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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby 12:00 am, 10th April 1970

I hope the Amendment will not be accepted. Earlier the new Clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) was opposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman), and I agreed with that opposition. There is now a consensus between the two, and I like this Amendment none the more for that.

An engagement ring was a symbol of a betrothal, of trust and confidence between two persons, long before it became a prestige symbol or an outward sign of a contract. If that contract should be broken, if that trust, confidence and love are to be broken by the breaking-off of the engagement, the way in which the engagement ring goes—whether it stays with one person or another person—is of much less importance than all the other considerations. If we are to discuss one part of the property—which may be of small or large financial value—which is exchanged between the parties to the contract, we should also discuss what happens to the other pieces of property which were acquired because of the contract. What happens to the house? What happens to the furniture or the fittings? What happens to the bottom drawer? Does one have to consider who bought which and who bought what? That is one of the reasons why I do not like this Amendment.

I like the first part of the Amendment, which is short, concise and quite clear: the gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift". If there were a full stop at that point, as there was originally, I would give this Amendment my wholehearted support. But then we have the second part of the Amendment: this presumption may be rebutted by proving"— I do not know how it will be proved— that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied"— that should perhaps read "expressed or implied".

Let us imagine a situation in which a young man asks a young woman to marry him. This may happen at a railway station.