I’m grateful to John Bolch (again) for his reminder last week about what happened to Lord Lester’s Cohabitation Bill: it ran out of time, basically, after committee stage in the Lords on 30 April, and since the government opposes it, it’s not going anywhere.
John and I disagree sharply on this Bill: since I was always against it, I’m delighted it ran into the sand. And perhaps it’s not surprising that we differ, too, in our attitudes to the committee stage debate. John quotes an article in Resolution‘s magazine saying the debate was not reasoned, but wrecking; and he fingers Baroness Deech as wrecker in chief.
Well, obviously I agree with Baroness Deech’s opposition to the Bill, so perhaps I’m biased, but looking at the amendments and the debate, I think her approach was legitimate, and I applaud her. Yes, she wanted to wreck the Bill. The authors of the Resolution article talk as though that’s a bad thing – but then they start from the assumption that the Bill was good. Her amendments and the criticisms she made of the Bill were sensible – I don’t agree with her about the need to protect cohabiting siblings, but it’s not a bonkers point, and her arguments about retrospectivity were important and right, I think, and certainly addressed real issues rather than pettifogging procedures. In any event, Lord Lester himself tabled 32 amendments – twice as many as Baroness Deech, and since in the event their Lordships only debated 3, his list alone was more than enough to have used up all the time. And his agreement to amendment 1 shows he was already on the run and felt he needed to make a serious concession to his opponents. I agree that more time ought to be available to discuss private members’ bills; it’s not good enough that time just ran out like this. But I don’t think the unsatisfactory position as regards time means opponents of a bill like this have a duty not to oppose. That way would lead to less scrutiny, and more bad legislation, than we have already.
Good riddance to a bad proposal.
It's a bill worthy of New Labour, in that it says clearly – the state knows what is best for you.
Most cohabitees do so for a reason. We are such. If we wanted to be treated as married under the law, we would get married.
Bloody politicians, always think what we need. Maybe they should listen for a change
When you say "we", Elby… for the avoidance of doubt, you and I do not cohabit. But we do agree, not just on this but about Riddley Walker and Robertson Davies.
I'm as New Labour as new can be, but I still think this Bill is a parody of New Labour.
With you on this Carl… and, for the record.. I do not cohabit with you either.
We obviously don't agree so far as the Bill was concerned, but I'm glad you do agree that it is a nonsense that these things are given insufficient time.
As for the Bill, here's a common scenario: woman cohabits with man in his house for 20 years. Gives up work to bring up family. Man meets someone else and throws her out. Is it right that she should be left with nothing?
John – The Law provides a mechansim of protection. It is called marriage. No need to be religious to get married…
Why should those who choose not to get married be covered by rules applicable to those who accept the burdens and pleasures of marriage?
The State needs to remember that there are people in this country who choose different ways of living and of managing their affairs.
You may well say that women may be oppressed in a cohabiotee situation and I am sure there will be examples where the woman was frightened to suggest marriage but these relatively few cases should not be used to impose rules on the many who choose to be cohabittes on an equal footing without being subject to the same laws applicable to married people.
There is far too much state intervention in our lives… and this would have been yet another one.
There are adequate avenues for those who seek protection of law through the ciurrent rules on civil partnerships and marriage.
Charon: That's just it – there are not adequate avenues available for these people.
You are a hard man: I shall send my clients to you, for you to explain to them that the system doesn't care about them.
John… what sort of fee are we talking here? Happy to oblige… usual terms apply.
I get a referral fee, I hope?
A kickback? Sure… wouldn't have it any other way
Excellent. Sending clients now…
[Yes, sorry for hijacking your blog, Carl. It's that Charon – he made me do it.]
It's good to disagree with you for once, John – it's a fairly rare thing, so let's enjoy a bit of robustness.
With regard to the scenario you paint, I said in my original post that I agree that kind of thing is an injustice, and there might be some legislative solution I could agree with to deal with it.
But the trouble is that Lord Lester's bill went way beyond that. If wasn't about long cohabitation and kids as the trigger for rights; it was about less than two years cohabitation (in spite of appearances), or kids as the trigger.
Here's my counter-scenario. Take a young professional woman who has a boyfriend, but he doesn't want to get married and she knows he's not "the one". He loses his job, and can't pay his rent, so she helps him out by letting him stay at her flat for six months. Then his mates put him up for three months; then he's back at her place again for six, before going back to his mates again for three. Finally he comes back to hers for a final six months. After which, according to Lord Lester's bill, he has a financial claim on her if she kicks him out. The only way she could have avoided that (apart from refusing to help him – if you'd advise that, you're the hard man here) would have been to pay a solicitor to draft an opt-out agreement for them. Is that fair?
Hijack away, by the way: I love having debates in the comments.
And John: you've been tagged. Matt tagged you originally of course Charon, so get writing about your phone…
I also did not agree with everything in the Bill, but felt it was a chance to correct injustices. You're quite right – we need to find a middle way.
Shame – we seem to have degenerated into broad agreement again.
Yes, pity about that…
As for tagging, I hate being tagged, but will see what I can do…
>I hate being tagged, but will see what I can do…
Tagged: can't go more than 100 yards from your phone.
Soon all phones will be like this.