Committee (1st Day)

Part of Cohabitation Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 30th April 2009.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Spokesperson for Women and Equality 6:00 pm, 30th April 2009

The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, should do justice to herself. She knows perfectly well that the reason why she is seeking to delete the paragraph on prohibited relationships is because she wishes it not to be confined to a sexual relationship. She is under no doubt that the Bill is dealing with a couple living together in a sexual relationship. If that were not clear, we could make it absolutely clear later in the passage of the Bill. She is seeking to apply it to brothers and sisters and everybody else implied by "within prohibited degrees" because she wants to do justice to the Burden sisters and to carers generally. She also wants to deal with inheritance tax. She does not want to abolish inheritance tax; she wants to treat a cohabiting couple in a non-sexual relationship in the same way as a married couple, but giving a discretion instead of a right, so that when, let us say, the man dies and the wife—or in this case the cohabitee—would normally be liable for inheritance tax, that can be postponed. I understand why she is doing that but it is wholly outside the scope of what is in intended and would kill the Bill. Since I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, is an enemy of the Bill, I suspect that is her true object, but I strongly oppose the amendment for the reasons I have just summarised. It would not be possible for any Government, including a Conservative Government, to approve a Bill of this nature, dealing with it in this way. I hope to hear from the Minister on that point.