Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:56 am on 1st April 2022.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 10:56 am, 1st April 2022

My Lords, speaking briefly in the gap, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lady Sugg. This is an important piece of legislation. Let us not mince our words: this is directed at not arranged but forced marriages, of which one is too many. I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, talked about her experience at the Muslim marriage last year. That was exemplary good practice and should be the common practice.

We have to face the fact—this was alluded to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester—that it is still going to be legal for a young couple aged 16 or 17 to have a child. That troubles me, I am bound to say. I wish that we could move towards the universality of adulthood at 18. I think that would be a social advance of real importance. However, clearly, the forced marriages that we are essentially concerned with today are things that deface our society when they happen and when young people are whisked away to a foreign country, as has been said.

The thing that has really provoked me into making a brief contribution today has been the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who is not here this morning. She has done some absolutely superb work in persuading or instructing a number of us on just what problems are caused by the application of sharia law and what is, frankly, the abduction of children of 14 or 15, who are taken away and forced into marriage. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in her absence for all the campaigning work she has done in your Lordships’ House on so many humanitarian fronts over so long.

I end by again endorsing what the noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, said: 18 is the right age. It should be recognised by all imams, as it was by the one at the marriage ceremony that she attended. We are going to take a step forward in helping a few young people— 147 was the number quoted by my noble friend Lord Lilley. It is not a vast number, but it is certainly 147 too many. If this new law can come into force and the Minister can expedite its introduction, my noble friend Lady Sugg, my right honourable friend Sajid Javid, and my honourable friend Pauline Latham will, together, have performed a very notable service, with the backing of Members from all parts of both Houses. I give my total support.