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Special Marriage Licences

Volume 497: debated on Thursday 15 October 2009

6. Under what conditions the faculty office of the Archbishop of Canterbury may grant a special marriage licence for a wedding in a redundant church. (293071)

The Archbishop uses his power to grant such licences sparingly and with considerable care. It is not possible to list all the possible specific circumstances in which such a special licence might be granted, but I may tell the hon. Gentlemen that applicants should have a strong demonstrable connection with the church in question.

May I invite the Second Church Estates Commissioner to invite the Archbishop’s registrar to review the rules, because they are overzealous, they discourage people from getting married in church, they disappoint couples who have local connections—that has been the case in my constituency—and they deprive the Churches Conservation Trust of vital income? We should be encouraging the use of churches that have been deconsecrated and can be licensed for such purposes, rather than trying to put every possible object in the way of the use of those redundant churches.

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. For the second time today we have referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is sparing in the exercise of his powers over the places of marriage in the Church of England. Marriage ought normally to take place in a suitable parish church where couples have an ongoing worshipping relationship and receive the pastoral care of the priest. We must remember that thousands of churches remain open and that, as a result of the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008, there are many more churches from which to choose. However, I shall be happy to take up with Lambeth palace the point that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Rents on agricultural holdings have increased considerably over the past decade, and that has benefited the Church Commissioners. Is any regard taken of the level of single farm payment paid to those farmers when those rents are set?

I am not entirely clear how that fits with a question about the special marriage licence for a wedding in a redundant church, but the hon. Gentleman makes a valid and pertinent point and I will be happy to take it up with the Church Commissioners.