Therefore the notion that one might take a slightly different view or have another perspective is not an unhelpful thing; frequently it is a very helpful thing. We should inevitably have a different perspective from the United States, not least, of course, because of our long history in many of these regions, especially the Middle East itself; but particularly because the United States is coming as the only superpower and we are coming from a very different perspective of having limited power, but substantial understanding. At least, that was the case in the past.

What kind of perspective can we bring and what kind of strategic approach can we increasingly develop? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, talked about Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia on the other. He and other noble Lords have indicated also that these are not allies; that in fact they see themselves

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very much as competitors for hegemony in the region and also, incidentally, with Turkey. If we are going to maintain relationships with both of them, perhaps we can make a useful contribution. It has been mentioned that Russia is the only member of the P5+1 that has relationships with both sides in the Syrian context and therefore has a very special role.

That is the first lesson we need to learn in our strategic approach: that it is important for us to maintain channels of communication with as many sides as possible in all these problems. It is not helpful for us to line up behind one side or the other—and not only because we frequently appear, ultimately, to pick the wrong side, although that is a good reason in itself. If you are not a real powerhouse, then the power you can bring is your capacity for relationship and communication. A great deal can be achieved if we can use the relationships we have had in the past and others that we develop as time goes on in order to play a particularly useful role. We have fallen down on that. I hope that the Minister will be able to encourage us that the increased investment of money and resources in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will help us increase our communication with all sides. That will mean taking political risks and having more political openness.

The second thing is to deepen our knowledge and understanding of many of these areas. Before I came to this area of work, a quarter of a century or so ago, I harboured the notion that our Foreign Office was far and away the most knowledgeable, understanding and sophisticated organisation of its kind anywhere in the world. However, the more I got involved and the more time passed, the more I found myself becoming rather disappointed. I found that it was increasingly inward-looking and not frightfully interested in advice, understanding or experience from others outside the service itself, including from parliamentarians, and that because of that it developed a kind of groupthink about what was actually happening that frequently was not very well informed by understanding.

I will give noble Lords an example. There has been an assumption for quite a long time—although we are not of course the only country that makes this mistake—that when engaging in countries that have conflicts going on in them, it is key to identify the social and economic drivers because those countries are rational actors, operating in their own best interest. That is simply nonsense. They are devoted actors, frequently acting in ways that are not in their best social and economic interests. The more deeply they are embroiled in conflict, the more they act not on social, economic and power values, but on what one might describe as sacred values. I do not mean religious values, but values that transcend best social and economic interest. There is lots of research in this area to show that that is not just some kind of airy-fairy notion; it can be measured and described and it affects the way we act. For example, in a situation of that kind the notion from outside would be, “Put some more money in and that will help to oil the wheels”. Not only does that not help the situation, it frequently makes it worse—first, because people react very badly when the things that are important to them are couched in monetary terms; and secondly, because frequently all you do is increase

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or even create a context of corruption, as there is a whole lot more money around than people can properly cope with.

It seems that we have a capacity to use historic understandings and relationships and a devotion to these kinds of issues that will deepen our understanding—and understanding is one of the things that this country can bring to the party. The noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench knows well how much British counsel, in its deepening of understandings, has frequently helped us to understand these things and engage in a much more constructive way.

The third element, with which I will finish, is that we need to come with a capacity to learn from others in our engagement with them. For example, in working with folks in Tunisia I was struck by the remarks of Sheikh Ghannouchi from the Muslim Brotherhood, who said that you cannot create a democracy simply by having elected structures if you do not have a culture of democracy and a culture that develops all that is necessary for liberal democracy. He is right, yet for decades we have very rapidly brought in institutions based on our experience, and are surprised when the whole thing falls to pieces.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to the Enlightenment. That was not a light that was switched on and which suddenly enlightened us, but something that took not just decades but centuries of painful emergence. Perhaps that tells us something about what is happening in that region. However, we also ought to be prepared to learn not only how it really is in some other places but how it might be better for us. There are things about the way in which we deal with our economy in which we depend entirely on monetary values. In some of those countries they are trying to develop an economics based more on community values. We cannot only contribute; we can also learn, not just in the context of this debate but in our engagement with those who are living in such terrible circumstances.

3.37 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, when contemplating the recent course of events in the Middle East: Syria’s seemingly unending agony, Egypt slipping back into a military-dominated regime, and Libya struggling to cope with post-Gaddafi chaos, it is far too easy to succumb to pessimism and to allow it to persuade us—and perhaps even to justify—the merits of detachment and inaction. One can hear from time to time in this country when discussing this region the mutterings of little Englanders who say, “Let’s just leave them to get on with it”.

I say that that is easy, but it is quite misguided, even in terms of a narrow definition of our national interest, let alone of the stake we have, as a permanent member of the Security Council and, as with the rest of Europe, as a close neighbour of the Middle East, in that region’s future stability, security and prosperity. After all, for the foreseeable future we will depend on that region for a substantial part of our energy security. It is the origin of a large proportion of the illegal immigrants flooding into Europe, and it represents an all too present threat to us of a new wave of terrorism. All that is without counting the risk of a new regional

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conflict if the Iranian nuclear problem cannot be resolved by peaceful diplomatic means. Therefore, detachment and inaction would simply be against our national interest, however unappealing and challenging engagement might seem to be.

Engagement need not—and it should not—be seen as favouring military intervention. Here are four elements of such a policy of engagement which do not involve military engagement, to which I would welcome a response from the Minister when she replies to the debate.

Expectations of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva last month were, mercifully, low, so we can afford to salute the persistence and ingenuity of the UN’s mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, to whom other noble Lords have referred, without appearing to be totally Panglossian. Brahimi has, so far, kept in his hands the slender thread—a very slender thread now—of a process that could lead to a transition to a post-Assad Syria. He has managed to bring some modest relief to the beleaguered citizens of Homs, but he needs help and much wider and stronger strategic international backing if he is to move beyond that. I agree with others who have said that the short-term priority should be to bring humanitarian relief to the citizens of many other places—to Aleppo and parts of Damascus, in particular—who are being starved into submission and bombarded with weapons whose use in crowded, inhabited areas must surely constitute a war crime.

Last week’s unanimous Security Council resolution was, of course, very welcome, although the fact that it is not mandatory must leave us with a little scepticism about how much humanitarian relief will actually get through. I would be grateful if the Minister would say what we are going to do to press the regime in particular, but also, of course, the other combatants, to let humanitarian relief through. Should we not be thinking of ways to increase the pressure on the regime if it does, indeed, block the application of that resolution? Is any thought at all being given, for example, to suspending Syria from its membership of the United Nations General Assembly, a course that was taken with South Africa and with Serbia in the past and which did a great deal to sober those regimes up and bring home to them that they were at real reputational risk, to put it mildly.

Secondly, I shall say a word about the oft-derided Middle East peace process. Perhaps because the spotlight is no longer on the principal participants in that process, the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, to which the US Secretary of State is so laudably devoting a high priority, seem marginally less hopeless than they have often appeared in the past. Perhaps it is finally dawning on the two sets of protagonists that they can no longer count on the unquestioning support of their external backers. The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been criticised for even contemplating the possibility that some Israeli settlers might find themselves living in a Palestinian state is surely a welcome first and a sign that some new thinking may be starting to percolate.

Are the Government encouraging the United States to put some proposals or ideas for a comprehensive settlement on the table? Surely, experience tells us that

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it is hard to believe that without that, any decisive progress will ever be made. It is not the two parties that are going to put proposals on the table who will break the deadlock. What thought is being given to the contribution that the European Union might make to any such settlement? Would it not also be valuable if something was said in public, including about the contribution the EU might make, and also about the sort of relationship that a post-settlement Israel could hope to have with the European Union, a relationship which is obviously extraordinarily important to Israel in the longer term?

Negotiations with Iran, to which several noble Lords have referred, for a comprehensive successor to the interim nuclear agreement reached last November are just getting under way. Can the Minister say anything about the objectives that the Government, together with their partners in the 5+1 process, will be pursuing in those negotiations? What would we, and they, be prepared to put on the table in response to an Iran that could satisfy the international community durably and verifiably as to the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme? That is, what would the end state from our side of that negotiation look like if the Iranians came to the end state that they would want to see on their side? What, too, are we doing to set out the case to those in the US Congress who are contemplating action that could shipwreck the whole process? What action are we taking to bring home to them our hope that they will stay their hand and give diplomacy a chance? We should, after all, be under no illusions. If diplomacy fails with Iran, the risk of a conflict that could draw in other regional players and those outside the region would be real, and the possible consequences of that are likely to be seriously damaging for all concerned, ourselves included.

It is obviously difficult to plot a direction of travel for our policy in the Middle East, which will clearly be prey to insecurity and instability for years and possibly decades to come. But the setbacks that have followed the Arab awakening should not, I suggest, divert us from pursuing the broad objectives of helping all the countries in the region to move towards pluralist democracy, sound market-based economies, the rule of law and respect for human rights and for religious and ethnic minorities. The route that each country takes may well involve more zig-zags than straight lines, as is the case in Egypt. We should not be too prescriptive in our responses. What we should do is to respond with firm support for those such as Tunisia, which seem to be making real progress along that path. Is that how the Government see things?

I am sure that I have overlooked much—Bahrain, Yemen, Sunni-Shia tensions and more besides—but I hope that the main message that the Government will give is that Britain is not about to turn its back on a region that needs to remain a key focus of our foreign policy.

3.47 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for tabling this Motion for debate today and for the tone that she set in her opening remarks. I refer the

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House to my non-financial interests as honorary president of UK Copts, a board member of the Aid to the Church in Need charity and a patron of various human rights groups that work in the region.

Earlier in our debate, my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond made an important and authoritative speech. I entirely agreed with his remarks about Syria and later in my remarks I will concentrate on what is happening there today. As he spoke, I reflected that I first met him in 1980 when he was our distinguished ambassador in Syria. With the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I arrived in Damascus on the very day when the war broke out between Iran and Iraq—a war that claimed some million lives. Perhaps in the context of what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has just said to the House, we should remember that.

During that visit, we met with Hafez al-Assad, Yasser Arafat, King Hussein and Anwar Sadat. In our subsequent report, we advocated a two-state approach as the only one likely to achieve sustainable peace between Israel and its neighbours. Our visit was three months after the Muslim Brotherhood had made an assassination attempt on Hafez al-Assad, and his response was then to align Syria with Iran. King Hussein declared Jordan’s support for Iraq. One week after we met Assad, he was in Moscow signing a mutual friendship treaty. Depressingly, as my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup indicated, the lines in today’s conflict are not newly drawn.

In 1980, I wrote about the repressive nature of the region’s regimes—repressive then and repressive now. Iran’s human rights record remains appalling. Saudi Arabia, referred to in this debate as our strategic ally in the region, also commits egregious violations of human rights and remains one of the deadliest exporters of global terror. Back in 1980, Syria was expelling journalists and massacring dissidents. Surely the failure to see reform, change and sustainable solutions has had these disastrous consequences, nowhere more so than in Syria.

The failure to find solutions now includes 130,000 dead with millions more driven from their homes. Nine million are said to be displaced and 3 million have fled to neighbouring countries. One hundred and fifty thousand families are deprived of their father, 2 million dwellings are destroyed, 2 million families are without shelter and 2 million students without schools. The economy is in ruins, the currency is devalued by 300% and there is growing violence, anguish, division and bitterness every day.

Sarin gas has been used against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. Barrel bombs have rained down on Aleppo. Citizens have been under siege in Homs and elsewhere, being starved to death. Just over a week ago the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, pointed to what he called “the unspeakable suffering” of the country’s children, with 10,000 children now dead in Syria. The United Nations report published last week details arbitrary detention, ill treatment, torture and horrific abuses of children by both sides including beatings with metal cables, whips and wooden and metal batons, sexual violence, including rape or threats of rape, mock executions, cigarette burns, sleep

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deprivation and solitary confinement. The report says that the opposition forces too have increasingly “engaged in such acts.”

