At Second Reading, we heard from my noble friend Lord Cotter how court proceedings can affect the owners of small businesses in particular. Even if they have taken reasonable steps to protect people’s safety, they might be worried about expending the time or resources defending themselves in court and some might prefer to settle claims before they reach that stage. Others will defend themselves in court but we heard from my noble friend Lady Hodgson of Abinger about the psychological effect that this can have on a defendant. She pointed out that, even if the courts reached the right conclusion, the defendant might have gone through

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the most stressful and distressing time to get there, possibly putting relationships at work and at home under strain.

We hope that Clause 3 will give the owners of small businesses and employers greater confidence to stand up to those who try to bring opportunistic and speculative claims by showing them that the law is on their side. One important theme running through this Bill is that we want to stop people suing at all in cases which do not have any merit, so that a judge never has to decide any case either by referring to cases in negligence nor by virtue of this Bill should it become law.

Clause 3 is not just about protecting small businesses. In previous debates we discussed examples provided by members of the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service who said that they had been sued by passers-by who tripped over their hoses when they were attending the scene of a blaze. During oral evidence sessions in the other place, Justin Davis Smith, Executive Director of Volunteering and Development at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, spoke about voluntary organisations which have considered closing or stopping some of their most valuable operations because of worries about being sued. He provided an example of one charity which helped to take elderly people to hospital in the absence of any accessible bus routes. The charity was being sued after a patient slipped and broke her leg getting into a volunteer’s car and this had caused it to consider whether such activities could be continued.

The Government believe that it is right, in cases such as this, to require the courts to take into account the general approach of the defendant to safety during the course of the activity in question. This will reassure organisations that, if something goes wrong in the course of that activity, in spite of their efforts to keep people safe, the courts will always consider the context of their actions. However, the clause will not stop organisations being found negligent, nor, proportionate and just decisions being reached if all the circumstances of the case warrant it.

5.45 pm

In a letter which I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, I discussed the questions of health and safety. In the third paragraph, I said:

“Most health and safety duties do not provide for an employer to meet a particular standard of care and so would not be covered. In addition, since the coming into force of section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, a person who suffers damage or injury through breach of an obligation imposed under health and safety legislation can no longer sue for damages for breach of statutory duty unless legislation provides otherwise. However, an employee could still bring a negligence claim against an employer and, in doing so, might rely on evidence of breaches of health and safety duties to support that claim. The Bill would apply in that type of negligence claim and the court would be required to have regard to the specific factors in the Bill along with any other factors it considered relevant”.

So it is perfectly in order for someone to sue an employee if they have been injured at work in the way in which they would do now. This Bill is not designed to reduce standards of health and safety in the workplace. What it is intended to do is to provide some reassurance to responsible employers who do the right thing but

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find themselves threatened with a negligence claim when an employee is injured through no fault of the employer. It will not protect employers who do not have a responsible approach to health and safety. An employee can still bring a negligence claim against an employer. We consider that that answers the concerns which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, expressed in relation to the possibility that this would erode the rights of individuals in some way.

I accept that the use of the word “generally” is unusual in statutory terms. It is a word that would easily be understood outside the context of statutory construction. I have listened to what the noble Lord said about that word. I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not undertake to bring back an amendment on Report but I will consider carefully whether and to what extent it adds anything to what is in the clause at the moment and whether, on balance, it takes the matter any further.

I entirely understand what lies behind the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral but, with respect, I consider that the matters to which he refers are sufficiently covered either in the general law relating to contributory negligence or would otherwise be reflected in the approach a judge would take to this type of case. I accept that those matters to which he draws attention in his amendment should be part of the analysis, if not specifically in the Bill in the way that the amendment suggests.

Lord Beecham: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 6 withdrawn.

Amendment 7 not moved.

Clause 3 agreed.

Amendment 7A not moved.

Clause 4: Heroism

Amendment 8

Moved by Earl Attlee

8: Clause 4, page 1, line 15, at beginning insert “Subject to section (Interpretation),”

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I shall also speak to my Amendments 12 and 14. I have tabled these amendments on the basis that we will have to send back to another place something that actually works.

At Second Reading many noble Lords observed that, for a person to benefit from the heroism provision in Clause 4, they must act without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests. That would mean that if I intervened in an emergency, and I undertook a proper dynamic risk assessment and eliminated all avoidable and non-necessary risk to myself—and in doing so probably to anyone else—I would get no protection from the Bill. On the other hand, an imprudent rescuer would benefit from Clause 4, assuming for the moment that as drafted it changes the law.

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Amendment 12 is my substantive amendment, which removes the offending words and changes the drafting to read: “to assist an individual in danger and without acting perversely”. The Committee will be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has an amendment that has a similar effect to mine, and I anticipate that he will go into greater detail about the problems with the need for the rescuer to act without regard to his own safety.

