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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 2nd February 2018.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 12:40 pm, 2nd February 2018

It is a pleasure, as always, to follow my hon. Friend Kevin Foster. It is fair to say that we are, in a regular capacity, the tail-enders. I congratulate my hon. Friend Tim Loughton on introducing this Bill.

When I first heard about the proposal on civil partnerships, I must admit that I had one concern, about which I intervened on my hon. Friend earlier: the idea—I am not trying to present this as a straw man—that this could be seen as “commitment-lite”. In other words, it might affect the idea that marriage is something very solemn and permanent that people go into committing for life by being less of a commitment and therefore appealing to people who go into it almost in a half-hearted fashion.

That was my instinctive response. However, having considered it and, like my hon. Friend Helen Whately, spoken to people who would consider this option and would like to have it, I feel that, on the contrary, it would offer to people who would never get married a way that they can commit. That is a very positive thing. Based on all kinds of evidence, we could argue that we live in a more consumerist society where we like to upgrade our mobile phones every year and so on and to have a lot of choice. Arguably, we are not sticklers in the same way that previous generations were. Therefore, institutions that encourage commitment are to be welcomed. I do not have any problem with this in principle.

With regard to Government consultations, we hear a lot about demand. Is there demand for this option? I am not sure that that is the best way to talk about this. We are talking about rights and equality. One person can bring a case to court because that person has rights. The fact that we know individuals who would like to consider this option is enough in itself, and we then have to decide whether it is right in principle. As I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent, there was a court case that found that the lack of heterosexual civil partnerships was not discriminatory because the couple in question had not been subject to abuse and so on. I disagree with that—while obviously respecting the independence of the judiciary. To me, it is self-evidently discriminatory. This provision would be a welcome addition to our institutions. I am more than happy to support it for that reason.

Since becoming an MP, I have been incredibly moved by speeches I have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), and from Opposition Members, who, in a wonderful cross-party way, have supported such wonderful reforms in the area of baby loss. As a father of twins, the idea that there was a case where a parent had lost their twins and one received a certificate and the other did not is extraordinary. Whatever else we do, we should ensure that that cannot happen. That is why I support my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham.