HL Deb 14 May 1981 vol 420 cc647-60

4.45 p.m.

Read 3a.

Clause 5 [Short title, citation and extent.]:

Baroness Wootton of Abinger moved Amendments Nos. 1 to 3:

Page 3, line 40, leave out ("and") and insert (", so far as it relates to the Marriage Act, 1949, may be cited together with").

Page 4, line 1, leave out ("may be cited together")

Page 4, line 3, leave out from ("Act") to ("as") in line 4 and insert (", so far as it relates to the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977, may be cited together with that Act").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the three amendments standing in my name are all part of the same whole. They are drafting amendments and they have been produced by the parliamentary draftsmen of the Home Office and the Scottish Office in consultation. Their object is to make more consistent the citation of the Bill, so that those parts of the Bill which relate to Scotland will appear in conjunction with the existing marriage laws relating to Scotland, and the same will be true of England and Wales. With the consent of the House, I should like to move the three amendments en bloc as drafting amendments. I beg to move these amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Wootton of Abinger

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. The Bill has had a curious and unusual history. It has had three Second Readings, two successful and one unsuccessful, and it has had two Committee stages and one Report stage; it has now arrived, at last, at a final Third Reading. I am sure that your Lordships will be relieved to know that I do not propose to make a fourth Second Reading speech. I think that the substance of the Bill and any objections that may be raised to it are by now familiar ground to those of your Lordships who are collected together today.

During this long journey the appearance of the Bill has been very considerably altered. It looks somewhat battered. It is very much longer and to all appearances very much more complicated. However, I should like to assure your Lordships that in substance there have been only two changes in what the Bill would accomplish if it were passed into law. The first change is that those marriages which the Bill would validate would be validated only in the case of persons who had already reached the age of 21 or over. That was an amendment introduced and accepted by all parties at the Committee stage.

The second change is geographical, and I do not propose to discuss the reasons for, or the origin of, that at this moment. The second change is that this Bill, like others in the sequence which preceded it, would apply to Scotland as well as to England and Wales. If this matter is raised in debate I shall deal with it then rather than anticipate what may be said. I think that it would be more satisfactory to answer any points that may actually be raised.

I shall say only a few words about the origin of the Bill. The origin of the Bill was a letter that I read in The Times several years ago from a man who was greatly distressed because he was not able to marry his stepdaughter in circumstances in which I feel sure that your Lordships, if you were acquainted with the particulars of that case, would react as you did to the personal Bill promoted a month or two ago by Mr Berry and Mrs Ward. Your Lordships accepted their personal Bill and application to marry without a single dissentient and with practically no debate.

In the same way this Bill will bring happiness and relief to a great many couples. I cannot give any kind of accurate estimate of the number; I can only say that after I had got in touch with the writer of the letter to The Times and introduced the Bill for the first time in February, 1979, a number of people got to hear of it and started to write to me; people who were in somewhat the same circumstances. If a handful of people have written to me—and I have followed them up and got in touch with them and got to know some of them very well—it seems reasonable to suppose that there will be some hundreds, if not thousands, in the country in like case who have not written to me but who are faced with the same troubles.

They have nearly all expressed a sense of frustration if they have refrained from fulfilling their desire to live together as though they were married. Those who have yielded to that desire and who do live together as though they were married have all said how much they deplore the feeling that they are living a lie, and how ironic they feel that it is, in an age when young people are habitually living together outside matrimony and this is widely deplored by the Churches, they who wish to live in matrimony are unable to achieve that status. It seems ironic that this contrast should prevail at the present time where there is no blood relation between any of them. I can only say that if this Bill were to become law it would bring great happiness and relief to an unknown number of people in that situation.

I would also say that this Bill seems to me to be the logical conclusion of a process which has been going on for about three-quarters of a century. I can remember the beginning of it. That was the Deceased Wife's Sister Act 1907 which, for the first time, permitted the marriage between affinities; that is to say, persons connected by marriage and not by blood. That Act applied, exactly as it says, only in the cases of a deceased wife's sister; it did not apply in the reverse case of the deceased husband's brother.

Some years later, not until 1921, equal rights were given to a woman in the same situation. But they could not be given in the same terms because at that date only men could marry women and women could not marry men. Therefore, the title of the corresponding Act that gave a woman the right corresponding to the man's right to marry his deceased wife's sister was called the Act enabling a man to marry his deceased brother's widow. We have moved on since then.

