Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:23 pm on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of Lord Mawhinney Lord Mawhinney Conservative 8:23 pm, 3rd June 2013

My Lords, it an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, and I particularly want to thank him for what he said about respect. I say to my noble friend Lady Stowell how very much I appreciated not just her speech, to which I will return in a moment, but her joke and tell her that if she can maintain that tradition in her political life, particularly in a Chamber where everybody is uptight about something else, then she has a very bright future ahead of her.

My noble friend said that she respected those in the faith community who took a different view from this Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, said the same thing. I was initially warmed until I thought about it. I have been enormously privileged to spend 36 years in this building, man and boy, and I cannot count how many times I have been told I have been respected when the Minister meant that I was about to be ignored. If the Government really respected the faith community, as they say they do, then this Bill would not be here today. It was interesting that the religious freedom focus was on the 1% and not on the 99%, whereas if faith was going to be respected, the focus would have been on the 99% and not on the 1%.

My noble friend Lord Dobbs gave us a very enjoyable piece about not understanding what traditional marriage is. That got me thinking, although I have done no survey, that most of the Members of your Lordships’ House will have been married, probably most in church. Therefore we will all have acquiesced to a priest, pastor or vicar saying something to the effect that what we were going through was one man, one woman, and for this reason you leave father and mother to become one being, exclusively for life, and for procreation. Not everybody gets it right, but that is what was defined as the traditional marriage. The words are the words of Jesus, and when Jesus used them, they were the words of creation. Therefore, as a practicing Christian, I have a problem with this legislation, because I do not believe that it respects faith and the sincerely held views of those in the faith community.

It is also hard to have respect for this Bill politically. In May 2010 the Prime Minister said that there would not be any legislation. Seventeen months later he was cheered to the rafters by a Conservative Party conference when he told them that he was in favour of same-sex marriage because he was a Conservative. I will tell you something—he will not try that again in 2013. It will not happen. It is hard to have political respect and hard to have it off the back of what passed for a public consultation. Those in this House who know me well will not be surprised if I say that I was brought up on gospel stories. When I saw the public consultation I was rather irreverently reminded of Jesus turning water into wine. This Government turned half a million votes into one vote in order to get 53% in favour when actually 87% were against. Forgive me, but I cannot have respect for that sort of behaviour.

I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, something which he will never have expected me to say, and he will be encouraged to know that I am as shocked to hear myself saying it as he will be to hear me say it, for he and I go back a long way. But he was right. Major social change comes when the majority demands it. Major social and cultural change is not a product of the minority. If it is to be successful, it will be a product of the majority.

I have used up my time. For 40 years my life has been driven by Christian and Conservative convictions, and now I am led to believe that because I continue to hold those values and principles I am a swivel-eyed loon. I want to raise a flag for swivel-eyed loons, because at the very heart of our country and our party is a commitment to time-tested values and principles. It is easy to lose respect. If you lose respect you lose trust, and if you lose trust you are in big trouble—and remember, I was the party chairman in 1997, so I know whereof I speak. This Government need to focus on respect, and if they are going to do that they need to start by taking this Bill away and producing something an awful lot better.