HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1153-5
8. Mr. David Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will inquire into the extent to which British citizenship by marriage is being offered by advertisements for a financial consideration.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Lane)

My right hon. Friend deplores these advertisements, but he has no reason to think that many marriages of convenience are taking place for the purpose of qualifying the wife for registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. We shall watch the situation very closely.

Mr. Stoddart

I am glad to hear that the Minister will watch the situation, but would he not agree that advertisements of the sort that have been brought to my attention, in which two guys offer a marriage of convenience for £500 apiece, are obnoxious, insulting to the status of women and, indeed, to the institution of marriage, as well as smacking of male prostitution? Furthermore, will he alter existing legislation to enable the women concerned to remain in this country without having to marry dubious characters? In the meantime, will he redouble his efforts to stamp out this sort of advertisement?

Mr. Lane

Altering the immigration legislation is a much wider question. Of course the advertisements are obnoxious, as I said. My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that there has been more than an infinitesimal number of marriages of this sort over the past few years, but if it looks like developing into a serious abuse we shall consider what to do about it.

Mr. Robert Taylor

Is it not a fact that, by my right hon. Friend's rather quaint proposals for anti-discrimination, it will become illegal for anybody to advertise for a partner of the opposite sex?

Mr. Lane

That is a much wider question.

Mr. George Cunningham

Will the Minister take an early opportunity of making a strong public statement that if this abuse were to continue—it exists and the Home Office cannot be aware of its full extent—it could have only one result, and that is for this country to terminate the acquisition of British citizenship by reason of marriage? That would be most regrettable.

Mr. Lane

That is a helpful comment. If we have to say something stronger about this matter we will do so. But it would mean changing the law. The House must pause to consider how one would define a marriage of convenience. We may have to do so, but I merely remind the House that it is not easy.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the un-satisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.