By 1931, when the next enlargement came, the Act took the form of giving permission for a marriage between two parties, and the term "spouse" came in to cover the difficulty of always having to say "man" or "woman". The Act of 1931 enlarged the validity of marriages between affinities to include the deceased spouse's nephew or niece, aunt or uncle. That was the next stage. Thereafter, a Marriage Act of 1949 covered a great many aspects of the solemnisation of marriage and brought the whole law of marriage more or less into one Act. It was not exactly a consolidating Act because it contained new material, but it did not enlarge further the marriages with affinities. The Act of 1960, which was based on the recommendations of the Morton Commission on Divorce, went a great deal further. All marriages that would be valid between a deceased spouse's relative would also be valid in the event of the spouse not being deceased but being divorced.

That was the story. It appears to me that by adding those relatives or affinities which are covered by this Bill we should be bringing the whole process to its logical conclusion. My original Bill stated this very simply in language which anybody could understand. My original Bill stated simply—and I wish to repeat this—that the Bill would enable any two persons to marry who were of marriageable age and who were not blood related, with the exception of cases of people marrying their adopted children.

I should have said earlier that there is one other substantial difference in this Bill from the original one, because the marriages which will be validated by this Bill will apply only to persons who have attained the age of 21. For all others the marriageable age remains as it is at present, at 16. Those two differences, that the Bill will apply to Scotland, which it did not originally, and that it will apply only to persons over 21, are the only differences from the original Bill as produced in 1979.

With those few remarks, which I hope do not constitute a full Second Reading speech, I ask your Lordships to confer upon the other couples in cases like that of Mr. Berry and Mrs. Ward, now Mr. and Mrs. Berry, the same privilege as you conferred upon that one couple; that is to say, to enable them to marry and enable them to produce, if they are of age, legitimate children. Another difficulty encountered by these couples is that not only are they unable to marry, but if they beget children their children are illegitimate and can never be legitimised, for the simple reason that their parents can never marry. I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Lord de Clifford

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I point out that she was slightly inaccurate in what she said. I opposed the Berry and Ward Bill. I also stated at the time that the noble Baroness would use it to introduce another Bill. Is the noble Baroness also telling us that the report in the Daily Express today, that Berry and Ward are not married, is incorrect?

Baroness Wootton of Abinger

My Lords, may I reply to the noble Lord's intervention? I did not hear the second part of it, but I may say that I did not hear a single dissentient voice, and no vote was recorded against the Berry and Ward Bill.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)

4.58 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I think we all recognise the tremendous amount of trouble that the noble Baroness has taken, and this has been a considerable strain to her. Nevertheless, I think we should remember the stage we have reached and how we have reached it in this Bill. At the Report stage the noble Baroness brought amendments which virtually constituted a completely new Bill. I agree that half of it was largely redrafted, but an entirely new area was brought in affecting Scotland. I invited the noble Baroness to re-commit the Bill, and she declined to do so. I invited her to omit the Scottish clauses, and she declined to do so. So the noble Baroness accepts full responsibility for what the Bill stands for.

I object very strongly to tagging Scottish elements on to an English Bill, just as I am quite certain that English Members would object very much to having their Bills tagged on to a Scottish Bill. It is intolerable to tag on large provisions on Report, when we have no time or ability to have a free discussion of the details or the meaning of certain passages. When it spreads on from there into the criminal law, then as a matter of principle that is most objectionable. It is a precedent which your Lordships' House should regard as quite unsatisfactory.

The Motion we are debating is, That the Bill do now pass. For my part, I do not want the Bill to pass and I believe we should have a proper examination of the Scots element in it. I do not know, for instance, why there is no clause dealing with Ireland; there is no reference to that. If the noble Baroness is really concerned with what I call the Gretna Green position—a position which has never worried us in Scotland very much—all she has done is to remove the position of Gretna Green. The situation still exists in certain respects and I think she will be the first to recognise that the clauses dealing with Scotland are not the same (I will give an example if necessary) as those which apply to England.

