HC Deb 25 May 2004 vol 421 cc1445-79

  1. If a court's determination of any question arising under this Act might affect the exercise by a religious organisation (itself or its members collectively) of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, it must have particular regard to the importance of that right.
  2. In this section "court" includes a tribunal.'.—[Mr. Leigh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.38 pm
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 1, in page 9, line 37, at end insert— (ha) the disclosure is made between officials of a voluntary organisation which is also a religious organisation, in connection with its functions, and is necessary to,

  1. comply with the doctrines of the religion, or
  2. avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a significant number of the religion's followers.'.

Mr. Leigh

I rise to speak to these two proposals, which stand in my name. I am delighted to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), who is the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, has put his name to them, as have five Labour Members, including the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) and the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Benton), several of my Conservative colleagues, a Liberal Democrat Member—the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed)—and an Ulster Unionist Member, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth).

That breadth of support shows that they are genuinely cross-party amendments because this is not a party political issue, but a question of religious freedom. Religion is not the preserve of any one party and it is appropriate that concern for freedom of religion should be shared by politicians from all parties.

The amendments tackle the two main issues that were raised in a legal opinion, dated 23 March, which James Dingemans QC prepared. Hon. Members may remember that he was counsel to the Hutton inquiry. First, he states that the Bill contains scope for "divisive and costly litigation" against churches. Churches are bodies of limited means and one can imagine that the prospect of any sort of litigation concerns them gravely.

The Bill creates scope for transsexual people to take legal action against a church that refuses to recognise them in their acquired gender. Clause 9 declares that a man who persuades a gender recognition panel to grant him legal status as a woman becomes a woman "for all purposes". If a church refuses to recognise that, he may sue that church.

Some ridiculous legal cases have already been brought against churches. We are not inventing a worry about something that does not exist. The most well-known case is probably that of a transsexual man called Bill Parry, who sued a Baptist church in south Wales because it would not let him attend the ladies' prayer meeting. In paragraph 30 of his opinion, Dingemans states: "It appears from the reports of the debates that the Government view is that such challenges should fail. Although…it seems to me that that should be the result— I emphasise the words "should be the result"— "the cases are likely to occupy considerable time and divert the resources of the Churches into litigation." The new clause seeks only to address the problem and to make matters crystal clear.

Secondly, Dingemans says that the criminal offence against disclosure in clause 22 breaches freedom of religion. Clause 22 makes it an offence for an officer of a voluntary organisation to disclose the birth sex of a person who has a gender recognition certificate. A place of worship constitutes a voluntary organisation. In paragraph 21 of his opinion, Dingemans refers to the example of a Roman Catholic priest who would break the law if he disclosed to his bishop that a male candidate for ordination was a female-to-male transsexual. Such information would obviously be of interest to the bishop.

Another example is that of a curate who discovers that a marriage candidate is a transsexual and knows that his vicar, who disagrees with transsexualism, is unaware of the matter and is about to perform the marriage. The curate would commit a criminal offence if he said anything to the vicar. A private conversation between the curate and the vicar or between the priest and his bishop could be a criminal offence under the Bill.

We have held such debates previously and the Government said, "Don't worry—the curate just has to ask permission." However, the transsexual lobby called for the offence. They and the Government say that privacy is paramount and one understands some of the reasons for that. What if the transsexual refuses to give consent? The Government put the clergy at the mercy of the transsexual person who may sue. The Government's assurance works only if they can guarantee that 100 per cent. of transsexuals will give consent. Even if 99 per cent. do consent, what about the 1 per cent. who may not? What is the curate to do in those circumstances? He could place himself in contempt of the Bill.

Dingemans says that, to protect religious rights, the Bill must "permit disclosures necessary to allow the religious organisations to regulate themselves in accordance with their religious beliefs." That is all that we seek to do. I am not trying to impose ideas on anybody outside the church groups. I simply want to allow the religious groups to regulate themselves. That is all that amendment No. 1 would achieve.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps the most inalienable human right is the right to act according to one's conscience and not to be called to act against it? However far one might wish to go to protect the rights of individuals who face difficult and challenging circumstances, doing that at the expense of the conscience of others is unacceptable.

Mr. Leigh

That is all that we are trying to achieve. We are not attempting to impose any religious views on anybody else. Surely it is axiomatic in a free society that religious groups should be allowed to conduct their affairs in the way that they wish. People have fought and argued for that for generations. We may not agree with their views, and some people might hold those views in contempt or find them extreme, but those religious groups must have the right, in a free society, to conduct their own groups according to their own beliefs, albeit without imposing their views on anyone else.

12.45 pm
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab)

I am genuinely concerned about this issue. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge the disagreement in the 12th report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights with the learned QC's general opinion, along with the success of the hon. Gentleman's argument on the narrower point about an exemption for people wishing to pass on information to the clergy, who can then have the benefit of the conscience clause in refusing to perform a marriage ceremony? Would the hon. Gentleman regard it as a satisfactory outcome if the Government were to grant that lesser exemption?

Mr. Leigh

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. I am glad that he has raised that point because I was about to come to the Joint Committee's report, which concludes that the only exemption necessary to protect religious rights is for Anglican clergy conducting marriages, and that it should be legal to tell them a person's birth sex so that they can exercise their right under the Bill to refuse to conduct the marriage. The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point and I hope that the Minister will also respond to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I hope that he will tell us what he intends to do about this because it is very late in the day to be putting things into the Bill. The Joint Committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords agrees with Dingemans in this respect.

I want to be entirely fair with the House, however, so I must point out that—as the hon. Gentleman mentioned—the Joint Committee disagreed with Dingemans's reasoning on other points, although it does not give a detailed consideration of its arguments. I have consulted Dingemans on this report, and I am afraid that we get into rather complicated legal arguments here. The very fact that those complex arguments exist proves that this might be fertile ground for litigation. We have to accept that lawyers disagree on this—as they do on many things—and that it is therefore possible that a church could be taken to court. The church could win the case in the end, but it might have to spend some of its limited resources in doing so

Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con)

If learned lawyers disagree on which article of which convention should prevail, surely the best thing to do would be to get the statute right in the first place. Does not that make the case for my hon. Friend's new clause?

Mr. Leigh

That is all that I am seeking to do. I will deal with Pepperv. Hart in a moment, and with the rights of Ministers, however distinguished, to make subsequent orders, but it is terribly important to get the Bill as clear as possible when we are legislating in these complex and difficult areas.

Dingemans says that the view of the Joint Committee rests on the assumption that the transsexual's article 8 right to privacy "trumps" the article 9 right to freedom of religion. The report says that "in any balancing exercise against the practice of enforcing uniformity amongst the members of a religion, the Article 8 rights must prevail." Mr. Dingemans points out that this approach is wrong within the terms of the European convention on human rights, because article 17 forbids an individual or a state from using a convention right to destroy or overly limit other convention rights. Article 8 cannot therefore be said to trump article 9 in the way implied in the Joint Committee report. I know that that might confuse some hon. Members and I have been struggling with it myself this morning, but it shows some of the problems that we face and illustrates why it is important to clear them up.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the context in which these conflicting rights are to be exercised is also important? That is referred to in the contrary legal opinion. It is one thing to exercise a right to privacy at home, as it were, but it is another thing to participate in a public act such as attendance at a place of worship.

Mr. Leigh

Yes. The right to privacy, as Dingemans makes clear, is very strong. It is stronger the closer one is to one's own home environment. As one goes out into another environment—perhaps into a church group—so the article 8 right is eroded. But these are complex and quite new areas of law that are being developed all the time, as my hon. Friend well knows.

I shall deal with the detail of the amendments in a moment, but first let me anticipate, as we have had some of these debates before elsewhere, some of the objections that hon. Members might have. Let us be clear that the amendment is not about religious bigotry. I do not believe that an amendment that dealt with religious bigotry in any sense would be supported by experienced Members such as the right hon. Member for Swansea, East or the hon. Member for Bootle.

I often mention the Plymouth Brethren when I speak in the House about religious liberties. It is a fact, Mr. Speaker, that the Plymouth Brethren would not let you or me anywhere near one of their services—not unless we changed our religious beliefs. They certainly would not let us take communion, and they would not even let us near their Sunday school class. Most hon. Members, and perhaps all hon. Members, would be excluded from their group. That is their right. We may think their views are extreme, but they have that right in our free society. They are a religious community. We may not agree with their views, but we accept that they have the right to hold their views.

In moving the amendments, my concern is to protect religious freedom. The Bill touches on highly controversial ethical matters, about which there is considerable disagreement in society at large. Within religious communities the views—the disagreements—are even stronger. It is true that many very good Christians have no strong views about the matter. It is equally true that many other equally valid Christians do have strong views about whether a man can become a woman. That is not to say that they want to be nasty to transsexuals. They believe, although the House may not agree, that it is their duty to reform them. They want them to repent, just as they want me to repent. But if a transsexual walks through the door of a church, they would welcome them as they welcome all people. That is what they are there for: to welcome people and, they believe, to share the gospel with them. Very few churches in the country would turn away a transsexual from visiting the church.

What if the women in the church have a prayer group in which they may discuss intimate female issues? Why should they be carted off to the High Court for refusing to allow someone to attend that female prayer group whom they have known as a man for the past 30 years? Why should that happen to those ladies? Some disagree with the views of such ladies on the issue. They think those churches are wrong. That may be a perfectly valid point of view. Some—I will deal now with this point, which I think is a very unfair point—compare their views with racism.

I believe that comparing the views of those church groups with racism is wrong—indeed, scandalous. The law says, rightly, that one cannot refuse a person attendance at a prayer meeting for being black. That law was never opposed by any churches. I have never heard of any church group in the United Kingdom that would want to keep a black person out of any meeting whatever. Christianity is a cross-racial religion. There are more black practising members of Christianity than there are white members, and many churches in the UK are living examples of racial harmony.

