HC Deb 28 June 1966 vol 730 cc1735-6

(1) An illegitimate child shall have the same rights as a legitimate child to share in the bairns' part of the estate of his or her mother.

(2) An illegitimate child shall have the same rights of succession in its father's estate as in its mother's estate.—[Mr. David Steel.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

10.1 p.m.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

A few moments ago I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister express the view that one had to be here 20 years to know the rules. I have been here only one year. I had no sleep last night and then I found, Mr. Speaker, that you had not selected my new Clause No. 2—Amendment of Sections 2 and 6 of the Agriculture Act, 1958—on which I had prepared a speech. However, I move new Clause No. 1 in order to probe the Government's views.

During proceedings on the Law (Succession) (Scotland) Act, 1964, concern was expressed by a number of hon. Members about the inadequacy of provision for illegitimate children. On 26th November, 1963, the then Secretary of State for Scotland announced the setting up of a Committee to inquire into the matter, concerning itself with the law not only of Scotland but of England and Wales as well. The Committee was set up on 17th February, 1964, under the Chairmanship of Lord Russell, and it included two Members of this House. I now ask the Minister of State whether the Committee has reported and what the Government's intentions are.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. George Willis)

As the hon. Gentleman has reminded the House, a committee dealing with the succession rights of illegitimate children was set up in February 1964 by the then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Scotland to consider whether any alterations are desirable in the law of succession in England, Wales and Scotland in relation to illegitimate persons. There were four Scottish members of the Committee. The Committee's report has now been received and is expected to be published in the very near future. I hope that in view of this the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to withdraw his Motion and Clause.

Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

Before the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) withdraws the Motion and Clause, I wish to say that I would support a provision along these lines. The common law has always been harsh on illegitimate children, although the position has been alleviated by the Legitimacy Act, 1926, and the Law Reform (Succession) (Scotland) Act, 1964. However, it still leaves a great deal to be desired. I hope that the recommendations of the Committee will be such as to recommend very substantial changes in the law of succession of illegitimate children. I am sure that recommendations along these lines would receive wide support.

Mr. David Steel

This is a continuing problem, as I have learnt as a result of cases in my constituency. On the assurance of the Minister of State, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion in the expectation of legislation in due course.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.