Amendment 14 defines what is meant by “acting perversely”. I fully accept that the courts might not need the benefit of this amendment and, if it or something similar does not find favour with the Committee, that will not be a surprise to me. I understand that my words, in the circumstances, would mean that the level of skill, knowledge, experience and training enjoyed by the rescuer would be taken into consideration by the courts—and in any case it already is.

I hope that by this stage of the Committee we will understand whether the Bill changes the law, but I myself am still not clear. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, will tell the Committee that my amendment would change the law and the effect of the Bill. If it does, I am sure that it can do so only very slightly. As the Committee knows perfectly well, and as I have always understood, the courts have never made an unhelpful judgment in that area of law. However, as I indicated at Second Reading, the fear of legal action or, as the Minister put it, an imperfect understanding of the law causes the mischief.

It would be very helpful if some noble and learned Lord or the Minister could describe to the Committee a situation in which the effect of my amendment would be to deny someone compensation for negligence when they would otherwise have secured it. I suspect that the Minister himself is struggling to determine whether the Bill is supposed to change the law or not. By now the Committee seems to have the view that the Bill makes no significant difference to the law apart from, possibly, Clause 3. However, if a first aid instructor could have the future SARAH Act confined to one PowerPoint slide, that could make a practical and beneficial difference. That is because, as the Minister pointed out during our debate on Amendment 2, the Bill has deliberately been designed to be comprehensible.

I suggest that the Committee cannot tolerate a provision in the Bill where an imprudent person enjoys greater protection than a person who has taken steps to avoid unnecessary risks. I am relaxed if the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, finds greater favour with the Committee than my amendment, although his amendment may have the difficulty that it does not change the law at all. I would love to know if we were supposed to be changing the law or not.

Clause 4 is the most useful clause. I certainly have no entrenched position, but by Report we will need to have worked out what we can do to make this clause and the Bill do what they say on the tin. I beg to move.

Lord Pannick: My Lords, Amendment 10 is in my name and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. It would remove the final words of Clause 4:

“and without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests”.

The inclusion of those words frustrates the purpose of Clause 4 for the reasons already given by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Those final words suggest that if I

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am thinking of acting heroically by jumping in the lake to save the drowning victim, Clause 4 will not protect me if I have regard to my own safety or other interests, perhaps by taking off my valuable watch before I jump in or, if we are to follow the Government’s reasoning as regards Clause 4, by consulting my solicitor. Surely the hero deserves protection whether he or she jumps in “without regard to” their own safety or with regard to their own safety. What matters is that they jump in to save the victim. Clause 4, as drafted, protects the instinctive hero but not the thoughtful hero, and that distinction is entirely unjustified.

Amendment 10, which again is designed to be constructive, would remove that arbitrary distinction from Clause 4. However, I cannot agree with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that the law of negligence in this area should be replaced by a test of perversity, which is a test far more favourable to the defendant. He asked for views from Members of the Committee as to whether his amendment would change the law; it undoubtedly would. I anticipate that we will take different views on the merits of that change, but to introduce a test of perversity would be a substantial change.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, would the noble Lord be able to illustrate to the Committee how that difference would work—a case where someone would be protected, and someone else would not? That would be very helpful to the Committee.

Lord Pannick: At the moment the court assesses whether in all the circumstances the defendant has acted with reasonable care, and the court will take account, as it will under the Bill, of whether in all the circumstances, including that of heroism, the defendant has acted reasonably. However, that is a very different test from a test of perversity. It will not help the Committee to try to identify particular factual circumstances, but I can tell the noble Earl that there is a very real difference between a test of reasonable care and a test of whether the defendant has acted perversely—in other words, has taken leave of his or her senses.

I have also indicated my objection to Clause 4 standing part of the Bill; that is part of this group of amendments. The objections to Clause 2 standing part of the Bill, which we debated earlier this afternoon, are equally applicable to Clause 4, and I will certainly not repeat all those points. However, there is an additional, specific reason why Clause 4 should not stand part of the Bill. The simple reason is that it adds absolutely nothing to Clause 2. I cannot envisage any case in which a person is acting heroically for the purposes of Clause 4 which is not also a case where that person is protected by Clause 2 as currently drafted. If you act heroically for the purposes of Clause 4 you act,

“for the benefit of society or any of its members”,

for the purposes of Clause 2. Does the Minister agree with that analysis and, if not, can he please give the Committee some explanation of the sort of circumstances that potentially come within Clause 4 that would nevertheless be outside Clause 2?

6 pm

Lord Aberdare (CB): My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 11 as well as to Amendments 8, 10, 12 and 14 in this group. I remind your Lordships of

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my interests as a trustee of St John Cymru Wales and as a vice-president of the First Aid All-Party Parliamentary Group.

As I indicated at Second Reading, the leading first aid organisations including St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross welcome the Bill in principle. Anything that serves to reduce or overcome people’s reluctance to step forward to provide assistance in emergency situations has to be good news. It can, as we have heard, be argued what actual difference the Bill makes to the law as it stands. However, if there is a perception that it removes the likelihood of people being sued after trying to give life-saving assistance in an emergency, and if people believe that the Bill gives them some extra protection, that in itself is worth having.

