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I cannot answer for my hon. Friend’s constituents but I know that my constituency has the highest proportion of elderly constituents in the country and I put that on the record.
These proposals were not in our manifesto, they are not in the coalition agreement, and the Prime Minister expressly ruled them out three days before the general election. In 2004 I was a member of the Civil Partnership Bill Committee and I led 89 Divisions in that Committee. I argued then, as I argue now, that we should give a status to civil partnerships that is the same for men and women.
During the debate, a number of hon. Members from across the House have said that civil partnerships should be extended to heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. I raised that with the Prime Minister at a meeting the best part of two years ago and he told me that he is against—he put it like this—“all marriage-lite arrangements”. If that remains his view, it is not reflected in the Bill before the House. The logic of that view is that we should exclude civil partnerships, and that the Bill should be amended to delete them in the future, while obviously allowing existing civil partnerships to continue. The alternative is to allow civil partnerships for relationships between men and women. If we allow civil partnerships for everybody, the Bill is not so likely to be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. If civil partnerships are available only to same-sex couples, yet at the same time those couples are given access to marriage, we will not be able to argue a case in the European Court of Human Rights against that proposition.
We should be discussing the Bill in detail in Committee and submitting it to pre-legislative scrutiny. That is why I shall vote against the timetable motion and the carry-over motion. It is an obscenity that the Government persuaded the House to introduce carry-over motions as a standard form of the Standing Orders on the basis that we would be able to carry over Bills that had been first introduced in draft form, subject to pre-legislative scrutiny, and then brought forward as a proper Bill. Having made no mention of this Bill in their manifesto, and without a draft Bill or even pre-legislative scrutiny, the Government are trying to push this Bill through quickly because they see it as embarrassing.