The “Afghanisation” of Syria, with vast tracts falling under the control of dangerous jihadist groups, would hardly represent progress. We need to hear much more from the Government, and with much more clarity, of assessments of each of these various factions which are largely at war with one another. Describing them as the opposition conjures up images of a coherent and united group akin to opposition groups in parliamentary democracies. We should be very wary of using such descriptions. Take ISIS. It is said that al-Qaeda has cut its links to one of its most deadly affiliates, ISIS—the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. There are also unverified reports, as we have heard, of a possible military confrontation between Hezbollah and ISIS. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what assessment she has made of the continuing use of ISIS suicide bombers, the territory it controls in north-eastern Iraq and its use of radicalised recruits, especially from the United Kingdom? I refer to recruits such as Anil Khalil Raoufi, a British Afghan who was studying engineering at the University of Liverpool and was recently killed in fighting between rebel groups. It is not just United Kingdom students—this week I sent the Minister a report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict which talks about the radicalisation of young Indonesian men who have gone to Syria via Turkey. Their director Sidney Jones says:

“Jihadi humanitarian assistance teams now appear to be facilitating the entry of fighters as well”.

It is not just that their presence in Syria fuels fundamentalism—it is that they are being radicalised in the process, posing dangers to the countries to which they return. The problem is exacerbated by the flow of arms into Syria.

In appealing to hatred, many jihadists cite a seventh-century directive which requires Christians to convert to Islam and pay tribute to Muslim rulers or leave. It is being increasingly enforced by extreme Islamist groups, so there is a religious dimension to this conflict. Here perhaps I would disagree on the margin with the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate.

What of the 60,000 fighters of the Islamic Front? Do the Government believe that the Front is capable of producing a secular or plural Syria in which minorities such as those to which I have just referred are respected? Do they have the capacity to be part of a transitional body capable of restoring trust, an almost impossible task in the aftermath of such horror? It was the late King Hussein who offered the wise advice to pray for God’s protection against,

“those who believe that they are the sole possessors of truth.”

These sole possessors of truth represent the biggest stumbling block in finding a peaceful way forward out of this confessional morass and they also represent the biggest danger to Alawites, Druze and Christians, and the rights of women.

Almost 1,500 years ago a wandering monk called John Moschos described the eastern Mediterranean as a flowering meadow of Christianity. That meadow is today a battlefield. Before the war the Christians of Syria accounted for 4.5% of the population. What will

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it be after the war? Forty-seven churches have been closed; two priests and a nun have been murdered; two bishops, three priests and 12 nuns have been abducted. I have raised these cases with the Minister and gave her notice that I would raise them again today. A new video of the nuns has just appeared with their traditional cross removed from their habit. Do we have any news of their whereabouts and when they may be released by their jihadist captors? What news also, about the Jesuit, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, kidnapped in July 2013 after entering rebel-held territory? Opposition sources from Raqqah said that Paolo Dall’Oglio had been executed by extremist groups. Do we have any news about that?

I have been looking at first-hand accounts which Aid to the Church in Need has received from Syrian Christians. Typical is this note from Basman Kassouha, a refugee now in the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon. He says that the militias,

“stormed my house, giving me one hour to evacuate or else they will kill me ... I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost everything”.

The Maronite Bishop Elias Sleman of Laodicea says Christians have been specifically targeted in a number of places. I shall quote him because I hope, as we collect evidence of these sorts of events, none of this will ever be lost to history. He says:

“There are many events that show that Christians are targeted, such as those of Maaloula, Sadad, Hafar, Deir Atiyeh, Carah, Nabk, Kseir, Rablé, Dmaineh, Michtayeh, Hassaniyeh, Knaïeh, and some villages of the Valley of Christians, Yabroud, Aafrd, the Jazirah region such as Hassaké, Ras El-Ain Kamechleh, and many other areas. Christians are increasingly targeted in horrible and unspeakable massacres”.

The mostly Christian town of Saidnaya has experienced repeated attacks by extremists. The fourth attack on the city occurred on 19 January. The ancient site of the Convent of Our Lady on Mount Qalamoun has been frequently targeted by mortars. In Homs, a Dutch priest, Father Van der Lugt, trapped in the old city, described how residents cut off for more than a year developed chronic mental health problems following the breakdown of social order. He says, “Our city has become a lawless jungle”. I remind the noble Baroness of the situation in Sadad, where there was a terrible massacre that some have described as potential genocide. What news of the situation there?

While the quest for peace continues, perhaps the Minister will share with us what we are doing to provide direct help to these beleaguered minorities, what we are doing to stop the flow of arms into Syria, what progress has been made on the removal of the 700 tonnes of priority 1 chemicals, and what happens—as the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, asked—if the deadline for removal of chemical weapons is passed. Even an agreement suspending the flow of arms and foreign militant activists would be a success, because the ceasing of fighting is the precondition for all forms of reconciliation.

Let me conclude by pressing for a response to the question I raised on Monday with the Minister’s noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who is sitting on the Front Bench. I asked whether we are collecting meticulous information of atrocities, and whether in the Security Council we will be referring

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these matters for prosecution by the International Criminal Court. If the danger of any other country raising a veto against us were to be used as a reason for not doing that, it would bring great dishonour on this country.

3.57 pm

Lord Risby (Con): My Lords, I compliment the Minister, but perhaps I may be permitted initially to mention one Arab country, rather distant from the eastern Mediterranean, namely Algeria, which will be having a presidential election in April.

In January last year, our Prime Minister visited Algeria—the first British Prime Minister to do so—and I accompanied him as his trade envoy. After the horrors of its war of independence, that country suffered a brutal Islamist takeover more than 20 years ago. Some 150,000 people were killed amid scenes of unspeakable depravity, and this has scarred the memories of Algerians collectively. Today, quietly, we have a remarkable bilateral relationship, and a security and defence compact. A massive desire exists there to learn English and our trade has increased appreciably. Because of its energy wealth, Algeria is spending heavily on both its physical and social infrastructure, and I hope that British business will benefit from this. EU monitors will be present for the elections. It is an enormous, diverse country with extremely porous borders. We can only hope that the remarkable stability of Algeria will continue and that our partnership will flourish.

Exactly a month ago, I visited Egypt with the Conservative Middle East Council, following a great number of previous visits over the years as a governor of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. We had a wonderful opportunity to meet a cross-section of Egyptians—not, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood, but including the enthusiastic and optimistic Amr Moussa, who wrote their new constitution, and very senior generals.

I know that we can all agree that what happens in Egypt—as the mother nation of the Arab world and with its strategic importance—is hugely important. I very much welcome the positive comments of the noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath. In the past, in discussing policy with the Muslim Brotherhood, we were assured of its commitment to attract investment, to root out corruption and to protect the minorities. As a force in Egyptian politics for more than 80 years, it appeared destined to win—which, of course, is exactly what happened. Many voted for it simply to achieve change, but felt in some instances that the powerful Egyptian army would continue to act as a balance. Unfortunately, despite being democratically elected, the new Government proved a massive disappointment, to say the least, as my noble friend Lord Marlesford observed.

Tourism, which comprises up to 25% of its economy, collapsed and attacks on Copts soared. Public debt and the budget deficit grew dangerously and many parts of Sinai became no-go areas because of terrorist activity. For us and all our allies, all of this has proved difficult after the heady days of the Arab spring. The recent outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood may well drive it underground. Surely, there is a clear line to be drawn between those who commit criminal terrorist

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activity and those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and who could never be described as terrorists, but who now face potential and actual arrest and imprisonment.

Meanwhile, despite great efforts, much of Sinai remains off limits, even some tourist areas. The economy is being sustained with generous help from Saudi Arabia and most Gulf states. There will be presidential elections and then parliamentary elections, and at least the security of religious minorities has improved. We need, however, to point out clearly to our Egyptian friends during this period that ultimately, you deal with those who oppose you by securing their hearts and minds as a necessary prerequisite to long-term social, political and economic stability.

What is there new to say about Syria following the effective collapse of the Geneva discussions and the subsequent increase in the rate of slaughter? One thing is absolutely crystal clear: as things stand, President Assad is not interested in dialogue or in a transition process, and he will fight to preserve what is geographically and politically left of his power. In his terms, there is no alternative. It is worth noting that only 5% of Syria’s chemicals weaponry—a figure that I find very difficult even to believe—has been handed in thus far, despite cast-iron assurances that led to the avoidance of further actions against his regime. We need to reflect on the consequences of the breach of this highly important and high-profile agreement.

What is emerging is the splitting of the country in three ways. In the north, the Kurds are essentially and increasingly taking on administrative authority. I note in passing the surprisingly strong relationship that Turkey and Kurdistan have developed. There may be a common ethnic identity with Kurdish Syrians and those in northern Iraq, but there remain significant differences of outlook and Turkey is completely opposed to a future federal structure for Syria. By contrast, other parts of Syria are effectively being controlled by various Islamist groups imposing arbitrary justice and their view of how life should be lived. The stalemate is completed by the resilience of the rump of the Assad regime, supported by the army and, in varying degrees, by Christians, Druze, Alawites and secular Sunnis.

All of us must have pondered many times what Russia's objective is. Initially, it was declared to be the protection of the diversity and secular character of Syria. In practice, entirely the reverse has happened. President Assad, who sold himself as the protector of secularism and of the minorities, has actually brought about their destruction in many instances. The Russians have been offered continuing military, intelligence and commercial engagement, yet it seems that their position essentially remains fixed. I can only conclude that they wish to be seen to stick with their friends, and to make the contrast, fairly or unfairly, with other nations that have interests in the region.

We can applaud Secretary Kerry for his comprehensive involvement in the region. If, indeed, it is possible to come to some further understanding with Iran, echoing the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, then surely discussion must lead to its continuing and substantial support for President Assad. He needs to

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be brought into a dialogue at some point, however unpalatable that may be, in the absence of any real moves for any resolution.

I conclude on this note. One of the tragic by-products of the invasion of Iraq was the decimation of its ancient Christian community, many of whose members fled to Syria. The Christian culture is now increasingly being marginalised at best, and destroyed at worst, in the region. Some years ago, my very dear friend the Archbishop of Aleppo and I were travelling in his car. He said, “Richard, do you think we will be here in 50 years’ time?”. I replied, “Sadly, and frankly, no”, to which he responded, “I fear you are right”. Last year he was captured—a wonderful and charismatic figure, and a good friend of the Church of England. His whereabouts are unknown. I fear the worst. His personal horror has been tragically replicated with thousands of his fellow citizens.

Of course, we can try, as we do, to give generous humanitarian aid, whether on a personal level or at a collective or state level—but, quite frankly, until countries such as Russia and Iran can be persuaded to bring pressure to bear for a genuine negotiation, this terrible tragedy will continue.

4.06 pm

Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this debate. It is very timely. Earlier in the week, we had the government Statement on Syria and other issues, and we have had another statement from the Minister this morning. Of course, we are all appalled at what is happening: 5,000 civilians dying every month; thousands of refugees in surrounding countries, sometimes in awful conditions; and children wounded and dying, ill and often starving. “What can we do?”, we ask. “Can this carnage be stopped?”.

The Statement made it clear that the Government are in fact doing quite a lot. Finance and aid are being provided, and other Governments are being urged to do likewise. We have undertaken to take in some Syrian refugees. The UN Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution calling for aid, opposing terrorist violence and calling for an end to the carnage. “But what more can be done?”, we ask.

What is clear, however, is that military intervention is simply not an option. The Commons decided against it and there is no indication that other countries would agree to it. I support that entirely. I was against the intervention in Iraq from the very beginning. What is the point of getting rid of a dictator if those who take over afterwards are just as bad, if not worse? This is what has happened in Iraq, where there is still an unacceptable level of violence—and this after a military intervention resulting in thousands of deaths. Work has to be done with the international community and in particular with the EU, the US and Russia. There has been some evidence that, despite its problems in Ukraine, Russia is willing to try to bring pressure to bear on the regime in Syria to end the violence and to work towards some kind of eventual settlement.

