HL Deb 17 December 1968 vol 298 cc712-75

3.1 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Commitee accordingly.


Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Provisions relating to marriage]:

LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 8, leave out ("eighteen") and insert ("twenty").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to alter the proposed age above which, under this Bill, it will no longer be necessary to obtain the consent either of parents or of the court to marriage. This is conveniently described in the Latey Report as the age of "free marriage", and if I use that shorthand in my speech it will be to avoid the repetition of long explanations. I believe I am right in saying that up to 1753 it was possible for anybody of 14 or over to be married without anybody's consent, but for a great many years the critical age has been 21, and it is that to-day. The Bill proposes to alter it to 18.

This does not strike me as in any sense a Party issue. I certainly would not seek to urge my noble friends to support me merely on Party grounds, and from the supporters whose names I am delighted to see on the Marshalled List it will be obvious that my Amendment has attracted what I can only describe as widespread support. I assure your Lordships that I have not gone out to canvass or lobby noble Lords or right reverend Prelates to support me, but I am very pleased indeed that those names appear with mine on the Marshalled List.

This was the major issue on which the Latey Committee were divided: what should be the age for free marriage? They arranged for a public opinion poll conducted by the Government Survey. That poll showed a two-to-one majority in favour of no change from the present age of 41—I am sorry, I mean 21; I was perhaps misled into that slip of the tongue by the person who sent a letter to the Committee urging that 50 at least should be the minimum age. What is more significant is that, among the people whose opinions were surveyed, those between the ages of 16 and 20—the people most likely to be affected—were, by a majority of almost two to one, in favour of keeping the age at 21. Nevertheless, the members of the Latey Committee, by a majority of nine to two, came out in favour of reducing the age to 18. I note that the signatories to the Majority Report included the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who is perhaps going to take part in this debate to-day.

That, then, is the issue. The present age is 21. The majority of the Latey Committee recommended that it should be 18. The minority recommended that it should be 21. My Amendment, for reasons which I will explain in due course, suggests that we should reduce the age from 21 to 20. I have read the Latey Committee's Report as carefully as I could, and I spoke on it when we debated it a year ago. I regret that I was not able to be in my place and take part in the Second Reading debate on this Bill. But I am bound to say that, if I had to assess the Majority and the Minority Reports in this matter, I would say that the Majority Report was animated by optimistic theorising and the Minority Report by practical sense.

The Latey majority indicated in paragraph 163 the main reason for their recommendation. They said: The case for lowering the age of free marriage to 18 rests on our convict on, and that of many of our witnesses, that the young are mature at that age. I wonder. I have no doubt that young people are physically more mature than a generation or two ago. I have littler doubt that they are sexually more mature. But are they at 18 emotionally mature'? That is the real issue before us, and the onus of proof lies on those who at one blow would reduce the age of free marriage from 21 to 18. If there exists a deep division of view about it—and there does exist such a division; if there is little evidence of pressure for the change from those who would be most affectei—and there is little evidence indeed of any pressure; if public opinion is two to one against the change, then would it not be wiser, as this Amendment propose, to go more gradually?

The Latey Report mentioned that a national newspaper conducted a survey of its own at about the time when the Committee were appointed. I grant it was the Sunday Mirror which did this, but I should hardly call that a paper with a violent bias towards conservatism and caution. According to that survey, three-quarters of young wives regret that they married so young. The Government's proposal is designed to make young marriage easier. In Scotland, where the age of free marriage is 16, the frequency of divorce before the age of 25 is markedly higher than in England and Wales. It is more than twice as high in the case of young men, and it is half as high again in the case of young women. I ask: is that an argument for the Government's proposal to reduce the age from 21 right down to 18 in England and Wales? Further, in England and Wales, where at the time of marriage the husband is over 20 but the wife is under 20, the likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce is twice as great as the general average for all marriages. That is shown by the Registrar-General's figures in an appendix to the Latey Report, so what I have said is authoritative. Where both the man and the girl are under 20 at the time of marriage, the likelihood of the marriage ending in divorce is three times as high as the general average.

The effect of Clause 2 if the Amendment is rejected will be to increase the number of these young marriages. How many teenage marriages are stopped by the law as it stands, obviously nobody can say. It is known that in a considerable number of cases the need to obtain the parents' consent leads to a postponement of marriage. If the man or the girl thinks that the parents are being unreasonable, application for consent can be made to the courts under the law as it stands. The Government's argument is, I think, that many parents are stupid or selfish, or are not in a position to know what is right for their teenage daughter as well as she knows herself, and that with earlier physical, sexual and, indeed, economic maturity the young should now be completely free at 18 to take the decision for themselves. If that argument were altogether sound, one would expect that a steadily growing number of young people, conscious of their own maturity, would now be applying to the courts to get past the refusal of consent by their parents. That is not the case. The fact is that the number of applications to the courts remains remarkable stable over the years—and it is still very small—at around 600 a year. Of those applications, about 350 a year are successful and about 250 fail. In that factual evidence there is nothing to suggest a growing need for a drastic reduction in the age of free marriage.

I feel sure that the Government will argue that the more that young people are given responsibility the more responsible they will become. They may ask why, if 18 is to be the age at which young people can enter into hire-purchase contracts, I am now wanting to complicate matters by urging a different minimum age for marriage without the consent of parents or the courts. Marriage is not a hire-purchase contract. Nor is marriage like voting. People enter into marriage for life. If the Party a person votes for disappoints him, he can vote differently at the next Election, and it does not leave a scar on him. I would submit that marriage failure does leave a scar, usually a lasting scar.

It is not solely a question of responsibility: it is a matter of combined responsibility and experience. In that respect, it is like taking a car out on the road. It is not enough to be a responsible sort of person: you must also have gained the experience how to drive. Yet the Government propose that a person should be fully free to enter into a marriage contract for life less than two years after he or she has left school, assuming that the school-leaving age is raised to 16, as I believe it will be. Even the Latey Committee majority quoted with approval the saying—though I think this saying was a wee bit unfortunately worded: What can she know of Henry, who only Henry knows?

The Government will say that the present law strains and embitters family relationships and does harm to marriage. They may quote the opinion of the majority of the Latey Committee in paragraph 146: In our opinion preventing young people from marrying is no way to increase their respect for marriage as an institution". I doubt whether this is the whole of the matter; and, having quoted that, I think I am entitled also to quote this letter which was received in evidence and was quoted by the signatories of the Minority Report in paragraph 571. It is a letter from a 21-year-old girl and it says: I shudder each time I think of what might have happened if I had been able to marry that 'monster' when I wanted to—my parents had the experience to judge the good from the bad and knew that in time…Now three years later I've grown un…Please do all you can to keep that age at 21. Many young marriages do work but they have more chance of success if they have to prove their sincerity first. I'm sure many young girls would have married ' many times before meeting the right man if the law had allowed them such freedom … But I really mean it when I say that being a young woman just past than teenage stage, we need sensible guidance from experienced people".

This is a sensitive situation; a difficult situation; a situation fraught with a great deal of potential tragedy each way. Yet this is the situation on which we have to come to a decision. The Latey Committee were assisted by a great deal of evidence—evidence from organisations as well as individuals. I think the Government will agree that it is hard to say that the balance of evidence on this issue came down markedly on one side or the other. One can quote important bodies who urged the reduction of the age of free marriage from 21 to 18. Against that, one can quote the considered views of equally important bodies urging that the age should be retained at 21.

The situation being difficult, in this Amendment I am not taking an extreme view either way. This Amendment recognises that young men and young women are growing up more quickly, and I know of no reason to take 21 as a law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be altered. Whether or not it is true, as the Latey Committee believe, that we have the age of majority and of free marriage at 21 solely because at the time of Magna Carta 21 was held to be the age at which a young man should be able to hold a heavy suit of armour and lift a lance or a sword at the same time; whether or not that is sufficient explanation why 21 is throughout most of the world the age of majority and the minimum age for marriage without consent, I cannot say. I am not therefore concerned to argue that it should be 21 here for all time. I do not believe one can afford proof of that character, any more than one can afford proof that at 18 everybody is sufficiently mature to be able to choose a partner for life.

I would put this to your Lordships. If we now suddenly move from 21 to 18 as the minimum age for free marriage, it will not be possible for Parliament ever to go back to 19 or 20 or 21. We shall have to accept the age of 18 as finally determined, and cope as well as we can with the tragedies it will produce, such as the staved-off tragedy describes in the letter which I ventured to read to your Lordships. If, on the other hand, we move, as my Amendment suggests, from the age of 21 to the age of 20, we are taking the action that will help to test out in practice all the theories underlying the arguments of the Latey majority. Then, if public opinion is convinced by experience that a change to 20 has done good, nothing prevents a further downward step in the light of that experience. That, as succinctly and as dispassionately as I can state it, is the issue before us this afternoon. With deep feeling that it would be wrong to stake all on a sudden drop from 21 to 18, I invite the Committee to support this Amendment. I beg to move.

3.21 p.m.


I have pleasure in supporting the Amendment moved by the noble Lord. I would say, as he has, that this is not a Party matter, that Party does not enter into it, and that this is a matter of social significance. People of different Parties have different attitudes to social questions. Here to-day we are divided in our approach to this problem which has been so ably expounded by the noble Lord opposite. I find it difficult to understand why this suggestion—this measure, as it will become if it gets on to the Statute Books—that the age of majority should be reduced in this way was embodied in this Bill without further discussion in every part of the country; because if this is passed it may have most undesirable social repercussions. It may be said that the Latey Committee recommended it; but I have been in Parliament for thirty years during which time I have heard Committee after Committee—some of them most high-powered Committees—make all kinds of recommendations, but the Government of the day have not necessarily said: "We must implement that forthwith." A wise Government must say to themselves, "Will there be some undesirable repercussions from this proposal?" And if they feel that possibly there may be, then they must mark time.

This is a tremendous step; but the curious thing is that very few people know anything about it. During the last week or two in all kinds of places I have said to people, "What do you think about it?". They have said, "We must give it some thought. This is something new." I have never, in Parliament, had one letter from any adolescent, from any mother or any father or from any organisation of any kind, asking that what is now proposed should be done. I have discussed this matter with many Members of another place; but I have never been told that they have been lobbied on the subject. I have never been lobbied on the subject. Of the vast number of meetings that I have addressed on social problems never has this question been raised, never has any resolution been presented by the chairman and never have the men and women of the meeting been asked to support it. Never have I known of a women's organisation holding a conference on the matter. The protesters in our universities, when asked, "What are you protesting about?" have not in a single case ever said, "We want the age of majority reduced to 18."

Yet, suddenly, we find a Bill coming before Parliament with this suggestion in it. It seems inconsistent to me that while it is deemed advisable to raise the school-leaving age to 16—and all thinking people are urging that our young people should have every advantage in the universities and the technical colleges for higher education, which means, of course, that they would have to depend on grants and so on—at the same time the Government are prepared to allow a boy, two years after leaving school, to acquire the heavy responsibilities of marriage.

I noticed that the noble Lord talked rather about the girl who at the age of 18 might, perhaps in his mind, be encouraged to enter into some irresponsible marriage. Now although your Lordships know that I am a feminist and that I try to promote the interests of my sex frequently in this House, on this occasion I am biased in favour of the boy. I know the power of my sex when they are young. One has only to look at them in the street. Look at these magnificent girls with their marvellous mini-skirts and their straight legs walking along the street full of confidence—and the poor little boys, with their whiskers (and I am speaking biologically) desperately trying to show these magnificent mini-skirted creatures that they are her equal. They are more immature than the girl. I could almost say that the girl has sown her wild oats by the time she is 18. She sees the marvellous opportunity of the sense of creation, the physiological fact that she is the one who will bear children and have that sublime satisfaction; and she, at 16 or 17 or 18, it may be, is ready. Contrast her with the poor little boy of 17 or 18 who has left school at 16. If we pass this measure we are going to put a great burden on this boy's shoulders; for until now, he has been able to say to the siren: "Mother won't let me marry you", or "Father won't let me marry you."

