Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008
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 incidenceand
you mentioned three casesof forced marriages in those 14
local authority areas. Was that the first time you heard about
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
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
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
Mr Freeman: Indeed.
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming
to give evidence at such short notice; we are extremely grateful.