Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda 5:14 pm, 12th October 2004

Indeed.

I am also glad to have the opportunity to speak in the debate as I have probably married more people than anybody else in the Chamber, because I spent six years in the Church and performed weddings on most Saturdays. I congratulate the Government not only on the Bill as I hope it will end up, nor only on the Bill as they presented it in the House of Lords, but just as important, on the steady process whereby they have tried to achieve consensus on legislation to right wrongs that have existed for years and for centuries.

We have heard some excellent speeches this afternoon. Mr. Duncan is not in his seat, but many of us agree with Members who have already said that his was one of the finest speeches we have heard on the subject. Many people who have campaigned on the issue for many long years, in the Chamber and in the wider community, have already spoken: my hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Angela Eagle) and for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths, and my hon. Friend Mrs. Roche, who advanced the measure when she held ministerial office.

It has been good to have some converts over the years. The Lord rejoiceth in the one who changes more than the 99 who were with us in the first place, so it is good to have the hon. Members for Salisbury (Mr. Key) and for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) on our side.

There has been only one particularly difficult note—the one struck by Mr. Chope. I think in the final words of his speech he was deliberately offensive not only to those who support the Bill but, more important, to those in the country who feel that their rights will be established by it. It is a shame that the Tory party is still somewhat AC/DC on the issue, but I hope that we shall see further change in the direction that the hon. Member for Buckingham urged on his party earlier.