§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I regret that I must inflict another speech upon your Lordships, but I can assure you that it will be very short.
§ LORD OGMORE
Heartfelt confirmation from the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor! It was thought by the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, and those who advise him, that it would be a good thing to have this Bill on the Order Paper to-day, because many noble Lords present would be interested in the subject, and I have much pleasure in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a subject, unlike the last one, on which I hope there will be no dissent or disagreement at all.
In my view, it is a happy augury that in both Houses of Parliament the Church in Wales has asked Free Churchmen to take charge of this Bill. My friend Mr. George Thomas, with his usual efficiency and charm, took charge of it in the House of Commons, and I have the honour to do so here. In my boyhood it would have been unthinkable for such a thing to happen, and it proves that in Wales, at all events, some of the barriers which have caused such harm to Christianity in the past are gradually being removed. I am proud to have been asked to do this, because the Church in Wales is truly a Welsh Church. It is an ancient Church. It was hundreds of years old before Saint Augustine landed in England—indeed, it goes back into the mists of time. It is a Church which has produced St. David and St. Patrick. It was organised 1109 anciently, not on a diocesan plan as in the case of the Church in England, but on a plan of the ancient churches in Asia Minor.
Let me, very shortly, explain the purpose of this Bill. By Clause 1 it will extend to Wales and Monmouthshire certain provisions of the Marriage Act, 1949, which at present operate only in England. At the time of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920, the law with respect to marriages was the same in Wales and Monmouthshire as it was in England. There was no difference between them. Subsequently, the National Assembly of the Church of England passed the Marriage Measure, 1930, and the Banns of Marriage Measure, 1934—since consolidated in the Marriage Act, 1949—which altered the law with respect to marriage in church in England. These Measures did not, of course, apply to Wales and Monmouthshire.
Their effect is, first of all, that an authorised layman may in England publish banns of matrimony during morning or evening service, subject to the observance of certain conditions. Secondly, a marriage after banns can, in England, take place outside the parish or district of residence of the parties in a parish or other authorised church which is the usual place of worship of the persons to be married, or of one of them. Thirdly a marriage by common licence or superintendent registrar's certificate can in England take place outside the parish or district of residence of the parties in a parish or other authorised church which is the usual place of worship of the persons to be married, or of one of them. Clause 1, by extending the provisions to Wales and Monmouthshire, will bring the law there once more into line with that of England.
There is just one further point that I ought to mention, and that is with regard to Clause 2. Clause 2 is designed to cure an anomaly arising in the application of the provisions of the Marriage Act, 1949, which are to be extended by the Bill to Wales and Monmouthshire and to certain border parishes. There are parishes which, geographically, are partly in England and partly in Wales. Section 9 of the Welsh Church Act, 1914, provided for these border parishes to be attached either to an English diocese or 1110 to a Welsh diocese, in accordance with the general wishes of the parishioners. The Sixth Schedule to the 1949 Act, in excluding certain provisions from the application of the Act to Wales and Monmouthshire, failed to take into account the situation of some of these parishes.
Clause 1, by extending Section 9 of the 1949 Act to Wales and Monmouthshire, will obliterate all distinction between one area and another as regards publication of banns by an authorised layman. The effect of this clause will be to produce a similar result in relation to the operation of the other provisions which are to be applied to Wales and Monmouthshire—that is, those provisions whose purpose it is to facilitate marriages in the usual place of worship of one of the parties. There are very few of these border parishes, and I do not think I need go into the particular relationship of them, except to say that the meaning of the expression "church electoral roll", as applied by Clause 1 (2), is such that, without the addition of this clause, those English border parishes which have their parish church on the Welsh side would not benefit from the extension of the provisions made by the Bill. This is because the parish is in an English diocese, so that there would be no electoral roll as defined in Clause 1 (2). I may say that the authorities of the Church of England and of the Church in Wales were consulted about this clause and have agreed to its inclusion in the Bill. Clause 3 provides for the Short Title and for citation. I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Ogmore.)
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, I have one question to ask before anyone ventures to reply. I was asked by a staunch Nonconformist whether this Bill was a step in the direction of re-establishment of the Church in Wales. On the answer to that question my questioner wanted me to decide my attitude. If it was a step in that direction I was to oppose, but if it was not, then I was to support it.
My Lords, I note with satisfaction that the noble Lord 1111 recognises Monmouthshire is not part of Wales.
§ LORD BOSTON
My Lords, as a member of the governing body of the Church of Wales, I should like to say that I give the Bill my support.
§ LORD BRECON
My Lords, I do not think there is anything for me to add. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has explained the Bill to the House, and I need not reiterate any part of it, except to say that it brings Wales and Monmouthshire into line with England on this particular matter of the legal preparation for marriage in church. The Bill has been universally supported in another 1112 place, and I should like to say that the Government add their blessing to the measure in this House.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, speaking with the leave of your Lordships, may I say that this does not in any way mean that the Church in Wales will alter its status in any manner whatsoever. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and his King Charles's head, I would say that this does not affect the decision, whenever it may be taken, as to whether Monmouthshire is part of Wales or not.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.