§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, that the Bill be now read the second time.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that before their Lordships assented to the second reading of this Bill, he would present to them a Petition which he had received that day, signed by 296 inhabitants of Norwich, praying their Lordships to reject the Bill altogether. The parties stated that they only received notice of the Bill on Saturday last, and observed that it was being hurried very rapidly through the House. The present Act expired on the 31st of this month; and whilst he could not support the prayer of the Petition, because he did not think it desirable that the Court should suddenly cease to exist, he yet thought it would not be unreasonable that rather more time than something less than a fortnight should be afforded to their Lordships for considering the propriety of prolonging the Court or making it permanent. It certainly did appear, as the result of experience, that the Bill had failed to fulfil all the objects which its promoters had in view. Its effect certainly had not been greatly to diminish the scandal arising from the publication of very many indelicate and some indecent cases. Indeed, for one such case previous to the passing of the Act there were now at least twenty which were just as freely published in the newspapers. He was not expressing any opinion as to the necessity or expediency of continuing the Divorce Court as it stood; but, before an Act of such a doubtful description was made permanent, he would suggest to the noble and learned Lord opposite whether it would not be better to pass a short continuance Act of two or three years' duration, and to allow a general inquiry into the working of the measure, which was very much needed, to take place. He did not propose to 735 offer any objection to the second reading, but hoped the Government would consider the suggestion he had made.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that it would be remembered that two years after the Divorce Court Act was passed an amending Bill was introduced which contained a clause enabling the Queen's Proctor to intervene in cases brought before the Court, in order to prevent collusion between parties who sought to be released from their marriage vows. An Amendment was inserted in the clause by the House of Commons limiting the power of the Queen's Proctor to intervene to two years, in order to see how the proviso would work, and the object of the present measure was not to make the Divorce Act perpetual, but to continue the power of the Queen's Proctor to intervene, which expired on the 31st of July, so long as the Act remained in force.
§ LORD REDESDALE
had no objection to the present Bill, but should have expressed himself strongly against any Bill the object of which was to perpetuate the present Divorce Court, because he was sorry to say that his worst apprehensions as to the effect of the Divorce Act itself, and the temptations it offered for the breaking of marriage ties had been realized
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that the explanation of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would remove the apprehensions which existed as to any design to perpetuate the Divorce Court itself; and as the Bill in reality was to continue a provision which in effect limited the operation of the Divorce Act to some extent by preventing collusion, he should offer no objection to it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.