HC Deb 11 May 1964 vol 695 cc148-9

Lords Amendment: In page 20, line 29, at end insert: unless the next following subsection applies".

Lady Tweedsmuir

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

I think that it would be convenient for the House, as this Amenmdent paves the way for the next Amendment in page 20, line 29, if the two could be discussed together.

When two persons, not being husband and wife, died together paragraph (b) of Clause 30, as that Clause stood when it left this House, raised the presumption that the younger person survived the elder. We took as an example in Committee the question of an aircraft crash. When the Clause was debated in another place, it was pointed out that this presumption might lead to property falling into intestacy notwithstanding the existence of a will under which, but for the presumption of survivorship, some other person would have been able to claim it.

This might happen if the elder of the two persons who died together had left the property by will to the younger, whom failing, to some other person. Under paragraph (b) the younger person is presumed to have survived the elder and property is therefore deemed to have passed to the younger person, if only for a moment of time. If the younger person has left a will there is no difficulty: the property devolves in accordance with the provisions of this will. If, however, the younger person has died intestate, as he might very well do if he is a child, the property is included in his intestate estate, notwithstanding the expressed wish of its previous owner that failing the younger person it should go to a nominated third person.

The effect of the Amendment is that in a case in which two persons have died together, and the elder has left a will containing a provision in favour of the younger, whom failing a third person, and the younger person dies intestate, then the elder person shall for the purpose of that provision be presumed to have survived the younger. The result will be that property covered by the provision in question will go under the elder person's will to the nominated third person instead of forming part of the intestate estate of the younger person.

Mr. Lawson

This was also discussed upstairs. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was very uncertain about the wording as it stood. He agreed that it was undesirable that we should leave the position as it had been, with all the great uncertainties that existed. In many cases, because of these uncertainties, it was impossible to decide who should get the estate, and so estates often went to the Crown, which was the last thing that he or we would have wished.

My hon. Friend was, as I have said, dissatisfied with the Government's original wording. My hon. Friend now informs me that he agrees with the wording contained in this Amendment. If he agrees, then I am sure that most of us on this side will be quite happy with the Amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.