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Baroness Noakes: Before the Minister resumes his place, I thank him for his offer to write on any cases that have not received a response. Perhaps I may rephrase one of the questions I have put to him so that, if he cannot answer it now, it can be covered in correspondence. I turn to the issue of whether the Practice Notes IR12, which are currently phrased in a particular way around "spouses" and not "civil partners", will be altered. I understand that it is compliance with the practice notes that drives the ability to gain the tax-beneficial regime for occupational pensions.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I apologise for not answering that questionI too am wearing my L-plates today. I was given an answer from the officials' Box, but I fear that I have mislaid it. I am told that the practice notes will be amended before implementation in December. I commend the orders to the Grand Committee.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: Before the noble Lord resumes his place, I thank him for being so up to speed.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the draft Civil Partnership (Pensions and Benefit Payments) (Consequential, etc. Provisions) Order 2005.(Lord Evans of Temple Guiting.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
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Lord McKenzie of Luton rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Civil Partnership (Amendments to Registration Provisions) Order 2005.
The noble Lord said: The Civil Partnership Act 2004 received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004. In line with the commitment given by the Government during the Act's passage that it would come into force across the UK on 5 December 2005, with the first civil partnerships being formed soon after, a number of pieces secondary legislation need to be put in place between now and December, so that once couples have formed their civil partnership they can be treated in a similar way to married couples.
Arguably, the Civil Partnership (Amendments to Registration Provisions) Order 2005 is one of the most important pieces of secondary legislation, as it deals with how couples will form their civil partnership in England and Wales. It amends the 2004 Act in order to assimilate, as appropriate, provisions relating to the formation of civil partnerships in England and Wales into provisions relating to civil marriage in England and Wales. The authority for the order is Sections 35 and 258(3) of the 2004 Act. To explain why that provision was included in the 2004 Act, I should provide some background.
The registration provisions in the 2004 Act were drafted to follow the proposals for civil marriage registration as set out in the 2003 consultation document entitled Civil Registration: Delivering Vital Change, published by the Office for National Statistics. It was not known, when the Civil Partnership Bill was going through Parliament, exactly what legal provisions for marriage would be in place when civil partnership was introduced. Therefore, the power to make this order was included in the 2004 Act as a contingency in case the proposals for reform of civil marriage registration could not be taken forward or were not implemented exactly as proposed in the consultation document. It was intended to make the legislative change to civil marriage legislation by means of a regulatory reform order under the order-making powers of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001.
The first of two draft orders that dealt with changes relating to the registration of births and deaths and to the organisation of the service was presented to Parliament on 22 July 2004. A second draft order dealing with marriage law reform was at that stage intended to be presented later in the 200405 Session. The committees that scrutinised the first draft order decided that it should not proceed to its second stage of scrutiny as it was an inappropriate use of the powers of the 2001 Act. Consequently, the Government announced on 1 March 2005 that they no longer proposed to present a second draft order dealing with marriage law reform.
Although civil partnership is a separate legal status distinct from marriage, the intention has always been that many of the legal processes and administrative
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systems relating to the formation of a civil partnership should be similar to those in place for civil marriage. As there is currently no prospect of any legislative changes in relation to civil marriage, it is now necessary to use the powers in Section 35 of the 2004 Act to assimilate provisions in that Act with current civil marriage law.
I shall now outline the detail of the draft order. Paragraphs 2 and 7 of the schedule to the order introduce restrictions on when and where civil partnership formations under the standard procedure may take place. Those restrictions are the same as for civil marriage in that it would be possible for a civil partnership formation to take place only between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm in a register office or an approved premise; for example, a hotel or stately home.
Paragraph 3 inserts a new section, Section 6A, into the 2004 Act to provide for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make regulations to provide for, and in connection with, the approval of premises by registration authorities for the purpose of civil partnership formation. It would be used in conjunction with the equivalent provision in the Marriages Act 1949 to provide a joint application and approval process so that premises will be approved by local authorities for the purposes of civil marriage and civil partnership formation.
Paragraph 12 amends Section 34 of the 2004 Act to allow registration authorities to collect a fee from the proposed civil partners for the attendance of a civil partnership registrar at a formation which is to take place at approved premises. Paragraph 11 makes it an offence to officiate at a civil partnership formation that purportedly takes place on premises that are not approved and outside the hours of 8am and 6pm.
Paragraph 14 provides for a civil partnership to be rendered void if it purportedly takes place on premises that are not approved and the couples are aware of that at the time.
Paragraph 4 amends Section 8 of the 2004 Act. That section currently enables the proposed civil partners, apart from those subject to immigration control, to give notice to any registration authority, following a seven-day residence in England and Wales and requires them to make a declaration to that effect when giving notice. Once amended, Section 8 will require notice to be given to the registration authority in which the proposed civil partners have had their usual residence for the preceding seven days.
Paragraph 15 amends Section 52 of the 2004 Act, to provide that it is not necessary in support of any civil partnership already formed to prove that either of the civil partners was residing in the registration authority given in the notice of proposed civil partnership.
Paragraph 19 amends Schedule 23 to take account of the changes to the residence requirement.
Paragraph 5 removes the provisions that allow a registration authority to request evidence of address. Administrative arrangements will be in place to ensure that the person attesting to the notice is satisfied as to
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a person's residence before the notice is taken. Similar arrangements are in place for marriage, and they work well.
Paragraph 6 amends Section 10 of the 2004 Act, which deals with the arrangements for the publicity of proposed civil partnerships. Currently it requires details for each notice of proposed civil partnership to be published during the 15 days after which notice has been given in a wide variety of places. However, given that Section 8, as amended, will require that notice can be given only in the area or areas where both civil partners reside, the details from their notices need be publicised in those areas alone.
Paragraph 8 of the order amends Section 20 to remove the provision relating to Northern Ireland and to alter the provisions relating to Her Majesty's forces serving outside the UK so as to relate to those born on the books of one of Her Majesty's ships. Section 20 modifies the requirement for both proposed civil partners to give notice while on a seven-day residence in a registration authority in England or Wales, to allow notice to be given where one of the proposed civil partners is resident in Scotland, Northern Ireland or a serving member of Her Majesty's forces serving overseas. The amendments in paragraph 16 to Section 150, in paragraph 17 to Section 239, and in paragraph 18 to Schedule 3 are all a consequence of the amendments to Section 20.
Paragraph 9 amends Section 22 of the 2004 Act to create an additional condition which must be met for a civil partnership to take place under the special procedure where one of the proposed civil partners is seriously ill and not expected to recover. With the introduction in the order of restrictions on the place of formation, it is necessary to be satisfied that the person who is ill cannot be moved to a place where he or she could be registered as a civil partner under the standard procedure.
Paragraph 10 amends Section 29(4) of the 2004 Act to remove the requirement that the Registrar General makes available to the public a list of civil partnership registrars.
Paragraph 13 amends Section 36 to distinguish between the regulations made by the Registrar General with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and those made solely by the Chancellor.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 creates a new legal status of civil partner which will allow same-sex couples to gain legal recognition of their relationship by forming a civil partnership. A civil partnership is a separate legal status, distinct from marriage. It has always been the intention that many of the legal processes of administrative systems relating to the formation of the civil partnership should be similar to those in place for civil marriage. Where there are small differences in process, they can be objectively justified. Finally, it is difficult to justify why those forming civil partnerships should be perceived to have an advantage over those entering into marriage or vice versa, particularly in relation to where the preliminaries to a civil partnership must be completed or where a civil partnership formation may take place. I beg to move.
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Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Civil Partnership (Amendments to Registration Provisions) Order 2005.(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)
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