Now we are going to have comprehensive schools; we are in favour of coeducation; we are in favour of the sexes mixing—and the girl (and I am not saying this in a disparaging way, for the sex urge is the strongest instinct next to that of self-preservation) in the co-educational schools will more or less already have marked her partner. For heaven's sake, let us give the boy a chance!—and I say this seriously. To say, "Let him stay at school until he is 16 but at the age of 18 let him carry the burdens of marriage and all that it means" is really cruel. I say this especially to my noble friend on the Latey Committee; for perhaps none of these pearls of wisdom was heard on the Latey Committee, where they thought in terms of theory and where practical common sense did not enter into it. There is a tendency to equate size with maturity. A youth may be bigger than were his parents at a corresponding age; but he is not necessarily wiser than were his parents at that age. He may have powerful biceps capable of holding a rifle, capable of doing arduous manual labour; but that has nothing to do with psychological maturity.

Marriage, in my opinion, is the most important step in life for most people. The individual you take for a partner can to a great degree determine your future. And it is as true to-day as it ever was that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure. Statistics prove this. Statistics show that the highest rate of divorce is found among those couples who contracted marriage at an early age. This provision in Clause 2 will encourage early marriages, and in consequence will encourage more divorces and all the miseries associated with them.

I have wondered what has been behind this suggestion, and I hope that I shall not be regarded as cynical when I say that there is no doubt that there are certain people who stand to benefit from this measure. They are the commercial interests, the tallymen who infest the streets where poorer people live, and the hire-purchase companies who will exploit these youngsters. To-day the people engaged in such commercial interests must be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of such a vast number of potential customers; these children who will be so gullible, and who may be persuaded on the doorstep to enter into contracts. The commercial interests are very pleased with this Bill. The clause as it stands does not confer any benefits on the majority of young people; it robs them of the protection which their immaturity merits.

3.31 p.m.


I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has pressed and developed the arguments which he advanced in debating the Latey Report a year ago and has put down this Amendment in support of those arguments. In supporting the Amendment I must first anticipate one obvious objection to it. It may seem that to lower the age of free marriage by only one year is so insignificant a change as to be worthless, and that it is better left at 21. This I would most strenuously deny. We are concerned as was the Latey Committee, to establish the right age for free marriage.

It is important to bear in mind that a considerable majority of popular opinion, as has already been stated—including those whom this legislation actually affects and a considerable body of expert opinion—is in favour of retaining the present age of 21. No one has seriously considered raising the age, and therefore 21 is the maximum age envisaged. Of the minority of the popular opinion which would lower the age, most favour 18, but a considerable body of expert opinion would favour 19 or 20. Most significant of all, there is virtually no support for any age lower than 18. We are faced. therefore, with a maximum of 21 and a minimum of 18. It is unfortunate that we should be asked to decide forthwith either for the maximum or for the minimum. I would submit that if 18 is the absolute minimum age this is in itself a sufficient reason for questioning the rightness of making the change to this age in the first instance. Discretion—and we are discussing the age of discretion—is not characterised by sudden changes of policy from one extreme to the other.


Would the right reverend Prelate forgive my asking him what he meant when he referred to "expert opinion"? I found it a little difficult to understand the expression.


If the noble Lord will allow me to continue I shall be referring to what I meant by expert opinion presently. If he then wishes to ask a further question about it I hope that he will do so.

It should also be noted that the Latey Committee, while acknowledging the strength of the arguments in favour of 19 and 20, dismissed them on the grounds that 19 was not significantly different from 18 and that 20 was not significantly different from 21. This argument I do not find very convincing. In spite of their claim to be searching objectively for the right age, they were in fact considering only two possibilities, 18 or 21.

It is necessary to point out that 19 is significantly different from 21 and that 20 is significantly different from 18. The Latey Committee deny that they were in any way influenced by the argument that the age for military service should be the age for majority; an argument which they rightly, in my opinion, discount. But they were influenced by opinion polls which revealed that the sizeable minority against 21 was almost wholly in favour of 18. There can be little doubt that this popular minority opinion was largely influenced by the consideration of the age of military service, for the public discussion of this matter had to a large extent centred on this aspect. If, then, we discount: this popular minority opinion we find that, apart from the popular majority opinion that the age of free marriage should remain as it is, there are the bodies representing informed or expert opinion. These bodies are referred to by name in the Latey Committee Report. They are divided into four groups: those who favour 18, those who favour 19, those who favour 20 and those who favour 21.

The case for 18 thus begins to look considerably weaker. The Latey Committee draw particular attention to what they call "the weightier institutions" who were consulted on this issue; and it is these that I mean by the term "expert". Those favouring 18 are cited as the Justices Clerks' Society; the Judges of the Chancery Court; the Marriage Guidance Council and the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility. The first three of these are all bodies whose experience and expertise relate in the main to certain categories of young people; namely, those who are in trouble and those who are in unfortunate circumstances. I gain the impression that the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility are inclined, by the nature of the work they do, to be weighted in that same direction.

It is a striking fact that the National Union of Teachers, the one body which can claim a comprehensive knowledge of youngsters, is not unanimous, and it is those dealing with the young in further education who are most apprehensive about reducing the age from 21. It is to these latter bodies of opinion that I suggest your Lordships should pay the closest attention. We are legislating for the future and two known factors about the future which we need to take into account are that the school-leaving age will be raised and that there will be a continuing increase in further education. The Latey Committee have established a strong case for lowering the age of majority to 18 in respect of the provisions which do not relate to marriage. But, as I have argued, they do not appear to me to have made a good case for the introduction now of 18 as the age for free marriage.

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not wish it to be supposed that I would necessarily oppose young marriages as such. There are many young people who make good marriages; there are many who do not. But that is not the issue at stake. I believe, with the Latey Committee, that young people to-day are more independent and more responsible than formerly. I believe that they are capable of making responsible decisions in all those areas to which the other clauses of this Bill relate. But there is a world of difference between all these other decisions and the decision to marry, in respect both of the nature of the decision and of its consequences. Every other decision they make is capable of being changed, cancelled or amended in the light of experience. But marriage, if it is to remain a meaningful institution, is a once-for-all decision of ultimate importance, both in its nature and in its consequences, for the individuals concerned and for society as a whole. In this area we should not be happy to allow young people to learn by their mistakes. This is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has already made.

I note that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—and I say this in passing—will later move in Amendment No. 11 to add the words in relation to the Hypnotism Act: persons under 21 not to be hypnotised at public entertainment". And having observed one such instance, I would support the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in respect of this. But would not the noble and learned Lord concede that some of the marriages around the ages of 18 and 19 appear to have analogies with hypnotic attraction?

In moving on this issue, we should not wish to be withholding from people a freedom for which there is any notable demand; and attention has already been paid to that fact by both previous speakers. It is not true that the country is seething with amorous young swains, smarting under the restraint of the law. The truth is that when parents dissuade teenage children from entering into hasty marriage, they are not seen by their children as wielding the stick of the law, as the Latey Report so emotively puts it. Legal enactments are normally very remote from the domestic situation. Rather are the parents seen as acting properly and responsibly, though in the mind of the young person no doubt wrongly, within the accepted social structure and it is the accepted social ethos created by the law which gives parents an influential position in this respect. But to change the law dramatically by reducing the age of free marriage from 21 to 18 will involve a radical disturbance in the social structure which could have very serious consequences for family relationships and for society as a whole.

What the Latey Committee have demonstrated is that there are good grounds for lowering the age of free marriage, and the main burden of the argument which I used in speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill was in support of this. Above all, we must take seriously the fact that children are reaching physiological maturity much earlier. This means that the gap between sexual competence and marriagable age is becoming wider and this creates severe emotional problems for young people. Therefore, in my view, the age for free marriage ought to be lowered. The problem is: what is now the right age?

There can be no certainty about this. We have not adequate evidence, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, has said. I have already argued that the case for 18, so eloquently set forth by the Latey Committee, is extremely weak and that in any case it would be indiscreet to opt for what is universally agreed to be the absolute minimum. On this question, too, we can only learn by experience. This requires that whatever legislation we pass must be capable of revision. While it would always be possible to lower the age of free marriage, it is almost inconceivable that, having fixed it at 18, we could ever raise it again. That is a strong point to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has already referred. Therefore, in my view, there is everything to be said for lowering the age by stages. It may be that ultimately it will be reduced to 18, but at least we shall have the satisfaction of having arrived at it by empirical means and not by a precipitate and possibly disastrous leap in the dark.


My Lords, I support this Amendment very strongly. I think that everything that needs to be said has probably been already said, but I would add one or two remarks. The right reverend Prelate said that young people are much more responsible today. I would question that. They are certainly more willing to assert their own opinions than they used to be, but I wonder whether in fact they are more responsible—that is to say, able to take responsibilities. My noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor put his finger on the crux of the matter when he asked, "Are young people emotionally more mature?" We have only to look at the antics of some of the students of our universities in the past two or three years and ask ourselves if they are mature human beings who are a3le to make the decision whether they are making a good or a bad marriage.

There is one other point. It his become rather the fashion, owing perhaps to television and films and other influences, for young people to look upon marriage as rather a pleasant experiment. They have the attitude which says, "Oh, it doesn't matter if it does not work. We can always get a divorce". Marriage should not be looked upon like that. It is a contract for life and, speaking personally as a member of the Christian Church, I believe that it is something more. I cannot feel that the attitude of the young people I have described ought to be encouraged; and it will be encouraged if we take the step which, as my noble friend pointed out only too rightly, cannot be reversed once it is taken. The Government then, if they insist on the age of 18, will have upon their shoulders the responsibility for who knows how many miserable, wrecked marriages that have become so purely because the two partners were too young to know what: they were doing.

3.48 p.m.


Before turning to the Amendment which is before the Committee, I wonder whether I may, with all the humility of a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House, say with the greatest respect to my noble friend Lady Summerskill, who has a lifetime of Parliamentary experience behind her, that perhaps her speech to-day should have been made on Second Reading, or even earlier when your Lordships debated the Report of the Latey Committee generally in November a year ago.

My noble friend asked at the outset why the Government had brought forward this Bill and why there had been no discussion. I would remind the Committee that when moving the Second Reading of this Bill I said that debates had already been held, both in this House and in another place, so that the Government could get Parliament's reaction to the Latey Report. I think that even noble Lords opposite would not accuse this Government of pandering to commercial interests. I should hardly have thought that that was the motive for bringing this Bill forward to-day.

Turning to the particular subject of the Amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has indicated it would have the effect that the Bill which is before the Committee would lower the age of free marriage from 21 to 20, instead of to 18 as recommended by the Latey Committee. Yet your Lordships' Committee have only this afternoon, without debate and without airing any doubts or fears, given approval to Clause 1 of the Bill. By doing so, I submit that your Lordships have endorsed the principal clause reducing the age of full legal majority from 21 to 18, thereby accepting the need and the case for change, which was based on the general findings of the majority of the Latey Committee, and have shown your confidence in the maturity and responsibility of young people to-day.

It is in this context that the Government find the Amendment, argued by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, with his usual care, cogency and, indeed, concern for human beings, both illogical and inconsistent. Having decided, on the balance of all the arguments that were deployed last year, and again here on Second Reading, that the age of 21 no longer reflects the needs and maturity of young people to-day; having considered the effects of withholding responsibility from them—a point which I think weighed heavily at the time when we discussed these matters—and having decided to reduce the age of full legal capacity to 18, surely it would now be completely inconsistent to make them subject to parental or legal strictures on this most personal subject of all for two further years after society has recognised them as full adults.

In all fairness, it must be said that those who have sponsored this Amendment, with the exception of my noble friend Lady Summerskill, have all spoken against lowering the age of free marriage, either in our general debate or on the Second Reading of the Bill, and it is quite natural, in view of the importance of this matter, that their concern should centre on this particular aspect of the proposed charges. For, after all, marriage is the most important contract of all, and one which involves not only the happiness of the couple themselves, but also that of the children.

