Divorce Laws.

– in the House of Commons on 14th April 1920.

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Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

I beg to move, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that legislative effect should be given without delay to the recommendations contained in the Majority Report of the Royal Commission on Divorce. 8.0 P.M.

In another place by a majority of more than two to one the proposals which I set forth have, in the form of the Bill, received a Second Reading, and already in the Press throughout the country there has been almost unanimous support for changes of the kind which the majority of the members of the Royal Commission approved. It is not necessary to trouble the House with a history of divorce. The civil courts obtained control of divorce in 1857, and for practically 60 years there has been no real change in our divorce laws at all. Therefore it does not lie in the mouth of anyone to say that divorce reform has been in a hurry, and it is hardly surprising that after a lapse of 60 years it has been found that some change is necessary. The evils which were found to exist, and which the Government of the day thought did exist, were so great that a Royal Commission was appointed in 1909, which reported in 1912, and it is the report of the majority of members of that Commission, nine as against three who signed the minority report—10 were in favour of it, but Sir George White, then a Nonconformist Member of the House, died before signing it—which my Motion seeks to advocate. The evils which that Commission found proved and proposed remedies for were many. One of the principal ones was the difficulty, owing to cost, of making use of the divorce law. The Commission found that there was practically one law for the rich and one for the poor, and that those who could not afford to make use of the divorce law, which had to be made use of in London and nowhere else, were practically denied the value of it. Since the Commission reported there has been some slight improvement from the fact that poor persons' rules were made, whereby the applicant has been freed from certain legal charges supposing his income to be under £3 per week, and that I understand has been recently increased to £4 a week. As a matter of fact that particular pro vision, while it has made some difference, has not made a great difference except to persons living in or near London, because the cost of witnesses in places like Newcastle or Cornwall is so great that there is practically a denial of justice to thousands of persons who want to make use of divorce.

Two principles appear to me to underlie the finding of the majority of the Commission. They had to deal of course with the strongly expressed and sincerely held opinions of the Roman Catholic Church, and certain sections of the Church of England, and it may be a small portion of other religious bodies. They found that there had been a conflict of opinion on these matters through the ages, and they laid down that it was essential that they should recommend to the legislature that in their action they should be unfettered by any other consideration than the interests of the State, society, morality, the parties and the children. Another fundamental principle of the Commission was that marriage ought to be dissoluble when, by universal admission, the fundamental purpose for which it had been entered into had been frustrated. When, in fact, it had ceased to be a reality it was the duty of the State to end it, not to please the parties, but in the real interests of the State and the children. The Commission recommended that there should be sex equality, and that there should be five new grounds for divorce, namely, desertion, cruelty, incurable insanity, habitual drunkenness, and the fact that sentence of death had been remitted. They recommended that three years' desertion should qualify a deserted person to obtain a divorce. In so doing they were merely following what has been the Scottish law for centuries. Whilst it is true that in Scotland the law demands four years' desertion, the majority of the Commissioners thought that three years was sufficient, on the ground that the means of communication had very much improved during the three centuries, and there was less excuse for a man deserting his spouse on that ground. The Commission found that there were thousands of deserted wives, and a large number of deserted husbands, who were placed, as they thought, in the impossible position of having no spouses, being unable to marry, and being, therefore, a danger to themselves and to the community. In regard to the general question of desertion, it must be made quite clear, and must be plain to the House, that in 99 cases out of 100 where a husband deserts his wife, it is practically certain that if he could be followed and his whereabouts discovered, he would be found to have committed adultery since he deserted his wife. In cases where the wife is a person of means, there is little difficulty in tracing her husband, and, in finding evidence of her husband's adultery. Under the present law she can get evidence of the two necessary grounds for divorce, namely, de- sertion and adultery. That woman can get her divorce, but in the case of thousands of poor women who have not the means to follow their husbands, and who have no means to make inquiries which, as every lawyer knows, are very expensive, they are denied the opportunity of proving that their husbands have committed adultery, and as the law now stands they get no relief whatever. They can obtain a judicial separation, but they cannot get their freedom.

I ask the House to consider the position of a woman in these circumstances. Take the case of a young woman of 22 or 23 who is deserted and left with two children. Her former employment is practically denied to her, because she cannot embrace it again and look after her children, and I ask the House to say that it is reasonable that she should be granted a divorce and be enabled to marry again. That is opposed for many reasons, especially by members of the Established Church. I ask those members of the Established Church who are opposed to this suggested reform to look at their own marriage service, which lays it down that marriage is ordained for the procreation of children, as a remedy against sin and fornication, and that husband and wife may be a help and comfort one to the other. I ask them whether every one of these conditions is not frustrated by the husband who has deserted his wife for three years and has no intention of returning.

We are told that more mischief would be caused by an alteration of the law than now exists. When we ask what the dangers arc, we do not get any plain answer. The question was asked in the House of Lords, and no answer was forthcoming. How can it be injurious to the ideal of marriage if the law insists that when marriage fails, that when it is frustrated, that when the marriage is no marriage, the innocent party should be allowed to end it, and thereby be enabled, perhaps, to achieve a more ideal marriage? It seems to me that that is not to destroy marriage, but to make marriage what it ought to be. The alternative which is offered under the present law to the deserted woman is this: "You shall be a celibate for life. Do not sin. If you have to work and cannot keep your children, put them in the workhouse, and lose your home, your wifehood and your children. All that is to be done so that you may, preserve other peoples' homes and the Church's ideal of marriage as a sacrement which must never be broken. You are to suffer these things because of the possible danger that might come to the present protected homes if the law is altered." I want to know what those possible dangers arc. I do not know. They do not exist, and I maintain that the House ought to grant a reform of this kind. If the woman is not prepared to be a celibate for life, if she is not prepared to do all these things, the alternative offered to her is that she must live as an adulteress and bring bastard children into the world, while the world and the Church points the finger of scorn at her. That is a barbarous conception of life, and a cruelly unnecessary one, and one which it is the duty of this House to get rid of.

We are told that to grant divorce for desertion will lead to endless collusion; that we shall have agreed desertion. Do hon. Members suggest that husband and wife are going to agree to leave one another for such a long period as three years in order to get a divorce at the end of that time? Human nature does not go in that way. We have evidence from Scotland. Lord Salvesen, the well-known Scottish judge, who gave evidence before the Commission, said that their law did not lead to collusion. In regard to sex equality the Minority Report agreed with the Majority Report. I agree with the Lord Chancellor, who expressed surprise at the fact that the Church accepts adultery as a proper ground for divorce and no other. We all say that adultery is a serious offence against the contract of marriage, but to suggest that the physical act of an hour or a night is really as likely to break up a home and to permanently frustrate all the objects of marriage as years of cruelty, years of habitual drunkenness, years of desertion, or even committal for murder, seems to be placing adultery in a more serious aspect in its effect upon the home than is justified. I am not trying to minimise adultery as a most serious offence; but the man who refuses to perform all the duties of matrimony, either by desertion or other misconduct, is certainly committing offences which are as great as, if not greater than, the offence of adultery. Hon. Members who are opposed to my motion are en- tirely in favour of sex equality; that the wife shall have the right to divorce her husband for adultery. We are all agreed on that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, the consensus of opinion is in favour of that view.

When we come to the question of collusion, let it be made plain that the persons who we are told are going to try to arrange divorce by collusion are not going to wait three years for a concerted desertion. Of course, they will make use of this new law which we are all agreed must be passed in order to bring about equality between the sexes. We shall no doubt have that as one of the most universal and regular causes of divorce, and it will be one in which there will be collusion, and exaggerated collusion, and if there is collusion it will certainly be on that ground more than on any other. A further ground on which the Commission recommended that there should be divorce is cruelty. Cruelty comes under two heads. One, that one party cannot continue to cohabit with the other without dangers to life and limb, and the second ground is the giving of venereal disease by one party to the other. Everyone agrees that in such circumstances it is impossible for a husband and wife to go on cohabiting. The question is whether that ground is not a sufficient ground for divorce. It is said that a man and woman take one another for better or worse. I would ask hon. Members whether in the marriage of man and woman there is really any intention by either party to take the risk that the other party to the marriage will be a person who will be guilty of such inhuman cruelty as to make life unsafe for the wife or husband?

I do not think that that is a risk which any person thinks of taking, and this ground seems to me to be a clear reason why, after full inquiry by a competent court, the marriage should be terminated. I suggest this not only in the interests of the parties, but in the interests of the children. Children should not be brought up in a home where constant cruelty of an inhuman kind with danger to life and limb is going on. They cannot be brought up as decent members of society in such conditions. If you refuse divorce on such a ground, why do you refuse it? Are you to refuse it because marriage is a sacrament? You certainly cannot refuse it because the marriage contract has not been broken. I suggest, therefore, that it is a perfectly good ground for divorce, as the Royal Commission says. In the other House it was suggested that it would be difficult to define "cruelty." Suggestions were made that it would be utterly impossible to define "cruelty." The Lord Chancellor said that he thought that there would be no difficulty in a plain definition. I think the same, and I have every confidence myself that the English judges, who are fair and competent, will be able to interpret that definition perfectly fairly as between the parties.

Another condition which the Royal Commission propose as a ground for divorce is incurable insanity lasting over five years. Into the details of this proposal I do not go, because the hon. Member for Liverpool (Colonel Raw), who will second my Motion, and who is a scientific man, will deal with that much more ably. Another ground was habitual drunkenness, which was to be proved, according to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, by the fact that a separation order had been made, and not until three years had elapsed under that order was it to be a ground of divorce, and then only after the court was satisfied that there was no likelihood of there being a future joint married life between the parties. The last ground was a commuted death sentence. When the State, through its courts, has decided to hang a man or a woman and later on by its clemency decides not to hang that person, that is a reason why the innocent wife or husband of the criminal should be freed from a marriage in which cohabitation cannot be resumed for twenty years, and free to make another marriage.

