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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:00 pm on 1st March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hayward Lord Hayward Conservative 1:00 pm, 1st March 2019

Yes, maybe. I would quote another senior Ulsterman who the other day said to me twice that, “It has got to change”. There was no caveat. There is an acknowledgement that the position is changing in Northern Ireland.

The problems I face with this amendment have been identified by my noble friend the Minister, who has indicated the difficulties associated with the drafting. I understand the comments of my noble friends Lord McColl and Lord Elton and I certainly hesitate to comment on any legal matter opined on by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay. I enter into such fields at great risk.

However, the amendment is quite specific. The amendment as I have tabled it, as I identified at the start of my comments, is to make reference to finding a solution at some point, but we have to say at some point that enough is enough. The reason that the timing is there is quite specifically to provide that, if over the next few months there is a different position in relation to government, I will be happy to put the issue back to a Northern Ireland Assembly. I have believed and still believe, on the basis of what the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and others have said, that that is a reasonable way through this terribly difficult position.

However, difficulties have been identified by the Minister in relation to the phraseology and structure of the amendment. I thank my noble friend for all the assistance that she and other Ministers have given me over the past few days. We have been working enormously hard, as have her officials, to find a way that does not block the Bill but achieves what I and so many other Members of this House are trying to do, but it just does not work under these circumstances. I say that with enormous regret, because we have come very close—a lot closer than when I first tabled the amendment. I am surprised at the apparent development of a breakage in the logjam, and I am heartened by that fact.

I will be looking, as will other Members of the House, for another vehicle because I believe that the Government have made it clear that they are also looking for one. The comments made by Members from the other political parties also clearly indicate that they too are looking for another vehicle. If we can find it, it is not that far hence.

In conclusion, I understand the points and I greatly respect the position. I desire that there should be an Assembly in Belfast that can take hold of this matter, but we cannot say that it will go on for ever. I have to give due notice that in the future I will be seeking a vehicle that is correctly phrased and covers the full range of legislative requirements. If we do that, I will be pushing the matter to a vote, because I believe that that is what this House would want. Having made those comments in relation to what are sadly the difficulties associated with timetabling, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Clause 4: Coroners’ investigations into still-births