My concern is that Clause 4 as it stands is not seen by the leading first aid organisations as giving that reassurance. We know from the research I quoted at Second Reading that the people most likely to help in an emergency are those who have actually received first aid training. So these potential life-savers go along to their first aid courses, where they are taught to:

“Protect yourself and any casualties from danger—never put yourself at risk”.

I quote from the standard First Aid Manual. During their training, they may well ask, “If I take action to provide first-aid assistance in an emergency, can I be confident that I will not subsequently be sued if something goes wrong?”. To which the answer from the first aid training body would have to be, “As long as you act without regard to your own safety or other interests, you should have protection under this law; but we recommend that you should consider your own safety before acting, in which case this law would not seem to help you”. I suggest this would be more than a little confusing and unlikely to provide the reassurance which the Minister has emphasised several times is the object of this Bill.

I thank the Minister for copying me on his letter to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and I welcome his confirmation in that letter of the Government’s desire to encourage first aid and his recognition of the concerns of St John Ambulance and others. He also states that the Government will, quite rightly, work with voluntary organisations and other bodies during implementation phases to ensure that the Bill’s contents are brought to the attention of all those with whom they engage. In that case it would seem rather important that those bodies should themselves see the wording of the Bill as helpful to their own concerns.

Let me briefly cite some examples, provided by the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance, of how Clause 4 might affect the actions of a potential life-saver. First, I shall give two examples of heroic actions for which Clause 4 as it stands would seem to offer no reassurance at all. If a person has fallen off a ladder and is lying unconscious on their back, a responder might be afraid of moving them because of the risk of causing damage to their back or neck. Leaving them on their back could cause them to die from a blocked airway, often described as swallowing one’s tongue, so the heroic act would be to move them on to their side in the recovery position, with an open airway, even if

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this might cause other injury. Similarly, a responder may be concerned about causing injury through giving CPR—particularly if it might subsequently turn out to have been unnecessary because the person’s heart had not actually stopped. CPR requires quite forceful pressure on a casualty’s chest, which may result in injury such as broken ribs. Again, inaction could have much more severe, possibly fatal, consequences than unnecessary action. I cannot see that the wording of Clause 4 offers any reassurance at all in these instances.

I will look at situations more specifically covered by the wording of Clause 4. If someone has been electrocuted and a first aider rushes into action without considering whether the power source is still live and the casualty still in contact with it, he or she might well be acting heroically, but is likely to make the situation worse, with two casualties instead of one. We often hear of people plunging into cold or fast-flowing water to try to rescue someone in difficulties, only to end up drowning themselves, or suffering a cardiac arrest from the shock of sudden immersion in cold water, when they may have been able to help more effectively from the shore. Yet this is the sort of rash and unreasonable action that the wording of Clause 4 might seem to envisage, if not encourage.

There are a number of options before noble Lords to improve this part of the Bill and ensure it sends a clear, positive and unambiguous message to potential life-savers and, of course, to those who train them. Amendment 10 from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, simply removes the unsatisfactory wording from the end of Clause 4. Amendments 8, 12 and 14 from the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, improve on this by replacing these words with the phrase “and without acting perversely”, which is defined in terms of how a reasonable person would act in the circumstances. My own Amendment 11—which needless to say is the one I recommend to your Lordships—replaces the same words with the phrase,

“and was acting reasonably and with a public-spirited intention”.

Any of these three options would improve the Bill; better still, of course, would be for the Government themselves to come up at a later stage with a form of words to define the sort of behaviour that is both heroic and consistent with good first aid practice, in order to give real reassurance to potential life-savers that they are unlikely to be successfully prosecuted if they act in a way that is reasonable and public-spirited, as well as heroic.

Lord Hope of Craighead: My Lords, I am in the happy position of not having my name to any of the amendments and therefore can offer such thoughts as might be useful as to which of them is to be preferred. I support a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has said about the wording as it stands at the end of Clause 4 but I prefer the simplicity of the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. The more you qualify the proposition that ends with,

“to assist an individual in danger”,

the more you open up the possibility of argument. The simpler the message, the better. The message is well conveyed by stopping at “danger” without introducing these complications and therefore I support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

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Lord Beecham: I, too, support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I sympathise with the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, but the whole point of the law of negligence is that it is for a claimant to establish that the defendant did not act reasonably. Some of the cases cited by the noble Lord would be very unlikely indeed to attract any award of damages against somebody acting reasonably in an emergency situation to help somebody with unfortunate consequences. I cannot see that any such claim would succeed but he is right to differ slightly from the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. However, the best formulation is that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and I hope the Minister will accept it.

