is so limited in its outlook and effect that the House would be unjust to all these women who have been left derelicts of the last war to pass it as it is. I ask the House to make its opinion felt on the Government so that the Bill may have the promise of being revised sufficiently in Committee to include these unfortunate women. My right hon. and learned Friend said that to make the Bill permanent would be an invasion of principle. Invasion of what principle? Does he mean the principle of justice, for that is what he was speaking about? He also said that the Government feared opposition. No Bill is ever passed without being opposed to some extent by someone or other. Opposition should merely strengthen the courage and determination of the Government to press on with their Bills. If they are satisfied with their Bill, opposition should be their lifeblood, and to adopt a defeatist attitude and refuse to do what is right because they fear opposition is not worthy of the united Coalition Government of which we are so often told to be proud. I hope that before the House finishes with the Bill they will leave in the minds and hearts of the many decent, honourable, good women for whom I speak some hope of being released from the loneliness and misery to which they are still condemned.

1.30 p.m.

Mrs. Tate (Frome)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I find myself, in doing so, in a somewhat lonely position. Every hon. Member who has, so far, got up to speak on the Bill has said that he considered that though the Bill was somewhat limited it was good as far as it went. Unhappily, I am not in that position. I think it is a thoroughly dishonest Bill and that the speeches which have been made in support of it, on behalf of the Government have therefore, of necessity, been thoroughly dishonest speeches. I hope to be able to prove that statement.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)

I must remind the hon. Lady that she must not impute motives, such as the motive of dishonesty.

Mrs. Tate

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I apologise if I said what I meant in an unfortunate way. I would remind the House that those of us who supported the Herbert Act had tremendous forces of argument brought to bear against us, and that one of the main features which made it possible, I believe, for the Herbert Act to pass, was that we introduced Section 1, whereby no one in this country could start divorce proceedings for any cause whatsoever, unless that person had been married for three years. That was an extremely important section. You may approve or disapprove of it but it was the one reason why, in my opinion, it was possible to get the Herbert Act through Parliament, and approved by a section of the Church, and with the measure of support it had.

What have we heard from the Attorney-General to-day? He said it was impossible to ask us to revise the divorce law in time of war. Yet what are we doing, by this miserable little Bill? We are wiping away that three-year Section for the duration of the Bill for a certain section of people. Is that interfering with divorce law or is it not? Is it honest or is it not? Is it creating anomalies or is it not? I beg the House to realise what it is being asked to do in passing the Bill. We are told to support it because of hard cases. God knows cases are hard. They are heartrending, but if we want to put them right, we must do so in the right way, as we could have done in one hour by giving women a right to their own domiciles.

How are we attempting to put it right? What will be the position if this miserable, wretched Measure goes through Parliament? A girl may have married a resident of Eire on 2nd September, 1939. She will have no possibility of release from her marriage as long as she lives, no matter what her husband does. On the other hand, a girl who married a man from Eire on 4th September, 1939, is to have release. Is that just? There is another position which will arise if the Bill goes through. An English girl may marry an Englishman or a foreigner who states that this country is to be his domicile. If he perpetrates every infamy of which man or woman is capable, that girl will be unable to start divorce proceedings against that man till three years from the date of the marriage. If that man has a brother who says, on the other hand, "My domicile is not in this country. I come from Eire, or from Newfoundland, or from Canada, and thither I intend to return," his wife will be able to start divorce proceedings within one week. Is that what the Government call justice and is that not interfering with the divorce laws?

The hon. Member who spoke for the Labour Party said that he was a happily married man, as indeed is the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer A. Herbert), and it is to their eternal credit. With his humanitarian motives, the Senior Burgess for Oxford University did what he could to revise our monstrous divorce laws. I do not wish to sail under false colours; it is perfectly well known that I have availed myself of the divorce laws of this country to terminate an unhappy marriage, but I am for justice, not for too easy divorce. This Bill is not just and if we pass it we shall be creating as many hard cases as we shall be removing. The Attorney-General said: "So many foreigners have come to our shores, and girls have not been able to live with their husbands in the same home owing to war as they normally would have done." Of course, that is perfectly true, but has anyone heard of the British Navy? Have there been no Eire nationals serving in the British Navy who married British girls before this war and who were unable to set up permanent homes for them immediately?

