I now realise that the
scurvy article on p17 pf The Observer
today 27jan02 is a cobbled together polemic in reponse to the Letwin article.
Until this moment, I had not understood why the Observer would headlining the Hetherington research as
making her conclude what, in the small print at the end of the article, we
see she does not conclude at all. Observer
playing really dirty tricks to save the validation of the aberrant lifestyles
of high ups in the Observer staff, presumably. Ivor Catt 27jan02
From: CCF Office <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 January 2002 17:55
Subject: Conservatives: marriage, cohabitation and homosexual couples
At the bottom of this email is an article by Oliver Letwin - Shadow Home
Secretary - for this morning's Telegraph on the Conservative Party's attitude
to marriage and concern to rectify 'injustices' facing homosexual couples.
Listed immediately below is a direct quotation from the Conservative Party's
daily briefing on the same issue:
a.. Conservatives support marriage, not least because the evidence shows that
marriage helps provide a stable upbringing for children.
b.. Conservatives do not wish to create a pale imitation of marriage for
cohabiting heterosexual couples who can choose marriage, and Conservatives
therefore cannot support Lord Lester's Bill.
c.. For the same reason, Conservatives do not wish to change the law to
extend adoption to unmarried couples - and would prefer to see the rules
adjusted so that married couples can more easily adopt.
d.. However, Conservatives do recognize that homosexual couples encounter
genuine practical problems - such as not being able to authorize
life-threatening operations for one another.
e.. Conservatives intend to address these practical problems in practical
ways - which may be legislative or administrative.
The detailed Bill seeks to give to both unmarried mixed or same sex couples,
who enter a Civil Partnership, much of the same rights as enjoyed by those
who are married. Currently the rights enjoyed by married couples, such
as the automatic right of inheritance in the event of a spouse dying in
testate or the right of succession to certain tenancies and to pension funds,
are denied to non-married couples. The Bill would see the establishment
of 'civil partnerships', and provides for the registration of the partnership
and sets out the ensuing legal consequences. The Bill contains a provision
for terminating such partnerships and the division of property in such an
eventuality. The aim of the Bill is to assist those who are financially
interdependent, but the Bill specifically excludes close relations, for
example sisters who might live together and have pledged to care for each
other. We see this as a significant failure in the Bill.
ARTICLE FOR THE DAILY TELEGRAPH BY OLIVER LETWIN MP, SHADOW HOME SECRETARY
Marriage works, so what is the point of a pale imitation?
THE Conservatives are a practical party; that is one of the party's defining
characteristics identified by Iain Duncan Smith last week.
We take the world as it is, rather than constructing our policies on the
basis of a hypothetical view of how the world might be. And one thing that is
clear to anybody interested in practical matters is that marriage works. The
Civil Partnerships Bill, which is to be debated today in the House of Lords,
provides us with the opportunity to restate society's commitment to marriage
and the special obligations and benefits that it entails.
Not all married couples, of course, choose to raise a family and the value of
their marriage is no less important for that. But society particularly
benefits from the fact that children brought up by married parents are more
likely to have a stable background.
There are many one-parent families, and cohabiting couples, who bring up
their children supremely well and who create homes as loving and as stable as
those offered by married couples.
But the figures show that the commitment of marriage increases stability. As
the Office of National Statistics says in a recent report, new research has
shown that children born to cohabiting couples are twice as likely to see
their parents separate as children born within marriage.
The Conservative approach is based on outcomes - it does not stem from dogma,
or from a particular set of religious values. It is not for politicians to
pry into the personal, and justly private reasons for entering into marriage.
Many of us marry in religious ceremonies that combine a civic and spiritual
bond. But more than half of us choose to marry in register offices with no
religious content in the ceremony.
Conservatives fully support the Government's proposal to enlarge the range of
places in which people may choose to marry. Because we believe in marriage,
we believe in making it possible for what is both a personal and a civic
commitment to be even more personal.
In a world where politicians search, usually in vain, for social policies
that confer unambiguous benefits, they should leave well alone when they
encounter longstanding institutions that do just that. We must build on
success. We must do nothing to undermine the institution of marriage. That is
why the Civil Partnerships Bill does not merit support. It provides rights -
such as the rights to inheritance, to share life assurance and occupational
pensions - that are already available to couples through marriage.
There is no need to create a separate category of registered civil
partnerships for mixed-sex couples, because anyone seeking those rights can
attain them by marrying.
Providing a watered-down variant of marriage would serve only to undermine
the institution, and increase the risk of the state intruding into people's
lives in order to discover whether the extent of their cohabitation justifies
the rights that they would claim.
In his recent speech in Birmingham, Iain Duncan Smith put forward the
principle that the state should intrude less into people's lives. This
principle is more likely to be upheld if we keep faith with institutions,
such as marriage, that are a bulwark against state interference.
Marriage is clear cut, whereas weaker alternatives would involve the state
inquiring into the length or type of people's relationships: an increase in
intrusion into our lives.
The Civil Partnerships
Bill does draw attention, however, to some aspects of the lives of people for
whom marriage is not an available choice. There is no doubt, for example,
that same-sex couples who may have a long-term, stable relationship encounter
a number of real problems in their daily lives.
These include the inability of one partner to give medical consent for a
life-threatening operation on behalf of the other partner; or the inability,
in many circumstances, to continue to live in the home they have shared.
These are prohibitions that few of us today would regard as reasonable, or
But while the Civil Partnerships Bill draws attention to the problems, it
offers a solution that is both wrong and unnecessary. The way to address
these real concerns is not to invent a pale imitation of marriage.
These are particular, practical problems, which need to be sensitively and
precisely treated. They require particular, practical solutions - some of
which may be legislative, others administrative.
Conservatives recognise that there are genuine grievances. We have a duty to
address them and we intend to do so.
We should bear in mind that such problems are not confined to gay couples.
Just as the benefits to society of marriage are clear, particularly where
there are children, so is the virtue in other forms of relationships
expressly excluded from the Civil Partnerships Bill, such as what the Bill
terms "close relatives".
Why should the problems encountered by two cohabiting sisters, for example,
who may be pledged to care for each other, not also be addressed? An
amendment to the Adoption Bill, currently before the Commons, falls into the
same trap as the Civil Partnerships Bill. It applies the wrong solution to an
Many children are being needlessly left in care, the personal and social
consequences of which are well known. Ministers are right to be concerned at
the lack of adoptive parents coming forward under the present adoption arrangements.
An amendment has been proposed that would give unmarried couples the same
rights to adopt children as married couples. But since we know the children
are most likely to have a stable background in a married household, the
direction of policy should instead be to remove some of the obstacles that
frustrate the attempts of many willing married couples to adopt.
We live in ways in which we did not live before. Our policies and our laws
should reflect the world as it is. But that does not mean ignoring evidence
or inventing arrangements on the basis of abstract theory.
We should preserve and enhance institutions that already work in practice.
Marriage, which has proved itself to be a force for good, must remain one of
our essential foundations.