Report on civil partnership

Part of Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:17 am on 26th October 2018.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 11:17 am, 26th October 2018

I am in a generous frame of mind this morning, and rather than their saying sorry, we should be saying hurrah that we are now doing something about it—[Hon. Members: “Hurrah!”] I do not know how Hansard will treat that.

The third aspect of the Bill relates to the production of a report on the registration of pregnancy loss. Again, clause 3 has already achieved its objective, partly in light of our Second Reading debate, which we had back on 2 February, when we were all moved by the extraordinarily touching personal testimony of Mrs Hodgson about her own experiences—I wonder whether she will draw her attention away from her mobile phone, because I know she would like to listen to this tribute and not be distracted. As a result of the strength of feeling in the speeches and the subsequent response from our constituents, the then Health Secretary—he is now Foreign Secretary—said, “Well, actually I think we just need to get on with changing the law.” A group was set up with a mandate to see how we could change the law to acknowledge in some way those births that are stillborn but happen, by whatever quirk, to fall below the 24-week gestation line and are therefore not recognised in the eyes of the state. The situation has brought huge distress to parents who are already in distress at the trauma of losing a child. The fact that they happened to lose that child at 23 weeks and six days means that, in the eyes of the state, that child never existed and is classed as any other baby loss. In saying that, I in no way diminish the trauma of all baby loss, but there are so many examples of this.

My constituent Hayley Petts first brought this matter to me, and she served on the working group with the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West. The group has been discussing many aspects of how the law can be changed and has also thrown up a lot of problems about how we go about changing the law. Should we have a universal certificate for all baby loss, for example? Should the scheme be voluntary or mandatory? Should it be subject to medical verification, as is the case under the Australian scheme, and should it be retrospective? There is then the whole thorny issue of how we avoid getting into the minefield that is abortion and other forms of termination. The Bill has done its job before it has become an Act because such work is going on under the aegis of the Department of Health and Social Care, and I hope we will have some results in due course.