Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Desmond Turner Desmond Turner Labour, Brighton, Kemptown 5:01 pm, 12th October 2004

This has been a very heartening afternoon, and it is particularly heartening to follow Mr. Bercow, who eloquently articulated the reasons why the amendments passed in the other place have to be removed. I had thought myself perhaps a little cynical about the motives of those who tabled those amendments, but the hon. Member for Buckingham has made me realise that I am absolutely justified in my cynicism about them.

It is heartening to achieve a piece of social reform, which I am confident that we are going to do. It is a fine Bill. I quote Stonewall, who called it a "thorough and far-reaching" Bill. It is not often that organisations that we work with outside the House say such things. It is a ringing endorsement and something to be treasured.

With a few exceptions—perhaps the medieval wing of the Conservative party—everyone in the House is united on the need to finish addressing the outstanding inequalities and discriminations that our society has been carrying for far too long. The Bill not only brings us up to parity with all the civilised countries of Europe and the rest of the world, but almost completes an ambitious agenda for change on inequalities that the Government—and Stonewall—set out when we came to office in 1997. We abolished section 28 and so on and so forth—and now this Bill. All I can think that we will be left with when the Bill completes its passage is addressing discrimination in goods and services. If we do that, we will all have to think very hard to find anything else necessary to complete the package. When that happens, it will reflect extremely well on Parliament.

It is heartening that the Government have introduced this measure and it is heartening to hear the thoughtful and considered contributions of Conservative Front Benchers and other Conservative Members.

It is evident that a sea change is under way on the Opposition Benches. Over the past few years, this Government have set about reforming the homophobic elements in our law, some of which were put in place by hon. Members who are members of the current Opposition. Indeed, I seem to remember that it was the current Leader of the Opposition who introduced section 28, but I suppose that he has reformed now so perhaps we should gloss over that for the moment.