HL Deb 07 March 1882 vol 267 cc316-7

(The Lord Chancellor.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was the result, with merely trifling alterations, of the deliberations of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, which sat last Session, when the Bill was referred to that Committee. It would consolidate two Acts passed in the years 1870 and 1874, and introduce some innovations and new provisions into the law. The principal new provisions were these:—The 1st clause proposed that without the intervention of any trustee a married woman should be capable of acquiring, holding, and disposing of any real or personal property as her separate property, and that she should, in respect of her separate property, be capable of entering into and rendering herself liable on any contract, and of suing and being sued, either in contract or in tort, or otherwise, in all respects as if she were a feme sole, without her husband being joined with her as plaintiff or defendant, or being made a party to any action or other legal proceeding. If a married woman carried on a separate trade, she would be subject to the Bankruptcy Laws as if she were a feme sole. The next material provision was the 2nd clause, which enlarged the provisions of the Act of 1870, but applied only to women married after the commencement of the Act, By the Act of 1870, it was provided that a woman married after that Act should be entitled for her separate use to personal property without any limitation of the amount to which she might succeed in ease of intestacy, but with a somewhat arbitrary limitation to £200 in the case of succession to personalty under a will; but by the present Bill she would be entitled to hold as her separate property all real and personal property which belonged to her at the time of marriage, or should be acquired by or devolve on her after marriage. The 3rd clause of the Bill was similar in principle—though more absolute and unconditional—to the provision of the Scotch Act, which passed last year—namely, that property ac- quired after the Act by a woman married before the Act should be held by her as a feme sole. The clauses which followed related to investments in stocks and shares, and were similar to, but abridgments of, the provisions of the existing law. There were in the existing law some qualifications of these provisions which the present Bill did not repeat, but as to which he would undertake carefully to consider before the Bill went into Committee whether they ought not to be retained. The remaining clauses were, in substance, consolidation clauses and a repetition of the existing law, with this difference—that in any question between husband and wife, civil or criminal, either he or she might be a witness; but no criminal proceeding could be taken by a wife against her husband under this Bill in respect to property claimed by her while they were living together. When they got into Committee he would be glad to explain the clauses more fully, and to receive suggestions for the amendment of any of them.

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


said, he thought that the Bill was a most useful consolidation of the present law; but he pointed out that the Bill repealed the existing Statute, under which a woman was entitled to certain rights with regard to property acquired by her, whereby questions might be raised hereafter. The 3rd clause was open to considerable objection.


said, that this Bill went beyond the Act of 1870, in encouraging criminal proceedings between husbands and wives, and that, in order to complete Clause 11, it should provide that a conviction under it should be taken by the Divorce Court as evidence of cruelty and desertion, without that Court having to go into the whole matter again.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday the 21st instant.