As for Iran, this is a very difficult matter. I was most interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said about that. However, it seems clear that

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the regime has been assisting the Syrian regime in the current crisis. The new President is allegedly more moderate, but the human rights situation in the country continues to be bad, with many public executions and the oppression of women. I and a number of my parliamentary colleagues have been in contact with Iranian refugees in the UK.

There is an opposition organisation committed to democratic change led by a woman with an equality agenda. Groups of its members are in UN-protected camps in Iraq at the moment—Ashraf and Liberty—but, unfortunately, because the present Iraqi regime has extremist links with the Iranian Government, members of the camps have been subjected to harassment and there has even been violence in which some of them have been killed. A number of us protested about this at the time and we continue to do so. I know that from time to time the Government have raised objections about what is happening to these vulnerable people. People in the Ashraf and Liberty camps are entitled to protection and I hope that our Government will continue to press the Iraqi and other Governments on that issue.

I refer to this as an indication of the many complexities existing in the Middle East. People struggle for democracy and for the rights that we take for granted, particularly for women. Traditions and culture are difficult, and it takes a great deal of courage. I hope that we will continue to assist those who democratically aim to achieve change. In that respect I commend the Minister, who recently made a speech in which she urged tolerance on the two major competing groups in her own religion—the Sunni and Shia. In the current situation, including what is happening in Syria, that is very important indeed and I thank her for making those statements.

However, as I said earlier, more international activity, pressure and aid are necessary to bring an end to the dreadful carnage in Syria. An immediate ceasefire, as recommended by one noble Lord, should be tried for, to put a stop to the violence in which so many people are suffering so badly. I support what the Government have been doing, but more should be done to assist the poor people caught up in all this violence.

4.11 pm

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for initiating this very important debate and for doing so with such concise clarity. I remind the House that I am the joint chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Iran Freedom and that in a professional capacity as a lawyer I have advised on connected matters. I am aware that a lawyer stepping into a foreign policy debate may be about as welcome as the converse in your Lordships’ House. Nevertheless, I want to raise some issues on Syria, Iran and Iraq, following on from the comments just made by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, with whom I agree.

As far as Syria is concerned, as I was thinking about this debate I reflected on Syrians I have known in my life. They have been almost entirely clever, enlightened and resourceful people. Then I reflected on the experience of one of my daughters of being in the sixth form at a school in central London with a popular and very able young student of Syrian origins

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who is in fact now the wife of President Assad. So some of these issues of Syria come very close to our own experience and they are a shock to us as well. It is indeed shocking that a country full of great history and future potential should be ripped apart by the events that we observe daily. The outrages of the Assad Government are there for us all to see and wholly unjustified. However, we must be careful what we wish for.

My noble friend Lord Howell illustrated the complexity of the political situation in Syria. The rise of heretical, violent jihadism there, clearly financed and fuelled by the Government of Iran, presents a real danger if there is to be regime change in Syria at some point in the future. I also agree with what was said earlier: it is not for us or for the Americans to determine what sort of regime they have if there is a change in Syria, because our models are not necessarily suitable for them, and I agree entirely with the realism expressed earlier by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, on that subject.

It is, of course, in the end for the people of Syria to determine what Government they have, but whatever enabling we do must be aimed at increasing the prospects of sound, enduring government—not necessarily a western model—preferably secular but, above all, pluralist and with a secure and internationally compliant legal system. We all want to welcome Syria after a very long time back into the family of nations with whom we can walk together, whether in the United Nations or elsewhere.

I turn next to Iran. Of course, I support, as I suspect everybody in this House supports, the attempts to negotiate and negate the threat of Iranian nuclear ambition. I share the assessment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, on the importance of that process. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lamont that it is important that there should be business contacts, and they should be legitimate and carefully scrutinised. Equally legitimate and important are sanctions where there are appalling human rights breaches. Although other countries in the world have similar levels of breaches of human rights, few countries with the civilised traditions of Iran have such a high level of human rights breaches. We see these breaches daily. More than 600 executions have taken place in Iran in the past six months, most of them in public—hanging people from cranes. Many of them have not committed criminal offences that we would recognise. Some of them are merely political dissidents. As recently as last Wednesday we heard an announcement by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Iran that appeared to commend cutting off one hand and one foot of a prisoner. Surely those are practices that we not only condemn and abhor; they should feature in our negotiations with Iran if there is to be any genuineness in that process.

Nor should we allow the impression that President Rouhani is some kind of Iranian Gorbachev—a view that I believe is gathering credence. He is not. His personal history as head of the security apparatus over many years belies that assertion and the conduct of his Government does not support that proposition. Can the Minister assure the House that the strongest possible representations are being made to the

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Government of Iran that these human rights abuses are not acceptable and that one cannot simply look at the nuclear issue on its own? If Iran is to be accepted into the family of nations, to which I referred earlier, those human rights abuses have to be dealt with. My noble friend Lord Lamont referred to the large number of American PhDs in the Iranian Government. Even American PhDs allow one to understand that hanging people in public from cranes for non-criminal offences is simply not acceptable in a country that is negotiating with the western world.

Finally, I turn to Iraq, particularly to the residents of Camp Liberty, and formerly of Camp Ashraf, as mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. There are Iranian dissidents in refuge in Camp Liberty in Iraq. They are persecuted daily. This week they have been refused access by officials of the Iraqi Government to medically prescribed therapy. In the past they have been refused access to communications; they have been refused access to water; they have had their defensive walls removed from around their premises; there have been more than 150 assassinations there; and they have been unprotected by the Iraqi Government. One well understands the difficulty that the Iraqi Government face in relation to terrorism in that country, but it is absolutely clear that Prime Minister al-Maliki for this purpose is a client of the Government and regime of Iran. That is why the residents of Camp Liberty are not being protected.

They do not want to stay there; they wish to go elsewhere. I have been to Albania to meet some of them because Albania has allowed some 200 former Camp Ashraf residents to settle there. I have heard genuine and moving testimonies from individuals. Most of them are middle-class business and professional people, not firebrand revolutionaries. Quite a few of them are old. They need to be treated on a humanitarian basis. We are not treating them that way at the moment, nor are many other countries. It is ironic that Albania is doing so; it is one of those Governments that are treated with a good deal of disdain by the Governments of the European Union. The residents have a complete lack of protection. They are supposedly being looked after, to an extent, by the United Nations, but United Nations officials—like Macavity—are never there when critical events occur. As a result, a humanitarian scandal has erupted.

I urge the Minister to declare very clearly to this House this afternoon that the United Kingdom is in the forefront of international efforts to save the lives of the residents of Camp Liberty and to give them a safe haven elsewhere. I believe that Prime Minister Maliki does not wish to remain a client of the Government of Iran but he needs an awful lot of help if he is to be able to separate himself from the wishes of that Government. If the Iranian regime has any interest in persuading us of its earnest in meeting our concerns over nuclear and other issues, surely the small question, in quantum terms, of the residents of Camp Liberty is one on which they could demonstrate their earnest at no risk to themselves and gain the respect of the rest of the world for their change and their humanitarian approach. I ask our Government to use every effort to ensure that those unfortunate people are protected.

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4.21 pm

Lord Luce (CB): My Lords, I would like to follow those noble Lords who have spoken in rather more strategic terms about the Middle East. As we have been reminded, it is nearly 100 years since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire—an empire that gave considerable autonomy to Arab people in return for loyalty and for the payment of the inevitable taxes. However, in the past 100 years, the Arab world has undergone dramatic changes. If you look at the history of the Arabs over centuries, I think that today they are at their lowest ebb compared to some of the great empires that they have had in the past.

As we have discussed so much today, Syria has become the cockpit of regional tensions, exacerbating many of the undercurrents of tension that already existed in the Middle East. The civil war there is just another human tragedy of stark proportions. Currently, as I think we have all agreed, there is a military stalemate after three years of conflict. It is interesting to observe that since 1945 the average length of civil wars has been 10 years. In the Lebanon, of course, it was something like 15 years. In terms of deaths, there were 120,000 deaths in that time in the Lebanon. That has already been overtaken in Syria. Then we have the country fragmentation in Syria broadly into Sunni, Alawites and Kurds—who, of course, constitute something of a challenge to the boundaries since there are some 25 million of them in the region.

The human tragedy of the refugees, of the internal displacements and of the suffering of minorities such as the Christians, has provided a serious challenge to the neighbouring states of Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. Beyond that, we see Syria being used as a proxy battleground by Iran and Saudi Arabia, vying for regional hegemony. We have all talked about Sunni-Shia tensions and conflict. One is reminded of some of the Christian wars that we saw in Europe, and of the infinite capacity of religions to divide within themselves.

I digress for a moment to praise the Minister for the work that she is doing in the Middle East, in this country and elsewhere to promote religious tolerance. She comes from a very special background, a Sunni-Shia background, and her stressing that violent sectarianism is anti-Islamic is an extremely important message to get across. I very much admire the speech that she made in Muscat a few days ago, when she spoke about these issues in a country where there is strong tolerance between Ibadis, Sunnis and Shias, who work in a communal sense.

Then we have the pattern of influence of the international community changing all the time. The West is more reluctant to intervene, often for very good reason. Russia is still playing the great power game, wanting to give America a bloody nose in the Middle East. However, at the same time, there is an emerging common view between us of opposition to the destruction of the jihadis. We see China’s role emerging not only in the Middle East but the world, but reluctant to play much of a part.

Amid all the chaos in Syria and the Middle East, we have fertile ground for exploitation by extremists, and a very divided opposition in Syria itself. Alongside that, the situation in Iraq is getting extremely serious.

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Meanwhile, on the Arab-Israel issue, we still live in hope that negotiations will be successful, because without doubt it has been a poison in the Middle East for a long time.

The broader picture is the after-effects of the volcanic eruption of the so-called Arab spring—the eternal striving for better systems of accountability and governance, for less corruption and more freedom. There is the great preponderance of young people learning about the world through social media, longing for a better education and for jobs and for an end to stagnating economies. We see continuous, endless struggle.

How should we in Britain and the British Government shape up to deal with all that? I agree with my noble friend Lord Hannay that there should be continuing British engagement, but not of an imperial kind. Instead, it should be of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, talked about: dialogue with friends and exchanging views about our common experiences. In Syria, I think that we can take great pride in what we have done on the humanitarian side: £600 million is a substantial sum of money. I fully support what we are doing. I hope—I should like the Minister to comment on this—that, notwithstanding the stalemate, we are thinking multilaterally about what will happen in a post-conflict situation in Syria, where we must learn the lessons of Iraq.

Thirdly, in relation to Syria, I very much hope that we will do what we can to help to strengthen Jordan. Jordan has a critical role to play. If there is a settlement and a two-state solution, the role of Jordan will be pivotal. Notwithstanding all the other problems that it faces, including that of refugees, we have to do whatever we can to support our long-standing friends there.

I come to the question of Iran and Saudi Arabia; my noble and gallant friend Lord Stirrup referred to this strongly and powerfully. There has been a long history of mistrust between the West—certainly Britain—and Iran. The nuclear discussion going on now provides us with an opportunity to reduce that mistrust on both sides through the negotiating process. Of course, we all hope for an agreement that is as watertight as possible. I hope that some of the ideas that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, produced on that will be taken on board by the Government to create confidence to move to a comprehensive agreement.

Beyond that, the question is whether Iran intends to be constructive or destructive as a power in the Middle East. Its support for Assad in Syria, and for Hezbollah, and the recent evidence of the use of Hezbollah explosives in Bahrain, seriously undermines any hope of stability. Kissinger once said that Iran would have to decide whether it is a nation or a cause. The key to progress after a nuclear agreement—in the hope that there will be a nuclear agreement—will be that Iran will not only take a more constructive line on Syria, but will enter into dialogue with Saudi Arabia.