I would, however, assure your Lordships that this concern to ensure stable marriage and all that it means for future generations in this country is not confined to those who are hesitant about, or opposed completely to, the need for change. It is clear from reading the Latey Report (and as has already been mentioned during this discussion I was a member of the Committee) that that Committee, under the distinguished chairmanship of a Judge of the Divorce Division of the High Court, who, above all, must be aware of the tragedy of the failed marriage, stated quite clearly that marriage was the most difficult and most important of all our subjects. And in all the debates that have taken place on this subject, both here and in another place, those in favour of reducing the age of free marriage have indicated that they are equally anxious not to harm family relationships, and have reaffirmed their belief that it is the force of parental persuasion and the quality of the parent-child relationship, rather than the present strictures of the law, that stops unwise marriages. This, I think, is the crux of the argument.

I hasten to assure my noble friend Lady Summerskill that the Latey Committee did not take this as a theoretical discussion: it was given the most practical, serious and lengthy consideration. All of us are at one in not wishing to encourage early marriage. The Latey Committee leaned against early marriage. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, gave us the figures of the vulnerability of early marriage. But, as the right reverend Prelate said a moment ago, quite rightly, it is not true that all young marriages are unsuccessful; and his view was very much borne out by weighty evidence from the British Medical Association, who stressed to the Latey Committee that young parents to-day are capable of bringing up their young families with responsibility and maturity in a society which sometimes presents grave difficulties to families with young children.

The questions before the Committee today really fall into four main groups. The first question that we must ask ourselves is: Does the law, as it stands at present, stop unwise marriages? The second question is: Do parents at present refuse their consent in the vast majority of cases where young people wish to marry under the age of 21? Thirdly, do the courts generally endorse the wishes of the parents or of the young people in the cases of those disputes which reach them? Fourthly—and I think perhaps most important of all to-day—what would be the reaction of young people, parents and society, as a whole, to the new situation to which this particular Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, would give rise, if it were to be agreed that young people were of full legal capacity—as already agreed by the Committee under Clause 1 of the Bill—entitled to an independent domicile, full contractual capacity, and all that is set out in Clause I—in fact regarded by society as adult in almost every aspect of the civil field except that of marriage?

The answers to the first three of the questions that I have just posed have been discussed very fully indeed in all the debates that we have had on this subject, and I do not think the Committee would thank me if I were to weary them by going over those questions again. The fact remains that, whether we like it or not, there has been a continuous trend towards early marriage ever since the Second World War; that parents, in the main, are not standing against early marriage; and that in the majority of the few cases where they do—some 500 or 600 a year, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, said a little earlier—the courts in the main come down in favour of the young people rather than in favour of the parents.

None of us, as I have already indicated, wishes to accelerate this trend. But the figures that are available in the Appendices to the Latey Report, which have been given in earlier debates in this House, indicate clearly that the present need for parents to give consent to marriage up to the age of 21 is not effective in holding back this trend; and, as I have already mentioned, the courts generally find in favour of the young people. But in the new situation of this Bill, the main issue raised by Lord Brooke's Amendment, and by those of your Lordships who are supporting it, is the possible effect of having one age for full legal capacity and another, two years later, for free marriage, and whether this will worsen or improve parent/child relationships. Surely, if we agree that the vast majority of young people are sufficiently mature and responsible to handle their own affairs—and I think in the main there is agreement on this—and if we give them the right to do so, the acceptance of this Amendment could only introduce confusion and difficulty into a field in which there should be clarity, and create disharmony and disillusionment among the young people themselves and, more important, between themselves and their parents.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has reminded us to-day that there is no magic in the age of 21, 20, or for that matter 18, or indeed 50. We are all agreed that the concept of an age of majority represents just an arbitrary moment of time at which young people should asume full responsibility, as well as the rights of adult citizens. Parents do not stop being parents, as all of us who are fortunate enough to be Parents have learned, when their children become 21, 20 or 18: parenthood lasts far life. And it is most unlikely that, if this Bill is passed in its present form, all young people of the age of 18 will went to rush out and get married. This simply does not relate to the facts as they exist to-day. We shall surely find that most young people will naturally turn to their parents and consult their parents and need their support and advice on this very important matter for their happiness and future.

I believe that most children to-day, where they are fortunate enough to have had a happy and secure upbringing, are reluctant to go against their parents' advice. A change in the law will not change the basic responsibility of young people to find the right partner in marriage. But I wonder whether the Amendment put before the Committee now, for parents to retain a legal veto for a further two years, would help the character and atmosphere of family life, or whether this would be a further source of possible conflict and friction.

I submit that this Amendment is an unnecessary compromise in which we should get the worst of both worlds. If we take the view of the Latey Committee—and by its approval of Clause 1 I think the Committee have accepted the main burden of their findings that young people to-day are sufficiently mature at 18 for a full legal capacity, surely we cannot let the age we are now considering go down by stages for experiment year by year. Those who are really opposed to this change I think would be rightly justified in agreeing with the minority of the Latey Committee. They made a very cogent case for their own point of view, with which I personally do not agree. They would be better advised to stick to 21, if I may put it that way. If there is real hesitancy and doubt, one could make a strong case for 21. But 20, in my view and in the view of the Government, is neither one thing nor the other. Those of your Lordships, and I hope it is the majority of your Lordships, who agree that the vast majority of to-day's younger generation are sufficiently mature and responsible to attain full legal capacity at 18, will surely reject this Amendment and not separate the age for free marriage from the full age for contractual capacity for domicile and property purposes, with all the difficulties, disillusions, among the young certainly, and disharmony that such a division of responsibility could bring. I would urge your Lordships to reject this Amendment and to agree to the clause as it now stands.

4.3 p.m.


I should explain that although I spoke in your Lordships' House on the Latey Report, I was not able to be present at the Second Reading of the Bill we are discussing to-day. I was, however, so shocked by the proposal to lower to 18 the age of marriage without parental consent that last week I put down an Amendment in favour of keeping it at 21. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, however, put down the Amendment which we are now debating and, in view of his far greater wisdom and experience, I withdrew my own Amendment and put my name under his. I could go along with 20, but I could never go along with 18.

May I begin by quoting the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, himself from his speech in the debate on the Latey Report? He said: The test must surely be: What arrangement will make for the greatest happiness?—not just the greatest happiness for the individual in isolation; not just for the individual at the moment of greatest pleasure; but for the ever-moving, ever-changing, society of which each individual is a component and an important part."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/11/67, col. 1057.] Lord Brooke could hardly have put it better. What we are discussing to-day is human happiness and the way to find the greatest happiness for the greatest number. It is on this basis that we shall decide whether to take this step into the unknown, this leap into the dark. We have, in short, to make up our minds whether or not this is an acceptable risk. Naturally, there are arguments for and against. The arguments in favour of the Bill as it now stands are, if I may say so, neither cogent nor based upon experience.

May I take these arguments, very briefly, one by one. The first is epitomised in the ex-cathedra statement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, that (I think I quote correctly), People act responsibly only if one treats them as responsible". I agree with the noble and learned Lord on almost every single act of social reform which has come before this House, but legislation of this kind is such that I, and perhaps others of your Lordships, cannot so readily accept it. With great respect to the noble and learned Lord, on what practical and empirical grounds does he say this thing? And, to reduce the argument to the absurd, could it not equally be applied to the 12, 13 or 14-year-olds? The principle seems quite simply to be one of, "Try it out and see what happens". One could, of course, apply such an argument to a parent who decided to throw his child into the water to see whether it could swim. Some children no doubt could swim; others would drown. According to the figures, one thing is certain: the earlier young people marry the more likely it is that they are going to get divorced. Frankly, I do not believe, and I do not believe that other noble Lords in the House will be so naïve as to believe, that by offering young people the chance, as it were, on a plate of making their own decisions it is necessarily going to make them any more high-minded or nobly intentioned. Why should it?

Next I come to the extraordinary argument that parents are not fit to judge upon their children's marriages because they are emotionally prejudiced. Gracious goodness! if the parents are emotionally prejudiced, what are the children themselves? Are they any more likely to be capable of forming an objective judgment than are those who brought them into the world and presumably wish them well? Is anyone seriously going to suggest that a couple in love are more likely to form a reasoned judgment than are those who are at any rate distant by one remove? Finally—and this has been said before throughout this debate—do the boys and girls want this thing? Apparently not. But in the name of theory and in the name of social progress we must seemingly set our teeth and push our way forward into an unknown wilderness—with, of course, the blessing of the Observer.

And just this further thought. Some play has been made of the fact that of those young people who go to magistrates for consent in defiance of their parents, a majority are given the magistrates' blessing. These statistics are surely meaningless, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has said. Those who go to the magistrates are presumably determined young people with a good case to plead. What about the numbers who do not go to the magistrates because of the present law; because, great as is their devotion, indeed their deep love for one another, they prefer to wait rather than face the risk of opposition of their respective parents in open court? For every case which comes to the court I would reckon there are many which are argued inside the family. Parental consent as it now stands is like the fleet in being: it rarely fires its guns, but it is always there. So much for the arguments for reducing the age to 18. I suggest that these are largely emotional arguments and that they do not stand up in either logic or reason.

But, of course, the nub of the business is this. Accepting the arguments that boys and girls mature physically younger and that they are better educated, does that mean, as has been asserted at least three times, that they are more mature emotionally? Do your Lordships honestly believe that because orange juice and "O" levels have changed the human body and the human mind for the better, the same applies when it comes to maturity of judgment? Has it made them any more mature than we were forty—some of us less, some of us more than forty—years ago? The young and noble Lord, Lord Feversham (alas! he cannot be with us to-day), said: It is pure conjecture to claim that the young might or might not be more responsible. Personally, I do not believe there has been much change in either direction".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/11 68, col. 1106.] There is simply no evidence whatever that boys and girls are emotionally more stable than they were in 1910 or 1810. How can there be? Certainly there was nothing in the Latey Report, except that it spoke in an airy-fairy way of the increasing self-reliance of young people in conducting their own affairs". It might have been more appropriate, though no less accurate, if they had spoken of their "love affairs".

In this matter of the future for the younger generation, and, more important, for their children, far too little has been said about the children of divorcees. We are groping in the dark and we are playing with the lives of others. None of us really knows, but I fear that some of us may be motivated not only by high intentions but perhaps by a slight desire to be "with it". My Lords, it is not our job to be "with it". It is unseemly for the old to ape the young.

May I put this case briefly? If you believe in an increased divorce rate; if you believe in broken homes, which of course is what divorce means; if you believe that parents are out of date; if you believe that love conquers all; if you believe that, because of better nutrition and better education, human nature has changed; if you believe (and this is the argumentum ad hominem) that at the age of 18 you would have regarded yourselves as qualified to take the greatest single step in your lives—if you believe these things (and I wonder which of your Lordships conscientiously can believe them) then naturally you will vote against the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. But, if you believe, as I do, that we have no right to experiment with the happiness of the younger generation, which, to use the words of the Minority Report, has no wish to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the permissive atmosphere of the 20th century"; above all if you believe in the dignity and sanctity of human marriage, then I ask you to support the noble Lord in his Amendment.

4.13 p.m.


In speaking against this Amendment I should like first to take up a couple of the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Arran. With great respect, I do not think that he can have some of his arguments both ways. Having argued that the number of young people who apply at magistrates' courts for permission to marry is small, he went on to say that thousands of young people do not go to the magistrates' courts because they do not want to upset their parents. I think the noble Earl ought to produce evidence to support his contention. If they do not go to the magistrates' courts it is not because they do not want to upset their parents in the court, but because they do not want to have a bad relationship with their parents, and because the matter has been talked out at home: and they are delaying their marriage for that reason.

I cannot see how any change in the law, even if the age of majority is reduced to 18, will make that sudden difference in the parent/child relationship. I would also say—and as a parent I say it somewhat regretfully—that I do not think parents have the monopoly of knowing what is right in the case of two young people in love, however unsuitable we may think the marriage would be. Nor do I think that trying to understand how young people feel—and perhaps how we felt at the same age—is an indication that one is aping the young: rather is it an indication that one is trying to understand and to reduce what is certainly a considerable degree of alienation between the generations.

