HL Deb 11 December 1946 vol 144 cc837-8

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the general demand on the part of the public for the issue of an abridged birth certificate establishing identity and certifying age, but omitting particulars as to legitimacy or illegitimacy, having regard to the unnecessary pain and embarrassment occasioned by such disclosure in existing birth certificates; and whether the matter, which is uncontroversial, can be regarded as one of urgency, seeing that over 52,000 illegitimate children are born each year in Great Britain, and through no fault of their own are subjected to this additional and unnecessary handicap whenever a birth certificate is required.]


My Lords, the Government are aware of and in full sympathy with the desire expressed in many quarters for the issue of a shortened form of birth certificate which will not disclose parentage. The question has been re-examined in recent months and, in the light of experience in Scotland, where a shortened certificate has been available since 1934, it has been decided to follow suit in this country. As was announced in another place last week, the Government hope to introduce this Session a short Bill making it possible, as in Scotland, to issue at a reduced fee shortened birth certificates which will contain no reference to parentage. The Bill would make similar provision for shortened extracts from the Adopted Children Register.


My Lords, I beg to thank my noble friend for his answer, which will be a source of relief and gratitude to many thousands of people who suffer the disability of being illegitimate, as well as to those who have been adopted. There is just one other matter in respect of which I would like to make a request to the noble Earl. I would ask in order to safeguard the object we have in mind, which is the object aimed at in this Bill, that the new shortened form of birth certificate, now to be legalized, will in future be the normal birth certificate, and that the old full certificate shall only be issued in exceptional cases, either with the consent of the Court or some other statutory body. If it should come to be realized that people have these shortened certificates only to conceal matters relating their birth, the object of the Bill which is promised might be defeated.


My Lords, I understand it is the intention that the shortened certificate should be used as a general rule.