Topical Questions

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 23rd September 2020.

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Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I want transgender people to be free to live and prosper in modern Britain. We will maintain the Gender Recognition Act, protect single-sex spaces, and work to make the recognition process kinder and more straightforward. In line with the priorities of transgender people, we are improving health services and reducing waiting times, and we have also launched the Cass review to ensure that under-18s are getting the right support.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, as well as to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Prime Minister, for giving backing to my campaign to end the abhorrent practice of so-called LGBT conversion therapy. Will my right hon. Friend kindly update the House on when she hopes to bring forward this vital legislation?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her leadership on this issue and her work to support women when they are giving birth. Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice and we are currently conducting research, which I hope will be finished by the end of this month, on how to end it in the United Kingdom. Shortly after that, we will set out steps to end it.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

Yesterday, after nearly three years, the Government finally published their response on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004; disgracefully, they have let the trans community down. The written statement said that the Government are opening at least three new gender clinics this year. Will the Minister clarify whether the mention of those three clinics was a reference to the pilot services committed to by the previous Government in 2018, or represent a new investment by this Government to improve trans healthcare?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

In line with the priorities of the transgender community, we are seeking to reduce waiting lists in the health service by 1,600 people, as well as to improve access to services, with three new gender-identity clinics. We also want to make sure that proper training is available to general practitioners so that we get better services on the frontline.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

I did not get an answer to my first question, but I will try this one. The average waiting time for NHS gender services is 18 months, yet the NHS constitution says that the first appointment should be within 18 weeks. The Government have rightly committed to reducing waiting lists by 1,600 people by 2022, but that will still leave an estimated 10,000 trans people on the list. Will the Minister set out what steps the Government are going to take to bring the waiting lists down, to ensure that trans people can access healthcare within the time set out in the legal framework?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

The hon. Lady is right that it is a priority to bring down waiting lists and make sure that transgender people get the healthcare that they deserve. That is why the Government Equalities Office has put in extra funding to support Dr Michael Brady as our LGBT health adviser. We are working closely with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the NHS to make sure that those services are in place.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

Does the Minister agree that if girls aged between 16 and 18 are persuaded to be married instead of continuing their education, they are likely to be disadvantaged for the rest of their life and less economically active than those who complete an education until at least 18?

Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch The Exchequer Secretary

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: education is important and it is obviously wrong when girls get married at an early age against their will. My hon. Friend has done a lot of work to raise these issues, and the Government are listening carefully to the debate on the legal age of marriage and continue to keep it under review. Tackling forced marriage is one of our key priorities and I am proud that we made forced marriage an offence in 2014.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

The recent report by the all-party group on sexual and reproductive health in the UK found that women are increasingly having difficulty accessing contraception because of cuts to budgets and complex commissioning arrangements. The past president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, has pointed out that Viagra was made available to men over the counter and without a prescription within a year of being licensed, but the safe progestogen-only pill has been licensed for more than 60 years and we still do not trust women to get it over the counter at the chemist. What is the Minister going to do about this blatant discrimination against women?

Photo of Chris Loder Chris Loder Conservative, West Dorset

Being gay in the farming community is incredibly hard, not least because of isolation. The Gay Farmer Helpline plays a vital support role, but has highlighted a high suicide rate. What is the Minister doing to support gay farmers, and will she meet me and representatives of the helpline to see what else we can do? [R]

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

Farming is a vital industry in Britain, and I want all farmers to feel supported. I applaud the work of groups such as Agrespect in supporting LGBT farmers to thrive. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues to discuss what more we can do.