Conservative MP David Burrowes has once again been accused of trying to delay implementation of the same-sex marriage bill after he tabled an amendment that seeks to force the government to hold individual public consultations for changes to secondary legislation.
The amendment concerns secondary changes that will need to be made to laws that are outside of the main bill itself but may be affected by its passage. In the committee stage of the bill’s process through the House of Commons, the government said that there could be up to 8,000 changes to pieces of existing legislation once marriage is no longer solely between a man and a woman.
Under usual procedures, a secretary of state can use affirmative procedures to propose a change in the law, which is discussed in Parliament but is not voted on.
Under Mr Burrowes’ amendment, a super-affirmative procedure would be required to make these secondary changes. This would mean that some changes would have to go through a 12-week consultation and must lay before Parliament for 60 days. The amendment does not necessarily mean a delay in the implementation of same-sex marriages once it passes, and would not be applied retrospectively, but slows down secondary legislation.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, tweeted: “How naughty! @davidburrowesmp has tabled last-ditch amendments to frustrate #equalmarriage Bill in Commons today.”
But Mr Burrowes told PinkNews.co.uk: “I am surprised and disappointed that some have carelessly and inaccurately labelled this an attempt to slow or attack the bill. Upon any examination of the amendment, it would become immediately clear that this is not the case.
“Some have suggested that my amendment will require the government to reconsult and delay the introduction of same-sex marriages.
“This is plainly not the case, because my amendment deals with subsequent secondary legislation after the passage of the bill.”
This process was used from time to time on other laws, such as the Digital Economy Act 2010, but it was not proposed for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Mr Burrowes added: “Super-affirmative procedure has been used in local government legislation, local transport legislation, and, most recently, in the Digital Economy Act 2010. If it was good enough for those somewhat miscellaneous and perhaps not the most controversial of provisions, it must be good enough for one of the more controversial, sensitive and complex issues – redefining marriage – to come before Parliament in recent years.”
Government and Labour sources told PinkNews.co.uk that they are “relaxed” about Mr Burrowes’ amendment as they do not believe it will threaten from the bill from gaining Royal Assent.