HL Deb 20 July 1943 vol 128 cc608-10

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Munster.)


My Lords, on the Committee stage of this Bill I ventured to say to your Lordships that I had wished to raise a point, but had been asked by the Home Office to defer it until the Bill was read a third time. Your Lordships are accustomed to these Bills coming forward to rectify an error in a marriage which might have the effect of nullifying the marriage. I ventured to draw attention to this matter in 1934, and the result has been that these Marriages Provisional Order Bills have been far less frequent than they were before. During the years when I represented the Home Office they were rather frequent. I venture to think that your Lordships will agree that it is very unfortunate that marriages should take place in unrecognized places. These mistakes are far more frequent in the Anglican Church than in any other communion; I do not remember a case in which there was an error in the celebration of marriage in the Roman Catholic Church or the Jewish Church, and there have been very few indeed in Nonconformist churches.

It is much to be regretted that these errors should occur. It is very unpleasant for people to find, perhaps after they have been married for ten years and have children, that there has been an error in their marriage, and that a Bill has to be introduced to make the marriage legal. That can easily be avoided. That errors are more frequent in the Anglican Church is perhaps natural, because the mistake generally occurs when one of the churches in a parish is not licensed for marriages. I suggest—and I have ventured to write to both Primates making the suggestion—that in future, through the chancery of the diocese, with the official papers which deal with the appointment of an incumbent, an official notification should be issued from the Chancellor of the diocese stating that only such-and-such a church in his parish is licensed for marriages. I do not think that it is desirable to say what churches are not licensed for marriages, because that may lead to confusion, but if he is told that there are only one or two churches in which he can perform marriages I think that will meet the case.

I also suggest that on the wall of the vestry there should be a permanent notice to say that the church is licensed for marriages, and then anyone who marries a couple in a church which has not this notification must know that he is in serious error. I do not think that that would lead to any trouble, and it should save a good deal of expense and spare the feelings of those who might otherwise have gone through the ceremony of marriage in an unlicensed building. I do not think that there is any right reverend Prelate here to-day, but I had a letter from the most reverend Primate saying that he would examine the matter. I thought that I ought to raise the question on this occasion, because it gives me an opportunity to explain to your Lordships what I think would be a desirable thing to do.


My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend for letting me know that he intended to raise this matter in your Lordships' House today. I am glad to be able to tell him that the Home Office are prepared to arrange for the re-issue of the circular which was issued to diocesan registrars in 1934. This circular set out the main causes for the invalidity of marriages, and asked that steps should be taken to ensure that these defects should be avoided. The most reverend Primate has also been consulted on my noble friend's proposal that the incumbent should be kept informed of those churches in his parish in which marriages can be celebrated, and I am informed that the most reverend Primate under stands that the Church authorities are considering whether it would be possible for registrars to keep incumbents in- formed of the churches in their parishes which are licensed for marriages. I may add that in the last ten years 21 of these orders have been made, of which 14 were in respect of marriages solemnized by Church of England clergymen, 5 by Nonconformists and 2 by Roman Catholics.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.