§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD THOMSON)
My Lords, the purpose and object of this Bill is set forth in the explanatory note at its commencement. Briefly, its purpose is to put seamen and marines on the same footing with regard to their testamentary declarations as other citizens. Under existing Acts of Parliament they are not. Their testa- 964 mentary declarations are governed by an Act of 1S65, which lays dawn that a sailor, who wishes to make his will on hoard ship has to do so in the presence of an officer and other witnesses, and if not on board ship in the presence of some qualified person corresponding more or less to the grade of officer. These forms are dispensed with as far as possible.
It is true to say that the Amendments to the 1865 Act do not go the whole way towards putting the seaman or marine on exactly the same footing as an officer, warrant officer or an ordinary citizen. There has been some criticism of it in another place for not going further. I do not know if it is worth while to tell your Lordships, but generally speaking the difference amounts to this. The wills of seamen are very often of small amounts and probate of a will varying from £5 to something under £100 would not only involve a waste of time but a certain amount of expense. That, it is considered, would inflict hardship both on the seaman and his relatives and his heirs, and it is for that reason that this measure does not entirely repeal the Act of 1865. Section 7 in the 1865 Act is repealed for the simple reason that it covers cases that occur so rarely that I believe I am correct in saying only one ease has occurred in the last 25 years. If that section were not repealed at the present moment it would add yet another unnecessary distinction between the status of seamen and marines and that of an ordinary citizen. I do not think there is any other point I need mention at this stage. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Thomson.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
§ Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), House in Committee: Bill reported without amendment:
§ Bill read 3ª, and passed.