WEDNESDAY, 1st DECEMBER, 1926.1603
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Short, Mr. (Chairman)
*Banks, Mr. (Swindon)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral (Lewes)
Brass, Captain (Clitheroe)
Cazalet, Captain (Chippenham)
*Charleton, Mr. (Leeds, S.)
Cluse, Mr. (Islington, S.)
Colfox, Major (Dorset, W.)
Courtauld, Major (Chichester)
*Davies, Mr. Rhys (Westhoughton)
Dean, Mr. (Holland-with-Boston)
*Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
Forrest, Mr. (Batley and Morley)
Gibbins, Mr. (West Toxteth)
*Hacking, Captain (Chorley)
Hammersley, Mr. (Stockport)
*Harney, Mr. (South Shields)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel (Louth)
Hilton, Mr. (Bolton)
Hirst, Mr. George (Wentworth)
*Huntingfield, Lord (Eye)
Jephcott, Mr. (Yardley)
*Joynson-Hicks, Sir William (Twickenham)
Luce, Major - General Sir Richard (Derby)
Meyer, Sir Frank (Great Yarmouth)
Mitchell, Mr. Rosslyn (Paisley)
*Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)
Riley, Mr. (Dewsbury)
Sanderson, Sir Frank (Darwen)
Shepherd, Mr. (Darlington)
Slaney, Major Kenyon- (Tavistock)
*Solicitor-General, The (Bristol Central)
Stott, Lieut.-Colonel (Birkenhead, E.)
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid (Hartlepools)
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan (Middlesbrough, W.)
Tinker, Mr. (Leigh)
Tinne, Mr. (Wavertree)
Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. (Rhondda, E.)
Williams, Mr. Herbert (Reading)
Womersley, Mr. (Grimsby)
Wood, Mr. Edmund (Stalybridge and Hyde)
* Added in respect of the Legitimacy Bill [Lords].—December 1, 1926.
Mr. WILLIAMS Committee Clerks.
Mr. KINGDOM Committee Clerks.1604 1605 STANDING COMMITTEE B Wednesday, 1st December, 1926.
[Mr. SHORT in the Chair.]
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Section, where the parents of an illegitimate person marry or have married one another, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, the marriage shall, if the father of the illegitimate person was or is at the date of the marriage domiciled in England or Wales, render that person, if living, legitimate from the commencement of this Act, or from the date of the marriage, whichever last happens.
(2) Nothing in this Act shall operate to legitimate a person whose father or mother was married to a third person when the illegitimate person was born.
(3) The legitimation of a person under this Act does not enable him or his spouse, children or remoter issue to take any interest in real or personal property save as is hereinafter in this Act expressly provided.
(4) The provisions contained in the Schedule to this Act shall have effect with respect to the re-registration of the births of legitimated persons.
Mr. RHYS DAVIES: I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (2). I desire to say at once, that I think the Committee will appreciate that this is a very contentious subject, but I will try not to import too much contention into our discussion this morning. I think it would be well if I commenced by giving a brief history of what has happened to this Sub-section in the past. In 1923, in Committee, when this question was under discussion, the Solicitor-General of that day actually moved the deletion of this Sub-section, and it was carried by 27 votes to seven, showing that the representative of the Govern- 1606 ment of that day himself believed that this Sub-section should not be included in this Bill. On the Report stage, this Sub-section was re-inserted without a Division in order, if possible, to try to save the Bill as a whole, because, apart from this Sub-section, the Bill is a very valuable one. In 1924, the Bill again came before a Committee, and this Sub-section was again rejected by 30 votes to four, showing once more that there was a very strong opinion against its inclusion, and on the Report stage in the House it was again rejected by 136 votes to 65. That will indicate two things, that not only is there a strong feeling against the inclusion of this Sub-section, but it also indicates that it is not a party question, and I think Members of this Committee will agree with me when I say this is a question entirely apart from party politics, and does not lend itself to party issues in any way whatever. The arguments in support of the Clause are very strange reading. First of all, I think the main argument arises from the religious organisations of this country. There at once I wish to say, I will not in any way utter a word against the religious opinion of any individual. I belong to a Christian Church myself, and it would not become me to argue against the opinion expressed by the Bishops in another place. I think one of the arguments ought to alter the ground at once, because it is held that the law of England would be brought into line with the law of Scotland if this restricted Clause were included in the Measure. I do not know anything about Scottish law, but it is no argument for this Committee to be influenced by it to say that the law of England should be brought into harmony with the law of Scotland on any point at all. I am very much afraid that the law of Scotland, while it may be in advance of the law of England in some respects, is behind the times in other respects, and in this particular case I am sure it is not up to modern standards. I speak with some respect in this connection, because I have an hon. Friend at my side, the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Rosslyn Mitchell), who knows more about this point than I do. It is said that the absence of this restrictive Sub-section would cause confusion in regard to the succession of property in Scotland, but I know very little about that subject either. 