I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman) for having yielded to my request that we should not have a Bill, as we once did, whereby it was possible for a faithless lover who promised marriage to break his promise and, if he wished, to snatch back the engagement ring.
My hon. Friend is quite right in saying that this matter has aroused a great deal of public interest. It is quite clear to me from the avalanche of mail that he received as a consequence of the issue being publicly ventilated that there is a great amount of healthy concern that the act of betrothal should be dealt with in the way originally suggested. This Amendment helps to ensure that no man can lightly place an engagement ring on a woman's finger. It will now mean that the chances of a man ever obtaining his ring back, except by the wish of his fiancée, will be very slight indeed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) has accused me of some romanticism. I remain romantic enough to believe that this proposal will not mean that there will be any reduction in the total value of rings purchased. If, in a marginal number of cases, it causes hesitation before the ring is proffered, then so much the better, because such temperate and calculating wooers would best be frightened off before, rather than after, the engagement.
I agree that the cynics may say that there are risks of women entering into a succession of engagements in order to obtain a succession rings, but I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Aston has not pursued the misogyny that he expressed previously when he seemed to imagine that most women were in danger of becoming extraordinarily predatory, and that he now takes a much more realistic view.