The reason racism is wrong, and has always been wrong, is that one cannot choose one's race. There is no element of moral choice in the matter, so one's race says nothing about one's character. However, choosing to embark on an operation to change one's sex may or may not be right, but it may be in some people's view a controversial decision. It is certainly a moral issue. Because it is, in the view of some, a controversial and a moral issue, it is surely right that members of religious groups should be entitled to their views.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)

Until the hon. Gentleman began his latest point, I thought he moved his amendment very sympathetically and I agreed to a considerable extent with what he said. I hope that the Government take on board the issue of religious conscience. However, when the hon. Gentleman speaks about a women's group discussing intimate physical matters, I wonder what that has to do with religion. When he talks about people exercising choice, the point about transsexual men and women is that they do not feel that they have a choice. They feel that their correct gender is the gender to which they want to be reassigned.

Mr. Leigh

I accept that that is the view of transsexuals and that there is a debate about these matters. However, there are some people in Christian communities or in some churches who hold the views that I was presenting. They may or may not be right, but that is not the issue that the House must address today. The hon. Lady may hold the views of those people in contempt, if she wishes. I am not asking her to make any judgment of them. I fully accept that many transsexuals believe they are trapped in the wrong body and that for them it is not a moral or controversial case—it is simply righting some kind of physical wrong.

We can discuss all these issues later on Third Reading. I am dealing with the narrow point of how particular people should conduct their own affairs and their own meetings. Contrary to what the hon. Lady believes, many people in this country believe that there is a moral choice involved. Should we as the House of Commons impose our views? I accept that the Bill is supported by those on all the Front Benches and will become law in wider society. The only question we are considering in this narrow set of amendments is whether we should impose the general law on the particular circumstances of religious groups conducting their own private meetings. That is all we are talking about.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con)

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that I am rather perturbed by the general thrust of his remarks. If the House, on what is undoubtedly a controversial issue, reaches a judgment on what it thinks is the appropriate human rights treatment of transsexuals, surely it is both wrong in itself, and a dangerous signal to send in relation to other potential legislation, that people, whatever their private views, should somehow be allowed to opt out of the legal and human rights judgment that the House has made.

Mr. Leigh

The answer is that people are not opting out. The Bill will become law. A man will be allowed to become a woman and his birth certificate will be changed. In all respects in society—getting a job and going about his or her daily business—if she was a man who is now a woman, she will be a woman. Is my hon. Friend really saying that when we are dealing with people who have particularly strong moral or religious views we should override those views not in society as a whole, but in their own private meetings and in their own church?

Mr. Bercow

indicated assent.

Mr. Leigh

If my hon. Friend really believes that, it is a deeply illiberal point of view.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP)

Liberal or not, the harsh reality of life is that when the state has sought to interfere in the internal affairs of church bodies, there has been constant persecution. If the hon. Gentleman's new clause is not pressed through, it will lead to tension that the country should not have to face. Since 1647, the state has had no rule in the internal affairs of the Church of Scotland.

Mr. Leigh

We would all agree that the last thing we want to do is return to the controversies in the House in the 16th and 17th centuries. We want to keep out of all that. We want nothing to do with what people do in their own churches.

Mr. Bercow


Mr. Leigh

I give way to my liberal Friend.

Mr. Bercow

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Over the past five years I, in common with many other Members, have been accused of many things. I do not think I have been accused of illiberalism until now, but there is always a first time. May I put it to my hon. Friend that what he is arguing, in reasonable and measured terms, is that people should have a right, because of their convictions, to exclude from their private gathering a person or people of whose status they disapprove? That would provide a dictionary definition of intolerance, and intolerance should be inimical to anyone with a religious commitment.

1 pm

Mr. Leigh

I have already said that I cannot think of any—or many—churches that would exclude a transsexual from their services. Being a Christian is about welcoming everybody, even people of whose past, morals or anything else one might thoroughly disapprove. But there may be a case that may not be entirely unreasonable. I have already mentioned the real case of the ladies in the Baptist church in south Wales—incidentally, the judge finally came down on their side, and they won the case. Were they being entirely unreasonable in saying, "We are a group of ladies, sitting in a private meeting, and discussing intimate female matters. We know that this chap has been man for the last 30 or 40 years, and we would prefer him not to attend our meeting"? It is ridiculous that they should be carted off to the High Court simply for saying that. They were not excluding this man from anything else. My hon. Friend's argument is too wide. Let us return to the narrow point that this House should not, under any circumstances, impose its views on private religious meetings.

The new clause borrows without modification the wording of section 13 of the Human Rights Act 1998, on which I hope all Members can now agree. Section 13 was introduced by this Government in response to religious liberties concerns about the effects of the Act. The wording draws attention to the scope for a clash between religious and other rights. Religious rights are often overlooked, so it reminds the court—that is all the amendment does; it is very narrowly drawn—to pay particular attention to those rights when resolving any dispute affecting a religious group. If some religious group were in certain circumstances acting completely unreasonably, I presume that it would fall as foul of my amendment as of the Bill as drafted. The wording could not be more modest: it simply places in the Bill an acknowledgement that applying this new law in a religious context could affect religious liberties. It seeks to ensure that rights are not ignored, which will help to deter vexatious litigation against churches under the Bill. It will give churches that are sued an extra legal argument that they can use.

I know that the Minister will say that there is no need for the amendment Funnily enough, he will not use many of the arguments used by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). He will say that his lawyers have advised him that churches would win any cases brought against them under the Bill that try to change their doctrinal beliefs on transsexualism. He will say that the Bill does not add to anti-discrimination law, and that a transsexual will be no more likely to succeed in suing a church after the Bill's enactment than before it. I will happily give way now to the Minister if what I am saying is completely different from what he intends to say, but I assume that that will probably be his argument, and that he will not use the wider philosophical arguments that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham deploys with such skill. He will say that our concerns are sensible, but we should not worry because the Bill does not add to anti-discrimination law.

I say, I think my hon. Friends say, and I know Mr. Dingemans says, that this Bill changes the legal landscape. It says that a man can become a woman in law. How can the Minister be so sure that that fundamental change will not have an effect on the courts? In 1648, the Earl of Pembroke, when a Member of the other place, said that a Parliament can do anything but make a man a woman and a woman a man. Parliament is doing precisely that today. That is why this is an important legal landmark. If Parliament is making that decision, with which the amendment does not argue, it is wrong for the Minister to say that that important legal landmark will not change the legal landscape and open up the possibility of litigation.

Lynne Jones

The hon. Gentleman is wrong when he says that Parliament is making a man a woman and vice versa. Parliament cannot do that—neither would it be right for it to do so. In this Bill, Parliament is rightly recognising the personal and human rights of people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves trapped in the wrong gender, and wish to have their correct gender recognised.

Mr. Leigh

That is entirely right. Parliament cannot do that, and from the hon. Lady's point of view, what it is doing is recognising a medical fact. But it is still an important decision. and to argue that it does not change the legal landscape and that it does not open up the possibility of litigation—especially given the opinions of different lawyers to which I have referred—is to be unduly optimistic. I say that to the Minister in advance of what will no doubt be a convincing speech.

James Dingemans QC says that the Bill will lead to costly and divisive litigation against churches. He agrees that the churches should win in the end, but points out that that will divert their resources into litigation. Furthermore, he says that leaving things that way breaches religious rights. Even if they win, churches may be unable to reclaim their costs against a claimant who is legally aided. Where are they expected to get £100,000 for a Court of Appeal case? It cannot be right to leave the Bill in this state.

Let me deal with Pepperv. Hart. In the other place, Ministers offered Pepperv. Hart statements to clarify that the Bill was not intended to restrict church rights. Pepperv. Hart was a legal ruling that ministerial statements could be used when there were drafting ambiguities in the law, and when the drafting of legislation left something to be desired. It was a retrospective solution to drafting inadequacies. Surely we cannot and must not come to the stage at which Ministers refer to Pepperv. Hart in advance of a Bill becoming an Act, saying, "Don't worry, the Bill does not need to be entirely clear. I am now giving a Pepperv. Hart statement. Lawyers in future can refer back to my remarks, so what I am saying should give reassurance to churches." Should we not try to make the legislation watertight before we reach that stage?

Mr. Fallon

Surely the point about Pepperv. Hart is that, whereas it may influence the courts and the decision that they make in any litigation, it will not prevent that litigation. The fact that the Pepperv. Hart precedent has been set, and that these ministerial statements have been made, will not prevent the churches from incurring the expense.

Mr. Leigh

Precisely. Pepperv Hart is an aid to litigation: it does not prevent it.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this place can never stop litigation, but that it prescribes certain circumstances in which judges may stop litigation? We have regulations related to vexatious litigants, we have costs orders, and the Legal Services Commission has the power, under the sufficient benefit test, not to fund a particular case. In many circumstances, across the legislation that the House passes, judges and courts have the power to stop vexatious litigants or cases that have no merit.

Mr. Leigh

Why, then, did Mr. Bill Parry succeed in suing that church in south Wales, forcing it to incur costs by going to the local county court? Although the judge found in its favour, he said that it would have to pay half the costs—several hundred pounds. That may be nothing to a company, but to a small Baptist church in south Wales, it is quite a lot of money. Of course, the Minister is right, but given the views that we have had from various lawyers, it is not entirely clear to me that judges would in all circumstances stop such litigation. Whether such litigation is vexatious is a value judgment, and the view could be taken that it was not vexatious.

Mr. Lammy

I would simply say that this is a matter for the independence of the judges, and that the case that the hon. Gentleman mentions was conducted in the absence of the Bill, which has not received Royal Assent. Clearly, if a claimant were legally aided, one would expect the Legal Services Commission to make a judgment on the merits of future cases if a series of cases had been unsuccessful.

Mr. Leigh

That may or may not be true in the context of legal aid. We cannot say with any certainty that the commission would always reach that view, and the plaintiff might not be legally aided.

I do not see why such a moderate new clause, which simply quotes existing human rights legislation, cannot be incorporated in the Bill, to save the churches all this trouble. It would make things so much easier.