Since when have the Government said it was right to revise a law because of hard cases? I was always told that hard cases made bad law. One thing that absolutely stupified me was when the Attorney-General said that the Bill had the approval of the Church. I believe that is correct. He has rounds for saying that. When I read the Debate in another place, I was staggered to discover that the Rt. Reverend the Bishop of Wakefield supported this Bill on the grounds that We are not going to safeguard marriage by making it extraordinarily difficult for people, by compelling them to travel over to the United States or Canada, to obtain divorce. Meanwhile, the individual is suffering through the unfortunate breakdown of the marriage, and perhaps the innocent party has been very greviously wronged. In that case, is the Church now the advocate of doing away with every restriction, and giving divorce in every case where the innocent party has been grievously wronged? Whatever they say I say you should not alter the divorce laws of the country and do away with the three-year Section for one limited category of women. That is wrong. Of course, the Government are going to say that it is impossible for them to change the domiciliary laws for women. They are waiting for the concurrence of the Dominions. They say that every time it is a question of women's nationality. They say it, and they will not do it, only because the whole matter is really a case of a woman having right to her own domicile.

Let us see what the Dominions have done. New Zealand has already recognised that domiciliary laws with regard to divorce are impossible. Under the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act, 1928, they amended their law, and provided that where a wife living in New Zealand craves for a divorce on any ground, and has been living in New Zealand for not more than three years immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and has the intention of residing permanently in New Zealand, in such a way as would constitute a New Zealand domicile, she shall be deemed to be domiciled in New Zealand and to have been at the time of the petition domiciled in New Zealand. May I ask why we could not have done what it has been possible to do in New Zealand; instead of introducing a Bill to create these frightful anomalies? We shall now have one section of women enabled to start divorce proceedings in one week, and another section unable to start them for three years, and yet another section of women who were married before 4th September, 1939, may never be able to get their freedom at all.

The Attorney-General talked as though every man married in this country and domiciled here never changed his domicile. That is not so. Let me tell hon. Members a hard case which came to my knowledge. A British woman married a British man, and they lived in this country. The British man turned round to her and said: "The very sight of your face nauseates me"—as a matter of fact perhaps he did not say it even as politely as that. He then went off to Peru, where he took unto himself another woman. Whether he took her as his wife and committed bigamy, or whether he lived in sin, I do not know He had another woman, and the unfortunate wife living in this country was unable to afford a journey to Peru. So, for 10 long years she was absolutely bound to that man in Peru. She would have been bound to him for life but for one thing. He was obviously of a changeable nature. He tired both of Peru, and of the second woman, and he then settled in, Scotland. He wrote to his first wife and said: "After all, you were not so bad. We might as well correspond." They did not join up again, and that woman, after 10 years, was at last able to get a divorce, because she was able to afford a journey to Scotland.

I cannot understand why the Labour Party, who always say they represent the poor—though as a matter of fact we represent just as many poor quite as well as they do—should believe hard cases to be only a matter of domicile, or only a matter of war. They are just as likely to arise if someone is unable to afford a journey. Hard cases are what we are debating to-day; and now for a certain length of time, a certain number of women are to have relief because they are regarded as hard cases, but the women who could not afford to make journeys before 4th September, 1939, or cannot afford to make journeys after the appointed day, are to have no relief. Apparently, for this august Government, they do not constitute hard cases. I will never support this hypocritical and puny Measure, and if no other hon. Member votes against it I shall vote against it. Change the domicilary laws, make the three-year Clause the same for all and introduce a Bill based on the date of the Herbert Act when, for the first time, desertion became a ground for divorce in this country.

1.43 p.m.

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

I have listened to the case made out by the Attorney-General in support of the Bill, and to the speeches made by those opposed to the limitations of the Bill. I must confess that I should have preferred a Measure that dealt with the very best cases rather than with the worst cases thrown up during the period of the war. I can understand quite well why the Government are being driven to come to the House with a Measure of this kind. It is because of the large number of marriages that are broken, sometimes after two or three weeks or two or three months of jamboree in London and elsewhere. The parties were attracted, not because of qualities of being able to keep a home, or of some other endearing qualities, but because of very questionable allurement. Realising that a number of these marriages are going to be wrecked after the war, if the husbands should survive the tragedy of war, the Government are providing an opportunity to dissolve these marriages, entered into with very little consideration in many cases and very little thought for the aftermath of war.