There are several points I would make in regard to the amendments which deal with Scotland. First, it is sad that the draftsman was not encouraged to introduce what is called the Renton recommendations. This is a very personal Bill and it is important that people should fully understand what it means. Frankly, the Scots elements in it are not comprehensible or understandable as they stand without reference to a number of other matters. That is a great pity and a matter which should have been dealt with. Another element which I would mention—there may be more and I do not know whether they are right or wrong because we have not had a Committee stage—concerns Clause 3 where it says in subsection (1A) (b) that a marriage is void if solemnised at a time when either party is domiciled in Scotland". That gives this very odd position: if a young man domiciled in Scotland goes abroad and, say, marries a lady of affinity under the age of 21—it may be one of the cases which the noble Baroness mentioned where the marriage laws are different—and he returns to Scotland then, according to the Bill, he will first of all find that his marriage is void (and Heaven knows what will happen to the children, if any) and, secondly, find he is guilty of incest. That cannot be a satisfactory situation. Indeed, I would go further and say that so far as Scotland is concerned, the proximity of incest and marriage is far too close.

For those reasons we need to examine very closely indeed in Committee, where the meaning of each clause can be explored, what it all means, but at present it is clearly unsatisfactory. We are a revising Chamber, but we have before us a Bill which we have not properly revised, yet the country is being asked to accept it and in my view that is entirely wrong. Indeed, it is hardly worthy of your Lordships' House that we should pass Bills which have not been thoroughly examined. I do not believe there is any evidence that the people of Scotland want the measure, and such evidence as we have is to the effect that they do not want it. They do not understand it and I am by no means satisfied that the Bill is well drafted so far as Scotland is concerned. For that reason we should not accept the Motion.

5.4 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Durham

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, spoke with admirable brevity and I shall follow her example. But I feel I owe it to your Lordships to explain why, even at this late stage, those who sit on these Benches feel they must oppose the Bill. We are grateful for the amendments which were passed; we are sorry the amendment about the child of the family was not passed; we greatly admire the tenacity with which the noble Baroness has constantly defended her position; and we realise how deep is the affection and respect in this House for her and how noble Lords would for her sake like to see the Bill passed. However, those are not reasons for passing a bad Bill, and as an aide memoire I wish in a few sentences to summarise the main objections to the Bill, apart from the Scottish issue, as I see them.

I believe, first of all, that it will further erode the concept of the family as an extended network of relationships. I say "further erode" because it has been eroded in a variety of ways, some legislative and some other, over the last decades. The family has traditionally comprised more than the nuclear family of husband, wife and children and more than blood relations, and it is because of the existence of this extended family, and indeed the laws which buttress its existence, that there can be freedoms of relationship within that family which I believe would be compromised if our law moved further in the direction in which the noble Baroness would like to take it. There is a freedom of relationship between members of the same family which is possible precisely because marriage is not an open option to them. That as I see it is the first and main objection.

The second—much debate has concentrated on this—is that the Bill will introduce a further element of uncertainty into the relationship between step-parents and stepchildren, and it is a difficult enough relationship already. I believe it is highly undesirable to make it more difficult, especially now that divorce is relatively easy and the number of stepchildren correspondingly large. Indeed, one of the major factors which has changed since the long progression of legislation of which the noble Baroness has spoken is of course the advent of relatively easy divorce.

A third objection is that the Bill would put us out of line with the great majority of European and English-speaking countries. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has already tabled a paper summarising the law in European countries from which it is obvious that the overwhelming number of them have some remaining prohibitions as regards marriage between affinities. There is further evidence now from Canada, from half the states in the United States—the other half have not replied—from India, Pakistan and Japan; and, so far as I know, the world situation is that, with the exception of Australia and Sweden, every country has some prohibition on marriage within the degrees of affinity. In some countries it is absolute, in others there is provision for dealing with special cases.

That leads to my fourth point: we are all of course moved by the hard cases which the noble Baroness and others have brought to our attention in the course of these many debates. I believe there is some better way of dealing with those hard cases than through this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Boston, has pointed out on many occasions and at considerable length the legal difficulties there might be in some alternative form of legislation. But if other countries can retain laws prohibiting marriage within the affinities, and yet allow it in certain circumstances, why cannot this country? What is so strange about the law in our country which would not enable us to do what is apparently perfectly possible in other countries? I wish to stress—because some hard things have been said in the course of this debate—that the Bishops are not unsympathetic towards these cases; but we do not believe that sufficient arguments have been put forward to justify sweeping away the law in this wholesale manner.

