HL Deb 08 May 1856 vol 142 cc205-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

LORD BROUGHAM moved the second reading of this Bill, the main object of which was to prevent any marriage being contracted in Scotland, unless both parties were born in Scotland or had their most usual place of residence there, or had lived in Scotland for three weeks preceding the marriage. The present state of the law was productive of great mischief, by enabling parties who crossed the border from England into Scotland merely for the purpose of being married, to contract rash and improvident unions; and he greatly regretted that the English courts had departed from the principle laid down by Lord Mansfield, who held that such a proceeding was a fraudulent evasion of the law of England and ought not to be upheld. In consequence of that principle not having been maintained, these border marriages had much increased of late years, and, from the loose manner in which they were contracted, introduced great doubt and confusion in respect to the real condition of the parties and their issue. He went so far as to think, though the present Bill did not touch on that point, that some check ought to be imposed upon the hasty contraction of marriages in Scotland, without ceremony or notice, by persons domiciled there. He had been informed that a respectable gentleman in Scotland, whose two daughters went out to ride with a groom, found, to his infinite astonishment and no less infinite dismay, that one of them returned to his house an hour after and stated that the groom was her husband, and such a marriage was as perfectly valid by the law of Scotland as if it had been celebrated after proclamation of bans by a regular clergyman. The provision in the Bill respecting the power of Scotch courts to divorce he intended to strike out in Committee, as he did not anticipate the concurrence of the House on it.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, he concurred with his noble and learned Friend as to the existence of the evil, but he did not think the Bill before the House was calculated to meet it. When parties went to get married there certainly ought to be some ceremony attendant upon or register of the transaction. But the Bill was susceptible of considerable alteration and amendment, and he would advise its withdrawal and reintroduction, for the purpose of effecting those changes, in preference to making them in Committee.


admitted that if the object could be accomplished it was most desirable that the marriage law of Scotland should be placed on a better foundation than it was at present, and that such an abuse as Gretna-green marriages—those sudden flights to Gretna-green, and as sudden marriages—should be put an end to. The principle of the Bill contained in its first clause met with his entire concurrence; but the details of the measure certainly required consideration in Committee.

After a few words from Lord BROUGHAM,

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on the First Sitting Day after the Recess at Whitsuntide.