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Written Question
Marriage Certificates: ICT
22 Oct 2021

Questioner: Richard Fuller (CON - North East Bedfordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of the implementation of the issuing of electronic marriage certificates under the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019.

Answered by Kevin Foster

While the implementation of the Act provides for marriages to be registered in a central electronic register, marriage certificates continue to be issued in paper format only.

These new provisions have successfully enabled the modernisation of marriage registration in England and Wales, which includes the recording of the details of both parents in the entry, rather than just the father.


Written Question
Marriage Certificates: Fraud
22 Oct 2021

Questioner: Richard Fuller (CON - North East Bedfordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department took to reduce the likelihood of fraud in marriage registration changes prior to the implementation of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019; and what steps her Department (a) has taken and (b) is taking to monitor that issue since the implementation of that Act.

Answered by Kevin Foster

Provisions within the Act ensure there are controls in place by the registrar to check the authenticity of a marriage schedule or marriage document before a marriage is registered.

If unusual activity is identified the registration service and the General Register Office will investigate.


Written Question
Marriage
10 Sep 2021

Questioner: Angela Eagle (LAB - Wallasey)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will publish a list of all (a) substantial and (b) minor reforms his Department has made to marriage law since the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Answered by Alex Chalk

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for marriage law in England and Wales. Marriage law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter.

The Government has received a number of representations about making separate provision for humanist marriage in England and Wales. As we have made clear, a Law Commission report due later this year is expected to present options for wholesale reform to the law governing marriage ceremonies, which the Government will consider carefully. Options being explored by the Law Commission include offering couples greater flexibility to form their own ceremonies, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations and to provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) and/or independent celebrants to conduct legally binding weddings.

The Government will decide on provision for non-religious belief marriage on the basis of the Law Commission's recommendations.

Since 2013, the main reform related to marriage has been the recent amendment to the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005. This follows a commitment made in 2019 to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside through secondary legislation. The change took effect on 1 July and will gives more options to couples and the sector in terms of how civil weddings and civil partnerships are celebrated by allowing all aspects of the ceremony to take place outdoors, within the boundary of the land of which the built premises form part. The proposed location for the outdoor proceedings must be assessed to be seemly and dignified.

This change will provide greater flexibility especially during the pandemic when there are important public health considerations to take into account. This is not radical reform and ultimately it does not change the current law’s focus on premises.

These are time-limited amendments to the regulations which came into force on 1 July 2021 and will expire at the end of 5th April 2022. A consultation will be undertaken in the Autumn of 2021 to consider the practical impacts of this policy in detail and to enable a later amending Statutory Instrument which is not time limited. A full equality impact assessment will be undertaken on completion of the consultation and will be published in due course.

Amending the 2005 Regulations will benefit many thousands of couples who seek a civil marriage or civil partnership formation on approved premises. The power to make provision in regulations for approved premises is set out in statute and extends only to civil marriage and civil partnership formation.


Written Question
Marriage: Humanism
10 Sep 2021

Questioner: Angela Eagle (LAB - Wallasey)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what (a) assessments of the potential merits his Department has made and (b) steps his Department has taken to legally recognise humanist marriages since the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013; and if he will present that information in the form of a timeline.

Answered by Alex Chalk

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for marriage law in England and Wales. Marriage law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is a devolved matter.

The Government has received a number of representations about making separate provision for humanist marriage in England and Wales. As we have made clear, a Law Commission report due later this year is expected to present options for wholesale reform to the law governing marriage ceremonies, which the Government will consider carefully. Options being explored by the Law Commission include offering couples greater flexibility to form their own ceremonies, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations and to provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) and/or independent celebrants to conduct legally binding weddings.

The Government will decide on provision for non-religious belief marriage on the basis of the Law Commission's recommendations.

Since 2013, the main reform related to marriage has been the recent amendment to the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005. This follows a commitment made in 2019 to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside through secondary legislation. The change took effect on 1 July and will gives more options to couples and the sector in terms of how civil weddings and civil partnerships are celebrated by allowing all aspects of the ceremony to take place outdoors, within the boundary of the land of which the built premises form part. The proposed location for the outdoor proceedings must be assessed to be seemly and dignified.

This change will provide greater flexibility especially during the pandemic when there are important public health considerations to take into account. This is not radical reform and ultimately it does not change the current law’s focus on premises.

These are time-limited amendments to the regulations which came into force on 1 July 2021 and will expire at the end of 5th April 2022. A consultation will be undertaken in the Autumn of 2021 to consider the practical impacts of this policy in detail and to enable a later amending Statutory Instrument which is not time limited. A full equality impact assessment will be undertaken on completion of the consultation and will be published in due course.