Nowadays everybody is constantly stressing the importance of the family, and I believe that it is too fundamental an institution in our society to tinker with in this piecemeal fashion. I believe that the Churches and many other bodies would welcome the opportunity for more widespread consultation both on this issue and other issues related to it. We would welcome ways of exploring the legal safeguards for family life and for dealing with genuine hard cases. But, my Lords, we do not welcome this Bill.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, will he answer the following question? Has family life in Australia been harmed by such legislation, and, if it has, will he give us some examples, please?

The Lord Bishop of Durham

My Lords, I am not fortunate enough to have personal knowledge of what goes on in Australia. I am simply arguing on the basis of what happens when one removes existing safeguards from the law. We have seen it again and again in this country, when so-called liberalising legislation, passed with the best of intentions, has put all kinds of ideas which were not there previously into the minds of all kinds of people. I do not know what was, or what is now, in the minds of our friends in Australia.

5.11 p.m.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I intervene this afternoon in the debate, and I do so primarily for one reason. I have some sympathy with the point of view of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when he raises the question of the Scottish situation and when he says that this aspect of the matter was not before your Lordships at Second Reading or during the Committee stage, but only on Report. In that respect, I have some sympathy. But I think that we must bear in mind that this is not an occasion for further Second Reading speeches. In the past your Lordships have expressed yourselves very strongly about Second Reading speeches being made at Third Reading or on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, and if I may say so with the greatest respect, I think that today we have had such a speech from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. In view of the fact that he has nine other bishops supporting him, I am hoping that we are not to have nine other Second Reading speeches. That would be totally contrary to the good practice of your Lordships' House.

Therefore, I do not myself want to fall into that trap by making a Second Reading speech today, even though I have not previously made a Second Reading speech on the Bill. I was present during the whole of the Second Reading and all the subsequent stages of the Bill, and at the Report stage my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger pointed out, and accepted, that the Scottish aspect had been introduced at that particular point. If my memory serves me correctly, she made the point that she had been encouraged to introduce it by the Scottish Office and the Home Office. I think I am right in saying that the amendments were drafted by the Scottish Office—

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, if I may say so, I think the position is as follows. Both the Home Office and the Scottish Office said that they would help the noble Baroness if necessary, but without giving any encouragement.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, I should be very surprised if my noble friend asked for amendments relating to the Scottish situation, but she can answer for herself. The point that I really want to make is this: I accept that it is a new situation, but should this new situation, for which I have expressed my understanding, be allowed to defeat the Bill, when at Second Reading it was accepted by a substantial majority and when only three bishops were present? Apparently they did not consider it important enought to have more bishops present. The Bill was substantially accepted at Second Reading by 49 votes to 20. After this House has at some length considered a Bill, a Private Member's Bill, has given it a Second Reading, and has passed the amendments at the Committee stage, is it right that at this stage the Bill should run the risk of being defeated?

I want to say the following to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. As I understand it, the Bill has not yet been to the Commons. Why not let it go to the Commons in its present form, and then, if it is desired that the Scottish aspect should be removed, let that be done there? But I would ask your Lordships not to place the Bill in jeopardy, which is what you will do if you use this occasion as another Second Reading debate and then go into the Lobby to defeat it. I say that it has already passed its Second Reading in your Lordships' House and it has got through the Committee stage. We really ought to accept that. As I say, I accept that the Scottish aspect adds to the Bill a new dimension, but it is a dimension which could be dealt with in another place.

5.16 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has mentioned the Home Office, quite properly of course, because we, together with the Scottish Office, were the Government departments which were most interested in the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton. During the course of the several debates that we have had on the Bill I have, on behalf of the department of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, tried to point out the implications of its proposals and I wish, briefly, once again to mention three of the implications.

The first implication, it seems to me, is that the House now has to decide whether in principle it wishes to pass the Bill. We must weigh the concern which has been expressed again today by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and by many noble Lords during the debates about the interests of family life against the compassion which I think we all feel, and which has been expressed today by the noble Baroness, for the individual cases in which the application of the law produces disappointment and indeed can produce great unhappiness.

