HL Deb 25 May 1886 vol 306 cc2-5

House in Committee (according to order).

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Mother may appoint guardian, certain cases).

Amendment moved, in subsection (2.), page 2, line 1, leave out from ("may") to end of clause and insert ("such order in respect of the guardianship as to the court shall seem right.")—(The Lord Halsbury.)


said, that the clause in its present form had received the approval of a majority of their Lordships' House, and he was unwilling to disturb the arrangement that had been arrived at, especially as it might be urged on the third reading, as it was on the second reading, that the clause, if amended as proposed, would interfere too much with the rights of the father.


said, that it was a matter of compromise. The Bill stood now as it was altered by their Lordships, and if the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend was carried in a substantial form it would endanger the Bill.


said, he would suggest that the words proposed to be omitted should be retained, but that these words should be added— And make such order in respect of the guardianship as to the Court shall seem right.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 (Court may make orders as to custody).


said, under this clause as it stood it would be quite competent when the father and mother were living together, for the mother, having different views from her husband as to how the children should be brought up, to ask the opinion of the Court whether she or her husband was right. That was a very dangerous power to give the wife, and might lead to litigation, confusion, and unhappiness in families. It was a great change to make in English domestic life. He was about to move an Amendment which was recommended by the great experience of Lord Cairns, and which Lord Cairns moved in the Select Committee. The noble and learned Lord then moved an Amendment which would give the wife power to apply to the Court when the husband and wife were not living together.


said, that the Amendment now proposed, when moved in the Select Committee by Lord Cairns, was not assented to, and he did not think Lord Cairns was dissatisfied with the result. No one would attribute greater weight to Lord Cairn's opinion than he should do; but the reasons against the proposition were irresistible to the minds of those who voted against it, and to his mind were irresistible still. It should be remembered that in framing this clause they had not only to consider the case of persons in a superior class of life, but also the case of those who for want of means were compelled to live together. In many cases among the poorer classes the wife would be justified in making such an application, and by adopting the Amendment they would, he believed, in point of fact be doing an injustice.


said, he considered that the clause was a direct invitation to litigation between husband and wife. There was no qualification whatever in it. He thought it would at least be a good thing that the application in the first instance should be made ex parte, so that the tribunal applied to should be able to form an opinion as to whether the case was one that should be inquired into.


said, he felt the force of the remarks of the noble and learned Earl opposite (the Earl of Selborne), and that he would carefully consider all that had been said before the next stage of the Bill.

Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.


then moved to insert, after Clause 5, the following words:— And in every case (the Court) may make such order affecting the costs of the mother and the liability of the father for the costs of the mother as it may think just. He pointed out that in some cases it might be unfair and undesirable to saddle the husband with the costs.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.


, who had given Notice to move, after Clause 5, to insert the following new Clause:— In case of the conduct of any father making it wrong for him to have the custody of his infant children or child, and if his wife, their mother, should have a separate household, she, by the order of the Probate and Divorce Court or other court of the High Court of Justice, or of the nearest county court, shall have all the rights which other householders possess, or may in future possess, at every election of Members of Parliament and at all other elections, said: I must explain that this Amendment was broached by me in the Com- mittee on the Representation of the People Bill, on December 4th, 1884; and on the Infants Bill, 1885, the same clause by me was proposed. I am aware that it cannot pass until a Women's Suffrage Bill has been carried, and it is indifferent to me in which House it originates. On the 9th July, 1884, Earl Cairns wrote to me, advising me to postpone my Bill to the next open day; but I could not do so, as it preceded the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill in the Orders of the Day, and, as I considered that as peculiarly a woman's question, I thought that it ought to remain before it; but all Business was suspended on the 10th of July. I venture to think that no Dissolution should be granted by the Crown until women, duly qualified, are added to the electors. It has been surmised that this measure ought first to pass in "another place;" but this has never been openly advocated, and I can only hope that this provision for married women judicially separated from their husbands will be considered in Committee in both Houses of Parliament by those who understand the subject. I beg to withdraw the proposed Amendment.

Clause (by leave of the Committee) withrawn.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Friday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 125.)