My Lords, I refer to my interests as recorded in the register. I too will speak to Amendment 1. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for introducing her amendments. I am particularly concerned by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report, and its reference to the Bill conferring,
“no fewer than four Henry VIII powers”.
It also refers to the contribution made by the Minister in our previous debate.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, I fully welcome the extension of civil partnerships and will do all I can to bring that about, but I am worried. The regulations have the power to do good, but also to undo the good that has been done. Proposed new subsections (1) and (2) are absolutely right because subsection (2) contains a sunset provision—a time limit on when the Secretary of State might lay regulations. However, I am concerned about proposed new subsection (3), by which the Secretary of State may, by regulations,
“make any other provision that appears to the Secretary of State to be appropriate”.
That is far too widely drawn. If we are to go down that route, I would like a time limit on when they can be implemented. Similarly, proposed new subsection (6) says:
“Before making regulations under subsection (5), the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.
That seems wholly wrong. Instead of widening consultation it could limit it. Therefore, I have concerns about that.
I will not detain the Committee much further, but I must refer to proposed new subsection (7). On all of these I look forward to the Minister’s reassurances on the use of such regulations. Excuse me—the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, seems to have great powers of projection; her cold seems to be catching. However, he says, taking a very deep breath, the subsection says:
“The Secretary of State may, by regulations, make any provision that the Secretary of State considers appropriate in order to protect the ability to act in accordance with religious belief in relation to civil partnership”.
The making of “any provision” is far too wide. I would like to see that qualified. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, could indicate what actions would need to be taken to protect the ability to act in accordance with religious belief, since I remain to be convinced that such a subsection is necessary.