Civil marriages bill gets reading

01 January 2000
Civil marriages bill gets reading

A BILL that would allow civil wedding ceremonies in England and Wales to take place in locations such as hotels and stately homes received its first reading in the House of Commons last week.

The three-clause private member's bill, which is being proposed by Tory MP for Chester Gyles Brandreth, has Government and all-party support, though legislation is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Four years ago a Government White Paper that would have enabled registrars to perform marriages outside their offices failed to find sufficient Parliamentary time, and Mr Brandreth's bill risks meeting the same fate.

Should it become law, however, the bill would allow civil marriages to take place on premises approved by local authorities through a licensing system.

It would be up to each authority to judge what it considered to be suitable premises, though hotels and stately homes, and possibly restaurants, would be the likely beneficiaries of such a move.The cost to the authority of inspecting and approving premises would be met by an application fee payable by the proprietor of the premises.

There is no indication, at this stage, as to the level of such fees.

The bill stipulates that "no religious service shall be used at a marriage on approved premises", ruling out a move towards the more liberal laws of Scotland, where couples can marry anywhere in the presence of a minister or priest.

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