To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will publish the equality impact assessment his Department carried out for enabling outdoor civil marriages.
On 30 June, a time limited statutory instrument was laid to amend the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005. This follows a commitment made in 2019 to accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outside through secondary legislation. The change took effect on 1 July and gives more options to couples and the sector in terms of how civil weddings and civil partnerships are celebrated by allowing all aspects of the ceremony to take place outdoors, within the boundary of the land of which the built premises form part. The proposed location for the outdoor proceedings must be assessed to be seemly and dignified.
This change provides greater flexibility especially during the pandemic when there are important public health considerations to take into account. This is not radical reform and ultimately it does not change the current law’s focus on premises.
These are time-limited amendments to the regulations which came into force on 1 July 2021 and will expire at the end of 5th April 2022. A consultation will be undertaken in the Autumn 2021 to consider the practical impacts of this policy in detail and to enable a later amending Statutory Instrument which is not time limited. A full impact assessment and equality impact assessment will be undertaken on completion of the consultation and will be published in due course.
Amending the 2005 Regulations will benefit many thousands of couples who seek a civil marriage or civil partnership formation on approved premises. The power to make provision in regulations for approved premises is set out in statute and extends only to civil marriage and civil partnership formation. In bringing in these time-limited changes to civil weddings and civil partnerships on Approved Premises, I am content that the department has met its Public Sector Equality Duty.