Lord Faulks: My Lords, we have had a very useful debate on this group. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that Clause 4 should be removed from the Bill but has also proposed a specific amendment that would amend the definition of acting heroically, should the clause be retained. The noble Lords, Lord Beecham and Lord Aberdare, and my noble friend Lord Attlee suggested various amendments to the clause, as indeed did my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral, who is not in his place.

I will respond to the argument that Clause 4 should be removed and then I will deal with the amendments. As I explained at Second Reading, Clause 4 requires the court to,

“have regard to whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger and without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests”.

Unfortunately, all too often people are unwilling to intervene and step forward in emergencies due to the fear that they might be sued and ordered to pay damages should they attempt to help. This is not to suggest that people do not act spontaneously and positively in such circumstances; many do, assisting others and coming to the aid of distressed individuals without a second thought to their own interests. However, we have heard how other people stand by and do nothing because they feel that it is safer not to get involved and run the risk, however unlikely, of a negligence claim being brought against them. Clause 4 helps to allay these concerns by giving a reassurance to those brave and laudable members of our society that heroic behaviour in emergencies will be taken into account by the courts in the event that a claim for negligence or breach of a relevant statutory duty is brought against them. It will assure those who are in two minds about intervening to assist an individual in distress that doing the right thing is recognised by the law. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that the Compensation Act 2006 covers similar territory but, as I have already explained, we prefer the approach taken in the current Bill for the reasons I have given, and I do not think that it would be helpful if I went over them again.

I now turn to the specific amendments that have been tabled in relation to Clause 4. Amendments 8, 10, 11, 12 and 14 would all amend the wording in the clause which provides clarification as to what is meant by “acting heroically”. The noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Beecham, supported by the noble and learned

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Lord, Lord Hope, have proposed in Amendment 10 to remove the final words of the clause, which refer to acting,

“without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests.”

I am grateful to them for tabling this amendment because we have been considering this issue carefully following correspondence received from St John Ambulance. I am also mindful of the persuasive points made at Second Reading and again today by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on that organisation’s behalf. As the noble Lord said, St John Ambulance has indicated that the words,

“acting without regard to one’s own safety”,

conflict with first aid practice, which encourages first aiders to do precisely the opposite; namely, to have regard to whether intervening in an emergency might put themselves or others at risk. Although we think that it is unlikely that the courts would misinterpret the clause in that way, we can understand why St John Ambulance has raised concerns about this issue. If its misgivings can be allayed through the omission of the words in question, that is certainly something we would be willing to consider before Report.

I turn to Amendments 8, 11, 12 and 14, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and my noble friend Lord Attlee. I realise they may seek to address the same issue identified by St John Ambulance but, rather than omitting the final 11 words of the clause, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, they suggest an alternative form of words. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, has suggested that,

“without regard to the person’s own safety or other interests”,

should be replaced with a requirement that the defendant acted,

“reasonably and with a public-spirited intention”.

Meanwhile, my noble friend Lord Attlee’s amendments seek to replace them with a requirement that the defendant must not have been acting “perversely”. He defines perversely in Amendment 14 as,

“a course of action that a reasonable person … would not take in the circumstances, irrespective of”,

whether that person was putting his own safety at risk. I suspect that both my noble friend and the noble Lord are thinking about situations in which a person intervenes in an emergency and then does something so risky or careless that it makes the position of the injured person even worse. They would not want the Bill to help defendants who have acted in that way. I am grateful for their attempts to improve the clause, which I know are very well intentioned. I have already mentioned in response to the amendment proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Beecham, that we would be prepared to look more closely at whether a government amendment along those lines might be desirable. There is certainly a consensus that the final 11 words of the clause are problematic and we will consider the options carefully before Report.

I turn to the final amendment in this group, tabled by my noble friend Lord Hunt. Amendment 13 would add a further subsection to Clause 4 which would require the courts, when reaching a decision on liability and damages, to consider,

“the circumstances in which the rescuer acted … the eventual outcome and outcome anticipated by the rescuer … and … the risks to which the rescuer was exposed”,

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as an effect of his or her actions. I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this amendment, but I believe that the additional wording would add unnecessary complexity to the clause, the purpose of which is to reassure brave members of the public who act heroically by coming to the aid of someone in danger or distress that the courts will take the context of their actions into account in the event of their being sued.

I gratefully decline the invitation offered to me by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, to cite examples that would be entirely separate in the various clauses; there is bound to be a degree of overlap—there often is. The scenario that the clause evokes in most people’s imagination is sufficiently clear for it to be worth a clause on its own, but I accept that there will inevitably be instances that might be covered by both clauses. I hope that the undertaking I have given in relation to the final 11 words of the clause, which could either be removed or replaced by a government amendment, will be such that noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this connection will be prepared not to press them.

6.15 pm

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, and in particular the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, who of course did a far better job than I of explaining the difficulties with the last few words of Clause 4. I accept that using my perversity test was a much higher barrier for a claimant to climb, but it was designed to be. I am extremely grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the briefings from St John Ambulance and the Red Cross. However, I was a bit disappointed that neither the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, nor my noble friend the Minister were able to illustrate how my amendment would change the law. We were just told by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, that the courts would take it all into account.

