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Civil Partnership Act 2004 (International Immunities and Privileges, Companies and Adoption) Order 2005

– in the House of Lords at 7:55 pm on 12th December 2005.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, this order was laid before the House on 30 November 2005, together with the Explanatory Memorandum now required for all affirmative statutory instruments. The draft order amends the International Organisations Act 1968, the Companies Act 1985 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The International Organisations Act 1968 allows the United Kingdom to confer privileges and immunities on international organisations and individuals connected with international organisations. Orders made under Sections 1 and 2 of the International Organisations Act 1968 (Sections 1(6)(a) and 2(5)) can confer only the privileges and immunities expressly provided for in the international agreement which is being implemented. Therefore, unless an international agreement provides for privileges and immunities to be conferred on the civil partner of the primary beneficiary of the privileges and immunities, we currently do not have the vires to do so.

This draft order will amend Section 1 of the International Organisations Act 1968 to enable the United Kingdom to confer privileges and immunities on civil partners. Section 153(4)(bb) of the Companies Act 1985 provides that share ownership incentive schemes for spouses of employees and former employees of a company are not prohibited as a form of financial assistance for the purchase of shares under Section 151 of the Act. Section 743 of the Companies Act 1985 defines "employees' share scheme" for the purposes of the Act, as including share schemes for the benefit of the spouses of employees and former employees of a company. The draft order will amend Section 153(4)(bb) and Section 743 so that share incentive schemes apply equally to civil partners and spouses of employees, and former employees, of a company.

Section 79(7) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which extends to England and Wales only, was amended by Section 79(8) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, to provide for civil partnership to be included alongside the references to marriage. The draft order will further amend Section 79(7) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. This will enable the registrar general to advise an adopted person who wishes to form a civil partnership whether he and his proposed civil partner are within the prohibited degrees of relationship, as set out in Schedule 1 to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides a new legal framework that will enable recognition of same-sex relationships through the new status of civil partner and the new legal relationship of civil partnership. Civil partners will now have legally binding rights and responsibilities in relation to each other and will have acquired a new status, which will affect how they are treated by third parties, including the state. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 aims to ensure parity of treatment between married couples and civil partners, except where there is an objective justification for a difference in treatment. The amendments made in this draft order will allow the United Kingdom to ensure that parity of treatment is accorded to civil partners.

I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. This order is important and I hope and trust, given the decisions of Parliament on the status of civil partnerships, that it is non-controversial and that it will receive the full support of your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 30 November be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Triesman.)

Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Spokespersons In the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet) 8:00 pm, 12th December 2005

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. We are getting into a field that is rather novel to me and I am not sure that I would understand all the ins and outs of it. However, one of the strange anomalies is that if two old sisters living together thought they would like to adopt a child, they would not be allowed to have a civil partnership under the civil partnership law. Could one of them adopt a child, or would it count against them that they were in a relationship within the prohibited degrees in the Civil Partnership Act?

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Spokesperson in the Lords, Northern Ireland Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Police), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for bringing forward the order and assure him that these Benches are delighted to accept it.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Duke and to the noble Baroness for their support, even with the question. The question about sisters arose during the substantive discussion on civil partnerships. Your Lordships' House and the other place decided that the definition of an appropriate civil partnership was fully and frankly debated and a conclusion was reached. That conclusion did not include sisters in that state of affairs. Should a sister want to adopt a child, the question would be about the suitability of the adoption in its own right, in those circumstances, and without bearing on the civil partnership status, which would not exist between them.

It was an intriguing, perhaps even a teasing, question and I hope that I have answered it as factually as I can. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.02 to 8.30 pm.]