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Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

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First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


†Derek Conway

†Battle, John (Leeds, West) (Lab)
Carswell, Mr. Douglas (Harwich) (Con)
†Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit (Gloucester) (Lab)
Dunne, Mr. Philip (Ludlow) (Con)
†Fabricant, Michael (Lichfield) (Con)
†Follett, Barbara (Stevenage) (Lab)
†Gapes, Mike (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op)
†Gove, Michael (Surrey Heath) (Con)
†Heyes, David (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab)
†Laing, Mrs. Eleanor (Epping Forest) (Con)
†Lamb, Norman (North Norfolk) (LD)
†Mole, Chris (Ipswich) (Lab)
†Munn, Meg (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry)
Stunell, Andrew (Hazel Grove) (LD)
†Ussher, Kitty (Burnley) (Lab)
Whitehead, Dr. Alan (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
Emily Commander, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

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Thursday 20 October 2005

[Derek Conway in the Chair]

Draft Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005

8.55 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Meg Munn): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005.

Let me say at the start that, in my view, the draft order is compatible with the European convention on human rights.

The Civil Partnership Act, which was passed overwhelmingly by the House when it was considered last year, provides a means for same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition for their relationships and obtain many of the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. The Act amended a wide range of primary legislation to achieve parity between spouses and civil partners. In seeking to be as comprehensive as possible the Act amended legislation dating as far back as the Declinature Act 1681, as well as some of the more obscure provisions on the statute book, such as the Slaughterhouses Act 1974, but it also contained a power in section 259 to make further consequential and supplementary amendments to primary legislation if they were required. The draft order invokes the powers under that section of the Act and makes some minor amendments to schedule 20, using the power in section 213 of the Act.

The amendments in the draft order are minor and consequential and I do not intend to speak about each one individually. Instead, I shall give the Committee a brief overview of each main section of the draft order. Of course, if hon. Members want more detail, I shall happily give it.

Part 2 of the order amends schedule 20 to the Civil Partnership Act, which specifies overseas relationships that may be treated as civil partnerships in the UK. The amendments ensure that the names of all the overseas relationships currently listed in the schedule are in the official languages of the countries in question, to ensure clarity about the recognition in the UK of these overseas relationships. There are also amendments to correct two small errors in the spelling of the names of the French and Dutch relationships. Scottish Ministers and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland have consented to the amendments.

Schedule 1 to the order amends Acts relating to registration. The amendments all relate to the circumstances in which civil partnership certificates
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can be issued, the recording and publication of information about civil partnership, and the status of civil partnership records.

Schedule 2 amends the Marriage Act 1949. The amendment will enable former civil partners, one of whom has changed gender as a result of the issue of a full gender recognition certificate, to marry in England and Wales without being delayed by the 15-day waiting period that would normally apply. The Civil Partnership Act already contains provisions that enable former spouses, one of whom has changed gender as a result of the issue of a full gender recognition certificate, to form a civil partnership in England and Wales without being delayed by the waiting period. The amendment in the draft order will mean that both situations are now dealt with.

Schedule 3 to the order amends Church legislation to insert references to “civil partner” and “surviving civil partner” where there are existing references to “spouse” and “widow or widower”. Section 259 enables a Minister of the Crown to make amendments to Church legislation, although, as the Committee will be aware, by convention the Government do not legislate for the Church of England without its consent. The provisions in the order amending Church legislation have been drafted by Church lawyers and approved by the Archbishops Council and the House of Bishops. The Church has asked that we include them in the order, which we are content to do. Hon. Members may wish to note that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester confirmed that during the debate on the draft order in the other place on 19 July. The amendments in schedule 3 do not cover Church pensions, as those will be dealt with in a separate instrument to be made under section 255 of the Act.

Schedule 4 makes minor amendments to various other Acts including the Broadcasting Act 1990, the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the Human Tissue Act 2004. The Acts are amended to include appropriate references to “civil partner”, “surviving civil partner”, “reputed civil partner” and other related terms.

