(7) Both as a means of raising revenue, and to prevent useless litigation without in any way discouraging thrift or disappointing legitimate expectations, the State should take the whole property as to which anyone dies intestate without leaving near relations. The whole subject of Death Duties needs reconsideration; a mere increase of these duties all round would cause intolerable hardship in some cases and would discourage people from attempting by careful foresight to make provision for those dependent on them, but when very large sums devolve on death to persons who are not dependents, the State might take a much larger portion of a deceased person’s property than it does at present. If a multi-millionaire dies without leaving a wife or lineal descendants, there would be no hardship in taking fifty per cent. of his property—not devoted to charitable purposes—for the State. It would not be difficult to frame provisions to meet the possibility of settlements being made to evade the duty.
(8) Legitimation by subsequent marriage would remove many cases of great hardship, and might aid in inducing fathers to recognise their duties to children for whose existence they are responsible, and also to the mothers of such children.
(9) A regular form of legal adoption should be provided by which, subject to some form of public sanction to secure that the adopting parents are fit and able to take such responsibility, persons might give children, whom they desire to adopt, a recognised legal position. The losses caused by the War make this question one of increased practical importance.
(10) The reform of the law as to marriage ought not to be longer delayed. The question has already been carefully considered by the Commission of which Lord Gorell was chairman. This subject will, no doubt, provoke controversy, and it is impossible to discuss it fully here, but delay may have serious consequences.
The above incomplete list will be sufficient to indicate in a fairly definite way some of the work that has to be done in Law Reform. It is certainly a heavy task, but in almost all cases the lines on which reform could be carried out are clear, and it only requires that the matter should be resolutely taken in hand. If a small expert committee to consider each branch of the subject and draft the necessary Bills were appointed, or some Minister were made definitely responsible for attending to such matters, and if the procedure in Parliament were reformed as suggested, the congestion in Parliament need not prevent these reforms from being carried through rapidly.
PURIFICATION OF POLITICAL LIFE
Find us men skilled,
make a new Downing Street fit for
the new era.—THOMAS CARLYLE.