HL Deb 30 July 1964 vol 260 cc1209-11

2.45 p.m.

Order of the Day read for the consideration of the Commons Amendments.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered. I believe that I am in order on this Motion unlike the precedent of my noble friend Lord Craigton, to speak generally on these Amendments, and explain their purport and then formally ask your Lordships to agree to them en bloc. If that is in order I now propose that I should do so.

There have been two very serious excisions from this Bill, in that in another place Clauses 4 and 5 have been taken out. From my own personal view, for what it is worth, I believe that this has been a serious defacement of the Bill. In Scotland, it will in future be the law that if a husband or wife lives in a home where there is an unhappy set of circumstances, or where some sort of intolerable set-up is involved, it will be necessary for the husband or the wife to endure that conduct to such an extent that he or she is physically or mentally injured by it before he or she can get a divorce, instead of being able, as Clause 4 would have provided, to go away and, after three years, get a divorce on the grounds of intolerable conduct plus three years separation. I believe this to be a hardship on the people of Scotland, and one which this House certainly agreed to put right, and I am sorry that another place has disagreed with it. That is one of the things that is left out of the Bill.

There has also been left out of the Bill any relief to either a husband or a wife by giving a right to a divorce on the ground that the other partner wilfully refuses to consummate the marriage. In England, this is a ground for nullity, but in Scotland, as the result of the action of another place, it will not be a ground for getting rid of the marriage in any way whatever. Now this, I believe, to be a great pity and a disservice to the people of Scotland.

Clause 5 also has gone. This provided for a divorce where one of the partners to the marriage was suffering from mental deficiency, accompanied by violent propensities. This is very similar to the ordinary ground of incurable insanity, but on account of the greater precision with which medicine can now diagnose these matters, those spouses whose other spouse suffers from this unfortunate complaint will now be tied to him, or her, for ever. Most of the Amendments are consequential upon the loss of those two clauses.

There is only one addition to the Bill, and that I commend to your Lordships. It is the last Amendment upon the Order Paper, by which either of the two spouses, where there is a divorce petition on the grounds of incurable insanity, may be required by the court to make financial provisions for the other, or for the children of the marriage. Hitherto, it had been only the pursuer who was liable to make such a provision. The Royal Commission on Marriage recommended that it should be open to the courts to require either party to make this provision and, indeed, it is the law of England, where it has worked well. To that degree I believe the Bill has been improved. The remaining Amendments are drafting.

I feel that, despite the grave loss which I consider this Bill has suffered in another place, there are still provisions in the Bill which will greatly improve the law of Scotland, and will offer great benefits to those who live under the jurisdiction of the law of Scotland. Therefore, although it is with great regret that I see what has happened in another place, I hope that I can ask your Lordships, with success, to agree with the Commons in their Amendments this afternoon. Unless your Lordships wish me to deal with them individually, I hope that, when the moment arrives, I may move them en bloc. Meanwhile, I beg to move that the Commons Amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons Amendments be now considered.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.