§ Mr. John Marshall
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to review the law in England and Wales on rape within marriage; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
This aspect of law was last considered by the Criminal Law Revision Committee as part of its 1984 report on sexual offences. The committee recommended, by a narrow majority, that the law should not be changed to cover all subsisting marriages. It pointed out that where a husband commits assault or indecent assault, he can be prosecuted for these offences and that the question raises issues about the nature of marriage and about violence in the domestic context which go beyond the scope of the criminal law.
Domestic violence is one of the subjects being considered by the ministerial group on women's issues. The rate of reporting of incidents of domestic violence has increased in recent years, and this may in part reflect greater awareness by the police, victims' organisations, other services and the public of the difficulties some women face.
The Government believe that legislation in this area should proceed from a broad measure of agreement after careful examination of the wider issues such as those identified by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. We therefore welcome the Law Commission's agreement to carry out a joint criminal law and family law project in the context of its work on domestic violence. I understand that the aim is to produce a working paper, for consultation, early next year. The Government will consider the conclusions most carefully in deciding whether to change the law.