The second implication of the Bill I think is that at the Committee stage there was much discussion about the possibility of an alternative approach, lying somewhere between the complete derestriction that the noble Baroness advocates and the complete prohibition enjoined by our law as it stands today and indeed by the law of many other countries.

However, during the Committee stage we learnt that there are difficulties about an alternative approach, involving the exercise of discretion by the courts, especially in countries whose jurisprudence has a common law basis. There are (to mention only two of them) problems of identifying appropriate criteria which would in practice be not only justiciable but neither too time consuming, nor too costly. Further there was the distaste, that was mentioned by many noble Lords during our debates, of having a situation in which adult couples would be required to submit to the judgment of others on matters that are highly personal and that involve the right to marry. So, to put it in a nutshell, I think that your Lordships agreed that it was not any good going down that road.

The third implication arises from the speech of my noble friend Lord Selkirk; this is concerned with the extension of the Bill to Scotland. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate made abundantly clear at Report stage in the debate on what are now Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill, the Government did not—and do not—depart in the slightest degree from an attitude of strict neutrality to the principle of the Bill in relation to either the marriage law of England and Wales or that in force in Scotland. What the Government have done has been strictly limited in character. First, after your Lordships had given the Bill a Second Reading, we provided drafting assistance to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, so as to ensure that the Bill would be in a state of technical correctness compatible with the general body of marriage law.

Secondly, we advised that it is desirable for this House to consider this Bill in the context of the established practice of keeping the laws of England and Scotland substantially in line in the matter of capacity to marry, having regard in particular to the contiguity of these constituent parts of Great Britain and the movement, temporary as well as permanent, between people in both directions. Your Lordships will recognise that these are practical considerations for the avoidance of distressing complications consequent upon any disparity between legislative provisions in this personal and sensitive area of our law. That is the reason why my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate at the previous stage of the Bill said that it would be highly inconvenient and very wrong that the law of Scotland and the law of England and Wales in this matter should be different. But I repeat lest there remain any lingering doubt in the minds of noble Lords that the Government have not lent their support to the principle of the noble Baroness's Bill as forming part of the marriage law in England or Wales or Scotland. I remain consistent in that attitude to the Bill at its final stage.

5.22 p.m.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, I should like in a moment to follow the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in some of the points he has made to your Lordships about our earlier proceedings on this Bill; but, first, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lady Wootton on the way she has steered this Bill through this House so far. She has steadfastly adhered to the principles enshrined in this Bill. Whatever decision your Lordships take tonight on this Bill, there can be no doubt that in the way she has promoted this Bill and conducted it through the House she has, once again, demonstrated and lived up to her wholly justified reputation for compassion and for caring about people and their problems which are so vitally important to them.

I do not want to speak at length. Like other noble Lords and right reverend Prelates, I have intervened before in the proceedings on this Bill and the similar ones that my noble friend has introduced in the two previous Sessions. But I should like to make some brief observations on our consideration of the Bill and then to join with other noble Lords in bringing us back to the Bill's central purpose. First, I feel that it is important to emphasise that the main aims of the Bill have become very familiar. It is now some two and a quarter years since we first began considering this matter in the form of a Bill along these lines in this House, so no one can claim properly that they have been taken by surprise or that there has not been time to consider it fully. There has been ample time—much more so, one might observe, than with some much more major and controversial Bills which Governments, not confined to one party, sometimes place before us. There has been ample time for those inside and outside this House to become familiar with the proposals.

To that point I would add this. We all appreciate that there are some noble Lords who hold strong views against the Bill. We understand, too, that there are some noble Lords from Scotland who are among them and who have not favoured the proposed extension of the Bill to Scotland. But, without entering again tonight into the debate about the Bill's extension to Scotland—for, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, made clear just now, we considered those implications on Report—I think it right to add this. There has been for some time clear public notice that the Bill had implications for Scotland and that amendments would be proposed concerning Scottish law.

