Clause 1 - Marriage: increase of minimum age to 18

Part of Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 12th January 2022.

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Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire 9:25 am, 12th January 2022

The answer to the first question is yes, such a marriage would be recognised, because it took place in part of the United Kingdom, and the law is devolved. The answer to the second question is yes, I think that the Government need to look at everything to do with a child’s rights up to the age of 18. Perhaps the Minister will take that back to Government for them to look at all sorts of things that happen at all sorts of different ages, so that we know where children can and cannot do things. I think that would make it much simpler. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the measures affect the Civil Partnership Act 2004, too, so the effect on heterosexual marriages and civil partnerships will be equal, which is really important.

Clause 3 increases the minimum age of civil partnerships to 18 in England and Wales, and it amends the 2004 Act so that 16 and 17-year-olds are no longer eligible to enter a civil partnership. It also removes all provisions for 16 and 17-year-olds to enter a civil partnership with parental consent.

Clause 4 amends the Civil Partnership Act so that where two people register as civil partners in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the partnership will be void if at the time of registration either of the two people were domiciled in England and Wales and if either was under 18. The clause also provides that if two people convert their marriage into a civil partnership under Northern Irish regulations, it will be void if either of the two people were domiciled in England and Wales and if either was under 18 when the marriage was solemnised. I think I was unclear with my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. Two under-18s who live in Scotland can still be married, and the marriage would be recognised in this country, but if either of them is domiciled in England, the marriage would not be recognised.

Finally, clause 4 also contains the only amendments in the Bill that extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it therefore forms part of the law of Scotland and Northern Ireland. It amends section 217 of the Civil Partnership Act so that where a person domiciled in England and Wales registers an overseas relationship, that relationship will not be treated as a civil partnership if either party was under 18.

Clause 5 gives effect to the schedule, which makes minor and consequential amendments to existing legislation. The amendments that are set out in the schedule are required as a result of the changes to the law made by clauses 1 to 4. The amendments, which affect the Marriage Act 1949, the Marriage (Registrar General’s Licence) Act 1970, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004, repeal and amend provisions relating to marriage and civil partnership of under-18s, which are no longer necessary or appropriate.

Clause 5 also gives the Secretary of State a power, by regulation, to make further consequential amendments. Regulations made under the clause may include transitional or saving provisions, and may amend, repeal or revoke secondary and primary legislation, which, for these purposes, includes the legislation of the devolved Administrations. The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office believe it necessary to take such a power to avoid any implementation difficulties or legislative inconsistencies—beyond those addressed in the schedule—that may otherwise arise. Amendments to primary legislation in the exercise of that power will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Amendments to secondary legislation will be subject to the negative procedure.

Clause 6 sets out the territorial extent of the Bill. The Bill extends to England and Wales only except for clause 4(3) and clauses 5 to 9, which also extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland. The substantive changes made by clauses 1 to 4 relate to the legal age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales only. However, as I have mentioned, one amendment that extends to Scotland and Northern Ireland is required. It relates to the recognition of an overseas relationship where one of the parties was domiciled in England and Wales when the overseas relationship was registered.

Subsection 6(2) provides that clause 5 relating to the power to make consequential amendments, clause 6 itself, clause 7 on commencement, clause 8 on saving provision and clause 9 containing the short title all form part of the law of the United Kingdom.

The matters to which the provisions of the Bill relate are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly, and no legislative consent motion is being sought in relation to any provision of the Bill. If there are amendments relating to matters within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, or the Northern Ireland Assembly, the consent of the relevant devolved legislatures will be sought. Marriage law is not a devolved matter for the Welsh Parliament.

Clause 7 provides that the Bill will come into force on such a day as the Secretary of State may by regulations appoint. Different days may be appointed for different purposes. The Secretary of State may make transitional, transitory or saving provisions in connection with the coming into force of any provision in the Bill. Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument. Clause 8 provides that any amendments made by the Bill do not affect the validity of any marriages or civil partnerships entered before the Bill comes into force. Finally, clause 9 is the short title.