Equality Bill — Report (Continued)
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, House of Lords; Labour)
I will come back to the noble Lord in writing because my notes say one thing and other noble Lords are saying something else. I will give the clear view of the Government, which is the right and proper thing to do. It may be too late if the amendment is passed, but it is still good for people to have clarification on this issue.
This is a complex issue, which we need to consider carefully if we are to be sure that any changes will achieve what they are designed to do and will be workable in practice. Should my noble friend be successful in making his amendment, there would need to be wide discussion and careful consideration of what further measures would need to be put in place and what further legislation would be needed. That is why the Government believe that the most appropriate way forward is to consider the issue further and to solve these problems before any legislative change is made.
The amendment raises issues of fundamental religious conscience. This is not a question about civil rights for lesbians and gay men. Same-sex couples already have the right to legal recognition of their relationship, with the rights and responsibilities which go along with that, thanks to the groundbreaking Civil Partnership Act, which I am proud to say this Government placed on the statute book in 2004. Our record on rights for LGB people is second to none, but this amendment would give faith organisations the freedom to host civil partnerships on their premises, raising fundamental issues for religious organisations, and it is therefore right that they are considered as matters of individual conscience. As my noble friend clearly stated, this is a matter of religious freedom. That is why we want to have a full and open discussion with all those concerned. We can then consider the issues carefully and arrive at the right way forward for this country, which deals with the wide range of matters which will be affected by the change-