HC Deb 22 February 1978 vol 944 c641W
Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, as British law only recognises the right of a man to have one legal wife, on what basis any person entering the United Kingdom from any other country is permitted to bring in as many as four wives; how this is permitted; and whether a man can claim the same rights for mistresses.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

While ultimately only a court can decide whether a marriage which has taken place overseas is valid in United Kingdom law, it is my understanding that a marriage will be recognised as valid, even if polygamous, provided that it was one that each of the parties had the capacity to contract under the law of his or her domicile and was valid under the law of the country where it was contracted. The Immigration Rules provide for the admission for settlement of the wife of a sponsor settled in the United Kingdom. A wife's entitlement stems from a marriage which is valid under the law of this country.

The answer to the last part of my hon. Friend's Question is "No", but a woman who has been living in permanent association with a man may be admitted as if she were his wife, due account being taken of any local custom or tradition tending to establish the permanence of the association.