Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Fourth Report


Memorandum by the Office for National Statistics


ORDER 2000 (S.I. 2000/3165)

1. The Committee has requested a memorandum on the following point relating to the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Fees) (Amendment) Order 2000 (S.I. 2000/3165)

    Article 2(b) increases (with effect from 1 Jan 2001) the fee payable for an entry in the marriage notice book from £25 to £30 (an increase of 20% since 1 April 2000 when the 1999 Order came into force). Explain the reason for this increase.

2. The fee increase has been occasioned by the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. This makes fundamental changes to the civil preliminaries to marriage in England and Wales on 1 January 2001. It also imposes fresh duties on and grants extra powers to registration officers in connection with notices of marriage from the same date.

3. Section 160 abolishes marriage under certificate by licence, the statutory fee for which was £46.50. In the last financial year, this provided local authorities with revenue of £1.34m that is essential for the recovery of their costs. Consideration was given to compensating for this loss of revenue by re-introducing a fee for the issue of a certificate without licence, which will continue to be issued and is currently free of charge. However, this fee had been dispensed with because a net return could not be expected. Its re-introduction would add an administrative burden that would further increase the fee. Moreover, the issue of a certificate without licence will be a seamless part of the notice taking procedure. It was concluded that the loss of revenue from the fee for a certificate by licence should be recouped from the notice fee so that the service would remain self-financing.

4. Section 161 requires each party to a marriage to give notice of marriage. This supersedes the existing provisions under which, in most circumstances, only one notice is necessary for both parties. This requirement is estimated to increase the current number of notices of marriage from 236,000 a year to 445,000 a year. The recovery from 445,000 notices of £1.34m in lost revenue will add £3 to the fee for every notice.

5. Section 24 requires a superintendent registrar to whom notice has been given to report his suspicions to the Home Office when he has reasonable grounds for believing that the marriage will be a sham marriage. Section 161 also requires that nationality be entered in the notice of marriage. Section 162 empowers a superintendent registrar to require the person giving notice to provide evidence in support of the particulars on the notice of marriage. Undertaking these extra duties and exercising these extra powers will add an average of five minutes to the time allowed for attesting a notice of marriage. The hourly cost of registration officer is £23.92. Recovering the cost of the extra five minutes will add £2 to the fee for every notice.

6. The provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 that change the civil preliminaries to marriage in England and Wales and affect the duties and powers of registration officers come into effect on 1 January 2001. An increase in the notice fee of £5 is necessary from that date to recover the extra costs and compensate for the lost revenue.

7. A Fees Review has concluded that there will be no other increases in registration fees in the financial year 2001/2.

11 January 2001

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