Chris Grayling

Probably relatively few church groups would feel able to go as far as the litigation process. Unless reassurance along the lines proposed by my hon. Friend is written into the Bill, it will constitute a huge risk. How many would take the chance? The financial downside of losing would be enormous.

Mr. Leigh

That is probably realistic. Most would have to cave in, although some would want to fight because they rightly or wrongly believe that this is an important issue for them.

Amendment No. 1 simply adds a further instance in which disclosure of a person's birth sex will not be a criminal offence. There are already exceptions for pension companies, and for other purposes. Currently, under clause 22, if one bishop tells another that a priest who has moved to his diocese changed sex, he will have committed a criminal offence. The amendment remedies that obvious anomaly.

In earlier discussions, some have rightly pointed out that the clergy are used to being discreet, and have claimed that such an exception is not necessary. But even the most discreet priest will have occasion to disclose personal matters about worshippers to his fellow clergy. That may be necessary to avoid problems in the church.

Let us use the Labour Whips Office as an example. The Whips are used to this distinction. We would all deplore it if the Whips gossiped about our private lives—of course they never do that—but what if a Labour Member is about to be promoted to a ministerial post, and one of the Whips is aware of some enormous crisis that is about to break in his personal life? Of perhaps that never happens either. It would surely be irresponsible of the Whip not to give some indication of that to those who are deciding whether to appoint him. The same might apply to the appointment of a new volunteer or member of staff in a church. If the church has strong beliefs about what it means to be male or female, it would cause enormous offence to appoint a new leader of women's ministries, only for it to emerge later that she used to be a he, and is the father of three children.

Others compare privacy over a sex change with privacy over abortion. Could a minister disclose the fact that a woman in the church had previously had an abortion? The answer is, under present law, yes—and in certain circumstances, some members of the clergy might consider it appropriate where someone might be asked to provide pregnancy crisis counselling, and that would not currently constitute a criminal offence. Why should talking about an abortion be legal and talking about a sex change be illegal? Do we really want this to be a criminal offence?

It is interesting to compare the Bill's treatment of religion with its treatment of sport. Sport is big business, of course. It is an industry with a huge amount of money and a huge amount of influence, political and otherwise. In popular culture, it is much more important than religion. When sporting bodies wanted an exemption from the Bill, they got their way. The Government originally said that they had nothing to worry about, using arguments similar to some that we may hear today; but when those bodies continued to press for an exemption, the Government gave way. The financial rewards for winning meant that the issue had to be addressed. What concerned the sports industry was that some man somewhere might consider dramatic surgery to enable him to become a winner in female events. The Government have allowed sports groups to discriminate against transsexuals when it is necessary to protect competitive sport.

We simply want churches to have an equal right to decide their affairs when they sincerely believe that it is necessary to protect their religious doctrine. There is a lot of concern about this in religious communities. Today's Report stage is our last opportunity to amend the Bill. I hope that the Government will look on the amendments sympathetically, and that they will allow their supporters a free vote so that we can reach a considered decision.

1.15 pm
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op)

It will not take me long to make my point.

I was with the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) for about half his speech, but the second half made it a bit more difficult for me to agree with him. If a group feels uneasy about being joined by someone on the basis of gender, I see that not as a religious issue but as an issue of people's feeling that their own inclination could be affected.

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was entirely right about conscientious objection. Some of my church leaders have approached me expressing their unease. If we are to produce statute, it would be helpful if we got it right at the outset rather than assuming that it will be improved in due course by custom and practice and further legal challenges.

As always, we have been provided with helpful notes. The hon. Gentleman was magnanimous enough to say that—bar the point that I am about to raise—the Joint Committee on Human Rights did not support his legal opinion, although it did support his view on protecting the clergy's rights in terms of conscientious objection in the event of advance disclosure of an issue that could arise in a particular church. The Joint Committee said that, in relation to marriage, that should not be an offence, but it could be covered by secondary legislation. Is that the Government's opinion? I understand that they are likely to clarify their general approach today, but I should like to know specifically why such a provision should be introduced in secondary legislation.

I would not pretend to have any legal knowledge—I am anything but a lawyer—but I feel that secondary legislation is by nature a weaker form of protection than primary legislation. If it is argued that this question can be covered suitably by secondary legislation, I shall want to know why. I shall also want to know when the secondary legislation will be introduced in what the hon. Gentleman described as the likely event that the Bill is passed today and goes on to become law. It is not unusual for secondary legislation to be somewhat delayed, which would give someone an opportunity to test the provision in the courts.

There are a few questions that need to be answered very quickly to put the minds of some of us at rest. We should like the problem over conscientious objection to be overcome, in the context of more general human rights issues to do with the wider community; but that must be done in this Bill and at this time, because otherwise we could leave too much to risk.

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD)

When I started to listen to the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), and looked at the wording of the new clause, I had some sympathy with what he was trying to achieve. Such questions were raised on several occasions during our deliberations in Committee, and the Minister made it very clear that this issue was not a problem. He put the case that nothing was required and that what was feared could not happen.

I think that all of us on the Committee, like the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), received representations from members of our Churches and faith communities who had concerns, having seen the QC's interpretation of the legislation, and fears about how the Bill might be interpreted. I hope that the Minister will take account of those fears and concerns, recognise that they are genuine and perhaps consider whether there is any way in which some of the clauses could be tweaked slightly to allay them.

I hope that the Minister will explain why he will reject the new clause. I hope that he will reject it because it is a rather heavy-handed way of trying to deal with a perceived problem. It sets out to change primacy in legislation. There would be a great risk if we accepted an amendment to the Bill that said that religious freedom and the faith of a Church had primacy over everything else in the Bill—which is effectively what the new clause would do. I am not saying that that would necessarily affect other legislation, but my fear would be where we would stop. Would we then say that there should be similar clauses in other legislation?

Chris Grayling

Is the hon. Gentleman saying, then, that Parliament should not be minded to take religious views and principles into account? He appears to be saying that Parliament should not see itself as constrained by those issues.

Richard Younger-Ross

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my opening comments, in which I said that the Minister should take account of those concerns in the legislation and how it is drawn up. However, in my view, we cannot make an amendment that would give primacy to a Church or set of beliefs over all other aspects of legislation. The new clause would set a precedent of giving the Church—or faiths—primacy over legislation, and human rights legislation in particular. Human rights legislation is designed to protect us all in matters other than just those covered by the Bill. If we accepted this new clause, it would be argued that such amendments should be made to other legislation, in other fields.

Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD)

Does my hon. Friend accept that human rights legislation covers precisely those rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion?

Richard Younger-Ross

This new clause would put the freedoms, thoughts and rights of that faith over human rights legislation.

Dr. Pugh

I can see no mention in the new clause of any specific faith. It simply mentions general rights, which as I understand it are general human rights.

Richard Younger-Ross

I wonder whether we are getting on to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The purpose of the new clause is to change the legislation to give primacy to those Churches over the Bill's clauses. If that were not the ease, there would be no purpose in the hon. Member for Gainsborough moving the amendment.

Mr. Bercow

May I help the hon. Gentleman?

Richard Younger-Ross

I should be grateful.

Mr. Bercow

May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the charge against the new clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) is slightly less exacting and severe than that which the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) has levelled, but that it is nevertheless significant? The charge against new clause 1 is not that it would render the rest of the Bill null and void, but that it would deny to transsexuals the principle of equality of treatment that underlies the Bill, and which is its raison d'être. It is mightily difficult to envisage precisely what paragraph (b) of amendment 1 would mean in practice.

Richard Younger-Ross

I take the point. I am not trying to make the charge against the hon. Member for Gainsborough that he is trying to undermine all human rights legislation. I would not say that, but to deny transgendered people those rights under this Bill undermines the very reason for the Bill itself, in the context of a particular group and society. There are exclusions in the Bill, which we have debated and accepted. The question is how far we go in accepting exclusions.

Chris Grayling

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Richard Younger-Ross

I want to make some progress, but I shall give way one more time.

Chris Grayling

I am grateful. Will the hon. Gentleman encapsulate for the House at what point he believes that the legislature should or should not override the conscience of individuals in order to secure the human rights of others?

Richard Younger-Ross

How long will we be staying here tonight? There are some general points in the Bill that I hope will clarify that, although I accept the point. It is very difficult to know where to draw the line, but we have done that in other cases.

Mr. Bercow

Will the hon. Gentleman give way just once more?

Richard Younger-Ross

I am too generous.

Mr. Bercow

The hon. Gentleman's generosity of spirit invariably gets the better of him, and today is no exception. It was very good of him even to start to answer the tortuous essay question that my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) posed. I put it to the hon. Member for Teignbridge that the gravamen of the issue is this: respect for some people's rights should not extend so far as to allow them to practise their rights if that violates those of others. Granting the respect for rights that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has in mind would do damage to the rights of others. That is the unacceptability of the proposition.

Richard Younger-Ross

The hon. Gentleman puts the matter extremely clearly and concisely, in his own impeccable way. I was going to put it differently, but he has encapsulated the point beautifully.

I want to continue in my way on the consequences of the new clause. The hon. Member for Gainsborough referred to Christians not excluding others. I wish that that were the case. It might be that in this country, the Christian Churches do not exclude others—because, in effect, of the legislation that we have brought in over the years to stop such discrimination. Not so long ago that was not the case, and we would not have to go very far to find other countries where some Christian Churches have excluded others for all sorts of reasons. There have been exclusions on mental health grounds, on grounds of colour and on grounds of gender. That has all happened in our lifetimes, and happens in other parts of the world today.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way very briefly?

Richard Younger-Ross

Go on.

Andrew Selous

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he was generous in Committee and he is being generous again now. Is not the nub of his argument that, as far as religious organisations are concerned—let us not forget that they are what the clause is talking about—he is trying to say that secular, humanist, human rights-based law should have precedence over a concern for freedom of religion?

Richard Younger-Ross

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that that law does have precedence. Laws that we have passed already affect how churches can act. That does not affect religious thought or what people think, but it does affect their actions. There are a number of examples of that. However, we are diverging into other areas. Let me come to the nub of my point, and then the hon. Gentleman might catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye and be able to put his arguments. Perhaps he himself will be generous in allowing interventions on those points.

