• Catherine Utley

Rights for siblings: restating the case

November 6 2019

On the last day of the present parliamentary session,

5 November, 2019, the senior Conservative peer, Lord Lexden, returned to the issue of the government's refusal to grant all rights and protections to cohabiting siblings. In a speech during the final stage of the bill that will extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, he asked whether the government thought that two siblings living together in mutually supportive and financially inter-dependent relationships were less in need of the legal protection and fiscal safeguards afforded by civil partnerships than sexual couples. If not, he asked, "why do they continue to reject both the argument that they should extend civil partnerships to long-term cohabiting couples and the suggestion that they should address that discrimination through other means—for a start, by reforming the rules governing inheritance tax so that bereaved survivors of a sibling couple are at least spared losing the joint home to inheritance tax on the death of the first sibling?"

Lord Lexden gave the example of Beatrice and Mary, sisters whose mother was widowed when they were in their teens and whom they looked after throughout their adult lives in their jointly owned home until her death at the age of 100. Lord Lexden said: ""The sisters are now 91 and 87. When one of them dies, the survivor will face an inheritance tax bill so hefty on her sister’s share of the estate that there will be nothing left of their joint savings for her own care. If they were civil partners who had known each other for just a few weeks, they would be spared.​ A responsible Conservative Government must recognise the value of arrangements such as that of Beatrice and Mary, bring an end to this injustice and finally put the family, in all its manifestations, back where it belongs: at the heart of Conservative social policy."

You can read the full debate here

After the debate, Lord Lexden vowed, on his website, to return to the issue in the new parliamentary session. You can read his words here