Some of my hon. Friends have advanced, as a difficulty in supporting my Motion, that it is proposed to approve of all the recommendations of the Royal Commission which are very numerous. My own view in putting down my Motion was that it amounts to a Second Reading acceptance of the majority proposals of the Royal Commission. I do not pledge myself, and personally I feel quite unpledged, to several of the recommendations if I vote for this Motion. I should feel just as if I had voted for a Bill of seventy or eighty Clauses. It does not mean that I approve of all these Clauses, but only that I approve of the principle on which the Bill is framed, that I give it a Second Reading, and that afterwards I should be perfectly free to propose Amendments. I am told that one of my hon. Friends has handed in a manuscript Amendment in which he proposes to alter my Motion so as to read that it is desirable that legislative effect should be given without delay to the principle upon which the majority report of the Royal Commission is based. I should be perfectly happy to accept that Amendment. I have no desire to tie anyone to every line and comma of the recommendations, but at the same time I trust that hon. Members who are in favour generally of the Royal Commission Report will not, merely on account of the wording of my Motion appearing to include every single recommendation, oppose my Motion on that ground. The magnitude of this question is very considerable. Magistrates have made more than 300,000 separation orders between husband and wife during the twenty-one years up to 1915 on grounds which would mostly be good grounds for divorce. In addition there was a large number—I believe tens of thousands—of separation agreements between husbands and wives which have been largely made by reason of offences which would be a ground of divorce, being committed by one or other of the spouses.

In asking the House to support this Motion, I am asking it to take no untried road. Many of the proposals have been adopted in every other Protestant country in the world Therefore we are not in this matter going to make ourselves too unusual in our legal alterations. In reference to those persons who object because of their religious views, the Roman Catholic Church, as we all know, has always set its face absolutely against all divorce, and it has not found more difficulty, so far as I know, in making its adherents faithful to their religion in this country since our own divorce law was passed in 1867. Consequently, I cannot understand why those who have religious views against divorce should seek to interfere with what, I think, is desired by the great majority of the people of this country who have not got the same religious views. We are not seeking to interfere with the religious views or principles of any man or woman, but we do ask that they shall not on their part interfere with the religious views or the moral views of those who do not agree with them. There would be no compulsion in the case of Roman Catholics or members of the English Church to make any use of the law if it is passed if their Church tells them that it is wrong, but those who do not think it wrong will make use of it.

I am quite satisfied that these reforms are moderate, that they are long overdue, that they will do an immense amount to relieve misery which exists all over England and Wales. I have had an immense number of letters, as other hon. Members have had, from persons who are suffering in this matter, and I am quite satisfied from that correspondence that these cases are real cases, and that if the law is so altered as to enable those persons to be relieved of their misery, nothing but good can result. I am satisfied that the law permitting separation by magistrates results in a vast amount of immorality and adultery and in a large number of illegitimate children being born, and in a great amount of sterilisation—it is between persons who may not legally marry. If we are to do what is our duty, we shall accept these reforms. So far as I am concerned, I am not in the least anxious to weaken the marriage law or to weaken its permanence. I say that boldly and sincerely, but the worst friends of any institution are those who try to defend what is indefensible in it. If we can only make marriage a real thing to all people, if we can destroy all the elements which the present law allows to exist in it, though they are bad, then I am sure we will make marriage stronger and a more real thing. I am certain that the proposals we make will strengthen marriage and that we shall put marriage upon an unassailable rock.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw Lieut-Colonel Nathan Raw , Liverpool Wavertree

I beg to second the Motion.

I wish to make my position perfectly clear by saying at the outset that I am not in favour in any way of weakening the marriage tie in normal conditions. Circumstances arise, unfortunately, in a great many instances when it is necessary for us to consider the desirability and the urgency and the importance of making some alteration in our present divorce laws, both in the interests of the State and of the children, and more directly in the interests of the parties immediately concerned. I will limit my remarks to three recommendations of the Royal Commission Majority Report, namely, those in reference to incurable insanity, habitual drunkenness, and the position of the person who is the wife or husband of one with a commuted death sentence. I propose to consider them more from the medical aspect than from any other. Take the case, first of all, of incurable insanity. In the United Kingdom we have, unfortunately, 140,000 persons who are certified as insane under the Lunacy Acts, and of that number 50,000; are suffering from what is called dementia, or degeneration of the brain itself. That disease is incurable. I venture to put before the House that this condition of dementia should be considered as a ground for divorce. Between 30,000 and 40,000 of those people are married, and in a very large number of instances the husband or wife may not know each other; in fact, a great many of them do not realise that they are married at all.

Out of a large experience amongst the insane, I may tell the House that I have never known any case of recovery from dementia which has lasted for the length of time mentioned, namely, five years. It is suggested by the Majority Report that after five years' detention under the Lunacy Acts a person who is suffering from this form of insanity should be examined at the request of wife or husband by a body of medical experts, who will then be satisfied as to whether or not the disease is curable. If they are satisfied it is incurable, that may be a ground for divorce. These cases are particularly hard amongst the poor. I have known a great many instances where a poor woman has unfortunately had her husband removed to the asylum suffering from this incurable insanity, whereupon she has had to struggle to maintain a home, to look after the children, and, generally, to lead a life of hard-working industry to the end of her days. As the law stands, these poor women have no relief whatever. They may visit their husbands, who in many cases do not know them, and that continues to the end of life. I will not suggest that any other form of physical or mental disease should be a ground for divorce except the particular one I have mentioned, because this form is an incurable form, and there cannot possibly be any relief. The sufferer may live for 40 or 50 years before death comes. The law recognises insanity as a ground for taking possession of the property of the insane person and also for taking charge of the insane person himself. For that reason, I think that incurable insanity ought to be made a ground for divorce.

Another form of mental disease, epilepsy, is a most distressing condition, and certainly I hope the day will come when marriage will be prohibited to those suffering from it and from other forms of mental disease, if only on the ground of the value to the State of healthy people, whereas, as we know, heredity plays a very important part in the production of all mental disease. I now come to the question of habitual drunkenness, which destroys the very basis of married life. It is proposed that after a separation order has been granted, and that order has been in force for three years, if the drunkenness continues, and there is no evidence of any improvement, then the husband or wife may petition for divorce. I would like to read the words of the Majority Report of the Commission with regard to drunkenness: It seems probable from the evidence given before us that habitual drunkenness produces as much, if not more, misery for the sober partner and the children of a marriage as any other cause in the list of grave causes. Such inebriety carries with it loss of interest in surroundings, loss of self-respect, neglect of duty, personal uncleanliness, neglect of children, violence, delusions of suspicion, a tendency to indecent behaviour, and a general state which makes companionship impossible. This applies to both sexes, but, in the case of a drunken husband, the physical pain of brute force is often added to the mental and moral injury he inflicts upon the wife. Moreover, by neglect of business and wanton expenditure, he has power to reduce himself and those dependent upon him to penury. In the case of a drunken wife, neglect of home duties and the care of the children, waste of means, pawning and selling possessions, and many attendant evils, produce a most deplorable state of things. In both cases the ruin of the children can be traced to the evil of parental example. It is said on very high authority, by those who have had great experience in cases of the kind, that from ninety to ninety-five per cent. of habitual drunkards die drunkards. It has been shown by long experience that if habitual drunkenness continues for three or four or five years without any evidence of improvement there is practically no possibility or hope of any cure. In my opinion these two conditions, which are unfortunately so prevalent, incurable insanity and habitual drunkenness for three years, are certain grounds for petition for divorce. The only other matter I wish to speak about is the position of the wife or husband of one who has been sentenced to death and reprieved. I have seen cases of that sort, and I think there is nothing more distressing than, say, that an innocent woman has to remain the wife of a convict for twenty or twenty-five years, and that she is in such an impossible position that she has to continue to be the legal wife of the person so convicted without any possible means of improvement. With those observations I beg to put forward those three points for the very careful consideration of the House.

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

I beg to move to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof the words, "while it is desirable to place the sexes on a footing of equality in regard to divorce, any change in the law that would impair the permanence of the marriage contract would be harmful to the best interests of the community."

My hon. Friend who introduced this Motion in the concluding words of his speech somewhat modified the Resolution as it appears on the Paper, but I do not think that will of itself make any difference to the attitude which I am going to invite the House to take. He quite fairly told us he does not pledge himself to every recommendation, and he asks us, to use his own words, to give a Second Heading to the principle of the Majority Report. He showed quite clearly from his speech that he, at all events, accepts all the main recommendations of the Majority Report. I think my hon. Friend and those who act with him in this matter are making a mistake, which is not uncommon amongst zealous and enthusiastic reformers, and that is that they are sacrificing much valuable reform that they might get by consent in order to grasp at something which they think desirable, but which must inevitably provoke very bitter controversy. I would like to outline to the House the amount of common ground there is between us in order that we may see exactly what my hon Friend is prepared to sacrifice for the pure joy of fighting. In the first place, if he had been prepared to be content with the Minority Report, which is part of the larger Report, and therefore represents the agreement of the whole body, he might have had a complete reform of the judicial machinery for deal- ing with divorce. That is an extremely important matter, because it involves the decentralisation of the administration of justice as to divorce, carrying with it the cheapening of the process so as to bring the advantages of divorce where they are required within reach of all. Secondly, he might have obtained by consent all the suggested grounds for decrees of nullity, which would cover a good deal of ground and of which complaint is justly made. Lastly, he might have obtained that which I think we are all agreed should be granted, and which I have specifically incorporated in my Amendment, namely, the placing of the two sexes on a position of equality as regards the obtaining of divorce. Not only would that have been as I contend a very large gain, even from the point of view of my hon. Friend, but I contend it would have practically satisfied any demand of which there is any evidence in the country.

