Clause 250 - Community obligations and civil partners

Civil Partnership Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 26th October 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry 3:00 pm, 26th October 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 114, in clause 250, page 123, line 16, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert—

'(1) Subsection (2) applies where any person, by Order in Council or regulations under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 (c.68) (general implementation of Treaties)—

(a) is making provision for the purpose of implementing, or for a purpose concerning, a Community obligation of the United Kingdom which relates to persons who are or have been parties to a marriage, or

(b) has made such provision and it has not been revoked.

(2) The appropriate person may by Order in Council or (as the case may be) by regulations make provision in relation to persons who are or have been civil partners in a civil partnership that is the same or similar to the provision referred to in subsection (1).'.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 115.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry

The clause confers a power to make domestic provision for civil partners if European Community legislation requiring implementation deals with persons who are or have been married or whose marriage is void, but is silent about persons who are or have been in a civil partnership or whose civil partnership was void.

The amendments have the effect of making possible the exercising of the power in clause 250 by any person who is exercising the power in section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, or who would have that power if section 2(2) were being used at the same time as the exercising of the power in clause 250. That includes the devolved Administrations, in circumstances in which they would have the power to use section 2(2) of the 1972 Act. The amendments

ensure that the power in clause 250 is available where implementing measures are being made under section 2(2), and also where they have already been made.

The amendments add a power to make Orders in Council alongside the existing power to make regulations, and they apply to statutory instruments made under clause 250 the same procedural provisions that apply to instruments made under section 2(2) of the 1972 Act.

I have no doubt that that is clear to members of the Committee.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I do not think that in the parity of states one could wish for anything better. It is as clear as clear can be. However, I wonder whether the Minister would like to demonstrate her knowledge of the extent of the clarity by providing a practical example that we can long savour. I am sure that most of us strongly support what is proposed, but it would be quite helpful to know what it actually means.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry

I would be delighted to explain to the Committee that the issue relates to the fact that although some EU legislation refers to a person's spouse, to date there has been little mention of registered or civil partners. That is basically the problem that we are trying to identify. We should be able to have a power that is analogous with that in section 2(2) of the 1972 Act in order to ensure that we can include civil partners. The new directive 2004/38/EC on free movement for EU citizens and their families may mark a turning point. However, there is no guarantee that future Community legislation will deal either at all, or clearly, with the position of civil partners. This power therefore enables the Government to make comparable domestic provision for civil partners where Community legislation requiring implementation deals with married persons but is silent in relation to civil partners.

For example, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has relatively recently made an Order in Council under section 2(2) of the 1972 Act—I am sure that both the Act and the order will be familiar to hon. Members—to implement Community obligations relating to maintenance. It would not want to be restricted in the future to making regulations in order to avail itself of the power in clause 250 to make comparable provisions for civil partners. In other words, we could use the power in clause 250 to make provision for civil partners that is parallel with that being made, in respect of the example on which the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) pressed me—by section 2(2) of the 1972 Act.

With that explanation, I hope that hon. Members will feel able to support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 115, in clause 250, page 123, line 27, leave out subsections (4) to (7) and insert—

'(4) ''The appropriate person'' means—

(a) if subsection (1)(a) applies, the person making the provision referred to there;

(b) if subsection (1)(b) applies, any person who would have power to make the provision referred to there if it were being made at the time of the exercise of the power under subsection (2).

(5) The following provisions apply in relation to the power conferred by subsection (2) to make an Order in Council or regulations as they apply in relation to the power conferred by section 2(2) of the 1972 Act to make an Order in Council or regulations—

(a) paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the 1972 Act (procedure etc.in relation to making of Orders in Council and regulations: general);

(b) paragraph 15(3)(c) of Schedule 8 to the Scotland Act 1998 (c.46) (modifications of paragraph 2 in relation to Scottish Ministers and to Orders in Council made on the recommendation of the First Minister);

(c) paragraph 3 of Schedule 2 to the 1972 Act (modifications of paragraph 2 in relation to Northern Ireland departments etc.)and the Statutory Rules (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 (S.I. 1979/1573 (N.I.12)) (treating the power conferred by subsection (2) as conferred by an Act passed before 1st January 1974 for the purposes of the application of that Order);

(d) section 29(3) of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (c.38) (modifications of paragraph 2 in relation to the National Assembly for Wales).'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

Clause 250, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.