HL Deb 07 February 1823 vol 8 cc87-8
Lord Ellenborough

said, that he was anxious to take the first opportunity which offered itself, to amend any defects that might have been found to exist in the Marriage act which was passed last session. During the discussions on the bill last year, it had been frequently insinuated, that the supporters of the measure were only anxious to carry that part of it which was retrospective in its operation. He had always denied the truth of that statement; because he knew that the supporters of the bill were anxious to make the prospective part of it as perfect as possible. He could assure the House, that it was to him a subject of deep regret, that any inconveniences should have been found to arise from the operation of that part of the act. At the time the question was agitated, many of the warmest supporters of the bill imagined that inconveniences might result from it; but, knowing that the House would have an opportunity of remedying those inconveniences after an experience of six mouths, they thought it advisable that the measure should pass. It could not be denied that some inconveniences had arisen from the act of last session; but they had been much exaggerated, and he could not help thinking that there was something not perfectly disinterested at the bottom of the clamour which had been raised upon the subject. The manner in which it would be advisable to amend the act of last session had been a subject of serious consideration with himself and other noble lords who felt an interest in the question. The first mode suggested was to recite in a new bill, all the parts of the present act which it was deemed expedient to repeal; but it was considered that this would render the new act a mass of confusion. It was therefore determined to adopt a different course of proceeding, and the bill which he intended to introduce was of this nature: in the first clause, all the prospective part of the present was repealed, except the first clause, which nullified the old Marriage act. The bill then proceeded to recite such other clauses of the prospective part of the present bill as it was thought expedient to retain. By passing the act of last session, their lordships had expressed their decision upon two points; first, the principle of the act; and secondly, the nature of the securities which were required by it. The principle of the act was, that marriages, when once solemnized, should be indissoluble; and the securities which were required from the contracting parties were to be given in the shape of oaths. The oaths which would be required would not occupy more than two minutes in reading, and therefore much inconvenience could not arise from them. A minister would be guilty of a misdemeanor by marrying parties without administering the oaths to them, and the parties, by committing perjury, would render themselves obnoxious to all the penalties attached to that crime.

Lord Redesdale

said, that the inconvenience of administering the oaths at the solemnization of the marriage, and of making that, as it were, a part of the marriage ceremony, would be felt in populous parishes, where several marriages took place on the same day. It would be better to administer the oaths previously to the publication of the bans; because the canons required that clergymen should be satisfied that the parties about to be married were what they represented themselves to be.

The Lord Chancellor

said, he had strongly opposed the act passed last session. It had excited great clamour, perhaps more than it ought; but it was evident that such a measure could not fail to call forth a strong expression of discontent. He was desirous to bestow all the attention in his power upon the bill about to be introduced; and all he asked for was, that their lordships might be allowed sufficient time deliberately to consider every part of it.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.