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 Henley Lord Henley Shadow Minister, Justice 6:00 pm, 30th April 2009

Before the Minister responds, I will say a word or two. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, that I also remember the Civil Partnership Bill on which my noble friend Lady Wilcox spoke for our party. That was a government Bill, which seemed appropriate for a matter of this sort, and we explored—although I do not think at any stage we voted on—the question of what, for reasons of simplicity, we will refer to as the case of the Burden sisters and others. I would not suggest pressing this amendment to a Division at this stage, partly because, although I am speaking from the Front Bench, I am not speaking for our party, as we do not do that on Private Members' Bills. I am responding for myself and I imagine most right-minded people in the Conservative Party would agree with me, but I have no idea what any future Conservative Government are likely to do in relation to a Bill of the sort that the noble Lord has put before us.

What I know is that most of us would think that a matter of this sort is more appropriately dealt with by a government Bill, as was the Civil Partnership Act 2004. It might be that this Government, in their dying days, if they can find nothing else to do, will bring forward such a Bill and we could have some fun discussing it.

At this stage on a Thursday evening to be discussing matters of this sort when we have another 30 or 40 amendments and we are quite obviously not going to finish the Bill seems pointless. All I can say is that I have extraordinary sympathy for the amendment; that is why I added my name to it. It is right that one should do something to help with inheritance tax or other matters relating to financial support those who are living together but are not necessarily cohabiting in the noble Lord's sense of the word. I therefore support the noble Baroness on her amendment; it may not be the right amendment to divide on, but there may be other amendments later on which we want to divide, because there are major financial implications. At this stage, we would all be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Brett, could explain to the House what those are and give the Government's view, because this is one amendment—there will be others—on which the view of the Government is very important.