Clegg warns gay marriage bill may be hijacked
The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has warned that an amendment allowing heterosexual couples the right to civil partnerships could “derail” the current Marriage Bill.
The bill allowing same-sex marriage was voted through with a comfortable 225-vote majority in February. However, a group of Tory MPs have tabled an amendment which would also include extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples within the bill.
Tory MP Tim Loughton, a critic of the bill and advocate of the amendment, said it was an attempt to make the bill “less unpalatable”.
Speaking at a charity event in London, Nick Clegg admitted he agreed with the civil partnerships for heterosexual couples “in principle”, but suggested that far from aiming to achieve greater equality, the amendment was an attempt to “hijack” the bill “by those whose ulterior motive is actually to discredit or derail the legislation”. Clegg is thought to want an entirely separate bill for extending civil partnerships.
Ministers have warned that such a complex amendment at this late stage could delay the bill by a number of years as a new consultation process would be needed and it has been suggested that the amendment could cost as much as £4 billion to implement. Mr Loughton dismissed this as a “back-of-a-fag-packet” calculation.
The Labour party had initially backed the tabled amendment but is now launching its own amendment. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that the bill was at risk of being “sucked into a vortex of Tory in-fighting”.
Labour has suggested that government “scaremongering” about the cost and delays that an amendment would cause is actually a conceited attempt by the prime minister to clear the way to drop the bill altogether, in order to appease the right-wing factions within the party, especially given the bruising he has already taken over Europe.