Gifts Between Engaged Couples

Part of Orders of the Day — Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool 12:00 am, 10th April 1970

My hon. Friend seemed to imagine that women are likely to start actions more readily than men—something which is a purely subjective impression and is, I am sure, wrong.

I am glad that my hon. Friend accepts that the objection—although is should have been raised so that it could be considered in Committee—is very unlikely and fanciful. I am certain that in the overwhelming majority of cases of broken engagements, a woman, to preserve her dignity, would hand the ring back. But I have always insisted that the choice should be hers and should be voluntary. To have it otherwise would mean that the law would be more likely to act as an exacerbation in a painful situation rather than, as it will now, a social lubricant.

Although my hon. Friend the Member for Aston has not mentioned it, I have yielded to his private persuasions in his concern for heirlooms. One of the circumstances in which it could be implied that a gift was not an absolute gift would be a case in which a man has handed over an heirloom. Perhaps there are still some ducal heirlooms, and perhaps there is still a world in which some impetuous pin-headed lords proffer priceless inherited jewels to chorus girls, and, if they do exist, I take the point. I can assure my hon. Friend that, if there is such a world, Pontypool—and I am sure Liverpool, too—is quite indifferent to it.

I see the force of the hon. Gentleman's argument in taking into account the fact that the ring proffered may have been worn by a man's great-grandmother or his mother, and the court, by noting this, should in some circumstances be able to conclude properly that the gift in those circumstances was impliedly conditional. I regard the response made by the hon. Member to the request that I and others made in Committee as a generous one, and I hope that this sensible Amendment will be accepted.