HL Deb 26 June 1900 vol 84 cc1049-58

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:—


This Bill seems to me to be drawn with so little care that I shall not undertake the responsibility of trying to amend it. For instance, Clause 2 says that:— 'usual place of abode' shall mean any ordinary residence of the person referred to, whether he has more than one or not, or his usual abode for fifteen days immediately preceding his making an affidavit to lead a licence. What is the difference between those two things? What is the object of such an interpretation as that? This is only one example of a good many more to which I shall have to allude. What I particularly want to call attention to is that having made a definition of that sort it is not followed in the course of the Bill. The words "dwelling place" are used throughout the Bill without reference to the definition clause. In my opinion the; whole Bill ought to be redrafted with more care.


I would point out to the noble and learned Lord that this Bill was before the House years ago. It was very considerably amended, and then went down to the House of Commons. The Bill which I have introduced this year is verbatim the same Bill as that which passed the House on the last occasion. Therefore, if it is so very badly drafted the responsibility surely rests with the House of Lords. When I proposed to bring in the Bill again this year I gave instructions that the measure, as it passed the House before, should be precisely followed, and I cannot find any instance in which my instructions have not been fully carried out. I do not profess to be a draughtsman of Bills, but I think I was justified in supposing that if the Bill had passed through your Lordships' House in this form it would not be necessary for me to look any further to the drafting. Of course, it is quite possible that this House may have been a little somnolent on the former occasion, but at that time the Bill was discussed very fully indeed. As a matter of fact, the noble and learned Lord him self took part in the discussion and supported the Bill. I will hand him the Bill and he can see for himself. It left this House on 12th May, 1891, and was printed in the House of Commons on 1st June of the same year. There has been no change made in the Bill since then. I do not quite understand the objection which the Lord Chancellor has now raised to something in Clause 2, but I should be very glad to accept an Amendment, either here or in the Standing Committee, if his Lordship thinks the clause can be easily amended.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.

Clause 5:—


I cannot help thinking that anyone who reads this clause would do the most rev. Prelate the injustice of supposing that he wanted to obtain power to alter the form of solemnisation of marriage. The clause reads— The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, with the consent of the Convocations, are hereby authorised, subject to the approval of Her Majesty the Queen, to make such alterations in the rubrics after the Nicene Creed and in the form of solemnisation of matrimony as will make them agree with this Act. I do not believe that the most rev. Prelate really wishes to alter the form of solemnisation of matrimony. What he desires would toe obtained by inserting, after the words "Nicene Creed," "and in the rubrics in the form of solemnisation of matrimony." This is an illustration of the loose drafting I refer to. I really do not remember what happened nine years ago, and under what circumstances my attention was not called to the matter. I do not think we are committed to the Bill as it stands by the fact of having been in a somnolent state when it last passed. We now have the facts before us, and must deal with them as they are.


I shall be most willing to agree to any amendment of the kind referred to which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may move in Standing Committee.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:—


This clause raises a serious question of principle in respect to the publication of the place of marriage. Under Lord Hardwicke's Act there is a positive prohibition against a marriage being celebrated in any church other than that in which the banns have been published. It is now proposed to alter this. Since the Second Reading of the Bill, when I ventured to make a few observations on this point, my attention has been called by more than one communication to this provision of the Bill, and the serious and unfortunate consequences that might have arisen had this been the law under the Act of 1823. The clause provides that the marriage may be solemnised in any church in the diocese where the banns are published. This will tend to make the place of marriage a secret, and is an alteration in the existing law for which no necessity has been shown. The parties must make up their minds where their banns are to be published. Then why cannot they make up their minds where the marriage is to be celebrated? What is the evil to be got rid of? The right rev. Prelate said the present law might be inconvenient, but I should like him to give your Lordships a concrete case in which inconvenience may arise. It appears to me that this is a most serious departure from the code of law which has existed ever since Lord Hardwicke's time, and has been found most useful in correcting what were most serious abuses. I am afraid I must ask your Lordships to express an opinion upon it one way or the other, unless a better reason than I have yet heard is given for altering the law.