I notice that in the Debate in the other place, to which my hon. Friend referred, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that he had gone to the labour of examining not merely the Reports, but the evidence on this point, and that practically all the evidence relied upon by the Commissioners, as showing the existence of a demand, when examined showed that the grounds of the demand were first that the sexes should be placed on an equal footing, and secondly, that in the matter of expense divorce should be brought within the reach of all classes. Consequently, an agreement on the basis of the Minority Report would have obtained everything for which there is a real demand. But my hon. Friend insists that immediate legislative effect should be given to suggested new grounds for the granting of decrees of divorce. He very naturally relied on the authority which attaches to the great Commission which examined this question. On that point I would call attention to the very significant speech which was made in the Debate in another place by Lord Gorell. Lord Gorell, of course, spoke with, in a way, hereditary interest in the matter. His distinguished father was chairman of that Commission, and one could not expect that he would with alacrity separate himself from the views of his father. And yet he said he believed if his father were now alive, although he might not feel himself at liberty to vote against the Bill which was brought into the other place, and which was practically the same proposal as that of my hon. Friend here, nevertheless, he was sure his father would not press it with any insistence or urgency. He went on to say: Since the issue of the two Reports the public have had the opportunity of crystallising their views. They have been able to read the evidence, and I do not think it is possible to say that opinion has crystallised solidly in favour of the Majority Report. 9.0 P.M.

In that Debate in the other House a speech was made to which my hon. Friend more than once referred, and which appears to have specially made an impression. That was the speech of the Lord Chancellor. I read the speech made by the Lord Chancellor, and I found that it was characterised by all the vehement eloquence and engaging audacity which is characteristic of my Noble and Learned Friend. But he did more than that. He represented himself as being, I will not say more Royalist than the King, but more spiritual than the Archibishop. In fact, one might imagine that the Woolsack was a veritable chariot of fire which carried the occupants up into the clouds, leaving the poor Prelates and other unfortunate beings stranded in the carnal atmosphere of mother earth. But what was the practical residuum which was deposited after the evaporation of all this emotional eloquence? This was the proposition by which the Lord Chancellor manfully said he would stand or fall, that the spiritual and moral sides of marriage are incomparably more important than the physical side. I imagine that no one is likely to deny that. I do not believe it would be denied, even by an Archbishop, but what is the deduction that is drawn from this proposition by Woolsack logic? The Lord Chancellor says that no one can assent to that proposition who opposes the Majority Report, and why? Because those who oppose the Majority Report will allow divorce for breach of the physical obligations of marriage, but they will not allow it for breach of the spiritual and moral obligations of marriage. Does the Lord Chancellor himself propose to grant divorce for breach of spiritual and moral obligations? Nothing of the sort, and for this very obvious reason, that spiritual and moral obligations are not susceptible of being weighed in the scales of Judicial pro- ceedings, except, of course, in so far as they may be involved in or manifested by acts of physical conduct. Let hon. Members look at the definition, for example, of cruelty on page 71 of the Report, and they will find that cruelty is conduct which involves, among other things, risks to bodily or mental health. There, one may suppose, you are perhaps approaching within a measurable distance of spiritual and moral obligations. What is cruelty which involves a risk to mental health? Does it include cruel, cutting words, continual, scornful criticism, hectoring reproaches, petty dictatorial tyranny, derisive trampling upon the ideals or the spiritual beliefs of the other party to the marriage? Does it involve any of these things? Those are all matters of cruelty infinitely more intolerable to any sensitive soul than mere bruises, which you can exhibit to a jury, but they are not dealt with. No relief whatever is granted for such breaches. If there be any doubt lest a court should be free, if it were possible, to examine such cruelty as that, the definition goes on to say that the court must be satisfied that it was no longer reasonably safe for the applicant to reside with the respondent. Obviously, therefore, although, of course, that is a very serious state of things, at all events it is purely physical cruelty, and I cannot see how the Lord Chancellor is justified in taking the high ground he did in the circumstances.

Even although I take it that every one of us would agree with the Lord Chancellor about the moral and spiritual obligations of marriage being infinitely more important than the physical, from what I have said I maintain that it is not true, as the Lord Chancellor said, that the Majority Report lays it down that marriage ought to be dissoluble upon any grounds which frustrate what, by universal admission, are the fundamental purposes of marriage. It does not do anything of the sort. It does not touch, and it cannot touch, just those aspects of cruelty, or interference, or frustration of married life on the moral and spiritual side which the Lord Chancellor and others would have us believe that the recommendations are intended to deal with. But even on the physical basis, upon which the Lord Chancellor and the Majority Report and my hon. Friend are all agreed to proceed, there is absolutely no principle discoverable upon which divorce may be granted. The recommendations present us with a more or less arbitrary, haphazard catalogue of actions which will result in varying degrees of hardship on the partner in a marriage upon whom they are inflicted, but there is no principle. Take the case to which my hon. Friend referred under the head of cruelty, the case of venereal disease. It is a very serious thing, but, to begin with, it is quite unnecessary to put it in as one of the grounds of cruelty, because under an agreed Bill it is already being laid down and accepted that venereal disease contracted before marriage would be a ground for nullity, whereas, if contracted after marriage, it might be accepted as conclusive evidence of adultery upon which a decree might be granted. The point, however, I want to make is the absence of principle. Unless it is on account of the moral taint which attaches to that particular disease, I cannot understand why it should be singled out. As far as cruelty is concerned, I do not know that there are not other communicable diseases that are as bad, certainly so far as danger to life and to the children is concerned. Speaking entirely as a layman, I imagine that the doctors would say that tuberculosis was a disease which might just as well be a ground of divorce as one of these more disgusting diseases.

My hon. and gallant Friend who seconded the Motion spoke with authority about drunkenness; but why is drunkenness singled out? Why is divorce to be granted because one of the parties to the marriage is habitually intoxicated, whereas no relief is given whatever for the still greater vice of morphomania? The only distinction is that one vice is certainly more widespread than the other, but is there any ground for such a distinction? "Certainly the Lord Chancellor could not take that distinction, because he poured out the most bitter vials of his sarcasm on the Archbishop of York for saying, with relation to the case of commuted sentences, that that only applied to a mere handful, and the Lord Chancellor said, "I should have thought it was hardly right to count heads in a matter of right or wrong"; yet neither the Lord Chancellor nor the Majority Report offer the slightest relief to a home that may be desolated by the cocaine habit or by morphomania, for no reason discoverable except, perhaps, that there are not so many homes desolated by cocaine as there are homes desolated by beer. I must say something about the case of desertion to which my hon. Friend referred. This desertion, as a ground of divorce, is, I think, generally advocated because there are said to be an immense number of pitiable cases of deserted wives whom it would relieve. Here again the Lord Chancellor said that tens of thousands of people at this moment are in this very position. Curiously and unlawyerlike, the Lord Chancellor offered no evidence in support of his opinion, and, by avoiding evidence, he enabled the right reverend Prelates to have their revenge. While in one particular, as I have said, the Lord Chancellor represented himself as more of a divine than the Archbishop, the Archbishop now showed himself to be more of a lawyer than the Lord Chancellor, because the Archbishop of Canterbury proceeded to call evidence. He summoned witnesses—expert evidence on the point—and he went into it seriatim, giving the facts obtained by inquiries from a number of well-informed sources—from societies working among poor people who ought to be familiar with them. I will only mention one of these witnesses, a lady working at Portsmouth, where one would have imagined that a great proportion of these wives, deserted by overseas soldiers—that was the most significant case that was made—would have been found. Yet this lady said that although the office in which she worked had had records of 30,000 families since 1914, there were only 15 cases which came within the description given by the Lord Chancellor. The inference that we must all draw is that a great number of these statements are extremely exaggerated, and before any great attention is paid to them they ought to be subjected to that sort of examination which they did get at the hands of the Archbishop.

Photo of Mr Athelstan Rendall Mr Athelstan Rendall , Thornbury

If the hon. Member will look at the Archbishop's speech, he will see that the Archbishop quoted from statistics given at Portsmouth and elsewhere. He had no knowledge of the number of deserted wives in England who had made application.

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

I do not suppose that such statistics could be obtained. All I say is that the Archbishop did go to a number of societies who in the nature of the case would be more likely to have knowledge of these matters than anybody else, and certainly a great deal more likely than the Lord Chancellor. My hon. Friend rightly said that we who are opposed to his Motion hold and hold very strongly that the proposals which he has put before us would lead to an immense increase in collusion. It is no answer to say that collusion takes place already. We all know that it does. It is a very deplorable scandal. That is all the more reason why we should not necessarily go out of our way to give every possible facility for increasing the collusion which already exists. My hon. Friend says that in the case of desertion no one would want to use collusion, because of the delay of three years. As against that, let me quote what was said by a very competent witness, Mr. Barnard, K.C., who was for years the leader of the Divorce Court practitioners. His observation was this: I think if you have divorce by desertion it is practically coming to divorce by consent. That is an opinion to which this House ought to pay a very great deal of attention. Under the definition to which I have already referred, cruelty is to be a ground of divorce. Imagine an undefended case in which a woman comes before the Court and says that she has suffered physical violence at the hands of her husband. No Court in the world can test that evidence. It has to be accepted at its face value. Therefore, there is nothing easier in the world than for an arrangement to be made, if the parties desire to do so, to provide evidence of some purely fictitious, or qualifying, cruelty, by which divorce may be granted. Although I quoted just now the opinion of an eminent Divorce Court practitioner, I would like to say that I think in this controversy a great deal too much weight is attached to the opinions and views and experiences of judges and counsel practising in the Divorce Court, and that includes even the distinguished man who presided over this Commission. Judges and advocates who appear in the Divorce Court, and spend their whole professional life there, very naturally look at the whole of this subject from the standpoint of their own experience. They can hardly do otherwise. They look at it from the standpoint of marriages that have proved hopeless failures. Day after day these men have to listen to revelations of domestic unhappiness and wrong-doing, which we all know—we deplore it—often inflict the most frightful hardships on perfectly innocent people. They perceive how, under a different law, some part of this misery of individuals might be avoided. What, therefore is more natural, what is even more honourable to them, than that, with their eyes fixed exclusively on that aspect of the problem, they should be anxious at all times to make the changes in the law which they see would bring about that result.

