My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, very much for bringing this debate before us today and for his wonderful opening speech, which opened the debate much wider. If only we had a longer time to debate this—although I am sure that we will come back to it. I also thank noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part, speaking of their experiences in this area. We welcome the Government’s LGBT Action Plan, and believe it will go a long way to creating a more just and equal society. What we have learned from such a great response to the consultation is that there is still much more to do. So, while we welcome the action plan, there are several points I would like to comment on.
It is good to see that the action plan will address domestic abuse of LGBT people, which is not often discussed or addressed. Statistics show that it can take many years before women who are victims of domestic abuse act against their abusers, and this would no doubt be the same for LGBT people. Raising awareness and having successful prosecutions should increase confidence in reporting. There needs to be an improvement in recording and monitoring for victims, and I hope this work will be regarded as of high importance, because now it is hidden away, as it used to be for women victims. I hope that progress on this can be made swiftly. Would the Minister agree that it is essential that appropriate training be given to professionals such as the police in dealing with such cases, and if legislation is needed, would that be included in the domestic abuse Bill?
The action plan says:
“We will convene a working group of employers to understand the experiences of LGBT staff in different sectors … The Government Equalities Office will work with employers to develop targeted interventions to improve the experience of LGBT people at work”.
I cannot understand why the GEO is convening a working group of only employers. Why will the GEO not engage with the TUC as well, so that both sides will be able to take part and get a better understanding of the issues, both from the employer and the employee point of view? If the Government are committed to improving the workplace, surely they must consult with employees via the TUC to get a fuller picture of what goes on in the workplace. If the aim is to ensure that the UK is the best place to work as an LGBT person, as stated in the action plan, surely the GEO should include the TUC.
The action plan says that the Government will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy, which is to be welcomed. Of respondents, 5% said they had been offered conversion therapy but had not taken it up, and a further 2% said that they had undergone it. The survey found that of those organisations who offered conversion therapy, 51% were from faith organisations or groups. The action plan says that proposals will be brought forward to end the practice. How will this be achieved, and can any support be offered while proposals are being considered? Most people would agree that these activities are wrong. The Government have said that they will not willingly let them continue, and I agree with that. Will this be a priority in the action plan, and just how will they go about stopping such an awful practice? We would want to see legislation that brought forward a full ban on sexuality and gender identity conversion therapies.
The action plan also talks about consulting on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to see how the legal gender recognition process can be made less bureaucratic and intrusive. At that time, the Gender Recognition Act was regarded as a ground-breaking step for the rights of trans people but it is now recognised as being out of date. The Government announced that they would start a consultation on the Act in July 2017. We are pleased that they are now launching the consultation, albeit a year later; nevertheless, we welcome it and look forward to further discussion and proposals.
Does the Minister agree that the action plan the Government are working on should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, so that all citizens are treated equally under the law, and that no part of the UK should be excluded? What work will be undertaken to consult the devolved nations to ensure that LGBT people can expect the same rights under the law wherever they live in the UK?
Although we welcome the action plan and are prepared to work with the Government to ensure that all the action points are addressed and implemented at the earliest opportunity, there are some concerns on which we would welcome further discussion, as the aim is to improve the lives of LGBT people and bring about a great change in our society.