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Commons Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 17th November 2004.

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Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative 5:30 pm, 17th November 2004

My Lords, I shall speak briefly, partly because my voice is about to give out.

This has been a very interesting and thoughtful debate, and I want to thank every person who has contributed. Some feel as strongly as I do about the injustice; some feel strongly—rightly—that the Bill must go through. But the object of the Bill, as the Minister said, is to right all the wrongs. Even my amendment does not do that, and nor could it. The problem with the Bill is that it creates a new wrong, and my amendment does not do that—because it would not wreck the Bill.

My amendment is new. In fact, as all noble Lords who took part in the debate in June will know—I see a lot of familiar faces—this new amendment was distilled from that amendment. That amendment was voted on with a free vote only on our side of the House; there was a three-line Whip for the Government and Liberal Democrat Members, but it was still carried in this House.

That amendment was complex and complicated. I listened and mulled over it and introduced this amendment today, at the first opportunity when the Bill came back from the Commons. It is limited to two, but it could be limited to more; I wanted simply to bring out the parallel and put some parameters on it. The provision in the amendment is limited to 12 years; someone has said that is too long, but it could be seven years—it could be anything. The reason why I chose 12 years was that it reflected the long-term commitment of those family members to each other, not just a passing fancy. Above all, my amendment proposes a voluntary scheme. People who are in a caring, sustaining, loving, co-dependent relationship with family members do not have to register, because the proposal is voluntary.

I am sorry, but we have had no commitment to, or timetable for, action. Sadly, I have absolutely no confidence that anything will happen. In order to tell the other place just how we really feel—and how I really feel—about this injustice, I wish to test the opinion of the House.