One of the great purposes of the Bill is to facilitate marriages in churches as compared with marriages at registrars' offices. The latter are now practically quite secret. The notice which has to be exhibited in lieu of banns is put up in the office in such a way that a person must go on purpose to the place to find that the notice is there. The notice is generally placed upon a door in such a manner as not to be easily seen, and a man who wants to find out whether a marriage has been notified, in the usual way has to find out that it is likely to be notified and then to go to the office to see if it has been. This procedure at the registry office has already very considerably diminished the publicity that should attend marriages, and people resort to the office instead of attending church. I think this is a very great mischief, and I desire to remove every obstacle to marriage in church. This is the object of the clause. The clause provides that the banns shall continue to be published as they are at present, but that the persons who hand them in to be published shall always state where they intend to seek for the actual marriage, and in what church it is to be solemnised. The clause further provides that— The marriage shall not be solemnised in any church wherein the banns have not been published without the consent of the minister thereof, nor until after the production to him of a certificate of due publication of the banns at each of the churches where they were published, and that they were not forbidden by any person having a right to stop the marriage, and that an entry was made in the banns book of the intention to solemnise the marriage in such church. I should be quite willing, if it would satisfy my noble and learned friend, to add a proviso that at the publication of the banns the name of the church where the marriage is to be solemnised should be mentioned. A large number of the artisan class particularly complain very much that they cannot be married without having all their acquaintances about them, who make a kind of mob at the marriage. Besides this, there are demands upon them for a wedding breakfast, and the consequence is that they are desirous of getting away from their friends and being married at some convenient distance, but at a distance which will be too far away for their acquaintances to follow them. The fact that they have to do this makes them prefer to go to the registrar's office, where they can contrive to have the marriage entirely in secrecy. This Bill will really ensure greater publicity for the marriage ceremony than attends marriages in a registrar's office. I will insert words, as I have said, providing that on the publication of the banns the name of the church where the marriage is to take Place shall be mentioned, and I trust that will satisfy the Lord Chancellor. I do not think the clause, as amended, will be quite as good, but it will be tolerably good.


My Lords, I think this clause will have the effect of getting rid of what I may call fictitious residence. London clergymen are constantly faced with the difficulty that people wish to be married in their church who are not living in the parish. They therefore leave an empty carpetbag in some room in the parish for fifteen days, and that is called a residence. It would be much better if people desiring to be married in a particular church should be able to do so without this sort of humbug. The thing should be straightforward. Where banns are published in a registrar's office the marriage may still take place in a church, and therefore under the present law it is not always necessary for the marriage to take place where the banns are published.


This is the first time I have heard a wedding party described as a mob from whom the bride and bridegroom were endeavouring to escape. The most rev. prelate complains that the notices are exhibited in the registrars' offices in such a way that they easily pass unnoticed, but it is an odd way to remedy that by increasing the secrecy of marriages by this sort of provision. If there is anything wrong in the manner in which banns are published in a registrar's office, let it be amended, but what relevancy has that to the question" now under discussion? I have asked the most rev. prelate for some concrete case showing the particular inconvenience which it is desired to remove, but he gave me nothing except the grotesque account of people who wish to escape from their neighbours and friends on the ground that the latter would expect them to provide a breakfast. I shall insist upon my Amendment to omit the clause.


With all respect to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, I venture to deny that marriages under this Bill will, as the noble and learned Lord supposes, be attended by greater secrecy. On the contrary, so far as there is any difference at all, the effect will be to ensure greater publicity. We will suppose that two people desire to be married, and that the father of the bride wishes to prevent the marriage. I want to know how that will be rendered easier for him because the marriage takes place in one of the two churches in which the banns have been published than it would be in the third church, the name of which had been announced when the banns were published? If the noble and learned Lord could show that the suggested provision would lead to additional secrecy I should be entirely with him in objecting to it, but I fail to see how such can be the case. It is very desirable to get rid of the mischievous sham fictitious "residence," to which the Bishop of St. Albans has referred, and it is with a view to the promotion of openness and straightforwardness that this clause has been drafted.


Will the most rev. Prelate tell the House whether he intends to move the Amendment he indicated in the course of his remarks? I think it would be better if the clause were amended before it is proposed to strike it out altogether.


I confess I thought my Amendment would have satisfied the noble and learned Lord. I am quite prepared to move it.

