1.In its letter of 9 June 2021 to the Department, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has asked for a memorandum on the following point on S.I. 2021/538:
In relation to the requirement in regulation 2(4) for “durable material”, explain (preferably by reference to industry standards, published guidance or established practice in relation to legislative usage in similar contexts) what class of material is considered sufficiently durable for this purpose or what degree of durability is regarded as acceptable.
2.Regulation 2(4) requires registers of marriage services to be made of durable material. There are no relevant industry standards for durability in this particular context and no relevant published guidance. The nearest similar legislative context is section 7(3) of the Marriage Act 1949, which deals with the provision by parochial church councils of register books of banns and requires such books to be “made of durable materials”. In that context, the long-established practice is that register books should at least be hard-backed (rather than soft-backed). The same expectation applies in relation to regulation 2(4) of S.I. 2021/538. In addition, it is intended that registers must be made of materials (including the paper used for the pages of the register) which are sufficiently hard-wearing to withstand regular use without significant deterioration and to resist deterioration and damage in the ordinary course of things when these register books are kept as records in the church or chapel in question (including after they have been filled).
3.The Committee may wish to note that the Church of England has addressed the requirement for registers of marriage services to be made of durable material by providing for high-quality, hard-backed register books to be available to purchase from Church House Publishing (though there is no legal requirement to use these published registers). In the Church in Wales high-quality, hard-backed registers are being provided free of charge.
4.The Committee may wish to note the similar requirement in section 1(3) of the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978 for baptism and burial registers to be made of “durable material”. Until recently, section 54 of the Marriage Act 1949 also provided for the provision of marriage register books and these were likewise required to be “of durable materials”.
15 June 2021