1607 I now come to what I regard as the real issue upon which any ordinary man or woman can offer an opinion. It is suggested that, if we pass this Sub-section, it will really be an invitation to a married man living with his wife to cohabit with another woman, merely by virtue of the fact that he knows that when he does so the illegitimate child which may ensue will be legitimated under this Bill. Is there any hon. Member here who believes for a moment that an inducement of that kind is of any account at all? I suggest really that the pivot upon which the whole argument ought to turn is this: The Bill is designed to legitimate children born out of wedlock, but they will be children of persons who will marry after the birth of the child. That is the main purpose of the Bill, but in the case of the triangle, as in this Sub-section, it is suggested that the child ought to bear the sin of its parents. The object of the Measure is to legitimate the child, so that the child shall not carry the sin of its parents throughout life, and if the Sub-section be allowed to remain, it will differentiate between the children of single persons who marry afterwards and the children of a married man who marries after the death of his wife or probably after divorce. I do not see any point at all in the argument of leaders of the Church in this country, that if we remove this Sub-section it will be an inducement to a man to do what I have suggested, and, therefore, I say that that argument ought not to hold good. The other argument is this, that we are loosening the bonds of matrimony by removing this Sub-section. I would do nothing at all myself, and I feel sure there is no member of my party who would disagree with the statement that I am about to make, that we, on the Labour benches, will not do anything at all in any shape or form that would tend to loosen the bonds of matrimony, and I do not think there is very much difference, if any, between any party in the House on that fundamental issue. I know too well the consequences of doing anything of the kind, but the argument has been used in another place, and in the House of Commons itself, that, in removing this Sub-section, we are about to do something which no other country has ever done before. I have tried to 1608 look up the history of the law on this point in other countries, and I find that in several of our Dominions this restriction is not included in the law at ail. I am also informed, on good authority, that in the vast majority of the States of the United States of America where this law prevails to legitimate illegitimate children, this restrictive Clause is not included in their Statutes. Consequently. I say there is no real foundation for the argument that we are doing something that other countries have not yet done. In Canada and in some of the Australian States they have already taken the step I am asking the Committee to take this morning. I think I have submitted the two or three points that are fundamental to our discussion this morning, and I hope the Committee will, as it has done before, remove this Sub-section. If I might say so, I think the House of Commons ought to be paramount on this issue, and that the people in another place ought not to have the right to enforce their opinion upon the House of Commons, because, after all, we represent the people of the country, we put our opinions before them at elections, and we know what they are thinking better than the other people, and, if I might say a word about the Bishops, I would say that, while they undoubtedly represent a point of view, it is a very circumscribed point of view. They represent the Church as they know it, but we represent our people in their opinions on all points, and in all walks of life. Consequently, I hope the House of Commons will determine that it shall reign supreme on this issue.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Captain Hacking): I expected to hear something more in favour of this Amendment before I addressed the Committee, as the arguments that we have heard up to now are not, with all due deference to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), really convincing. The hon. Member started by saying that he was anxious not to make this a party question, and I think he is quite right. I think this ought to be above party. It is a very big principle which is mentioned in connection with this Amendment, and the less we hear about party in connection with a principle of that kind, the better it will be for the Bill. The hon. Member 1609 proceeded to say that he did not know very much about the law of succession of property in Scotland. Neither do I, and I do not propose, therefore, to pursue that subject, but one observation which he made was, I thought, rather curious. He told us that we ought not to follow Scotland, because Scotland had this particular proviso in its Act, but that there was no harm in following Canada and other parts of the Dominions. Does he make that remark because he prefers the Dominions to Scotland, or does it happen to be because Scotland has done something with which he disagrees and the Dominions have done something which he likes? I do not think that is a very strong argument to bring forward, and the only reason why he brings it forward is because he agrees with what the Dominions have done and disagrees with what Scotland has done.
