Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Warner: My Lords, we are well aware that second-hand smoking is dangerous. We understand that. We have instigated research in this area and are continuing to get work done. At the risk of becoming even more boring than normal, as I said, we are going through a process of public consultation. We will continue that process and produce a White Paper in the autumn.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, my noble friend is never boring. When he assesses the results of the consultation, will he take into account the experiences of the Republic of Ireland? It appears from surveys there that both a majority of non-smokers and a majority of smokers welcome the ban. If smokers and non-smokers are united on an issue, surely the way forward is clear?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am glad to have been able to provide my noble friend with entertainment. He is of course right. Ireland's experience has been encouraging. We know that there has been good compliance with the provision on smoke-free workplaces. The Government will take account of that experience in considering their position in this area.

Lord Boston of Faversham: My Lords, does the Minister recall that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington,
24 Jun 2004 : Column 1352
recently informed your Lordships that, ever since she had given up smoking, passive smoking had become one of her few remaining pleasures? Would the Minister do whatever he can to ensure that the noble Baroness never becomes a passive Member of your Lordships' House, because she gives us such joy and entertainment?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am sure that any therapy that would stop the noble Baroness being a major contributor to your Lordships' debates would prove to be both unfundable and unfindable. We are always glad to have her contributions.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that some of the so-called research that demonstrates attitudes towards smoking in public places and in the hospitality industry needs to be taken with a substantial pinch of salt? A lot of that research is commissioned and paid for by the tobacco industry. Is it not the case that most responsible members of the hospitality industry are looking to the Government for a lead and would welcome a nationwide ban, provided that it applied everywhere?

Lord Warner: My Lords, we are aware that there are differences of view within the hospitality industry, just as there are among the public. That is why we are going through a process of consultation. We will take all these views into account and come forward with a White Paper in the autumn.

Lord Renton: My Lords, although I always hesitate to disagree with my noble friend Lady Trumpington, would it help the Government to know that I was a regular smoker from the age of 19 to the age of 66 when I gave it up, and that that has enabled me to live nearly 30 years longer?

Lord Warner: My Lords, the noble Lord is echoing the views expressed by Sir Richard Doll, who himself was a smoker for 19 years and who, at the age of 91, is now producing his 50-year study. He has shown conclusively that it is never too late to give up.

Lord Harris of High Cross: My Lords, would the Minister acknowledge—

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am sorry, but we must move on to the next Question.

Northern Ireland: European Parliament Election Riots

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

24 Jun 2004 : Column 1353

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the rioting that took place in Londonderry in the evening of 10 June is a serious matter, and the Government condemn those who tried to undermine and disrupt the democratic process. The location of polling places is an operational matter for the Chief Electoral Officer. I understand that a decision has yet to be taken as to whether the polling places attacked will be used at future elections.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I am a little disappointed by the ambivalence of that Answer. I was hoping that the Minister would now confirm unequivocally that she disagrees with the Northern Ireland Chief Electoral Officer when he says that he may be obliged to close polling centres where rioting occurs. He said that,

What way is that to treat the electorate?

The Northern Ireland people sustained the democratic process throughout the toughest years of violence, and many of us see that attitude as unworthy of someone in the Chief Electoral Officer's position.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, may not be aware that the Chief Electoral Officer will receive a report from the Senior Presiding Officer shortly. It would be totally remiss of me or the Government to comment in advance of that report being received. In addition, the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland devised a new polling station scheme in 2003. That resulted in the number of polling stations increasing to 1,532 and the number of polling places increasing to 612.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, that report refers to specific polling stations, but a general principle applies here. Will a handful of rioting republicans be able to close down polling stations? That would be a denial of democratic rights for the overwhelming majority of people who wish to vote in those polling stations. Is not the responsibility with the Government to ensure that there is proper policing and security at every polling station?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I remind the noble Lord that no decision has yet been taken. We must wait for the report. Of course, there is a responsibility to balance the democratic right of our citizens as against the safety and security of those who work in our polling places. We need to ensure that we get that balance right. I underline the fact that no decision has been taken.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal is absolutely right to condemn the rioting in that or any other place. After the fiasco earlier this month, I hope that there are no suggestions
24 Jun 2004 : Column 1354
that we extend postal voting to Northern Ireland. If the situation is such, as it clearly was, that the police were unable to keep control, is that not a very good reason for the Government to change their mind and keep the police reserve in Northern Ireland?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, there is no evidence whatever that the police were unable to keep control. The rioting did not occur during polling hours; no one lost his opportunity to vote; and elsewhere in Northern Ireland the election passed off peacefully, with no reported incidents at any other polling place. The priorities of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Chief Constable lie with enabling the people of Northern Ireland to exercise their democratic right to vote. However, I remind noble Lords that they must ensure, too, the safety and security of all electoral staff.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said about balancing the different problems. While the Government are considering what to do when they get the report, would she not agree that it is of supreme importance to maintain the integrity of polling stations, and that we should consider shutting them down only in the most extreme circumstances?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, of course I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, with respect to the point about the integrity of polling stations. That is not an issue for us—we wholeheartedly condemn the violence. But I have to remind noble Lords that the location of polling places is an operational matter for the Chief Electoral Officer, and he will be considering that issue in the context of the report that he receives. I underline the fact that our concern with regard to protecting the democratic right of our citizens is paramount.

Civil Partnership Bill [HL]

Report received.

Clause 1 [Civil partnership]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak to Amendment No. 9, which is also tabled in the names of my noble friend Lord Lester and myself.

The position has been somewhat changed by the publication of government Amendments Nos. 18 and 21, which may provide a solution to the problem that we envisaged. However, I still wish to move Amendment No. 1 for the purpose of explaining what we are concerned about.
24 Jun 2004 : Column 1355

Civil marriage has been defined in the common law since 1866 as,

The present Bill contains no similar definition of what constitutes a relationship that is registerable as a civil partnership. This absence has led, in Committee and again in amendments tabled for the present stage, to suggestions that access to civil partnership should be widened beyond exclusively committed same-sex couples to a wider group of home sharers and close relatives. These amendments make it clear that a civil partnership involves a commitment akin to that entered into by marrying heterosexual couples, and is therefore not appropriate to be extended to the relationship of home sharers or close relatives, who—under the amendments tabled at this stage—are of different sexes.

At Grand Committee on 12 May, my noble friend Lord Lester stated our support for the principle behind the amendment on that occasion tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, which would have inserted a solemn declaration of mutual commitment between the civil partners. We supported that amendment as it reflected the position in civil marriages and emphasised the solemnity and longevity of the commitment being entered into.

In the Bill, Clause 8(4)(a) states that the partners must make a written declaration that each,

That parallels the relevant provision in the first half of the Marriage Act 1949, which states that each of the partners must make an oral declaration that,

The only difference between the two provisions is that under the present Bill the declaration has to be in writing, whereas under the Marriage Act 1949 an oral declaration is required.

The problematic area for this Bill is that it does not have the second half of the Marriage Act provision, which contains the contracting words. That is where each partner says,

or husband. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, tried to remedy this by tabling an amendment that each of the proposed civil partners should state that the civil partnership is for life. We agree that that is the correct principle. But, in fact, there are no words in the Marriage Act that state that the commitment is for life. We have therefore tabled an amendment with words that more closely reflect the contracting words used in the Marriage Act. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page