I believe that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran is key to progress in the Middle East in the longer term. Our experience in Saudi Arabia and our long history of knowledge of the Saudi Arabians will be important here. I hope that we will be engaging with them strongly, not only on Iran and Syria but

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also in the Gulf. The British Government have pursued a very positive policy of developing good personal relationships with the leaders in the Gulf, through the Gulf Initiative. They are constructively helping maintain the momentum towards reform in the fields of corruption, an independent judiciary, representative institutions, and systems of governance and accountability—systems that take into account the history, culture and traditions of those countries.

I want to end particularly with Bahrain. It is a litmus test of wider regional tensions. It has a Shia majority with a Sunni Government. I welcome the renewal of dialogue by the Crown Prince with the opposition and civic society, under the King’s instructions. I welcome the progress in implementing the proposals of the independent commission led by Mr Bassiouni, for example in setting up an independent ombudsman to investigate police misconduct and setting up an independent national institute for human rights to investigate human rights abuses, with activists serving on the board of the institute. We are often very quick to condemn and very slow to praise, and I hope that we will give credit to those in the Gulf who are continuing the work for pragmatic reform.

We must never lose sight of the goal of removing the long-standing sore in the Middle East—Israel and Palestine—with a two-state solution. We hope and pray that there is a prospect of that happening. Positive progress in either that area or in Iran on the nuclear issue—or in both—would give new hope to the people of the Middle East. That is what the long-suffering people of the Middle East most deserve.

4.33 pm

Baroness Afshar (CB): I add my thanks to the noble Baroness for initiating this debate and apologise for not being here at the beginning of her speech. I would like to add a comment, however, on her speech. The textual teaching of the Koran prevents any kind of cruelty or violence against any religion of the book and any religion that preceded Islam. Therefore, those who in the name of Islam kill others are going against the textual teaching of the Koran and, thus, are committing a sin.

I also thank and support the insightful views of the noble Lords, Lord Lamont and Lord Wright, who expressed the importance of understanding the situation in Iran. I support the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for discussions and peace process negotiations.

As a person born and raised in Iran who, of course, does not support the Government but continues to keep a very close eye on their politics, I suggest that any kind of aggressive cutback on medication, on support, on food—any tightening of sanctions—would be entirely counterproductive. Already, Iranians are suffering. People are dying on the street; people are unable to feed their own children. I know of quite well-off middle-class women who have to spend their day queuing for one loaf of bread to feed their families. The situation of hunger in Iran is terrible and the lack of medicine is resulting in deaths across the board.

We really need to think about treating the Iranians more humanely if we expect them to come to negotiations and deal with the West more humanely. It seems that

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so long as the Iranians are seen as pariahs and treated as the enemy of all the West, they will only go on using their influence—which in the rest of the Middle East is quite considerable, as has been stated. Although they do not have an effective army, they have a very effective voice, and if they are seen as the victim of the West, it is very likely that much of the Middle East will see policies and politics in terms of what the Iranians see.

I might say that I know for a fact that the Iranian people do not wish to have nuclear power. I get told again and again that that is the last thing that they want. However, what they actually need is the possibility of using something as a negotiating tool. What do they have to use? It is only because they started the nuclear process that the West wants to talk to them. The British, who are such masters of diplomacy, should be at the very forefront of the talking—the jaw-jaw and not the war-war. I am sure that the Minister will see to that.

4.36 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, Her Majesty’s Opposition welcome this debate very much indeed. The Government are to be thanked for finding time for it. The Minister should be congratulated on her tour d’horizon at the start of this debate. She has been widely praised, and rightly so, for the work that she does in this field both in this House and outside. I am happy to join in with that praise. We agree with much that the noble Baroness has said on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and when we come to those matters on which we do not agree, a bit later in my speech, I am sure that she will take note. This is not just a debate to hear Her Majesty’s Government’s views or even those of the Opposition but to learn and hear from all Members of this House, wherever they sit. We are particularly blessed with expertise and what I would call good sense in this field of foreign affairs. We have had further proof of that, if it was necessary, in abundance today.

I give a special word of thanks to those responsible in this case for the note and the briefing pack from our own Library in the House of Lords. I do not know how many noble Lords have had the opportunity of reading it. Even if your Lordships do not have it now, it is well worth picking up from the Library as it is well written and clear. It has been of considerable help to me and, I suspect, to other noble Lords who have had the chance to see it. My noble friend Lord Soley mentioned it.

The tragedy that continues in Syria is of course the background to this debate and it reaches over to many countries throughout the Middle East, whether Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq or Turkey. That is obviously because of the huge influx of refugees escaping a barbaric civil war, while others are brought into this conflict by proxy, interest or design. Syria is centre stage in this debate. Noble Lords have rightly talked about other Middle Eastern countries in their speeches, so I will make a couple of comments on these before concentrating, in what I hope will be a fairly brief speech, on the Syrian question. Of course, in some ways these distinctions are somewhat artificial as what happens in one country—in this case particularly Syria—affects so many others.

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On Israel and Palestine, all I have to say from the Front Bench is that we fully back Secretary of State John Kerry in his search for a negotiated settlement. We know that the Government back him too. We particularly admire his persistence and patience. The provocative actions from all sides are much to be regretted. We urge Her Majesty’s Government to continue to give solid support, as we are sure they will, to the Kerry initiative.

As far as Egypt is concerned, recent events are perhaps a salutary warning to many in the West and on all sides of the political debate—and here the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, made the point—who took a rather overoptimistic view of the Arab spring when it first emerged. As my noble friend Lady Symons made clear—her experience and knowledge of Egypt is obviously very great, as is that of other noble Lords who have spoken—there are a vast number of young people in Egypt and its huge, almost overwhelming, birth rate compared with other countries makes us concerned for this potentially great country.

It was refreshing, therefore, in what could be described as a somewhat gloomy debate, to hear the speeches of my noble friend Lord Stone of Blackheath, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, whose recent visits to Egypt have clearly inspired them. My noble friend Lord Stone of Blackheath has been moved to set up an all-party parliamentary group, which we welcome, and his optimistic comments came as some relief today.

Iran has, quite rightly, been the subject of much discussion this afternoon. It is a potentially great country, one that I visited many times as a student as my parents were working for the British Council there at the time. I am afraid that was pre rather than post-revolution, but it was a country one cannot forget, even all these years later.

We support the joint plan of action agreed in November, the terms of which came into force in January. It is our belief that Iran really demands a debate on its own. There are obviously very important views on all sides. We very much welcome the recent visit undertaken by British parliamentarians, including the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, who spoke very interestingly about it this afternoon. We welcome the joint plan and congratulate those who were responsible for it. However, as other noble Lords have warned, it is very early days and we must wait to see what happens next. Any steps that sensibly, safely and with due regard to human rights—as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made particularly clear—bring Iran in from the cold are widely to be supported.

The good news we heard about Tunisia and the constitution that has been agreed is another gleam of light in a pretty gloomy view.

I turn now to Syria, where we have been told that the scale of suffering is almost beyond belief. Nearly three years of civil strife have resulted in a sort of dystopian scenario where brutality follows brutality. I am reminded of a book called The Road—I do not know how many noble Lords know of this work by the great American writer Cormac McCarthy—which was made into a film about a post-nuclear scene. I have not been to Syria, and those who have can tell me whether I am wrong or right, but I get the impression

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that the kind of scene that you see in

The Road

is very similar to what must be true about large parts of that country.

The right reverend Prelate used the word “myriad”. I use it, too. Myriad opponents to the awful regime of President Assad, some moderate, some decidedly not moderate, fight not only the regime but themselves too. Those who suffer most are, as always when we are dealing with civil wars, the ordinary people of Syria. The number of those who have died, fled to neighbouring countries or been displaced in their own country is very hard to take in. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and other noble Lords for giving us those figures. The effect on neighbouring countries, with huge numbers of refugees continuing to arrive and with economic, political and social problems of their own, must never be underrated by us. In this nightmare world, we must acknowledge with thanks the amazing work done by the United Nations and the many who work for that organisation, including, of course, our noble friend Lady Amos, in her important role. We are proud of what she does.

We the international community cannot shirk our responsibility for this tragedy. Those of us in the West who have such advantages have a special responsibility to do everything we can to alleviate the suffering and to bring the conflict to an end. Our history, as we have been reminded in this debate, and common humanity insist that we do. Of course, we welcome the unanimously backed Security Council Resolution 2139.

The British Government have been generous in the aid they have provided, both inside and outside Syria. It compares well with other countries. Rather later than we should perhaps, this country has accepted its responsibility to accept more refugees. That is very much to be welcomed, but will the Minister tell us how many refugees are now going to be accepted from Syria? What is the latest estimate?

However, the brutal truth is that the UN appeal for Syria remains chronically underfunded. It is no good the UK being generous when other countries are not. Time is against us. The world needs another kick up the backside on this. That is why we are asking Her Majesty’s Government to push hard and urgently for another donors’ conference to be organised. As week follows week, humanitarian needs grow and grow. What possible reason can there be for not instigating a new donors’ conference urgently?

The Government have also been right to back the Geneva II process. Congratulations and great thanks are due to Ambassador Brahimi and others for the incredible efforts that have been made in that regard. Although the new rounds of talks met with really no success at all earlier this month, no one believed that progress would have instant results. Indeed, the agreement made in the first round, on evacuating innocent citizens, was potentially of some significance, and it needs to be referred to. However, our belief on this side is that it is essential to set up, as a matter of some urgency, a contact group made up of countries that have a stake and interest in the war in Syria. At the moment, a proxy war is taking place. Surely if we want to see a realistic chance of a ceasefire—and all noble Lords

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want to see that happen—it is vital to bring together the United States, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries. Many noble Lords spoke of this. Many noble Lords also urged that Russia should be more a part of any talks that take place with regard to the Syrian war. Many suggested that Iran also should play a part. Saudi Arabia, obviously on the other side, should do so, too. I noticed particularly that the Foreign Secretary said in another place on Monday that he was not opposed in principle to such a group. To us it seems a sensible and timely action. Britain would be particularly well placed to instigate such a move and we think that it should happen soon. Without it the future looks even bleaker than it does with it.

As the Minister knows, we agree with the Government on many aspects of Syria and the Middle East. Where we disagree, we can engage in civilised debate and argument, as we have done today in this House. We do so without the risk of being killed, displaced or becoming refugees or lost in our own country. We are fortunate beyond belief in this country compared with those in Syria and in other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. That on its own—never mind history or politics—puts a special responsibility on us and we cannot turn away.

4.51 pm

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the debate has progressed faster than we anticipated and I have about an hour and a half left. I assure you that I will not be speaking for an hour and a half; I will try to keep my remarks to just under 20 minutes.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed with such authority to today’s debate, especially for the great expertise of my noble friend Lord Howell, the robust alternative critique presented by the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, and the moving contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Williams. To my noble friend Lord Alderdice I say that the phrase “I agree with Nick” has served me well on a number of occasions in recent years.

The Middle East continues to be a region in which we see huge conflict, but one where the Government’s long-term vision, in common with Governments and people across the region, is to support a secure, prosperous future, with political stability based on open, inclusive political systems and economies. Since February 2011, citizens of the region have faced deep and difficult political, economic and security challenges. History teaches us that the path to the stable, open and inclusive societies that people across the Middle East have demanded will be neither quick nor easy. However, in the long term stability and security will come, not despite, but because of the political and economic participation of ordinary people across the region.

We have heard today about where progress has been made, for example in Tunisia and Algeria, which my noble friend Lord Risby referred to, and in Bahrain, which was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Noon and Lord Luce.

The momentous changes we have seen across the Middle East and north Africa are at their core about the people of the region demanding more open societies and greater political freedom, underpinned by vibrant

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economies offering opportunity to all. They are about establishing a more stable and prosperous MENA region based on the building blocks of democracy. It is both a reflection of our values and in line with our interests to support long-term, positive reform. However, in the short term our priority must be—and will continue to be—to relieve the appalling and unnecessary humanitarian suffering. Nowhere do we see that more than in Syria.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, asked what further action could be taken in relation to Resolution 2139 and humanitarian access. That resolution has an operational paragraph, paragraph 17, which lays out an intent to take further action in the case of non-compliance. The UN Security Council will keep monitoring through reporting to the Secretary-General every 30 days. That will be the first mechanism if things do not go as planned.

