Victoria Speaks During Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill

On Friday 15 March 2019, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in support of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples during a Parliamentary debate. Please see below for a full transcript of Victoria’s speech, taken from Hansard:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury):

“It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), who spoke very passionately. I echo what he said at the beginning of his speech: it is relevant, when, on Fridays, we consider important, life-changing events, that we think about people around the world recovering in the aftermath of a horrific attack in New Zealand. I think today about my constituents going to Friday prayers at our two mosques in Banbury. That will be a difficult and worrying experience for people all around the world and it is right that we should think of them.

This is the third time that I have risen to support the Bill. We could view it as hatched and matched, and now is the time to dispatch it to the wider world. I am very glad to see that the Lords considered it in such detail and to be here today for its return to the Commons. I appreciate the Bill’s far-reaching scope, but it has come a long way since it was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton)—my good friend. It is customary on Fridays for us all, at this point in the dispatching process, to praise to the skies the hon. Member who has brought the Bill to its dispatching moment, but as he did that so well himself, I do not know that I need to add much, apart from to congratulate him on ultimately getting dressed this morning and to thank him for the persistence and good humour with which he has involved very many people in both Houses in the production of the Bill.

Looking around the Chamber, I see my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), who I remember had a very emotional debate in Westminster Hall when we first arrived in this place about mothers’ names on marriage certificates. I think that he, like me, would like to pay tribute to our other right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman), who has worked particularly hard on that issue, which really is irritatingly long overdue.

In all seriousness, I pay great tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham, who has worked hard, even if he knows it himself. I ​wish all parts of the Bill well. It has had cross-party support and I hope that we can come to an agreement today so that it can get through its remaining stages and receive Royal Assent before the end of the parliamentary Session. I also hope that Members in the Chamber continue to push. We may have achieved consultations and we may have got the Government to agree to look at things, but we want to deliver on all the Bill’s promises, so that dispatching means fruition rather than the sadder meanings of the word.

The focus of amendments from the Lords centre around extending civil partnerships to same-sex couples. We have moved from a position where the Government were going to undertake unspecified work on how that could be done to putting an obligation on the Minister for Women and Equalities to prepare a report on the subject. We find ourselves today with a real commitment to bring in the necessary regulations before the end of the year. This is a great example of how Back-Bench MPs can work with Government to bring about change, and it is possibly also an example of why we think that a deal is better than no deal.

I also welcome the reassurance in subsection 7 that the decision to host an opposite-sex civil partnership on religious premises will remain a decision for individual religious organisations. I know that the Bishop of Oxford made an extremely thoughtful contribution when the matter was discussed in the other place last week.

As I have said previously, other measures on the registration of stillbirth and mothers’ names on marriage certificates are long overdue. Members will know that I represent the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss, which I am glad to say is also very well represented in the House of Lords by a number of grandfathers, who have spoken to me passionately about how they too have suffered when a baby has died. Members of both Houses feel very passionate about this, and fully understand why these changes were needed, but also needed to be consulted on and dealt with extremely sensitively. When the law comes up against personal feelings, particularly death, it is important for us to go slowly and consult slowly, but to achieve progress in the end.”