§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill. It might facilitate procedure if the noble Earl opposite can, on this Motion, state what he proposes to do with regard to certain tentative and provisional undertaking; given in another place.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Autor.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, as my noble friend has stated, during the passage of this Bill in another place the question was raised as to whether an amendment in legislation should not be introduced whereby committal to prison for non-payment of maintenance should extinguish the debt, and the Government promised to 919 consider the matter carefully with a view to the possibility of introducing an amendment in your Lordships' House. This matter has been considered very carefully and it is found that the same principle is embodied in the Guardianship of Infants Bill, in Clause 7, subsection (b). This Bill has been referred to a Joint Committee of your Lordships' House and the House of Commons, and it was felt that it would not be possible to introduce in to any Bill before Parliament an amendment which would ask Parliament to decide a principle which was at the time sub judice and under consideration of a Committee of both Houses of Parliament. The Guardianship of Infants Committee might make some recommendation to Parliament which would differ from any Amendment proposed in this Bill and so the Government did not feel that they were able to decide upon the principle and to recommend an amendment of the law of bastardy to your Lordships, until the whole principle of the matter had been reported upon by the Joint Select Committee.
Then my noble friend referred to another point. In the House of Commons on Report stage an undertaking was given to consider whether there could be introduced into the Bill a new principle, allowing the mother of a bastard to rank as a creditor of the estate of the putative father. This point has been most carefully considered, but the Government are unable to accept it. A similar proposal was examined by a Select Committee in 1909, and was unanimously rejected by them on the following grounds: They said that the great majority of persons against whom affiliation orders are made leave no estate worth administering. If the man were a bachelor he would probably leave no estate at all, and the provision would be a dead letter, but in the case of a married man with a wife and two or three children his estate would probably consist of his home and his furniture. These would have to be sold up, the widow and her children would be turned into the street, and after paying the costs of administering the estate there might possibly be a small balance left certainly not enough to make any substantial provision for the illegitimate child. Therefore the Select Committee was not in favour of accepting this 920 amendment of the law. I hope that the explanation I have made will be satisfactory to my noble friend.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Increase of maximum payments under orders.
§ 2. Section four of the Bastardy Laws (Amendment) Act, 1872 (which provides for the making of an order on the putative father for the maintenance, etc., of a bastard child), shall, as amended by the Affiliation Orders Increase of Maximum Payment) Act, 1918, have effect as well for the purpose of pending applications as for the purpose of future applications as though twenty shillings a week were therein substituted for ten shillings a week, and subsections (2) and (3) of Section one of the last-mentioned Act, which relate to the variation of orders under the said Section four in force at the date of the commencement of that Act shall extend to the variation of orders under the said Section four which are in force at the date of the commencement of this Act, or which may be made subsequent to the commencement of this Act, with the substitution of references to this Act for references to that Act.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW moved to leave out the words "or which may be made subsequent to the commencement of this Act," The noble Earl said: On the Report Stage in another place these words were moved and accepted provisionally. They are, however, founded on a misconception. The clause without these words, by incorporating subsections (2) and (3) of Section 1 of the Affiliation Orders (Increase of Maximum Payment) Act, 1918, (i) allows the Court without fresh evidence, if it thinks proper having regard to all the circumstances of the case, to increase existing orders to a maximum of 20s. a week and (ii) requires collecting officers to give the person entitled to receive the money notice in writing that an application for an increase in the amount of an existing order up to 20s. can be made to the Court: while the amount of an order made after the commencement of the new Act can be varied by the Court under Section 30 (3) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act on "fresh evidence."
§ It is reasonable to allow variation of existing orders without fresh evidence on the ground that the limit has been raised by a new Act since the Order was 921 made, but it is quite another matter with orders made after the Act raising the limit has come into operation. In the latter cases the magistrates are able at the time to order the new maximum to be paid and fresh evidence should therefore be required for a variation; otherwise there would be nothing to prevent applications for variation on matters and facts already adjudicated upon. "Fresh evidence," for this purpose, means evidence of changed circumstances since the last order was made, or evidence of facts which have come to light since the order was made.
Clause 2, page 2, lines 4 to 6, leave out ("or which may be made subsequent to the commencement of the Act").—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.