Clause 3. — (Amendment of 49 & 50 Vict. c. 27. s. 5 with respect to the custody and maintenance of infants.)

Orders of the Day — Guardianship of Infants Bill. – in the House of Commons on 8th April 1925.

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Viscountess ASTOR:

I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, to leave out the word "three" and to insert instead thereof the word "six."

I do not know whether the Under-Secretary is going to accept this Amendment, but, if he is going to do so, there is no necessity to waste time by speaking in support of it.

Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON:

The object of the Amendment is merely to lengthen the period which has been put into the Bill from three months to six months. I would like to consider this question between now and the time when it reaches another place. I see certain objections to the proposal, but it is possible that they may be got over. If the Noble Lady will accept that statement we may be able to put in a provision in another place. In the circumstances I should be glad if she would withdraw the Amendment.

Viscountess ASTOR:

I am quite willing to leave the matter in that position. As the hon. Gentleman has said, this is an agreed Bill, and there is no necessity for discussing this point again. He knows what the arguments are. We think it better to have a little longer time on the Bill in order to keep the home together.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I wish to utter a protest so far as Scotland is concerned in this matter. Seeing that this Bill to a large extent deals with Scotland, I think that at least we might have had the courtesy of the presence of a representative of the Scottish Office on the bench opposite, when we were dealing with the question of the guardianship of infants in Scotland. I believe that the Lord Advocate if he had been here would have been willing to give us the necessary explanation in regard to Scotland. I think that in future Measures of this kind, in which Scotland is concerned, we ought at least to be paid the courtesy of having someone here who is connected with the Scottish Office to explain questions with regard to Scotland. I hope that the Lord Advocate, who has a wide knowledge of the law in Scotland, and also of its administration, will even yet, before the passing of the Third Reading, give Scottish Members some idea as to the effect of this Measure on Scottish law.

Regarding the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member opposite, I had some sympathy with it. I have considerable experience in connection with pension cases of the question which constantly crops up as to what shall be the future religion of a child, and I am certain that I voice the views of large numbers of Members in this House when I say that if you could, in this Bill, devise some means of getting over future wrangles in Courts of law, or any other place, as to the religion in which a child shall be brought up, you would be performing a useful work. To me nothing is more unedifying—it appears to me to be almost against the spirit of religion—than to see people going into Courts of law in matters of this kind. I have had such cases among constituents of mine, one of whom belonged to one religion, while another belonged to another religion, and there are no Members of Parliament who would not be anxious to do everything possible to avoid these bitter disputes, as to religion among his constituents. The question of religious teaching or training is to my mind one of the greatest importance, and it is hateful to think of the Courts as the fighting ground concerning the religion of a child. I have no wish to impede the progress of the Bill. Anything that tends to give women equality with men in the guardianship of children is a good and a. right step, but I wish that the Home Office had taken up some definite line on the question of the religious teaching of the children.