Although the draft order appears to be detailed, it does no more than make consequential and supplementary amendments. I commend it to the Committee.

9 am

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): I thank the Minister for giving such a full explanation of the draft order. I had several detailed questions for her, but I am glad to say, because one so rarely has the chance to say it, that she has already answered them during her detailed description of the provisions of this important statutory instrument. That will save the Committee a considerable amount of time. I hope that her ministerial colleagues will follow her example in similar Committees.

The draft order seems long and it contains many consequential amendments. That is in the nature of the Civil Partnership Act. The Act is not merely the expression of a moral principle. It does and will affect
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people’s lives in many small ways—ways which taken separately do not seem important, but which taken together will have a significant impact on those who benefit from the Act, which I warmly welcome.

I thank the Minister again for her full explanation. I support the draft order.

9.2 am

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) (LD): It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Conway. Given how things are going, it seems likely that that pleasure will be of short duration.

I welcome the Minister to what I understand is her first Committee as Minister for Women and Equality. She described the provisions of the order extremely carefully. She referred to the contribution made by the Lord Bishop of Worcester to the Grand Committee debate on the draft order in the other place. He made the point that the purpose of the order is

    “simply to attend to the consequences of the main decisions that have already been taken.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 July 2005; Vol. 673, c. GC194.]

The Liberal Democrats supported the Civil Partnerships Act when it was being passed by Parliament. The bishop made the point that the amendments to Church legislation made by the order had all been worked on by Church lawyers working with civil servants, and they had all been agreed. My only question for the Minister is: has the spelling been checked this time?

9.3 am

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I have only a couple of brief questions. I strongly support the statutory instrument.

The Minister mentioned the Slaughterhouses Act, which is not mentioned in the statutory instrument itself. I was wondering precisely how that Act impinges on civil partnerships.

I was also wondering about the order’s scope in relation to overseas partnerships. The Minister mentioned France and Holland, but how will the legislation work in relation to non-British citizens who come to live in Britain from a country where there are no civil partnerships? How will it work in relation to British citizens who have been living together for a considerable period in a country where there are no civil partnerships and who move to the UK? Will the present time limits take into account the period in which a couple lived together abroad? In other words, to establish their relationship, will couples in which one or both partners is a British citizen, moving to the
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United Kingdom from a country where civil partnership is not recognised, have to start the clock from zero?

Having asked my questions, let me say how delighted I am that we have discussed this issue. I am also delighted that things have moved on so much in this country and in Parliament that the statutory instrument is not contentious.

9.5 am

Meg Munn: I shall deal first with the questions asked by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), who did not disappoint us this morning. He has raised some interesting issues.

I mentioned the Slaughterhouses Act 1974 simply to illustrate the legislation’s approach. As the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) said, the impact of the Civil Partnership Act is so wide because it is about evening-up the position in relation to married partners. The 1974 Act is amended to allow a civil partner to inherit the licence for a slaughterhouse from their deceased civil partner in the same way as a bereaved spouse can, in order to ensure that the operation of the slaughterhouse can continue on the death of the owner. I am sure that all slaughterhouse owners are greatly relieved.

On the hon. Gentleman’s second question, non-UK citizens are able to form civil partnerships in the United Kingdom, provided that they meet the criteria set down in the legislation. British citizens returning to the UK from countries where there is no equivalent of civil partnerships will be able to register their partnership in this country, but they will have to wait the normal 15-day period after registering their intention to do so. Their civil partnership will have been deemed to have commenced at the point when it was registered. I trust that that answers his questions.

I was overwhelmed by the kind remarks made by the hon. Members for Epping Forest and for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). I trust that all the spelling is now correct, but I am sure that the Liberal Democrat spokesman appreciates that, because the measure potentially deals with countries all over the world, we shall continue to be vigilant.

I believe that I have dealt with all the questions raised by the Committee. Once again, I commend the draft order.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005.

Committee rose at seven minutes past Nine o’clock.


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