Same-sex couples' pension rights 'at risk' under UK Brexit legislation

Same-sex couples' pension rights are at risk under the UK Government's Brexit legislation, ministers have been told.

Brexit Secretary David Davis sought to play down concerns raised by the SNP's Joanna Cherry although he said "a way of correcting that problem" will be developed if needed.

Ms Cherry, speaking during the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, told Mr Davis: "You have asked for concrete examples of rights that will be lost to UK citizens as a result of this Act.

"So I'd like to give him one and ask for his undertaking that he will amend the Act to make sure this right won't be lost.

David Davis

"Earlier this summer a man called John Walker relied on EU equality law to bring a successful challenge to a loophole in UK law that meant employers could refuse to pay same-sex partners the same pensions benefits as heterosexual couples if the funds were paid in before December 2005.

"Our Supreme Court, not the European Court of Justice, agreed there was a loophole in UK law which was a violation of the general principles of non-discrimination in EU law.

"So Mr Walker was able to use his right of action under the general principles of EU law to close that loophole so that he and his husband can enjoy the same rights as a heterosexual couple.

"This wouldn't be possible under this Bill because there's no right to sue.

"Will you give an undertaking that you will close this loophole in the Bill if we bring forward appropriate amendments?"

Mr Davis replied: "I think (it) will be brought forward in the course of the Bill's translation.

"But if not, I'm standing exactly by my undertaking, you should come to me and we'll find a way of correcting that problem."

Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a supporter of pro-EU group Open Britain, said outside the Commons: "It hasn't taken long at all for this shambles of a Bill to begin to fall apart under scrutiny."

He added: "The Government needs to act urgently to correct this loophole in order to give certainty to thousands of couples the length and breadth of Britain.

"We have no way of knowing how many more of these nasty surprises could be hiding in the weeds of the withdrawal Bill."


 

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