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Commons Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 17th November 2004.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 17th November 2004

My Lords, I shall give the noble Lord two answers. I was about to give one, but I shall give the other at the same time. The first answer is that it is not the business of this House to be dealing with tax matters at all—certainly not at this stage and in this way.

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, heard the second answer again and again when we were in the Moses Room. He said that the Bill was about money and nothing else. That is quite wrong and devalues the whole purpose of the Bill by a kind of obsessive materialism. I do not say that tax is not important to those who have to pay it, but it is quite wrong to devalue the Bill in that way.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa noted that same-sex partners were as capable as heterosexual spouses,

"of forming intimate, permanent, committed, monogamous, loyal and enduring relationships; of furnishing emotional and spiritual support; and of providing physical care, financial support and assistance in running the common household".

That great court also rightly observed that the message of the denial of equal rights to same-sex as to opposite-sex partners is that,

"gays and lesbians lack the inherent humanity to have their families . . . respected or protected. It serves in addition to perpetuate and reinforce existing prejudices and stereotypes".

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has spoken eloquently and compassionately from a Christian tradition of true humanity, as one would expect. In the other place, my honourable friend Alistair Carmichael—speaking as a Christian, which I cannot—said:

"To my mind, the fundamental factor in Christianity is love. The tremendous thing about Christian love is that it knows no discrimination. That is why, when Jesus told us in the New Testament to love our neighbour, he did not qualify that by saying that we need not love those of our neighbours who are black, gay, fat, thin, tall or short . . . That is why I feel passionately that it would be wrong for us to prolong, in the name of Christianity, the discrimination and disadvantage that some people suffer".—[Hansard, Commons, 9/11/04; col. 805.]

The amendments would prolong, unintentionally perhaps, the discrimination and disadvantage suffered by gay and lesbian couples. We very much hope that they will be withdrawn or, if not withdrawn, firmly rejected.