HC Deb 24 March 1976 vol 908 cc397-8

38. Mr. Rifkind asked the Lord Advocate whether he has received recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission with regard to reform of the law in respect of religious marriage in Scotland.

The Lord Advocate

No, Sir.

Mr. Rifkind

Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is becoming increasingly indefensible and absurd that members of the Moslem, Sikh and Hindu communities are unable to contract religious marriages in Scotland although they have a right to do so in the rest of the United Kingdom? Will he undertake to bring in the necessary small piece of legislation to remove this anomaly, in the interests of good community relations?

The Lord Advocate

Matters of this kind are not solely at my discretion. The hon. Gentleman asks whether I have received recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission. He knows that the matter was considered by the Kilbrandon Committee, whose Report of 1969 still stands. I agree it would be indefensible to attempt to justify the statutory basis of some religious marriages and not others, but this subject must be looked at in relation to the general legislative programme.

Mr. Fairbairn

In considering legislation on religious marriages in Scotland, since we are now considering a measure dealing with the dissolution of marriages in Scotland, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman remove the petty, bureaucratic and out-dated procedures in regard to the arrangements for the contracting of a marriage? Would he also, instead of trying to bring the law of Scotland into line with that of England, return to the law of Scotland and recognise that where a union is regular, it can be solemnised as a common law marriage?

The Lord Advocate

The hon. and learned Gentleman may have heard of the doctrine of approbate and reprobate. I was not sure whether he was approbating or reprobating marriage in his question.