Moved— In Clause 6, page 2, line 26, after 'published' to insert 'provided that at the publication of the banns the name of such church is mentioned.'"—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)


My Lords, I venture to think that already in England marriage is more easy than in any other country, and the proposal in the Bill will tend to give additional facilities for parties going away from their friends to get married. This is exactly one of the things which promotes bigamy in England. I would like to know how many workingmen have two wives, and think nothing of it. In other countries people cannot get married without the consent of their parents until they are forty years of age. I know a case in which an actor and actress, Jewess and Greek, wished to get married, and the Roman Catholic law in France would not allow them to do so without the consent of their parents, as they were under forty years of age. They therefore decided to come over to England.


Very wise of them.


They wrote to a solicitor in this country, asking him to make arrangements for getting them married on arrival. The solicitor replied that it was impossible, and the lady then telegraphed to him to see me, saying she knew Sir Algernon (as I then was) could arrange anything, and would get the sheriff to come to the railway station and marry them on arrival. The couple came to England, and what was my astonishment on being told when I met them that they had been married that morning. On inquiry I found that the marriage had been solemnised in one of the highest churches in London by means of a licence obtained from a predecessor of the most rev. Prelate, on the representation that the man had been in England for three weeks. In view of circumstances such as these I cannot support the clause.


So far as I can see, the very interesting story told by the noble Lord does not bear on the Bill. He is desirous that we should have the French law of marriage introduced into this country.




He wants the consent of the parents and all kinds of things to be obtained, but what has that to do wish this Bill? If it goes to a division I shall vote with the right rev. Bench on this matter, because I cannot see that, after the Amendment which the most rev. Prelate has proposed is made, there can be any possible chance of due publicity not being given, and if due publicity is given I do not see why this facility should not be afforded to those tormented persons referred to who wish to run away from their friends.


In rising to support this clause I would point out that the publication of banns in the various churches will be carried out under this Bill in exactly the same way as at present. The only question is, whether it is absolutely necessary to continue the present law by which the marriage must take place in one of the churches in which the banns have been published. A case arose only recently in my own diocese where the inconvenience of the present law was made manifest. Two members of the choir in one parish, who were living in other parishes, desired to get married. They were, of course, compelled to have the banns published in the parishes in which they lived, but they wished to be married in the church of whose choir they were members. And why should they not? There would be perfect publicity, because the name of the church in which they were to be married would be mentioned when the banns were published. I cannot see any objection to the clause.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 7:—


I do not intend to divide upon this Clause, but I must protest against it. I very much doubt whether, under the circumstances suggested here, it is very desirable to facilitate the marriages of seamen. One knows what is said in the case of seamen, and in Clause 7 it is provided that a seaman, if his ship is in port, may be married in any church within five miles of the ship. That seems to me to encourage the practice to which the noble Lord opposite objected.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 8 to 18 agreed to.


Upon every one of these clauses I think questions may arise as to the drafting, but, as I have said, it seems to me that the Bill is so extremely ill-drawn that I shall not attempt to amend it. Therefore, those who are in charge of the Bill will take their own responsibility of keeping it as it stands.

Bill re-committed to the Standing Committee; and to be printed as amended. (No. 136.)

On Question, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill," their Lordships divided:—Contents, 29; Not Contents, 18.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Chichester, L, Bp. Burghclere, L.
Camperdown, E. Durham, L. Bp. Calthorpe, L.
Crewe, E. Hereford, L. Bp. Clonbrock, L.
Grey, E. Lichfield, L. Bp. Leigh, L.
Kimberley, E. Lincoln, L. Bp. Monkswell, L. [Teller.]
Leven and Melville, E. Norwich, L. Bp. Reay, L. [Teller.]
Morley, E. St. Albans, L. Bp. Robertson, L.
Romney, E. Southwell, L. Bp. St. Levan, L.
Spencer, E. Winchester, L. Bp. Windsor, L.
Carlisle, L. Bp. Ashcombe, L.
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Mar, E. Belper, L. [Teller.]
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Mayo, E. Churchill, L.
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.)[Teller.] Waldegrave, E. Glenesk, L.
Knutsford, V. Harris, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.) Frankfort de Montmorency, V. Heneage, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.)(L Chamberlain.) James, L.
Denbigh, E. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.