Clause 170 - Grounds on which civil partnership is voidable

Part of Civil Partnership Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 am on 26th October 2004.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:15 am, 26th October 2004

Again, this has been a fascinating insight into the Government's thinking. The Minister has made an important policy announcement, namely that she does not believe that the existing Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the law relating to marriage in England, Scotland and Wales, should any longer, in the light of modern-day events, contain a provision that a marriage should be voidable on the ground that one of the parties to it has a communicable sexually transmitted disease. She is saying that although the Government are not introducing any amendments to marriage law to reflect her opinion on that at the moment they think that, contrary to everything else that has been said on equating this Bill with a marriage Bill, they should be anticipating such a change in the law on marriage and removing from this Bill any references to sexually transmitted disease as a ground for nullity.

That is rather analogous to the debate that we had earlier, prompted by my amendment on the process of registration and whether it would have to be carried out in the locality where the parties were living. The challenge that I put to the Minister is this: if it is reasonable to be thinking about changing this provision in marriage law in due course, and if the Government want to have this Bill on a par with the laws of marriage as far as possible, why is this provision not included in the Bill now so that when in future the Government decide to change marriage law they can at the same time change the law on civil partnerships? At the moment, if the amendment is not accepted, civil partnerships will be the only type of

marriage that may not be voided on the ground that one partner suffers from a sexually transmitted disease. So I will not withdraw my amendment.