Freedom of Religion

In response to the campaign on freedom of religion, David said:

"We fully support the right of people of all religions, and non-religious people, to practise their beliefs in peace and safety. The British Government works bilaterally to lobby host governments to raise individual cases and highlight laws that discriminate against people on the basis of religion or belief. Multilaterally, the Government works to sustain consensus support for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions which promote freedom of religion. 

The UK supports a number of projects at grass roots level. In 2017/18, the FCO will spend approximately £760,000 on freedom of religion and belief projects. In Syria and Iraq, where religions have suffered such appalling persecution and violence at the hands of Daesh, the UK's main contribution to ending the persecution of religious minorities is by taking part in the campaign to defeat Daesh and return the region to stability and peace. The UK is also collaborating with human rights and faith-based organisations across the world through project work; particularly those which bridge sectarian divides and promote dialogue and understanding between religions. The Government is building on its work in the previous Parliament to correct the views of those who seek to create conflict for their own divisive means, such as claiming Christianity in the Middle East is an import of ‘the West’. A key focus this year has been support for the UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, encouraging countries to promote freedom of religion as one way of tackling the root causes of extremism.

Last year, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) hosted a conference on freedom of religion or belief here in London bringing together inspiring speakers from across the world to share very practical examples of how they are working to build a more open society. The FCO has also made available to staff a new Freedom of Religion or Belief toolkit to assist officials on how to promote freedom of religion or belief in their local context."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Civil Partnerships for Same Sex Couples

In response to the campaign on civil partnerships for same sex couples, David said:

"The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 had a specific focus on extending marriage to same-sex couples who could not previously marry. The Act did, however, stipulate that there should be a review of civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The Government carried out a full public consultation on the future and operation of civil partnership in 2014, receiving almost 11,500 responses, during which a range of views were expressed. The majority of respondents were against broadening civil partnerships to include opposite sex couples. In 2016 the decision not to extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples was subject to judicial review that found the current system does not discriminate against heterosexual couples. The case has recently also been heard in the Court of Appeal and we are awaiting the outcome.

Some people have expressed concern that the continued availability of civil partnerships for only same sex couples could result in inequality and unfairness for opposite sex couples.  On the other hand, many feel that now marriage is available for all couples the need for civil partnerships falls away. There is, of course, the option for all those in a civil partnership to convert it into a marriage, however I recognise that not all couples in civil partnerships wish to do this. I believe it is sensible for the Government to get a sense of the impact of extending marriage to same sex couples, before deciding on the way forward for civil partnerships."