The causes that have been mentioned here to-day are causes that are brought to the attention of Members from time to time. I have always thought it was the purpose of Parliament to try to rectify injustices from which a considerable number of people suffered, and which were admitted to be injustices. I should have thought that a Coalition Government during a period of war, a Government who are usually compromising, if not eliminating, principles in which they profess to believe, might, by that same compromising element, have solved a large number of these problems that are thrown up in wartime and peace, and are permanently with us, instead of attempting a stop-gap Measure during the period of the war for dealing with the worst types of cases that come along.

We all know that there are objections to divorce, but divorce has never been forced on anyone. However, if two parties cannot live together happily, or if they intend to separate, then there should be some opportunity for those individuals to live, if they so desire, with a partner with whom they find they can agree and live happily. Church people will object, but, after all, the most reactionary elements in all the Churches never agree with anything that will rectify injustices or give to the community an opportunity for decent living. Very often they oppose such steps and afterwards they say "We were in favour of it all along," when they see that the community is in favour of it. Therefore, I would not place too much importance on the fact that a number of these individuals are opposed to divorce.

I think it is generally admitted that family life through marriage is the basis of civilised communities, and everyone would desire to see homes where the husband and wife co-operate and live together happily, and bring up their families and discharge their duties in an intelligent and humane manner. But we do find misfits, people who may be attracted either during a period of war or peace, and afterwards find they cannot, under any circumstances, live together harmoniously. Therefore, they separate. Some of them go abroad, as has been mentioned to-day. I, myself, have had my quota of cases. I know of one man whose domicile was in England. He went to Australia after the last war. The wife was left with two children in this country. The man could have taken action in Australia, if he were so minded, but the wife could not take any action in this country for desertion. She would require to take an action in Australia. Therefore, after something like 22 or 23 years, the woman sent me a query—this was a year or two ago—whether I could get any information about whether her husband had taken action for divorce in Australia. She had heard he had taken action, and I think she herself was anxious at that stage to marry.

Take the point of view of the opposition which, we are told, always crops up. If that point of view prevails the incentive is for the woman to live with a partner in this country without going through a form of marriage. I should have thought that was contributing more to immorality, and that all the Churches would have been opposed to that. Another case which has been brought to the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and myself, was of a woman whose husband went back to America from this country. He took action in America for divorce though he had no real grievance. He proceeded to marry again, and to rear a family. The woman made inquiries, a suitable partner having come along, but she was told that the grounds of the divorce in America would never have been allowed in this country, and therefore she could not secure a divorce unless she could go to that country, which she was financially incapable of doing. She is doomed to live her life with a partner outside marriage, or try to get the means to go abroad in order to get a divorce in a foreign country. These cases are not only what Members have described as "hard cases." A considerable number of such cases are of a kind which should form a basis for some form of action in this House and country, which would give to these decent people the opportunity of marriage again, if they should so desire, and free them from an undesirable entanglement.

Therefore, I would say that this Measure, thrown up during the period of the war, is about as hasty as the marriages themselves. It is something that has been thrown up because it is known that a large number of these marriages will never stand the test; that they are only between people thrown together in very questionable circumstances and marriage is, so to say, the way to sexual intercourse. Therefore, marriage takes place, with many of the men living, as they know, on the edge of the abyss. They say, "We may go to France and be killed, and we are going to enjoy life before we go." That is the temper in which a large number of the marriages we see round us to-day are made. They are bound to bring terrible tragedies in their train, as war does in every field of activity. While I would not oppose the Bill in any way, I say that the lesson of the Bill to us is that something ought to, be done to clear up, in the field of marriage, all these anomalies which undoubtedly exist throughout the whole of this country.