1.30 pm

The essence of my argument is that the hon. Member for Gainsborough was wrong: there is discrimination within Christian Churches, and I make that point as a practising Roman Catholic. All is not always rosy in the religious garden. Much has been made of how my own faith treated unmarried mothers in Ireland, denying them basic human rights. Today, all of us—including even the Roman Catholic Church—would accept that that was an appalling way to behave. This legislation deals with other discrimination issues, and I hope that in passing it—as we doubtless will—we will protect people who have been discriminated against for centuries.

That brings me to my second argument with the hon. Member for Gainsborough. He used the word "choice"—as if one wanders downstairs in the morning, looks in the mirror and suddenly thinks, "I want to be a woman today." That is not how it happens. There was an excellent recent television series about intersexual people: those whose gender is determined by doctors at birth for hormonal or chromosomal reasons and who are thereby denied a choice at an early stage in their life, and who then decide that the doctors got it wrong, and that the gender that they wish to be is not the same as that to which they were assigned at birth.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris)—he sends his apologies for not being here—is a doctor, and perish the thought that I should do a disservice to doctors by saying that they make mistakes, but the fact is that they do.[Interruption.] Apparently, my hon. Friend is here but has just left the Chamber; he was late arriving because his train was delayed. A number of mistakes were certainly made so far as intersexual children were concerned, as the television series to which I referred demonstrated perfectly well.

One can go further. Who knows how the brain works? We still do not fully understand how it works. Who understands what triggers a person's brain—often at the very young age of three, four or five—to decide that they are in a body of the wrong gender.[Interruption.] I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon back to the Chamber. We do not know at what stage such things happen. We do not know precisely what causes a person to decide that they are of the wrong gender, and that they wish to adopt the gender that they consider has always been theirs. Such people have the mind of a woman but happen to have the body of a man, or vice versa. Who is to determine what happened to them, and whether the cause was hormonal or chromosomal?

Andrew Selous

In the interest of informing the House, it would be remiss of the hon. Gentleman not to point out that some transsexual people—I understand that that is the correct term to use if we are not to cause offence—move from one sex to the other and back again. So it is not always the case that their sexuality is predetermined from birth.

Richard Younger-Ross

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

Order. This is not a general debate on these issues; we have a specific new clause before us, and the hon. Gentleman should address his remarks to it.

Richard Younger-Ross

We shall doubtless return to the issue mentioned by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) at a later date, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but before I finish I should like to make two points. If the new clause is accepted, every member of a faith community will be able to know that a person is transgendered, yet it would be an offence for anyone outside that community to know that information. That is an impossible situation and it is not practical. In my view, it would be totally wrong to pass legislation that allows small sections of a community to be informed of a matter about which those outside it cannot be informed.

Reference has been made to the Bill's sports exemptions. Under the terms of that new clause, a transgendered person who wanted to take up a sport that relates specifically to their new gender would be unable to do so in certain circumstances. The new clause makes such provision because such a person would perhaps be consciously choosing to take up that sport in the knowledge that they enjoy the physical advantages of their formal birth gender. One of the Bill's purposes is to prevent others from knowing such things, and to enable such people to go through their lives without everyone knowing their history and pointing at them. To enable everyone in a church community to know that a person is transgendered is to deny that person access to that community. That is a profoundly un-Christian and ungodly thing to do.

Mr. Alan Hurst (Braintree) (Lab)

I shall not detain the House for long as I simply want to discuss a fairly narrow issue that was raised by a curate in my division, the Rev. Malcolm Peters of St. Michael's church, Braintree. First, I understand that a concession has been made in the Bill, in that clergy of the Church of England and of the Church in Wales will no longer be obliged to perform a marriage it the applicants for marriage fit the necessary requirements. Secondly, if the curate came to know in his official capacity that he was dealing with a transsexual person and he declined to marry them, it would of course be open to the applicant to move on and to apply to the rector or vicar. As matters stand, the curate is prohibited from notifying his vicar or rector of the position.

The new clause and amendment of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) seek to cure that problem and, indeed, to go wider. The difficulty is that they go too far. Under the terms of amendment No. 1, it would be necessary to "comply with the doctrines of the religion", but in certain Churches there are divided views as to the doctrine on this matter. The Church of England in particular would have a problem, given that a number of its bishops were in the forefront of promoting the Bill in the other place. The definition of "doctrines of the religion" would be very difficult to define.

Amendment No. 1 also refers to "religious susceptibilities". I am not certain what a religious susceptibility is, and again, no definition is provided. However, the greatest problem is caused by the amendment's reference to the religious susceptibilities "of a significant number of the religion's followers." Are followers communicants, members of the Church in question or those who attend a certain number of Sundays a year? The term "follower" needs to be defined before we can consider what constitutes "a significant number". Is a significant number half, three quarters or two thirds? The amendment is defective because it seeks to spread itself too widely.

The approach should be that of the fiduciary relationship. Does an official trusting relationship exist between, for example, the curate and his vicar, or between the vicar and his archdeacon and bishop? If it is possible to define the parameters of a trusting relationship between Church officials, an appropriate provision should be drawn up, so that such information can be passed on. If such a provision went much further and the church warden and the head of the Sunday school were notified, there would be no end to the process, and such information would become the tittle-tattle of communities, particularly small ones. That would completely undermine the whole purpose of the Bill, which is to allow those who move from one sex to another to do so with dignity and privacy.

I would support the new clause and amendment of the hon. Member for Gainsborough if they were more narrowly defined. I fully accept that we should deal with definitions now if we possibly call, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments at the end of the debate. As has been said, the power already exists for the making of subsequent orders, in order to define further categories to which disclosure can be made. However, we should think hard and carefully about what those categories should be, so that we preserve both the spirit of the Church concerned, and the privacy and dignity of the person with whom it is dealing.

Chris Grayling

I want to say a few words in support of new clause 1. Given all the concerns about this section of the Bill—probably voiced to most hon. Members by local Church or religious groups—the approach that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) has taken in the new clause is eminently sensible. It sends a clear signal of intent from this place to the courts to enable them to form the right judgments in the event of these matters coming before them. One hopes that such cases will be few and far between.

I read closely and with interest the work of Dingemans, which should be a totemic reference point for the House. It is a piece of work carried out by one of our leading QCs. It offers legal advice of which we should be mindful and it will undoubtedly have an influence if these matters are brought before the courts. One section of Dingemans' work—paragraph 17—jumped off the page at me. It states: "Religious rights have a 'primordial place' in a democratic society and the 'pluralism indissociable' from a democratic society depends upon religious rights It is not the function of the Courts (or the legislature) to judge the acceptability of the religious views (even if the Judge or the members of Parliament are members of the same religion) if the religious views have attained a sufficient level of cogency. Indeed, as the views become less accepted by modern society as a whole, the greater becomes the burden on the Courts and legislature to protect them." That is a safe set of words, of which we should be mindful in considering these matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough is right about the risks that exist when a leading QC takes a view with which the Government may disagree. Those who have considered the Bill may disagree with it, but it is there, on paper, and it comes from a leading legal authority. My hon. Friend is right that it may give rise to debate after the Bill has been passed and it may form one part of the subsequent arguments in the courts. It is surely beholden on the House to ensure that we do all that we can to get it right and to send the right signals about our intent to those who will examine the provisions in the courts. We must not end up leaving it to the courts to interpret our motives in the House. If we do, individual Church and religious groups may incur huge expenses in going through the process.

Mr. Bercow

Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I rarely become agitated, but I am bound to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who read out learned counsel's views as though it were a conclusive commentary affecting the result of the debate, that he should take great care not to conflate and confuse legal judgments with political judgments, the latter being our responsibility. There is a difference between people of a religious faith holding views and being allowed to take actions reflecting those views, which damage other people's rights. That is the gravamen of the argument here.

Chris Grayling

But we should all be mindful of the points that Mr. Dingemans makes. Both we and the courts have a duty to be mindful of the consciences, views, beliefs and rights of people in our society. It is important to protect the rights of all involved in the process—an important point sincerely put earlier—but that argument works both ways. Although we are duty bound to look after the rights of a small set of individuals in our society who face real problems—there is much in the Bill to be welcomed—we also have a duty to ensure that in protecting the rights of those individuals we do not trespass on the inalienable rights of others. It is a difficult balance to strike. I put my dissertation question to the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) and he is right to say that it is a difficult line to find, and it is not always easy for us to do so.

Mr. Bercow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again. He used the word "inalienable". Does he believe that it is the inalienable right of one person to kick another person out of a meeting because the person doing the kicking out disapproves of the change of gender of the other person? That seems a very curious definition of an inalienable right and I do not believe that the founding fathers would have fought for it.

Chris Grayling

Fundamentally, every individual in our society must have the right to hold sincere religious views. I do not believe that any individual should have the right to force someone else to abandon views that they hold sincerely according to their conscience. As I said, it is a difficult line to find, but it is dangerous to trespass across it.

1.45 pm
Mr. Lammy

May I put on record the fact that it is certainly not the Government's intention for religious people to abandon their views? The opinion of James Dingemans was a good one, which I read with close interest, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that other eminent QCs, the Clerk to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the eminent Lord Chancellor and many other lawyers are involved. The key question is not the balance—in the sense of the amount—of legal opinion, but the judgment call that has to be made. It is a balance not simply between having religious freedom or not having it, but between the important right to religious freedom, which is enshrined in our Human Rights Act 1998, and the fundamental and important right to privacy. That is the key point and it is the path that the Government must follow as we examine these important issues.

