Schedule 28 — Consequential amendments: Scotland

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Partnerships Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:44 pm on 9th November 2004.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury 6:44 pm, 9th November 2004

I said on Second Reading that the Bill was about justice rather than religion, prejudice or, indeed, sex. Our deliberations in the House and in Committee have proved that, and I am grateful that we have seen the Bill improved in Committee through the pension provisions. That will undoubtedly make a big difference.

It is important, however, to recognise that the House is at its best when it takes an extremely controversial subject that divides the nation, let alone the House itself, and deals with it in a civilised manner, coming to a sensible conclusion. That, I think, is what we have done, and it does us no good at all to start sniping at each other for holding deeply opposed views. That has been as true on my side of the House as on the other, although it is fair to say to all those right hon. and hon. Members who are not present that the voting record will show that most Members on both sides have stayed away throughout proceedings on the Bill, as no doubt will be the case tonight. It is also true that a minority of my colleagues have voted against the Bill. I happen to share the view of the leadership of my party that this is a matter of justice, righting wrongs and removing injustice, and I will therefore support it on Third Reading.

It is important that we do not give the impression that there is a single Christian view on the matter. I happen to support the majority view of the General Synod of the Church of England and the Archbishops Council that this is a matter of righting wrongs. I also believe passionately that the Bill should not be seen as introducing gay marriage. I disagree with Chris Bryant. I said on Second Reading, and I still contend, that marriage is something unique between a man and a woman. I respect same-sex partners and recognise that they need legal recognition. The Bill does not create a group of people and discriminate in their favour. Instead, it removes an injustice because some people have been discriminated against. That is why the High Court said that the Government had to introduce the Bill and it is another good reason to vote for it tonight.

It is important to recognise that some of our constituents will be directly affected by the Bill. There are Conservative voters in my constituency in same-sex partnerships who have helped me through the process, which I have at times found difficult to comprehend, as I said on Second Reading. The House has done a good job on the Bill and I hope that when dawn breaks tomorrow we will have many happy people as a result. I also hope that the differences expressed during the passage of the Bill will be quickly forgotten.