Mr. DAVIES: Scotland is not a free country to pass any law that it likes. It must come to the central Parliament, but the countries to which I have referred are free to do what they like.
Captain HACKING: But Scotland has this law, and I am sure it is not because he thinks the Dominions have got more sense than Scotland has that he used that particular argument. Undoubtedly, this Sub-section is contentious, and I was very glad to hear the hon. Member admit it. This Bill has now been before the House of Commons, I think, for five or six years, and very frequently before the House of Lords, but it has never succeeded in getting itself placed upon the Statute Book. One of the main reasons why it has not met with success is because of this particular Sub-section, and I must say at once that there is very little likelihood of this Bill getting through this Session if this Amendment be accepted. I think we must all admit that, for whatever arguments we may use in connection with the necessity or otherwise of having a House of Lords, the hon. Member will agree that we have a House of Lords as part of our Constitution at the present moment, and that they have the power to reject this particular Amendment if and when it goes up to them again He will, therefore, realise, seeing that they have that power, that we have very little chance of getting this Bill placed upon the Statute Book in any form if this par- 1610 ticular Amendment be accepted by this Committee and the House of Commons. He has said that there is a very strong religious feeling against this Amendment, as, of course, there is, and it would be wrong to ignore that religious feeling. I am sure the hon. Member did not suggest that we should ignore it, but at the same time I think we ought to have stronger arguments in favour of the Sub-section as it stands than the argument that the religious feeling of the country is in favour of the Bill and against the Amendment. I would prefer to argue on plain facts as I see them rather than on a purely religious feeling, whatever that feeling may be. In this particular case, we have two considerations that are paramount. We have to consider the interests of the child, which should, perhaps, come first, but we also, in this part of the Bill, have to consider the interests of the wife, who has not erred, but whose husband has erred. It is the husband who has had the intercourse with another woman, and we have to consider the interests of the wife, who has done nothing wrong and has committed no sin at all. The Clause as it now stands undoubtedly is of assistance to the wife. To allow children born in adultery to have the benefit of this Bill certainly would remove a deterrent against adulterous intercourse, and, therefore, it would be prejudicial to family life if we were to accept the Amendment. It would undoubtedly increase divorce and make it more difficult for the wife to restrain her husband or regain his affection. I think we must admit that, and if it does not go so far as to be an encouragement to the husband, it certainly would remove a deterrent against adulterous intercourse. Secondly, when we consider the interests of the wife, a wife should be protected against being subjected to a great deal of pressure such as that to which she would be subjected to divorce her husband in order to allow an illegitimate child to become legitimate. If this Amendment were accepted, there is no doubt that the wife would be told that she ought not to be an obstacle to an innocent child's future, and such pressure is undoubtedly likely to be more severe if the particular wife in question happens to be childless. Therefore, it is 1611 certainty in the interests of the wife that the Amendment should be rejected. How will this affect the children? I admit quite frankly that, if this Amendment were carried, the illegitimate child in question would be assisted. There is no doubt about that, but we have surely to consider the interests of children as a whole, children in general, and I have always contended that the one great object we ought to have in view throughout the whole of the country is the preservation of family life. That is the great interest of the child, and the discouragement, therefore, of adulterous intercourse is in the interests of children generally, and the interests of children generally are more important than the interests of a comparatively few who are illegitimately born. I do not think we can argue any more strongly than that. The interests of children in general are far more important than the interests of the parent who would be directly affected by this particular Amendment. The other agument that I would use is an argument which has been discarded by the hon. Member, and that is that the provisions of the Bill are being worked in Scotland. He merely mentioned that they were being worked, but I am informed that they are being worked quite successfully, that there is no trouble, and that everybody appears to be quite happy with the Act as it stands. There have been no complications and no difficulties have been met with. For these reasons I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment, especially bearing in mind that if the Amendment is accepted it will undoubtedly wreck the Bill. We would not get the Bill through both Houses during the remainder of the Session. It would have to be put off for another year, and again you might have this contentious matter raised. We are voicing the opinion of the whole country when we say that the Bill as it stands is of very great value to illegitimate children. Do not let us run the risk of sacrificing the Bill in the interests of a very small number of illegitimate children.
