HL Deb 22 July 1890 vol 347 cc471-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


I do not think I need trouble your Lordships at length in recommending the Second Reading of this Bill. The object of it is to apply the principle of the Marriage (Consulate) Act to Embassies, and to men-of-war, and to make some other Amendments. The difference which now exists is, that at an Embassy British subjects can only be married according to the rites of the Church of England, while at the Consulates they can avail themselves of the services of any other minister, and they may even have a civil marriage performed by the Consul himself. Of course, one point which is a very natural object of jealousy among your Lordships is, that a Bill should not pass which would in any degree increase either the danger of clandestine marriages or of such marriages as are usually repudiated; but I am happy to say that this Bill will strengthen the position instead of weakening it. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government the Attorney General acting for the Foreign Office has been good enough to draw up some clauses which are particularly directed to meet this objection. I need only say, further, that in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading, I propose to refer it to the Standing Committee on General Bills.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"(The Earl Granville.)


I only want to call attention to the 2nd clause, which seems to me to be rather inconsistent in regard to the beginning and the end of it. Some words ought, I think, to be put in in the first line of that clause. It says:—"Every marriage between parties who are capable of contracting marriage in the United Kingdom;" and in the latter part of the clause it speaks of the marriage as if the same "had been solemnised within Her Majesty's dominions," which would of course cover the various Marriage Laws of the Colonies. I think something should be added to show that it is only to facilitate marriages which could have been performed in the United Kingdom.


I think the Circular warning Englishwomen against rashly marrying foreigners, especially Frenchmen, except under all the conditions which are required by Foreign Laws to be observed, in order to make marriages valid, was issued to Her Majesty's Consuls by the Foreign Office during its tenure by the noble Earl. He may, therefore, think it superfluous to take further precautions against British subjects marrying under this Act. I think this would be a trap which might lead to Englishwomen getting married in an invalid manner, for the clause applies to marriages "between parties, one of whom is a British subject." If the British subject were always a male, that would be all right; but supposing an Englishwoman gets married in France without all the previous consents of the parents required having been obtained, the marriage would of course be still invalid under French law. Then this Bill also provides for the commanders of ships abroad being able to solemnise. Does the noble Earl who is in charge of this Bill consider that it is certain that no commander of a gunboat may carry out marriages without forgetting to require that the provisions which are usual under Foreign Law are observed?


In answer to the noble Lord, I can only say that I have very great confidence that commanders of Her Majesty's vessels will strictly observe the provisions of the Act.

On Question, agreed to; Bill read, 2a (according to order), and committed to the Standing Committee for General Bills.