HL Deb 13 April 1888 vol 324 cc1175-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


said, he must congratulate their Lordships and the country, that— Solvitur acris hyems gratâ vice veris et Favoni. He had brought this Bill forward as the 6th June was the earliest day at which the question could come on in "another place." He had seen two Bills on the same subject—the Law of Evidence Amendment Bills—to be before both Houses at the same time; and he offered to bring forward a repetition of Baron Dimsdale's Bill, but his offer was declined. There certainly were great facilities for advancing legislation in their Lordships' House. A second reading there was supposed to forward the chances of success of the Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill for Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister was appointed for Wednesday, the 18th April, and he had always asserted that it should be preceded by a Women's Suffrage Bill. In 1884, on 9th July, he had such a Bill in the Orders of day for 10th July. The Earl of Wemyss had engaged 29 Peers, of whom he (Lord Denman) was one, to sit from 15th July for any length of time necessary for the despatch of Business; and he (Lord Denman) alluded to his letter on 2nd September, 1886. It requested him to postpone his Bill, in order that their Lordships might divide on the Marriage Bill before dinner. He declined to support the noble Earl on those terms. It had been said that Bills relating to the representation of the people should originate in the House of Commons; but the Septennial Bill was brought into their Lordships' House by a Duke of Devonshire, in 1716. It was designed to allay the heats and animosities of Parties, which were then, as they always are, injurious to all the people of the Realm. He (Lord Denman) was reminded of the verse by Cowper—once a Clerk of their Lordships' House— Tyranny sends the chain that shall abridge The noble sweep of all their privilege, Gives liberty the mortal shock, Slips the slave's collar on, and snaps the lock. If this Bill was put off for months, care should be taken, if calendar months were named, that the day of the second reading should not fall on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or a Saturday. Women were expressly excluded by Baron Dimsdale's Bill; but he (Lord Denman) believed that they were "legally disqualified." Lord Chief Justice Lee said, though a woman could vote for a sexton and be a sexton, she could not vote for nor be a Member of Parliament, for the sexton was concerned with the interment of the dead, but a Member of Parliament with the morals of the living. In the New Zealand Parliament it was said that if a woman voted against the will of her husband, he might wring or break her neck; this attempt to introduce women under coverture threw out the Bill. He would, if doubt existed, exclude married and divorced women in Committee. On the 28th April, 1887, he declared he would bring in the Bill again on 5th August, not before six calendar or lunar months. He would recall the facts to their Lordships. Two years ago he brought forward this question, and the late Earl Cairns wrote to him with regard to it on the 9th July—a very eventful and trying period, for it preceded the time which put an end to all Business because of the pressure put on Parliament in regard to the Representation of the People Bill. His Lordship said— I hear that your Women's Suffrage Bill stands for to-morrow. I take an interest in the question, and should be sorry if anything were to lead to its having an unfavourable reception in the House; but it stands before Lord Houghton's Marriage Bill, and the House will be impatient to come to a Division on that Bill before dinner. Might I suggest for your consideration the desirability of postponing the Bill to the next open evening. He (Lord Denman) would wait and see the progress of Baron Dimsdale's Bill, and not appoint a Committee.

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


said, he must apologize for interfering with the chivalrous Motion which the noble Lord had so often repeated; but, in the absence of his noble Friend at the head of the Government (the Marquess of Salisbury), who last year moved the rejection of a similar Bill, he must say that he thought the time for moving the second reading of this Bill was inopportune. Anyone who looked at the appearance of their Lordships' House that night would see that that was not the occasion when they ought to undertake the responsibility of altering the suffrage which regulated the election of Members of Parliament; and without further preface, and without expressing an opinion one way or other with regard to the question, he would take the course pursued on a former occasion, and move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Lord President.)


May I ask the noble Viscount whether he means lunar or calendar months?


That is a matter on which I must refer my noble Friend to my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack.


If the noble Lord refers the question to me, I should say that, as a point of law, it must Mean lunar months. That is what a month was originally by law. Then came an Act of Parliament which made "months" calendar months; but that did not extend to proceedings in Parliament. Therefore, according to the Law of Par- liament, this Motion would apply to lunar months.

On Question, That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion?

Resolved in the negative.

Bill to be read 2a this day six months.