Amending the 2005 Regulations will benefit many thousands of couples who seek a civil marriage or civil partnership formation on approved premises. The power to make provision in regulations for approved premises is set out in statute and extends only to civil marriage and civil partnership formation.


Written Question
Marriage: Churches
29 Jul 2021

Questioner: Baroness Rawlings (CON - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether clergy are no longer permitted to register marriages conducted in their churches; if so, why not; and what consultations they undertook with the Church of England prior to the introduction of the electronic register for marriages.

Answered by Lord Greenhalgh

As a result of changes implemented under The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019 all marriages in England and Wales are registered in an electronic register by a registrar for the district in which the marriage took place rather than in hard copy registers.

The Church of England were fully involved in the development of this policy, including direct engagement with Home Office Ministers. The Church of England has been supportive of the move to an electronic system of registration, including the move to include Mothers on Marriage Certificates as part of this.


Written Question
Marriage: Humanism
15 Jul 2021

Questioner: Baroness Featherstone (LDEM - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they have undertaken interim civil marriage reform to legislate for outdoor weddings but have not done the same for humanist marriages.

Answered by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar

The Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act 2013 enables same-sex couples to have a civil marriage and also allows religious organisations to opt in to marry same-sex couples, should they wish to do so. Separately, Government consulted in 2014 on marriages by non-religious belief organisations. A summary assessment of costs and benefits was published in the response, which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/marriages-by-non-religious-belief-organisations.

The Government in 2019 committed to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside and said it would look to implement these changes through secondary legislation, subject to any necessary consultation. On 1 July, time limited amending regulations came into force to allow couples who can already legally marry to have their civil wedding ceremony in the linked outdoor areas of Approved Premises. The Government will undertake a public consultation on these measures and intends to produce an Impact Assessment. A further instrument will be laid in Spring 2022.

A Law Commission project on marriage and civil partnership is due to report later this year and is expected to present recommendations for wholesale reform to the law governing marriage ceremonies, which the Government will consider carefully. Options being explored by the Law Commission as part of their review include offering couples greater flexibility over the form of their ceremony, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations and to provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations, such as Humanists and independent celebrants, to conduct legally binding weddings. The Government will decide on provision for non-religious belief marriage in light of the Law Commission's recommendations.


Written Question
Marriage: Humanism
15 Jul 2021

Questioner: Baroness Featherstone (LDEM - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of legally recognising humanist marriages on choice for same-sex couples wanting to get married.

Answered by Lord Wolfson of Tredegar

The Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act 2013 enables same-sex couples to have a civil marriage and also allows religious organisations to opt in to marry same-sex couples, should they wish to do so. Separately, Government consulted in 2014 on marriages by non-religious belief organisations. A summary assessment of costs and benefits was published in the response, which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/marriages-by-non-religious-belief-organisations.

The Government in 2019 committed to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside and said it would look to implement these changes through secondary legislation, subject to any necessary consultation. On 1 July, time limited amending regulations came into force to allow couples who can already legally marry to have their civil wedding ceremony in the linked outdoor areas of Approved Premises. The Government will undertake a public consultation on these measures and intends to produce an Impact Assessment. A further instrument will be laid in Spring 2022.

A Law Commission project on marriage and civil partnership is due to report later this year and is expected to present recommendations for wholesale reform to the law governing marriage ceremonies, which the Government will consider carefully. Options being explored by the Law Commission as part of their review include offering couples greater flexibility over the form of their ceremony, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations and to provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations, such as Humanists and independent celebrants, to conduct legally binding weddings. The Government will decide on provision for non-religious belief marriage in light of the Law Commission's recommendations.


Written Question
Civil Partnerships: Impact Assessments
2 Jul 2021

Questioner: Cat Smith (LAB - Lancaster and Fleetwood)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will publish the equality impact assessment his Department carried out for enabling outdoor civil marriages.

Answered by Alex Chalk

On 30 June, a time limited statutory instrument was laid to amend the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005. This follows a commitment made in 2019 to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside through secondary legislation. The change took effect on 1 July and gives more options to couples and the sector in terms of how civil weddings and civil partnerships are celebrated by allowing all aspects of the ceremony to take place outdoors, within the boundary of the land of which the built premises form part. The proposed location for the outdoor proceedings must be assessed to be seemly and dignified.

This change provides greater flexibility especially during the pandemic when there are important public health considerations to take into account. This is not radical reform and ultimately it does not change the current law’s focus on premises.

