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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:21 pm on 2nd February 2018.

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Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Conservative, Chippenham 12:21 pm, 2nd February 2018

I echo the support that has been expressed for the Bill, which will ensure the registration of stillbirths before 24 weeks and give coroners the power to investigate stillbirths.

I will concentrate on the clauses that address civil partnerships. I stress that I understand the case that hon. Members have made today, and I applaud the passion of my hon. Friend Tim Loughton for this topic. Although I welcome a report and a review to find more evidence, I think that rolling out civil partnerships to everyone is not the right approach, as I am confident such a review would highlight.

It is time to refresh our minds as to why civil partnerships were invented. They were invented because same sex marriage was not legal. Civil partnerships were not intended to be a permanent alternative to marriage. They were created to allow same sex couples access to rights, responsibilities and protections equivalent to those afforded to married couples. That is no longer the case.

I appreciate and empathise with the argument that the current situation is unequal because opposite sex civil partnerships are not available, but the answer is not necessarily to expand civil partnerships. In fact, I would rather see civil partnerships cease altogether. Today everyone in the UK can get married. We finally have equality, which is what people have campaigned for and fought for. Expanding civil partnerships to all would serve to add an extra tier, which would confuse and complicate commitment, rather than encouraging it.

Let us also be clear that there is no legal difference between marriage and civil partnership. The differences are in the names, in the ceremonies and that women are, of course, named on their children’s civil partnership certificates, but we can address that separately—I passionately believe in naming women on their children’s marriage certificates.