There is, however, a wholly different standpoint from which this problem may be regarded. My hon. Friend, who opened this Debate, challenged us to say what evils would result from giving relief such as he desires in these very hard cases which we all admit. I say that the standpoint which the judges and the counsel never consider, and which my hon. Friend never considered and never referred to—I invite the House to take the same view—is the standpoint which ought to be the governing consideration of the whole question. I mean the standpoint of the marriages that are not failures. How will they be affected? Apparently, that thought never crossed my hon. Friend's mind. It never occurred to him that they would be affected one way or the other. He did not even refer to them. It is impossible to say to what are the proportions between marriages that are a success and marriages that are a failure. My hon. Friend who seconded the Motion (Lieut.-Colonel Raw) gave some figures with regard to those who should be relieved on the ground of insanity, but, according to all the evidence available, they would amount to a comparatively few thousand. The married couples in the Kingdom number between 9,000,000 and 10,000,000, and I am perfectly certain it is a question of thousands on one side and millions on the other as between these two classes.

I want to indicate how I think that those marriages would be affected by these proposals. The settled law on a matter fundamental to society such as this underlies the instincts that fashion standards of conduct. If you disturb those foundations, the instincts must adjust themselves to the new conditions. For generation after generation the people in this country have accepted, as a matter of course, both consciously and sub-consciously, that marriage is an irrevocable step in life, just as they accept death as the inevitable destiny of us all. It lies at the root of our thoughts upon life. I must qualify that with one exception. The people have accepted—I think it is a very significant point in this present controversy—that there shall be the exception of adultery as a cause for dissolving marriage, and that exception presents itself to their minds, whether rightly or wrongly, as being derived from the highest religious authority that they know. Coming to them in that way, and accepted upon that basis, that exception really enforces and emphasises the rule. The vast majority of marriages, let us remember, are neither romantic and ideal successes on the one hand, nor are they dismal, unhappy failures on the other. Let us say that the vast majority are a good deal below the level of the Brownings and a little higher, perhaps, than the Carlyles. They are what we may call the average humdrum marriages, and in those marriages countless numbers, in my belief, avoid failure precisely because the couples realise from the first that they are united for better or for worse, and they have the good sense to make up their minds that if they can help it, it shall be for better and not for worse. They have learnt the lesson of a very wise little book which had vogue some short while ago on "How to be happy though Married." They have learnt to give-and-take in the interests of a quiet life. They acquire the habit of toleration of each other's foibles and failings, and, in course of time, mutual consideration ripens into esteem, and then, even in the absence of any deep affection, renders these two people indispensable one to the other.

But how would those marriages fare if from the first that instinct of permanence did not exist in their minds; if it wtre known from the first moment they left the church or registry office that at any time, without incurring disgrace or reproach, that union could be terminated as easily as they could terminate the tenancy of the house in which they lived? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That would be the result. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The whole sense of secure permanence in the relationship on which family life rests would be gone, and in a great many of these cases the first quarrel that led to angry words would simply put an end to the union which, under present conditions, bad as they are, would have remained one of average contentment, and happiness. The changes, perhaps, are very often advocated as if they were mainly and principally in the interests of women. I myself am confident that it is women who would be the chief sufferers if the changes were carried. And let us remember this—and it is an important point, to my mind, in this controversy. Constancy is a virtue which is less characteristic of men than it is of women, but the attributes that attract the opposite sex wither more rapidly in the female than in the male.

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

I am very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth agree with that. In my judgment, if you seriously undermine the sense of permanence, and allow the general instinctive feeling of the population to be that marriage has no definite permanence at all, it is the women whose youth has disappeared who will be the victims, and I believe the intuition of the women of this country enables them thoroughly to grasp that point, and for that reason they will be found hostile to the Motion of my hon. Friend. But one thing is quite certain. I see it stated in the Press that if this Motion were carried in this House to-night, Lord Buckmaster's Bill or another Bill might be carried into law this Session. I suggest this to the House. Women, who are vitally interested in this matter, have just been enfranchised. It would be an absolute outrage upon the women of this country if such a proposal as this were carried into law before they had an opportunity of pronouncing upon it in the ballot boxes.

Before I conclude, there is just one point upon which I feel I must say a word. My hon. Friend touched upon it towards the close of his speech. We cannot disguise from ourselves that, whatever our views upon this question may be, it is not entirely a social or a political, or even an ethical question. It is a religious question. I am very well aware that differences of opinion prevail among theologians as to whether this particular question with regard to divorce is, or is not, settled once for all for those who accept the highest authority known to Christianity. That is a matter upon which each man must decide for himself. I can only say for myself I freely confess that I should feel myself bound by that authority, even if there were not, as I think there are, conclusive reasons which I have endeavoured to outline to the House, both in principle and in expediency against the proposals which have been made. But, however that may be, you cannot make these changes without violating the deepest religious sentiments of vast numbers of people in the country in every religious denomination, and it is for that reason, among others, that I myself, who wish to see reforms to which I referred at the outset—the reforms of procedure and of equality between the sexes—deplore that my hon. Friend has thought it necessary to make a proposal, which certainly can never be carried without exciting most widespread, most deep, and most bitter controversy.

Photo of Sir Evelyn Cecil Sir Evelyn Cecil , Birmingham Aston

My hon. Friend, who has asked me to second the Amendment, which he has moved in one of the very best speeches, if he will allow me to say so, I have heard him deliver in this House, has covered the ground with great fulness, and, indeed, has left me very little to say. I fancy, perhaps, he may have asked me to second his Amendment because he and I have been at the opposite polls in respect of the question of women suffrage. But I have always felt that the great strength of that agitation, perhaps beyond all others, was this question of the want of equality in the divorce laws, and that gave it a great deal of the impetus which it received. Like him, I am heartily in favour of making the divorce laws equal for both sexes. Like him, I am anxious that the cost of divorce for all classes should be as near as possible the same, and should be cheap. Like him, perhaps more particularly, I am most anxious that we should, if possible, all come to an agreement to press through the recommendations in the Minority Report. I think so much can be done in that respect. These questions do arouse great feeling among the different classes of the community, but we should all agree in removing real hindrances and difficulties if we agreed upon a Bill that would give effect to the Minority Report, and I cannot help thinking that that course would be far better than to arouse the controversy which my hon. Friend's Motion must necessarily create. I want to emphasise, with all the language I can, how much more desirable that course would be.

Let us go along the path of least resistance from the point of view of those who believe in the Majority Report. Let us go, perhaps, in some respects further than some of those who, more or less, support the Minority Report would really go if left to themselves. If both sides can be got to agree on that line of action, I think this House would really pass a useful piece of legislation. The Mover of the Motion has pressed the advantages, as he says, and has shown five new grounds for divorce—desertion, cruelty, insanity, habitual drunkenness, and long imprisonment. It is an old adage that hard cases make bad law, but it is uncommonly true in the present case. Of course you could bring up numerous instances. There were brought before the Royal Commission very hard cases and some very sad cases. I daresay some of us even know personally such cases. I say, of my own knowledge of more than one case of this kind, that I am quite certain that I speak for the parties concerned in stating that they would rather not see these alterations made than shake the whole foundations of the marriage laws of this country.

As I understood the Mover of the Resolution he seemed astonished that those of us who take the line that I am taking would admit any ground at all for divorce. I think he can hardly be aware that the reason that we take this line is the very simple one contained in the 19th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel and the 9th verse. I need not refer to it more, but everyone knows that the Divine teaching is set forth in that verse, that adultery is the cause for divorce there given, and that no other causes are allowed. When he comes forward, as he does to-night, with such causes as three years' desertion, I frankly confess he makes me shudder. I do not know what this may lead to. I think he dropped the information, which I did not know before, that three years had been inserted instead of four or five owing to the more rapid means of communication which now exist. I do not know what number of years will be allowed when we all travel by aeroplane, but I presume that even shorter time will be argued by the hon. Gentleman as being perfectly reasonable. If three years desertion is to be allowed, I am quite certain, so far as one can form an opinion, that it will lead to collusion. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury touched very eloquently upon that point. He said that divorce by desertion really came to mean divorce by consent. I do not know how many wives in that case an unscrupulous man would get or what would be the position of the children who might be born.

These changes, we are told—and I saw it in the Press yesterday—were necessary because of "human needs"—that was the expression used—and to keep in touch with the spirit of the twentieth century. I deplore the spirit of the twentieth century if this is the kind of thing that it is going to bring about. It seems to me that it savours much more of the old Adam than it does, let us say, of Thomas à Kempis, and I hope that is not putting it in an offensive form. It shows that we are endeavouring much more to consider our own self-complacency and selfishness, or what we think is best personally, than any very high moral tone, or the character of the nation. We see the results which have occurred in America. I read only the other day of a judge in one of the States resigning his position. He had administered the divorce laws, but he had got very disgusted with the immense increase of these cases. When we see in other countries, too, what has occurred by way of increase in divorces, how it does not improve either the standard of the family or the national life, I think we ought to be very chary before we make such vast changes as are proposed. After all, any relaxation of the marriage laws strikes absolutely at the basis of the family. It loosens the foundation of the family upon which the whole system of our State and community is built. If I oppose these proposals, it is because I want to build up the character of the nation rather than to lower it, to maintain a high standard of moral life in private as well as in public life, and I do not want to violate the religious feelings of a vast number of our fellow citizens of all denominations, which we assuredly should do if these proposals were passed into law.

