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The Registration of Marriage Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by the Bishop of St Albans. The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 29 June 2017 and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 26 January 2018.

Setting out the purpose of the Bill, the Bishop of St Albans stated:

The Registration of Marriage Bill [HL] will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to amend legislation governing marriage registration, with the intention of changing the way in which marriages are registered in England and Wales. The change includes a move from a paper-based system, which relies on the maintenance of 84,000 individual hard copy marriage registers, to entry in an electronic register. This will make it simpler to correct errors, and will facilitate the inclusion of each parent, as opposed to the current rules which exclude the mother’s name.

The Bill makes no change to the law on ecclesiastical preliminaries, such as the solemnization of marriage in the Church of England or Church in Wales after the publishing of banns or after grant of a common licence or Archbishop’s special licence. A marriage document will be issued by the responsible member of the Clergy to be signed during the service, and used by the register office to register the marriage electronically. These changes will create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records, will better reflect contemporary life, and over time will allow for significant cost savings.

The Bill comprises of six clauses. It aims to reform the marriage registration system in England and Wales, from a paper-based system to electronic registration. In addition, it seeks to empower the Secretary of State to amend the Marriage Act 1949 to enforce the registration of marriage by making it a criminal offence if couples fail to deliver a signed marriage document or schedule to the registrar within a certain timeframe.

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