These are time-limited amendments to the regulations which came into force on 1 July 2021 and will expire at the end of 5th April 2022. A consultation will be undertaken in the Autumn 2021 to consider the practical impacts of this policy in detail and to enable a later amending Statutory Instrument which is not time limited. A full impact assessment and equality impact assessment will be undertaken on completion of the consultation and will be published in due course.

Amending the 2005 Regulations will benefit many thousands of couples who seek a civil marriage or civil partnership formation on approved premises. The power to make provision in regulations for approved premises is set out in statute and extends only to civil marriage and civil partnership formation. In bringing in these time-limited changes to civil weddings and civil partnerships on Approved Premises, I am content that the department has met its Public Sector Equality Duty.


Written Question
Marriage
23 Mar 2021

Questioner: Tulip Siddiq (LAB - Hampstead and Kilburn)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what the scientific basis is for the Government's decision to restrict marriage ceremonies to places of worship or public buildings.

Answered by Penny Mordaunt

Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships was published on 22 March and can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-small-marriages-and-civil-partnerships/covid-19-guidance-for-small-marriages-and-civil-partnerships#wedding-and-civil-partnership-ceremony-venues

We recognise that any restrictions on wedding venues may be disappointing for those planning such events, but we have to take necessary steps to limit transmission of COVID-19. This includes the closure of some settings and restrictions on social contact, including wedding and civil partnership ceremonies. By their very nature, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are events that bring families and friends together, making them particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate the sacrifices people have had to make across the COVID-19 pandemic and we do not wish to keep any restrictions in place longer than we need to.

In the COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021, the Government has set out the gradual and cautious approach to reopening in England, guided by science and the data, including the staged return of weddings and civil partnerships, as well as sporting events.

In order to inform the pace and sequencing of the roadmap, the Government commissioned advice and modelling from SAGE and its sub-groups. Scientific evidence supporting the government response to coronavirus is regularly published here - https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/scientific-evidence-supporting-the-government-response-to-coronavirus-covid-19.


Written Question
Weddings: Coronavirus
18 Feb 2021

Questioner: Tulip Siddiq (LAB - Hampstead and Kilburn)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what scientific evidence his Department is using to base its decision to restrict marriage ceremonies to only couples with exceptional circumstances under the January 2021 covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Answered by Penny Mordaunt

On 4 January, the Prime Minister announced a National Lockdown for all of England, in accordance with growing evidence of virus prevalence. Under these new restrictions, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies should only take place in exceptional circumstances. Up to six people can attend (including the couple). Anyone working is not included in that limit.

We recognise the restrictions may be disappointing for those planning such events. By their nature, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are events that bring families and friends together, including from across the country and sometimes across the world, making them particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. We do not wish to keep restrictions in place for any longer than we have to, and restrictions will be kept under review in line with the changing situation. For further information, please refer to the guidance for small weddings and civil partnerships https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-small-marriages-and-civil-partnerships/covid-19-guidance-for-small-marriages-and-civil-partnerships. There is different advice for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The government continues to regularly make available scientific evidence supporting its COVID-19 response, including at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/scientific-evidence-supporting-the-government-response-to-coronavirus-covid-19.

On 22 February, the Prime Minister will set out the plan for reopening schools, and gradually reopening the economy and society, in a sustainable way in England.

For further information, please refer to the Coronavirus (COVID‑19) page on gov.uk, which will publish further information regarding the roadmap on 22 February, https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.


Written Question
Civil Partnerships and Marriage: Ceremonies
17 Nov 2020

Questioner: Sarah Olney (LDEM - Richmond Park)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, if he will put in place a mandatory two-week notice period for changing guidelines for marriages and civil partnerships ceremonies.

Answered by Penny Mordaunt

May I apologise for the delay in answering the question. On 5 November, the Department for Health and Social Care acted swiftly in accordance with growing evidence of virus prevalence to put in place new national COVID-19 restrictions in England. Under these new restrictions, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted to take place, except in exceptional circumstances where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover. We recognise that the restrictions may be disappointing for those who are planning such events. However, by their nature, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are events that bring families and friends together from across the country and sometimes across the world, making them high risk events for transmission of the virus.


For further information on COVID-19 restrictions, please see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november. Information for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is available on related websites.


Written Question
Civil Partnerships and Marriage
30 Sep 2020

Questioner: Baroness Blackstone (Labour Independent - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 3 August (HL7029) and by Lord Keen of Elie on 4 August (HL7031), what is the timetable for (1) their proposed interim reform of the law governing approved premises for marriages and civil partnerships, (2) the proposed limited reform and non-legislative options relating to religious weddings, and (3) the implementation of the provisions in the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Act 2019 for the introduction of an electronic system of marriage registration and the update of the marriage entry to include the names of both sets of parents of a couple.

