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 thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. We do completely disagree on this topic. His accusation that 80% of that cohort do not want to convert into marriage because they see it as something unique is a wild one. I have many friends who have a civil partnership and they choose not to convert it because they already have something that is equal—my hon. Friend is therefore backing up my point that a civil partnership is just as good as, if not the same as, marriage; it is a duplication. That is why they do not seek to convert it.

A key thrust of the case for enabling opposite-sex civil partnerships is that it would encourage commitment, helping ensure that families stay together, which all the research shows is advantageous to children—I agree with that sentiment. However, the argument is tenuous. Some 2.9 million different-sex couples living together in the UK are not married. The Equal Civil Partnerships website, which backs this campaign, states that some of those people do not want to make a legal commitment, but civil partnerships are the same thing. It cites the “trappings of the institution” as another reason but, as has been discussed, civil partnerships will effectively morph into an institution. They are the same as a marriage.

Committed relationships tend to last for just that reason—they are committed. If we add another tier, that does not necessarily mean that different people will enter into that commitment. It might actually mean that all we do is split the same pool. I am passionate about enabling and facilitating commitment and helping families to stay together, but the answer is to further promote commitment, study why relationships and families break down, and invest in those areas.