Mr. CHARLETON: I have listened very attentively to the case put up by the Under-Secretary who is in charge of the Bill, but I must confess that I have heard nothing that would induce me to 1612 forsake the Amendment. I do not think that he has stated a case at all. It is quite true that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) did not dwell at length on the Scottish aspect, and that the Under-secretary made quite a legitimate point against him. But we Sassenachs do not intrude very much in Scottish affairs on any side of the House. When the Scottish debates are in progress we usually retire and leave the Scottish people to deal with the business. Once I was going into the Chamber on such a day and was told that I would not be allowed to enter unless I took off my trousers. I did not enter, as it was cold. So far as the Bill is concerned, as I thought would happen, the case put up by the Government is fear of the Lords. I am glad to see that the Government are coming our way. We have long thought that the House of Lords stood between the people and real progress, and I welcome the Under-Secretary on the road by which we are going. But I cannot go with him when he sets the few against the many, so far as children are concerned. Neither do I follow him when he states that the Bill as it stands is in the interests of the wife, and that the Amendment would be against the interests of the wife. If I quote a case that came under my knowledge very closely, the Committee will see what is in my mind. I knew a girl who, at the tender age of about 18, had illegitimate twins, the father of whom, the girl stated, was a married man, though she never divulged who the father was. A short time after the twins were born she contracted consumption, and on her death-bed she told her sister that until she conceived she was not aware that the act she committed was the act that would lead to the bearing of children. She had no knowledge of that whatever. That girl in her innocence did what she knew was really wrong, but she had no knowledge of the result of the act she was committing. I also knew a woman who told my wife that until she was married she did not understand the way children were born. This Amendment would legitimate the children of such girls.
Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS: That is not so, as the girl was dead.1613
Mr. CHARLETON: I am referring to girls in that position. I know that these two dear children, who are alive and bonny, cannot be legitimated under any circumstances. I am referring to girls in the same position who, in their innocence, are betrayed by some scoundrel. Why should we differentiate between the children? That is what I cannot understand. Does the opposition to the Amendment postulate that if it is passed and a man has intercourse with a girl he will then think about murder to get his wife out of the way; or does it simply mean that the wife will be tempted to ask for a divorce in favour of her husband? If the wife is opposed to the legitimation of the bastard of her husband the tendency is that she will not sue for a divorce and give the husband a right to marry to legitimate the child. It seems to me that the wife is in the strong position. She has it entirely in her hands whether the child shall be legitimated or not. Let us turn to another point. I am also a member of a Christian community. I am inclined to think that the Church party, led by the Bishops, will not oppose this Amendment on modern grounds, but rather on mediaeval grounds dating back to the time when the Church did not look at matters as we do to-day. The Church has constantly shifted its ground. When its leaders are convinced they say "This is what we have always stood for." For instance, when the Bishops were strongest in their attitude towards illegitimate children they were also opposed to divorce. But it is strange that divorce is mostly sought by the rich, and that the Church should first agree to break the holy tie of matrimony.
Sir ROBERT NEWMAN: It has not agreed.
Mr. CHARLETON: It may be that the high Anglican Church or the Roman Catholic Church has not. The hon. Member who interrupted can put me right if I am wrong, for I admit that I do not know as much about the canon law of the Church as he does. I am looking at the matter from the general point of view. It may be that they have not agreed, but, at all events, they have not succeeded in persuading the rest of their peers, the Bishops in the House, that we ought not to have divorce, and divorce has been established. So the 1614 Lords have agreed—the Bishops may have been in a minority, and I believe they were—to divorce. This next step is very necessary. I believe with the Lords that the Bishops are standing on mediævalism, and it is about time that we brought them up to date.
Sir R. NEWMAN: I am rather sorry that the religious question has been brought forward so prominently in this Debate, but at the same time, as a very humble member of the Church, and as one who takes an interest in these matters, let me say that we ought not to approach this question from a religious point of view at all. I have not had the privilege of reading the report of the Debate in another place, and I do not quite know why the Bishops acted as they did, but I think that they were fundamentally and as rule opposed to divorce entirely. I am entirely opposed to it. That being the case, I cannot see any difference, from a Christian point of view, between legitimating a child of people who have been married, and who are divorced, and legitimating the child born out of wedlock at a time when marriage could not be contracted. Therefore, if I approached the question on its merits, I should support the Amendment, and for one reason alone. One point that has been rather overlooked is the injustice that might arise in connection with a child born owing to the father having committed bigamy. There are many cases of that sort about, where a man will represent himself as unmarried and will marry a most respectable girl. A child is born and it is then discovered that he is married already. I do not make any excuse for the bigamist. At the Assize Court he will bring forward some argument, either that he did not get on with his wife, or that they agreed to separate, or that there was a mutual understanding, and so on. In those cases not only is the mother very much injured, but the unfortunate child is the victim of circumstances over which it has no control. Dismissing, as I do, the Christian objection to this legitimating of the child, the reason why I shall not support the Amendment is this: This is a good Bill as it stands. I am sure that the Minister is quite right when he says that if the Amendment were carried we should lose the Bill. If the decision rested with this Committee only I should support the 1615 Amendment, but as it does not rest with the Committee I think that we should be very ill-advised to carry the Amendment, which would wreck the Bill, at any rate until next year.
