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I welcome the fact that the amendment received support from the Bench of Bishops, the Cross Benches and the Conservatives Back Benches. I regret that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchesterfor reasons he explained to mehas had to leave in order to attend a function in his diocese.
I found the objection of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, somewhat difficult to understand. She plainly regards a gender change as not having taken place. Therefore, there should surely be no obstacle to people remaining married who were married in the birth gender of both of them.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. He clearly regards it as a difficult issue, as I do. He thought that the sanctity of marriage was best preserved by the defeat of the amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I do not think that I used the term "sanctity of marriage" but referred to the social standing of marriage. That is a slightly different concept regarding the place of marriage in our society. However, I shall not delay the noble Lord unnecessarily.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate is right, the couples who are now married but where one of them wishes to change gender will divide into three classes. The first will be people who decide to retain their marriage and forgo a gender recognition certificate. They would have retained their marriage anyway. The second group will be those who divorce and enter into a civil partnership. That means giving up a marriage which is recognised by Christians as a sanctified relationship and entering into an unsanctified relationship. The third group will divorce and enter into no form of new relationship. None of those solutions advances or protects the role of marriage in any way. In this case I would much prefer to see the marriage continuing.
I have made the arguments for the issue. It is one on which I feel strongly and on which Members of my party, as well as others, have views, which they areof course for reasons of consciencefree to express. But on this issue, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
Turning to the amendment, it seems to me that it would be right for persons other than the Secretary of State to make such an application. We debated that in Grand Committee and, afterwards, I tried to find another way to write an amendment that would allow someone other than the Secretary of State who had reason to believe that a certificate had been issued on a false premise to seek to have it amended.
The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, suggested that the clause was not the right place for the provision, because it was concerned with amending minorwhat I described as bureaucraticdetails. I see the force of that argument, but hope that he will see the force of the argument that there should be some way by which persons other than the Secretary of State who have cause to believe that the certificate was issued on a false basis could apply to have it amended or overturned. I beg to move.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall not repeat all our discussion in Grand Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has helpfully focused on the thrust of his concern. As I probably said in Grand CommitteeI am racking my brains to recollect itI have not yet seen the force of the problem. I agree with the noble Lord that it is right and proper that there should be a process for inspecting, addressing and, if substantiated, redressing a fraud that someone discovers. However, such a process will exist because Clause 8 contains provision for quashing fraudulently obtained certificates.
I therefore genuinely believe that if evidence is brought to the Secretary of State that a fraud has been committed, he would be obliged to inspect the case and decide whether to exercise his powers under the clause. I should like to reflect further on that. It may be efficient for us also to have a few words to see if he would tell me what he thinks is wrong with that process or whether there are things that I can say to emphasise how that process would operate. I am with him on
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