I would certainly have been desirous of further extension of the Measure on the lines suggested by the two previous speakers. I cannot bring myself to oppose it, because I shall be glad to see an opportunity for many of these people to get out of their tragedies after the war, but I hope that the Attorney-General, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General will apply their minds to trying to get the Government to find some means of solving these terrible tragedies in the country.

1.55 p.m.

Petty Officer Alan Herbert (Oxford University)

I think we should all like to thank the Attorney-General for the lucid and disarming way in which he moved the Second Reading of this Measure. He must feel that some of us are looking a gift horse in the mouth. I think we are. I have put down an Amendment, not only concerning this particular Measure, but as part of a campaign I always have in mind for, if I may so express myself with respect, gingering up the Lord Chancellor. Many of us feel that now in every department of life constructive measures are going forward, but in the field of law reform, we have a long and continuously neglected area. Here is this long-standing problem, and all the great legal hierarchy can do is to bring forward this small and temporary Measure.

When the Attorney-General tells us it would be impossible to do the thing more thoroughly in war time, because we are not to have controversial legislation, I do not quite follow him. After all, no Bill of this kind is really controversial in the sense that divorce generally is controversial. There is no question of increasing the grounds or the area of divorce; it is purely a question of machinery and of distribution, to see that divorce is equitably distributed, and that all are fairly treated. Therefore, I do not recognise that Objection. When he goes on from that smoothly to refer to the excision of Section 1 of the Matrimonial Causes Act I begin to wonder. I do not want myself to cause controversy about that but as the hon. Lady, has said that Section was a linchpin of the Act, and there are many who attach much value to it. I have some letters here. I do not wish to express an opinion now but it does not seem to me that that Sub-section goes very well with the statement that we must not do anything controversial.

The Attorney-General, in his very lucid account of the causes which have produced the necessity for this Bill, spoke as if the war was all there was to it. The real cause and necessity for this Bill is not the arrival of Allied troops in the present war. It is the law. It is a trouble about which humane judges have been fussing and bothering for 85 years in relation to desertion. It was commented on by the Royal Commission, and was commented on in relation to the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1937. In that Act we did thrust a wedge into it, in Section 13, a small but most important and permanent wedge, because it was provided that where the husband is domiciled in England and deserts abroad the wife can proceed at home. This Bill goes the other way, and if a husband is domiciled outside this country she can proceed here; but it does it temporarily instead of permanently, as the Act did.

I, too, have had letters from unfortunate women who have married citizens of Eire. They say, "I cannot divorce my husband here, because my legal home is in Eire"—a place where the wife has never been. Nothing could be more ridiculous. That does not apply to the man. Take the case of an Englishman who has married an American Red Cross girl. She goes off to America. He has not to chase her all over America. He can proceed here, now, even without this Bill. That is why I have spoken in my Amendment on the Paper of inferiority of status. What I am out to get is equality of status for the woman and the man.

If I may refer to the Bill for a moment, the proviso at the end of Clause 1 will, think, require a little attention in Committee because it seems that if a wife, such as I have mentioned, goes to Eire or Newfoundland for one day, she loses the benefit of the Bill. Surely, if that proviso is to stand at all, there should be some period of residence, say, for three years. I hope that will be considered by the Law Officers. It really is unjust such a girl cannot proceed. Enough has been said about the Bill to make it unnecessary for me to say more. When I ask the high lights of the law about these matters they always tell me, as the Attorney-General said, "We cannot do more, because the Dominions will not play." May I say that, while I am well aware that we no longer make the laws of the Dominions, I see no reason why the Dominions should make laws for us?

The Attorney-General

I am not conscious of having said anything of the kind that my hon. and gallant Friend suggests.

Petty-Officer Herbert

I am chiefly referring to conversations outside. But I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman did say that we should bear in mind the necessity of carrying the Dominions with us.

The Attorney-General

I am aware of the importance of carrying the Dominions with us, but we should recognise that if they are not prepared to do what we wish, we cannot compel them.