Mr. ROSSLYN MITCHELL: I should be very sorry indeed if the insistence on this Amendment were to jeopardise the Bill, because, while in Scotland much that is in this Bill is the common law of the land, and has been from time immemorial, in England advanced thought has been working to obtain this Bill for no less than 690 years. As the ecclesiastical element has been introduced, I might be allowed to remind the Committee that, while in these days some members of the Church have an objection to the basis of this Bill, originally the champions of legitimation per subsequent matrimonium were the Bishops, and so far back as the famous 1236 Statutes of Merton it was the Bishops who came to the Earls and Barons to ask them to pass a Bill allowing legitimation by subsequent marriage of the parents, and it was the Earls and Barons who said that they were not willing to alter the laws of England for that purpose. Consequently, if to-day there is criticism, it is, perhaps, not a bad thing, on the day following St. Andrew's day, for one from a Presbyterian country to pay that tribute without any reluctance to those who held the Bishops' Courts in the old days as against the King's Court. This Bill is brought forward for the purpose of altering the status of certain individuals in this country. There are, I understand, in England and Wales some 40,000 illegitimate children. How many of these are adulterine I have no idea, and I do not think anybody could tell us, but we may take it that a certain proportion are born as a result of a connection between a man and a woman, either of whom, at the moment of the birth of the child, was not in a condition to marry the other party. In Scotland we have in our common law, as interpreted by decisions, a Clause similar to this, and the status of the child is decided by the capacity of the parents to marry. Could they have married at a certain time? That is the test applied. It is not definitely decided whether that time is the moment of con- 1616 ception or the moment of birth. This Bill will help us to a decision in Scotland because the whole trend of Scottish decisions has been rather to stretch the general law of the country in favour of the child. But if the fundamental principle of the Bill be to give a status to the child, how is it that we are going to have regard to anything but the interests of the child itself? I know there is very great objection to any man or woman who, being already married, commits adultery. Society very properly sets its face against that, but does society close its doors to the man or woman who, being already married, enters into adulterous association with some other woman or man and thereafter marries that woman or man? I am not an authority on society, because I have not the entrée into that sphere of life, but, as far as I can gather from ordinary newspaper reports and the references to people subsequently, I do not see that any stigma attaches to such persons if, by subsequent marriage, they try to make reparation for their breach of an immemorial custom which is, I agree, fundamental in our system. If the guilty persons—perhaps I may use that word—are given a status in the social sphere, why should the child be denied that status? Let us take a few tests. Is there anything in the fact of a man having had adulterous association with a woman whom he has subsequently married, to keep him from being a Member of the House of Commons? Would it keep him from being a Member of the House of Lords? Would it keep him from voting upon any question whatever? Would it prevent him from entering business? Would it prevent him from entering any of our professions? Would it debar him from receiving invitations to ceremonial occasions? I do not think so. It might, perhaps, in the case of the Court—I do not know. Personally, I do not see that any stigma attaches to people who, by subsequent marriage, have endeavoured to repair what they may or may not regret. Why then should we add to the humiliation of the child by saying that, whereas previously, all illegitimate children bore the stigma of bastard, now we are going to release from that stigma all who were born at a time when their parents had the capacity to marry, but we are going to place the stigma with 1617 increased force on the innocent victim when there has been adulterous connection? I think it would be a great mistake if we did that. We should be going against the general will of the country. More and more, as it seems to me, the Legislature has its eyes on the future. It is more concerned with the status of the children, who are coming afterwards, than with the existing grown-ups. I desire to answer, briefly, two of the arguments put up by the Under-Secretary. The first is, in regard to the effect upon married people. Of course, the varieties of human experience are infinite. But I wish to show the other side to some of the arguments which have been advanced. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says it is not good that a man, having a childless wife, should have a child by another woman, and should be able to make that child legitimate if his wife dies or divorces him.
