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Early Marriages

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the number of girls of 16 and 17 years of age who marry at that age has increased; whether he has statistics of these cases since the beginning of the war; and whether, in view of the undesirability of these early marriages, he will consider the desirability of not paying marriage allowances unless or until the wife has reached the age of 18, or has a dependant child?

No, Sir. Having regard to the general increase in the number of marriages since the outbreak of war, there has not been any great change in the number of marriages of women of 16 and 17. Of every 1,000 women marrying in 1938, 3.52 were aged 16 and 14.15 aged 17. The figures in 1940 were 2.86 and 12.46 and in 1941, 3.47 and 15.01. Figures for 1942 are not yet available. I assume that my hon. Friend's suggestion in the last part of his Question refers to wives of men in the Forces. As long as the law allows the marriage of women at 16 there seems to be no justification for discriminating in this way only against the young wives of men in the Forces.

While I appreciate the Minister's reply, would it not be in the national interest as well as in the interest of these girls to discourage marriages at the age of 16? [HoN. MEMBERS: "No."] Is it not a fact that there have been occasions when girls have married primarily to secure the marriage allowance?

Is it not of national importance to marry early and marry often?