Gender Recognition Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 10th February 2004.

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Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative 5:45 pm, 10th February 2004

My Lords, I rise briefly to support my noble friend Lord Marlesford. When the matter was discussed at an earlier stage, fears were aroused that reporters from the tabloid press would go fishing around trying to discover from registrars of births and deaths whether they knew of anyone who fell into the category of transgender persons who had been issued with new birth certificates falsely purporting that they had been born male when they were born female, or vice versa.

The Government have decided that they must ensure as best they can that no registrar or any other person in possession of such information in an official capacity should leak it. I do not know how many noble Lords know very much about the tabloid press. I confess that I have a nodding acquaintance with it—a closer one than the Secretary of State for Defence does, as recent events show. Most of the information that the tabloid press has is picked up in the pub from people who have picked it up somewhere else along the way.

Who will know and be legally empowered to pass on such information? They will be the workmates, friends or the family of such a person. That is the very area where the reporter or stringer from a tabloid paper picks up his information. Above all, Clause 22 will be ineffective in protecting the person. All it will do is punish an official, such as a registrar of births and deaths, for revealing the fact that somebody was born a girl although the birth certificate says that the person was born a boy.

That is it. It is a very heavy sledgehammer to attempt to crack a nut, particularly when the people most likely to discuss such matters and to talk about them to the press are not covered by the clause. The noble Lord is right that the clause is objectionable and needs to be thrown out.