This was made clear in our debate on the Second Reading of this Bill on 25th February this year and it was made clear by the Minister the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who said—and I think part of it is worth quoting— There may be an argument that in a matter of this kind the law should be consistent throughout Great Britain. As drafted, the Bill does not extend to Scotland and if it makes progress the House might like to consider amendments to amend the law of Scotland as well as that of England and Wales. I am told that it would be necessary to amend the Scottish law of incest which is somewhat more extensive than that obtaining in England and Wales". There were also pointers about the possible need to consider amendments relating to Scotland as long ago as 13th February 1979 in our Second Reading debate then on an earlier and similar Bill of my noble friend and again on 15th March of that year, 1979, when we were considering that same Bill in Committee. It fell to me to give to your Lordships notice of the possible needs—although we did not go into it in detail—for considering amendments concerning Scotland. Therefore, I submit that it is fair to say that there have been quite long-standing warnings about this and that noble Lords and others can be said to have been alerted and put on inquiry, if they wished to be, about it. There remains the fact that the basic principles of the Bill, anyway, have been known and clear for a long time.

There is another point about our proceedings which I would make. It is this. In the course of our extended deliberations on the Bill, we have considered with great care various proposals made by noble Lords (some of which have been referred to in today's proceedings) for quite major amendments to the Bill. One of those which has been referred to at least by my noble friend Lady Wootton if not by other noble Lords tonight, was to limit the minimum age for marriage of either party to 21 years. That is now part of the Bill and was accepted by my noble friend. There were other proposals such as that which would have required the court to grant consent before a marriage could take place under the Bill—and which has been referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, tonight. Although well-intentioned that amendment, for various reasons, was found wanting and was rejected by your Lordships. The same happended to other quite major and, if I may say so, similarly well-intentioned proposed amendments.

I mention this because it shows, in my submission, that your Lordships have taken this task very seriously, as always, and have considered thoroughly probably all the possible implications arising from this Bill. The point I would suggest now is this. We are still left with the fact that there is a problem affecting not a vast number of people but some people, a problem which is a very real and major one for those whom it does affect. We are still left with the widely-held view that the present situation, in the absence of this Bill as an Act, is unsatisfactory, that the only course at present open to a couple related by reason of affinity only who wish to marry is to promote a personal Bill—with all that that involves in terms of cost, time, parliamentary time, exposure to public view and examination of the couple's private and personal circumstances.

The view that the system is unsatisfactory is held and acknowledged by some who have not been supporters of the present Bill itself. We are also left with the widely-held view that not only should these matters of deciding about individual couples, cases not be ones for Parliament but, indeed, should not be ones for the courts either, a view expressed, for example, by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he took part in a debate last May on the Berry and Ward Bill.

We are driven back in my submission to a central point which some of us have sought to make before and which your Lordships' House can be said to have accepted in granting this Bill a Second Reading: that there is a problem; that it is one which Parliament are capable of solving; that it needs to be solved in some cases at least as proved by the fact that Parliament passed such a personal Bill as that of the Berry and Ward Bill last year. We have sought to find alternative ways of solving the problem. We have not found any other satisfactory means despite strenuous and exhaustive endeavours. Therefore, I submit that we should use my noble friend's solution to solve the problems of those unfortunate couples who are affected by the present law. I hope very much—although as I have pointed out before I cannot commit any of my noble friends let alone any other noble Lords—that your Lordships will endorse the decision which was taken on 25th February this year and will pass this Bill.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he make it plain that there are those among his "flock" who disagree totally with his line of persuasion that he has unfolded from the Front Bench?

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, I think what my noble friend has just proved is that he is well able to speak for himself.

5.32 p.m.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, may I take two minutes to say that we absolutely agree that there is a problem, and that it was an anachronism that Mr. Berry had to have a Private Bill to marry his stepdaughter, Mrs. Ward. However, the Bill of the noble Baroness does not answer the problem in the way that it should be answered. It more or less abolishes all affinity except for under 21 and so on. That will leave the door wide open to many assaults on the family. For instance, if this Bill is passed it will be possible for a father to divorce his wife so as to marry his stepdaughter. It will be possible for a father to divorce his wife so as to marry his daughter-in-law. All these things are examples of how that sacred unit, the marriage unit, the family unit, would be weakened.

