HL Deb 25 July 1867 vol 189 cc40-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that it related to a matter which was of ecclesiastical and antiquarian interest, and at the same time of practical importance; its object being to remove the doubts which appeared to exist, respecting the proper time of publishing banns of marriage in church. People had been so accustomed, to hear the banns of matrimony read after the Second Lesson that it might appear almost superfluous to raise any doubt on the subject; in point of fact, however, grave doubts had arisen, and legislation was necessary. A case which came before Baron Alderson led to a judgment which showed that the law on the subject was not settled, and it was well that all doubts should be set at rest. He found in the Report of the proceedings of the Lower House of Convocation that some of the clergy were in favour of having the publication of banns take place after the Nicene Creed; but the almost universal custom was to have the publication after the Second Lesson, and this Bill would confirm that practice. The main object of the publication of banns was to give them publicity, and that publicity could be much better secured by publishing the banns at the Morning Service than would be the case if they were published at the Evening Service. The present Bill would indemnify any clergyman who had hitherto published banns at a wrong period, and establish the legality of all such marriages. He believed that in the other House of Parliament there had been no serious opposition to the Bill; and he hoped that their Lordships would now give it a second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Lord Houghton.)


said, he had no objection to the second reading, though he thought there was some doubt as to whether the first clause should be adopted before a decision was come to by the Commission, which was considering this among other subjects.


did not object to the Bill being read a second time, because it would remedy an evil; but he did not think Parliament ought to settle in a hurried manner any absolute time at which the banns should be published. The noble Lord (Lord Houghton) was mistaken in supposing that it was the almost universal custom to publish the banns after the Second Lesson. In many churches the custom was to publish them after the Nicene Creed. There should, however, be no question as to the legality of the marriages which had already been solemnized at whatever time the banns had been published, and it was most desirable that the indemnification clause should be passed.


said, that while the question remained in uncertainty, banns would continue to be published at two different times in different churches. The object of the publication of banns was, that any person who objected to any particular marriage should be present and have an opportunity of making his objection; and if the time were not fixed the person who wished to object might suppose that the banns were not to be published on that day, and the very object for which banns were published would be lost through the uncertainty which existed as to the time. He therefore thought it would be infinitely preferable to pass this Bill than to allow that uncertainty to remain.


inquired as to the time at which the Report of the Commission was likely to be drawn up.


said, that as the Commissioners were very widely separated as regarded residence there was a difficulty in getting them together to consider the Report. The matter was of great importance. They had had a great deal of evidence on the subject of the publication of banns, and the impression which that evidence had made upon his mind was that the publication of banns was perfectly illusory. The object of publishing the banns was to give a notification to those persons who might be interested that a marriage was about to take place; but for that purpose the publication was of no use whatever. They all knew from their own experience that in the great London parishes when banns were published no one attended to them at all. In the country persons in general had a great objection, when they were about to be married, to having the banns published in their own parish, and the consequence was that they procured a fictitious residence in another parish and got the publication performed elsewhere. He should be glad to see banns swept away altogether, and some other method devised for giving notice to those interested. But it appeared that there were in many cases most distressing doubts as to whether marriages which had taken place were legal in consequence of the time when the banns were published, and those doubts he thought Parliament ought instantly to set at rest. The publication of banns was not a religious matter, and it did not signify one farthing whether banns were published after the Second Lesson or after the Nicene Creed. He hoped most earnestly that there would be no postponement of this Bill, which would set at rest the uncertainty at present existing.


observed that in some of the country churches in Ireland there was no publication of banns at all.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday the 2nd of August.