Orders of the Day — Civil Partnership Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:24 pm on 12th October 2004.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee 6:24 pm, 12th October 2004

It is difficult to summarise the debate from the point of view of the mediaeval wing of the Conservative party. We are accused of many things—of being homophobes and the rest of it—but I believe that we have a point of view that we are perfectly entitled to express. I must admit that I was surprised by the suggestion made by one of my hon. Friends in his closing remarks that the Conservative party as a whole was trying to turn away women, or people who are black or gay. Nothing is further from the truth. We are the party of all Britons. We want people to vote Conservative because they believe in freedom, the nation state, strong defence, deregulation or any of the other things that conservatism is about. We have as much right to speak up as anyone else.

Our present marriage laws discriminate against many people. Our existing law discriminates against gay people who wish to leave property to each other, but it also discriminates against sisters, uncles or nephews and many others who want to do the same. Yet it is not so much that the present law discriminates against those people as that it discriminates in favour of marriage. It is neutral about other relationships, but discriminates in favour of marriage because that is what has happened in every society and nation in history.

On the walls of every register office, it is stated that marriage is about a permanent union between a man and wife, to the exclusion of everyone else. All through history, societies have taken the view that that was necessary, and it was John Locke who said that marriage was mankind's first society.

Marriage is the building block of society. Over the centuries, Parliament has taken the view that we should discriminate in favour of marriage. We do not want to discriminate against anyone else—not sisters, brothers, uncles, nephews, stepsons or grandfathers, grandsons or gay people. We want to discriminate in favour of the building block that is marriage.