Introducing equal marriage in England and Wales to cost the tax payer up to £4.7m

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Government has said that the costs of introducing same-sex marriage in England and Wales will cost between £3.3m and £4.7m.

The assessment, promised by the Government during the consultation process, is not as large a figure as some opponents of equal marriage had claimed introducing equality would cost.

The vast majority of the costs relate to changing IT systems in order to accommodate a married couple having two husbands, two wives, or one husband and one wife. Other costs relate to the retraining of civil registrars who will be officiating at the bulk of the marriages and an increase in trans people seeking gender recognition once the law does not require them to divorce a marriage if they are already in one.

The £3.3-4.7m breaks down as follows:-

  • £2m: Updates to the General Register Office IT system to accommodate same-sex couples
  • £0.19-0.67m: Familiarisation costs for registrars to perform same-sex marriages
  • £0.08m: Updates to the IT systems at the Department for Work and Pensions
  • £0.4m: IT and project management costs in relation to pensions
  • £0.2-0.45m: Updates to the IT system at HM Revenue and Customs
  • £0.2-0.45m: Updates to the IT courts systems by the Ministry of Justice
  • £0.1-0.3m: Operational changes required for the Gender Recognition Panel database
  • £0.2-0.7m (over five years): Additional demand for Gender Recognition Certificates after the Marriage (Same-sex couples) Bill comes into law
  • £0.15-0.2m: IT system updates for the Office of National Statistics

Out4Marriage said: “Even if it costs £4.7m to introduce the IT and other changes needed, it seems like a small price to pay for England and Wales becoming a more equal society.”

The costs only cover the  direct costs to the tax payer. It is conceivable that the Unitarians, Metropolitan Churches, Reform and Liberal Judaism as well as another faith groups that decide to opt-in to same-sex marriages may have some administrative costs to introduce same-sex marriages too.

The Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales was officially been published yesterday in the name of the  Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality Maria Miller and in the names of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Chancellor George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, Education Secretary Michael Gove, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone, and the junior equalities ministers Helen Grant and Jo Swinson. The legislation will be taken through the House of Commons primarily by Conservative ministers Hugh Robertson and Helen Grant.

Its official remit is to “Make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples in England and Wales, about gender change by married persons and civil partners, about consular functions in relation to marriage, for the marriage of armed forces personnel overseas, and for connected purposes.”

The bill contains specific measures to deal with the unique legal position of the Church of England and the Church in Wales. Unlike any other religious body in this country, their clergy have a specific legal duty to marry parishioners.

Should the Church in Wales decide to allow same-sex marriages, the bill sets out a procedure for its governing body to ask the Lord Chancellor to make secondary legislation enabling it to do so.

The bill also ensures that Anglican Canon law, which says that marriage is the union of one man with one woman, does not conflict with civil law. This will remain the case until such time that the churches wish to conduct same-sex marriages.