Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:30 pm on 1st March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector) 12:30 pm, 1st March 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, for the considered way in which he introduced his amendment. The way that he set out for the House how he has prosecuted his case was telling. In so doing, he has brought together a bunch of people with disparate agendas from very different standpoints to move together for a progressive cause that will have benefits not just for a small part of a community but much more widely. As such, it is fitting that he raised the matter in consideration of the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger.

Her Bill comprises three or four very different issues, but a thread that runs throughout it is that it looks at practices and laws—some of which have been in place for hundreds of years—assesses them in relation to our society today, which has progressed in different places at different times for different people, and finds a unifying set of laws that will enable people to move forward and make life better for individuals and our society as a whole. I invite those who observe our proceedings to listen to the contributions of all Members of the House and assess each one against that background. I say this as a Liberal Democrat. I absolutely support devolution but I do not support it as a means to abrogate human rights. That has never been what devolution is about.

I listened carefully to the words of the noble Lords, Lord Morrow and Lord McCrae, and I understand that they try to convey the complex and heartfelt views of their community. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, that if, as he appeared to do, he equates animal welfare with that of human beings, I am afraid he does not help his cause.

I thoroughly respect the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, when he says that he does not wish to jeopardise the progress of the Bill. However, with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, that I believe that her Government deserve as much respect as we can give them for trying to get the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running, in the teeth of widespread opposition from within Northern Ireland, and that we will continue to support the Government in doing that. However, there comes a time when human rights cannot be held hostage any longer. I therefore ask her to work with those of us who seek not to cherry-pick but simply to reinforce the human rights of people who are members of the United Kingdom, and to find a way through on this and other human rights issues in Northern Ireland.