In 1967, 162,145 girls under the age of 21 were married, compared with 65,956 boys, which means that there is a considerable difference between the number of girls who marry at a young age and the number of boys. If one takes the age of 18, one finds that 8,972 boys were married as compared with 31,343 girls, which is a ratio of roughly one to four. I would say to my noble friend, Lady Summerskill, for whom I have always had an enormous respect over the many years I have known her, that those miniskirted, booted, attractive young girls, who certainly got a response from your Lordships when she mentioned them, are not trying to get boys of 18 into their clutches: they are looking for rather older men. They do not want to marry immature boys of 18. I think it would be found that the boys of 18 who get married are, in fact, marrying girls of 16 or 17; and, even when the law is changed, these girls will still be subject to parental consent.

I agree with the noble Baroness that, on the whole, a girl of 18 is more sophisticated and more mature, and if a girl of 18 marries a boy of 18 the chances are that he is probably one of the mature 18-year-old boys. On the other hand, as happens occasionally—and it always gets great publicity—if a boy of 18 marries a woman who is much older than himself he will get a wife with all the maternity attached, and I imagine that the noble Baroness will accept that in such a case he will be in good care and well protected.

Listening to the right reverend Prelate, I thought, if he will forgive me for saying so, that both in his speech to-day and during the Second Reading debate he was not so much trying to persuade the rest of us as trying to persuade himself. I thought he accepted the concept of 18 as the age of majority—


May I just say to the noble Baroness that I was indeed trying to persuade her and others in your Lordships' House to my view.


I thought that the right reverend Prelate was trying to persuade himself even harder than he was trying to persuade the rest of us. But I agree very much with my noble friend Lady Serota, who put so well the reasons why a majority age of 20 would be getting the worst of both worlds. In addition to the point that she made, I would point out that 18 is generally the age at which the majority of young people are out at work. We must not think exclusively of the fairly small proportion who are still students, as compared with the vast numbers of people who are working and earning their living at that age.

There are so many other reasons why they are now given responsibility, and therefore 18 seems the right age. I say this with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, because I understand the doubts which many people have about this subject. But I think it would be rather insulting to young people to say to them, "We do not think you are old enough to marry at 18, but we will just give you a drop of one year." I do not think this would show that we have any confidence in their maturity or that we believe they will rise to the responsibility we are giving them.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, took the analogy of driving, and said that one has to gain experience in order to drive. I might add that in order to drive a motor car you must have training and pass a test: you have to show that you know something about it. What we in this country need to do is to make sure that young people know a great deal more about marriage than they do at present. They should have training and guidance for it: not only in regard to the sexual facts of life, but in regard to the whole economic and emotional concept of what marriage will mean to them. I believe that in this way we should bring into being the social strategy of reducing the age of majority to 18, and we should show ourselves—that is to say, the Administration, the educational bodies and everyone connected with this matter—that young people have the guidance and the help that is necessary.

The lack of experience (of which my noble friend Lady Summerskill gave examples), is partly due, I think, to lack of years—and, of course, everybody starts with that advantage or disadvantage and then grows out of it—and is also due to the fact that we have not tried any scheme for giving real guidance and help. Young people who now reach the age of majority at 21 have not had it. So, naturally, many of your Lordships, if I may say so with respect, are arguing from that basis, whereas if we took it from a more positive point of view and said: "Yes, the age of majority should be 18, but it is up to us to see that the legislation is sustained and supported by the proper social, psychological, emotional, and every other help", then I think we should be recognising the increasing maturity of young people. Although there are no scientific means of measuring it, if one meets young people, both individually and in organisations, as I do, and if one speaks to lecturers and teachers, one finds a very great body of opinion that the young people of to-day are more mature and ready to accept responsibility. I think it would be quite insulting, as well as wrong, to say to them, "You are fit to take on all these other responsibilities; you are fit to sign hire purchase agreements and so on, but you are not fit to make a personal decision".

Finally, I would say, as a parent myself, that we are looking at this mystic idea of 21 just as legislators and not as parents. As parents, do we suddenly think that at 21 our children are now able to make all the right decisions and are very wise? Not at all. When they reach 21 and over we are still worried whether they are making the right decision, the right marriage. I hope your Lordships will reject this Amendment. In other debates in your Lordships' House we are always assuring the young people that they are the people who are going to take over the world and that they have so much to contribute. Let us show them we have confidence in them to use their common sense, and [...]et us help them to do so.


I have three sentences before the noble Lord puts the Question from the Chair—I know your Lordships are anxious to get a decision upon it. I sincerely believe that this is one of those gusts of irrelevant lunacy that overtake all Governments from time to time. There is no rationale behind it at all. It does not make sense. As the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, said, there is no demand for this in the country at all. There is no justification for this at all. Not a single valid argument has been brought forward in its favour, and I hope very much that your Lordships will support the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke.


I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but there are two points that I should like to bring out. First, we have the institution of the family in this country and it is very, very valuable. If we pass this Amendment to make 20 the age of marriage and the parents do not like it, in this permissive age what are the young people going to do? They are going to live together and marry when they are 20. This is immoral, and I think they should be given an opportunity to make up their minds when they are 18 whether to marry or not. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will reject this Amendment.

4.25 p.m.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, replies, may I deal with one or two of the points raised? The two out of eleven who formed the minority of the Latey Committee laid great stress on a poll taken by National Opinion Polls, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has referred to this and stressed it on each of the occasions on which he has addressed the House upon this subject. It is dealt with, beginning at page 201, in the Latey Committee's Report. The first thing to note about it is that the weighted base of all respondents from 16 to 20 was 409. I am quite prepared to be contradicted about this; your Lordships know more about it than I do. I am quite prepared to believe that modern statistical sampling has reached a very high art, but I find it, as a matter of sheer common sense, very difficult to believe that if you want to find out what 4,300,000 young men and women between school leaving age and 21 think about this matter you can really find out by asking 409.

The second thing is that the sample was not prepared for these questions. A poll was being taken of selected householders on a number of subjects and questions on the age of majority were added on at the end. Having asked these selected householders what they thought, those taking the poll said, "Have you any people under 21 here?"; and if there were, then they asked them these questions. As your Lordships know, and I know, a large majority of the 4,300,000 are supporting themselves and living away from home. It was because of the circumstances to which I have referred that when they were asked how many of the respondents under 21 were living with parents or guardians it was found that the answer was 93 per cent. That was because it was tagged on to this sample of resident householders. It seems to me, if I may say so, not at all representative of what young people think. And what is interesting is that the third who wanted some other age than 21 are in the same position as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke; they thought it ought to be less than 21. When this group were asked, "What age do you think it ought to be?", 7 per cent. said 16, 2 per cent. said 17, 75 per cent. said 18, 12 per cent. said 19, and only 1 per cent. agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, that it ought to be 20.

Another point which has been made is that in Scotland for a very long time all young people have been free to marry from the age of 16 without anybody's consent, and it is said on the one hand. "Nothing awful has followed from that; there is no movement in Scotland to have parental consent above 16". On the other hand, it has been said that if you look at the figures you will find that the number of divorces after only three or four years is very much higher in Scotland than in England and this shows how unwise it is to require no consent above the age of 16. The answer to that is this. It is indeed true that for four years after marriage the divorce rate in Scotland is substantially higher than in England; but after five years it is exactly the same. The reason for that is nothing to do with the age of 16 and no parental consent. It is simply this. Your Lordships know that it is the law—and under the Divorce Reform Bill, which by a substantial majority received a Second Reading in another place this afternoon, will remain the law—that no petition for dissolution of marriage can be presented within three years of the marriage, except by leave of the court, which is granted only in circumstances of exceptional hardship or exceptional depravity. This has never been the law in Scotland.

The Scottish Law Commission were recently asked whether they would be in favour of this law in Scotland so that the law in the two countries would be uniform, and they said, "Certainly not. We have always regarded it as a load of rubbish. It does no good at all except to put off a divorce where the marriage has obviously broken down, and we would not entertain it for a moment. "That is the real reason. Here I have graphs showing the divorce rate in England and Wales on the one hand, and Scotland on the other hand, for 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966. They all tell the same tale, showing in Scotland a larger number of divorces in the first four years, and then at the end of the fifth year they are just about the same. That, I suggest, is the reason for that.

My noble friend Lady Summerskill, asked, "Where does this demand come from?" She seemed to think, and I think she has said this before, that it all comes from the hire-purchase people. May I assure her—this may be regarded as the weakness of the case—that in a sense it all comes from me, because when I was chairman of the Labour Party Youth Commission some nine or ten years ago I was amazed to find how entirely out of line the Common Law was with the Statute Law in this field. By Common Law a man of 20 was treated exactly the same as a boy of 9. He could not give a valid receipt; he could not get a passport; he could not make a contract unless a judge thought it was for necessaries; he could not make a will; he could not get a house; he could not negotiate a mortgage, and so on.

But Parliament had taken quite a different line. Parliament had said, in the days of hanging, that you could be hanged at 18, and in the days of conscription that you could be called up at 18. You can be the pilot in sole charge of an aircraft at 18, and so forth. These two things just did not fit, so much so that although you can be a pilot in sole charge of an aircraft at 18 you cannot enter into an enforceable contract to take flying lessons until you are 21, because that is Common Law. So I thought it was about time that somebody looked at this subject, particularly when as I found that there was, and there is, no factual basis of any kind whatever for choosing 21 instead of 22 or instead of 20. As your Lordships know, it comes entirely from the weight of armour in the Middle Ages, and it is literally hundreds of years since anybody in this county has applied his mind to the question: In the circumstances of the day, what is the right age at which people ought to be treated as responsible?

The noble Baroness said that nobody takes any interest in, or writes letters on, the subject. Nobody has to put in a memorandum to a committee if he does not want to. I have here seven of nine files containing literally hundreds of memoranda, and so forth, which were put before the Committee. The Com- mittee sat mostly all day for 65 days, hearing 81 witnesses. The noble Baroness has said—


My Lords, my noble and learned friend invited the memoranda.


Presumably the fact that the Committee had been set up was of course announced. The noble Baroness said that nobody writes. I have here the letters.


Which you invited.


My Lords, if there had been no interest in the subject nobody would have written them.

There are some things on which we are all agreed. We are all agreed that early marriage is a bad thing and is to be discouraged. I remember well that when the noble Lord, Lord Henley, opened the debate on a Motion which he put down to consider the Latey Report that was the first thing he said, and I said later how much I agreed with him, because young marriages are more at risk; the failure rate is markedly higher. Therefore the first thing on which I hope we can all agree is that early marriages are to be discouraged. The second thing is this. The present law does not achieve this discouragement. Of all worsen in England and Wales who marry to-day,42 per cent. do so under age. So the present law does not stop that. The truth is that none of us knows exactly what happens because the facts ate not known: that is to say, nobody knows in what proportion of cases parents are successful or unsuccessful in dissuading. Where relationships are good between parents and children, no doubt is the ordinary way they sort it out between them. But there is this large number of marriages every year where often both parties are under age.

The Committee have accepted the case that if you are looking for the right age at which young people ought to be treated as responsible it is not a question of whether they are more responsible now than they were, because we do not know that 21 was ever the right age; it has never really been considered before. But if you are looking for an age, then by passing Clause 1 and putting down no Amendment to it your Lordships have accepted that for everything else except marriage 18 is the right age at which young people ought to be treated as responsible. The onus, I should have thought, was on the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, to say why marriage is an exception.

If we are all honest, I think we must admit that we do not know, because, as I have said, we do not really know what happens. We know that in some 600 cases a year young people feel sufficiently strongly about it to go off to a court—though taking parents to court is not perhaps the best way of starting married life. We know that in the majority of those cases the court finds that the young people are right and the parents are wrong. That does not greatly surprise me, because I think that two people have sometimes a pretty good idea whether they are the right people for one another, and I doubt whether anybody else has. I suggested on Second Reading that young people would be better advised to ask a teacher who knows them both well; whereas parents, of course, are so emotionally involved. They usually regard their own children as younger than they really are. A good many parents would be horrified if they knew what their children really do. Father wanted his son to marry the sort of girl he had always wanted to marry himself but had not. Mother wanted the daughter to stay at home to look after the housework. They are not in any way disinterested people; usually they are emotionally involved themselves.

