Legislative Council

LC Paper No. LS 87/98-99

Paper for the House Committee Meeting
of the Legislative Council
on 8 January 1999

Legal Service Division Further Report on
Marriage (Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record) Bill 1998

Members may recall that the Legal Service Division made a report to the House Committee on 13 November 1998 on the Bill (LegCo Paper No. LS 50/98-99 refers). To recap, the Bill amends the English texts of the relevant provisions in the Marriage Reform Ordinance (Cap. 178) and the Marriage Ordinance (Cap. 181) relating to the issue of "Certificates of Absence of Marriage Record" ("the certificate") to make them consistent with the Chinese texts of those provisions.

2. At the meeting of the House Committee, a Member (Hon James TO Kun-sun) pointed out that the Marriage Reform Ordinance and the Marriage Ordinance have been implemented long before the Chinese texts of the two Ordinances were authenticated in 1993. He therefore queried the Administration's claim that the English texts of the relevant provisions in the two Ordinances did not reflect the true intent of the legislation and that the English texts had to be amended to tally with the Chinese texts which reflected the true intent of the legislation. Mr. To also doubted the validity of the certificates already issued. Pursuant to Mr. To's queries, Members agreed to defer decision on the Bill to enable the Legal Service Division to seek further clarification from the Administration.

3. The Administration has since given their replies to the issues raised by Mr. To. The gist of the Administration's replies are as follows :

  1. The wording used in the certificate is inconsistent with the original English texts of section 13 of Cap. 178 and section 26 of Cap. 181, which provide that the certificate may be issued to the effect that "there is no record of a marriage between certain persons named";

  2. for avoidance of doubt about the validity of the wording in the certificate, it is considered necessary to amend the English texts of the relevant provisions to bring them in line with the wording now adopted in the certificates;

  3. the proposed amendments will also ensure that the certificates are issued on a sound legal basis; and

  4. to adopt the original English texts of the relevant provisions would give rise to a very narrow interpretation and serve no useful purpose. It would cause hardship to Hong Kong residents who wish to get married outside Hong Kong.
4. Hon James TO has considered the Administration's replies and raised no further queries on the Bill. We are satisfied that the legal and drafting aspects of the Bill are in order. Subject to Members' views, the Bill is ready for resumption of Second Reading debate.

Prepared by

FUNG Sau-kuen, Connie
Assistant Legal Adviser
Legislative Council Secretariat
4 January 1999