Photo of Mr Robert Munro Mr Robert Munro , Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire

I desire, with the permission of the House, to intervene in this Debate for a very few minutes. In doing so I cannot make it too clear that any views which I express are my own personal views, and do not commit in any way any of my colleagues who sit upon this Bench. The Vote which the House is to take is to be a free and unfettered Vote upon this question, and the Government Whips accordingly will not be put on. I am bound to say that I myself feel, notwithstanding what has fallen from my hon and right hon. Friends in the last two impressive speeches to which we have listened, in agreement with the terms of the Motion moved by the hon. Member below the Gangway. The proposals which are contained in the Motion are, I fully recognise, of capital and far-reaching importance, but I think that the measure of their importance is also the measure of their urgency. There are two outstanding facts, as it seems to me, which one must bear in mind. The first is that it is not seriously contended in any quarter that divorce should not be granted upon any ground at all. The second fact is that it is not now, as I understand, seriously contended that the existing divorce law of this country is satisfactory and should remain unaltered—in other words, the dice are to be no longer loaded against the woman. These two facts are outstanding facts which one cannot ignore in the conduct of the argument. Accordingly, the question before the House is not whether there should be divorce on no grounds at all, nor whether the existing law is or is not perfect; it is rather, assuming that there shall be divorce on specified grounds, assuming that the existing law is unsatisfactory, what alterations, what changes, have to be made in it? The House will consider, I think, that that is the question.

The alteration to be made, according to the mover of the Motion, is of several kinds. Having regard to the exigencies of time, I propose to restrict any observations I make to one only of those proposals—the proposal that the law of England should be altered by permitting divorce on the ground of desertion. Accordingly, I only propose to deal with the speeches already delivered so far as they relate to that particular matter. When it is proposed to alter the law in any country, one of the best tests to be applied to the proposal made is the test of experience. If the reform which is proposed has already been in operation for a long time in a country where the conditions are not dissimilar from those obtaining in England, I think a powerful weapon is placed in the hands of those who advocate that reform. Such a weapon is available to those who support this proposal in the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend.

In Scotland, just across the border, divorce on the ground of desertion has been the law of the land for well nigh four centuries—to be precise, since 1573—and none of those awful consequences pictured in the arguments which have been used in so far as they relate to collusion or other sinister processes, have been found to exist in the law and practice of Scotland. Why then weigh ponderously the views of the Early Fathers of the Church or appeal to the experience of the Church of Ephesus when the views and experience of your neighbours across the border are definite and clear? I think we had better define our terms. What is meant by desertion? I received a circular this morning from the English Divorce Council, and I find this statement with regard to the proposal that divorce should be granted for desertion after three years: Any wife can leave any husband, or vice versa, whenever they like, for no reason whatever, and for any reason, and at the end of three years an application for divorce can be successfully made. With all respect to the writer I say that a more complete and grotesque travesty of the proposal which is made in this Motion could not have been formulated. The proposal is simply this, that the law of England should be what the law of Scotland is to-day. I claim to have some right to speak of the operation of this law in Scotland after some 23 years' professional experience in the practice of the Courts and a good deal of observation of the operation of the law in Scotland. What do we mean by desertion? Perhaps it will be easier for me to explain what desertion does not mean. It does not mean separation by consent. The separation must be obstinate and malicious. The one spouse must be willing to conform to the obligations of matrimony while the other spouse refuses to do so. Again, desertion does not mean separation with reasonable cause. If a husband has absented himself on business from his wife in another country, that will not be a ground for divorce on the ground of desertion, however long it may continue. The conclusion one reaches is that collusion has been reduced to an irreducible minimum in Scotland in dealing with cases of this kind, and the law has been administered there with vigilance and discrimination all these centuries. This particular reform has stood the acid test of time in Scotland for 350 years, and no one in Scotland would dare to propose to abridge the operation of that law; in fact, many people would on the other hand propose to extend it. Surely the law of Scotland in this particular matter is in accord with common sense and fair play. One of our old institutional writers many years ago wrote: Malicious desertion is as manifest a violation of the conjugal vow as adultery, and, in expediency and justice, it ought to be visited with punishment equally heavy to that meted out to adultery. Surely he is right. Desertion for three or four years involves a complete and emphatic and deliberate repudiation of the whole contract of matrimony. It involves, as has already been pointed out, the frustration of the three purposes of matrimony set out in the Church Service. The deserted spouse is condemned to a life of celibacy or a life of concubinage. The husband leaves his wife to earn her own living by the sweat of her brow, or to subsist on the charity of her friends. He does not care. He leaves her with, perchance, a large family to bring up in destitution and want. He is indifferent. Is that in the interests of the community? I suggest that there must and ought to be a remedy in the interests of the community for a state of affairs such as that. Another of our writers said: Public feeling is strongly against increasing the number of persons living as single and yet not free to marry—husbands without wives and wives without husbands. The offence of desertion as interpreted in the Courts of Scotland is more rank than the offence of adultery. Adultery may be the result of momentary passion. Desertion for years is attended by every circumstance of cold and calculated and cruel deliberation. Marriage under such circumstances is not a sacrament, but a mockery. I beg the House in this matter very earnestly to follow the lead of Scotland. None of the con-consequences which have figured and been feared in this Debate have occurred in Scotland by the institution of divorce on the ground of desertion. My hon. Friend (Mr. R. McNeill) knows Scotland, and I ask him, is Scotland to-day less moral or religious than England because of the system of divorce which obtains there? Is the contract of matrimony less sacred? I do not think any hon. Member of this House will give an affirmative answer to that question. I ask, why should the women of England remain in bondage to husbands who have violated every obligation of the marriage contract and of social morality, while their more fortunate sisters across the Border are accorded a liberty which I think justice and expediency alike demand. You may give the women of England a vote, you may make them eligible to serve on juries, and to become Justices of the Peace. You may give them all those, privileges, but so long as they are denied this equality with their sisters across the Border, all talk of equality is a mere sham and a mockery. I have purposely restricted myself in the interests of time to this one particular ground. I do ask the House most respectfully and most earnestly to weigh the arguments that have been laid before it by my hon. Friend who opened the Debate and by my hon. Friend who seconded him, because I believe this discussion will have far-reaching consequences.

Photo of Mr Herbert Pease Mr Herbert Pease , Darlington

In my somewhat long experience of the House of Commons I have always found that when a report has been passed by a large majority, after reference to a Royal Commission, feeling in the House is intensely in favour of any Resolution submitted afterwards with regard to carrying out those proposals. But I think that on this occasion we are dealing with a rather peculiar question, and one which does not come under a law of that kind. Reference has been made tonight to the Debate in the House of Lords, and my hon. Friend who moved this Resolution in a speech of great moderation referred to the fact that the case was strengthened by the Division taken in the House of Lords last week with reference to a Bill brought forward by an ex-Lord Chancellor and supported on its Second Reading by the present Lord Chancellor. But taking into account the total number of Noble Lords who voted on that occasion—142 out of a total of nearly 700—I do not think that that argument can carry much weight. After the great speech made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who treated the subject from the secular point of view almost entirely, withholding the religious aspect, perhaps it might be considered that I take a curious position when I say it seems to me impossible to divorce the question of religion from this subject of the alteration of our divorce laws. In the few words I am going to address to the House to-night I should like to say, in the first place, how much I am in accord with what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) on the religious point of view. I would much rather not speak on this occasion, because I think it is always difficult to talk about religion in the House of Commons. It appears to some extent to introduce personality, which, to a man who has the Christian belief, is very difficult. But it is quite impossible at the present time, without a re-arrangement of the social life of this country, to carry out to the full what we believe to be literally the words of Christ, for instance— Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. It would be impossible for the greatest Saint in the world to carry out what was said by the Founder of Christianity Himself in regard to this question. We know there has never been in the history of this country anyone who has ever suggested any other version than that which has been put before the House to-night. There have been many controversies in the past in regard to this question, and many hon. Members will remember the controversy which occurred years ago in regard to the position of the innocent party, but there is no version of the teaching of Christ which does not forbid divorce except on the one and only ground of adultery. I am supporting what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury with regard to the cheapening of divorce and the question of the inequality of the sexes. It is suggested that if this resolution is carried to-night a Bill may be brought in to carry out the recommendations which were contained in the Minority Report of the Royal Commission. But I would like in that connection to support what was said with regard to the women's vote in this country. When we know that the women of this country hold far more strongly religious beliefs than men do, and everyone who has any acquaintance with the religious life of the country is aware of that, I think we may claim that those in these Islands who profess allegiance to Christianity would wish to pay special regard to religious teachings, and I think the women of the country should therefore have an opportunity of expressing their opinion. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Munro) mentioned the question of Scotland. May I observe that, although it may be true that people in Scotland are not more immoral than those in this country, yet in the evidence that came before the Royal Commission with regard to every country on earth, there was not one single piece given by any individual which showed that the whole life of a country was improved by an increase in the number of divorces. As far as Scotland is concerned, I may say that from the statistics for 1917, the latest I have been able to obtain, Scotland is not so moral as either England or Wales, seeing that the number of illegitimate births among unmarried women and widows was 10.9 per thousand there, as against 7.4 per thousand for England and Wales. These statistics affect women between the ages of 15 and 45 years.

