It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Neil O'Brien, even though we perhaps do not agree on every point. I congratulate my hon. Friend Tim Loughton on bringing this important piece of legislation to the House and getting it to this stage. It will strengthen how individuals and their loved ones are formally recognised in law at every level.
As I said on Second Reading, I see the Bill as very much like a pick and mix, but I do like the “hatch, match and dispatch” description of my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. That is a good way to describe the Bill. Its provisions change the way in which marriages and stillbirths are recorded. They are small but important reforms that will make a huge difference to so many. In practical terms, the two events could not be further apart: one is supposed to be the happiest day of a person’s life, yet the other is probably the most tragic day of a person’s life.
I commend those brave colleagues from all parties who have spoken so openly about their own tragic personal experiences of baby loss, in the hope that they can further highlight the issue and give others the courage to do the same. Having talked to people throughout the House and in my constituency during Baby Loss Awareness Week a couple of weeks ago, I know that they have made a huge difference. It has been so powerful. Many colleagues have also spoken in this place about the loss of a loved one at a later stage in life. It is never easy to talk openly about such tragic events. Indeed, Nigel Dodds shared his personal and very moving story in the Chamber just yesterday.
The two elements of the Bill are linked by the acknowledgment that a life existed, for however long or short that time may have been. Because these delicate pieces of paper, birth and marriage certificates, are often treasured by families for generations, they are part of social history and of our story. They often provide comfort to the bereaved when the person recorded on the certificate is no longer there.
On marriage certificates specifically, it is quite astonishing in the centenary year of the Representation of the People Act that this archaic example of inequality has not yet been righted. It is a matter of equality, as well as of family history and social history. Looking at my own family, my parents were married in 1950. Their marriage certificate states that my father’s father was a millworker, but there is no mention of my grandmother. It states that my mother’s father was a stoker on the railway, but there is no mention of my grandmother’s occupation on that side either. Sadly, I have no way of finding out.
Almost 70 years on, we have not moved on at all. To me, that is quite bizarre, which is why I welcome the measures that my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham has brought forward today and that other right hon. and hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman, have worked on in the past.
I support the Bill because every measure will achieve progressive changes that are well overdue, and changes that we can all be proud of.