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Marriage and Relationship Support

Volume 673: debated on Thursday 19 March 2020

7. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what marriage and relationship support the Church of England offers to couples. (901633)

Almost all couples receive marriage preparation before a Church of England marriage service. Some churches later offer marriage enrichment courses and marriage MOT evenings. The Church is concerned about the fall in marriage rates, as well as about the breakdown of marriages, and a number of churches are taking action to address this issue.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. How does the Church aim to support couples and families in this moment of national crisis, when they are forced to spend more time together and are probably feeling anxious, possibly with several family members unwell?

I thank my hon. Friend for that very relevant question. The new marriage and pre-marriage courses released in January are now available online as digital resources that any church can forward to couples in isolation to help them invest in their relationship when they are likely to have more time together, as well as more pressure on them. The pre-marriage course welcomes and is suitable for couples who are not engaged but want to explore what marriage means.

This is probably something to come back to once we have got past the immediate crisis, but what progress has been made on liaising with the Department for Education on aligning such pre-marriage education with schools’ relationship education, which has now been made compulsory for all young people? Will that tie up?

I thank the hon. Lady, who I know takes a serious interest in these issues, for her question. I can tell her that the Church is very keen to work hand in glove with schools in this important area. Relationship education and relationship support has a very important role in our schools so that we have healthy, respectful marriages and relationships throughout our country.

May I suggest that one form of marriage support the Church of England might like to get on with is enacting clause 1 of my Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019, which became law a year ago now and will overhaul marriage registration and allow mothers’ names to go on marriage certificates for the first time since 1832? Can he give us a progress report on whether this is at last going to happen?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question—he has been very diligent in pursuing this matter for some time. I know it was a particular concern of my predecessor, Caroline Spelman, when she was in this place. I will get my hon. Friend an update on that issue. I will tell Church House about the urgency of the situation, and if he will allow me, I will write to him with specific details.