Publication - Consultation paper

Future of civil partnership: consultation

Published: 28 Sep 2018

This consultation seeks views on the options for the future of civil partnership in Scotland.

Future of civil partnership: consultation
Annex E: Extension of civil partnership to opposite sex couples – costs and savings

Annex E: Extension of civil partnership to opposite sex couples – costs and savings

General

1. The costs and savings that stem from the extension option can be split into two areas. The first is registration and the second relates to rights and responsibilities (particularly when the civil partnership comes to an end, though death or dissolution).

Registration

2. On registration, there would be initial start-up costs. National Records of Scotland ( NRS) would require to adjust its IT systems, and create new forms and processes in order for opposite sex civil partnerships to be registered. Its staff would also require training, and its existing publicly available guidance on the registration of civil partnerships would need to be updated. However, the costs involved in this would be a one-off. It is expected that this would be around £200,000.

3. Local authorities are also involved in the registration process for civil partnerships. As with NRS, the costs here would be a one-off. They are estimated to be around £200,000 and would relate to training and guidance for staff. Once opposite sex civil partnership is up and running, couples seeking to enter into an opposite sex civil partnership would pay a registration fee in the same way as couples seeking to enter into a same sex civil partnership or seeking to marry.

Rights and responsibilities

4. Opposite sex couples already have the option of getting married, which attracts rights and responsibilities. In addition, cohabitants have some rights and responsibilities although in some areas these can be lower than the rights and responsibilities held by people who are married or in a civil partnership.

5. In broad terms, therefore, opposite sex civil partnership could lead to costs in relation to rights and responsibilities if:

  • There is an increase in the number of registered opposite sex relationships (ie the number of opposite sex marriages plus opposite sex civil partnerships is higher than the number of opposite sex marriages now); and
  • Opposite sex civil partners would gain rights which they would not have as cohabitants.

6. There is discussion below on some specific areas:

Legal aid

7. Any proposed introduction of opposite sex civil partnership could lead to eventual costs to the legal aid budget if an opposite sex couple who has entered into a civil partnership sought to dissolve their relationship.

8. If the total number of registered opposite sex relationships increased by 1%, the costs to the legal aid budget could be around £225,000 a year. In the event of a 10% increase, the cost would rise proportionately to around £2.3 million per year. [63]

9. In some instances, these may be displaced rather than additional costs as the couple might also have sought legal aid in relation to ending their cohabitation (eg in relation to financial provision when cohabitation comes to an end).

Pensions

General

10. Most issues in relation to pensions are reserved but the Scottish Government has devolved responsibility for some public sector pensions (the main ones are police; fire; local government; teachers and the NHS).

11. In Walker v Innospec Limited, the UK Supreme Court determined [64] that benefits for same sex spouses should be provided on the same basis as currently exists for opposite sex spouses, and the existing exemptions in the Equality Act 2010 were incompatible with EU Directive 2000/78/ EC and should therefore be disapplied. The implications of this for both devolved and reserved pensions are still being considered and the information set out below should be understood in that context.

Devolved pensions

12. We have assumed that survivor benefits for opposite sex civil partners would be aligned with survivor benefits for same sex civil partners and same sex spouses. This means that in some cases the survivor benefit would be lower for a surviving opposite sex civil partner than for a surviving opposite sex spouse [65] . Again, the potential costs will be driven by uptake of opposite sex civil partnership. Some examples may help explain this.

13. For example, if the total number of registered opposite sex relationships increases by 1%, the costs to the devolved public sector pensions could be up to £1.75 million a year. Alternatively, if the total number of registered opposite sex relationships increases by 10%, the costs to the costs to the devolved public sector pensions could be up to £17.5 million a year.

14. However, those levels of increase are unlikely to have a material impact on scheme contribution rates which are set by quadrennial valuations. HM Treasury consent would be required to include benefits payable for opposite sex civil partners for the NHS and Teachers' scheme.

15. It is possible that costs could be lower in practice. More details are contained in the BRIA at Annex H. To summarise, the devolved public sector schemes often already provide benefits for opposite sex cohabitants (which are generally linked to those benefits paid to civil partners). These particular benefits are conditional on meeting certain conditions such as financial interdependency, cohabiting, being free to marry and completing the necessary partner nomination form.

Reserved public sector pension schemes

16. It is uncertain whether there would be any recognition of opposite sex civil partners in reserved public sector pension schemes ( e.g. the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme) which extend to Scotland that could lead to cost implications. The regulation of such schemes is a reserved matter for the UK Government.

Private sector occupational pension schemes

17. Similarly, it is uncertain whether there would be any recognition of opposite sex civil partners in private sector occupational pension schemes that could lead to cost implications. The regulation of such schemes is a reserved matter for the UK Government.

The state pension scheme

18. The state pension is a reserved matter for the UK Government. The general rule is that differing systems of spousal or civil partner entitlement apply depending upon the point in time at which a person reaches state pension age and when the relationship was formed. Guidance on inheriting or increasing state pension from a spouse or civil partner has been published by the UK Government. [66]

Social security

19. For the purposes of social security, civil partners are treated in the same way as any other couple who are living together when assessing entitlement to means-tested benefits and tax credits.

20. However, the interplay between benefits is highly complex. The various regulated schemes would require examination in order to ensure that there would be no circumstances in which people in an opposite sex civil partnership would be unfairly disadvantaged in comparison to cohabiting couples or couples in other legally recognised relationships.


Contact

Sarah.Meanley@gov.scot