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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am afraid that the hon. Lady has had her allocated time.

6.3 pm

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough): I oppose this ten-minute Bill. [Interruption.] I oppose it notwithstanding the comments made behind me and I do so as a Member of Parliament, as the Second Church Estates Commissioner and on behalf of my constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) knows that I hold her in the highest respect and I accept fully her right to

24 Oct 2001 : Column 324

introduce the Bill. She has mentioned a number of constituency cases, so I will mention some constituents of mine.

As the Second Church Estates Commissioner, I put my opposition to the Bill crisply and succinctly. Marriage, as the law and as the Church of England understands it, is a commitment between one man and one woman. There is no provision in the Church's understanding for anything other than such a union in marriage. As the House of Bishops makes clear, marriage is a pattern that is given in creation and is deeply rooted in our social instincts. Marriage is not, of course, the only pattern given us for a life of love. Unmarried people may have a different pattern of loving relationships that are also to be valued and appreciated.

The Church recognises that love is not only a question of intimate relationships. Married people love others as well as their partners; they love their children, their friends, strangers and sometimes even their enemies.

I respect my hon. Friend, but I wish to refer to some of the concerns of the constituents who have written me. Constituents from whatever constituency have equal rights and they are entitled to be heard in the House.

One constituent has written to say that the Bill is an attempt to bring in by another route what are, effectively, same-sex marriages. The briefing that my hon. Friend sent me on how civil partnership works in France confirms that. She says that, once registered, the partners enjoy virtually the same tax, social security and property and inheritance rights and obligations as married couples except for the fact that they are not allowed to adopt children. Couples who have a civil registration will, in reality, have all the rights of a married couple. That is also clear from the wording that states that Bill would provide

Such registration is not needed for heterosexual couples and my constituent would not wish it be extended to same-sex couples.

My constituent also points out that there is nothing to prevent such couples from making wills in one another's favour and that my hon. Friend's Bill would bring about a major redefinition of what is involved in marriage.

Homosexual relationships are not new but—notwithstanding references to other jurisdictions— every society has restricted marriages to heterosexual relationships that are intended to be monogamous and for life. Were there to be such a major change from that concept, there should be not only a public debate but a referendum. In any event, the Government's position is that marriage is the surest foundation for raising children and remains the choice of the majority of people in Britain.

I also draw the House's attention to the categorical assurance that the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), gave to me on the Floor of the House in the debate reported in Hansard on 25 January 1999, at column 22 of volume 324. He said that there would be no reduction in the age of consent to 14 for homosexual acts; that no legislation that suggested an acceptance of homosexual marriages would be proposed by the Government; and that there would be no legal adoption of children by homosexual couples. The former Home Secretary gave me

24 Oct 2001 : Column 325

undertakings on all three points and said that it was not the Government's intention to introduce legislation in respect of any of those matters. I shall seek the same undertakings from the current Home Secretary.

I am on public record as being totally opposed to any form of discrimination—whether in the workplace or anywhere else—in relation to one's sexuality. However, I oppose the concept of civil partnership that my hon. Friend proposes. It would provide the same rights as those conferred by marriage, leading to an unravelling of the undertaking given to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn.

I shall oppose the Bill for all those reasons. I urge all my right hon. and hon. Friends to follow me in the Division Lobby.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 23 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 59.

Division No. 41
[6.9 pm


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Allan, Richard
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bacon, Richard
Bailey, Adrian
Baker, Norman
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bennett, Andrew
Best, Harold
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brake, Tom
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bruce, Malcolm
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Francis, Dr Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai
Heath, David
Hendrick, Mark
Hesford, Stephen
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Laws, David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lucas, Ian
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Miller, Andrew
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Linda
Plaskitt, James
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Price, Adam
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Rendel, David
Ross, Ernie
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stunell, Andrew
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr Richard (Wyre F)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Trickett, Jon
Vis, Dr Rudi
Watson, Tom
White, Brian
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wood, Mike
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:

Dr. Evan Harris and
Chris McCafferty.


Beggs, Roy
Bell, Stuart
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Burnside, David
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Donohoe, Brian H
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Fallon, Michael
Flook, Adrian
Francois, Mark
Grayling, Chris
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Horam, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Leigh, Edward
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
MacDonald, Calum
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Martlew, Eric
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Mudie, George
Murrison, Dr Andrew
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Paisley, Rev Ian
Prisk, Mark
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robinson, Mrs Iris (Strangford)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spink, Bob
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Streeter, Gary
Swire, Hugo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Viggers, Peter
Watkinson, Angela
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mrs. Marion Roe and
Mr. Andrew Rosindell.

Question accordingly agreed to.

24 Oct 2001 : Column 327

Bill ordered to be brought in by Jane Griffiths, Dr. Evan Harris, Mr. Simon Thomas, Chris McCafferty, Mr. Chris Smith, Glenda Jackson, Mr. David Lepper, Dr. Phyllis Starkey and Dr. Nick Palmer.

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