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Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry 1:51 pm, 12th October 2004

My hon. Friend is right. The Labour party has a grown-up approach, and I hope that all parties will adopt that approach.

After going through the process, same-sex couples' relationships will no longer be invisible and their duties and obligations to each other as civil partners will be significant. They will have responsibilities during their relationship, during the dissolution of their relationship—should that be necessary—and on the death of a civil partner. The provisions span registration, dissolution, property and financial provisions, measures to protect the interests of children and amendments to intestacy rules. They will directly resolve many of the problems that same-sex couples face, including issues of housing and tenancy, domestic violence and fatal accident claims.

Parts 3 and 4 deal with provisions relating to Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. Although there are differences between the provisions for civil partnership in parts 2, 3 and 4, most of the differences are procedural and reflect distinct legislative history and legal systems. As we have heard, the Scottish Parliament has debated a Sewel motion and agreed that Scottish provisions should be included in the Bill.

Part 6 ensures that references to certain familial relationships in legislation, such as step relations, can be read as including relationships that arise through a civil partnership. Parts 7 and 8 deal with several discrete areas of legislation that must be amended to reflect the existence of the new legal relationship of a civil partner. For example, schedule 24 will ensure that income-related benefits rules treat same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples. Child support rules will assess civil partners in the same way as married people, and civil partners will be entitled to most state pension benefits from the date of commencement of the Bill. The Bill also contains powers to require that pension benefits provided to married people are made available to civil partners from the date of the Bill's commencement, notwithstanding the commitment that I made earlier.

I must inform the House that the Government will move several amendments during the Bill's passage through this House. Most of them will be minor and I will write to hon. Members with detailed explanations of them. The great majority were tabled for consideration in the other place, but because of the impact on the Bill of the amendments passed on Report, which would fundamentally change the nature of civil partnerships, it was impossible for us to proceed with them.