I accept the guidance of the Minister on my amendment, but I am extremely grateful, as I am sure the rest of the Committee is, for his positive response to the principles behind Amendment 10, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Therefore, in the mean time and subject to the usual caveats, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 8 withdrawn.

Amendments 9 to 13 not moved.

Clause 4 agreed.

Amendment 14 not moved.

Clause 5 agreed.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment.

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Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014

Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 201410th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion to Approve

6.19 pm

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

That the draft regulations laid before the House on 15 October be approved.

Relevant documents: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee.

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): My Lords, both this House and the other place overwhelmingly supported the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, a change which has brought joy to a great many people who now feel that they are truly recognised as equal under the law of this land. That is a major development for this country, and one very much to be celebrated.

I am pleased to be able to bring these statutory instruments before the House, allowing conversion of civil partnerships into marriages and allowing couples who wish to do so to remain married if one or both of them change their legal gender. Subject to the passage of the necessary instruments through this House and the other place, we intend those provisions to come into force on 10 December this year.

There has been a lot of discussion about these proposals since we first laid instruments in July. People felt that these were too restrictive and did not allow sufficient flexibility for the celebration of their marriage for couples who had chosen to enter civil partnerships at a time when marriage was not available. As a result, we agreed to see what we could do to provide greater choice for couples. We have done that, and these instruments offer more flexibility, allowing conversions to be completed in the same range of venues where same-sex couples can currently marry.

I will briefly explain each of the three affirmative instruments in turn. The Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014 set out the procedure for couples who wish to convert their civil partnership into a marriage in England and Wales, and overseas in British consulates and Armed Forces bases. The simplest conversion procedure can be completed in one visit to the superintendent registrar. The couple will provide evidence of their identity and sign a declaration to confirm that they are in a civil partnership with each other and wish to convert that into marriage. The superintendent registrar will also sign and that completes the procedure.

Alternatively, they can opt to go to the superintendent registrar with the required evidence and then complete the conversion into marriage by signing the declaration in approved premises, such as a hotel, where a ceremony is then to be held. If the couple want a religious ceremony, the registrar can complete the declaration on religious premises where the religious consents required under the Act have been obtained and where a ceremony under Section 46 of the Marriage Act 1949 is then to be held. Section 46 provides for religious marriage ceremonies to be held following the registration of a marriage by a civil registrar, and the 2013 Act

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amended it to include ceremonies following the conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage, ensuring that the religious protections, which we all worked hard on during the passage of the Act, applied to such ceremonies. Where one of the couple is housebound, detained or seriously ill and not expected to recover, the superintendent registrar will go to the couple where they are, and after the declaration is signed they may have a ceremony, including a religious ceremony, if they wish. These regulations will also allow the conversion of a civil partnership into marriage at consulates and Armed Forces bases overseas where the authorities in the host country have consented to this.

I turn to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) and Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2014. First, the order makes necessary consequential amendments to primary legislation to allow conversions of civil partnerships into marriage to take place. Most significantly, the order clarifies the way Section 46 of the Marriage Act 1949 works, making clear that a ceremony can be held following a housebound, detained or deathbed conversion, or Armed Forces conversions which take place overseas. It also names the appropriate Jewish and Quaker governing authorities and makes it clear that ceremonies of other religions are covered, thus ensuring the protections apply appropriately in these cases.

Secondly, the order makes amendments to support the provisions of the Act, enabling couples who wish to do so to stay married where one or both of them changes legal gender. Notably, it ensures that where a person changes gender their spouse will not lose any pension expectations they would otherwise have had. Thirdly, the order also includes specific provision in relation to particular pension schemes—for example, to ensure gender-specific treatment in relation to a specific Armed Forces pension scheme.

Finally, the order revokes Article 5 of the earlier Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) Order, under which marriages of same-sex couples solemnised in England and Wales are treated as civil partnerships in Scotland. This is simply to ensure that, from 16 December, when marriage of same-sex couples will become possible in Scotland, they can be recognised as marriages under Scottish law. This order also makes associated transitional and saving arrangements and further amendments in consequence of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

I turn finally to the Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law (No. 2) Order. This revokes and re-enacts, with some additions, an earlier order. It provides for: consular marriages; the issuing of certificates of no impediment by consular officers; the Registrar-General for England and Wales to pass on to the Registrar-General for Scotland relevant consular marriage certificates; the registrars general to provide certified copies of certificates; and for superintendent registrars to issue certificates of no impediment.

Although technical in nature, these instruments allow us to give effect to the provisions of the 2013 Act to allow couples in civil partnerships to convert their relationship into marriage and to enable couples where

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one or both change legal gender to remain married, which is of very great significance to couples affected and an occasion of joy for many. I hope that the House will support them.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest, having married a Norwegian man in 2009 in Norway. My marriage is now recognised as a marriage in the UK, whereas previously it was recognised only as a civil partnership.

