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Foreign Marriage Bill Lords

Volume 439: debated on Friday 4 July 1947

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Considered in Committee.

[Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]

Clause 1—(Validation Of Past Marriages Solemnised By Chaplains And Other Officers Of Hm Forces Serving Abroad)

3.51 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 18, to leave out Subsection (2), and to insert:

"(2) Where either of the parties to a marriage which has been rendered valid by this Section subsequently during the life of the other party, but before the twenty-fourth day of April, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, entered into a marriage with any other person which, but for this Section, would have been a valid marriage, the first marriage shall be deemed to have been dissolved immediately before the solemnisation of the second marriage."
I do not propose at this late hour to speak for any length of time, but it is an extremely important matter that I have to raise. This Amendment relates to the position of spouses and children who may be very adversely affected indeed if an Amendment of this description is not accepted. The Bill relates to the validating of certain marriages which have been conducted by chaplains and officers of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the parties to which were of the opinion that they had been properly married. Subsection 2 of Clause 1 introduced into the Bill would enable those who contracted a second marriage to consider the second marriage as being valid, in which case it was indicated that the first marriage would not be valid. The result would be, if it were retained in its present form, to bastardise the issue of the first marriage and also to place the spouse of that marriage in a very serious position indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) and myself felt that it was essential that some steps should be taken to put the matter right, so that children for whom this Government has considerable concern should not be placed in a serious position from the point of view of their personal standing and in relation to the inheritance and possession of property. The object of the Amendment is to declare the children of both marriages legitimate children as indeed they are entitled to be considered. The spouses in both marriages would be legally married, and the result would be to assure their personal standing as married women; and in respect of property both they and their children would have all the rights which legal wives and children are entitled to.

The Government very gladly accept this Amendment. I think that the Clause, as now amended, will be much closer to the fundamental purposes of the Bill than the original Subsection (2). The possibility of grave injustice exists under the original Subsection, but that possibility will be removed by the acceptance of this Amendment. The Government are most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) for for having raised the matter.

May I ask whether this Amendment is a manuscript Amendment, because it does not seem to be the same as the one on the Order Paper?

It is not the same as the one on the Order Paper. It is a manuscript Amendment, and has been accepted by the Chair.

I should not dream, for a moment, of denying your right, Mr. Beaumont, to accept such an Amendment, but some of us are placed in a very difficult position. The only Amendments on the Order Paper are one from the Government and one from the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), but, at the last minute, and without any warning, we are asked to accept a manuscript Amendment about which we have heard nothing, but which, we are told, is very good. We have not had 'the chance of examining it. As I say, we have been told that it is a good Amendment, and, that being the case, and as, at the present moment, I can see no particular objection to it, I have no intention of opposing it. But I say quite definitely that this is not the way in which the Committee should be treated. The Amendment ought to have been printed so that the Committee could know about it. I regret that the Committee has been placed in such a position on a matter which we all feel very deeply about. I, personally, welcome the Amendment, and hope that it will have the effect of putting the trouble right.

Amendment agreed to

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3—(Provisions As To Dominions)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 25, at the end, to insert:

"Provided that any reference to a member of the naval, military or air forces of His Majesty shall be construed as including a reference to a member of the said Forces raised in a Dominion who is temporarily attached under Subsection (2) of Section four of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act, 1933, to a part of the said Forces raised in the United Kingdom."
The purpose of this Amendment is, I think, quite plain. Under an Act of 1933, the Admiralty, the Army or the Air Force may temporarily attach a member of His Majesty's Forces in an overseas Dominion to His Majesty's Forces in the United Kingdom. We desire to apply the provisions of this Bill to those members of Dominion Forces so temporarily attached. I think that this is a useful facility, and I hope that it will be accepted.

I cannot possibly accept anyone's pleasure to legislate too quickly. This is a necessary Amendment. But may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, first of all, there was a mistake on his part in leaving out the Dominions. They are now being put in. J should like to ask whether the Government are quite sure that the Colonies are covered in the same way. If the right hon. Gentleman will give me an assurance that between now and the Report stage the Government will look into the matter, I should be very glad. I should like to have that assurance.

Yes, Sir. I will certainly give that assurance and I will make inquiries, although I think the Colonies are included. We were in consultation with the Dominions.

It being Four o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.