Ecclesiastical Committee Two-Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Report


E. Section 1(8)-(9)—Information to be provided to establish a qualifying connection

78.  Section1(8) places the onus on the person wishing to have his or her marriage solemnised under the Measure to provide such information, whether written or otherwise, as the minister requires in order to satisfy him- or herself that the person concerned has a qualifying connection with the parish.

MATTERS RAISED BEFORE THE REVISION COMMITTEE AND THE GENERAL SYNOD

79.  In spite of the provision described in the previous paragraph, a number of those who made submissions to the Revision Committee were concerned that the clergy would have difficulty in deciding whether a qualifying connection had been established; that the task would involve the clergy in significant extra work; that there was a danger of lack of consistency between different parishes in dealing with cases under the Measure; and that some cases could give rise to disputes, complaints or even legal proceedings.

80.  As against this, it was pointed out that experience in practice, for example in relation to Special Licence applications, indicated that a substantial majority of the cases under the Measure could be expected to be straightforward ones - for example, where the parents of one of the couple live in the parish or worship there regularly, or where they have done so until recently. Moreover, where the qualifying connection consisted of baptism, confirmation or the marriage of a parent or grandparent, that could be proved by entries in registers. Nevertheless, the Revision Committee agreed to make two amendments in the light of the concerns which had been expressed:

  • a further provision was added to section 1(8) under which, when the minister is deciding whether the information provided is sufficient, he or she must have regard to guidance produced by the House of Bishops under section 3 (see paragraphs 89-92 below). The House of Bishops' document is intended to provide clear and essentially practical guidance for clergy on how to deal with the different types of case which may arise, so as to ensure a consistent approach through the Church; and
  • a new section 1(9) was added to the Measure by the Revision Committee, giving the minister power to require the person concerned to supply or support part or all of the information by means of a statutory declaration. Such a declaration is not made on oath, but knowingly and wilfully making a false declaration is a criminal offence under section 5 of the Perjury Act 1911. The full Synod was asked to reconsider this, but decided to retain the provision. The statutory declaration was chosen as a lighter procedure, requiring less formal documentation, than requiring an affidavit. Moreover, it is not intended that ministers should ask for a statutory declaration as a matter of course, as that would tend to defeat the whole object of the Measure, namely to make it easier and more straightforward to marry in the cases covered by the Measure. Thus the section 1(9) power is a discretionary one, and the minister may only call for a declaration where he or she considers it is necessary to do so in order to satisfy him- or herself that a qualifying connection exists. The House of Bishops' guidance under section 3 will also include guidance on the exercise of the power.

81.  The Revision Committee considered that these two provisions, taken together, would put the minister in a position to deal satisfactorily with whatever cases arose, and that setting up a complex appeals mechanism was neither necessary not desirable.


 
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