My noble friend Lord Palmer and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield asked about the human suffering in Syria. As I outlined much of this in my opening remarks, more than 9.3 million people are being displaced. Noble Lords have referred to the UK’s total funding, which now stands at £600 million, which is three times the size of its response to any other humanitarian crisis. Our support has reached hundreds of thousands of people across 14 areas of Syria and in countries around the region: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. UK aid supports food and water for millions of people, as well as medical consultations. However, the right reverend Prelate was right to ask how we can move from this towards a ceasefire. That is why we were so strongly supportive of the Geneva II process. As I said at this Dispatch Box before, that was the only show in town—the only process where we could have made some progress. Noble Lords heard in my opening remarks the concerns that we had about the lack of progress that was made because of the regime’s action.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, asked what we are doing multilaterally about long-term thinking on Syria. Work with the national coalition has, among other things, focused on that. We are clear that our focus is primarily on ending violence, but the Foreign Secretary announced earlier this week our intention to provide a contribution to a Syria reconstruction fund, which is run by Germany, and we are focusing on healthcare, water supply and food security. On Jordan, we are already providing humanitarian assistance, which is practical assistance both for political and economic reform there, but also support for the local population. That will also help the long-term building in the region.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, asked about the destruction of chemical weapons. Of course delays are affecting the timetable for the removal of chemical weapons, which we now think places the 30 June deadline at risk. It is the regime’s responsibility to comply with the UN Security Council resolution by eliminating all its chemical weapons, materiel and equipment in the first half of 2014. The resolution imposes binding and enforceable obligations on the regime to comply, with the threat of action under Chapter VI of the UN charter if it does not. It also stipulates that those responsible for any use of chemical

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weapons must be held accountable. So that is a binding and enforceable obligation with which the Syrian regime has to comply, and there will be further action if those deadlines are not met. It is interesting to note that there has been some concern about whether the regime has the capacity to remove that material, but OPCW has said that Syria has sufficient materiel and equipment to remove the chemical weapons quickly.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, asked about Russia’s influence in Syria. Of course Russia has a major role to play as a principal backer of Assad. It is vital that Russia uses its influence to press the Syrian regime, initially on humanitarian access and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, but also to hold Syria to the chemical weapons deadlines.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, spoke about the opposition in Syria and asked about our assessment of the ISIL. It is clear that it is not part of a legitimate opposition and that it is a dangerous terrorist operation, which of course we do not support. However, we must not accept the regime’s narrative that the only choice is between a dictator and extremists. We support the national coalition, which has a democratic, pluralist vision of what could be in Syria. If we do not support the moderates, they will be squeezed out by extremist elements on both sides.

My noble friend Lord Lamont and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, talked about Iran’s role in the Geneva process. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lamont for his time and expertise and for visiting Tehran in January. Those visits and the expertise that they bring are incredibly useful to us at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We are open to discussing Syria with Iran, as the Foreign Secretary made clear in January of this year and also last year, and the PM raised that in a call with President Rouhani in November of last year. However, we have always said that the whole point of the Geneva process is to move towards a transitional Government. That is part of the Geneva I communiqué, which Iran has not at this stage endorsed. That was the problem with having it take part in the Geneva II discussions.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, asked about the Iranian nuclear programme and said that it should be a top priority. It is. We are committed to securing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme. A successful resolution to that matter could positively change Iran’s relations with the Middle East and, indeed, the rest of the world, including Saudi Arabia, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield.

I note the concern of my noble friend Lord Lamont in relation to sanctions and I value his great expertise in this matter, but I fear that the Government agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, that the bulk of international sanctions must remain in place and must be enforced while we negotiate. I am, of course, aware separately of the difficulties that the Iranian embassy in London has in securing a bank account. The UK and Iranian non-resident chargés have been working on this specific issue and we will continue to assist where we can while, of course, respecting that some of these are commercial decisions for banks.

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My noble friend Lord Carlile wanted me to assure the House that we continue to raise the issue of human rights in Iran. I can give him that assurance. The human rights situation in Iran remains dire and we are determined to hold the Government to account. We frequently release statements condemning the human rights situation in Iran and have led action by the international community on this. We have designated more than 80 Iranians responsible for human rights violations under EU sanctions and we have helped to establish a UN special rapporteur on Iran and human rights and lobbied for the adoption of a human rights resolution on Iran.

The noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, asked how we are normalising our relationship with Iran. We have improved our relationship with Iran on a step-by-step, reciprocal basis. Non-resident chargés were appointed last November. That was an important step and on the 20th of this month, we formally ended the protecting powers arrangements because we now feel that we can move to the next stage and have direct arrangements. Progress has been made but no decision has been made at this stage about the reopening of an embassy. We need to be confident that when that decision is made the staff will be safe and the embassy can function normally.

The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, and my noble friend Lord Carlile spoke about Camp Ashraf. We condemn the killings at Camp Ashraf in Iraq on 1 September. We have called on the Government of Iraq to investigate this deplorable attack and to bring those responsible to justice. The UN has also called on the Government of Iraq to undertake a criminal investigation and to make their findings public.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I am grateful to the Minister and I promise that I will not interrupt her for long, but I suggest that putting the onus on the Iraqis to investigate the killings at Camp Ashraf is a bit like putting a fox into a chicken house to count the chickens.

Baroness Warsi: I note the noble Lord’s comments.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked about the Middle East peace process. We are co-ordinating closely with Secretary Kerry and his team to support their work and to ensure that the negotiations are successful. The Foreign Secretary discussed this with Secretary Kerry earlier this week. We are working closely with EU partners to provide meaningful practical support to both sides in taking the bold steps that are needed. We were a strong advocate for the December EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions setting out an unprecedented package of support for both parties in the event of a final status agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Wright, also spoke about the Middle East peace process and specifically about settlements. We do not recognise the Occupied Territories, including the settlements, as part of Israel and we are advising British businesses to bear that in mind when considering their investments and activities in the region. This is, of course, a voluntary guide and it is ultimately a decision for individuals or companies whether to

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operate in settlements or the Occupied Territories, but the British Government would neither encourage nor offer support to such activity.

The noble Lord, Lord Stone, referred to his work on Egypt. I thank him for the interesting account of his delegation’s trip to Egypt and I welcome the creation of an APPG on Egypt, which is incredibly timely. We continue to believe that the best way to create stability and prosperity in Egypt is through a genuinely inclusive political process open to all political groups. We want the people of Egypt to have a successful democratic transition and we will support that, including through trade, investment, education, the British Council and tourism, but we have always made clear to the Egyptian authorities the concerns we have, especially concerns about development.

The noble Lord, Lord Soley, commented on the situation in Libya, where the Libyan Government realise the challenges and see security as one of their top priorities. The UK is providing a range of support to help the Libyan authorities improve security and stability, including training up to 2,000 Libyan Armed Forces personnel in basic infantry skills.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lord Risby, referred to the religious dimension, including the complex Sunni-Shia sectarian dimension of conflict in the region, an issue that I spoke about in Oman only last week. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, the noble Lord, Lord Luce, and the Front Bench opposite for their warm words of support. In that speech, when laying out a potential approach, I talked about, among other things, reclaiming the spirit of Islam, much in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, talked about today. In that, I also talked about reclaiming the language that has tragically been hijacked by extremists, including the word jihad, which I would urge the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, to use as the word was intended. It is a word describing self-evaluation and a fight against ignorance, intolerance and injustice—the very enlightenment to which my noble friend referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, specifically spoke about Syrian Christians and the challenges of what I described in Georgetown last year as an exodus of Christians from the Middle East, taking away the pluralistic nature which makes those nations successful. I used a term that noble Lords may not find very politically correct when I said that persecution was ultimately “bad for business”. You leave behind communities, which is bad for all communities that remain there. It is therefore in everybody’s interests for those communities to remain pluralistic. Ultimately, it is the birthplace of the religion. Christianity did not come to London or New York—that is the birthplace of the religion, and it is where we must support and fight for it to flourish.

I had a meeting with the Greek Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios III, when he visited, and we discussed the plight of Christians and the humanitarian crisis. Tragically, minorities are just another group that suffer at the time when all humanity appears to have broken down in that part of the world. We discussed the specific challenges that the Christian community has there.

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The experience of states across the world has been that lasting stability is based on consent and legitimacy, not repression. It is a message that the Government take with us in all diplomatic activities throughout the Middle East, and indeed across the world. We will continue to do so.

The debate was so extensive that I am sure that I have missed many questions raised by noble Lords. If I have, I am sure that noble Lords will write to me and I will certainly respond in detail. Again, I thank noble Lords for taking part in this well attended and wide-ranging debate. I commend the Motion to the House.

Motion agreed.

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) Order 2014

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2014

Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Registration of Shared Buildings) Regulations 2014

Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Use of Armed Forces’ Chapels) Regulations 2014

Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014

Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014

Motions to Approve

5.07 pm

Moved by Baroness Northover

That the draft orders and regulations laid before the House on 23 and 24 January be approved.

Relevant documents: 20th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 29th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I beg to move the six Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc. Both this House and the other place overwhelmingly supported the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. The Bill was fully debated in detail, passed through all its parliamentary stages with overwhelming support in both Houses, and received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013. The passage of the Act was a historic moment, delivering, at last, full legal equality for lesbians and gay men in England and Wales. As such, it is a

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hallmark of the fair and inclusive society that we all wish to see. The Act, quite simply, extends the important institution of marriage to same sex couples, ending the unfairness which has prevented people from marrying simply because of their sexual orientation.

Noble Lords will recall that in our debates during the Act’s passage, some were worried that it would change the nature of marriage in some way. However, we made it clear then, and I am happy to make it clear again now, that the Act does not affect marriage as it currently exists between opposite-sex couples in any way at all. Nor does it affect the understanding of marriage held by many religious organisations and individuals that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. The Government entirely accept and respect that view of marriage, and the quadruple lock of religious protections in the Act ensures that no religious organisation or representative can be compelled in any way to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple against their beliefs.

The Act does not change marriage but simply opens it up to more couples; that is the basis on which it secured wide agreement on all Benches in your Lordships’ House. The statutory instruments we are considering today simply give effect to the matters we have already agreed in the Act. These six affirmative instruments, along with the six negative instruments laid on 23 January and 13 February, are concerned only with the practical implementation of the Act’s provisions that will make marriage a reality for same-sex couples in England and Wales.

I will briefly explain each of the affirmative instruments in turn. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) Order 2014 does three main things. First, in Schedule 1, it makes amendments to primary legislation that are consequential on the coming into force of the 2013 Act, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. These amendments give effect to the central aim of the 2013 Act—that the existing institution of marriage should be extended to same-sex couples. That general position is achieved, in the main, through provisions in the Act which we refer to as the gloss—Section 11(1) and (2) and Schedule 3—which provide that references to marriage in existing law will be read as including the marriage of a same-sex couple, and a reference to a married person is to be read as including a reference to a person married to someone of the same sex.

However, in some cases there is also a need to make a consequential change to the law to ensure that the correct result is achieved so that the marriage of same-sex couples has the same effect as the marriage of opposite-sex couples. This is the case where there are historical gender-based differences and we need to equalise provision between married opposite-sex couples in order to treat all married people in the same way. In some cases we are also correcting minor omissions made when the Civil Partnership Act was brought into force.

We have always been clear that there are exceptions to this general approach, where for practical reasons married same-sex couples will be treated differently from married opposite-sex couples. In these cases we

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therefore need to make provision that is contrary to the gloss in order to achieve the right result, so the second thing that this order does this is to make contrary provision in Schedule 2. This approach is needed where the Government’s policy is that married same-sex couples should be treated in the same way as civil partners rather than married opposite-sex couples, and where historical gender-specific provisions are to be maintained. For example, we agreed this approach during the passage of the Act in relation to pension survivor benefits—although noble Lords will recall that we also committed to reviewing that position, and I will return to that review later. Schedule 3 to the order then makes textual amendments to existing provisions where this is needed to make the effect of the law on different couples completely clear.

