|Civil Partnership Bill [HL] - continued||House of Commons|
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Part 4 - Miscellaneous amendments
969. This part amends various pieces of primary legislation to include civil partners as appropriate.
Schedule 29 - Repeals
970. This Schedule contains repeals of the specified provisions of various Acts which have been superseded by or made redundant by the provisions of the Bill.
FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL
971. The financial effects of the Bill with respect to same-sex couples who form a civil partnership under clause 1 of the Bill are summarised in Tables 1 - 4 below. These are considered further in the section summarising the Regulatory Impact Assessment. The financial effects of the Bill with respect to couples who form a civil partnership under clause 2 of the Bill cannot be quantified, however these costs would be substantial. For example the estimated costs to pensions alone for public service pension schemes is in the region of £1 billion a year and for private sector pension schemes is in the region of £1.25 billion a year.
Table 1 - Total Annual Costs to Government (£m)
1 Costings are based on rights derived from Bereavement Benefits (from lump sum Bereavement Payment and from Bereavement Allowance paid for up to 52 weeks) and Retirement Pension (inherited rights from Additional Pension or State Second Pension). Figures are in 2003/4 prices.
Table 2 - Total Annual Costs To Public Service Employers
Table 3 - One off Administrative Costs to Government
Table 4 - Annual Costs 2 To Private Pension Defined Benefit Schemes of Private Sector Employers (Benefits accrue from date of implementation)
2 Data from the 2000 Government Actuary's Department survey of occupational pension schemes suggest that it would be reasonable to assume that 3/4 of private sector defined benefit schemes already offer benefits to same-sex couples, albeit at the trustees' discretion. Using this assumption, the annual costs for future accrual are based on the additional contributions that would need to be paid.
3 Under the high take-up scenario, the Government Actuary's Department assumes that, by 2050, 6% of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population aged around 70 who are retired with occupational pensions will be in civil partnerships (the proportions around age 70 being a key driver in determining the cost of benefits to spouses/partners on death). This figure is broadly consistent with the assumption that, overall, around 3.3% of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population aged 16 and over will be in registered civil partnerships, as compared to around 33% of the heterosexual population aged 16 and over who would be married.
EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER
972. There will be a limited effect on public service manpower. It is expected that one or two staff will be required to retain an oversight of the legislation.
973. In terms of registrars it is not thought that additional staff will be needed, since it is expected that current staffing levels could undertake the expected number of same-sex couples forming a civil partnership under clause 1 of the Bill. However it is very difficult to estimate the number of couples who would choose to form a civil partnership under clause 2 of the Bill and as such a greater number of registrars could be needed.
974. Whilst there would also be a relatively small increase in the work of the courts with respect to same-sex couples who form a civil partnership under clause 1 of the Bill, there could be a significantly larger increase in the work of the courts with respect to couples who form a civil partnership under clause 2 of the Bill, however the likely take up of these couples is unquantifiable.
SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT
975. A full regulatory impact assessment is published with the Bill and is available in the library of the House and at www.dti.gov.uk.
976. The Government's intention is that the Civil Partnership Bill will create an entirely new legal status of civil partner, giving same-sex couples in the UK the opportunity of gaining a legal status for their relationships. Couples who enter into a civil partnership will gain a package of rights and responsibilities.
977. Overall the costs identified in this RIA are justified by the social policy reasons for introducing a civil partnership scheme for same-sex couples.
978. There would be costs and substantial benefits for the individuals who chose to enter into a civil partnership.
979. The overall impact on business would be low; there would be a minor cost increase for defined-benefit occupational pension providers. It is also expected that there would be a small increase in demand for the hospitality industry.
980. There would be no direct impact on charities and voluntary organisations other than their own responsibilities as employers.
981. The greatest impact of the proposals would be on central and local Government. The total annual costs to Government are summarised in Table 1 above, excluding the costs of public service pension schemes, which are summarised in Table 2 above.
982. There would also be a number of one-off administrative costs to Government totalling approximately £20m, Table 3 above summarises these.
983. Total annual costs to private sector employers are summarised in Table 4 above. The estimated one-off administrative costs are of £7m.
EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
984. Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the Convention rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act). The statement has to be made before the Second Reading.
985. Patricia Hewitt has made the following statement under section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998:
986. The Secretary of State is unable to make a compatibility statement in relation to clause 2, Schedule 1 and related provisions, which enable civil partnerships to be formed by persons within the specified degrees of family relationship who are over 30 and have lived together for 12 years. Subject to this point, the Secretary of State considers that the remaining provisions in the Bill, which establish civil partnership for same-sex couples who are not related, comply with the Convention rights.
