Clause 7 - Place of registration

Part of Civil Partnership Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 21st October 2004.

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Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry 4:00 pm, 21st October 2004

Is my hon. Friend jealous, then?

Amendment No. 15 is different, as it would alter the definition of religious premises in clause 7(2). It would remove paragraph (a), which the hon. Gentleman and others have criticised, and which states that premises would be religious premises if they are ''designed'' to be used solely or mainly for religious purposes. By leaving paragraph (b) on its own, the amendment would limit the definition of religious premises to premises that are ''in use'' solely or mainly for

religious purposes. Under that definition, it would be possible for civil partnership registrations to take place in premises that were designed for use solely or mainly for religious purposes but that were no longer used as such.

I know that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton wants to achieve some clarity in the wording. The reason for paragraph (a) was that we wanted to include those premises that may still be seen to have a recent or ongoing religious connection with a particular religion, practice or persuasion that would be incompatible with the civil, secular process of registration.

As I said, the hon. Gentleman argued on Second Reading and today that the current definition would rule out buildings that were formerly religious that now have no religious connection. He referred to various clubs in various old churches that I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting. Having listened to his representations, however, I can see some force in the point.

We would not necessarily wish to rule out a building such as a deconsecrated and disused church that has been converted into a family home—or even into a club—if it was seen as appropriate by the registration authority. However, present use may not be the only factor that we need to bear in mind. For instance, the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire spoke of—I forget the term.