A BILL to allow the names of mothers to be included on marriage registers in England and Wales passed its second reading in the House of Lords last Friday, receiving cross-party support.
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, who presented the Private Member’s Bill, said that the purpose of it was to “correct a clear and historic injustice”. The current policy of only recording a father’s name on marriage registers was an “archaic practice” that had been “unchanged since Victorian times, when children were seen as a father’s property and little consideration was given to a mother’s role in raising them”, he said.
Dr Smith continued: “As we approach the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, it is only right that we consider how existing legislation excludes, or does not recognise, the contribution made by women. This Bill allows for this important and symbolic change to be made. As I am a bishop in the Church of England, it is important to note that the Bill will allow mothers’ names to be included when registering all marriages, not just those taking place in Church of England churches.”
A similar Bill has been introduced in the House of Commons by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, in the hope that the Bill can become law quicker.
Dr Smith told peers that “a marriage officially recognises the start of a new family. Including parents’ names on marriage registers gives children an opportunity to recognise the contribution of their parents in bringing them to that day. It is only right that mothers are recognised in their role just as much as fathers.”
The Bill also contains modernisations to the wedding register system, including digitising registers so that it is easier to keep records of marriages.
The minister of state for the Home Office, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said that the Government fully supported the Bill and wanted to end the inequality in the system.
She said: “The marriage entry clearly does not reflect modern Britain and it is high time it was updated. Statistics show that there are currently some two million single parents in the country, around 90 per cent of whom are women.”
The Labour peer Baroness Gale said that the Bill was “a welcome step forward.”
She said: “As we mark the centenary of women getting the vote, what better measure could the Government take than to ensure it becomes an Act of Parliament by the end of 2018, as a tribute to all those who have campaigned and are still campaigning for equality for women?”