10.0 P.M.

While my right hon. Friend was speaking, some one mentioned the case of America. It is perfectly true, and it is known to almost every Member of this House, that there are many people in America to-day who have very strong views on this question and are very anxious, if possible, to change the divorce laws in America, because they find that the laxity which results is not in the interests of the country as a whole. I met a man to-day who had met a woman who had been divorced in America eleven times. One can imagine what that meant to the children. One can imagine the effect of an increase of divorces upon children. I think that question has not been emphasised sufficiently to-night. It is one on which the mothers of England will feel very strongly in the future. May I, before I sit down, say one word with regard to the very peculiar position in which Members are placed who are going to vote against this Resolution? There are many of us who feel some hesitation, having regard to many cases which come under our notice. There are many of us who have friends in this country who for many years have had to endure great hardships, and we feel that there may be, in those particular cases, grave reason why there should be some way out of their difficulties, but I think that every one of us who considers the home life of this country as a whole, who considers the question of the sanctity of marriage, and the advantage which has obtained from the fact that people look upon marriage as insoluble, will agree that we ought to look at this question from the very broadest point of view, and ought not to change our views because of the indignation we feel in regard to the peculiar circumstances of individuals. The Report of the Minority of the Royal Commission was one of great importance, but in ordinary circumstances I should be inclined to consider the Majority Report with more favour, except for the question to which I have referred to-night, and which I want once more to emphasise, namely, the religious point of view. I do think that, if we believe in that divine commandment which has been mentioned to-night, we ought to try to carry it out to the best of our ability. I believe that, if the nation desires, as the signatories of the Minority Report believe it does, to maintain the life-long obligation in marriage, we cannot ask this Parliament to give up what we believe to be a priceless heritage.

Photo of Sir William Adkins Sir William Adkins , Middleton and Prestwich

I am sure that my right hon. Friend, the lucidity and high tone of whose speech the House must have appreciated, will forgive me if I do not go further and make any comment on his speech, but venture for a few minutes to address the House on another of the very many aspects which this grave and complex question presents to all who think about it. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury has done a public service in calling the attention of the House to the urgency, and, in a sense, the acuteness, of the problem of divorce in this country and at this time. The very fact that those who support his Motion and those who oppose it are agreed in desiring two very important alterations in the law, namely, that which would establish equality as between the sexes, and that which would remove the scandalous inequality of treatment as between rich and poor—the fact that both are agreed upon—shows that this is a matter which is a very living issue in England to-day, and one upon which legislation, to some extent, at any rate, ought to take place promptly and with care, and under the responsibility of the Government. While I hope that the House agrees that my hon. Friend has done a public service in raising this issue, I trust that I am not alone among hon. Members in regretting the form and the way in which he has brought it before the House. However he may, by delightful, dialectical words, represent his Motion as merely being in the form of a Second Reading of a hypothetical Bill, the fact does remain that those who vote for this Motion may reasonably be considered to adhere to all the important recommendations of the majority of the Royal Commission; and that, on the other hand, those who vote against it, or vote in favour of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. McNeill), are equally open to the reasonable interpretation that the alterations of the divorce laws which they alone would tolerate are those mentioned in my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment.

It may happen that there are a number who are not inclined to go the whole way and at the same time do not wish to be pinned down to the terms of the Amendment. It is, indeed, right and proper that this question should be discussed, and on an occasion like this it has to be discussed with the utmost brevity, but it is certainly not fitting that, in a Debate of less than three hours, the House should be committed and hon. Members should be put in the invidious position of having to support all the recommendations on the most complex and difficult of social questions, or take up their stand definitely on one or two limited and restricted recommendations. Therefore, I hope I am not wasting the time of the House in making my protest against the form and way in which this is raised, because I think it is not fair to Members of the House to be put into the cleft stick which this Resolution, intentionally or otherwise, has prepared for them. The reason is this. The recommendations of the majority of the Royal Commission are not only many and various, but they deal with a number of different principles. The principle of sex equality we agree to. The principle of equality between rich and poor we agree to. But besides those who are opposed to all divorce and those who acquiesce in the existing law with only those two possible alterations there must be others, like myself, who believe that the arguments for other recommendations of the Royal Commission vary very much. Take, for instance, the case of the argument for divorce for desertion. My right hon. Friend has put the argument for that, based on his authoritative knowledge of Scotland, with a force that every Member who heard his speech must recognise, and whether one feels that divorce for desertion is right or whether one believes it to be wrong, at any rate it rests on the alleged principle that continuous deliberate desertion by one partner against the will of the other is in effect the destruction of marriage, and is a direct and wilful breaking of the obligations of marriage. Whatever view may be taken of that, it is a very different thing from suggesting that divorce should be given for habitual drunkenness or chronic insanity or commuted death penalty, because however terrible those things are they do not of necessity consist in wilful breaking of the essence of the marriage tie. In insanity a large element, possibly some-times the whole of it is misfortune. In habitual drunkenness there is an element very often of hereditary disease and weakness of will as well as of intention. And in that matter, which lends itself so easily to rhetorical embroidery, the few cases of persons condemned to death who are reprieved, I hope the House will not misunderstand me when I say, and I speak as one who happens to have been concerned professionally in a rather large number of murder cases, that while murder receives in our country proper punishment when proved, the murderer not seldom is not so bad a man or woman as many other persons whose actual crime against the State is less lurid or less grave.

There are cases of men, and women even, who have committed murder the general course of whose lives has been free from many crimes and vices which other persons have fallen before. With regard to murderers under commuted sentence, if a person is reprieved, who can say how it will work out? There are questions of health and a mass of circumstances which may cause the Home Office in exceptional cases to set murderers free long before the expiration of 20 or 25 years. Ought they of necessity to have been divorced because of their original sentence? I am not arguing for or against, except to say that that kind of consideration is entirely different from the principles upon which other exceptions are founded. These are matters which, although they affect profoundly married life, do not in their inception and in their essence consist of deliberate and direct attacks on the foundations of marriage. Therefore, it is a very great pity that the House should be asked to-night, if this goes to a vote, to vote holus bolus for a large number of recommendations which raise different principles on which it is quite conceivable there may be differences of opinion as between this, that and the other.

Because of the very gravity of this issue, the inherent complexity of it, and the profound importance of the fact that the basis of society and of family life should not be undermined, and, on the other hand, because of the fact that none of us have any right to make our own religious principles compulsory upon the community whether it shares them or not; because these common-place considerations make the matter of such extreme difficulty, I hope that the House will not pass this Motion to-night. I hope the House, by this Debate, will make it easier for the Government to deal with this question, and will make the Government clearly understand that the time has come for the question of divorce to be reopened, and for the Government to take the responsibility for what proposals shall be laid before this House in due course. I hope that may be done, but that those of us who follow the arguments for each of these different categories, varying in degree and varying in weight, shall not be compelled to vote either, on the one hand, in favour of them all, or, on the other hand, against them all. I feel that this is one of those rare occasions on which one is acting with the greatest straightforwardness by declining to vote either way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say so for this reason, that the responsibility rests with the Government, and I do not think it right at this stage that we should be compelled to commit ourselves to many proposals, some of which may be obviously right while others may depend very largely on a far closer analysis than is possible to-night, a more prolonged Debate, and a far more thorough consideration before we take the responsibility of saying "Aye" or "No" to some of them.

Photo of Viscountess Nancy Astor Viscountess Nancy Astor , Plymouth, Sutton

We have listened to very fine speeches to-night. Hon. Members are quite right in saying that this is a question which is vital to the country as a whole. In the Christian world it is the spiritual aspect of marriage that the law attempts to protect, and it is the spiritual element which makes marriages happy. Most hon. Members have said that. They all know it, and we women, particularly, know it. The-spiritual idea of marriage, though started in the East, has been more highly developed in the West, and it is that which has elevated the Western women a little above their Eastern sisters. That is the difference between the East and the-West. We must do nothing which will weaken it. Therefore, I shall support the Amendment. I am not convinced that making divorce very easy really makes marriages more happy or makes happy marriages more possible. Married happiness depends upon mutual affection and many other things, but I do think that there are inequalities and injustices in the existing divorce laws which are morally wrong and ought to be changed without delay.

Marriage infidelity is one of the greatest causes of social suffering in the whole world. War is such an abnormal thing that it has created abnormal conditions, and those are the conditions in which we are now. I would rather wait until after the strain of war. I would rather wait a little longer until the world is a little more settled and society is a little more settled before we begin to apply the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The War has led to many hasty and unhappy marriages, but I doubt whether we can wholly escape from these social consequences of war any more than we can escape from the economic and physical consequences, and perhaps there is a little pressure in that war cry. Perhaps hon. Members are a little prompted by it. It certainly is heard throughout the country. I do feel, however, most strongly that the present inequalities of the divorce law as regards men and women ought to be abolished. You will never get real morality anywhere so long as you recognise a double standard for men and for women. The present divorce law supports and emphasises this double standard.

I have been encouraged to-night by hearing so many Members speak of the sanctity of the married life and its spiritual and moral aspect. I hope they will bear that in mind, that it really is the true moral standard, and that this difference is a thing that they have got to face when they talk of raising a higher standard in marriage, and that men and women have got to begin with the children, sons as well as daughters, to bring them up to that high ideal. I believe that it can be done, and I am quite certain that all hon. Members, all the fathers—and I regret that there are not more mothers here—will agree that that is one of the things we have got to bear in mind. Most hon. Members have spoken about the inequality between rich and poor. Of course, we want to make it equally possible for the poor as well as for the rich to get a divorce whenever the cause exists. At present it is too often a case of money, but a way should be found for reducing the expense of divorce, and on this the Royal Commission has made suggestions which can be carried out.

I do not believe in a hard and narrow attitude towards this question. I want, in making up my mind about some of the proposals of the Commission, to see during the next five or ten years how far some of them should be adopted and modified without lowering the dignity of marriage. After all, as hon. Members have said, this question affects women far more than it does men. The hon. Member for Canterbury has spoken of our fading charms. He is quite right. Women do fade quickly, but the thing that really holds men to women is not the physical charm. It attracts them, but it does not keep them. I will not go off on to that. We all know that we make too much of that side of it. It is from the woman's point of view that I wish to speak. If you weaken the divorce laws it is always hard on the women and children. It is hard enough as it is. Life is always more difficult for women, but I hope all that will change in time.

