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Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Family and I are today announcing publication of a White Paper, “Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility”, outlining the Government’s proposals to require unmarried parents to register the birth of a child jointly and to make birth registration a more accessible process.

In June 2007 the Government published a Green Paper seeking views on their proposals on making joint birth registration a legal requirement. There was a good level of response and today we are publishing a White Paper which sets out firm proposals which have been informed by the Green Paper consultation and further work on this issue. Copies of the White Paper are available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Currently there are up to 45,000 children born in England and Wales each year who do not have both parents identified on their birth certificate. It is the Government’s ambition to significantly decrease the number of sole registrations in England and Wales.

Registering a birth is a significant act. It is one of the first milestones in the life of a child which can shape its future identity. It is also a key moment for parents, when a mother and father publicly acknowledge that they have responsibility for their child—not only as its legal representative, but also in the expectation that together they will safeguard and promote their child’s health, development and welfare.

“Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility” sets out changes to the law in England and Wales to make joint birth registration a legal requirement for all unmarried parents unless this is decided by the registrar to be impossible, impracticable or unreasonable. Alongside this the White Paper sets out a series of non-legislative measures to promote and support joint birth registration and changes to give mothers a right to insist that the father acknowledges his responsibilities to his child by registering on the birth certificate. Equally, it gives a father a new right to insist that he is registered.

Last year’s Green Paper acknowledged that there will be situations where a joint registration is not a possible or desirable outcome and so set out a list of specific exemptions where a sole registration would be permitted. Following response from stakeholders, we have broadened these exemptions to cover situations where the registrar believes a joint registration would be impossible, impracticable, or unreasonable. Mothers will not be required to name fathers, and fathers will not be permitted to be recorded if a joint registration would compromise the safety and well-being of the child or mother. In developing legislation the Government will work further with stakeholders to ensure the protection of vulnerable women and children.