Captain HACKING: Not if his wife dies. During the lifetime of the wife—that was my objection.
Mr. MITCHELL: The Bill says that if a man is married and is childless by his wife, but has a child by another woman, and his own wife dies, he cannot, by marrying that other woman, give the status of legitimacy to his child.
Captain HACKING: We must consider the interests of the wife who is living. It is not desirable to make divorce a great deal easier and to put the husband in a position in which he would almost compel the wife to consent to a divorce.
Mr. MITCHELL: Please do not think that I am putting my side of the case as a contradiction to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I accept his statement, but I submit that the variety of human experience is so illimitable, that his side of the case is balanced by the other side. If a man is married and is childless by his own wife, but has a child by another woman, and if the wife dies or becomes insane and eventually dies, he cannot, by marrying the other woman, make legitimate the offspring of their union. I only put that consideration forward as a balance to the hon. and gallant Member's statement, and not as a contradiction of it. As this Bill stands, the man who is childless by his wife must 1618 remain childless for ever in the eyes of the law. Then, again, there is the question of divorce. If a woman is married to a man who is sentenced to penal servitude for life, or who is insane, or who is a drunkard and a scoundrel or—if I may refer to the matter with the utmost gentleness—it is one of the cases which have happened since the War, and if she has a child by a man while she is still married, that man and she are absolutely precluded by this Bill from ever making reparation as between themselves or to their child. I should not like to be dogmatic, but I think we are working along the lines of a developed sense of justice to children in the minds of the whole people, by asking that this Sub-section should be eliminated from the Bill. I am not going to give a dissertation on Scots law, but I would point out that where in our Dominions the preponderance of opinion is Scottish, you have a Measure of this kind without this Clause. On the other hand, where you have a preponderance of English opinion, you have either no such Measure at all or a Measure with a provision of this kind. That is natural, because it has been Scots law for so long, and the opposite has been English law. For example, in West and South Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, where there are very large Scottish elements, they have this law without this Sub-section. In Victoria, and New South Wales which are preponderatingly English, they have this law with the exception contained in the Sub-section. In Canada, the four Provinces which are very largely Scottish and with Scottish traditions, have the law without this Sub-section, and in the United States there are 42 States without this restriction and only two with it. In Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Norway, there is not this restriction, and I suggest that, whatever may happen afterwards, this Committee should keep ahead of, or at any rate in line with, the developed sense of the people in this matter. We ought not, when making an alteration in the status of illegitimate children, put an additional stigma on one class while eradicating the stigma on others. Apart from party or religious conviction, or anything of that kind, I support the Amendment.1619
Mr. H. WILLIAMS: I think it a little unfortunate that the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Rosslyn Mitchell) used the word "society" in two senses. When we say that "society" deplores certain things, we do not mean "society" spelt with a capital "S," but the community at large. The penalty of illegitimacy is, in this country, far more a social than a legal penalty. All we are seeking to do is to remove the legal penalty. There is no doubt it is an immense disadvantage to any child to be illegitimate, quite apart from any question of legal status. When we talk of the sense of the people, this Sub-section represents, I am perfectly satisfied, the sense of the great mass of the people. The argument that the House of Lords have done something, and that they do not represent the people, while we do represent the people, is a misleading argument. I am certain if you were to take any ordinary assembly—say of women only—and ascertain their view on this subject, you would get a very strong view against the deletion of this Sub-section. [HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Yes, and I am inclined to think that the feeling would be stronger the poorer the class of the women with whom you were dealing. I think we all want to discourage any growth in the number of illegitimate children. We are on common ground in
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Hilton, Cecil||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Huntingfield, Lord||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Gibbins, Joseph||Tinker, John Joseph|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 2 (Declarations of legitimacy of legitimated persons), 3 (Rights of legitimated persons, etc., to take interests in property), and 4 (Succession on intestacy of legitimated persons and their issue), ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Where an illegitimate person dies after the commencement of this Act and before1620
that matter, but in desiring to redress the injustice to the child—and, of course, it is the child who suffers the injustice—we have to be certain that we do not increase the number of cases. I am not going to argue the question of capital punishment. It may be said that if you abolish capital punishment the number of people who die violent deaths will be diminished, because no one will be executed. On the other hand, it might happen that if the death penalty were abolished, the number of murders would increase, and, by doing away with the injustice of hanging a man, you might increase the total number of deaths by violence other than executions. The same thing may happen in this instance. Up to a point it is a good thing that there is a stigma attached to illegitimacy. The existence of that stigma prevents illegitimacy from very largely increasing, but when we come to this particular matter, then you may call it the prejudice of the community or what you like, but I am satisfied the prejudice or the feeling of the ordinary man or woman in the street will be entirely against the deletion of this Sub-section.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 15; Noes, 6.
