HC Deb 10 June 1886 vol 306 cc1291-3

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he has seen the following Letter, appearing in The Birmingham Daily Post of 31st May:— Diocesan Registry, Lichfield, May 29, 1886. Marriage Hours Extension. Dear Sir,—The Bishop does not propose altering the hours in the Marriage Licences until the Canon Law is altered by Convocation, so as to bring it into harmony with the Statute Law. Yours faithfully, Herbert C. Hodson; whether the same Canon which requires that all marriages shall take place between eight and twelve o'clock in the forenoon also prohibits the solemnization of marriages without banns or licence, and order that they shall be solemnized in time of Divine Service; whether marriages can now legally take place on the production of a registrar's certificate, without banns or licence, and habitually take place at other times than those of Divine Service; whether any inconvenience has resulted from the fact that the Canon has not been altered; and, whether, if the Bishop of Lichfield is acting illegally in refusing to afford facilities for marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act, 1886, steps will be taken to give effect in the diocese of Lichfield to the intentions of the Legislature?


I have been in communication with the Bishop of Lichfield on this question, and I am happy to say that the supposed difficulty has entirely arisen out of a mistake on the part of a clerk in the Bishop's Registry. The letter recited in the Question is one of several which contained words to the effect that, although the printed form of licence would not be altered until the canon was amended, marriages under such licence might take place between 12 and 3. This sentence was accidentally omitted in the letter quoted by my hon. Friend. The Bishop tells me that he has addressed a special letter to his clergy with a view to remove any misapprehension which might possibly exist as to his hearty approval of the extension of the hours for marriage, and his perfect willingness that the clergy should avail themselves of the permission given them by the recent Act. I may say that as soon as my hon. Friend's Bill was read a second time I consulted the Law Officers; and, in accordance with their advice, the Queen has directed letters of business to be addressed to the two Convocations, authorizing them to amend the canon so as to make it agree with the provisions of the Act. As to the necessity for celebrating marriages during the time of Divine Service, I am afraid that if this obsolete requirement were enforced the greater part of the clergy would be deprived of their benefices for three years. But the old rule has long gone into absolute desuetude, and I do not think that any legislation on the subject is necessary.