HL Deb 20 February 1997 vol 578 cc862-3

8.18 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th January be approved [13th Report from the Deregulation Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the risk of tempting fate, I think this will be one of the least controversial measures I will have introduced to your Lordships' House. However, I am afraid that I shall have to say a few words about it if only to make sure that people reading the record will understand and appreciate what we have been doing.

This order is under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and it is concerned with removing the burden imposed on couples whereby a marriage may only be solemnised within three months of the date that the notice of marriage was given to a superintendent registrar and entered in the marriage notice book. The proposal has completed a preliminary scrutiny procedure for deregulation orders under the 1994 Act. The Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of your Lordships' House and the Deregulation Committee of the other place have separately assessed and reported on the proposal. Both Committees have indicated that they are content.

The purpose of the order is to amend the Marriage Act 1949 to extend the period in which notice of marriage can be attested from three months to 12 months, which will remove an unnecessary restriction. This should allow couples to enter into firm legal arrangements for their wedding further in advance if they wish to do so. The present three months' period does not always give couples sufficient opportunity to make firm arrangements for their marriage, including legal preliminaries, the booking of the wedding service, the arrangements for photographers, dress hire, caterers and so on. The proposed change to 12 months will remove the uncertainty for couples who wish to make these arrangements with confidence. Any of your Lordships who have daughters who have been recently married will understand the need for a lot of forward planning in this regard.

The proposal should also ensure that there is a consistency in the booking of civil wedding services in England and Wales. All couples will have the opportunity to give notice of marriage much further in advance of their wedding if they so wish. The Government are satisfied that the measure will not reduce the necessary protection. The Marriage Act affords the necessary protection for the solemnisation of marriages and that protection, including the attestation of notices of marriage in the prescribed manner, will be continued if the draft order is approved.

The order has been fully examined since it was first laid before Parliament in draft form in July 1996. No changes have been proposed. As I have said, it has been reported to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee as being in a form satisfactory to be submitted to the House for affirmative resolution. Finally, the Committee reported that there was nothing in the draft order which the Statutory Instruments Joint Committee would have needed to draw to the special attention of the House. I commend the draft order to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th January be approved [13th Report from the Deregulation Committee].—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.