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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:06 pm on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour 6:06 pm, 3rd June 2013

I will continue in a similar vein. Regrettably, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, is not with us. I had a number of letters from him seeking to persuade me to his view, that I should vote for what I now see as his wrecking amendment to the Bill, even though the Bill had been adopted by a very sizeable majority in the elected Chamber and, unusually, on a cross-party basis and without the normal, formal whipping taking place.

It is true that there was not any mention of this legislation in any of the parties’ manifestos, but that is not necessarily unusual. After all, as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, pointed out, we recently dealt with a major piece of legislation relating to the National Health Service and social care. There was no mention of that in anybody’s manifesto, but such a major change none the less came through to us. In many respects the changes emanating from that may have an even greater effect on society at the moment than what will emanate from the legislation before us today.

I suspect also that many of the people who may be tempted to vote with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, voted for legislation—the Care Bill—that had not been in any manifesto. I hope that they will weigh those issues up in their heads before they decide whether they move forward. Also, had the House of Lords Reform Bill come up from the Commons, even though such an attempt to move towards a more democratic Chamber had been in all the parties’ manifestos, I rather suspect that there would have been a majority of noble Lords still opposing it. Overall, we should be prepared to dismiss the argument that this is undemocratic and has not gone through the proper procedures, and move on to Committee and start to examine it.

I will be brief because such magnificent speeches have been made already from different points of view, but particularly in support of the Bill. I am generally in favour of it. I have been married for nearly 47 years—sometimes on a rollercoaster, but protected from strain on the journey together mainly because I was in a marriage. I am strongly in favour if it—and in favour of it for all, regardless of gender. I believe that there should be equal treatment before the law and, even more importantly, equal treatment before God.

On the general social good side, to which the most reverend Primate referred, research shows that marriage encourages and strengthens lifelong relationships and makes for a better society—it is particularly important for this. It is better for families and for individuals. If we accept that, surely we should do everything that we can to encourage more marriage, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, argued, rather than oppose this extension of marriage, and possibly create different groupings within it, which may bring difficulties.

I accept that equal marriage will change marriage to a degree. We would be misleading ourselves if we thought that everything would be precisely the same in future. It will not—it will change. But as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, so ably demonstrated in his contribution, there have been many changes to marriage over the generations, and this is just one on the route as we move forward. Overall, it will have a positive impact on society, and it will strengthen and encourage lifelong relationships and commitments.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, listed what he believed were the ingredients for a successful marriage. I boiled down the items he listed to two major ones. Love and tolerance are the essence, as I see it, of a successful marriage—to which, from my own experience, I would add faith. I was interested to hear the most reverend Primate say at the beginning that this is not a faith issue but concerns general social good. I would argue that that is not so and that the principal churches in the country are holding back in an area where they should be moving forward. I trust that in due course they will move forward to embrace the totality of the population who come under God’s guidance and leadership.

We should have faith that we can get this Bill right—and faith, too, that the changes will make for a better society in future. As I prayed with my wife this morning, I asked what Jesus Christ would do. If he was here today, which way would he vote, and would he cast the first stone?