§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Banns of Marriage Measure, 1934, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, the 1094 purpose of this modest Measure is to regularise the reading of banns at the proper time and place by a layman under certain conditions laid down. In so far as it has passed the Church Assembly without any opposition, and is recommended for passage by the Ecclesiastical Committee, I think it may be regarded as non-controversial. The Marriage Act, 1823, prescribes that banns have to be proclaimed and the banns register signed by the officiating minister, and in the Prayer Book at the beginning of the Marriage Service it seems to be implied that the officiating minister must be a man in Holy Orders. Until quite recently no question could arise, but latterly, owing to the shortage of clergy, it has become usual and indeed necessary in many places for the public service on Sundays to be read, under the Bishop's permission and under conditions laid down by him, by a layman. A public service conducted under this permission by a layman is precisely an occasion for which the publicity required for the reading of banns is necessary. It would be most inconvenient if parties whose whole arrangements for their marriage might be thrown out of gear if they lost a Sunday found that, although it was a public service conducted under the Bishop's authority by a layman, their banns could not be proclaimed.
§ Accordingly, of late in many cases, banns have so been read and the register of banns has been signed by laymen, and this Measure only proposes to regularise that practice, which otherwise it might at least be said was doubtful. A large number of the Chancellors throughout the country held that its legality could not be contested, but in older to put any matter affecting marriage beyond any possibility of doubt it has been thought desirable to frame this Measure and lay it before Parliament in the usual way. As it affects some rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, it had to go through the extraordinarily cumbrous procedure designed to meet such cases. It had to be debated and voted on by all three Houses—the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity separately—and then it had to receive the assent of the two Convocations and finally be submitted to the Assembly of the Church—and all this on the point whether a layman could officiate. That at least shows that there has been ample discussion of this Measure, and I hope your 1095 Lordships will be pleased to allow it to be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent, and thus do something to remove a not infrequent cause of inconvenience to those of His Majesty's subjects who desire to run the risks of matrimony.
§ Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Banns of Marriage Measure, 1934, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.