Today we are nearing the end of the legislative road as far as equality for same-sex couples in the UK is concerned. There have been some ironies along the way. The late Lady Thatcher—considered by many to have been a conviction politician—and the Conservative Government that she led, introduced Section 28 into the Local Government Act 1988, provoking the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and others to form the pressure group Stonewall to fight for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. When the Labour Party came to power, it repealed Section 28, although it had to invoke the Parliament Act to overcome opposition in this House. How times have changed.

Under a Labour Government, civil partnerships were introduced in 2004. That was progress but still not equality. It was left to this coalition Government—a Conservative-led coalition Government—to achieve equality for same-sex couples. It was the Liberal Democrat MP, the right honourable Lynne Featherstone—the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities—who proposed that the Government introduce legislation to allow equal marriage. To his credit, the Prime Minister agreed despite opposition from many in his own party. In contrast to its implacable opposition to the repeal of Section 28, this House agreed to equal marriage without a Division at Third Reading.

I place on record my thanks to Nick Boles MP and to my noble friend Lady Northover for achieving the changes to these regulations to allow those wishing to celebrate the conversion of their civil partnership to an equal marriage to do so in places and in ways that those same-sex couples not previously in a civil partnership are allowed to do.

I say that we are nearing the end of the legislative road as far as equal marriage is concerned but it is to be regretted that equal marriage is still not possible in Northern Ireland. The Liberal Democrats not only support the approval of these regulations but we are also very proud to have played such a prominent role in achieving equal marriage in England, Wales and Scotland.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab): My Lords, I, too, acknowledge the journey we have travelled. It has been a long and sometimes very difficult one but nothing gives me greater pleasure than to acknowledge that we have a cross-party consensus on equality under the law. That is something that we can be proud of in this country and is not something to be ashamed of.

I, too, thank the Minister, Nick Boles, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for listening to all those people in civil partnerships who, like me, want to take this final step of equality under the law by marrying in front of our friends and family. I was really pleased that the original drafts were taken back, and that we

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are still now able, with the help of the department, to stick to the original timetable. It is a great achievement and I am pleased that the Minister was able to do that. It is not easy, sometimes, for Ministers to take something back and work on it, but they did a great job and I am thankful to them.

6.30 pm

However, I make a couple of points. I made the point, originally to the Minister—during the original passage of the Bill—that a lot of misinformation would go out. Certainly, a lot of people I knew who wanted to get married on the “day of equal marriage” suddenly found out that they could not, because they were in a civil partnership. We have even heard of consulates saying that you have to dissolve your civil partnership in order to get married. What we need, as quickly as possible, is for information to go out—very clear guidance that registrars are able to offer this stage 2 of a proper ceremony and to work with people to ensure that the guidance is properly reflected. I am sure that will happen, but I want to make the point.

I am lucky enough to live in the London Borough of Islington, which has a very high proportion of lesbian and gay people, and I was able to go in, as soon as I was aware of these regulations, and say: “Well, hang on a minute—you’ve been told one thing but it is going to change. But I need to book”. I discovered that the day I wanted for our wedding was practically fully booked and I got the last slot. So there we go. I managed to ask my partner on Radio 5 Live if he would marry me when the regulations came out. I now have a date—20 December—and I am really pleased that all my friends and family will be there to see it. So thank you.

Lord Jenkin of Roding (Con): My Lords, I too support these regulations. Perhaps I might just respond to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, by reminding him that there was only one party that actually included same-sex marriage in its manifesto. That was the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party was the only one to promise the original Act in its manifesto. Having said that, I too rejoice that this now has complete cross-party approval.

One of the issues that needs to be remembered is that in contrast to what happened in the other place, those in favour of the Bill as it then was—what is now the 2013 Act—always were a majority on the Conservative side in this House. For that we can take some credit, considering—as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said—the history of Clause 28, which happily has now been confined completely to history. This House has distinguished itself very much in this whole area.

I also make the point that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee looked at this question and asked itself why the original orders were withdrawn and new orders had to be introduced. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, has kept me well informed on this—not that I have a direct personal interest: noble Lords may remember that at Second Reading I declared to the House that my wife and I had celebrated our diamond wedding anniversary the year before the Bill was introduced. Nevertheless, I then spoke very much in favour of the Bill and was delighted when, in the

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end, it became law. However, the scrutiny committee asked itself why this had happened. The short answer was that the Government had not consulted properly on the draft orders. Paragraph 17 of its report said:

“While we note that there was extensive consultation in relation to the Act and general principles, it would appear that even a brief consultation on the proposed detail of these Regulations might have avoided the need to withdraw and re-lay these instruments and the uncertainty that will have caused those making arrangements for conversions soon after the planned 10 December implementation date”.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, and his colleagues are much to be congratulated on having spotted the limitations in the original order relating to where these marriages could be celebrated, and persuaded the Minister, Nick Boles, who is listed as the Equalities Minister for same-sex marriages—and I have no doubt my noble friend Lady Northover—to withdraw it. It is a pity that there was no proper consultation beforehand.

