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Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 7:

"( ) For tax purposes registered same sex couples will be treated in the way as set out in the Finance Act 2004."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Wilcox. In the light of earlier exchanges, it is clear that some of the Government's amendments are affected by what happened earlier in the day. But it is
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also the case that some may not be. If that is so, perhaps it would be convenient to move and debate those amendments. The same applies, to a greater or lesser extent, to our amendments.

I hope that Amendment No. 7 will be extremely helpful. In the light of the present circumstances, I shall not make the same speech as the one that I made in Committee; I shall seek to be as constructive as possible. However, the point I made in Committee is still relevant.

On the day the Bill was published the Inland Revenue issued a press release on the Civil Partnership Bill, child and working tax credits, child benefits and guardian allowances. It stated:

One would assume that that would mean the first Finance Bill in which it was possible to incorporate the clauses implementing what the Government have in mind with regard to taxation and civil partnerships. I have difficulty in interpreting that part of the press release in any other way.

I do not understand, therefore, why the Government have not included it in the Finance Bill which is now going through another place—which, I believe, concluded its Committee stage a day or two ago, or is in the course of concluding its Committee stage and will then go on to Report stage—as it is clearly the first available Finance Bill. No such clauses have so far been introduced. I would be grateful if the noble Baroness who is to reply will tell the House whether it is the Government's intention to fulfil the clear promise in the Inland Revenue press notice that they would introduce the tax provisions in the first available Finance Bill.

The Government may well argue that the implications are very different in the light of what has happened today. In a spirit of constructive approach to this problem, I have a solution for them. No doubt the Government have been informed—I presume that they are a joined-up government—that an amendment seeking to introduce a new Clause 6 has been tabled in the House of Commons. This relates to Clauses 279 to 281 of the Finance Bill, which deal with inheritance tax. It has been tabled for discussion either in Committee or, if there is not sufficient time, at Report.

The new clause relates to the transfer of real property on death between joint occupiers, of whatever relationship, so that the survivor is not called upon to sell the home or to fund inheritance tax instalments they may not be able to afford. It makes transfer on death an exempt transfer to the extent that it comprises a part or a whole share in a real property that has been occupied as the main residence of the transferor and the transferee throughout two years prior to the date of death, and disregards any absences during that period arising from any residential nursing care.

So far as inheritance tax is concerned, the effect of the clause would be to meet many of the concerns raised in the debate earlier today. It would have the added advantage that those receiving the benefit of
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such a clause would not in any way have to sign up to a civil partnership. It would solve that problem at a stroke, if I may put it that way.

It would be extremely helpful if the Government would indicate that they understand these arguments. The House of Lords has certainly expressed very clearly, in the context of the present Bill, what it believes ought to happen to carers and those in danger of losing their house. An acceptance of that amendment—without any of the complications involved in doing it through this Bill—would enable this. It would provide a solution to the present dilemma. I hope very much that that can be done.

Another point emerged in Committee which has not been fully appreciated, although one of the right reverend Prelates made the point earlier in the debate. Those living together would be able to form a civil partnership if they were same-sex couples, without necessarily having any sexual relationship. The noble Baroness made this clear in Committee. Quite apart from any provisions made with regard to those with a family relationship, they will in any event receive the benefits of the inheritance tax provisions.

The Government rely heavily on press releases, often in strange circumstances. It would be very helpful if they could say clearly that it is their intention to implement in the Finance Act the same tax provisions which exist for married couples. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness could clarify that point. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to whether we can achieve the same objectives that the House clearly indicated it wished to achieve without necessarily affecting the Bill, which I am anxious to see on the statute book.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I replied to this amendment on the first day of our Grand Committee proceedings, in cols. 36 to 42 of Hansard. I note, too, that this amendment refers to "registered same sex couples" being treated as married couples,

By virtue of the amendment that the House passed shortly before the short adjournment, the noble Lord will know that that definition now causes us some difficulty. I am not able to add further comments to those I made in Grand Committee. At this stage, we have to oppose the amendment, for the reasons I gave on the last occasion.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, the noble Baroness has not clarified why provisions will not be made in the first available Finance Act. My other point was that acceptance of the amendment would cover the groups we are discussing as well as a rather wider group, and that would help in both contexts. I give way.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. As I recollect, this point was perfectly clarified in Grand Committee in a dialogue with my noble friend Lord Goodhart, who, unfortunately, is not in his place. It was explained exactly
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why it would have to be the Finance Act, when that would apply and the way in which it would be done. I do not have the record in front of me, but I am fairly confident that that happened.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, my point is that an amendment is already tabled in the other place, although not by the Government, which would enable them to fulfil the implicit—indeed, the explicit—promise they made in the press release.

At all events, this amendment is sufficiently wide to deal with the Bill as it was before it was amended today and after its amendment today. Therefore, the difficulties created by accepting that amendment would be overcome, provided the Government, the Treasury and the finance legislation team were prepared to go along with this proposal, which seems the obvious way around these problems. If the noble Baroness is not prepared to say any more, it seems an extremely unhelpful way of proceeding. I intend to withdraw the amendment but will return to it at Third Reading. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness O'Cathain moved Amendment No. 8:

"CATEGORIES OF CIVIL PARTNERS OTHER THAN SAME SEX COUPLES (1) Two persons within the specified degrees of family relationship, both of whom are aged over thirty years, shall be eligible to register as civil partners provided that they have lived together for a continuous period of twelve years immediately prior to the date of registration. (2) Schedule (Specified degrees of family relationship) contains provisions for determining when two people are within the specified degrees of family relationship."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 [Formation of civil partnership by registration]:

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Eligibility]:

Baroness O'Cathain moved Amendment No. 10:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

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