Thirdly and finally, the order provides for marriages of same-sex couples under the law of England and Wales to be treated as civil partnerships in Scotland. The Scottish Ministers have given their consent to this provision, which is necessary pending the extension of marriage to same-sex couples under Scottish law.

5.15 pm

I turn now to the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Registration of Shared Buildings) Regulations 2014. Noble Lords will remember that we agreed the approach to the registration for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages of formally shared religious buildings—that is, those with agreements under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969—in Schedule 1 to the Act. These regulations apply the agreed approach in the case of religious buildings that are informally shared. They deal with the processes for the registration and cancelling of the registration of informally shared religious buildings, and what happens when the identity of a sharing church changes.

The regulations will enable marriages of same-sex couples to take place in informally shared places of worship according to religious rites other than those of the Church of England and Church of Wales, but only if the governing authorities of all the qualifying sharing religious organisations have given consent to the building being registered for the marriages of same-sex couples. Sharing religious organisations can give consent to the use of the premises for marriages of same-sex couples by other sharers while still refusing to conduct such marriages themselves, and they can withhold their consent to the registration of the building if they wish, in which case no marriages of same-sex couples can take place there. The regulations also deal with the process to be followed where a religious building that is registered for the marriage of same-sex couples becomes shared, or where a shared religious building ceases to be shared.

I turn now to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Jurisdiction and Recognition of Judgments) Regulations 2014. These regulations do two things. First, they set out when a court in England and Wales will have jurisdiction in proceedings for divorce, judicial separation or annulment for married same-sex couples. Secondly, they set out when a court in England and Wales will recognise a judgment of a court of another EU member state in respect of such

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proceedings. These arrangements mirror those already in place for marriages of opposite-sex couples and civil partnerships.

I turn now to the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Use of Armed Forces’ Chapels) Regulations 2014, which set out procedures for the Secretary of State to register and cancel the registration of Armed Forces’ chapels for marriage of same-sex couples. The regulations provide that, before applying to the Registrar General to register a military chapel for marriage of same-sex couples, the Secretary of State must consult the relevant governing authority of any religious organisation that makes significant use of the chapel. When considering whether and when to make an application, the Secretary of State must take into account various matters, including a same-sex couple who wish to have their marriage solemnised in the chapel and the rights of the religious organisations that use the chapel. The regulations also ensure that Armed Forces’ chapels consecrated by the Church of England under ecclesiastical law will not be registered for marriages of same-sex couples.

The Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014 allows marriage overseas where one of the parties is a member of the Armed Forces, a civilian subject to service discipline or their child, but in respect of marriage of same-sex couples only where the host country or territory has given consent in writing. The couple will need to nominate the part of the United Kingdom according to whose law they wish to marry. It allows religious rites to be used, but religious ceremonies for same-sex couples can be conducted only if the relevant religious organisation has opted in and the authorised person is willing to be present. The order does not apply to Northern Ireland. Opposite-sex Armed Forces couples wishing to marry overseas under the law of Northern Ireland will continue to use the existing procedures under the Foreign Marriage Act 1892.

Finally, I turn to the Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014. Like the previous order, it replaces the existing regime for marriage of opposite-sex couples in overseas consulates with one which is extended to include same-sex couples, and it includes a requirement for the couple to nominate the relevant part of the UK under whose law they wish to be married. The reason for this approach is that, until the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill is implemented, marriage of same-sex couples will be lawful only in England and Wales.

I will touch briefly on some issues that are not covered in these instruments but in which I know that some noble Lords are particularly interested. First, some have asked when couples who are in civil partnerships will be able to convert their civil partnership into marriage. Our priority has always been to ensure that same-sex couples who are not currently in a civil partnership and who have been waiting to marry in order to formalise their relationship are able to do so at the earliest possible opportunity. I am delighted that we are now doing that earlier than we anticipated, so that the first same-sex weddings will be able to take place on 29 March. We understand that some couples in a civil partnership want to be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage quickly, and we are working hard to ensure that they can do so as soon as possible. We aim to do this before the end of 2014.

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Similarly, we are working hard to implement the provisions in the Act which, for the first time, will allow people to change their legal gender without having to end their marriage, where both spouses want the marriage to continue. Again, we aim to do this before the end the year.

The Act also requires the Government to undertake three reviews, and the House might find it helpful to know about the progress on these. First, Section 14 of the Act requires us to review whether non-religious belief organisations, such as humanists, should be able to conduct legally valid marriages of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. As part of the review, we will work with interested belief organisations, including the British Humanist Association, and will carry out a full public consultation on the issues involved. We expect to publish a report setting out the outcome of the review by the end of 2014, as required by the Act.

Secondly, Section 15 of the Act requires a review of the operation and future of civil partnerships in England and Wales. As part of the review, we launched a public consultation on 23 January and will consider responses to the consultation alongside evidence about marriage of same-sex couples, civil partnership and possible options for the future.

As I mentioned earlier, the Government are also undertaking a review to explore what the costs and other effects would be of making changes to reduce or eliminate differences in survivor benefits in occupational pensions, as required by Section 16 of the Act. I can assure the House that the review is currently under way, and is looking at the differences in survivor benefits between various different groups. We are also taking views from key stakeholders. We will publish a report on the review before 1 July this year, as required by the Act. I commend these statutory instruments to the House.

Lord Alli (Lab): My Lords, I welcome this series of statutory instruments introduced by the Government today. It is really hard, sitting on these Benches, to try to find a form of words with which to congratulate the Government when they do something well, but not congratulate them too much because they are on the Benches opposite. However, I am going to forgo convention because I think they have done a great job to bring forward so quickly the regulations to allow same-sex marriages. The way in which they have been tackling the reviews has been admirable too. It is probably the last time I will say that, so I would savour the moment.

This is a time for great pride in this House and in the role that it played in ensuring safe passage of same-sex marriages on to the statute book. As I have spoken to people up and down the country, I have detected—and I do not know whether other noble Lords have done so—a real sea change in their attitude towards this House. We did a good thing in passing this legislation and we should be proud of what we did, and of the way and manner in which we did it.

I pay tribute to Ben Summerskill, the former chief executive of Stonewall, who has left the organisation. I know that many noble Lords on all sides of the House would want to thank him for his work, not just on this Bill, but on others as well. In doing so, I

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welcome Ruth to her post as acting chief executive. I hope that she will not come and visit us as many times as Ben did, but she is certainly welcome.

I am sure that Ben would say to me that it is not right to let this moment pass without reflecting on some of the not so positive changes in the law that have taken place internationally over the past seven months. New repressive and brutal laws were enacted in Uganda only this week. Every one of us would be in prison for seven years for the speeches that we make today or for the speeches that we made during the passage of the same-sex marriage Bill, and there would be life imprisonment for many of us who are gay. Publishing the names of gay activists in the national newspaper as a way of inciting violence and endangering the lives of those brave men and women is disgusting and we should all condemn it. Also, for the gay men and women in India, the High Court’s decision to recriminalise homosexuality must be a real blow. We should think, too, of the gay men and women in Russia who are being violently victimised by new laws. We have seen much progress in this country, as is plain from today and from the speed at which the Government have moved to implement the Act, but in Africa, the Middle East and many other countries in the Commonwealth, there is still a lot to do.

I also hope that the Minister will work with the Foreign Office in continuing to press for the human rights of all citizens around the world. Can she now look at recognising same-sex marriage for couples who have been legally married under state law in the United States? We will not recognise it in this country as we think that it is a federal, not a state, matter. It would send out a signal to our American cousins that change needs to take place in America too. Now that we have same-sex marriage in this country, we can recognise same-sex marriage which has taken place legally and has been endorsed by those states in America.

The Minister may think that this is straying a little off the path but I think that it would also be useful if the Foreign Office put in the Library a consolidated note of all the things it is doing in terms of promoting gay and lesbian rights. I know that it is working hard in many cases but it is quite difficult to find all the different strands of work in a single place.

Finally, I thank the Government not just for implementing this legislation but for the sense of joy they have brought in doing so. It will be a lasting legacy of this Parliament, uniting all the Benches and all our parties, and proving what we all know—that this House is a place for good, it works and, more often than the other place might suggest, it is on the side of the people.

5.30 pm

Lord Jenkin of Roding (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for her very careful explanation of the long and complex orders and regulations before us. She made them extremely clear. When the Conservative Party put in its manifesto for the 2010 election a commitment to legislate for same-sex marriages, I wonder whether those who wrote that paragraph of the manifesto had the remotest conception of what would be involved in the way of changing legislation. The three schedules to the main order that

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my noble friend described, covering nearly 24 pages of typescript and literally hundreds of amendments to existing legislation and orders, speaks volumes about what had to be done and what has been done very successfully, as far as I can make out, by the department’s advisers and lawyers.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Alli, I rejoice that the first same-sex marriages will be happening sooner than had originally been planned. I have accepted the invitation of the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Reverend Mark Oakley, to a celebration of the first same-sex marriages at the end of this month and I am sure that I am not alone in looking forward to it. That is a remarkable development and I know that many others in the Church will recognise this as a move in the right direction.

I want to raise one specific matter which my noble friend mentioned towards the end of her speech and that is the desire of couples who are in civil partnerships to convert their civil partnerships to marriages as soon as possible. I tabled a Question on this a while ago and the reply from my noble friend Lord Gardiner of Kimble appeared in a list of Written Answers yesterday. Apparently, he was not satisfied with the first draft of the answer that he was given and he told me that it would be a while before we got it but I now have it. However, it raises a number of questions of which I have given my noble friend notice. It says that the Government hope to achieve this by the end of this year. That is nine months away and one has to ask why. It says that these aspects of the Act,

“involve developing and implementing completely new procedures and processes”.—[

Official Report

, 26/02/14; col.



Can the Minister explain to the House what those completely new procedures and processes are? After all, a civil partnership is half way there already. Compared with what has had to be done in these orders to make the rest of the law applicable to same-sex marriages, one would have thought at first sight that it would not have been too difficult to have done this, if not at the same time, at least no more than a few weeks or a month or two afterwards. Why so long? What are these procedures? Will there have to be further orders? Is it going to be necessary for Parliament to approve the orders?

The point has been made to me that some people in civil partnerships are elderly and are anxious that they should convert to marriages with the legal consequences of that as soon as possible. If one dies before that has been done, then the handling of property and so on is different from what it would be if they were married. To be told that they may have to wait nine months or more before this can be done has caused a good deal of dismay and I hope that my noble friend will be able to give a better explanation than my noble friend Lord Gardiner gave at the end of his reply in the Hansard published this morning.

Apart from that I very much echo what the noble Lord, Lord Alli, has said. I think the Government have done a magnificent job on this and I take some pride that in this House, in contrast with the other place, on every single Division a majority of Conservatives supported the Bill. We may be on average 20 to 25 years

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older than they are at the other end and yet we achieved that. As the noble Lord, Lord Alli, said, that is a considerable tribute to the House of Lords.

Baroness Barker (LD): My Lords, there is an African proverb which says:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

We are coming to the end of a very long legislative journey. It began in 2002 when my noble friend Lord Lester drafted the first civil partnership legislation, which was withdrawn but was then swiftly taken up and adopted by the then Labour Government, for which they deserve enormous credit. It continued with my right honourable friend in another place, Nick Clegg, in early 2010 stating his position that there should be equal marriage. He was closely and swiftly followed by David Cameron, who deserves enormous credit. My redoubtable colleague, Lynne Featherstone, notwithstanding the fact that this was not in the coalition agreement, announced in 2011 that there would be a consultation on equal marriage and civil partnership. It is as a result of all that work that we have arrived at the situation we are in now.

It was a joyous day on 15 July 2013 when, in the sunshine, we were all serenaded by the London Gay Men’s Chorus outside, as they celebrated with us several weeks and months of very hard work by Members from all parts of your Lordships’ House. We were steered through that process so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell of Beeston, in a truly remarkable piece of ministerial work. It was a momentous occasion. Since last summer it has been my privilege to meet people all over the UK. I have been a Member of this House since 1999 and I cannot remember so many members of the public going out of their way to express their thanks to this House for doing its job in passing this legislation. They know the true import of what it will mean in their communities.

