HC Deb 04 June 1964 vol 695 cc1221-2
3. Mr. Vane

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the damaging effect on respect for English marriage laws resulting from couples from foreign countries who travel across England to take advantage of the marriage laws in Scotland as highlighted by the marriages at Gretna Green; and whether he will consult the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view to agreeing the application of a code nearer to that of England in respect of persons not normally resident in Scotland, who wish to marry there.

Mr. Woodhouse

I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind the marriage of minors to which parental consent is required in England but not in Scotland. I understand that from time to time consideration has been given to the possibility of amending the Scottish law on the lines of my hon. Friend's suggestion, but that no practicable method of preventing such marriages has been found which would not involve a fundamental and unacceptable alteration of the Scottish marriage law.

Mr. Vane

Is my hon. Friend aware that that is not a very robust Answer? While not wishing to exaggerate, may I ask whether he is aware that this long-established local racket is now becoming a European scandal, that even the West German Government are beginning to consider it and that people concerned with moral welfare on both sides of the Border have long felt that this is a situation which should be changed? Whereas I am concerned with the shame which reflects on Scotland, I am concerned with such part of the shame as reflects on England. This is happening just across our Border, and surely my hon. Friend will look at the matter again.

Mr. Woodhouse

In so far as my hon. Friend's Question affects Scottish law, I must refer him to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. With great respect to my hon. Friend, I am unable to see how it can bring English law into disrepute if foreign minors marry in Scotland.

Mr. Fletcher

Would not the Joint Under-Secretary agree that if Europeans want to avail themselves of Scottish law at Gretna Green there is no need for them to go through England to do so?

Mr. Woodhouse

It is also a misconception to link this practice exclusively with Gretna Green. It is exactly the same in any other part of Scotland.