Petty-Officer Herbert

I am sorry. All I was going to say was that perhaps the Dominions will "play" if we give them a lead. We have made our own laws throughout the centuries, and I do not see why we should not continue to do so to-day. Perhaps the Government will appoint a committee of experts to go into the whole thing. While, in every other department of life, we find the Government buzzing like a hive with activity, nothing, we fear, is being done in the great department of law reform which is just as necessary as any others. I am sorry that in this case the Government did not take the bull by the horns and alter, what, in my opinion, is the barbarous and antiquated rule of domicile. These distinctions between men and women could all be abolished. I shall relentlessly oppose the Bill, unless I have an assurance from the Law Officers that they really will get down to some substantial or permanent reform as soon as possible.

2.3 p.m.

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

I agree with nearly everything that has been said by the Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty-Officer Herbert) and by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I do not go quite as far as the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), because she seems to think that this Bill is worse than no Bill: I would say that it is rather better than no Bill; but I agree that it is a miserable little Measure, which reflects the extraordinary lack of moral courage shown over and over again, in a space of many years, by the Government when they approach the question of the reform of the marriage laws or almost any other question which affects the relations between the sexes. I did not get up to repeat arguments which have been very well put by other hon. Members, who have studied the matter more than I have: I rise to put another question. I apologise for my ignorance, but I am not an expert on the divorce law. I want to know whether this Bill will, in any way, affect the question of economic conditions for the deserted wife, or her offspring. I hope that the Government will deal with that point. Will the court be able, when it acts on this Bill, to grant alimony; and, if so, are there reciprocal arrangements with the Dominions and other countries, to enable the payment of alimony to be enforced when the husband is living abroad? I think that that is an important point: the wife may need alimony, and even more the children, if they are left in her care, may need something.

I want to refer to a point which shows the real need for going into this question more thoroughly, and in a more courageous spirit. Even if you extend this Bill, as my hon. Friend urged, to remedy those undesirable omissions, even if you make arrangements for alimony—reciprocal arrangements, because, obviously, the wife cannot get money out of a man who is abroad unless there is some arrangement with that country to enable her to do it—there is still a need for some arrangement for separated wives and their children, remaining in this country, when there is no question of divorce. Many Roman Catholics have not been able to ask for divorce, because their religion forbids divorce. All they can get is a separation order. Is it possible for a woman married to a foreigner, who subsequently goes abroad, to get a separation order with maintenance; and is there any possibility of enforcing that maintenance order if she gets it? That goes a little outside this Bill, but I mention it merely to show that the whole question needs going into more thoroughly, and in a more courageous spirit.

It is a great mistake to suppose that laws which produce an unjust position for the woman, because it is assumed that the man is the head of the family, make for morality. It is just the opposite. Only two hours ago, I was interviewing in the Lobby a clergyman, a constituent of mine, who wanted my advice about a case where a Pole had formed relations with a woman. They wanted to marry, but they could not marry, because he is a prisoner of war. My constituent wanted to know whether it would be possible for these people to marry before the child that they were expecting came into the world. From the point of view of the future welfare of the child, it might be better if the child were born while they were still living in sin, because then the child would be British, and would be able to claim the advantages of British nationality. I will not enlarge upon that, but so long as you do not enable women to have perfect equality in matters of domicile and of choosing their own nationality with men, there is a great temptation to go on living in sin, because then they are masters of their fate, and do not have to accept the same nationality as the man.

2.9 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe (Brighton)

I think the Government are being rather hardly treated by those who have commented on this Bill, particularly by the hon. Lady the Member for Frame (Mrs. Tate), who has indicated that she is prepared to vote against this Bill, even if she is the only person to do' so. I feel bound to remind her that, as I understand the Rules of this House, she will require at least two other people to support her. I hope that no attempt to negative this Bill will be encouraged. There is a strong case for the Amendment, and I have every sympathy with it. I hope the time will come when the Government will extend the ambit of the principles of the Bill. But that is no reason at all for rejecting this Bill. As the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) said, this Bill has been hastily thrown up. For that very reason it would be quite wrong to attempt, in a Measure of this kind, to deal with such a fundamental principle as is involved in the Amendment. It should be said, on behalf of the Government, that they have rightly recognised that a particularly dangerous and difficult situation has arisen for a particular class of people. They have brought forward a Measure which is intended to deal with that situation. The larger question, of whether it should be extended to other times and Other conditions, will require much more careful examination than can be given at a moment like this. Obviously, every step for easier divorce makes for more irresponsible marriages, and it is a matter for considerable thought before we do anything which would tend to make the divorce laws of this country approximate more to those of Reno. I hope that the Bill, which is a good one so far as it goes, will be permitted to go through.

