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Chris Bryant: With uncle Vanya.

Jacqui Smith: With uncle Vanya—[Laughter.] They may wish to benefit from some of these rights and responsibilities. How are they to decide who forms a civil partnership? What impact would that decision have on internal family decisions and relationships? I do not believe that it could be positive.

Thirdly—perhaps we should call this the uncle Vanya question—is it only siblings, parents and children who live together in caring relationships? What about a niece who cares for an aunt or a grandson who cares for a grandfather? Why should only siblings, parents and children be singled out for the dubious honour of forming a legal relationship that does not in any case meet the needs of their joint lives?

5 pm

Fourthly, as several Members have pointed out, the financial repercussions of the new clauses and amendments render the Bill nonsensical. I am thinking of the effect on both the pension and the benefit provisions.

The fifth point relates to the introduction of new dissolution procedures for the new categories of civil partnership favoured by the hon. Members for Christchurch and for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). Under
9 Nov 2004 : Column 779
the procedure favoured by the hon. Member for Gainsborough, a dissolution order would be granted without discussion following an application to the court by one of the civil partners. The hon. Gentleman has been quite honest. He has created that new procedure to overcome a problem that we identified on Second Reading; the ridiculousness of expecting two sisters, or a mother and son, to go through a divorce-like process. Nevertheless, a process whereby dissolution is almost immediate involves its own myriad absurdities.

Were family members to form civil partnerships under the hon. Gentleman's provisions, a decision to end such a partnership could be made by one of them in the space of a few moments. There would be little time in which to think the decision through. There would be cursory notice to be given to the other party, and minimal support for the partner left behind. Leaving a family member—a civil partner—with few protections is as daft as forcing a daughter to undergo a divorce-style procedure with her mother.

Regardless of how the hon. Gentlemen may seek to include family members, their proposals create legal nonsense after legal nonsense. Let me make this as clear as I can. Family members should not be dealt with in this Bill, and torturing the Bill to make provision for them will not change the fundamental absurdity of including them.

The hon. Member for Christchurch believes that we should extend the Bill to opposite-sex cohabiting couples. We had some discussion about that on Second Reading and in Committee. The hon. Gentleman's proposals would allow both opposite-sex and same-sex couples to form civil partnerships whether or not they were related in the prohibited degrees, and would also apply to overseas relationships.

It has been made clear at several stages, both here and in the other place, that the Bill is designed to deal with disadvantages experienced by same-sex couples who cannot marry. Opposite-sex couples have no need of civil partnership, because they can marry. Some Members asked, "What if they do not want or feel able to take on the responsibilities of marriage?" The point has rightly been made that many of the provisions relating to civil partnership are very similar to those relating to civil marriage. I fail to see why someone who was unwilling to take on the responsibilities of civil marriage would want to take on the equivalent responsibilities of civil partnership.

Either we have the rights and responsibilities, the legal registration process and the dissolution—which people may well reject—or we set up what can only be described as my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle) described it, "marriage-lite". If anything were likely to undermine the brand of marriage more—if I may employ the free-marketeer language used by the hon. Member for Christchurch—it would be his proposal for the lightweight, easy-in, easy-out relationship that he appears to favour.

There are serious issues for cohabiting couples. That is why the Government are undertaking not just to advise and educate people about their legal status if they are not married, but to consider how we can ensure that the legal rights currently applying to, for instance, the protection of children in the Children Bill can be better utilised for cohabiting couples than they are now. Also,
9 Nov 2004 : Column 780
we will ask the Law Commission to review the law in this area. There is a whole range of ways in which we can and will address these issues.

The new clauses and amendments seek to change yet again the Bill's fundamental principles. We reject them, because we have a clear view as to what a civil partnership is and whom it is for. Its purpose is to enable legal recognition, respect and dignity for thousands of gay and lesbian couples in this country. A charitable interpretation of the amendments is that they are misguided. They would not improve the position for carers and other family members; arguably, they would damage those relationships, and they cannot address issues of concern to cohabiting opposite sex couples. A less charitable but perhaps more realistic assessment is that, in all their permutations, these are wrecking amendments, supported by those who cannot and will not accept the value of stable gay and lesbian relationships. Whether misguided or mischievous, they are wrong and I hope that the House will reject them.

Mr. Leigh: To sum up briefly, I am afraid that the Minister has failed the test that I set her. I gave her a fair offer. I said to her early on in this debate that if she accepted that this was a gay marriage Bill, I would withdraw my amendments. She has told us in her summing up that the Government are using civil marriage as a template for civil partnership. What on earth does that mean? It is pure sophistry, and there is one reason—and one reason only—why the Government are not being honest with this House and with the people. They do not want to affront religious sentiment by creating something called a gay marriage Bill.

The Bill will become law—we know that—but the fact is that the new clause is not a wrecking amendment, because it would not affect the Bill's substance. I shall tell the Minister what the new clause and this debate have achieved. We now know, because Baroness Scotland told us in another place, that perhaps as few as 5,000 couples—perhaps even just 5,000 people—will benefit from the Bill. Yet we also know that there are 4.5 million people living in relationships who will not be affected by it. The fact is that the Government are creating for homosexual couples a unique state of affairs. Historically, this House has said that the rights of marriage should exist only for marriage because it is a fundamental building block of society. This Government, in a dishonest way, are picking out only one section of the community and giving them unique rights outside marriage.

We have raised a banner in this debate for those 4.5 million people. Both Labour and Conservative Front Benchers attacked our new clauses and amendments on technical and other grounds; both alluded to the difficulties that would arise in respect of dissolution, even though such principles work perfectly well in France, as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) made clear, through the PACS system. But there is one difference between the positions of the two Front Benches. A Conservative Government, through a Finance Bill, would right this injustice, which is something that we should be proud of. So although this banner will go down to defeat today, in the long term we are going to win the debate.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
9 Nov 2004 : Column 781

The House divided: Ayes 74, Noes 381.

Division No. 314
[5:08 pm


Amess, David
Arbuthnot, rh James
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Beith, rh A. J.
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Butterfill, Sir John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donaldson, Jeffrey M.
Duncan Smith, rh Iain
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, rh Eric
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Grayling, Chris
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, rh John
Hague, rh William
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Hunter, Andrew
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Leigh, Edward
Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Lilley, rh Peter
MacDonald, Calum
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McNamara, Kevin
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Paterson, Owen
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Richard
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Streeter, Gary
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Dr. Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Gerald Howarth and
Miss Ann Widdecombe


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Bercow, John
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, rh David
Boateng, rh Paul
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Byrne, Liam (B'ham Hodge H)
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carmichael, Alistair
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, rh Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Duncan, Alan (Rutland)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Field, Mark (Cities of London & Westminster)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flynn, Paul (Newport W)
Follett, Barbara
Foster, rh Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Foulkes, rh George
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick (Bognor Regis)
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Healey, John
Heath, David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hendry, Charles
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hinchliffe, David
Hoban, Mark (Fareham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Hogg, rh Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan (Braintree)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jack, rh Michael
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert (Salisbury)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby)
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, rh John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Glasgow Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Meale, Alan (Mansfield)
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Morris, rh Estelle
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Oaten, Mark (Winchester)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Diana
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thurso, John
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Tyrie, Andrew
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Weir, Michael
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Iain (Hartlepool)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Joan Ryan and
Mr. Jim Murphy

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Nov 2004 : Column 784

New Clause 4

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