I have had no recent discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service on forced marriages, but I shall have one of my regular meetings with the director later today, at which I have no doubt the matter will be discussed. The CPS and the Law Officers are studying the Home Affairs Committee’s report on forced marriages, and the Government will respond to it in due course.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Forced marriages are an appalling abuse of human rights and have no place in modern society. May I press him further on the subject of the Home Affairs Committee’s report and ask whether the Government will consider legislating to make forced marriage a criminal offence?
I am sure that the Government will, but it will essentially be a matter for the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to consider. The matter was considered by the previous Administration. The Labour Government held a consultation via the Home Office in 2005, and announced in 2006 that, on balance, they did not consider that it would be advantageous to turn forced marriage into a criminal offence. The Select Committee’s report is now available for us all to consider, and the Government will come back to the House with their response.
The most essential thing in this area of the criminal law, as in any other, is to encourage people who have been affected to come forward with evidence, because it is upon evidence that we can bring prosecutions. I can assure the hon. Lady that neither the Attorney-General nor I is in the least bit reluctant to encourage the prosecution of people who have committed crimes. The CPS works hard to ensure that women, in particular—forced marriage cases principally involve women, but about 17% of those affected are men—are properly protected by the law of England, and we will endeavour to ensure that they are.