DAME Caroline Spelman MP is calling for mothers’ names to be included on marriage certificates.
The Meriden MP presented a bill to Parliament on the issue this week.
The House of Commons will now debate the future of marriage registration certificates in England and Wales after Dame Caroline’s bill received its first reading on Tuesday (November 14).
The official debate will be heard in the Commons on Friday December 1. It is thought the bill will receive cross-party support to be taken through to a second reading.
Currently, the law does not allow the inclusion of mother’s names on marriage certificates – a practice which has remained unchanged since 1837.
In a significant piece of legislation, the bill will also include a provision for same-sex married couples.
Dame Spelman, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, described the way in which marriages are recorded as “not acceptable in modern times”.
She added: “This bill will right a historic wrong whereby mothers are not allowed to sign their children’s marriage certificate so I sincerely hope my Bill will become law.”
Dame Spelman has advocated the modernisation of the system of marriage registration for some time, leading a Westminster hall debate on the matter in 2015.
The latest attempt to pass the bill comes after a ‘Change.org’ petition gained over 70,000 signatures supporting the change.
Spelman added: “Most mums are astounded to find they aren’t able to sign their children’s marriage certificate, which is why over 70,000 people signed a petition to change the law.”
It also comes after Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, tabled two early-day motions on the subject, each of which attracted 100 signatures.
The draft bill has cross-party support from MPs including Solihull borough’s other MP, Julian Knight (Con), Cat Smith (Lab) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem).
Dame Caroline’s role as the second church estates commissioner involves her maintaining an important link between government and the church and to maximise statutory accountability within the institution.
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.
The objective is 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 have an initial setup cost of £1.3 million, but generate a saving of £30 million over the next decade.
Dame Caroline’s office says the Church of England has given the bill firm support and the Lord Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, will put the bill through the House of Lords.
The bill has twice been proposed to the Commons before but on both occasions it was shelved – most recently because of Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for a ‘snap’ election.