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Married Women's Property Bill

Volume 203: debated on Wednesday 3 August 1870

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Lords' Amendments

Lords' Amendments considered.

said, that he had to call the attention of the House to the alterations, he wished he could say the Amendments, made in the Married Women's Property Bill in the House of Lords. The Bill, in fact, as it had come down from the other House was a new Bill, and framed upon a different principle from that which left this House. This House had proceeded upon the belief that the law by which a woman forfeited her property by the act of marriage was a bad law, and that great evils sprang from it, affecting, though in very different degrees, both rich and poor, and had proposed to remedy these evils by its repeal. In the other House, the existence of these evils, especially as affecting the working classes, was fully admitted; but instead of repealing the law, they had proposed to apply specific remedies for the more glaring of the evils, and he fully and gratefully admitted that, as far as related to the working classes, who formed the most numerous and most helpless class of the sufferers under the present law, the Bill would in its present form afford real though not complete relief. He did not indeed think that that relief was afforded in the best form, and he feared that it would be found to be attended with greater danger of producing family discord than would the Bill which he had himself introduced. He did not, however, hesitate to advise the House to accept the Bill, as at that period of the Session it would be vain to propose any substantial Amendments, he should, therefore, merely propose some verbal Amendments which were necessary in some of the clauses; and as the Bill was now to have effect only in the case of marriages contracted subsequently to the passing of the Act, he should propose that it should come into immediate operation. He must, however, say that legislation on this subject could not end with this Bill, as there would yet remain much to be remedied, and principles were admitted in the Bill in its present form, which, unless it were to be contended that bad husbands were to be found only amongst the poor, must lead to a fuller and more complete measure.

said, he regretted that the House of Lords had not accepted the simple and just principle on which the Bill as framed by the Commons was founded. He thought that as the Bill as framed by the Lords effected a great improvement in the existing law, it would be wise to accede to their Amendments, and he hoped that before long the principle for which they contended would be acknowledged, and the law so altered as to secure to married women the right to their own property and earnings as fully as to men.

Lords' Amendments agreed to, with Amendments.