Answered by Baroness Scott of Bybrook

The Government announced in June 2019 that the Law Commission will conduct a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. This is an important and complex social policy reform and requires careful thought and consideration. As part of the review, the Government invited the Law Commission to make recommendations about how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated into a revised or new scheme for all marriages that is simple, fair and consistent.

The Law Commission has published its consultation paper and the Government, following the final report, will decide on provision on the basis of the Law Commission’s recommendations.

In parallel, the Government made clear when it announced the Law Commission project that it would also, as an interim measure, undertake work to allow more civil weddings and civil partnerships to take place outdoors through secondary legislation.

Alongside the Law Commission project, the independent Sharia review recommended an offence apply to religious celebrants marrying in a ceremony that is outside the ambit of the Marriage Acts. Any legislative proposal, including such an offence, must be thoroughly assessed for its fairness to all religious groups and for how far it could achieve the change of practice intended. That is why it is with the greatest care that the Government is continuing the exploration of both limited reform and non-legislative options that it began in detail last year.

On the question of timing the Government will make its intentions clear in due course.

And in regard to the implementation of the provisions in the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Act 2019, the Home Office is currently working on the secondary legislation, which will need to be debated in Parliament, to enable these changes to be introduced and an implementation date will be announced in due course.


Written Question
Marriage: Reform
30 Sep 2020

Questioner: Baroness Blackstone (Labour Independent - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 3 August (HL7029) and by Lord Keen of Elie on 4 August (HL7031), why they are pursuing reforms of marriage law separately to the ongoing Law Commission review; whether they plan to bring forward legal recognition of humanist marriages before the conclusion of that review; and if not, (1) why not, and (2) what consideration they have given to doing so on an interim basis.

Answered by Baroness Scott of Bybrook

The Government announced in June 2019 that the Law Commission will conduct a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. This is an important and complex social policy reform and requires careful thought and consideration. As part of the review, the Government invited the Law Commission to make recommendations about how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated into a revised or new scheme for all marriages that is simple, fair and consistent.

The Law Commission has published its consultation paper and the Government, following the final report, will decide on provision on the basis of the Law Commission’s recommendations.

In parallel, the Government made clear when it announced the Law Commission project that it would also, as an interim measure, undertake work to allow more civil weddings and civil partnerships to take place outdoors through secondary legislation.

Alongside the Law Commission project, the independent Sharia review recommended an offence apply to religious celebrants marrying in a ceremony that is outside the ambit of the Marriage Acts. Any legislative proposal, including such an offence, must be thoroughly assessed for its fairness to all religious groups and for how far it could achieve the change of practice intended. That is why it is with the greatest care that the Government is continuing the exploration of both limited reform and non-legislative options that it began in detail last year.

On the question of timing the Government will make its intentions clear in due course.

And in regard to the implementation of the provisions in the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Act 2019, the Home Office is currently working on the secondary legislation, which will need to be debated in Parliament, to enable these changes to be introduced and an implementation date will be announced in due course.


Written Question
Civil Partnerships and Marriage: Coronavirus
8 Sep 2020

Questioner: Daniel Kawczynski (CON - Shrewsbury and Atcham)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether the Government plans to extend the validity period of marriage and civil partnership notices as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

Answered by Alex Chalk

We understand the frustration couples who have had to postpone their wedding or civil partnership must be feeling.

The requirement to solemnize a marriage within twelve months of giving notice to marry is set out in primary legislation, which does not provide for extending this period. It would require primary legislation to change this. In the meantime, the fees charged by local authorities for giving notice can be reduced, waived or refunded on compassionate grounds or in cases of hardship. It is for each local authority to determine when this can be applied.


Written Question
Marriage: Humanism
4 Aug 2020

Questioner: Baroness Blackstone (Labour Independent - Life peer)

Question

To ask Her Majesty's Government what reforms to marriage law they are currently working on; whether they plan to bring forward proposals for legal recognition of humanist marriages; and if not, why not.

Answered by Lord Keen of Elie

The Government announced in June 2019 that the Law Commission will conduct a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. As part of that review, the Government invited the Law Commission to make recommendations about how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated into a revised or new scheme for all marriages that is simple, fair and consistent. The Government looks forward to publication of the Law Commission’s consultation paper in September and, following the final report, will decide on provision on the basis of the Law Commission's recommendations.

Separately, the Government continues to explore both limited reform and non-legislative options relating to religious weddings, as well as to explore interim reform of the law governing approved premises for marriages and civil partnerships.