I would like to start by thanking Tim Loughton for introducing the Bill, and for his excellent campaigning and commitment on all aspects of the Bill. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with him, particularly on the registration of very early stillborn babies, and I thank him for his earlier kind words. Following my speech on Second Reading in February, I was overwhelmed with messages of love and kindness from people up and down the country, and even from as far away as the Netherlands and Italy. I also received messages from families who, like me, had experienced the heartbreak of losing a baby pre-24 weeks and who had been distressed to find that they were unable to register their birth and death because the baby had been born a few days, or perhaps a week or so, before the 24-week gestation threshold. Their messages have inspired me to continue the campaign to change this, and I am pleased to be working on the Department of Health and Social Care’s advisory panel for the pregnancy loss review, which will make recommendations to the Secretary of State.
I also support the clause to give coroners the power to investigate the deaths of full-term stillborn babies. Along with the much-improved additional support that now exists due to the very successful national bereavement care pathways—for which the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss successfully lobbied—it will give solace to parents, at the most devastating time in their lives, to know the cause and circumstances that led to the death of their much-anticipated baby.
Moving on to the other elements in this Bill, I believe that it is way beyond time for a mother’s details to be included in marriage registration. We have an outdated system that prioritises fathers over mothers, and it must be brought into the 21st century. The mother’s details can be found on marriage certificates in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and in civil partnership certification. Believe it or not, I was married 28 years ago—[Hon. Members: “No!”] I know; it is unbelievable. The sad thing is that, after being brought up single-handedly by my mother after my father abandoned me and my brothers when we were little, it is my father’s name on my marriage certificate, not my mother’s. It is even more sad that, at the time, I did not even think to question that, so endemic was the patriarchy of officialdom to me as a young woman in 1990.
The fact that, almost three decades later, this antiquated patriarchal anomaly is at last to end shows how far we have come, and that women are not, and never were, chattels to be handed over from father to husband. This change will turn the marriage certificate into what it should be: a legal document, not a transfer certificate. It also never occurred to me that the ceremony may also be a little bit outdated. As my father was not present to “give me away”, I asked my uncle to step in—again believing that this had to be done by a man. I would now insist that it had to be done by my mam—I hope she is watching this; I can tell the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham that that is who I was texting earlier, but he is not listening—if indeed I felt I needed to be given away by anyone. However, I am happily married, so that is bit of a moot point. I say that in case my husband is listening, so that he will know that I am not planning on doing it again.
That brings me to my final point on the clause to allow opposite-sex couples to enter a civil partnership. I was pleased when the Government announced earlier this month that they intended to do this, and I am pleased that the amendment calling on the Government to do it within the next six months has been added to the Bill. The clauses in the Bill will help to ensure more equality and fairness in all four of the very different areas that we are discussing. As the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham said, it is a unique Bill, and I am proud to have worked with and supported him in securing its passage through the House. I wish him and the Bill well and look forward to the day it receives Royal Assent.