Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:35 am on 2nd February 2018.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 9:35 am, 2nd February 2018

I understand that it is a worthy cause, but it is different from enabling people to have their relationship recognised by the state. There are clear financial disadvantages and implications in the situation that my hon. Friend describes. I entirely sympathise with his view and I think that the injustice needs to be dealt with, but I do not propose to deal with it at this stage in my Bill. Doing so would make the Bill even more complicated than it already is. In addition, it is highly likely that the long title of the Bill will need to be amended in Committee, particularly to reflect the change that will be required to the electronic record of marriage certificates.

Let me start with the extension of civil partnerships to include opposite-sex couples. The 2004 Act was long overdue, and it was enthusiastically supported by me and the great majority of hon. Members from all parts of the House. At its heart, the Act tackled a clear obstacle to equal rights for loving couples who just happened to be of the same sex.

Subsequently, the House decided in 2013 that it was time for equal marriage. That has happened, the skies have not caved in and we have moved on. I certainly do not want to reopen the bruising debates that we had at the time, especially across my party. However, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 gave rise to an unintended new inequality, and it is surely time for equal civil partnerships—a natural extension that was supported across all parties when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was introduced and that has just as much support now. In the consultation that the Government conducted before the introduction of that Bill, 61% of respondents were in favour of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Alas, for some inexplicable reason, the proposal never made it into the Act. If it had done, the Act would have been better; that is why change is necessary today.