There has been one very recent discordant note, from the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, issued on 15 February. It was a somewhat dispiriting announcement, and we have to accept that for our colleagues who are members of the Church of England and the Church in Wales, their road to equal treatment will be longer and tougher than they had perhaps expected. I say to the bishops that the default position in the legislation throughout our discussions was that those religions that did not wish to recognise or to celebrate same-sex marriage would not have to do so. At every point that was conceded. Throughout our debates on the subject, those of us who believe the church’s position to be wrong held our peace, and we have still not had that discussion.

However, I hope that the bishops will understand and respect that even in these statutory instruments that same spirit of recognition of their position remains, particularly in the recognition of military chapels and on shared premises. I hope that the individual members of churches who support same-sex marriages can look forward to a point when they can have a dialogue with those members who do not yet formally support them. The noble Lord, Lord Alli is right. The legislation for those of us who have the great luck to live in this

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country means a tremendous amount. All over the world our friends and colleagues who are gay face the most horrible oppression and intimidation. The church, as with other organisations, has a role to play in making those people’s lives safe.

On 29 March, England and Wales will take one step further to becoming countries that afford dignity and respect to all citizens, including those of us who are gay. I am delighted that Scotland will be coming along fairly swiftly afterwards. I thank all noble Lords and Members of another place who joined the person who today I can call my noble friend Lord Alli, me and the rest of us on what has been a truly wonderful journey.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I, too, want to associate myself with the remarks of noble Lords this afternoon, particularly those of my noble friend Lord Alli. I, too, congratulate Stonewall on all its hard work across all parties in ensuring that this final act of equality is achieved. In particular, I agree with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Alli about Ben Summerskill, who has done a tremendous job over recent times, and, of course, I welcome Ruth Hunt as the acting director of Stonewall.

This country is now a beacon of equality. I am proud of the record of the previous Government in achieving many changes, not least bringing in an equal age of consent, civil partnerships and the end of discrimination; I am incredibly proud of all those things. I am proud, too, of this Government and of our Prime Minister, who was determined to see this final Act of equality through. Therefore, I want to associate myself with all noble Lords who have spoken today. This country is indeed a beacon of equality but, as noble Lords have said, it brings into sharp focus the difference with those countries where homosexuality is still illegal—indeed, not only illegal but a criminal act punishable, in some cases, by death; some of us have seen the horrific films that have been circulated.

I am also proud of the tremendous cross-party support. Today is one of those rare occasions where I want to break with convention and refer to noble Lords opposite as my noble friends, because they have become friends in this fine battle. Politics is often personal, and I declare an interest in that I have been in a civil partnership since the very first day it was possible. My husband and I were incredibly proud when we were able to do that. We had planned the ceremony for 12 months previously but, ironically, the delays in this House delayed our ability to set the date that we wanted, which was on my birthday. As it happened, my birthday fell on the day when civil partnerships came into force, so we were able to do that. However, my husband has said to me in the strongest possible terms, “Why can’t we get married? It has been in the papers, it has been announced and our families are ringing us up. My niece and nephew spoke to me only last week and asked why we can’t get married”. At one point, my husband suggested—my noble friend Lord Alli knows this—“Let’s get divorced so that we can get married”; I managed to put him off. Some friends of ours who had been in a civil partnership—again, my noble friend Lord Alli knows these people—were so confident and so proud that they proposed to each other on Christmas Day, invited

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all their friends from New York to come over in March and even booked the hotel. Then they discovered that they would not be able to marry because they were in a civil partnership.

I do not want to be churlish because it is fantastic news that the date has been brought forward. It is fantastic that we will see the first same-sex couples getting married so soon. However, I must associate my remarks with those of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. Why does it take so long to organise allowing people to convert their civil partnerships into marriage? I am pleased to see the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, who did such a fantastic job in pushing the Bill through Parliament, here. She knows that I raised at the very first stage the question of when we would be able to have a ceremony to convert our civil partnerships into marriages. She gave me those assurances and I know that the assurances are there. Will the Minister, in her response, please do more than say, “We hope by the end of the year”? Will she set a date as quickly as possible? It does not matter when that date is. We are like other people who get married in that it takes a bit of planning—in my husband’s case, a lot of planning—and we need to book things. So will the Minister please set the date, so that I can set the date?

5.45 pm

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: It would seem odd to me if I were to just sit here silently after people, particularly the noble Baroness, have said what they have. First, I am sure that no one in the House of Bishops would have approached with anything other than irony the fact that the statement was issued on 14 February. Secondly, I entirely associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Alli, about Uganda and other countries where such repressive measures have been taken. I am fairly certain that no one in the House of Bishops would want to say anything different.

The next thing to say is that, without any sense of disloyalty to the college to which I belong, there was a variety of opinion on how we should approach the problem. It is a problem because we are dealing with a very long tradition, set out in the Book of Common Prayer. For a church that has a tradition that now goes back 450 years in what it has been saying about marriage, to move in a significantly different direction is a significant shift. There will be a variety of opinions, but that is an issue.

The second issue refers to what the noble Lord, Lord Alli, was touching on. We are part of a worldwide communion. One very difficult thing for a worldwide communion is somehow to balance being sensitive to different cultural values in different places. By different cultural values, I do not mean repressive measures being passed in Acts by Governments, which none of us would support. That puts us in a particularly difficult position, because all the time we are trying to ensure that we listen to what people here are saying and what people’s consciences here are saying but, at the same time, to stay with the communion.

Back in the 1988 Lambeth conference, when there was a fairly heated debate about polygamy in some African countries, the western provinces in the Anglican

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communion worked very hard, saying, “We understand that you are in a different place from where we are, and we are not going to take a hard line on this at the moment”. We have not yet got to that position in the communion. For me to stay other than loyal to the House of Bishops’ statement would be more than irresponsible, because I know that one real concern is that it is not just about us and the Church of England, it is also about the Anglican communion. That is a key issue, and may not have been made quite as clear as it might have been when the statement was issued.

As your Lordships will see, I am not speaking from a prepared text. I think that there is universal concern in the Church of England that we move away from any sense of homophobia and do all that we can to affirm people in different sorts of relationships, but, at the moment, that is where the house finds itself, because it had to respect the consciences of people bringing very different opinions.

I hope that that makes it clear to the House that that was not being done in an unthinking, hardhearted or insensitive way—it was certainly not intended to be—but your Lordships will be very pleased to hear that every Bishop, as far as I know, who is a Member of the House received an envelope last week with a note reading, “With compliments for your pastoral sensitivity”, and the envelope included a humbug.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (Con): My Lords, as one who was blessed with more than 50 years of a very happy marriage, I think it is appropriate just to pause for a moment to give tribute to marriage itself. I am so very happy for my many gay friends that they will be able to participate in something which is one of the great blessings to human beings. I join in the congratulations to my noble friend and her colleagues on having brought this legislation forward, and on speeding up the timetable and the processes. I know how very much it means to so many of my very good friends. I know that at least one of the couples who are very good friends of mine, and who are in a civil partnership, like the noble Lord, are eagerly waiting for the point at which it will be possible to translate that into a marriage.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet (Lab): My Lords, I did not intend to speak, but I am one of the Members of this House who was bridesmaid to my noble friend Lord Collins. I have forgotten how many years ago. All of us are now Peers in this House. All of us dressed up beautifully; I am just worried what we will have to wear the second time round, because we are all a bit older and it is a bit more difficult to get us into the things that we wore before.

I warmly welcome this. Obviously, knowing the noble Lords, I know exactly how sincere they are in wanting this to happen. I am sure everybody agrees with that. I firmly believe that we should not be embarrassed to congratulate the Government. If the Government are doing good things, we should acknowledge that. It would be good if we had that reciprocal arrangement all the time in the House. Nevertheless I am a pragmatist. I congratulate

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unreservedly the noble Baroness on the work that she has done. It is tremendous. I share the joy that people are feeling at this moment in the House.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I do not want to detain your Lordships, but I was not part of your Lordships’ House when noble Lords agreed to pass equal marriage, so I am going to take my opportunity now.

I have to declare an interest. I am married to a man, and it is not the first time that I have been married. I remember going on an extended interview process to become one of the most senior police officers in the UK. One of the questions in the pre-interview questionnaire was, “What is the most difficult decision you have ever had to make, first, in your professional life and, secondly, in your private life?”. In the answer to the second, I put, “Having been married for five years, telling my wife that I was gay”. I never believed that I would be able to marry again.

In 2010 I took part in a debate at the Liberal Democrat Party conference where we were the first party to adopt equal marriage as party policy. I told the people at that conference about my marriage. Having fallen in love with a Norwegian, in January 2009—Norway having decided to abolish civil partnerships and allow everybody, whether they were opposite-sex or same-sex couples, to get married—I stood in the courthouse in Oslo in front of a judge. When she said, “We are here today to witness the marriage of Brian and Petter”, the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage really struck home.

I was not part of your Lordships’ House when the legislation on equal marriage was passed, but I have to tell noble Lords what a difference it makes to me, to my husband, and to people like me. It is important that your Lordships pass these statutory instruments today.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, I think we would all agree—certainly those of us who joined forces last summer to ensure that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill reached the statute book—that today is a cause for celebration. I was reminded by the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, about that happy day when I found myself outside on the pavement with the Minister holding a placard that said, “Girls marry girls—get over it”. I have the picture on my phone and I promise that I will publish it at some point. That was indeed a happy day and a happy event, and today we are taking another step nearer the first time that an actual marriage can take place between a same-sex couple.

I know that the Government have been determined to allow that happy event to happen as soon as possible and I congratulate them on doing that. This means that there are still some matters outstanding, and the fact that we want this to happen as soon as possible should not excuse us from the need to do some scrutiny.

I have given the Minister notice of a few questions, some of which have already been asked today. First, of course, how soon can the conversion of a civil partnership to a same-sex marriage take place and what timetable might achieve that? The Act provides for same-sex couples seeking to convert civil partnerships into marriages to do so, as well as for an opposite-sex married couple

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to remain married where one of the partners wishes to change gender—an important matter which we dealt with last summer. These are provisions which the update says should come into force by the end of the year. I would be grateful if the Minister could give some indication of when further necessary legislation will be brought forward, as well as providing an update on when we might expect to see these provisions come into force.

From the commencement of the Scottish Act, if a trans person living in England or Wales wishes to get married and wants to ensure that they could not later be subject to spousal veto when applying for gender recognition while in that marriage, they could well be able to circumvent this process by opting to get married in Scotland—but why should they? Can the Minister explain whether a couple whose marriage was registered in Scotland but who subsequently lived in England would be able to apply to the sheriff courts for their interim GRC, or will the Government review and revise this entire area so that they do not need to do so?

At present, of the 11 legal jurisdictions in Europe which have same-sex marriage, only those trans people in existing marriages registered in the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales are subject to a spousal veto on their access to gender recognition while married. The other 10 legal jurisdictions, including Scotland, allow gender recognition without requiring the consent of the trans person’s spouse. We discussed this issue during the passage of the Bill but it is not covered, obviously, by these orders. Does the Minister at least accept that this issue does not sit well with the drive for equality for all groups? Will she therefore seek to continue working on this to make the changes that trans people want to see?

Turning to the issue of pensions, which was debated at length and with some passion throughout the passage of the Bill, Section 16 places a duty on the Secretary of State to arrange a review, as we have recognised. I am very happy to hear that this seems to be on track and will be published within the year. However, is a consultation going to take place? As far as I am aware, as yet there is no public consultation being issued by the Department for Work and Pensions. Given that there are only 18 weeks left between now and when the review is supposed to be complete, what is going to happen and how might that consultation take place? Indeed, if it is to be launched, can the Minister offer an assurance that the Government will not simply be listening to the occupational pensions industry, which will quite clearly have strong and shared financial interests in this report saying one thing, and that there will be a consultation which listens to and consults independent experts?

