I said at the beginning of my previous remarks that this morning would be a breeze. There have been a few headwinds, but so far, so good. I hope we can continue in that spirit of agreement and consensus across the House regarding all four measures in the Bill, which are much needed and much supported. My Bill has been referred to as the hatch, match and dispatch Bill because it covers so many junctures in people’s lives. I like to view it rather more as a Bill to address anomalies and iniquities in the law that, in many cases, should have been dealt with a long time ago.
I want to apologise in advance to officials, because if the Bill now goes through as amended, as I hope will be the case, they will have a lot of work to do in a relatively short space of time, but we now have a timeline, and that work should be a welcome distraction for them from Brexit, so there are upsides as well as downsides.
There are four aspects of the Bill, as I have mentioned. Clause 1, which is about marriage registration, seems to have excited the most vociferous support this morning. I am sure that the Minister will actively support it, rather than not actively support it—she appeared to say earlier that she did not like new clause 1 but would not actively oppose it, although passively she would have done. But we have moved on to Third Reading now—we are on the final bend.
I pay tribute to the Bishop of St Albans for the Bill that he has steered through the Lords, ably supported by my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman, whose name is attached to it on today’s Order Paper, albeit somewhat later on. She has been a champion for this issue over many years, as have other Members who have attached their names to various private Members’ Bills to try to address this anomaly. It is absurd that mothers have been able to put their signatures on marriage certificates in Scotland since 1855—and indeed in Northern Ireland—and in respect of civil partnerships in England and Wales since 2004, but that not since Victorian times has a mother’s name been recognised on a marriage certificate.
On Second Reading, I produced my own marriage certificate. My dear late mother’s name is absent from it, and to add insult to injury, my father’s name is on it twice, because he signed not only as witness but as the vicar who married us, adding double insult to injury. There are countless cases of people saying, “I never knew my father because he assaulted my mother and did a runner on us before I ever knew him, yet his name has to go on my marriage certificate, and the name of my mother, who has done all the heavy lifting, suffered all the abuse, and brought up, nurtured and loved me as a daughter, does not appear.” That is not right. I hope that the Bill will at last address that anomaly and that mothers can then proudly put their names on the marriage register in the new electronic form, which will bring it up to date for the future.
I am not going to go into the second aspect of the Bill, which is civil partnerships, at length again. We have been debating the matter since the 2013 same-sex marriage Bill. If my amendment had been agreed at that time, we would not still be having this discussion now. There have been many opportunities to address this unintended inequality.