It is a pleasure to follow Hannah Bardell.
I thank my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert for securing this important debate and the Backbench Business Committee, which keeps keeping me in the Chamber on a Thursday afternoon for really important cross-party debates. I know that my right hon. Friend is working hard on LGBTI rights here at home and abroad. Parliamentarians from across the House, by coming out and, most importantly, speaking out, are leading the way. It takes courage. As a fellow human, I see and support that courage.
We in the UK, which is leading the world on LGBT rights, have been on a positive journey. We will all have friends, family members, neighbours or colleagues openly identifying themselves as belonging to the LGBT community. And this has been reflected in Government policy. We have made huge strides since 2010, particularly under David Cameron, with the introduction of marriage equality, Turing’s law and the abolition of offences that have affected so many people, and this summer when the Prime Minister announced the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004. I am fortunate to be working alongside a constituent, Tara, and the transgender community, which is working so hard on these issues. I welcome all the Government’s plans, and look forward to them moving forward.
As a former member of the Women and Equalities Committee, I am absolutely delighted that it is this Parliament that has carried out the first investigation into transgender rights. We were absolutely right to do that—some 650,000 people have been identified as transgender. We must tackle the issue as it affects families, mental health, our NHS and our communities. Our work in this area is world leading.
May I thank Julie and the lesbian and gay liaison team at Hampshire police for all the work that they do across our communities? We all want equality for all. It makes us safer, happier, and healthier. I also wish to thank those who work openly on this matter in the NHS, the fire service and all our communities, because by working together we become stronger, and by working with trans people in particular our communities become stronger.
It is hate crime awareness week, and we all have a huge responsibility to be temperate in our language and in our actions. Tolerance matters. Hate crime can leave an individual, a family or a community isolated from society. It highlights a broken society, and the UK is no place for hate. Tolerance and understanding make this a safer place in which to live.
I congratulate the Hampshire police and crime commissioner on his focus on joint working with the Hampshire Citizens Advice service on safe reporting spaces. I also congratulate the Isle of Wight on securing the right to host a UK Pride event in 2018, so next year will be a great occasion. I have been contacted by constituents in Eastleigh who also want to hold a Pride event. They want to see their town flying the flag. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend Mr Evans also say the same thing.
We are here today listening to stories about those living in fear across the world. We must remember that being who you are is not a crime, but targeting, bullying or threatening a person—wherever they live and whoever they are—is a crime. People do not have to put up with that behaviour. They should report it and ask for help. I congratulate Hampshire and Isle of Wight Youth Commission, which has carried out a project on tackling such behaviour. The behaviour is learned—perhaps from school or college—and it is unacceptable. If we can achieve all this here, we need to focus our attention abroad. We have heard about the perils of being born in Chechnya, Azerbaijan or Egypt. One’s heart sinks when one hears that, in Chechnya, an LGBTI person does not even exist.
We have also been talking about Australia, where voting is compulsory. We can see the simple question that should be posed: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? A strong yes vote would be a huge victory for LGBTI Australians, and such a move would help their Government to send out a clear global message.
I welcome what we are doing in the UK to make the lives of people around the world better through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and through our aid budget. We must ensure that we continue to work with the UN Free and Equal campaign, which has reached an estimated 2 billion people through the use of social media, which gives us a huge ability to change attitudes.
We have made some huge strides in LGBTI rights here in the UK. We as parliamentarians do set an example in our local communities, in this Chamber and across the globe.