Clause 1 - Marriage: increase of minimum age to 18

Part of Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 12th January 2022.

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Photo of Ben Spencer Ben Spencer Conservative, Runnymede and Weybridge 10:00 am, 12th January 2022

I thank my hon. Friend for that brilliant intervention. It was prescient, as I was about the say that there is an even bigger problem in the interaction between civil cases, about people who lack capacity to consent to sex, and criminal cases. That will be difficult to deal with, but we need to do that. There are different thresholds, and it is unclear how civil and criminal cases interact.

There is also the situation where one of the partners in a marriage loses capacity to consent to sex, but sexual relations continue. How do we, as a society, want to think about that? I am sure everyone has deeply held personal opinions on this, but I have heard what I think are awful stories—for example, a person in a couple developed dementia and lost the capacity to consent to sex, but the couple continued to have sexual relations. Social services got involved and it all got pretty horrible. These are big issues.

The last thing I want to do, however, is to hold up the Committee or prevent the Bill from making progress; that is why I declined proposing putting anything in the Bill, but I hope that the Minister has heard the points made, and that we can get something moving, using the Bill as a springboard to the next step in helping people in such situations.