I have read a great deal of the evidence which was given to the Committee, and the great bulk of the evidence which impressed me was that of people who spent most of their time dealing with young people—the Marriage Guidance Councils, people in schools, business people. I remember Mrs. Sugg, whose firm has interviewed a quarter of a million young women in the last twenty years, saying what a great change there has been lately in the type who come to be interviewed. They leave home and come to London. They are entirely independent; they live on their own. I remember that she said that only seven years ago the average age of the girls who went to work overseas was 21; to-day, the average is between 17 and 19.

We know, of course, of the great increase in illegitimate children. We know from those who are concerned in work with them in how many cases this is because parents have refused their consent and the young people, being able to support themselves, have just gone off and lived together and had children. Is that what you want to happen? This is not in the least a question of whether we want more early marriages or fewer early marriages. The sole question is, what is the effect of parents being able to invoke the law? I can quite believe that that may have a good effect for young people of the ages of 16 and 17; but anybody who thinks that today you can control men and women of 18 or 19 is, I should have thought, misguided.

May I just remind your Lordships that in the debate on the Latey Report the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Leicester, spoke of the evidence given by an organisation used to dealing with young children, the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility. He said: We had all over the country, in our various diocese, social workers, whom we used to describe as moral welfare workers, and together they touch something like 25,000 cases, or are in touch with that number at any one time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/11/67, col. 1078.] Then he said: I have come to the conclusion that the real evidence suggests that the parental veto, if we may use that 'shorthand' expression, is simply not working. In the first place, quite clearly, in an enormous number of cases it is not exercised at all."—[col. 1079.] Then he referred to 215 short case histories which had been supplied by that organisation. He mentioned one or two in particular, and referred to the 25,000 illegitimate births to women under the age of 21. Then he said: We notice, too, that most other forms—I think I can say 'all other forms '—of family protection cease at the age of 16. It is well known that at the age of 16 young people can leave home if they want to do so, and that their parents can turn them out if they want to do so. When in fact they do leave home, or are turned out, and somehow or other they struggle on for two or three years and then want to get married, it seems quite artificial that they have to resurrect parental authority and go back to the father and mother who either turned them out or upon whom they turned their backs, in order to have a decision on the whole of their future. In any case, we have no evidence at all that in a large number of cases if parental consent had been refused things would in fact have been any better: in other words, no exact tie-up can be proved between the divorce rate and the question of parental consent. So it is an extremely doubtful argument whether much can be done about the divorce rate by keeping the present rule of parental consent as it is."—[col. 1081–2.] I should have thought what was important was evidence of that sort, or that of a conservative body like the British Medical Association containing all the family doctors, who were strongly in favour of a reduction of the age to 18, not because they wanted more early marriages. None of us wants that.

The question is, what good do you do if you cannot persuade young people not to make what parents may think is an unwise marriage? If you cannot persuade them, those of 18 and 19 are to-day in fact not capable of control. They go off, they start families of their own, and indeed, as the Latey Committee said, whereas very often there used to be a shotgun pointing at the young man's head because of a pregnancy, now there are deliberate pregnancies in order to force the parents' hand. The whole question accordingly is, what can one say, all of us being satisfied—as shown by the passing of Clause 1 and no Amendment to it being put down—that, with earlier physical development, with earlier mental development, with secondary education having started already with the Butler Education Act, young people are all much better educated to-day, and many of them better educated at 18 than their fathers are now.

Your Lordships are not, after all, judging what is wise for the children of the upper classes, but for all of them. I would ask your Lordships to vote against this Amendment because I am satisfied, for the same reasons as the Latey Committee, that on the whole this power of consent is one which cannot usefully be used and which, on the whole, does more harm than good. If 18 is now the right age for treating people as responsible, it is illogical to form an exception which they will naturally resent even more bitterly if they are treated as responsible in every other way.

4.45 p.m.


I am grateful to noble Lords, from all parts of the House, and to the right reverend Prelate, who have spoken in support of my Amendment. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the care with which in their speeches they addressed themselves to it. May I say again that in a matter of this character I should not dream of urging any of my noble friends to support my Amendment solely on Party grounds. I agree with those who have said that this is as far as anything can be from a matter of Party judgment. We have heard the debate, and we should come to our individual conclusions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, spoke against my Amendment, and yet I noticed that she, perhaps unawares, let slip the adjective "immature" in relation to boys of 18. When she suggested (and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, also said this) that it would be insulting to young people to insist on 20 as the age of free marriage when, under Clause 1, the general age of majority is to be 18, I really cannot understand why it should be considered insulting to young people if Parliament legislates against a proposal which, by a majority of two to one, they have themselves rejected in a public opinion poll. The noble and learned Lord sought to cast doubts on the public opinion poll. I am the last person to claim that public opinion polls are representations of absolute truth. Nevertheless, this; one seems to have been carried out with some authority, because when he referred your Lordships to page 201 of the Latey Report I looked up that page and I found at the top, "Appendix 9: Summary of a Survey carried out by the Government Social Survey". One cannot do better than that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Serota, said that she feared that disillusion and disharmony would result if we fixed this age at 20, instead of 18. She suggested that we should be better advised to stick to 21. I would say, with great respect, that it is for each of your Lordships to decide how he would be best advised; and I hope that noble Lords will feel best advised, and particularly advised by the speech of the right reverend Prelate, to support my suggestion of 20. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said that the right reverend Prelate was trying to persuade himself. Well, he may have been doing that as well; but, judging by the reception given to his speech, I thought he was remarkably successful in persuading your Lordships in all parts of the House by the cogency of his arguments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Serota, asked whether, if we do require an extra two years beyond 18 for parental consent, it will help the character of family life. I realise that all this is extremely difficult to assess, but I think that the number of cases where the character of family life might be grievously upset by an unhappy marriage contracted at 18 under the Bill as it stands would more than offset such other cases as there may be where the insistence on parental consent may cause strain within the family.

However, I thought that both the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Baroness were principally seeking to demolish my arguments by reliance on the ground that there must be one age throughout. I really cannot accept that as valid. I did not speak on Clause 1 because, frankly, I agree with Clause 1. I believe it is desirable that at the age of 18 there should be a general right to enter into contracts, a general right to make wills, and so forth; but I do not think we should read off from

that that the age of free marriage should also be 18.

The noble and learned Lord quoted the British Medical Association as being very authoritative in this field. What the Association said was: It is difficult to state that maturity has occurred after passing any particular milestone in life. Maturity is a continuing process over a period of time, and it is reasonable to allow the assumption of certain responsibilities at an earlier age than others. That is just the point that I am seeking to establish. It cannot be argued with cogency that because Clause 1 has been approved by the Committee our decision there on these minor matters of property and wills must govern our decision on the major matter of marriage. Indeed, I should have thought that that was made absolutely clear by the majority of the Latey Committee themselves, when they said: Make the wrong contract and you suffer for a year or two, and perhaps make an adult trader miserable for a few months; make a wrong marriage and you may suffer for life and spoil the lives of your children after you. I must press this Amendment.

4.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 77; Not-Contents, 71.

Aberdeen and Temair, M. Essex, E. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Albemarle, E. Ferrier, L. Newton, L.
Ampthill, L. Fortescue, E. Norwich, L.Bp.
Arran, E. Grenfell, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs. Gridley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Auckland, L. Guest, L. Ripon, L.Bp.
Audley, Bs. Hankey, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Barrington, V. Hanworth, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Boothby, L. Hawke, L. St. Davids, V.
Brentford, V. Horsbrugh, Bs. St. Helens, L.
Bridgeman, V. Howard of Glossop, L. St. Oswald, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. [Teller.] Hylton-Foster, Bs. Sandford, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Iddesleigh, E. Sempill, Ly.
Carrington, L. Ilford, L. Somers, L,
Conesford, L. Kinloss, Ly. Southwark, L.Bp.
Craigavon, V. Kinnoull, E. Stamp, L.
Crathorne, L. Kirkwood, L. Strang, L.
Cromartie, E. Lindgren, L. Strathclyde, L.
Denham, L. Loudoun, C. Summerskill, Bs. [Teller.]
Drumalbyn, L. Margadale, L. Thurlow, L.
Dudley, L. Merrivale, L. Trefgarne, L.
Dundonald, E. Milverton, L. Vivian, L.
Ebbisham, L. Molson, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Monsell, V. Wise, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Morton of Henryton, L. Wolverton, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Aberdare, L. Douglass of Cleveland, L. Pargiter, L.
Addison, V. Eccles, V. Peddie, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Evans of Hungershall, L. Phillips, Bs.
Amherst, E. Faringdon, L. Plummer, Bs.
Amulree, L. Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Raglan, L.
Archibald, L. Garnsworthy, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Arwyn, L. Granville of Eye, L. Rusholme, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Hall, V. Sainsbury, L.
Beswick, L. Helsby, L. Serota, Bs.
Bethell, L. Henley, L. Shackleton, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Birk, Bs. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Silkin, L.
Blyton, L. Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.] Soper, L.
Bowles, L. [Teller.] Jessel, L. Sorensen, L.
Brockway, L. Kennet, L. Stocks, B.
Brown, L. Latham, L. Strabolgi, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Burden, L. Listowel, E. Teynham, L.
Byers, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs Wade, L.
Champion, L. Maelor, L. Walston, L.
Chorley, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Wells-Pestell, L.
Collison, L. Mitchison, L. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Colville of Culross, V. Moyle, L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Cottesloe, L. Moynihan, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Nunburnholme, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Maintenance for children under Guardianship of Infants Acts to continue to age of 21]:

5.0 p.m.

LORD CHORLEY moved Amendment No. 2: Page 4, line 42, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: We now pass to a number of Amendments which are closely connected and which I am afraid your Lordships will feel are not quite as important as the matter with which we have just dealt, but which nevertheless deal with a matter of considerable importance. In this Part of the Bill we are concerned with lowering the age of majority from 21 to 18, and the Bill to a large extent is taken up with a number of provisions in earlier Acts of Parliament relating in various ways to maintenance for young people between 18 and 21, which it is desired should be kept going but which would, of course, disappear unless some safeguarding provisions were put into the Bill. In effect, Part I of the Bill is to a large extent static, and that is really what I am complaining about.

As I pointed out in my speech on this subject during Second Reading, when we get to Part II of the Bill we get to a reforming area in which very considerable inroads are made into the Common Law on illegitimacy, which is in a very narrow and unsatisfactory state in the modern world. But the spirit of reform which animates Part II is completely absent from Part I. The clauses in Part I with which I am dealing in this Amendment and in the two succeeding Amendments are aimed at keeping the law quite static, keeping the unfortunate distinction between the rights of legitimate and illegitimate children which has marked the law in the past; in other words, not looking at these problems from a reforming angle. The result of this will be most unfortunate, because although it does not change the law, by stabilising it in art Act of Parliament it clearly makes it very much more difficult to change it and to reform it in the future.

I had a good deal to do with the Legitimacy Act 1959, which attempted to improve the position of illegitimate children by making legitimate by Statute a large number of children who at Common Law were illegitimate. That met with a good deal of resistance, particularly in your Lordships' House, and we could not take it beyond a certain point. But the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and myself, with assistance from various parts of the House—it was not at all a Party question—succeeded in effecting very considerable improvements in the law. Part II of the present Bill adopts a different line by definitely improving the position of illegitimate children; not making them legitimate as the 1959 Act did, but improving their position and to a large extent equating them with legitimate children. But this is emphatically not done in Part I.

With those introductory sentences, may I draw your Lordships' attention to the first of these Amendments which is concerned with Clause 4? Clauses 4, 5 and 6 are concerned with maintenance for children, and Clause 4 is concerned in particular with maintenance for children under the Guardianship of Infants Acts. Those Acts go back into the last century, the current one being the Guardianship of Infants Act 1925, which was passed long before all these modern developments in connection with improving the position of illegitimate children had been dreamt of, at any rate in legislative circles. Therefore, to insist that provisions made in 1925, and indeed in earlier Acts, should be carried on into the future in this Bill, and should continue to subsist only for the purpose of protecting legitimate children and not illegitimate children, seems to me and to those who share my view altogether wrong.