In America, where States have such easy divorce, I do not think that women have gained. I feel certain that we are all trying to look for what is going to help the women and children most. Whenever that appeal is made it meets with aft unfailing response. I realise that the findings of a Royal Commission, which included judges of long experience of the Divorce Court, cannot be disregarded, but I think the judges may be inclined to see things too much from the sordid and tragic Bide and not sufficiently from the normal point of view. It is really like reading the newspapers. You take up a newspaper and you are appalled at the crime and misery there is in the world. But of course they put that forward; in fact they seem to be inclined to put forward what is worst in human nature without putting forward what is best. It is very often that way in the Divorce Court. Women's views ought to have a special value on the subject because nothing else concerns them quite so intimately. In my experience, as I have said, women want to preserve the dignity of marriage. I do not believe there is any great outcry among the women of the country for this Bill. There is a real cry for justice and equality of treatment. I have heard that, and I know that there are pitiful and tragic cases. There are always tragic cases. Laws are made for the majority, and the minority very often has to suffer. It is always so, and I am afraid it will be a long time before we can change that. I beg the House, in thinking of this question, to consider it from a large point of view and not to dwell just on the miseries and inequalities. They are sad enough in all conscience. Get back to the principle. Shall we help women and children and men by making divorce easier? I think the world is too loose altogether. What we need is tightening up. I want to tighten up the men as well as the women. I feel that the hon. Member who brought forward this Motion did it from very splendid motives, and I was much struck by the way he looked at things. It may be asked, "Why are you going against it; you are supposed to be a social reformer and an independent woman?" I really have thought of it a great deal and gone into it fully, and I do not think that this is the time or that it would be wise for us to pass this Resolution. It is not really going to help the great bulk of men and women of the country, and it is those we are out to help. I am not even taking the Church point of view, but the national point of view, and what I might call, the home point of view.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Camborne

I am going to support this Resolution largely on a ground on which we are all agreed, namely, that there should be equality in this matter as between the two sexes. With regard to one point, the dignity of marriage, I would ask this: Are you going seriously to tell the women of Scotland that marriage is less dignified there and that their status is lower because of the difference of the divorce laws compared with England? That is not tenable and there is no solid body of Scottish women who would accept that position I support this Resolution because from the bottom of my being and as the result of my own experience of a most gloriously happy marriage, I want to support the sacred-ness of the marriage tie and to do everything I can to make it more sacred for the people of this country. It is the present law which brings into disrepute our marriage tie If hon. Members will really get to know, as I have had the chance of doing, the lives and family affairs, say, of a whole village in our country side, or, say of two or three streets in a poor part of one of our towns they will find instances of people living together quite faithfully but without being married, and they will find that those unions are not generally condemned. They will inquire if they are interested, and they will find that those communities in which those people live are moral and often highly religious, and yet there is no condemnation or criticism of the persons living in those unions. The people there may be asked, "Do you in this district really approve of two persons taking up with one another without getting married," and the reply will probably be, "Oh, no! We by no means wish that sort of thing, but those unions are unions of persons who under our present law cannot get married." The inquirer will get various answers. He will hear, as I have heard, in Notting Hill, in several rural districts in Wales, in Yorkshire, in Devonshire, in Cornwall, cases of two people' living together where the husband or wife disappeared years ago. It may be the case of a woman where there was a separation order and where she has not seen or heard of the husband for many years, and then, perhaps, when the woman is no longer able to earn her own living, and is not willing to go into the workhouse, which is the only alternative, she goes to live with a man, and has done so faithfully. You may find the case of a man whose wife has been incurably insane, and where there is destruction of the brain and no sort of recognition. The woman in that case is living a purely animal, almost vegetable, existence, and the man, it may be after years, goes to live with another woman. Public opinion does not condemn that union, but the Church says it is fornication, and that the woman is a concubine. That is not doing any good to religion or to our marriage law. It is because that sort of thing brings our present marriage law into disrepute and because I wish to bring our marriage law into conformity with reasonable opinion held of hundreds of thousands of cases—and we know in our daily lives of instances of such cases—that I am in favour of and shall vote for the Resolution.

Photo of Mr James Sexton Mr James Sexton , St Helens

I do not pretend on this occasion to speak for the Party with which I am associated. I confess I find myself considerably handicapped by the fact that I hardly agree with the Amendment any more than with the Resolution, I happen to belong to a community that by faith and by tradition and environment refuses to subscribe to the law of divorce in any shape or form, but I want to dissociate myself for a moment from that and speak as a citizen of the Empire, and I want to examine shortly the conditions laid down in the Majority Report, which was quoted by the hon. Member who introduced this discussion. One of them was that there were a considerable number of hard cases. I admit that. I have found in my own experience particularly hard cases, and may I say within the circle of my own family; but we have not had any figures to prove how numerous they are or how they compare with the enormous number of citizens of the Empire, and we are seriously asked, without any statistics to prove it—and I think it is estimated at the outside that not more than 1½ per cent. of the whole of the people are affected in the way that has been described—we are asked for the sake of 1½ per cent. of the people to undermine the greatest moral asset of the nation, namely, the family life of the whole community. I admit that in cases of lunacy or of habitual drunkenness there may be extenuating circumstances, but one of the reasons put forward was that this was legislation to help the working-class people, and particularly the working-class women.

I wonder if the hon. Member who introduced this discussion knows anything about the feelings of the working class women on this subject. We who have lived among and still belong to the working classes can claim to know more about the opinion of the working class wife than can the hon. Member himself, and if he would take the trouble to go down into the slum districts, where the working class wife lives or exists under the most horrible conditions, whose husband may be all that has been described by the hon. Member, and would suggest to her that she should outrage her marriage certificate or the wedding ring on her finger, the reception he would get would surprise the hon. Member. It is the brightest jewel of her crown. I have known working class women living under shocking conditions who would starve sooner than pawn their wedding ring, although their husbands were not of the best. Another suggestion is made that after a separation or a desertion of three years, a man or a woman should be entitled to claim divorce; but let us follow that out to its logical conclusion and see what is its meaning. It means that at the end of three years a roan or a woman can marry again, and if they find, from some of the causes described in the Majority Report, that they cannot agree at the end of six months, they separate again, and at the end of three years after that they marry again to somebody else, and they go on, and inside of 12 years the man can have four wives and the woman can have four husbands. Is not that what it amounts to?

May I make a suggestion to the hon. Member who is so anxious to improve the morals of the people? If he goes deep down to the roots of the question he will find that the cause of many of the unhappy marriages to-day is the environment of the working classes—the bad economic conditions, the filthy housing, and the surroundings in which they live. I speak from considerable experience, and my mind goes back to my own family circle. My dear old mother, who had a great struggle to rear a big family, bore her cross manfully. She is only typical of hundreds of thousands of working class women of this country. May I very respectfully say that it is women like her who are the moral backbone of the nation. Their simple trust in the mercy and judgment of a divine Providence is one of the greatest assets that a nation can possess.

Photo of Major Walter Waring Major Walter Waring , Blaydon

I desire to support the Motion, and I agree with the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir Ryland Adkins) that in bringing it forward the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Kendall) has done a public service, though I must disagree with him when he said that he did not think the House should go to a division. After listening to the arguments against the Motion, I trust that there will be no weakening, and that we shall go to a division on the five points, namely: equality of the sexes, desertion, drunkenness, insanity, cruelty, and imprisonment for a long period. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) seemed to suggest that this Motion had been brought forward as the result of a wave of sentiment which is going over the country at the present time as the outcome of the War. The majority Report, upon which this Motion is based, was presented before the War, as the result of three years' deliberations and of taking evidence. Therefore, that argument hardly applies. I myself come under the Scottish law in this matter. In Scotland, as the Secretary for Scotland has said, desertion has been a ground for divorce for the past 300 years. I am grateful to the Secretary for Scotland for intervening and proving conclusively that the result of that law has not been to make Scotland less religious, marriages less happy, or divorce more frequent. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Pease) produced figures by which he attempted to show that Scotland was more immoral than other parts of the United Kingdom. Hon Members who cheer that statement must, I think, acknowledge that, if illegitimate children are more numerous in Scotland, it is not due to the fact that divorce is possible on the ground of desertion.

Photo of Mr Herbert Pease Mr Herbert Pease , Darlington

In the Minority Report it is stated that there are twice as many divorces in Scotland as in this country.

Photo of Major Walter Waring Major Walter Waring , Blaydon

Not on the ground of desertion. At all events, desertion is the ground of divorce in seventeen other Christian countries, and in the Dominions drunkenness and insanity are grounds of divorce. The hon. Member for Canterbury said that if habitual drunkenness was to be a reason for divorce, why should not indulgence in morphia or cocaine? My answer to that is that habitual drunkenness is incurable, whereas the mania of morphia and cocaine taking is curable. I read with very great care the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury in another place on Lord Buckmaster's Bill, and the only argument I could find affecting this proposal was that there were not enough hard cases to warrant a change. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that hard cases make bad law, but at the same time it is hard cases which make reform necessary, and I would ask all who oppose this Resolution, how many hard cases are necessary before they admit that a change should be made. There has been no answer whatever to the contention made by the Lord Chancellor in another place that marriage is as much a spiritual union as it is a union of two bodies. If the marriage vow refers solely to the union of two bodies I admit divorce is impossible on any ground whatever, but if the marriage vow refers to the union of two minds, which I believe, then I say it is possible for other reasons besides infidelity, and I can imagine the deplorable and unfortunate case in which a man is stricken with paralysis, but at the same time his mind remains alert, he can appreciate his surroundings, and is capable of affection, and in greater need of it. In a case of that kind, divorce, of course, is not sought, but in a case of a man who habitually weakens his mind by drunkenness or incurable dementia—and we have it, on the opinion of a distinguished Member of this House, that it is incurable—when he ceases to be able to appreciate his surroundings, and fails even to recognise his own wife, then, I say, in a case of that kind, the man is dead, and the separation of husband and wife is as complete as if death had occurred. I do trust that the hon. Member who proposed this Resolution will go to a Division, when I, for one, will most certainly support him.

