Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 7th March 2013.
I am happy to be guided by you, Mr Streeter, as to whether to raise such issues now or when we debate the amendments to schedule 2, although I note that they deal with the position in Northern Ireland. I want to raise issues in relation to Scotland.
I want to ask the Minister about the situation whereby the legislation in England had been passed, but the Scottish Parliament had not yet enacted for same-sex marriages in Scotland. We must therefore envisage at least a short delay whereby same-sex marriages are valid under the law of England and Wales, but not under that of Scotland. As members of the Committee will discover as we discuss matters today, and probably on Tuesday, I am now on my favourite territory—money—and I want, first, to ask about pensions.
If there were an interval between the Bill receiving Royal Assent in England and Wales and same-sex marriages becoming lawful in Scotland, for a woman married under the Bill and in receipt of a category B state pension whose husband was then recognised as a woman by a gender recognition certificate, the pension would continue. However, if the woman lived in Scotland, pending equivalent legislation to allow for same-sex marriages there, her status and access to that pension would not be covered. I appreciate that it is difficult for the Minister to comment on the Scottish Parliament’s intentions on legislating for same-sex marriage in Scotland, but I am keen to hear whether such discussions are taking place between the UK Government and the Scottish Government and how they might be going.
More speculatively, I want to ask about the opposite situation. You might rule me out of order, Mr Streeter, but I hope that you will allow me to put some questions on record. Let us suppose that our Bill fails to receive Royal Assent, but that the Scottish Parliament passes measures allowing for same-sex civil marriages in Scotland, which we expect will happen. We have debated armed forces chapels, and I would like to know whether a Scottish same-sex couple could marry in a British consulate or at a UK armed forces base.
Would a gay person usually resident in Scotland, but serving overseas as a diplomat or member of the armed forces, be considered married while serving? Would additional provisions be required under UK law to ensure that pension survivor benefits were paid to same-sex married couples in Scotland?
I appreciate that we are in the realms of speculation, and I would understand if the Minister considered the position so unclear that he might want to discuss it with me afterwards, but such worries undoubtedly show that there might be a hiatus before we have absolute uniformity across Scotland and England. I would be grateful for his assurance that such matters are being considered.
I rise to speak to amendments 41, 46 to 48 and 45.
I did say that we had things to do later. I was not envisaging that that was necessarily one of them, but there we go.
The clause is in the Bill to ensure that marriage of a same-sex couple overseas or in another part of the United Kingdom will be recognised as marriage under the laws of England and Wales. Indeed, we have had a clear commitment from the Government in Scotland that they intend to legislate for marriage of same-sex couples. Of course, they cannot legislate for recognition of those marriages in England and Wales, so that is what the clause will do. The issues on the consular cover and the bases are covered to some extent in clause 13. Now that the hon. Lady has helpfully given us notice of her concerns, we will ensure that we are ready to answer them as best we can at the appropriate moment.
Given that my knowledge is not fully extensive, my reading of the pension situation is exactly the same as the hon. Lady outlined. Bearing in mind that I am not a pensions Minister and that we refer such matters to the Department for Work and Pensions, I think that, rather than my giving someone a steer, the best thing would be to tie the matter down, because it is important to people’s livelihoods. If the hon. Lady is happy for me to do so, I shall write to her. With that assurance, I commend the clause to the Committee.