On 1st February 2019 the House of Lords considered in Committee a Private Member’s Bill, the Civil Partnership, Marriage and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill. This Bill incorporated provisions on marriage registration that the Bishop of St Albans had successfully piloted through the Lords in his own Private Member’s Bill in 2018. It included extra provision relating to registration of stillborn children, and civil partnerships for opposite sex couples.
The Bishop of Chelmsford spoke during debate on two amendments to the Bill. The first, briefly, on an amendment from the Bill’s sponsor Lady Hodgson, to enable the conversion of civil partnerships to marriage, and vice-versa, through the introduction of Regulations that could amend primary legislation, including Church of England Measures. The amendment was passed after debate.
On 18th January 2019 the House of Lords considered the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank Tim Loughton MP and the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson of Abinger, for bringing this Bill forward in the Chamber today. It is a complex Bill because it brings together a number of different issues and therefore the danger is that it could fall because a group of people does not like one particular bit of it. I know just how hard it has been working on just the focused registration of marriage part of it, let alone the other focuses. For that reason, I will resist the temptation to widen the debate beyond the scope of the Bill; for example, to explore the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury. I do so because I want us to focus absolutely on what we are trying to deliver. That does not preclude us from having other debates on the points he has made but I do not believe that they are relevant today. Indeed, the danger is that it will confuse matters if we go beyond the scope of what we are trying to do.
On the 9th September 2015 Lord Lexden asked a question to the Government about why they have no plans to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to enable siblings to register as civil partners. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster asked a short supplementary question as a point of clarification.
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