The House of Commons will debate the future of marriage registration certificates in England and Wales after Conservative MP for Meriden, Dame Caroline Spelman, presented draft legislation to MPs to have mother’s names included on the documents.
Currently, the law does not mandate for the inclusion of mother’s names on marriage certificates - a practice which has remained unchanged since 1837.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, who has previously advocated for the modernisation of the system of marriage registration, described the current way in which marriages are recorded as one which is “not acceptable in modern times”. She added: “This Bill will right a historic wrong whereby mothers are not named on their children’s marriage certificate, so I sincerely hope my Bill will become law.”
As Marriage certificates are an exact copy of the register entry, any changes to legislation would require the register to be amended in order to produce a certificate for an existing marriage containing additional information. To that end, Dame Caroline’s “Registration of Marriage (No 2) Bill” would give the Secretary of State (for Home Affairs) powers to revise the format of the register and to introduce a new system of electronic marriage registration, known as the ‘schedule system’ to prevent the need to change the format of the current printed books.
The Home Office estimates that any changes to the Marriage Register would cost the tax payer £13 million but that the introduction of an electronic schedule system would bare an initial setup cost of £1.3 million but generate a saving of £30 million over the next decade.
The bill has cross party support in the House of Commons from MPs including; Maria Miller and Julian Knight (Con), Cat Smith (Lab), Tim Farron (Lib Dem) and Caroline Lucas (Green). It will be debated by MPs at second reading on 1st December.
“The ‘Registration of Marriage No 2 Bill’ will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to amend legislation governing marriage registration, with the intention of changing the way in which marriages are registered in England and Wales. The changes include a move from a paper-based system, which relies on the maintenance of 84,000 individual hard copy marriage registers, to entry in an electronic register. This will make it simpler to correct errors, and will facilitate the inclusion of each parent, as opposed to the current rules which exclude the mother’s name. In the case of marriage in church, a marriage document will be issued by the responsible member of the Clergy to be signed during the service, and used by the register office to register the marriage electronically. The Bill makes no change to the law on ecclesiastical preliminaries. i.e. the solemnization of marriage in the Church of England or Church in Wales after the publishing of banns or after grant of a common licence or Archbishop’s special licence. These changes will create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records, will better reflect contemporary life, and over time will allow for significant cost savings”.