§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to remind your Lordships that a few weeks ago Lord Danesfort called attention to 1060 the fact that in these days a husband who has no interest in his wife's property, and little legal control over her acts, is yet liable, under an archaic law, for damages in respect of all her wrong-doings, even if her wrong-doings are committed without his knowledge, and even in some cases when she is living separate from him. I quite agreed that the state of the law, as it at present stands, is absurd, and I said that we proposed to bring in a Bill to amend it. This Bill is brought in therefore, and it provides in one short clause that the husband of a married woman shall not, as such, be liable to be sued, or be made a party to any action or legal proceeding brought against her in respect of any tort committed by her, whether before or after the marriage. There is a great injustice in the present state of the law which ought to be altered, and I hope your Lordships will assent to the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I certainly have no intention of opposing this Bill. What the Lord Chancellor has said is right, and as the law stands today a great and unmerited injustice may often be done to a man who, while he is wholly unable to control his wife's malicious propensities, may be rendered liable for the damages arising out of her wrong-doing. While I am prepared to assent to the Bill, I cannot avoid saying that I think it is unfortunate that the Government do not take steps to have one complete examination of the whole relations of men and women, and alter the thing wholly and for good. As it is, all that we do is to take something here and there, take one step forward one day, and, being afraid lest we have gone too far, go back the next day. We have never attempted to rearrange the whole relations of men and women in regard to the new conditions in which the world finds itself. Personally, I wish very much that it was done. While I am glad to find that this small Bill is going to pass, I greatly regret that it has not a larger and wider scope.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I do not dissent from anything that the noble and learned Lord has just said, but I wish to point out that if this Bill is to pass in the present Session it cannot go beyond its present form. I agree that 1061 there are several other questions on which the law relating to the relations of husband and wife requires to be looked into and altered, but just now we are concerned with an obviously proper amendment of the law which can stand by itself without prejudice to other questions, and I therefore desire to see this Bill passed as quickly as possible.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.