987. On introduction of this Bill in the House of Lords, the Government's purpose was to enable same-sex couples who form a civil partnership to access many of the legal rights and responsibilities afforded to married people, which they are currently unable to access because they are of the same sex. Clause 2, Schedule 1 and some related provisions were added by amendment at Report Stage in the House of Lords and allow an additional category of people, who cannot marry because they are close relatives, to form a civil partnership. The Government regards the addition of this category of close relatives as a factor which compromises the compatibility of the Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR").
988. The Bill establishes a new legal relationship of civil partnership. It makes provision for civil partners to have a range of rights, responsibilities and treatment under the law. Provision for civil partners is also being considered for inclusion in subordinate legislation using existing powers where appropriate. The Bill itself also contains power (at clause 249(3)) to enable amendment of primary legislation to take account of civil partners.
989. When considering its policy for this Bill as introduced in the House of Lords, the Government gave consideration to two particular issues of compatibility with Article 14 ECHR. Article 14 provides that the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the ECHR shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. On the basis that the purpose of the Bill was to establish civil partnership only for same-sex couples who are not relatives, the Government considered first, whether there might be discrimination against opposite-sex couples (who would be ineligible for the new legal relationship) and, secondly, whether there might be discrimination against same-sex couples were a lesser range of rights and responsibilities to be attached to civil partnership than to marriage.
990. The Government considered that, although there were a number of uncertainties about the application of Article 14 in these circumstances, it would be important to be able to establish objective justification. It concluded that there would be objective justification by virtue of the legitimate aims represented by the purpose of the Bill (as stated above) and its policy that marriage is the best framework for stable family relationships for opposite-sex couples. The effect of individual provisions would be justified if the Government were able to show that differences between the way that the law treated marriage and the way it treated civil partnership were justified by clear reasons. This approach has been adopted in provisions in the Bill. For example, the procedures for civil partnership registration in England and Wales are modelled on the proposed procedures for civil marriage outlined in the public consultation document "Civil Registration: Delivering Vital Change" published by the Office of National Statistics, and the procedures for dissolution, annulment and financial provision on dissolution are modelled on the arrangements for bringing a marriage to an end. Some of the differences of legal treatment have resulted, for example, from the fact that civil partnership is a new legal relationship and, unlike marriage, there is no consensus among states (examples include certain differences in relation to the choice of law to be applied when considering whether overseas relationships are to be treated as civil partnerships in the UK, and in relation to the jurisdiction of the courts in relation to the dissolution of such relationships). On this basis, the Government concluded that the provisions of the Bill which establish civil partnership for same-sex couples who are not relatives are compatible with the Convention rights. Likewise the provisions of the Bill extending to this group of civil partners legislation currently reserved to spouses is not thought of itself to raise any human rights issues.
991. Provisions of the Bill which may raise human rights points, even where applied only to civil partners who are unrelated same-sex couples, include the following -
992. The inclusion in the Bill of the additional category of civil partners who are relatives has raised different questions. Accordingly, but only as a result of the addition of this new category, the Government is not satisfied that a challenge brought under Article 14 ECHR would be unlikely to succeed. In particular, the provisions relating to this new category differentiate on the ground of family ties. The intention of the amendments is that specified close relatives are able to form a civil partnership only in certain restricted circumstances. These are where the parties are both over 30 and have lived together for 12 years. These two requirements do not apply to same-sex couples who are not relatives and who may form a civil partnership (or to opposite sex couples who may marry).
993. Moreover, the new category of civil partnership is open only to some of the people who were excluded from civil partnership in the Bill as originally drafted. Other, less close, relatives (for example step-parents and step-children) are excluded from the new category.
994. The Government is not satisfied that extending civil partnerships selectively to the specified close relatives who meet the two additional requirements can be justified (which requires that there are clear reasons and that the means of giving effect to those reasons is proportionate).
995. The Bill extends to the whole of the United Kingdom.
TERRITORIAL APPLICATION: WALES
996. The Bill does not raise any general issues concerning devolution to Wales. The Bill confers two powers on the National Assembly for Wales, in relation to matters falling within its functions: the power in clause 239(3)(c) by order to amend Schedule 22 (references to stepchildren etc.) and the power in clause 249(2) by order to make further provision in connection with civil partnership.
997. All substantive provisions of the Act are to come into force by commencement orders. These orders will be made by the Secretary of State, for those Parts of the Act applying wholly or in part to England & Wales and Northern Ireland, and by the Scottish Ministers for Part 3 and the necessary sections of Part 7 as they apply to Scotland. Part 3 contains provisions that are limited to Scotland; the Secretary of State must therefore consult with Scottish Ministers when commencing these provisions.
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