Written evidence submitted by Dr Godfrey Harverson [HAB0126]


Cohabitation  Rights Consultation    June 2021


I am a retired doctor, with experience of work in the NHS and abroad (in the Gambia, Uganda, Morocco and Thailand).

I am married, with four children and fourteen grandchildren, two adopted.

Women and men complement each other and must contribute equally to a life of quality.

Equality grows naturally in ground enriched by kindness and selflessness.


A cohabiting relationship must be defined before it can be protected.

How long should a couple be linked before a relationship is established?

How close is the association? Are all combinations to be included? That could include business partners under one roof, or prison inmates occupying a single cell. Two spinster sisters sharing the family house live together, but would not wish to be defined as cohabiting.

If a relationship is fluid without commitment, one party may well claim injustice if jilted. Solomon’s judgement would be to needed to ensure equalities issues are met. Can life always be fair?

Legal Protection

Should the Law protect those who forget to renew their house insurance?

Can the Law assist those who fail to abide by the law?

Legislation alone cannot arrest the effects of climate change, nor can we succeed in making all human relationships good in this way.

Can immorality be erased by redefining the Law? How should morality be defined?

There are many ways by which we mistreat, abuse and offend others. Is the answer to change the Law?

Caring for Children

Children of cohabiting couples are disadvantaged as their parents are statistically more likely to separate than those who are married. The best provision for children is to teach young people the advantages of a married relationship and family life. Foster care is a poor substitute.

A society that values compassion, unselfishness and generosity will be good for children.

Equal Rights for All

Rights come with responsibilities. Where a couple is committed to each other for life, in sickness or in health, there are benefits including trust, security and mutual support. For some there is a spiritual dimension to their lives.

If other patterns of life fail to deliver the same benefits they should not be regarded as equal or in need of protection. Couples should be encouraged and incentivised to adopt an established, better lifestyle of marriage.


The best pattern of relationship is formed by the nuclear family, which has stood the test of time. This unitary structure of husband, wife and children is found in tribal communities of Africa, Asia and America, as well as established in the Judaeo- Christian tradition.  Even where religious beliefs differ it is in general a secure and happy environment for children to develop their full potential.

The UK Government should seek to emulate this, for the good of generations to come.

June 2021