the marriage of his parents leaving any spouse, children or remoter issue living at at the date of such marriage, then, if that person would, if living at the time of the marriage of his parents, have become a legitimated person, the provisions of this Act with respect to the taking of interests in property by, or in succession to, the spouse, children and remoter issue of a legitimated person … . shall apply as if such person as aforesaid had been a legitimated person and the date of the marriage of his parents had been the date of legitimation.
Captain HACKING: I beg to move, after the word "person" ["issue of a legitimated person"], to insert the words 1621 "(including those relating to the rate of Death Duties)." This is a question of Privilege.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
A legitimated person shall have the same rights, and shall be under the same obligations in respect of the maintenance and support of himself or of any other person as if he had been born legitimate, and, subject to the provisions of this Act, the provisions of any Act relating to claims for damages, compensation, allowance, benefit, or otherwise by or in respect of a legitimate child shall apply in like manner in the case of a legitimated person.
The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip): I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add a new Sub-section— "(). Where the marriage leading to the legitimation of a child took place before the fourth day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and the father of the child died before that date, the child shall, for the purpose of determining rights to pension or additional allowance under the Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, be deemed to have been a child of the marriage living at that date: Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall confer any right to claim any payment in respect of any period prior to the date of legitimation." This Amendment deals with a difficulty which arises under the Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, and I think I can put a case which shows the case intended to be dealt with by this Amendment. Suppose that in 1920 a man and a woman had an illegitimate child, and the man married another woman in 1922, and they have no children; then, later on, the same two marry, and in 1923 the man dies. In 1926 there is no existing child, and the widow would not be entitled to a pension. These words are being inserted so that the child legitimated by this Amendment will be treated as a child that exists for the purpose of giving the widow a pension, and it dates the legitimation of the child back to the necessary time to entitle the widow, who has the child, to get a pension under the Act, which dates the child back to 1926 for the purpose 1622 of counting the pension which will become payable after the passing of this Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
(1) Where the parents of an illegitimate person marry or have married one another, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, and the father of the illegitimate person was or is, at the time of the marriage, domiciled in a country, other than England or Wales, by the law of which the illegitimate person became legitimated by virtue of such subsequent marriage, that person, if living, shall in England and Wales be recognised as having been so legitimated from the commencement of this Act or from the date of the marriage, whichever last happens, notwithstanding that his father was not at the time of the birth of such person domiciled in a country in which legitimation by subsequent marriage was permitted by law.
(2) All the provisions of this Act relating to legitimated persons and to the taking of interests in property by or in succession to a legitimated person and the spouse, children and remoter issue of a legitimated person … . shall apply in the case of a person recognised as having been legitimated under this Section, or who would, had he survived the marriage of his parents, been so recognised; and, accordingly, this Act shall have effect as if references therein to a legitimated person included a person so recognised as having been legitimated.
(3) For the purposes of this Section, the expression "country" includes Scotland and any other part of His Majesty's Dominions, as well as a foreign country.
Captain HACKING: I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "person" ["issue of a legitimated person"], to insert the words "(including those relating to the rate of Death Duties)." This, again, is a question of Privilege.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Clauses 9 (Right of illegitimate child and mother of illegitimate child to succeed on intestacy of the other), 10 (Savings), 11 (Interpretation), and 12 (Short title and commencement), ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Where a legitimated person or any relative of a legitimated person takes any interest in real or personal property, any succession legacy or other duty which becomes leviable after the date of legitimation shall be payable at the same rate as if the legitimated person had been born legitimate.—[Captain Hacking.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Captain HACKING: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." 1624 This, again, is a question of Privilege.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause added to the Bill.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported to the House.
The Committee rose at Five Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Short, Mr. (Chairman)
Davies, Mr. Rhys
Luce, Major-General Sir Richard
Meyer, Sir Frank
Mitchell, Mr. Rosslyn
Newman, Sir Robert
Slaney, Major Kenyon-
Williams, Mr. Herbert
Wood, Mr. Edmund