HL Deb 01 December 1997 vol 583 cc1171-2

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether it is their policy that homosexual employees of the Government should be able to nominate another homosexual of the same sex to enjoy the rights accorded to spouses in occupational pension schemes.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Lord will appreciate that the phrase "employees of the Government" refers strictly only to civil servants. The Civil Service pension scheme pays survivors' pensions only to legal spouses and to dependent children. Lump sum benefits arising on death in service or death in deferment are paid to a person nominated by the member.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his Answer. Is there any proposal to change that situation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has given authority for officials to start negotiations with the Civil Service unions about possible changes to the Civil Service pension scheme. But it has been made clear at all times that any changes which would cost money would be at the expense of members rather than at the expense of the taxpayer.

Lord Rea

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that many couples of the same sex live together in a stable and supportive relationship and that in such a case the policy mentioned in the Question would be eminently just and morally and legally justified?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the question of what changes might take place as a result of the discussions has not yet come to the surface. The negotiations (if indeed they are taking place yet) are at a very early stage. My noble friend is right in implying that in some private pension schemes provision for survivors' pensions to be paid other than to legal spouses is made. That might apply also to stable same-sex couples.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of us wonder just exactly how this new arrangement, if it is ever agreed to, would work out? For example, if the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who asked the Question, and I decided to set up home together, would we be eligible to transfer our pensions between each other, or would we have to declare a sexual relationship before we could do so? How would we be required to prove that it was a sexual relationship and not a platonic one?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, my noble friend is way ahead of the game. Negotiations are at an early stage. All the questions that he raises will no doubt be taken into consideration.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, for how long do a couple of the same sex have to live together in order to qualify as a permanent arrangement?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that, again, would be one of the considerations for any negotiations.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government have no intention to downgrade the honourable state of marriage?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Question is about pensions. I do not think there is any question of downgrading the honourable state of marriage.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that two brothers, two sisters or two siblings who live together are often dependent on each other in terms of finance? If it is going to go wider than marriage, it should certainly include people of that type.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, as I hope I have made clear, the Government have no intention of preaching or prescribing any particular family structures. However, the wider one casts the net on survivors' pensions, the more it costs.

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