Chris Grayling

I would agree with most of what the Minister said: we are dealing with a difficult and sensitive area, and it is right to be mindful of the rights of all involved on the different sides of the debate. It would be wrong for the House to be unduly prescriptive either one way or the other in respect of the amendments to the Bill. What makes new clause 1 attractive to me is that it is not designed to prescribe exactly what the courts should decide. It simply sends a message from this place to the courts stating that we are concerned that the religious rights of individuals in our society might come under significant pressure as a result of the Bill's enactment. We want the courts to be mindful of that and to err on the side of the protection of religious freedoms if and when—one hopes that it is only if: ideally, it is not at all—these matters come before the courts. It is surely right for the House to send out the message that a small group of people in our society who have not been properly looked after by the law in the past should be looked after more effectively in the future. Nevertheless, in providing a solution to their problems, it is crucial to ensure that we do not force others to go against their own consciences and their own religious views.

Mr. Lammy

I discern a dichotomy in what the hon. Gentleman has said. He says that it is important that the Bill does not place religious communities under significant pressure. He acknowledges that the community of people concerned—perhaps one of the smallest minorities on behalf of whom the House has sought to assist by passing equality measures—is only about 5,000 in number. All hon. Members have transgendered people in their communities. This group of 5,000 people are vulnerable, and they have experienced significant prejudice. In my experience, their gender dysphoria makes them meek and timid about their appearance, and other things. The notion that they might take on our Churches in some significant way does not match everyday experience. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it is important that he keeps a sense of perspective in his remarks.

Chris Grayling

The Minister is right that we are talking about a small group of people, but we live in a litigious society. I am sure that every hon. Member would wish that these matters will never come before the courts but, if that happens, the House must give a signal to the courts. These are difficult issues and it is hard to separate the two sides in the debate. However, as we extend rights to one group of people, it is right for us to ask the courts to be mindful of the risks that that might present to the moral and religious views of other groups.

Andrew Selous

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Baptist church in south Wales was advised that it would have lost its case if the provisions of the Bill, as drafted—that is, unamended by new clause 1—had applied. My hon. Friend is describing the reality of what Churches will face from a very small litigious minority.

Chris Grayling

I think that my hon. Friend's contribution speaks for itself. He is right. We aim to provide an additional degree of protection: we do not want to be prescriptive, but we want to reassure those Church groups who may have to confront these matters. New clause 1 has been drafted carefully, and offers a sensible balance between the different dimensions of the question at issue. It would strengthen the Bill and send a message of reassurance to religious groups, but it would not change fundamentally what the Government are trying to achieve.

I commend the new clause to the House. I hope that the Minister can be persuaded to change his mind and accept it, as it would make the Bill better, fairer and more just.

Lynne Jones

I understand that, in the light of the Dingemans opinion and of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Government may put forward proposals to give practical clout to the clause in the Bill that deals with conscientious objection, in respect of marriage and, I hope, ordination. I welcome that.

The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) made some valid points in the first part of his speech, and there is no doubt tension between the provisions in articles 8 and 9 of the convention on human rights. However, he also talked about the rights of women's discussion groups, and I do not see how that can have anything to do with religious freedom. It is on a par with discussions about who should use the ladies' toilet: it is irrelevant, and involves a complete misunderstanding of transsexualism.

I have circulated some briefing notes to hon. Members about transsexualism, and I emphasise that it is not a matter of choice. Transsexuals are people who feel compelled to have hormonal treatment or surgery so that their physical characteristics can be brought into congruence with the way that they feel about their gender identity.

There are other tensions between articles 8 and 9 of the convention. The Bill proposes that married transsexual people must dissolve their marriages if they want to exercise their human rights under article 8. There is a great bond between people whose marriages have subsisted through the upheavals and difficulties that arise when one spouse decides to change into what they see as their correct gender. The strength of that bond may in part be due to strong religious beliefs about the sacredness of the vows taken at marriage.

The Bill requires people to choose between how they exercise their rights under articles 8 and 9. I am very sad at that. We will discuss that in detail later, but it shows how difficult these matters are. Religious freedom has no overwhelming priority over the right to privacy and other freedoms provided for in human rights legislation. We must strike a balance between rights, and the Bill does that, by and large. Some elements could be tweaked: there are some changes that I should like to be made, and I shall appeal to the Government to amend the Bill accordingly.

Andrew Selous

I shall be brief, as most of the arguments have been well aired already. I wholeheartedly support new clause 1, to which I am a signatory. The idea that religious groups should be allowed to regulate their affairs should not cause the House any difficulty.

At the start of the Bill's progress through the House, I received a letter from a transsexual person in my constituency. The letter told me of the writer's hopes for the Bill and detailed some of the difficulties encountered in the writer's life. I am pleased to say that the Bill goes a long way towards addressing some of those difficulties.

However, hundreds of churchgoing people around the country, and ministers and pastors too, have written to me to express concern about the Bill's possible effects—on their communities, the finances of their Churches, and the pastoral oversight that their Churches exercise. I am not sure that the Government realise the extent of that anxiety. The Government want to provide genuine remedies to the real concerns of transsexual people, and they can do that without causing the offence and upset that will be caused if this Bill is enacted.

The Minister said that most transsexual people are mild mannered and that they do not want to cause offence. He is absolutely right: I was delighted to meet, for the first time, some transsexual people at the end of some sittings of the Standing Committee considering the Bill. I concur with the Minister's assessment, but any society has a small minority of people who are litigious, sometimes aggressively so. The case involving the Baptist Church in south Wales has been mentioned, and I repeat that the Church was told that it would have lost the case if the Bill, unamended by new clause 1, had been the prevailing legislation.

Churches are not rich organisations. The money that they have should be spent on promoting the gospels and on the other work that they do. It should not be used to fight lawsuits.

The nub of the issue is that it would not be right for the House to impose a secular, humanist provision based on human rights on religious organisations in respect of the conduct of their affairs. The Bill contains plenty of protections for transsexual people, and justifiably so, but the new clause is very mild and states merely that the courts should "have regard" to the sensibilities of religious organisations. I hope that the Government will accept the new clause.

2 pm

Richard Younger-Ross

Can the hon. Gentleman provide the philosophical argument that would explain why it would be right for a Church to allow someone into the church to practise their faith and to use the ladies' toilets, which is an example he has cited, but not to sit down with other women—because the person would legally be a woman—to debate religious matters.

Andrew Selous

The hon. Gentleman picks a specific example and it is not for us to speculate what would happen in an individual church—[Interruption.] No, I will address that point. It is, rightly, an established custom in many different Churches to have male prayer groups and female prayer groups. They are sensitive flowers, which grow up over a period of time and in which confidences are shared. People do not share intimate details of their life unless they have confidence that what they share will be respected, and there are some issues that men prefer to discuss with other men and women prefer to discuss with other women.

Mr. Lammy

Oh, please!

Andrew Selous

The Minister seems to have an objection to that. It may not be the custom in the Churches of which he has knowledge, but it is the custom in Churches up and down the country. All I am saying is that we need a degree of sensitivity to the situation, which is not too much to ask.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) (Lab)

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that if a religious belief carries with it an acceptance of a practice—such as female circumcision, polygamy or stoning to death a woman taken in adultery—it should be outside civil law and this House should allow it to be part of the structure of this country or should not voice any criticism of other countries where such practices take place?

Andrew Selous

Of course it would be ridiculous to say that we could not have views about the strange practices of various faiths in different parts of the world. The hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] I am sorry; I mean the hon. Lady. She is talking about religious views, but the new clause does not address the issue of theology, so that point is not germane to the argument.

I hope that the Government will come to realise the extent of the concern about this matter among good people, who do not seek to cause trouble. They just wish to ensure that they can run their Churches in a way that accords with their beliefs.

Mr. Colin Breed (South-East Cornwall) (LD)

We have had a good debate on the new clause. I was pleased to add my name to the new clause because it has provided the opportunity for a wide-ranging debate. I have great sympathy for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. In fact, I have also been contacted by a constituent who has suffered considerably and will be assisted by many of the provisions in the Bill.

The new clause focuses narrowly on the issue of religious liberty. In the past hour, we have seen that a fine balance must be struck between protecting the rights of certain individuals and maintaining the religious liberties that have been enjoyed by many churches over a long time. The issue concerns many hon. Members with widely varying perspectives. Of those who added their names in support of the new clause, some supported the Bill on Second Reading, some voted against it and many abstained. That shows that one can support the Bill and the new clause, because it does not go against any of the central principles. Instead, the new clause would add to the Bill's list of qualifications.

The majority of transsexual people who will take advantage of the Bill's provisions will just get on with the rest of their life. Many of them will find that going to church will pose no particular problem. The issue centres on those few who may take advantage of some of the provisions to pursue a litigious or vexatious case against a particular church, minister or official. I hope, therefore, that we can strike a balance between protection of the individuals and protection of the rights of church members, who might be widely affected by a case against their church.

We often qualify rights and we are right to do so, because unqualified rights can be taken to extremes by some people. We are getting used to a certain amount of extremism in society. Some people utilise reasonable legislation that is meant to be used reasonably, to pursue extreme court cases that entail huge costs for those who have to defend them. That is why I support the new clause. It would not do the transsexuals' cause much good if vexatious cases were to be brought against various churches, because they would receive huge publicity and could undermine many of the good aspects of the Bill. It is regrettable that some people might take their rights to extreme lengths, not only under this Bill but under other legislation, because that undermines what might be called political correctness. That is unfortunate, but it is happening more and more frequently. People get their own back, as they see it, by pursuing matters to court, even if they do not necessarily have a great chance of success. However, they can significantly undermine—even bankrupt—ndividuals or organisations. I hope that the Minister can allay my fears on that point.

Yesterday, I met a group of ministers and they raised one specific fear that I wish to put to the Minister. It concerned the public disclosure aspect of baptismal records. They explained that baptismal records are public records and they wondered whether their disclosure would lead to any difficulties under the Bill.

Dr. Pugh

I agree with the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow), who said earlier that this is an issue of the balance of rights—the rights of transsexuals and the rights of some churches that think they will be affected by the Bill. He is right to say that legislators frequently have to decide between rights with a view to the overall common good, and sometimes hard choices need to be made. However, in this instance a reasonable compromise may be available. We need to make a tough choice because both sides cannot have their own way.