Photo of Mr Robert Williams Mr Robert Williams , Dorset Western

The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the distinction between the spiritual marriage and the marriage of the body, but I would remind him that the marriage contract is that which binds together the bodies, and that men and women may have very spiritual kinship without entering into the marriage contract, and without any awakening of the sins which lead to divorce. The hon. Member for Camborne again, has spoken of people living together in irregular unions rather than go to the workhouse. Are irregular unions right or wrong? Are they or are they not, sin? I should honour the people who prefer to go to the workhouse rather than live in sin, and I should have hoped that the public opinion of the various villages and of the different localities would have also so honoured these people.

We have heard a good deal of talk of unhappy marriages. Who makes them? The people who contract them, who contract them thoughtlessly. There is no question but that since divorce has been made easier that these unhappy marriages have been much more common than 50 or 60 years ago. The consequences to the children have been referred to. Make divorce more difficult and not more easy, and the children will not suffer. Do not make divorce more easy and then say: "Look at the consequences to the children?" The Secretary for Scot land, I understand, spoke of the perfect system of desertions in Scotland. You have only to commit these evils for four years, and then you get your divorce. That is not the way to cure the evil. Then as to separation orders. Our system is very bad. I should like to see it altered, and framed somewhat, perhaps, on the American model, where the separated couples are not, as here, left to their own devices, but are under the supervision of an officer of the Court for the six months, and if either side does evil the separation order is not renewed. We should certainly make equality between the rich and the poor. I could never see why we should not have divorce assizes when the Court is on circuit. If the poor cannot afford to go to the Divorce Court, the Court should go to them—should go round. I am not fully in favour of the equality of the sexes At the same time I have as much sympathy with the tempted boys as with the tempted girls. I want to quote again, though with another meaning, the words to which reference has been made, those of the Lord Chancellor. He said: "The spiritual and moral side of marriage are incapably more important than the physical side." Of course they are much more important. Are you going to heighten the idea of the spiritual side of marriage by making it more easy to break the marriage tie? Are you going to make it more easy by debasing the level of your moral aspirations, instead of doing that to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. P. Pease) alluded so feelingly, going to the very highest for your example, and to the very highest for the command? Are you going to say that human nature is so evil and is getting worse, that home surroundings are getting so bad that you must whittle this matter down? Whittle down what? We may whittle down our own consciences, but you cannot whittle down the Divine command, and anyone who tries to do it is a spiritual decadent, and is doing harm and not good to his country.

Photo of Sir Cyril Entwistle Sir Cyril Entwistle , Kingston upon Hull South West

The hon. Member who moved this Amendment in such a very excellent speech did a great service to the cause of the hon. Member who moved the Resolution. We all enjoyed his wit, but the arguments which he advanced in favour of his Amendment seemed much more appropriate to supporting the Resolution which has been proposed to-night. The hon. Member went into an interesting discussion as to what the average marriage was, and he said that he was inclined to think that it was mostly a humdrum affair, and he came to the conclusion that the only way in which this Resolution would cause the marriage tie to be affected adversely would be because those ladies who, as the years advance, had lost some of their glory and beauty and charm, would be unable to keep their husbands tied to them. That is an extraordinary argument to be put forward by an hon. Gentleman who claims to be advancing the sanctity of the marriage tie. If it can be put forward that the only way a wife can keep the affections of her husband after she has got to such an age as to have lost some of her physical charms—any Resolution which provides for divorce on such grounds as those recommended by the Divorce Commission, it seems to me an extraordinary argument to advance. What are the other arguments which have been advanced? The Resolution has been criticised because the definition of cruelty was purely a definition for physical acts. The Resolution and the recommendations of the Divorce Commission are designed to remove the anomalies which at present exist and to increase the grounds on which divorce can be obtained. Because this definition of cruelty happens to be limited to certain physical acts, that does not mean that the supporters of this Resolution are not perfectly agreeable to include in the definition more spiritual grounds of cruelty. That is no argument. He said, "Let us be satisfied with getting as much as we can; let us move by stages." But we are perfectly agreeable to add morphomania as one of the grounds for divorce. He asked us not to consider this question from the point of view of marriages which are failures, but from the point of view of marriages which are not failures. It seems to me, as regards marriages which are not failures, the question of divorce does not arise at all. That is the last consideration which should be applied to this question. Surely the whole question of divorce is merely dealing with those marriages which are failures—which are gross failures—and, which cause enormous misery and suffering. It is only that standpoint that can possibly be applied to this question. At this stage of our advancement we cannot consider these things as purely religious questions. The Mover of the Resolution said there was nothing to stop any person who feels strongly on this matter from conforming to those views and not taking advantage of any alteration in legislation. The point to consider on this question is the social aspect. Take the question of children. It was said that enough stress has not been laid on that aspect. It was said by the hon. Member who spoke last that the consequences to the children would be serious if divorce were made easier. Can anyone say that, where people are tied together and cannot get a divorce, children who live with their parents in such conditions do not suffer? Can any one say that where you have a judicial separation and where there are obviously immoral relations taking place—can any one say that where children live with parents under those conditions—

Photo of Mr Noel Billing Mr Noel Billing , Hertford

May I appeal to the hon. Member to allow a Division to be taken? We are very anxious to come to a vote.

Photo of Sir Cyril Entwistle Sir Cyril Entwistle , Kingston upon Hull South West

If and when the hon. Member in charge of the Resolution wishes to put it he will find I am entirely in his hands, and I shall be ready to sit down. Can anybody say that children who are living with parents who have lost their affection for one another—

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 91; Noes, 134.

Division No. 85.]AYES.[11.0 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.Grundy, T. W.Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness and Ross)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John
Beck, Sir C. (Essex, Saffron Walden)Hallas, EldredParkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Beckett, Hon. GervaseHamilton, Major C. G. C.Perring, William George
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)Hancock, John GeorgeRae, H. Norman
Billing, Noel Pemberton-Hayday, ArthurRaffan, Peter Wilson
Blake, Sir Francis DouglasHenderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)
Brace, Rt. Hon. WilliamHirst, G. H.Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Brassey, Major H. L. C.Hogge, James MylesRoberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Briant, FrankHolmes, J. StanleyRobinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Brown, Captain D. C.Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)
Campbell, J. D. G.Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.Jameson, J. GordonSmith, Harold (Warrington)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.Johnstone, JosephSmith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Cohen, Major J. BrunelJones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)Spoor, B. G.
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)Stanton, Charles B.
Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)Kiley, James D.Sturrock, J. Leng
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Lloyd-Greame, Major P.Sutherland, Sir William
Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Dawes, James ArthurLunn, WilliamThomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)Lyle-Samuel, AlexanderThorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.Waring, Major Walter
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.
Entwistle, Major C. F.Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.
Fell, Sir ArthurM'Micking, Major GilbertWilliams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.Mitchell, William Lane
Fraser, Major Sir KeithMontagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Mr. Rendall and Lieut.-Colonel
Grant, James A.Morison, Thomas Brash Raw.
Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert
NOES.
Ainsworth, Captain CharlesCobb, Sir CyrilHotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel MartinCockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.Hurd, Percy A.
Astor, ViscountessColfox, Major Wm. PhillipsJames, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert
Baird, John LawrenceColvin, Brig.-General Richard BealeJephcott, A. R.
Baldwin, StanleyCourthope, Major George L.Johnson, L. S.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryKenyon, Barnet
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Lane-Fox, G. R.
Barnett, Major R. W.Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)
Barnston, Major HarryDavison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Lloyd, George Butler
Beauchamp, Sir EdwardDoyle, N. GrattanLoseby, Captain C. E.
Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)Edgar, Clifford B.Lyon, Laurance
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.Finney, SamuelMacmaster, Donald
Bennett, Thomas JewellFitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Birchall, Major J. DearmanFlannery, Sir James FortescueMallalieu, F. W.
Borwick, Major G. O.Forestler-Walker, L.Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)
Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Marriott, John Arthur Ransome
Bowles, Colonel H. F.Galbraith, SamuelMiddlebrook, Sir William
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.Molson, Major John Elsdale
Brackenbury, Captain H. L.Goff, Sir R. ParkMorris, Richard
Breese, Major Charles E.Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Morrison, Hugh
Bridgeman, William CliveGreer, HarryMorrison-Bell, Major A. C.
Bruton, Sir JamesGretton, Colonel JohnMount, William Arthur
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesGwynne, Rupert S.Nall, Major Joseph
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeHallwood, AugustineNeal, Arthur
Cairns, JohnHall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Camplon, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)Nield, Sir Herbert
Cautley, Henry S.Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)Hood, JosephO'Grady, Captain James
Coats, Sir StuartHope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)Oman, Charles William C.
O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert PikeSeager, Sir WilliamWatson, Captain John Bertrand
Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)Sexton, JamesWheler, Major Granville C. H.
Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)Shaw, William T. (Forfar)Wignall, James
Pennefather, De FonblanqueSmithers, Sir Alfred W.Williams, Lt.-Com. C. (Tavistock)
Perkins, Walter FrankSpencer, George A.Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel CharlesSugden, W. H.Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert
Purchase, H. G.Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)
Rawlinson, John Frederick PeelTerrell, George, (Wilts, Chippenham)Wolmer, Viscount
Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)Thomas-Stanford, CharlesYoung, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)
Robinson, Sir. T. (Lancs., Stretford)Thorpe, Captain John Henry
Rose, Frank H.Townley, Maximilian G.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Royds, Lieut.-Colonel EdmundWaddington, R.Mr. R. McNeill and Mr. Evelyn
Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince) Cecil.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Proposed words there added.

Resolved, "That in the opinion of this House, while it is desirable to place the sexes on a footing of equality in regard to divorce, any change in the law that would impair the permanence of the marriage contract would be harmful to the best interests of the community."