Increased support for marriage and civil partnerships

Part of Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 17th June 2020.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West 6:48 pm, 17th June 2020

I am not a lawyer and I make no apology for that. We who are elected here come from all sorts of backgrounds, and whatever our background, we are equal and our voices should all be heard.

I heard what my hon. Friend Sir Robert Neill said about fashions and all of that. When I was first elected to Parliament, Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister and Lord Hailsham was the Lord Chancellor. I fully accept that the world was different then. When I and people like me compare what our party is doing now to what it did then, it is a bit of a shock. If I fast forward to when Lord Mackay of Clashfern was Lord Chancellor—a wonderful Lord Chancellor, who is very much on the ball these days, even though he is over 90—and remember the position he took in 1996, I share his worries.

As I said earlier, I do not think this debate is about saying that people should not live together, or that it is about celebrating marriage. Regardless of how my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has explained the situation, I am worried that my party is giving out a message, and when messages are put out on social media and in the newspapers, that is what people grab. I am just a little worried that, although my right hon. and learned Friend, to whom I listened carefully, has reassured us about reconciliation and all other matters, it may just make a margin. I go back to what I said, to pick up on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, that yes, people change, but at the end of it all, human beings are human beings and relationships are relationships. It is a big step to get married, and the fallout of divorce is truly shocking. The Minister, who did a wonderful job in summing up, responded to the amendments earlier, but I repeat that I would much prefer fewer people getting married, if marriage is no longer going to be fashionable, than see divorce increase.

The final thing I would say to my right hon. and learned Friend is that I think the whole House wants him to succeed with this legislation, but if he is wrong and I am right, and we see more divorces, I would be very interested to learn how the Government will deal with that situation. Obviously, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend is right about what he wants to achieve, but I have been here and listened to many Ministers state things before, and of course there is a huge gap between their saying something and learning how it impacts five, 10, 15 or 20 years later. I just hope that on this occasion I am wrong.