I have been impressed by this debate—the sensitivity of the speakers, their passion and the way in which they have treated a profoundly moving and puzzling phenomenon. I am convinced that it is no part of the objectives of the Bill to discriminate against religion, to cause any religious furore, to trample on conscience or to make religious bodies feel that they will be treated worse than sporting bodies.

A compromise is possible, but I do not know whether new clause 1 will achieve it. I hope that it will. However, it would not—on this point I disagree with the hon. Gentleman—give an inalienable right to any religious body. It simply states that the Government should be mindful of freedom of conscience and religious belief. It asks only for mindfulness, not an inalienable right.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD)

I have much sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but I have a problem with the word "particular". It is difficult for the courts to interpret correctly. To elevate one right above another in statute in that way is unhelpful to the interpretation of the intention of the legislation.

Dr. Pugh

I shall not take it on myself to comment on the perfection or otherwise of the wording of the new clause—

Mr. Leigh

It is simply taken from the Human Rights Act.

Dr. Pugh

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but I do not want to comment on how far-reaching the proposal may be or how troublesome it might be at a later date; nor can I comment on a QC's advice. However, the Minister needs to give us powerful, clear and unequivocal reassurance. That is important, first, to people of genuine and benign religious conviction and, secondly, to the people the legislation seeks to help.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)

I, too, have received reservations from local religious leaders about the disclosure of information aspects of the Bill. This is one of those Bills where never so many MPs met with never so many religious leaders; I hope that it has done us some good.

There are clearly anxieties about litigious individuals, especially as regards the disclosure of information—the particular point that has been raised with me. However, my understanding of the suggested amendments is that they could provoke more litigation than the existing provisions.

Can the Minister clarify my understanding of the provisions? Under subsection (5) of clause 22 the Government have provided for the Secretary of State to make specific orders to define what will or will not be an offence in relation to disclosure of information. They have also given assurances that they will look at the Dingemans advice and consider how it might be interpreted in the development of such orders, to avoid the risk of litigation that would bear heavily on individual religious institutions while preserving the balance of interest for the people the Bill would benefit. Subsection (5) thus gives us the opportunity to take a common-sense approach that would protect all interests, and would also enable us to introduce further orders to eradicate any problems that might arise in future. We should then be giving as much security as possible to all sides in the debate.

Mr. Boswell

This has been an excellent debate. The House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) for introducing it so comprehensively and for sparking off some other excellent contributions. I found very little to quibble about in my hon. Friend's own contribution. I merely point out that although I speak from the Front Bench I neither require nor encourage my colleagues to follow me in this matter. All votes from these Benches today will be free votes.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

All votes are free votes.

Mr. Boswell

Indeed, but the votes today are particularly free and we should welcome and celebrate the diversity that they may yet produce.

Mr. Bercow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I am sure that we are all particularly grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) for pointing out that all votes are free votes, but does my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) think that that was the view expressed by our right hon. and learned Friend when for a brief period he was a Government Whip?

Mr. Boswell

Some things in this place are perhaps best left unsaid, especially among consenting friends, if I may put it like that.

I speak as a supporter of the Bill but also as someone who signed the new clause with enthusiasm and amendment No. 1 with a degree of tentativeness, and who has listened to the representations made to me. The Bill deals with some difficult issues, many of which we dealt with equably in Committee. Almost all the letters I received about the Bill were from faith interests, the majority from Christian interests. They reflected the opinions of a variety of churchmanship, from Catholic to Free Church. We should remember, too, that other faith communities, including Muslim communities, are exercised about the Bill to some degree or another.

I am a Christian, as I made clear in Committee, so I may be said to have an interest. In general, I support the Bill but I have reservations about these aspects. It has been right to debate them and we look forward to the Minister's response. Equally, however, I have reservations about the situation that might arise if we were to enact the new clause.

As a general rule, I do not like partial legislation; as several hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, there should be no special deal for the Churches. They should not have carte blanche against the provisions of the law, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) said, to do exactly as they like when that is unacceptable to the House. We must defend that principle. Equally, however, we must respect their sensitivities and their broad underlying decencies wherever we possibly can.

2.15 pm

I do not seek to patronise the many people who wrote to me personally—the number ran into three figures—because we know how things can be encouraged. People read about something and want to write to someone to express their concern. However, it is possible that not all my correspondents fully understood all the implications of the Bill and the safeguards that it already contains. Indeed, I am not absolutely sure that any of us do—it is a complex matter, with legal cruces to which I shall turn in a moment. It is also possible that some people, even those in faith communities, may be motivated by personal dislike of or distaste for transgendered people. I do not condone that and I do not follow them in it, but it is possible that some people may be using some of the practical difficulties as a shield behind which they can advance such views. I certainly do not want to encourage that. Nevertheless there is a body of interest and concern among decent and responsible opinion, mainly in the Christian Churches, that should be properly addressed.

The Minister will be able to make this point better and more clearly than I, but there are already several serious safeguards in the Bill and they should be embodied in good practice. We should, for example, try to embody them in Christian practice. A minister has the right to ask, and the respondent the right to decline to answer, the question: "Are you or are you not a transgendered person?" That is a reasonable and proper question-for example, in regard to marriage—especially if the rules of the Church preclude particular offices or practices to a person in that situation.

An individual, whether or not they are a minister of religion, has the right to pass on information, provided that it is done with the consent of the person concerned. That is obviously the best situation in practice. Nevertheless, despite those safeguards, the faith communities have concerns and have written eloquently to us about them.

First, faith communities have concern about practices that they would regard as normal and reasonable. Secondly, they are concerned about the discharge of their pastoral duties—for example, between one member of the clergy and another. Thirdly, and more widely, they are concerned about the threat of litigation that, even if they were to win it, might incur considerable hassle and cost to a relatively small community, unused to early recourse to legislation.

The Minister will rightly say that nobody can be precluded from taking up their rights under the law as a matter of principle—nor should they be; as he has already reminded the House, if that were contrary to public purposes there are already safeguards. However, to my regret, we are moving towards a society that is highly litigation-driven, where people will seek either to assert and secure their rights or to make a point about their putative rights at the expense of a third party.

Chris Grayling

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to my hon. Friend for interrupting him, but the Officers of the House might like to be aware that there is a pronounced smell of burning on the Opposition side of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am well aware that there is a smell of burning on both sides of the House, and it is being investigated at the moment.

Mr. Boswell

I was doing my very best not to make an inflammatory speech and I am sorry that I have so conspicuously failed to do so, but let us heroically return to the point in the hope that the fires will not be in store for us all.

There has rightly been a great deal of discussion about the legal opinion of James Dingemans, QC in this matter. There then equally has been put against that opinion—as a layperson, I am enjoying this rather vicarious clash of the champions—the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which says in its 12th progress report that it does not agree with it. Of course, as the Minister will be aware, the Joint Committee concedes that, in the spirit of the legislation, there should be a conscience clause for clergy, who would not be required under the Bill to marry transgendered persons, to be told that those persons are trangendered. That is an entirely reasonable provision, and perhaps the Minister will tell us how he intends to proceed on that.

Frankly, such a safeguard does not deal with a number of other conscience clause issues that might arise—for example, if a priest is transferring from one diocese to another, the pastoral duties of a bishop to advise the neighbouring bishop of the priest's status as a transsexual person, and in certain faiths where it is not acceptable for such people to proceed to ordination, the fact that they are so. Those are very difficult issues, but they undoubtedly come within the overall gamut of the Dingemans opinion.

Mr. Drew

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for battling on despite all before us. Those who have taken up this issue with me have particularly wanted to protect their own clergy. Although I support the case behind new clause 1 in outline, what worries me is that no distinction is drawn in it between the additional protection that clergy may need because of the vulnerable position that they may be put in, and the religious freedom that we as Christians would all wish to exercise but which we, through our conscience, would have to take a risk in exercising. Does he accept that there is a problem?

Mr. Boswell

I certainly accept that there is a problem, although with respect—I mean that—the right approach to the solution may not have been found, because some faith communities do not organise themselves separately into clergy and lay people, and a difficulty is obviously created if that is so. As the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Hurst) said, that may be something to do with the relationship of trust when someone is in a position of trust or management. That may need to be thought about. I am well conscious of the fact that if the new clause does not prevail in a few moments, the Minister may want to go away and think very much about what may be done under the order-making powers to try to safeguard people's positions. I am pleased to see that he is at least nodding concern, if not assent, about that point.

There is, however, a real worry, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has been entirely right to bring this to the House's attention and there are more general applications for these concerns. Even with good will on the part of the Churches and the faith communities and with good will, as I am sure there will be, among the great majority of transgendered people themselves, who will not seek to make political or demonstrative points, the danger is that this will end up in a kind of legal Tom Tiddler's ground. I am a little surprised that no one has quoted the last paragraph of the Dingemans opinion, which bears quotation in full because it expresses very well the concerns in this matter. He says: "The Bill contains provisions which would criminalise disclosures made for religious purposes which are likely to infringe the religious rights of individuals. Further the Bill, in its current form, gives scope for litigation against individual Churches seeking to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. Such litigation is likely to be divisive, costly and of benefit only to the lawyers." That is my sensitivity on this matter.

I said, however, that I believe that some of those issues perhaps have a wider application than the Bill itself. I will say very briefly—I am conscious of the fact that I am speaking to a motion on Report, rather than raising a general issue—that my own experience and concerns arise as a co-sponsor of the Promotion of Volunteering Bill. Again, there is the problem. A large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House want to achieve common support for the voluntary sector, but we are conscious of the fact that, in a litigation-driven culture, people are moving towards recourse to law, suing on risks that may or may not have been inherent in the situation, with all the problems that brings for small, relatively unsophisticated bodies in fighting off that kind of litigation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough referred in his most telling remark—he took the words from my lips, so I than have to repeat them on his behalf—to the legal debate about whether one convention right should trump another. That is exactly the point. With respect, he and I cannot resolve that issue—it is not our job to do so—but the fact that there is such a debate creates the conditions for litigation, which is of benefit only to lawyers.

