Report of the Committee on the Age of Majority

Publication Date01 July 1968
Date01 July 1968
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1968.tb01202.x
AuthorBernard Downey
REPORTS
OF
COMMITTEES
REPORT
OF
THE
COMMITTEE
ON
THE
AaE
OF
MAJORITY
COMMITTEES
appointed to consider the desirability of reform
of
the
law rarely produce reports which can be described as major social
documents. This is not because their proposals are socially
unimportant-their implementation often has a profound effect on
the lives of ordinary citizens-but is no doubt largely due to their
customarily narrow terms of reference, the over-emphasis on juridical
experience as a qualification
for
membership, and the paucity of
social data assembled in support of their conc1usions.l The report
of the Latey Committee,2 happily, does not conform to this
traditional pattern. Appointed to consider the broad aspects of
wardship and the contractual, proprietary and matrimonial powers
of infants, the Committee has assembled an impressive volume of
expert and factual evidence to supplement the already extensive
common knowledge and experience
of
its widely selected members,
and has produced a comprehensive report written in a lively and
occasionally humorous style containing proposals which are realistic,
sensible and, not surprisingly, highly controversial. Despite its
weaknesses it has rightly been acknowledged
as
an invaluable basis
for major reform of the law which governs infants.s
In one sense the Committee’s task was made easier by the deci-
sion to concentrate on the social aspect of their work, namely, the
age at which full legal capacity and responsibility should begin.
Even if the Committee’s major proposal that this should be reduced
from
21
to
18
years is not found generally acceptable, the law would
be greatly improved by the early implementation
of
the detailed and
eminently sensible recommendations
for
the technical reform of the
procedure and machinery relating to applications for consent to
marry, wardship, custody and maintenance
of
infants, the enforce-
ability of infants’ contracts, testamentary capacity and subsidiary
topics where the law makes a distinction solely on the basis of age.
Although two members
of
the Committee were impelled to prepare
a minority report by their unwillingness to accept the majority’s
conclusion that the age of majority should be lowered to
18
years,
a
glance at the summary in Part VII of the Report, where the
unanimous recommendations are conveniently identified, and a close
study of the minority’s views on contractual capacity show that the
*
Cf.
1’.
S.
Atiyah’s comments
on
the Twelfth Report
of
the
Law
Reform Com-
mittee
in
(19G6)
29
M.L.R.
641.
2
Cmnd.
3349.
8
See the debates
in
both
Houses
of
Parliament: H.C.Deb.,
Vol.
754,
cols.
056-
1028
;
H.L.Deb.,
Vol.
286,
cols.
1047-1134.
The
Attorney-General has recently
announced the Government’e intention
to
introduce legislation to implement
most
ot
the reconirnendations
:
H.C.Deb.,
Vol.
762,
cola.
1401-1405.
4
Mr.
Geoffrey
Howe,
Q.o.,
and Mr.
J.
C.
Stebbings.
429

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