However, here we are: it is almost the last chapter of this legislation and I am delighted that it has now been introduced. I hope that the regulations will be approved by both Houses of Parliament so that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, can celebrate his marriage to his partner before Christmas.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords, we all know that it is rare, as parliamentarians, to see through a piece of legislation which has the direct effect of making so many people so happy. We have all seen the joy of the couples who have been married since the Act came into effect in March. While I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, to her place and thank her for explaining the orders so comprehensively, I am sad that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, is not here to see these orders through, due to her very well deserved promotion. However, I place on record my thanks to her, and to her colleague the Minister, Mr Nick Boles, for the open and accessible way in which they conducted these proceedings. I also thank my noble friend Lord Collins for the eloquent and sometimes forceful way in which he supported the need to withdraw these orders as they were drafted in July, which—along with the threat of mobilisation to defeat the orders, if necessary, by my noble friend Lord Alli—I am convinced swung the decision to withdraw them, much to everyone’s relief.

My view at the time—which I expressed to the civil servants concerned—was that the original draft showed a lack of emotional intelligence about the way to proceed which had not been there during the rest of the passage of this Bill. It could well be that that was through lack of consultation.

We have, in passing these further measures, the privilege of creating more happiness for those who wish to convert from civil partnerships to marriage and, crucially, to celebrate this conversion in the way that they choose. I know of several couples who are waiting for confirmation that these orders have been enacted in time for them to celebrate their marriage conversion—some of them very close at hand.

For example, my friends John Nickson and Simon Rew had their civil partnership on the very first day in Westminster Register Office and will be married on 19 December this year. They have been together since

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the early 1980s, certainly for more than 30 years. Like many couples they have been anxious to get on with organising this very happy occasion, and we need to apologise to them and others for causing them worry about whether they would be able to proceed on the dates the Government promised at the beginning of the year. We also need to wish John and Simon, and indeed my noble friend Lord Collins and Rafe, a very happy day when they eventually convert.

On these benches we will not be raising issues to delay the passage of the orders before the House today. These new orders allow same-sex marriages to take place in any if the 6,729 premises licensed to conduct civil marriages and civil partnerships, in addition to registry offices.

We are satisfied with the consequential provisions detailed in these regulations and believe that the dual path offered to people—to have a sort of cheap-and-cheerful conversion or a celebration—is exactly the right way to go. We are also pleased that couples will be able to have their civil partnerships converted on religious premises, where those premises have been approved to marry same-sex couples. This is an important issue of religious freedom and one that respects the protections for religious organisations enshrined within the Act. I was also pleased that the marriage certificate will look very similar to the marriage certificate I received 40 years ago. Such things are important.

My noble friend mentioned that the Stonewall brief mentions conversions in British consulates. Will the Minister assure the House that all consulates are properly briefed about how and when to conduct conversions? My second question relates to guidance and training for those whose job it is to administer these conversions, and making sure that the two options of how to convert are properly available.

I know that everyone is referring to these orders as the final chapter in the enactment of the same-sex marriage Act. Indeed, they are the final issue to be resolved for same-sex marriages. However, the Act was also amended in your Lordships’ House to include the new provision for legalising humanist weddings. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister about the progress in that direction. Indeed, the amendments to legalise humanist marriage had majority support in both Houses. The Government’s amendment allowed for a review and consultation on the matter and included order-making powers. The review and consultation are over and there have been more than 1,900 responses. They seem to show that this continues to be an issue with wide public support. Last year the British Humanist Association was assured that this process would be completed well before the end of the year, giving enough time to make orders in good time before the general election. This has not happened. When will the report emerge and when will we see the orders? I am very concerned that we get on with this.

In Scotland, where more than 10% of all marriages are now humanist marriages, the first ever same-sex marriage on 31 December will be a humanist marriage. The experience in Scotland has been nothing but positive. In fact, humanist marriages have accounted for 54% of the overall net increase in marriages. We are pleased to see the Government’s “family test” policy

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and the criteria by which all policies now have to be assessed; the legalisation of humanist marriage would perfectly fit those criteria and strengthen the institution of marriage—and no doubt lead to an increase in marriage, as it has in Scotland.

Given that the public consultation has closed and that the responses were, I gather, overwhelmingly favourable, can the Minister explain when the Government are publishing their report, and when the orders will be laid? I am worried because I hear rumours of heels being dragged at No.10 and that there may be some resistance at senior levels in the Church of England, which I hope both institutions will strenuously deny. There is a suggestion that humanist weddings should be limited only to places that are licensed for marriage, which kind of defeats the point of having a humanist wedding in the place of one’s choice. The reason that this is important is the same reason why the timetable for the orders under consideration today is so important to those who wish to convert their civil partnerships. People plan their weddings years in advance and I can inform the House that my sister, who is a humanist celebrant—I probably need to declare her as an interest—is already receiving inquiries about humanist weddings next summer and autumn. She, along with the hundreds of other humanist celebrants, has a dilemma over how to answer those questions. Perhaps the Minister can advise on that.