If the Secretary of State decides in his report that the law on survivor benefits should be changed to fit in with the spirit of the Act, will the Minister ensure that the necessary orders are brought forward quickly to redress the inequality as soon as possible? As I am sure the noble Baroness will be aware, this issue has been in the news over the past week following the conclusion of a case under the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which found that it was legal under European law for employers and pension scheme trustees to

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discriminate against same-sex couples. If it becomes clear that companies are not going to do this voluntarily, the sooner the Government complete their deliberations the better for all the couples concerned—even if it is just that they will now know where they will stand financially in later life and be able to plan accordingly.

6 pm

I seek some clarification about whether the Government intend to allow foreign civil partners to convert their civil partnerships and civil unions to marriage in England and Wales in the future. Similarly, where civil partnerships or civil unions established in a foreign country are converted to a marriage in Scotland, will these be recognised as marriages in England and Wales?

I am concerned about the use of the Armed Forces’ chapels regulations, which the Minister has explained to the House. While it is obviously to be welcomed that these chapels can now be registered, I am worried that this provision is unlikely to result in very many requests for registration actually being approved. The wording of the order is:

“In considering whether to make an application and the timing of such an application, the Secretary of State must have due regard to the following matters … any agreement or objection by the relevant governing authority of a relevant religious organisation as to the proposed application”.

These regulations require the Secretary of State to undertake a process of consultation before making an application to establish the views of the faiths and their congregations that make significant regular use of the relevant chapel. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the majority of Armed Forces’ chapels are shared by several faiths, which may adopt different positions towards the marriage of same-sex couples. If the results of the consultation favour the beliefs of faiths that do not accept same-sex marriage, does that mean that same-sex marriages in Armed Forces’ chapels would be vetoed and what do the Government propose should happen under those circumstances?

Could the Minister advise us on whether she has undertaken any initial discussions to determine what the attitude of various religious authorities is likely to be? For example, if a place of worship is used by a faith that wants to offer same-sex marriage and one that does not, will one position automatically trump the other, as it has done elsewhere in this legislation? I am trying to get to the bottom of how a decision will be made if there are two different faiths using one building or chapel and one wants to permit same-sex marriage and one is opposed to it. Given that the Secretary of State for Defence’s current views are in opposition to this legislation, I am slightly concerned about how the decision would be made.

Finally, there is the issue of guidance. The Explanatory Notes mention that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will produce some overarching guidance on the Act itself. Could the Minister tell us when that guidance will be published, who it will be aimed at, what input her department will have in its drafting, and how comprehensive distribution can be ensured, given the severely reduced resources of the EHRC over recent years?

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I put on record my thanks to the Minister for her openness, her consultation and the way in which these orders have been handled. It has been a continuation of how we took the Bill through to become an Act last year. I know we are not quite at the end of the road yet, but I can assure the noble Baroness that she will have our full co-operation to make sure that we get to where we want to be as soon as possible.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I am grateful to all the noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I thank the noble Lords for their tributes, their thanks and, above all, for working together on this. It has been incredibly heart-warming to work on this Act and to be taking through these SIs now. As my noble friend Lady Barker has said, what a joy it was to wear the pink carnations of the noble Lord, Lord Alli, and to go outside and be serenaded by the London Gay Men’s Chorus. It really was a tremendous joy. Extending marriage to same-sex couples is about righting a historical unfairness. The principles and arguments for doing this have already been fully debated and supported by both Houses and the Act is on the statute book.

Noble Lords will remember that there were majorities for this legislation in every group in this House. My noble friend Lord Jenkin reminded us of that. They may also remember—I analysed it at the time—that there was a very interesting gender difference in our voting patterns. Among women who voted at Second Reading, 83% thought that the Bill should proceed, while 17% dissented. May I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that he consider us all as bridesmaids? I am sure we would enjoy it.

I noted the generosity of spirit that was shown, especially in the later stages of the Bill, by those for whom this legislation was a very difficult challenge. I commend them for that generosity of spirit. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Alli, said in this regard and what the right reverend Prelate has just said.

As I made clear, I hope, when I introduced this debate, these orders simply implement the decisions we made during the passage of the Act. They make sensible arrangements for the treatment of marriages of same-sex couples in a range of legislation. I went over the details in my introduction.

I shall address some of the points made by noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Jenkin asked me to provide more detail on what processes and procedures are required before couples can convert their civil partnership into marriage, and I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said about his husband’s anxiety that we proceed extremely speedily. Briefly, the procedures and processes that we are looking at are changing various IT systems used by the General Register Office. I realise that this is not very romantic information, and neither are the other bits here. There is also delivering guidance and training to operational staff for making legislative changes and designing new application forms and certificates. Although these things are under way, I know that noble Lords will appreciate that they all take time. The conversion process will ensure that the rights and responsibilities of a couple in a civil partnership are protected—so do not get divorced—when they convert their relationship into a

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marriage. The effect of the conversion will be that they will be treated as if their marriage started on the date that their civil partnership was formed, although it sounds as if the noble Lord may be celebrating two dates in future. This is important for the couple, so we need to ensure that the new legal and administrative arrangements work properly.

My noble friend Lord Jenkin asked whether further orders will be required. I can confirm that various further pieces of secondary legislation will be required. I am sure that noble Lords look forward to discussing them.

My noble friend asked about delays and about when people in a civil partnership die before they have managed to convert their relationship into a marriage. We completely understand that couples in this difficult situation want to be able to fulfil their dream of being married, and we are working hard to make that possible as soon as we can. I remind my noble friend that the legal rights of such couples are assured by their civil partnership, so there will be no practical detriment to them by being civil partners rather than a married couple. However, we hear what noble Lords had to say. We are glad that they are pleased that we have managed to bring forward this date, and we are working very speedily to address the other issues. I will certainly feed back the points that noble Lords have made, especially the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that he needs to know what the date might be.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked a number of questions, and I am very grateful to her for flagging to me in advance the areas that she wanted to probe. She asked about pensions and, in particular, the review of survivor benefits that I mentioned in my introductory remarks. I can confirm that the review is under way and the terms of reference have been published in the Libraries of both Houses. The Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury are assessing the costs involved with any changes to the arrangements in public service and private occupational schemes. I spoke to my honourable friend Steve Webb about this the other day. They are also making arrangements to consult external stakeholders in line with the requirements of the Act. I assure the noble Baroness that these stakeholders will include representatives of the LGB community and trade unions as well as pension trustees, industry bodies and parliamentarians with a key interest in this review. We are continuing to make arrangements over the next few weeks so that the consultation begins in March. There are a number of issues that it needs to cover and a final report will be published on 1 July. We note the interest of the noble Baroness in this.

The legislation does not require a full public consultation, so we have not made additional plans for publication via the website. I am happy to feed back the concerns of noble Lords to the Treasury and DWP.

The noble Baroness asked about the implications of a particular case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal. On 18 February, the tribunal upheld the appeal and accepted the Government’s submission that the framework directive did not have retrospective effect in relation to employment and pension rights accrued before the directive came into force. In this particular instance it is open to Mr Walker to apply for permission to

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appeal to the Court of Appeal. I am happy to write to the noble Baroness with any further details if that would help.

The noble Baroness also asked about a transgender person who might seek to marry in Scotland and whether they would be subject to a “spousal veto” when applying for gender recognition. She flagged up a difference in the Scottish legislation. She asked whether a couple whose marriage was registered in Scotland but who subsequently lived in England would be able to apply to the sheriff court for their interim gender recognition certificate and whether we would review that area. From the outset I will be clear that there is no spousal veto in the Act that we passed. Regardless of a spouse’s views, all applicants will be able to obtain their gender recognition. The Scottish system will work in a very similar way to the English system in most respects: couples who wish to stay together following gender recognition will each need to complete statutory declarations to that effect. If a statutory declaration is not received from the non-trans spouse, the gender recognition panel will issue an interim gender recognition certificate, which will enable proceedings to be brought to end the marriage.

However, the Scottish Act differs from our own Act in that applicants in a marriage registered in Scotland will have the option of applying to the sheriff court for their full gender recognition certificate before their marriage has ended. Applicants in England and Wales will have to wait until their marriage is ended to obtain their full certificate. In those circumstances there will be no automatic entitlement to a new marriage certificate and the non-trans spouse will be able to use the issue of the interim gender recognition as a ground for divorce indefinitely.

Jurisdiction in matrimonial proceedings depends primarily on whether a couple is able to establish the necessary connection with the country in which the couple is applying. In England and Wales the jurisdiction rules are set out in the Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973, as amended by the 2013 Act. In every case it will depend on the couple’s circumstances as to which court will have the jurisdiction to hear the proceedings. Following implementation of our Act, I assure the noble Baroness that we have committed to monitor the position and we will continue to consider very carefully any further evidence that trans-stakeholders and, indeed, anyone else affected provides.

The noble Baroness asked me about a situation that may arise in Scotland in which civil partnerships or civil unions established in a foreign country are converted to a marriage in Scotland and whether they will be recognised as marriages in England and Wales. The Scottish Government will be consulting on this issue and we will of course work very closely with them to ensure that the law across the UK is coherent and help them to implement their own Bill. It is too soon to anticipate what may happen as a result of that.

The noble Baroness also asked about guidance and training in support of the Act. A wide range of public and internal staff guidance is being produced by various organisations, including the General Register Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and NGOs such as the Equality and Human

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Rights Commission, Stonewall and Citizens Advice. The guidance covers a range of practical, legal, operational and other issues and is aimed at a variety of audiences. We are confident that there will be sufficient information for those wishing to marry, register buildings, appoint authorised persons and so on, to find out what they need to know. For example, the General Register Office has produced and is producing a variety of guidance and training materials in different formats for registration staff in local authorities, in addition to information and guidance on how to register buildings to faith groups and the public. I pay tribute to Ben Summerskill, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alli, for his indomitable work in that area. Stonewall has produced guidance for same-sex couples considering marriage and converting their civil partnership to a marriage, which covers their rights and responsibilities and the steps that they need to take when arranging a marriage, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission will also produce a range of guidance. I hope that the husband of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, will find all those pieces of paper useful.

6.15 pm

Finally, on military chapels, the noble Baroness asked me if it is possible for a veto to be exercised as regards what happens within a military chapel for a same-sex couple. With the exception of chapels which are consecrated, the Secretary of State must be able to exercise their discretion, so there can be no absolute power of veto over the decision on registration. However, the regulations are clear as to the matters to which the Secretary of State must have clear regard. Important considerations will be the views of the religious organisations that are significant regular users of the chapel, and the availability of a chaplain who is willing to conduct the wedding of a same-sex couple and who belongs to a religious organisation that has opted in. Currently, none of the religious organisations that license chaplains to serve with the Armed Forces has announced its intention to opt into the marriage of same-sex couples. The 2013 Act is clear in requiring the consent of both the religious organisation whose rites would be used and the minister of religion involved.

In drawing to a close I will return to the reasons we so overwhelmingly agreed the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act last year. The removal of the final barrier to full legislative equality for lesbian and gay people by giving them access to the institution of marriage is a moment we can all be proud to have been part of—and that has certainly been echoed today. We have done this in a way which protects and promotes the religious freedom of those who believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and of that we can also be proud. I am confident that it will not be long before we look back on this moment and wonder why we waited so long. Listening to my noble friend Lord Paddick makes that even clearer.

Enabling same-sex couples to marry will not only bring fulfilment and joy to thousands of couples and their friends and families but is also a clear demonstration that Britain is a fair and inclusive place, where everyone

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has equal value. The noble Lords, Lord Alli and Lord Collins, and the right reverend Prelate are right to highlight the contrast with the situation in some countries around the world. We should treasure the freedoms that we have and be ever vigilant as we seek to support those who are less fortunate around the world. These

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statutory instruments are necessary to make marriage of same-sex couples a reality, and I hope the House will approve them.

Motions agreed.

House adjourned at 6.18 pm.