Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540 - 547)

TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008

MR JOHN GASKIN, MS KATH TUNSTALL AND MR JOHN FREEMAN

  Q540  Chairman: What worries me, Mr Freeman, is that in the letter that the Minister sent to this Committee we talked about the 14 local authority areas. In that letter the Forced Marriage Unit talks about the high incidence—and you mentioned three cases—of forced marriages in those 14 local authority areas. Was that the first time you heard about that information?

  Mr Freeman: That 14, certainly; that is correct.

  Q541  Chairman: The first time you heard about it was when the Minister gave evidence to this Committee?

  Mr Freeman: From the FMU. I think there are some questions that we need to hear about and find out about in the research, for example what is the age of the young people concerned?

  Q542  Chairman: We understand that, but that is the first time you heard about that information?

  Mr Freeman: Yes, that is correct.

  Q543  Chairman: And what have you done as a result of hearing that there are 14 areas of the country where there is a high incidence of forced marriage?

  Mr Freeman: I have personally spoken to or contacted the Directors concerned, and also some other areas as well, with a view to assessing whether the position is as stated. Generally, I would have to say, as I responded earlier, that the incidents of forced marriages, as you heard from Bradford just now, is relatively low.

  Q544  Chairman: Yes, I understand that. I am talking about the information now. I understand all the points you have made. Have you therefore subsequently contacted the Forced Marriage Unit and asked them where they got these figures from, which have resulted in so much additional work for yourself and the other 14 local authorities?

  Mr Freeman: That is an action I have not yet taken but it is on my list to do.

  Q545  Chairman: So you will be contacting them. Will you also be contacting the Minister to explain the figures that you are going to give?

  Mr Freeman: Yes, indeed, Chairman.

  Q546  Chairman: Is there anything else that you can tell this Committee that is going to be helpful for us, other than what you have already said, in respect of this inquiry?

  Mr Freeman: In terms of the children missing education and forced marriages I have asked the question of all the 14 authorities and others as well and none of them have come forward with any evidence to link specifically children missing education with forced marriages in the context of current fears about forced marriage.

  Q547  Chairman: So we will still try to find out why the Forced Marriage Unit came up with these 14 areas?

  Mr Freeman: Indeed.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming to give evidence at such short notice; we are extremely grateful.





 
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