BY A STAFF REPORTER
THE Divorce Reform Bill passed its first stage in the House of Lords this week when it was given a Second Reading by 122 votes to 34, a Government majority of 88.
Two Catholics voted for the measure, the Earl of Gainsborough and Lord Windlesham. Those voting against included Lady Audley, Lord Craigmyle, Lady Kinloss, the Earl of Longford, the Marquess of Lothian, Lord Mowbray and Lord Rankeillour.
During the debate there was again criticism of the amount of financial protection given to women divorced against their will after five years' separation.
Lady Summerskill, one of the leading opponents of the Bill, saw the possibility of. a first wife getting only fl a week after the second family was taken into account.
"UTTERLY EVIL" Lord Longford said he regarded certain essential features of the Bill as utterly evil. Catholics looked on marriage as a divine institution, instituted by God as a permanent union between one man and one woman, They were vehemently against divorce.
He said he regarded with disgust the provision which would permit a man who had left his wife to kick her out after five years.
Lord Craigmyle said he welcomed what was said to be the principle underlying the Bill that of putting the breakdown of marriage in place of the traditional matrimonial offence.
He was convinced, however, that the Bill, far from achieving that desired result, would make the present situation worse.
Five Anglican bishops voted for the Bill and three against.
"BLEMISHES" Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, abstained. During the debate he said the existing law was had and he would gladly see it replaced, but he could not vote for the Bill as it stood because of its "blemishes."
He considered its main faults were the question of financial provision and the two-year period of separation after which divorce by consent might be obtained.
The Bill, which has already passed through the Commons, now faces the committee stage in the Lords, when it is expected that determined efforts will be made to amend parts of the measure.