8 December 2015
Thank you, Mr Chair
I am delighted that the Honourable Lady from Meriden has secured this debate. As has pointed out, I presented a private member’s Bill on 4th November to change the marriage certificate in England and Wales, and notwithstanding the now-abandoned rule against “anticipation” I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this important matter.
The Bill I presented seeks to amend the Marriage Act of 1949 and the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 to make provision for the recording of the name of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership for registration purposes; to require such information to be displayed on marriage certificates and civil partnership certificates and for connected purposes, in England and Wales, and will cement these requirements in primary legislation.
Honourable friends may spot that the Bill, as drafted, rightly accords the same provision to Civil Partnerships, which already feature the mother’s name.
However, this practice is NOT in the 2004 Civil Partnership Act but is rather a regulation under that Act, therefore this Bill cements the requirement into Primary Legislation.
This is the result of a long campaign. A petition in January 2014 on Change.org in January 2014 collected over 70,000 signatures.
A campaign on Twitter followed, with the hashtag #MothersMarriageCerts and with heavy coverage from the BBC, the Telegraph Wonderwoman journalists and the New Statesman.
Back in August 2014 campaigners pressed the Prime Minister on this issue and he agreed it was “high time” the system was updated and he said he would ask the Home Office how this could be addressed.
477 days later we are still waiting.
In January of this year, the Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said in response to press enquiries that he was “continuing to develop the options that will allow mothers’ names to be recorded on marriage certificates as soon as practicable” (my emphasis).
Still, nothing has been done and this outdated practice continues.
262,240 marriages took place in England and Wales in 2012 alone, with a 5.3% increase over the number of marriages in 2011.
Unfortunately, we cannot calculate how many marriages have taken place since August 2014 because the ONS stopped counting in 2012.
However, it is safe to extrapolate that hundreds of thousands of marriages have taken place whilst the Government has failed to act, hundreds of thousands of instances where women are accorded second class status in a developed country in the 21st century. It beggars belief.
Marriage is no longer, thank goodness, a business transaction between fathers. This practice has already been changed in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and for civil partnerships.
It is time, Mr. Chair, that registration of marriages should reflect the modern, equal country that we seek to be. This is long overdue and so important for equality as well as for accuracy of historical records.
Surely, it would be most efficient for the Government simply to back the Bill as presented, or tell us exactly which piece of imminent legislation they will include it in, and put an end to this outdated practice once and for all.
My daughter, Angharad, may one day marry and if she does I sincerely hope my name will feature on her marriage certificate. My honourable friend from Hampstead and Kilburn, we are delighted to hear, will soon be giving birth to a daughter, and she has raised this important issue and rightly called for women not to be written out of history.
It is a travesty that this outdated practice continues, and I look forward to hearing today just when exactly we can expect long overdue action from this Government, not just words.