This is brought out particularly in subsection (4) of Clause 4 which reads, No order shall be made under subsection (2) of this section"— this is the clause which deals in detail with the position of the legitimate child, in connection with maintenance under the Guardianship of Infants Acts— requiring any person to pay any sum towards the maintenance or education of an illegitimate child of that person. That is put in for the purpose of maintaining the position under the earlier Act, and I suggest that in this year of grace it is altogether wrong, and opportunity should have been taken in this Bill to put that matter right.

The draughtsmen of these two Parts of the Bill seem to have been two quite separate people who worked independently of each other. While the draughtsman of Part II was improving the position of the illegitimate child, the objective of the draughtsman of Part I seems to have been to stabilise the present unsatisfactory situation. Therefore, I am proposing to remove subsection (4), to bring into line, for the purpose of maintenance under these Guardianship of Infants Acts, the position of the illegitimate child. I hope that I have given sufficient explanation of this Amendment, and I beg to move.


I agree with my noble friend Lord Chorley that these Amendments all relate in substance to the same field, and if it will not be inconvenient to him I shall deal with them together. I think my noble friend has put these Amendments down under some misapprehension. This is a Bill to do three things: first, if thought right, to reduce the age of majority in accordance with the Report of the Latey Committee; secondly, to confer certain rights of succession on illegitimate children in accordance with the Report of the Russell Committee; and, thirdly, to make provision for the proof of paternity by blood tests, and so on, in accordance with the Report of the Law Commission. It does not purport to deal with all family law, and it is not dealing at all with affiliation law.

The first of my noble friend's Amendments, which is linked with his Amendment to leave out subsection (6) of Clause 6, is, I suggest, based on a misunderstanding, because Clause 4, subsection (4) of which is sought to be omitted, is concerned only with proceedings under the Guardianship of Infants Acts, and with adapting the powers of courts to order maintenance in such proceedings to the new situation where the age of majority will be 18 but the power is to continue in respect of children up to the age of 21. There has never been any power to order maintenance to be paid to illegitimate children under the Guardianship of Infants Acts; and Section 3(2) of the Legitimation Act 1959, which extended the Guardianship of Infants Acts to illegitimate children in other respects, expressly excluded the power to award maintenance to an illegitimate child. Accordingly, Clause 4 of this Bill, in adapting the powers under the Acts, continues the existing exclusion and provides, in subsection (4), that maintenance shall not be awarded to illegitimate children. It is necessary to do this expressly because Clause 4(2) somewhat enlarges, in effect, the power to award maintenance under the existing Acts. But subsection (4) is inserted only to make it clear beyond doubt that nothing in Clause 4 affects the existing law on the subject.

The reason why it is the policy of the law that maintenance cannot be ordered under these Acts for illegitimate children (the policy which is maintained for the purposes of this Bill) is simply that there is a quite separate code of law relating to illegitimate children and their maintenance. This code is contained in the Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957. Under that Act, the court can order maintenance to be paid for the benefit of an illegitimate child. So there is no question of this Bill penalising illegitimate children. It is simply a question of ensuring that the two codes of law are not run together, with resulting confusion. All that Clause 4 of the Bill does is to deal with applications under the Guardianship of Infants Acts and to relate them to the new law so that, whereas children will come of age at 18, maintenance under those Acts may nevertheless be provided until they are 21. It is not prejudicing in any way whatever the rights of illegitimate children. Perhaps my noble friend would be good enough to tell me whether he would like me to deal now with his other Amendments.


I would rather deal with this Amendment first, unless there are other Peers who wish to speak. I appreciate what the noble and learned Lord has said about the fact that deleting this subsection might not have the effect which I wish to achieve, which is to put the illegitimate child in the same position as the legitimate child for the purposes of the Guardianship of Infants Acts. I should myself have thought that it was arguable that the extension of the law under subsection (2), to which the noble and learned Lord referred, might, without the insertion of subsection (4), have had the effect of putting the illegitimate child into the same position as the legitimate child. Otherwise, the draftsman would not have put subsection (4) into this clause. He must have done so because he felt that it was necessary to have it there. But I can see that he may possibly have done so, as lawyers say, ex abundanti cautela; and the noble and learned Lord has an argument to the effect that, even if I persuaded your Lordships to take out subsection (4), it would not achieve the object which I have in mind.

It may be that a better way of going about it would be to improve or amend the Guardianship of Infants Acts themselves, and I should like to look at that. But before withdrawing this Amendment I should like to make the point, which will come out in connection with the next matter with which we deal, that the provisions of the Act dealing with affiliations are really of a very different kind from those in the Guardianship of Infants Acts. The provisions in the Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957 are not altogether satisfactory, as I hope to persuade your Lordships when I come to move the next Amendment; and I do not feet that there are here, so to speak, two parallel systems of law, dealing in the one case for legitimate and in the other case for illegitimate children, which provide equal benefits in respect of maintenance. The provisions for illegitimate children are very much less satisfactory than those under the Guardianship of Infants Acts. Therefore, I cannot accept the argument that there are two equally satisfactory but parallel systems of law, and that the present law does not inure to the detriment of the illegitimate child. B at, as I have said, I should like to make that point in rather more detail in connection with the next Amendment, and at this moment I would merely ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the first of my Amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Modifications of other enactments relating to maintenance of children so as to preserve benefits up to age of 21]:

5.17 p.m.

LORD CHORLEY moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 5, line 25, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) The following amendments shall be made to the Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957

  1. (a) in section 1, after the words "father of the child" there shall be added the words "Complaint may also be made on behalf of the illegitimate child by his next friend.";
  2. (b) in section 2, after subsection (2), there shall be added the following new subsection:—
(3) A complaint under section 1 may in such circumstances also be made on behalf of the child by his next friend."; in subsection (1). for the words "the child's mother", there shall be substituted the words "the child or the person having custody of his person". subsection (2) shall be omitted, for subsection (3), there shall he substituted the following new subsection— (3) an affiliation order may, on the application of the child through his next friend, be made or varied by a magistrates' court so as to entitle the person who for the time being has the custody of the child to receive on the child's behalf any payment to be made under the order.", and in subsection (4). the words "in the same manner as the mother might have done" shall be omitted; in subsection (2), for the words "on the application of the child's mother", there shall be substituted the words "on application on behalf of the child", in subsection (3), the words from "but shall not" to the end of the subsection shall be omitted, and in subsection (4), paragraph (b) shall be omitted.

The noble Lord said: We now come on to the question that I mentioned a moment ago, concerning the Affiliation Proceedings Act. Here again the object of the clause in the Bill is, as it were, to preserve the position of the illegitimate child after he has reached the age of 18. The position under the existing Act, of course, is that the mother is the only person who can make an application for maintenance for the child, and she can continue doing that, generally speaking, until the child reaches the age of majority. There is one exception, which may be of some importance, where application for maintenance can be made by a person other than the mother. But it is very well known to all social workers concerned with this type of situation that in fact applications by the mother are quite rare.

Lawyers who work in magistrates' courts and in courts of quarter sessions get a rather wrong impression of the number of cases, because, of course, they see only those in which application is made. In fact, such cases are much rarer than one would expect. In many cases the woman does not make an application. Sometimes the father pays; and sometimes she is reasonably well off, or her family is, and they do not want what they regard as the disgrace of going to court to ask for an affiliation order. The result, I believe, is that the majority of the mothers of illegitimate children do not apply for affiliation orders, and that no legal orders for maintenance are ever made.

The right to be properly maintained by his natural parents should be the right of the child himself, and it should not depend on what is, in a sense, the accident of whether the mother makes an application. The Amendment which I am now proposing gives the child that right. Of course, if he is under age he will not exercise it himself: he will have to exercise it, as children always do in this situation, through his next friend, who will not necessarily be the mother at all. This Amendment, if accepted, would not affect the mother's rights. She would remain in the same position and would be able to make application to the court for an affiliation order and for maintenance for herself and for the child. But it would give the child the right to make the application, through his next friend, if the mother does not take any steps to do so. Under present law, applications of this kind can be made only where the child becomes a charge upon the local authority, upon public funds. In such a case the public authority on which he has become a charge may make an application for maintenance from the father; and it may have to prove the fatherhood of the child. But in many of these cases there has never been any question about that; the father has never denied paternity. The social workers in this area of social work tell me that quite a number of public authority cases have come before the courts, and the costs to which the authority has been put for the maintenance of the child—possibly for boarding and education—are recovered from the father.

It seems to me, and to those who think with me on this problem, that it is only right and proper that this situation should be widened to allow the child to make application where the mother has not taken any steps for the maintenance of the child. The child at 18 may wish to pursue further education at a university or technical college, and may be quite unable, because of the mother's failure to take the necessary steps, to get any parental assistance. The interesting thing is that if the mother becomes mentally incapable of taking any steps, or dies, or is sent to prison, then the child is given the right to make this application in his own right. Under the present Bill he will be able, after the age of 18, to bring proceedings himself and will not have to operate through his next friend. I hope that I have succeeded in persuading the Committee that there is a real case for amendment of the law in such a way as to enable the child to enforce his rights himself, without having to rely on the accident of whether the mother may or may not have wished to do so. I beg to move.

5.24 p.m.


I am sorry that, largely for the same reasons as before, the Government cannot advise the Committee to accept this Amendment. This is not a Bill which seeks to make any alteration in the law of affiliation. I am far from saying that changes in the law of affiliation may not be desirable; on the contrary, the Law Commission are, in fact, considering our law of affiliation proceedings as part of their review of family law. But this Bill does not seek to touch it.

To understand the context of these Amendments I am afraid that I shall have to describe briefly the relevant provisions of the Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957, which consolidated the enactments relating to bastardy. Under the Act, the courts are empowered to order that maintenance shall be paid in respect of an illegitimate child. Section 5 provides that, except in two classes of case, maintenance so ordered shall be paid to the child's mother. The first class of exceptions to the rule are, broadly speaking, cases where some appropriate public authority has either had the child committed to its care or is giving the mother assistance in respect of the child. In these cases the public authority may get direct payment of all or part of the maintenance. The second class of exceptions is where the child is in the custody of some other person than his mother, either legally or under agreement approved by the court. Where this happens the person having custody may apply to the court o have the maintenance paid to him instead of to the mother. In all other cases, maintenance payable under an affiliation order must be paid to the child's mother' unless and until she dies, becomes of unsound mind or goes to prison. In any of these circumstances, a guardian may be appointed by magistrates' court to have custody of the child and to receive the money payable under the maintenance order.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Act provide, broadly speaking, that payments under maintenance orders shall not have, to be made beyond the child's 13th birthday unless expressly directed to continue until the 16th birthday: and they shall rot continue beyond the 16th birthday unless, on the application of the child's mother or the person having custody of the child, the court orders that the maintenance order shall continue in force beyond that age for the purpose of the child's education or training. The order may, in the discretion of the court, be so continued for up to two years at a time until the child is 21.

It is not within the scope or purpose of Part I of the Family Law Reform Bill I to make changes in the general code laid down by the Affiliation Proceedings Act 1957. That is a matter for the Law Commission to consider in its review of family law. But the policy of Part I—to reduce the age of majority to 18 while at the same time preserving maintenance benefits in appropriate cases until 21—makes it necessary for the Bill to amend the rules relating to receipt of maintenance under affiliation orders where the child is over 18. This is because, in the cases covered by Section 5(4) of the 1957 Act—that is to say, where the mother is dead, of unsound mind or in prison—it will no longer be appropriate, where the child is over 18, to appoint a guardian for the child under that subsection to receive the money, because the child will be of full age. This is why Clause 5(2) of the Bill provides that in those circumstances the child himself may apply to the court for an extension of the maintenance order, and the payments made under the extended order s rail be made direct to the child himself. Clause 5(2) therefore goes no further, and is intended to go no further, than adjusting the existing law to the new situation created by Part I of the Bill.