2.11 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

May I first render my thanks to my hon. Friends the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), and the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin) who have associated their parties with the support of this Bill, and to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe) for what he has just said. I know that on a subject of this kind, which is not often discussed in this House, all my hon. Friends would like me to try to deal with the main points that have been raised; and if I cannot deal with details, they will understand. I think it is correct to say that the main objection of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) is that the Bill is not retrospective, to cover similar cases which arose out of the last war. In putting forward legislation, it is always a sound rule to relate it to the mischief with which you are trying to deal. In this case, we are endeavouring to meet a problem which has arisen during the period for which we are legislating.

Already there are, I think, some 20,000 marriages with Servicemen of Dominion Forces, irrespective of those with American nationals. That is a great problem, worthy, in our view, of the attention of this House. That is the problem with which we are endeavouring to deal in this Bill. It is quite correct that there are cases which have remained over from the last war—I shall not deal with the details, but I have carefully noted the cases—where the same problem arose. It was dealt with by legislation after the war, in the wav that this Assembly thought right at the time. I would ask my hon. Friends to remember and sympathise with the position of anyone introducing legislation to-day, if they feel that it is only right to ask for these new powers and duties in the case where the proved evil is demonstrated to them from the circumstances of their own times. My hon. Friends the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) and the hon. and gallant Senior Burgess for Oxford University (Petty Officer Herbert) put their criticism on a somewhat wider basis. They are not so much concerned with the question of time as with the question of whether this is not a suitable opportunity to deal now—in the case put by the hon. Member for Frome—with the fact that a wife takes the husband's domicile, and whether a wife ought to have a separate domicile of her own, and—in the case put by the Senior Burgess for Oxford University—the question whether domicile is a suitable and modern test at all. I hope I have summarised shortly the points they endeavoured to make.

I should like the hon. Member for Frome to reconsider some of her approaches to our method of dealing with this problem. One of the points with which the hon. Lady was mainly concerned was this. She said that while we not prepared to interfere, generally, at the moment with the basis of domicile, we were prepared to abrogate, for the special purpose of this Bill, the provision of the Herbert Act as to the three years of marriage. Our answer to that is that, in these cases where the marriage breaks down, it is almost certain to break down early. I think that, if the House considers the cases—and I commend to the House a passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), in which he dealt with the emotional background of these marriages, in aid of this point which I am making—they will agree that they are likely to break down early. If we are going to give any remedy for this difficulty, it has to be a speedy remedy, and that is, I submit, a justification and an answer to the hon. Lady on that point.

With regard to the question of whether a wife should have a separate domicile, that is a wide question and one of the most controversial in regard to divorce law, and I should like both my hon. Friends to consider what is really the basis of the present system. I am not closing my mind for a moment to that consideration. Naturally, my hon. Friends and myself, and the Law Officers for Scotland, will pay the greatest attention to everything that has been said on the general questions in this Bill, but I think it is right, in view of the speeches which this House has heard, that they should see the other side of the problem, which does fill the minds of many people. It is not a question of religious bias or religious conviction. It is a question of the basis of international comity and international life in this section of the human problem. It is this—that different communities have different views and laws respecting matrimonial obligations, and a different estimate of the causes which should justify divorce. That we cannot get away from and everything that has been said in this Debate, is based on that fact of the different views of different communities in regard to it.

