HC Deb 26 March 1956 vol 550 cc1745-6
1. Mrs. Mann

asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation providing that a marriage ceremony performed in Scotland between two persons below the age of consent shall be invalid in English law if English justices have previously refused consent to the marriage in England.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

I sympathise with the hon. Lady in her desire to prevent young persons from going to Scotland to contract a marriage to which justices in England have refused their consent, but she will, I hope, appreciate that there are very real difficulties about making invalid in England a marriage which is valid according to the law of Scotland. I can, however, assure her that the problem is under consideration.

Mrs. Mann

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some of these marriages have been prevented by the declaration of a ward in Chancery, and would it not be possible to extend that to all such marriages and thus prevent the removal of the participants outwith the jurisdiction of the English court?

The Attorney-General

As I think the hon. Lady now knows, the procedure for making a child a ward of court in England is a simple one and not very expensive, but I could not agree with her that every English child should be made a ward of court to avoid the risk of a runaway marriage in Scotland.

Mr. Vane

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that over the last two or three years there has been a very substantial increase in the number of these unfortunate and often unhappy marriages? Even if he cannot see his way to introduce legislation, will he consult his colleagues to see if it is not possible to take some administrative action which makes it harder for such marriages to take place, because so many broken marriages result, involving great unhappiness for the children?

The Attorney-General

One of the difficulties which would arise would be that that would involve amendment of the law of marriage in Scotland, on which, of course, I am not qualified to speak. My hon. Friend is, perhaps, aware that the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland expressed the view, which was accepted by the last General Assembly, that any proposal to alter the marriage law would raise many fundamental questions and would require prolonged and thorough investigation.