These Amendments, however, go far beyond the scope of the Bill and would make substantial changes, unconnected with the age of majority, in the law relating to illegitimate children. Their main effect would appear to be threefold: first, to abolish the principle of the 1957 Act that affiliation proceedings must be begun by the child's mother, and to substitute instead the principle that they may be begun either by the mother or "on behalf of the illegitimate child by his next friend"; second, to abolish the existing rule that payments shall not continue beyond the child's 13th birthday unless directed to continue to go on until the 16th birthday; and third, to abolish the rule that no order can be made so as to continue payments beyond the 21st birthday.

For these reasons the Government are unable to accept the Amendments. No recent Committee has considered review of our affiliation law. The Law Commission is now doing so. I would hope that my noble friend, having heard what I have said, may be prepared to withdraw his Amendment in order that we can act when we know what the Law Commission says, instead of trying to deal with our substantive affiliation law in the middle of a Bill which otherwise has nothing to do with the subject.


Before I accept the advice of the noble and learned Lord I should like to ask him one question. He stated that it was fundamental to our present affiliation law that every application should be made by the mother. Is that really so? Is that so in the case where the child is being looked after out of public funds by a public authority? I understood that in such a case the application for maintenance could be made direct (without the intervention of the mother) by the public authority that has looked after the child.


Speaking subject to correction, I think the position is that proceedings must be started by the mother. When one comes to the question of to whom payment shall be made, then, although in general it is payable to the mother, there are the exceptions to which I referred where it may be payable to the local authority or to some other person who has the custody.

5.30 p.m.


I am very grateful for that answer because it really gives me my case. It is just asking for an extension. It is an extension to give the child's next friend the right to make an application, just as in the present case a public authority would have that right. I appreciate that this Part of the Bill is not really concerned with the amendment of the law relating to these illegitimate children, but it seems to us very unfortunate that advantage has not been taken, as it could have been very simply, of the opportunity provided.

Here is a Bill which, in the second Part, grants considerable new benefits to illegitimate children. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor does not deny for a moment that the present situation is unsatisfactory. Indeed, it has apparently been referred to the Law Commission because it is unsatisfactory. It may well be quite a time before the Law Commission produces its proposals, and we all know that even after that has been done it is very often a long time before Parliamentary time can be found to put the Law Commission's proposals into effect. I am very sorry that we are losing a good opportunity of amending the law in a way in which, as I think the noble and learned Lord would agree, is desirable. But obviously, unless he is prepared to help me, I cannot carry this any further and so I beg your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I say another word about this clause? I am sorry to take up your Lordships' time. A week or two ago the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor very kindly sent me a letter in which he dealt with a point that I raised under subsection (1) of Clause 5 in my Second Reading speech, when I was asking for an extension of the time during which maintenance might be granted to children, particularly in connection with their university and technological education requirements beyond the age of 21. In his letter, for which I am very grateful to him, the noble and learned Lord said that this was an interesting suggestion which he would like to look into.

When I first read the letter I thought the noble and learned Lord meant that he would look into the matter for the purpose of putting down an official Amendment at the next stage of the Bill. But on reading the letter again rather more carefully this morning, when I was preparing my remarks for this afternoon, I wondered whether he was not again going to suggest that it should go to the Law Commission and, so to speak, that it is rather "in the air". I am afraid that is so, but I should like to hear whether I am right, or whether we may look forward to some proposals for dealing with this question of extending maintenance beyond the age of 21 where it is required for purposes of the further education of the child.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Maintenance for wards of court]:


had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 4 Page 7, line 12, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: This Amendment relates to exactly the same sort of point as the one I was making when I asked your Lordships to agree to the deletion of subsection (4) of Clause 4. I do not feel that there is any point in repeating the arguments. I am quite sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would give me the same reply, and so, in the circumstances, I do not propose to move the Amendment.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Right of illegitimate child to succeed on intestacy of parents, and of parents to succeed on intestacy of illegitimate child]:

On Question, Whether Clause 13 shall stand part of the Bill?


I just wish to mention subsection (2) of this clause, which I discussed in my speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. The subsection says: Where an illegitimate child dies intestate in respect of all or any of his real or personal property, each of his parents, if surviving, shall be entitled to take any interest therein to which that parent would have been entitled if the child had been born legitimate. It seems to me all wrong that a father who, in effect, has disowned his child, has gone away and taken no interest in the child, should be able to come in—possibly after the child has made a position for himself in the world and has perhaps left quite a large amount of money and property but intestat3—and make a claim on that property, just as he could have done in the case of a legitimate child. I suggested that in a case of this kind it would be sensible that the matter should be left to the discretion of a judge.

There are, of course, cases in which there are families of illegitimate children which are perfectly stable families but in which the marriage bond is absent only because it has not been possible to get a divorce. Very often the first wife, as she would be perfectly entitled to do, would not petition. In those circumstances the family would be socially a family, even if not a family in the eyes of the law, and in such cases it is reasonable that this should operate. What I want to do (I have not been able to work out the necessary Amendment) is to make a provision by which the first case I have mentioned is dealt with and the second sort of case is left effective. I mention this now because if I can find a form of words which seems to me to do it, I should like to but down an Amendment at the next stage A the Bill. I am not sure whether that would be technically correct, but I thought I would mention the matter at this stage.


Before that point is left, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor can clarify something for me. I should have thought that the position would not be exactly in the discretion of the court, in the terms that a judge is given discretion As to whether or not he hands over the money, and that it would be very much subject to the court's being persuaded by the person who said he was the father—it would depend on whether or not it believed him. The case of the stable though illicit family is one thing—and presumably there would be very little doubt about that; but then you have the case to which, understandably, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, takes objection: the case in which the father of an illegitimate child pays no attention to the child and then, subsequently (one would think, unless the child was unusually bright, it would be some years later), the child makes a fortune on his own and dies intestate. It is then that a court has to decide whether the man claiming to be the father is in fact the father. There would not be any possibility of taking a blood test because the child would be dead.

I imagine that what we are really faced with here is not that someone may come lightly along and lay a grasping hand on the fortune made by an illegitimate child to whom he had not spoken, or whom he had not seen or done anything about since the child was born or before. Any person making such a claim will have to produce substantial and extremely cogent evidence to show that, despite his complete lack of attention to the child, he is in fact the father. If that is the case, it would seem to be a matter which is not quite so severe and unfair as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, suggests.

LORD CHORLEY: Perhaps I should reply to that point. I have had quite a bit of experience of this type of case in the courts, and there are many such cases in which there is no particular question of paternity. The father does not deny paternity but does not do anything to help the child. It is astonishing how many cases there are in which the mother does not apply for an affiliation order, or for maintenance. So the sort of case I have in mind is one where the father would not have any particular difficulty in proving that he had been accepted as the parent. It would be quite common, and I do not feel that it is the sort of case where it would be impossible to prove paternity.


This clause implements the recommendations of the Russell Committee relating to intestacy by providing, first, that an illegitimate child is to be entitled to take any interest in either parent's property as to which that parent has died intestate, and that the parent of such a child is to take any interest in the child's property as to which the child has died intestate. It has not been suggested that the child's right to succeed should depend on whether the child had behaved well to his parents. This would be quite a new conception in the rights of intestacy. The child may have been refused consent to marriage when young, gone off and formed a union with a girl until 21 and never spoken to his father again or had anything to do with him; but that is quite irrelevant to the rights of succession. The son succeeds by virtue of blood and not by virtue of behaviour, and the same thing must apply in reverse. A father is entitled to succeed on intestacy to the property of an illegitimate son, and equally, this does not depend on what the father's conduct has been.

I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that, in the father's case, I should imagine that the court is going to be very jealous to make certain that he really is the father; and the worse he has treated his son, the more difficult, from a practical point of view, it will be for him to prove that he is the father. These two things have to be considered. May I remind your Lordships that in the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act in the last Session, we approved of these very legislative proposals.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Presumption that in dispositions of property references to children and other relatives include references to, and to persons related through, illegitimate children]:

5.41 p.m.

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 11, line 37, leave out from beginning to ("(which") in line 39 and insert— ("(4) In this section references to an illegitimate child include references to an illegitimate child who is or becomes a legitimated person within the meaning of the Legitimacy Act 1926 or a person recognised by virtue of that Act as having been legitimated; and in section 3 of that Act—

  1. (a) subsection (1)(b) (which relates to the effect of dispositions where a person has been legitimated) shall not apply to a disposition made after the coming into force of this section except as respects any interest in relation to which the disposition refers 765 only to persons who are, or whose relationship is deduced through, legitimate persons; and
  2. (b) subsection (2)").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 have been put down to remove a possible conflict between Clause 14 and Section 3(1)(b) of the Legitimacy Act 1926, and it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I gave a brief explanation of the purposes of the two Amendments together. Wherever Clause 14 applies to the construction of a disposition, it applies regardless of whether the disposition was made before or after the birth of any illegitimate child to which it relates. Thus, a gift executed on January 1, 1970, in favour of "A's children" will prima facie enure to the benefit of any illegitimate child of A, whether born before or after January 1, 1970, and regardless of whether the child has already been, or is subsequently, legitimated by A's marriage to the child's other parent. Section 3(1)(b) of the Legitimacy Act, however, is based on a different principle. It provides that a legitimated person shall be entitled to take any interest under any disposition coming into operation after the date of legitimation in like manner as if the legitimated person had been born legitimate". The underlying principle is that, in the case of a gift intended to benefit A's legitimate children, the donor should be able to know at the time the gift is made whether or not a child of A who was born illegitimate would or would not be benefited.

On reflection, it was considered that, as drafted, Clause 14 might not achieve its object in a case where an illegitimate child is legitimated after the making of the disposition in question. It is said that on legitimation the child ceases to be "an illegitimate person "and that Clause 14 ceases to apply to him, with the result that his case falls squarely within Section 3(1)(b) so that he takes no interest under the disposition. Accordingly, the Amendments to Clause 14(4) state expressly that Clause 14 does apply to legitimated persons and exclude the application of Section 3(1)(b) from a disposition made after Clause 14 comes into force, save where the disposition, in spite of Clause 14, is confined to legitimate persons. I hope that, with that explanation, the Committee will agree to the Amendments. I beg to move.


This is a drafting Amendment, consequential on the one to which the Committee has just agreed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 42, leave out ("apply only if") and insert ("not apply in relation to any right conferred by a disposition ma le after the coming into force of this section unless"). —(Baroness Scrota.)

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 [Meaning of "child" and "issue" in s. 33 of Wills Act 1837]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 7.

Amendment moved—

Page 12, line 38, at end insert— ("( ) In this section 'illegitimate child ' includes an illegitimate child who is a legitimated person within the meaning of the Legitimacy Act 1926 or a person recognised by virtue of that Act as having been legitimated.")— (Baroness Scrota.)

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.

5.47 p.m.

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved Amendment No. 8: After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

Entry of name of father of illegitimate child in the register

".—(1) Notwithstanding anything in section 10 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, the registrar shall enter in the register the name of a person as the father of an illegitimate child if there is produced to the registrar—

  1. (a) a declaration in the prescribed form made by the mother of the child stating that the person named therein is the father of the child, and
  2. (b) a statutory declaration made by the person so named acknowledging himself to be the father of the child.
(2) This section shall be construed as one with the Births and Deaths Registration)11 Act 1953.

The noble Viscount said: We have been told very fairly by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that although this Bill is called the Family Law Reform Bill, there are good reasons for having chosen that Title instead of a longer one, and that it ought not to be taken to be an invitation to put down all sorts of Amendments to family law that we may think desirable. But there is one point which arises directly out of the Russell Report and which I do not think is covered in the Bill, on which I should like to probe and see what the position is.