I happen to believe that, as we clear the path through blatant issues of discrimination and the abuse or denial of human rights that have characterised our society over the years—we need not make huge political points about them or claim to have been politically virtuous in dealing with them—and as we gradually put our society in the right way in respect of the treatment of women, minorities or whatever, we begin to find that we have done the easy part. We have dealt with things about which discrimination should never have been allowed to occur in the first place. However, we then come across clashes where one right overlays and diminishes another right, and we then have real problems on our hands.

We need to remember that all this came from the European Court of Human Rights judgment that the United Kingdom had infringed articles 8 and 12 of the European convention on human rights, but article 9 deals with practising religion. There is no provision in the European convention or the Human Rights Act 1998 for one measure to trump another. They must all be held in balance. It will be more difficult for the House to hold those things in balance than in the past, but our job today is to try to get them as best in balance as we can. That is a real-world issue.

Mr. Heath

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way because I want to correct what I said earlier. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) is absolutely correct to say that such things are expressed in precisely those words in section 13 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which would have effect irrespective of whether the new clause were included in the Bill; it would still qualify the attitude of the courts in interpreting the workings of the Bill.

Mr. Boswell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. I, too, had noticed that happy coincidence. The Minister, if he is smart, will say, "But we don't need to do it because it is there already." That is an argument, but he needs to be encouraged to take seriously the kinds of concern that have been expressed.

I conclude—we have had enough debate on the issue, although we look forward to the Minister's response—by saying that new clause 1 enshrines the convention rights and is a proper declaratory statement of the rights in relation to religion. On amendment No. 1, I have somewhat greater qualifications because of the difficulty with partiality, but I would tell the Minister that we have collectively identified concerns and the elements of a possible problem. We need to take that seriously and, if possible, legislate now. We certainly also need to keep our minds open to making changes by order that would make those fears prove unfulfilled in practice.

2.30 pm
Mr. Lammy

I am grateful to the House. We have had an excellent debate on this important issue. Clearly, important issues for religious organisations arise from the Bill and the right to freedom of religion is certainly extremely important. It is, rightly, enshrined in our law by virtue of section 13 of the Hunan Rights Act 1998, whose effects have just been described. The wording of the new clause is in large part borrowed from that section, but the existence of section 13 means that new clause 1 is unnecessary. We have already enhanced protection for the right of freedom of religion in our law.

We have not sought to rely solely on section 13. Throughout the preparation and the parliamentary passage of the Bill, we have engaged with the views of religious organisations and those who, as a matter of religious doctrine, do not accept that a person can change their gender or sex. As we might expect, disagreement remains on that principle, and we have heard that expressed today. However, in the course of several meetings with, among others, the Bishop of Winchester, officials of the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and the Christian Institute, we have begun to work through the practical issues that need to be resolved. Following these discussions, in the House of Lords we widened the conscience clause in relation to marriage. That change was widely welcomed. It is important to put on record our respect for religious freedoms and communities and our ability to produce a conscience clause that protects clergy.

Andrew Selous

I know that representatives of the Evangelical Alliance were grateful for the opportunity to meet the Minister's officials last week. I have learned from my discussions with them that they have serious concerns and want new clause 1 or a very similar provision to appear in the Bill.

Mr. Lammy

I have just explained the close relationship between the Bill and section 13 of the Human Rights Act, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be more pleased to hear later passages of my speech.

We must protect the rights of transsexual people and we believe that it is essential that the Bill should provide protection for their privacy. The benefits of recognition in the acquired gender would be greatly compromised were there to be open access to the fact that a person is recognised in the acquired gender. The Government have to weave a path between the two rights: the right of religious freedom and the right of privacy. In that respect, amendment No. 1 is unsuitable: as my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and for Braintree (Mr. Hurst) said, it is extraordinarily broad and, given its use of words such as susceptibilities and doctrines, would not provide the exemption that religious organisations want.

We accept that religious organisations have some important concerns, but they relate to specific issues. We have heard about the disclosure that might need to take place during the course of considering a person for appointment as a religious minister, whether ordination or appointment to a congregation. Those responsible might want to know whether the person concerned has been recognised in the acquired gender. It has been suggested that similar issues arise when a transsexual person wishes to be considered for membership of a faith community. The hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) mentioned the rules and practices of some religious communities that would want to exclude people who have acquired gender—although I say for the record that that is not my Christian tradition within the Anglican communion.

A further issue is disclosure to a religious minister who is about to conduct a marriage ceremony. My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree described a case in which someone else—for example, the curate—knows that one of the parties is recognised in the acquired gender; in that case, the curate might feel obliged to tell the minister, yet clause 22 might prohibit disclosure of that important information.

There may be several solutions to such problems and it is right that we approach them in a common-sense fashion, asking what a curate or a faith community faced with such a problem would do in the circumstances,

Andrew Selous

The Minister uses emotive words such as exclude. The clergy and pastors with whom I have spoken are concerned simply to ensure appropriate and sensitive pastoral care. Exclusion is no part of their agenda.

Mr. Lammy

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting that on the record.

Chris Grayling

The Minister has set out a number of scenarios in which a problem could arise. Does he accept that the benefit of new clause 1 is that it addresses the unexpected, as well as the expected? Undoubtedly, situations will arise that Parliament has not anticipated and of which the Minister did not think when preparing his speech. Does he accept that a signpost in the Bill stating that Parliament wants the courts to be mindful of religious rights is therefore desirable?

Mr. Lammy

Let me make some progress and explain how we would deal with such situations.

We have always said that the primary solution must be to seek the consent of the transsexual person to disclosure. We are discussing sensitive personal information and it is reasonable that, for the most part, the consent of the individual should be required before disclosure can occur. As I said in Committee, my experience and, I am sure, that of most hon. Members suggests that if a member of the clergy or a member of a faith community were to receive such information, they would quietly and calmly seek the consent of the transgendered person to their passing on that information, should they wish to do so.

In another place we extended the conscience clause so that a religious minister is allowed to refuse to marry a person if the minister has a reasonable belief that the person is recognised in the acquired gender. We understand that baptismal certificates are often requested in cases involving marriage, membership or appointment. Unless a person was baptised after the age of 18, the baptismal certificate would be in the original gender and thus provide the information needed. The hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) asked whether disclosure of baptismal certificates would cause problems. I refer him to clause 22(4)(c), which allows an exemption for cases in which someone could not have known that the person was transgendered.

Mr. Boswell

Will the Minister advise the House, now or later in his speech, or perhaps in writing, whether an offence will have been committed by somebody who discloses historical information —for example, in a baptismal or academic certificate—in good faith, with no knowledge of any intervening change of gender? Secondly, if the release of the information is an oblique or indirect way of securing or passing information about a change of gender, but the disclosure arises simply from the release of historical material that is not an official document, will the person be guilty of an offence under clause 22?

Mr. Lammy

The wording of clause 22(4)(c) is clear. It states: "the person … does not know or believe that a full gender recognition certificate has been issued".

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)


Mr. Lammy

We have only dealt with new clause 1 and I should like to make progress. It is important that we deal with as many groups of amendments as possible this afternoon.

As Members will see, clause 22 provides the Secretary of State with the power to prescribe further exemptions to the prohibition on disclosure in secondary legislation. Our intention is to use that power to provide for detailed exemptions wherever necessary. It is already clear that problems arise only in very specific circumstances. As I have said, we must respect both the rights of transsexual people and the right to freedom of religion and weave a path between them. By using secondary legislation and engaging in dialogue with religious organisations, we are seeking to deal with that problem.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

Can the Minister assure us that that secondary legislation will be amendable?

Mr. Lammy

The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the practices and procedures of the House. He was not here earlier, when another relevant issue was raised. We do not intend that time should be a gap between the coming into force of secondary legislation and the operation of the scheme for legal recognition.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To help the House, can you clarify that the procedure just referred to the Minister means that secondary legislation is not amendable when it comes back to the House for consideration?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am anxious not to be drawn into the technicalities, and that is a point of debate for the Minister to answer.

Mr. Lammy

Many hon. Members have referred to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, whose members did not accept the James Dingemans opinion across the board. They were, however, concerned about the conscientious objection provision, but went on to say: "such provision could also be made by the Secretary of State by order, in exercise of the power in clause 22(5)".

Mr. Drew

My hon. Friend will recall that I asked him to commit himself to writing to hon. Members about the introduction of secondary legislation so that we have a clear timetable. We need to know that secondary legislation will be introduced as soon as he has communicated with the Churches so that we have provisions in law at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Lammy

As I told the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin), there will be no gap between secondary legislation and the gender recognition scheme, but it is right that we are sensitive to the wishes of religious communities and continue to talk with them to establish specific exemptions. Simply seeking to impose section 13 of the Human Rights Act on the Bill will not create the targeted approach that we are seeking. We continue to work with religious organisations, but I cannot recommend that the House accept the new clause.

2.45 pm
Mr. Leigh

It is my duty to conclude our excellent debate. First, the matters in amendment No. 1 are very sensitive indeed and concern conversations between clergymen about candidates for marriage and ordination. There is probably a broad consensus across the House that those conversations have to be protected and the Minister has given various undertakings on secondary legislation which, as was made clear in an intervention, may not be as satisfactory as including a provision in the Bill. None the less, I accept what he said in good faith and shall not press the amendment further.

I wish, however, to press new clause 1 to a vote. We have entered a moral maze and are dealing with difficult issues. People have spoken with great conviction, passion and sensitivity on both sides of the argument. There are broadly two cases against my new clause. One is absolutist—not made by the Minister, incidentally—and asserts that it is wrong for Church communities to remain outwith the general will of the House. They cannot insulate themselves, however strong their opinions.

Another view, expressed by the Minister, was that my new clause was not necessary because it simply replicates the words of section 13 of the Human Rights Act, so we can rely on that provision. However, to counter his argument, there is controversy among lawyers about whether we can rely on it. We have heard Dingemans's opinion, which is not, I accept, supported by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, so there is a dispute. That underlines my point that there is fertile ground for litigation.