It is, therefore, both just and reasonable that the differences of married people should be adjusted in accordance with the laws of the community to which they belong and should be dealt with by the tribunals which, alone, can administer those laws. That is the basis, and, when one comes to domicile, I would ask hon. Members to consider this argument of the other side, which is bound to be taken into accountt—that, when you are deciding to which country you belong, it is not so much a question of nationality or of residence. It is the country you choose, the country in which you intend to live and from which you do not intend to depart. That is why there is this considerable body of opinion in favour of domicile as a basis, and what cannot be got away from is that an adherence to this principle will preclude the scandal which arises when men and women are held to be man and wife in one country and strangers in another. That is the difficulty about the other side of the case, and my hon. Friends, who have urged with such eloquence the other side of the picture, have not, I suggest to the House, really faced that problem of whether you are prepared to have it commonly known—not in special cases, but commonly—that you are to have that double status for one or other party, in different places. I simply commend that to my hon. Friends and put it before the House, to show that the problem is not an easy one, and that there is no solution which is completely clear and obvious.

I should like to repeat what I have said to my hon. Friends before—that that does not mean that we shall not give our attention to what has been said, and seriously consider the position, not only with regard to ourselves, but in regard to other countries. I am sure, despite what was said by the hon. and gallant Senior Burgess for Oxford University about there being no limit or waiting for other countries, he would be the first to realise that the negotiation and attainment of universal comity on this subject, would be for the greater benefit of mankind, for the world in general, and in this country. I hope that that, at any rate, puts the position of the Government, and I hope the hon. Member for Shettleston will take it as applying to the consideration of the point he has already mentioned, with which, if I may say so, I was personally impressed.

I think that leaves only the point of my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) with regard to the question of maintenance. Of course, when you are dealing with the matter in this way, abrogating the basis of domicile for these special cases in this war problem, you can get your decree from the English court or the Scottish court, but the enforcing of the decree must be a matter, again, of negotiations with the Dominion, or the country in which the other party to the marriage lives. We have certain arrangements for the enforcement of maintenance decrees, and we shall be happy to look at these, because it is, obviously, a subject which, at the end of the war, will require reconsideration. I would remind my hon. Friends that that is really a different territory, because, there, you are concerned in the enforcement of judgments of one country in another, and that is a matter which, as the House will appreciate, requires consideration and international discussion. The same applies to the question of nationality, which my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities raised.

Petty Officer Herbert

Would my hon. and learned Friend deal with the point about the proviso on page 2, where, perhaps, a time period could be put in?

The Solicitor-General

I am very grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend for reminding me, because, although I had noted that point, I am afraid I had not dealt with it. As the Bill at present stands, the word is "resided," and if my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me, I think, for once he put it rather high. I would like him to consider this point. If you are to have a period of residence, it is difficult to decide what period it is to be. I think my hon. and gallant Friend suggested three years, if my memory is right. That is certainly a long period, although it is a period, in his own case, hallowed by the provision in his own Act. Roughly, for some purposes of Income Tax, the period is six months, and what I would like my hon. and gallant Friend to consider is this. Does he think that there are many cases where the wife will go to the matrimonial home, that is, to Canada or the United States or Australia, and remain there for a short time? My view, and my reaction to my hon. and gallant Friend's point, is that these cases would be very few. In most cases, if the wife went out there, she would go out for a considerable and definite period, and with the intention of really forming the matrimonial home there. We will, however, consider the point, and, if my hon. and gallant Friend will also, reciprocally consider it, I think that would be the best method of approach. At the moment it seems there is a small number of cases. I am not yet converted to my hon. and gallant Friend's view but will consider it again. I hope I have now dealt with the general points put from all quarters of the House, and I would conclude by asking the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill which does deal with an admitted evil existing at the present time and affecting a considerable number of our fellow citizens.

Sir T. Moore

Will the Minister say whether his penultimate passages indicate that, after a further survey by his right hon. and gallant Friend and the Scottish Law Officers, it is their intention to introduce a wider Measure, covering the various criticisms raised in the Debate?

The Solicitor-General

I cannot give an assurance of the introduction of a wider Measure. What I did was to say that these questions, which have been raised by all my hon. Friends, would receive full consideration from the Law Officers, and that the question of a wider Measure is one of the matters which we shall consider. But I cannot commit this Government, or a future Government, to the introduction of a Measure. I think that would be going beyond what can reasonably be asked of a Minister.

Sir T. Moore

In the circumstances, and as I believe that this Measure will do a great deal of good, in spite of the fact that it is not quite as good as we wanted it, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House:—[Major Sir James Edmondson.]

Committee To-morrow.