Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:18 pm, 12th October 2004

I am happy to draw that distinction. I was lucky enough to be married in Wimborne Minster. I have not been married for as long as my hon. Friend Mr. Key, but I hope that I shall be able to be married for as long as him before my time is up. I recognise the distinction. I am concerned about the way in which the Bill does all but equate the terms of marriage breakdown with civil partnership breakdown.

For example, why is it necessary for a party to a civil partnership to have to wait for a year before they can start divorce proceedings? Why is it necessary in a civil partnership to have to prove irretrievable breakdown of the relationship before that relationship can be severed in law? Why is it that we are adopting, in the language of the Bill, exactly the same provisions as those that are contained in the laws relating to the breakdown of marriage? It seems that that is being done because the Government's mindset is that the Bill is about homosexual marriage.

The only difference is that one of the grounds for breakdown leading to divorce in a proper marriage is sexual infidelity on the part of the other partner to the marriage. I have not seen any provision in the Bill that refers to sexual infidelity on the part of the other partner to a civil partnership as being a ground for "divorce".

I regret that I find this to be an extremely muddled Bill. That brings me to a brief and succinct conclusion. If one is minded to use contemporary slang, the most appropriate expression to sum up the Bill is that it is a buggers' muddle. When we turn to the dictionary of slang, we find that that means that it is an absolute mess.