|Fri 15th March 2019||
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill
Ping Pong: House of Commons
|4 interactions (920 words)|
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Mr Ben WallaceMain Page: Mr Ben Wallace (Conservative) - Wyre and Preston North)
Department Debates - View all Mr Ben Wallace's debates with the Home Office
Legislation Debates - View all Mr Ben Wallace's contributions to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019
I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the comments about the terrible events in New Zealand. I am sure everyone’s prayers and thoughts are with them.
I congratulate the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) again on introducing this important Bill, and I am grateful for the great work of our colleagues in the other place to improve it further. The Opposition are pleased to see that the duty to investigate deaths in certain circumstances will be extended to the death of newborns of any age, including those who die immediately after birth.
My sister had a baby who was stillborn, and I know at first hand just how traumatic it is. I know the huge sense of grief, loss and emptiness. People think that, because a parent did not know the baby, it is somehow different, but it is not—it is really not.
As I have previously indicated in the Chamber, the UK has a woefully high number of stillbirths for a western country. I have worked in reproductive services in the NHS, and I have seen at first hand how traumatic stillbirths can be for mothers. We need to do more to support mothers and to prevent stillbirths. We agree that stillbirths that occur before 24 weeks should be formally acknowledged and registered, but I reiterate that by no means would we want to see such a measure used to undermine abortion rights and a woman’s right to choose.
I spoke in an earlier stage of the Bill in this House, and I remain proud that civil partnerships were a landmark policy introduced by Labour. My party has fought for the equal rights of LGBTQ+ people, and it was our Civil Partnership Act 2004 that paved the way for same-sex marriage. This Bill should be the final step in creating equality in the formal recognition of relationships, but while I am pleased that we are nearly there, it is obvious that we have not quite arrived.
Times have changed since the days when Labour Members cautiously did not push to further extend civil partnerships during the passage of the 2004 Act for fear of losing it altogether. I remember we were met with much hostility, but we were on a mission to ensure some level of equality as quickly as possible, and we achieved just that. With changing times, however, must come a change in how we approach matters of equality.
We welcome the Government’s willingness on suitable amendments to draw up appropriate regulations for equal civil partnerships by the end of 2019, but I must share the concern of my colleagues in the other place that they may be using consultations to drag their feet. We cannot wait any longer. I agree on the importance of gathering information, but it should not be used as a delaying tactic. The measures in the Bill are long overdue, and we will do a disservice to all those we are meant to represent if we do not get on with the job of ensuring equality.
On the issues of marriage more generally, I echo the concern of Members in the other place about the failure to deliver equal marriage for all citizens in the UK—namely, in Northern Ireland. I also reiterate the concerns about humanist marriages. The Government held a consultation in which more than 90% of respondents were in favour of legally recognised humanist marriages. Surely there is nothing inconclusive about such a response. Further, in 2015, the Law Commission reported that failing to grant humanists the same rights as religious people in marriage was fundamentally unfair. With the Northern Irish Court of Appeal ruling in June 2018 that there is a human right to a humanist marriage, I hope that Ministers will get on with the job of ensuring that humanist marriages are also recognised in England and Wales.
It is disappointing that the Government, having joined us in passing same-sex marriages, have previously made excuses for not expanding civil partnerships to all couples. One of these was inconclusive consultations. This is precisely why we accept them hesitantly. Some voices still suggest that we abolish civil partnerships altogether. This would definitely be a step backwards. It is our job as lawmakers to give further protections to our constituents, not to claw them back. The institution of marriage is not for everyone, and it is wrong to prevent those who want their relationship recognised in the eyes of society and the law from having it so recognised. It can put them and their families in legally challenging situations.
In conclusion, we in the Opposition support the Bill, as we have done throughout its passage. We ask only that the Government act to expedite these measures, which clearly have the support of the British public.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this measure will bring security to a great many people?