In paragraphs 36 to 47 of their Report, the Russell Committee consider the inheritance on intestacy by the legitimate child from its father and vice versa. Clearly they raise the question of how to prove paternity, and they put forward various suggestions. First of all, they suggest that we might draw distinction between a claim under the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act, which is always done when a child is young and cannot be done later, and a claim under the intestacy provisions, which can be done at any time. They reject that. Then they look to see whether there might be a system whereby we could have an application on behalf of an illegitimate child to get declaration of paternity. They discuss the Danish law, whereby a local authority is responsible for investigating the birth of every illegitimate child and finding out who is the father. They reject that.

After taking all the facts into consideration, they conclude that in cases where paternity is established or not disputed, the position of an illegitimate child in relation to the father's estate, and of the father in relation to the illegitimate child's estate, should be the same as in the case of the mother. But though they talk of paternity being established, they do not make any recommendation about how to establish it. The only thing they say is in paragraph 43, where they consider that, in connection with the signing of the register of births by the father of an illegitimate child, the facilities for registration might well be revised and extended as they have been in Scotland under the Registration of Births, Death and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1945.

The other thing that we have been told about this Bill, and particularly about Part II, is that it is only following what has already been done in Scots law: the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made this point a short time ago. When the Act of last year was passed to change the Scots law, they had already North of the Border the advantage of Sections 18 and 20 of the Registration of Deaths, Births and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965. So we have the situation, which preceded the Act of last year, whereby something rather more comprehensive than is allowed in England can be done. The position in England, as I understand it, under Section 10 of the Act to which my Amendment refers, is that the registrar can only register the father of an illegitimate child in the births register, and, presumably, on the birth certificate, if both the father and the mother apply together, and they both sign the register at the same time in the presence of each other. There is no other way, so far as I can see, in England and Wales whereby the father can be registered.

There is plainly a problem in establishing who is the father of the child; and, indeed, the Russell Committee set out in paragraph 39 what they thought the situation was. They said: We turn then to the question of how paternity is to be established or recognised for these purposes. We reject in principle the suggestion that succession should be limited to cases where there has been voluntary recognition, whether formal or informal, though we recognise that the result of our views later expressed may be in fact to exclude nearly all other cases. I see the point of not having a conclusive method of determining whether the child has a certain father, or whether it is somebody else, at a given stage. It may be used for the wrong purposes, and some document may have been produced and sent by the father not really understanding what the full implications may be. But that is not what the Russell Committee were saying. They were saying that they envisaged that probably the cases where advantage would be taken of the provisions of Part II of this Bill would be where there had been recognition, whether formal or informal.

With this comparison with Scottish law, I should have thought that it was directly relevant to ask the Government whether they will not make it a little easier to get some sort of recognition for the father of the child to be put into the formal document; and I have suggested that the registration of births is a suitable way of doing it.

I have not gone quite so far as the Scottish law (perhaps I should have done), because under Section 20 of the Scottish Act of 1965, even after the period for registration has run out, there is something called the registration of corrections, and if you apply to the sheriff in certain circumstances you can have the name of your father put in, or the father can have his own name put in. Of course, it is up to the sheriff whether he believes the story at the time, and if he does not, he will not allow it to be done. But there is a system whereby even subsequently the matter can be determined.

When we are told that there is this direct parallel with the law North of the Border, I should have thought that the Government were beholden to do something about explaining why there is no equivalent provision made in this Bill. I do not know whether we shall be told that this is a matter for the Law Commission, but the Scottish Act is quite recent, and I imagine that that was a well thought out method before it was introduced. I should have thought that the least we could do would be to have the equivalent of that, although it may be wrong to go further. I suggest that the Committee is entitled to ask the Government whether they will consider doing at least this, and possibly having the equivalent of Section 20 of the Scottish Act as well. I beg to move.


The noble Viscount will no doubt agree that the last Amendment on the Marshalled List, No. 13, goes with this one.


Yes. I have attempted to make an honest father of myself.


It would be right to say that this is not only outside the Report of the Russell Committee, but that the Russell Committee favoured—as I imagine most of your Lordships would favour—things which assist to prove paternity; and, indeen, Part III of the Bill is nothing but an improvement of proof of paternity. It is the fact that in English law, under Section 10 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, the father's name may not be entered except at the joint request of both parties and on his signing the register. He has therefore to attend in person, a requirement which may well prevent a number of men from having their names entered on the register.

So far as Scotland is concerned, personal attendance is no longer required, in consequence of Section 18 of the 1965 Scottish Act, under which the father's name may be entered at the joint request of the parents if either (a) the father attends with the mother and signs, or, (b) there is produced to the registrar

  1. (i) a declaration in the prescribed form made by the mother stating that he said person is the father of the child, and
  2. (ii) a statutory declaration made by the said person acknowledging himself to be the father of the child."
It is clear, I think, that the noble Viscount has drafted his Amendment on this precedent. I should not be inclined to advise your Lordships to object to this in principle. The Amendment is not entirely acceptable as it stands, 3ecause it does not make clear at what stage the declarations should be produced or who is to produce them. One of the fundamental principles of registration is that existing entries are not, if it can be avoided, to be added to or amended save in the circumstances specifically provided for by the Act. As far as illegitimate children are concerned, registrars allow the father's name to be added subsequently if he attends with the mother and asks for this, and the Scottish Act makes specific provision for the circumstances in which his name may be subsequently recorded. But the Amendment leaves it entirely open whether the declarations are to be produced at the time of registration or later, and contains no specific provision dealing with subsequent production.

Under the current law, the father's name can be entered only if the mother is the informant because they mug t both attend together. Although the Scottish Act is not entirely clear on the point, it implies that the declarations must be produced by the mother, and in practice the prescribed forms of declaration make this obligatory. The Amendment, however, leaves it open to anyone (not necessarily a person qualified as informant) to produce the declarations, and appears to go much further than is needed to serve the noble Viscount's object.

I would say, therefore, that the Government have no objection to this Amendment. The actual drafting and wording is not satisfactory to them in the respects to which I have ventured to refer, but if the noble Viscount would withdraw the Amendment, I should be happy to collaborate with him in producing an agreed clause on the next stage of the Bill.


I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. This is a compete surprise to me, and a very agreeable one. I have almost never drafted an Amendment right yet, and I am certainly no expert on the law of registration. I am not a bit surprised that I have it wrong. I will gladly take up the noble and learned Lord's kind invitation, and meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 18 to 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Short title, interpretation, commencement and extent]:

LORD ILFORD moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 17, line 29, at end insert— ("Provided that section 9 shall not come into force until at least six months after the making of an order under this section.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is intended to remedy a defect—not a serious defect, but nevertheless a defect—which it is anticipated may arise by reason of the change which the Bill makes in the method of determining the day upon which a person attains a certain age, including, of course, school children. Under the present law, which I believe is based upon a decision of the courts a good many years ago, a child is deemed to attain a prescribed age, not upon his birthday but upon the day preceding his birthday. Under the Bill, a child will be deemed to attain a prescribed age, including school leaving age, on his birthday. At present a child whose fifteenth birthday falls on September 1, which is the first day of the autumn term, is deemed to have reached the age of 15 on the previous day, and he therefore will be free to leave school, to take employment or do anything else according to his wishes, at any time after the end of the previous summer term in July. Under the Bill he will not attain the age of 15 until September 1, which is his natural birthday. He will accordingly be required to remain at school until the end of the following spring term at Easter.

The local authorities have no objection whatever to this arrangement or to the proposed change in the method of determining the dates; and indeed I think it is probably more logical to determine the dates as the Bill proposes to do than it is under the existing law. But local education authorities feel that they ought to have some notice if a change is to be made. One can envisage a case where an order is made in July, in August or in September the effect of which would be that children who were expecting to leave school at the end of July and be free to take employment will find that they have to return to school and remain in school until the end of the following spring term at Easter. That situation, I think, could be overcome if some adequate notice were given to them before the making of an order.

So far as the education authorities are concerned, it would be much more convenient for them administratively to know that the order is to be made, because of course they have to make their plans for accommodating the school population in the coming school year. It is quite a problem. In the Inner London Education Authority a large number of children celebrate their fifteenth birthday every year, so many children will be affected by this change. It seemed to the authorities that it was only fair to the children, too, that they should have the longest possible notice of the change in the date upon which they have to be deemed to have attained this particular age. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will be able to tell us that that point of view appeals to Her Majesty's Government, and that some notice—and we think that six months is not unreasonable—should be given to the education authorities, not only for their own convenience but for the convenience of the children who will be affected, too. I beg to move.


I am sure I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, on behalf of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that the Committee is grateful to him for drawing its attention to this very practical point, which clearly is one of some concern to local education authorities. This of course will be a once-and-for-all operation, but quite clearly, for the reasons which the noble Lord has given, it will be necessary for local authorities to have proper notice of the date on which the noble and learned Lord intends to bring this particular clause of the Bill into law. Having taken note of Lord Ilford's point, and having given him an assurance that the Government will give adequate notice to the local education authorities—adequate notice and, I may say, good warning—before Clause 9 comes into operation, I would venture to suggest to the Committee that the noble Lord should withdraw his Amendment. I can give him, I think, the undertaking and assurance he is seeking. We feel it would be wiser at this stage, when the date is not yet known, simply to say that we will give due notice so that education authorities will be advised in good time when the change is going to take place, so that they can assess the effects on individual children whose liability to be in full-time education will be affected by this change in the law. They will have as long a notice as possible in advance of such a change.


I am much obliged to the noble Baroness for what she has said. Of course, I gladly accept her assurance, and ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.5 p.m.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 18, line 3, at end insert— ("( ) section 10, so far as it relates to the Employers and Workmen Act 1875, extends to Scotland;").

The noble and learned Lord said: Clause 10(b) of the Bill abolishes, in accordance with recommendation 28 of the Latey Committee, those parts of Section 6 of the Employers and Workmen Act 1875 which empower justices of the peace to direct apprentices to perform their duties and to imprison them if they fail to comply. The 1875 Act extends to Scotland as well as to England and Wales. It is therefore necessary and appropriate to make the repeal of these provisions extend to Scotland, and the Amendment accordingly makes Clause 10(b) applicable to Scotland. I beg to move.


Does it apply also to Northern Ireland? —because, if so, I think that the words ought to come before "Northern II eland". or it ought to be made clear.


The true answer is that I have not the foggiest idea. I shall be very surprised if it does, but I will certainly consider that point before the next stage of the Bill. But I do not think it does; otherwise we should have taken the same course with regard to Northern Ireland.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Statutory Provisions Amended by Substituting 18 for 21 Years]:

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 19, line 31, at end insert—

"c. 46 The Hypnotism Act 1952. section 3. Persons under 21 not to be hypnotised at public entertainment.")

The noble Baroness said: It may be more convenient if I deal with Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 to Schedule 1 together. It will be recalled that Clause 1(2) provides that general expressions such as "infancy" and "minority" shall in all cases be construed in the new sense, and that Clause 1(3) provides the t in the statutory enactments listed in Schedule 1 specific references to the age of "21" are amended to "18". Since the Bill was introduced, two omissions in the Schedule 1 list have been discovered, and these Amendments put those omissions right. I beg to move.


I beg to move Amendment No. 12.

Amendment moved—

Page 20, line 33, at end insert—

("1954 S.I. 796. The Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1954. Rules 31 and 32. Grants of probate on behalf of infant and where infant is cc-executor.")

—(Baroness Serota.)

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules 2 and 3 agreed to.

In the Title:


had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 13: Line 6, after ("link") insert ("and to facilitate the acknowledgement of an illegitimate child by his father")

The noble Viscount said: I put this Amendment down, as I said, to deal with the Amendment that I moved earlier. The noble and learned Lord said that he would be so good as to discuss that matter with me. I do not want to put an Amendment in the Long Title which is going to cause trouble at any stage, but it seems to me that the Long Title at the moment would not be wholly apt to deal with the matter I had in mind. I am sorry to recall the noble and learned Lord but I do not know what he would advise the Committee. Would it be better to accept this Amendment now or to consider the wording of it and perhaps put it down in conjunction with the other Amendment which will come along in due course?


If I may say so, I would suggest that the noble and learned Lord should withdraw it now and then we will conspire together about the whole thing.


In that case I will not move the Amendment.

House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.