Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 3:03 pm, 12th October 2004

It is a pleasure to follow Mrs. Roche, who did a great deal while she was in government to promote and pursue this agenda. I agree with her remarks about the need for equality of access to goods and services, although she may accept, as I understood her to do on the "Today" programme this morning, that this Bill is not the appropriate place for that. I wish to place on record my admiration for the manner in which both the Minister and Mr. Duncan conducted themselves. They both made comprehensive and compelling contributions. In particular, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton made what I consider to be the best speech that I have heard from the Conservative Front Bench since I entered Parliament. Before hon. Members rush to accuse me of damning him with faint praise, I assure him that my comments are sincerely and warmly intended as a compliment.

The Liberal Democrats are pleased to give the Bill a warm and unequivocal welcome. We see it as an opportunity to offer the same rights and opportunities to people in same-sex relationships as are currently offered to people in civil marriages of mixed sex. It is an opportunity to offer fair and equal treatment to all in our society today, regardless of their sexual orientation. For us, the question on this Bill is not so much how we can support it as how we could not do so.

As the first Scot to contribute, I wish to say that I thought that the intervention of Pete Wishart was remarkable. I was astonished to hear a member of the Scottish National party talk down the Scottish Parliament as he did. Indeed, he should be aware—I am astonished that he does not seem to be aware of this—that the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament discussed the Bill at length and produced an excellent report. Many of the concerns were taken on board by the Scottish Executive, which responded positively, and were well on their way to being included in the Bill as amendments in another place before Baroness O'Cathain did her work. I am confident that we shall see them back in Committee.