Many people have asked me to say—and I am speaking, naturally, as a Catholic—that what we think should happen to remedy the situation is that there should be a conference of the Christian churches, the Jewish church and the other religions to decide on a comprehensive attitude that should be incorporated by a Government Bill to amend the Marriage Act of 1949. I beg your Lordships not to let this blanket Bill pass this House.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, 20 years ago I might have thought that passing this Bill could have had an adverse effect on the institution of marriage and the family, and I might have voted against it. Today I believe that just the opposite is true. Most of the people that we have in mind will simply live together, hardly something which helps promote the sanctity of marriage. The persons who will suffer if this Bill is not passed are those with high moral or religious principles and the children who may be born out of wedlock. Rightly or wrongly, we no longer try by legislation to make people conform to what we may think is right. Only when their actions adversely affect others or the nation as a whole is this now considered acceptable. We should not try to do this by opposing this Bill which now gives freedom only to mature persons over 21 years old.

I am afraid that the suggestions of the last speaker—good in theory though they may be—will simply mean that no agreement will be reached and that nothing will be done. Without meaning to be unkind, and with all due respect to the right reverend Prelates who have made in the past some very powerful speeches indeed, one must ask them to search their consciences. I venture to suggest that they are really in part at least trying to rationalise an understandable prejudice against making changes in something which has been the Church law for so long.

5.38 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill do now pass?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79: Not-Contents, 124.

Amherst, E. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Ardwick, L. Lovell-Davis, L. [Teller.]
Auckland, L. McNair, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Mais, L.
Bernstein, L. Maybray-King, L.
Blyton, L. Merrivale, L.
Boothby, L. Monson, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mountevans, L.
Brockway, L. Ogmore, L.
Byers, L. Onslow, E.
Chelwood, L. Oram, L.
Chorley, L. Peart, L.
Collison, L. Phillips, B.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Cranbrook, E. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Robbins, L.
Elibank, L. Roberthall, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rugby, L.
Foot, L. Selborne, E.
Fulton, L. Shepherd, L.
Gaitskell, B. Shinwell, L.
Gardiner, L. Stedman, B.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gosford, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Strabolgi, L.
Gregson, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hale, L. Tweeddale, M.
Hall, V. Vaizey, L.
Hanworth, V. Vickers, B.
Henley, L. Wade, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jacobson, L. Walston, L.
Jacques, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Jeger, B. [Teller.] White, B.
Killearn, L. Wigoder, L.
Kilmarnock, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Leatherland, L. Winstanley, L.
Listowel, E. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Llewelyn-Davies, L.
Abinger, L. Craigmyle, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Croft, L.
Alanbrooke, V. Cross, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Alport, L. Dacre of Glanton, L.
Avon, E. Daventry, V.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. de Clifford, L.
Banks, L. Duncan-Sandys, L.
Barrington, V. Dundee, E.
Bessborough, E. Dunrossil, V.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Durham, Bp.
Cairns, E. Eccles, V.
Campbell of Croy, L. Eldon, E.
Carlisle, Bp. Ellenborough, L.
Chelmsford, Bp. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Chichester, Bp. Energlyn, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Faithfull, B.
Coggan, L. Falkland, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Ferrier, L.
Fortescue, E. Northchurch, B.
Gainford, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Galpern, L. Oxford and Asquith, E.
George-Brown, L. Pender, L.
Gore-Booth, L. Perth, E.
Gowrie, E. Peterborough, Bp.
Grantchester, L. Porritt, L.
Greenway, L. Portland, D.
Gridley, L. Rankeillour, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Guildford, Bp. Renton, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Rochdale, V.
Halsbury, E. [Teller.] St. Aldwyn, E.
Hillingdon, L. St. Davids, V.
Hunt of Fawley, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Hunt of Tanworth, L. Salisbury, M.
Hylton, L. Sandys, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Seafield, E.
Iddesleigh, E. Selkirk, E.
Janner, L. Sempill, Ly.
Kinloss, Ly. Shannon, E.
Kinross, L. Sharples, B.
Lauderdale, E. [Teller.] Sherfield, L.
Lichfield, Bp. Sinclair, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Long, V. Sligo, M.
Longford, E. Soames, L.
Loudoun, C. Southwell, Bp.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Spens, L.
McFadzean, L. Stamp, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Strathclyde, L.
MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Strathspey, L.
Mancroft, L. Sudeley, L.
Marley, L. Swinfen, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Terrington, L.
Mersey, V. Torphichen, L.
Milverton, L. Trefgarne, L.
Minto, E. Truro, Bp.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Vivian, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Waldegrave, E.
Newall, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Noel-Buxton, L. Winchester, Bp.
Norfolk, D. Worcester, Bp.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.