HL Deb 11 August 1871 vol 208 cc1421-2

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1 (No deed, &c. liable to reduction ex capite lecti).


moved the insertion of words in the clause so as to prevent bequests under certain circumstances to religious and charitable institutions. By the present law of Scotland a deed executed within 60 days of death, was invalid, unless the person executing it went to church or market unaided between the execution of the deed and death. The effect of the Bill was to remove that invalidity, and the object of his Amendment was to protect dying persons from the undue influence of spiritual advisers by leaving invalid, as in England, any bequest made on a death-bed to religious or charitable institutions. He thought it could not, by any show of reason, be safely said that such influence had ceased to be dangerous.

Amendment moved, in page 1, line 9, after ("lecti") to insert— ("Except in the case of a deed, instrument, or writing disposing of property for charitable purposes.")—(The Earl of Harrowby.)


said, he regretted the absence of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Colonsay) who had had 50 years' experience of the working of this law, and who, though admitting it might be amended, was opposed to its repeal. It provided that a deed made within 60 days of a man's death, if he was at the time afflicted with a disease from which, or from one consequent thereon, he died, should he invalid, unless he attended church or market in the interim. He might ride thither; but if he walked he must not lean on anybody, or the deed would be invalid. The law was certainly a singular one, and the 60 days' limit might be too long, or it might be advisable to dispense with it under certain circumstances; but there had been no complaint on the subject, and the repeal of the statute would leave no protection against influences which frequently prevailed in the case of the sick. He heard of a case only two days ago in which a person almost in extremis was told by the priest that his property formerly belonged to the Church, and that he ought to restore it, which the invalid, wishing, as he said, to die an honest man, agreed to do. He did not see why their Lordships should be called upon at that period of the Session to decide upon the question. He should support the Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby).


regretted that he was compelled to oppose the Amendment, and commented on the absurd minutiæ of the law, describing it as a jumble of archaic observances, characteristic of a somewhat barbarous ago, in order to save judge and jury the trouble of deciding by evidence on a man's state of mind. He also objected to the Amendment as introducing into Scotland by a sidewind a law of mortmain, full of anomalies, to which that country had hitherto been a stranger; whereas if such a law was to be introduced it should be done after inquiry and on a sound basis. The Bill had passed through the other House without opposition, the late as well as the present Lord Advocate approving it, and the question had been under discussion for two years. The existing law, moreover, did not affect personalty.


said, he objected to destroying one protection against undue influences until a better had been devised.


believed the county meetings in Scotland had not discussed the question, and that they were unaware of the introduction of this Bill, and therefore he should support the Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Harrowby).

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 12; Not-Contents 21: Majority 9.

Resolved in the Negative.

Clause agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment; and to be read 3a on Monday next.