We welcome these orders and I congratulate the Government on bringing them forward in time for all the happy events to take place before Christmas.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. They were constructive, considered and supportive. I place on record also my thanks to all those who took the time over the summer to discuss their concerns to help us get these statutory instruments to a better place. I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that it has been worth it.

I turn to some of the points raised. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, referred to consular services. In fact, the website is already providing information about conversions, and will be constantly updated. Detailed guidance is being provided to all consular offices to make sure that they are familiar. This has obviously been quite a steep learning curve for a number of consular offices but there is nothing now to delay it. Consular offices have been provided with full guidance and correct information. We therefore hope that some of the early misconceptions will therefore have been addressed.

6.45 pm

My noble friend Lord Jenkin asked why the Government did not consult on the regulations and why we got it so wrong. The original proposals were based on the Government’s response to the public consultation, which set out that conversion would be an administrative process. This recognised that the couple were already in a valid legal relationship and should not be required to have another ceremony, although we have provided flexibility for couples who

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choose to have a ceremony. However, we listened to what people said about the process set out in the draft regulations and are pleased that we have been able to provide more flexibility and choice in these revised regulations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, asked about humanist marriages. The Ministry of Justice issued a consultation document earlier this year. The Government are considering the submissions made in response and intend to issue a report on the outcome of that review by 1 January, as required by the Act. We hope that it is understood that the consultation was held in good faith and that the Government are not willingly dragging their feet over this. We hope that before long there will be clarity on the issue of humanist marriages, too.

In drawing to a close, I celebrate the part this House has played in the passage and implementation of the Act. It has been a momentous step forward for LGB&T equality and one of which we should rightly be proud. As other noble Lords have said, there has been cross-party agreement all around the Chamber on the best way forward. These statutory instruments implement decisions we made during the passage of the Act and are important for those who formed civil partnerships when that was the only means by which they could have their relationship recognised in law, and who would now like to be married. They also support in particular loving couples who will now be able to remain married when one member changes their legal gender.

We have come a very long way since my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill’s far-sighted Private Member’s Bill, which set in train the legislation for civil partnerships. Many people have worked and campaigned for these measures. In your Lordships’ House, the noble Lord, Lord Alli, kept our feet to the fire and rewarded us with pink carnations. From the Cross Benches, the noble Baroness, Lady Rabbi Neuberger, is putting these measures into practice and will be conducting a number of conversion into marriage ceremonies in December, the first of which I understand will be on 10 December—auspiciously 10.12.14. On the Benches opposite, support has come from the noble Baronesses, Lady Thornton and Lady Royall, as well as from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, to whom we offer advance congratulations on his forthcoming conversion into marriage ceremony.

From the Conservative Benches, there were valuable contributions from my noble friends Lady Jenkin and Lady Noakes, as well as from my noble friend Lord Jenkin, to whom we offer congratulations on his long marriage. The Liberal Democrats were led by my noble friend Lady Barker, with able support from my noble friend Lord Paddick. I also pay tribute to the government team who steered the Bill through the House, including my noble friend Lady Stowell, my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and my noble friend Lady Northover, who has already been mentioned and much regrets in many ways that her promotion to a ministerial post means that she is abroad on government business; otherwise, wild horses would not have kept her from being here to see this through. However, I

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have won out by coming in at a late stage to take these measures through. I also thank the officials, who have been tireless in seeking the best outcomes. It is very fitting that my noble friend the Leader of the House has just come in as I was thanking her for her part in the Bill. I apologise for omitting many others who have played a part.

However, as my noble friend Lord Paddick indicated, one parliamentarian’s tenacity ensured the passage of the Bill—my right honourable friend Lynne Featherstone, Stonewall’s Politician of the Year and a true champion of equality. She, I and others here were among many guests who had the great pleasure of attending one of the first same-sex marriages, between Ed Fordham and Russell Eagling. The two had helped lead the serenading across the road as the Bill made its way through your Lordships’ House, and their marriage was a truly joyous occasion.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, it is not often that we pass legislation that has such a direct impact on the lives and happiness of our citizens. These instruments will make a significant difference to those people’s lives. I hope that the House will approve them.

Motion agreed.

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

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Consequential and Contrary Provisions and Scotland) and Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Provisions) Order 201410th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion to Approve

6.50 pm

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

That the draft order laid before the House on 15 October be approved.

Relevant documents: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and 11th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Motion agreed.

Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law (No. 2) Order 2014

Consular Marriages and Marriages under Foreign Law (No. 2) Order 201410th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

6.50 pm

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

That the draft order laid before the House on 24 October be approved.

Relevant document: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 6.50 pm.