In conclusion, I am not asking anybody in the House to accept what the Church communities say or agree with their views. In a free society, however, such communities should regulate their awn affairs and have the right to conduct them according to their deeply held religious beliefs. The House should not impose its views on them, so we need the protection of new clause 1, which I shall press to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 276.

Division No. 187] [2:47 pm
Ainsworth, Peter(E Surrey) Howarth, Gerald(Aldershot)
Amess, David Jack, rh Michael
Ancram, rh Michael Keetch, Paul
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham) Key, Robert(Salisbury)
Beith, rh A. J. Knight, rh Greg(E Yorkshire)
Bellingham, Henry Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Boswell, Tim Lamb, Norman
Bottomley, Peter(Worthing W) Lansley Andrew
Brake, Tom(Carshalton) Leigh, Edward
Brazier, Julian Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Breed, Colin Luff, Peter(M-Worcs)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Mclntosh, Miss Anne
Burns, Simon Mackay, rh Andrew
Burstow, Paul Maclean, rh David
Burt, Alistair McLouffilin, Patrick
Cable, Dr. Vincent Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Barnet) Mitchell, Andrew(Sutton Coldfield)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Collins, Tim Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Conway, Derek Osborne, George(Tatton)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Ottaway, Richard
Davey, Edward(Kingston) Paterson, Owen
Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli) Pugh, Dr. John
Davis, rh David(Haltemprice & Howden) Randall, John
Redwood, rh John
Djanogly, Jonathan Reid, Alan(Argyll & Bute)
Doughty, Sue Robertson, Angus(Moray)
Duncan, Alan(Rutland) Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry)
Ewing, Annabelle Ruffley, David
Fallon, Michael Russell Bob(Colchester)
Field, Mark(Cities of London & Westminster) Sanders, Adrian
Shepherd, Richard
Flight, Howard Smith, Sir Robert(W Ab'cl'ns & Kincardine)
Forth, rh Eric
Gale, Roger(N Thanet) Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S)
George, Andrew(St. Ives) Spicer, Sir Michael
Greenway, John Spink, Bob(Castle Point)
Grieve, Dominic Stanley, rh Sir John
Hancock, Mike Steen, Anthony
Heald, Oliver Swayne, Desmond
Heath, David Syms, Robert
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David Taylor, John(Solihull)
Hendry, Charles Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hermon, Lady Thomas, Simon(Ceredigion)
Hoban, Mark(Fareham) Thurso, John
Hogg, rh Douglas Tredinnick, David
Horam, John(Orpington) Trimble, rh David
Turner, Andrew(Isle of Wight) Williams, Roger(Brecon)
Viggers, Peter Willis, Phil
Walter, Robert Wilshire, David
Waterson, Nigel Winterton, Ann(Congleton)
Webb, Steve(Northavon) Young, rh Sir George
Weir, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Wilkinson, John Andrew Selous and
Williams, Hywel(Caernarfon) Chris Grayling
Abbott, Ms Diane Cotter, Brian
Adams, Irene(Paisley N) Cousins, Jim
Ainger, Nick Cranston, Ross
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Cryer, Ann(Keighley)
Allan, Richard Cryer, John(Hornchurch)
Allen, Graham Cummings, John
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack
Atherton, Ms Candy (Copeland)
Atkins, Charlotte Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S)
Austin, John Cunningham, Tony(Workington)
Baird, Vera Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Baker, Norman Dalyell, Tam
Barnes, Harry Darling, rh Alistair
Barrett, John Davidson, Ian
Barron, rh Kevin Davies, Geraint(Croydon C)
Bayley, Hugh Dawson, Hilton
Beard, Nigel Dean, Mrs Janet
Begg, Miss Anne Denham, rh John
Bennett, Andrew Dobson, rh Frank
Bercow, John Donohoe, Brian H.
Berry, Roger Duncan, Peter(Galloway)
Best, Harold Eagle, Angela(Wallasey)
Betts, Clive Eagle, Maria(L'pool Garston)
Blackman, Liz Edwards, Huw
Blears, Ms Hazel Efford, Clive
Borrow, David Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradley, rh Keith(Withington) Ennis, Jeff(Barnsley E)
Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin) Etherington, Bill
Bradshaw, Ben Farrelly, Paul
Brown, rh Nicholas(Newcastle E Wallsend) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Flynn, Paul(Newport W)
Browne, Desmond Follett, Barbara
Bruce, Malcolm Foster, Don(Bath)
Buck, Ms Karen Foster, Michael Jabez(Hastings & Rye)
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin Francis, Dr. Hywel
Burnham, Andy George, rh Bruce(Walsall S)
Cairns, David Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Alan(Tynemouth) Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Griffiths, Jane(Reading E)
Campbell, Ronnie(Blyth V) Griffiths, Nigel(Edinburgh S)
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Win(Bridgend)
Casale, Roger Grogan, John
Caton, Martin Hain, rh Peter
Cawsey, Ian(Brigg) Hall, Mike(Weaver Vale)
Challen, Colin Hall, Patrick(Bedford)
Chapman, Ben(Wirral S) Hamilton, David(Midlothian)
Chidgey, David Hamilton, Fabian(Leeds NE)
Clapham, Michael Hanson, David
Clark, Paul(Gillingham) Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge & Chryston) Harris, Dr. Evan(Oxford W & Abingdon)
Clarke, Tony(Northampton S) Harris, Tom(Glasgow Cathcart)
Clelland, David Havard, Dai(Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Clwyd, Ann(Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon Healey, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Henderson, Ivan(Harwich)
Cohen, Harry Hendrick, Mark
Coleman, lain Hepburn, Stephen
Colman, Tony Heyes, David
Connarty, Michael Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Cook, Frank(Stockton N) Hodge, Margaret
Cooper, Yvette Holmes, Paul
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil(Corby) Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck)
Hopkins, Kelvin Murphy, Jim(Eastwood)
Howarth, rh Alan(Newport E) Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Howarth, George(Knowsley N & Sefton E) Oaten, Mark(Winchester)
O'Brien, Bill(Normanton)
Howells, Dr. Kim O'Hara, Edward
Hughes, Beverley(Stretford & Urmston) Diner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Humble, Mrs Joan Organ, Diana
Hurst, Alan(Braintree) Owen, Albert
Iddon, Dr. Brian Page, Richard
Illsley, Eric Palmer, Dr. Nick
Ingram, rh Adam Perham, Linda
Irranca-Davies, Huw Pickthall, Colin
Jackson, Glenda(Hampstead & Highgate) Pike, Peter(Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough) Pollard, Kerry
Jenkins, Brian Pope, Greg(Hyndburn)
Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield) Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget(Lewisham E)
Jones, Helen(Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan(N Durham) Prentice, Gordon(Pendle)
Jones, Lynne(Selly Oak) Prosser, Gwyn
Jones, Martyn(Clwyd S) Purchase, Ken
Joyce, Eric(Falkirk W) Purnell, James
Keeble, Ms Sally Quin, rh Joyce
Kelly, Ruth(Bolton W) Quinn, Lawrie
Kemp, Fraser Rammell, Bill
Kennedy, Jane(Wavertree) Rapson, Syd(Portsmouth N)
Khabra, Piara S. Raynsford, rh Nick
Kidney, David Reed, Andy(Loughborough)
Kilfoyle, Peter Rendel, David
King, Ms Oona(Bethnal Green & Bow) Robinson, Geoffrey(Coventry NW)
Knight, Jim(S Dorset) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Rooney, Terry
Lammy, David Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Roy, Frank(Motherwell)
Laxton, Bob(Derby N) Ruane, Chris
Lepper, David Ruddock, Joan
Leslie, Christopher Russell, Ms Christine(City of Chester)
Levitt, Tom(High Peak)
Lewis, Terry(Worsley) Ryan, Joan(Enfield N)
Liddell, rh Mrs Helen Salter, Martin
Linton, Martin Savidcle, Malcolm
Love, Andrew Sawford, Phil
Lucas, Ian(Wrexham) Sedgemore, Brian
Lyons, John(Strathkelvin) Shaw, Jonathan
McAvoy, rh Thomas Sheerman, Barry
McCabe, Stephen Singh, Marsha
McCafferty, Chris Skinner, Dennis
McDonagh, Siobhain Smith, rh Chris(Islington S & Finsbury)
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John Smith, Geraldine(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
McFall, John
Mclsaac, Shona Smith, John(Glamorgan)
McKechin, Ann Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent)
Mackinlay, Andrew Southworth, Helen
McNulty, Tony Squire, Rachel
Mactaggart, Fiona Steinberg, Gerry
McWalter, Tony Stevenson, George
McWilliam, John Stewart, David(Inverness E & Lochaber)
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice Stewart, Ian(Eccles)
Mallaber, Judy Stinchcombe, Paul
Mandelson, rh Peter Stoate, Dr. Howard
Marris, Rob(Wolverh'ton SW) Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Milburn, rh Alan Stringer, Graham
Miliband, David Stuart, Ms Gisela
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Dari(Stockton S)
Moffatt, Laura Taylor, Dr. Richard(Wyre F)
Mole, Chris Thomas, Gareth(Clwyd W)
Moran, Margaret Thomas, Gareth(Harrow W)
Morgan, Julie Timms, Stephen
Morley, Elliot Tipping, Paddy
Munn, Ms Meg Todd, Mark(S Derbyshire)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny Williams, Betty(Conwy)
Trickett, Jon Wills, Michael
Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE) Winnick, David
Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown) Winterton, Ms Rosie(Doncaster C)
Turner, Neil(Wigan) Wood, Mike(Batley)
Twigg, Derek(Halton) Woodward, Shaun
Tyler, Paul(N Cornwall) Woolas, Phil
Tyrie, Andrew Worthington, Tony
Vis, Dr. Rudi Wright, Anthony D.(Gt Yarmouth)
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire Wright, David(Telford)
Wareing, Robert N. Wright, Tony(Cannock)
Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E) Wyatt, Derek
Watts, David Younger-Ross, Richard
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan Tellers for the Noes:
Wicks, Malcolm Gillian Merron and
Williams, rh Alan(Swansea W) Mr. John Heppell

Question accordingly negatived.

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