Amendment 184ZBA

Part of Health and Care Bill - Report (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 1:04 am on 16th March 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Conservative 1:04 am, 16th March 2022

I thank noble Lords for waiting for this very late debate and assure them that the intensity of feeling about this is not reflected by the numbers in the Chamber tonight. Indeed, we had a debate on this a couple of weeks ago. The debate on this amendment tonight still demands the withdrawal of annexe B, which gives priority to trans people over women. But despite the words “trans people”, we believe that this is a debate about the rights of women to have their dignity, privacy and safety reaffirmed and brought back into the centre because those three things have disappeared. There is a rising tide of misogyny in society today because of social media. The NHS should be behind us in supporting women because of our priority needs in health.

I suggest that trans rights, instead of having priority over women’s rights, which has happened because of annexe B, should be reconciled with but cannot trump the dignity and safety of all patients. No one patient, save for medical reasons, should be prioritised over anyone else. I think that that is one of the most fundamental failings of the 2019 annexe B, which talks quite differently from that. Some 51% of the population is being deprived and the protections that we had took at least 50 years to come through. Indeed, I suggest that the rights of women are a priori a touchstone for any civilised society. We have got it wrong. We have somehow changed course.

I suggest that Parliament sets the law and creates the common position for society on any aspect of life. Indeed, we are omnipotent and omnicompetent—not necessarily this Chamber, but the other Chamber. Yet self-ID, which is at the heart of annexe B, has deliberately been pushed through, almost surreptitiously, without debate in either Chamber. I think that that is scandalous and I am a parliamentarian of many years’ standing in different Parliaments. For me, the heart of this debate is that Parliament has been ignored and bypassed and surreptitiously something far-reaching has been brought in that affects all families, all faiths, all identities and all levels of society. In place of sex-based rights, we are giving priority rights to one special section of society.

I have every respect for that section of society. Indeed, I must have been one of earliest Members of Parliament to tackle transgenderism in my constituency. One of the most delightful people came to see me. I knew the parents well—ancient parents—and I knew the families, I knew the village and I knew the farms. This person came in because she was in a dreadful state. She had become fully altered, both physically and through drugs. Because she had been away doing that for some time—it had taken at least a year and she had gone abroad—when she came back her job had disappeared. When she reapplied, she was placed at a much lower level, which meant less status, less salary, fewer holidays and more misery, as it were, because she felt thoroughly demeaned. She was, in fact, a member of the police and it was not easy at that moment to persuade the police that this was a fully acceptable thing to have done. I think that, in that sense, I have won my colours on transgenderism. It was not easy, but I managed it. It was not easy socially for her and I helped on that as well.

None the less, we are in a different situation today, whereby my gender—my sex—has been made less dignified in hospital by a backdoor attempt. Our amendment seeks to reverse this and to include the very limited opt-outs in paragraphs 26 to 28 of Schedule 3 to the Equality Act 2010 to protect single-sex spaces in hospitals. On the filleting of the relevant schedule, which has been placed in annexe B to justify this elite position of one small branch of society, I suggest to the Minister that I have not seen that filleting of legislation anywhere before in Britain. I have seen it in new democracies. It is a terrible thing to do, because you are cheating the public. You are saying that this is in fact the law, when it is not. You have filleted it. That is what has happened with annexe B. I am really shocked by that as a parliamentarian, irrespective of the subject. That is fact; it is a very wrong thing to have done.

I am not at all happy that the current review fulfils best practice either. Having raised this for two or three years with Ministers and having received very little response, I have been informed twice now that there is a review. Indeed, I think that there are two reviews going on, if not three. However, I suggest that the one I believe the Minister is in charge of, to which he referred, is again in breach of the Government’s own regulations on how a review is conducted. Those regulations, which are quite old, are rather good. They are very clear, and they are very simple. They say that you must not have people who have skin in the game running a review, yet that is exactly what has happened.

In the Daily Telegraph today, a whole batch of rather wonderful women who do not sit in this House, alas, but run various women’s organisations and are medical have declared correctly that they have not been invited to give evidence. In other words, this review has been done without input from the very people who know more about it. I offered to give evidence myself, but I was not wanted. That is a different matter; I am not medical, so that may be perfectly fair. But these women are very special indeed and they have not been consulted. This means that women, generally speaking, have been left out of the review.

Worse than that, even, is that the people running the review, who I know—they are fantastic people such as the chief of nurses, the LGBTQ adviser, and so on—are wonderful, very interesting and hugely knowledgeable people, have more than skin in the game: they are the game. I believe it is not right, therefore, that a review that matters so much to 51% of the population and to their families should be conducted in this way. So I am rather unhappy about the review, too. It is being rushed through in parallel with this Bill. I suggest that it does not meet the Government’s own guidelines on consultations on reviews. There is no impartiality and the review team has tremendous interests—that is all too easy, but it does not give the right result.

I remember, again as a Member of Parliament, a massive review being conducted by the European Union into farming. My constituency had many farmers, and they came to see me because they were worried about what might come out of it. I found out from our own files here in London who was on the consultation—and, of course, there was not a single farmer. This is rather the same thing, I would suggest.

Of course, a number of colleagues in this House take their briefings from a lobby group called Stonewall. Stonewall has declared in its briefing for responses to this debate that any comments from me and others—the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for example—should be responded to by saying, “Blah, blah, blah”. I suggest that this is infinitely too serious for such a response.

Finally, I draw to the House’s attention the fact that I have been requested on a number of occasions by the Minister and others to give examples of what I am talking about. This is not at all easy, because all the examples given to me have been given in confidence. Whereas I know who they are—some are medical professionals and some have already had their jobs threatened—I can see why they do not want to be known.

However, a rather wonderful lady—I cannot say who she is—was raped in hospital by a man about a year ago. There is only one definition of rape in Britain and that is male on female; you cannot rape if you do not have the structure of a male. She was raped and she naturally reported it to the police. The police spoke to the hospital, which informed them that there was no male in the hospital, therefore the rape could not have happened. They forgot that there was CCTV, nurses and observers. None the less, it has taken nearly a year for the hospital to agree that there was a male on the ward and, yes, this rape happened. It is on record—I know where the case happened, who the police are and where the hospital is. I know everything about it because she gave me the full case to make sure I knew that what she was saying was true.

During that year she has almost come to the edge of a nervous breakdown, because being disbelieved about being raped in hospital has been such an appalling shock. The hospital, with all its CCTV, has had to admit that the rape happened and that it was committed by a man. The police have therefore changed their tune and become enormously supportive and helpful, and the case is going ahead. However, this has arisen directly from annexe B. The result of annexe B is that hospital trusts inform ward sisters and nurses that if there is a male, as a trans person, in a female ward, and a female patient or anyone complains, they must be told that it is not true—there is no male there. I refer there to the duty of candour in the National Health Service. I think it is completely wrong that the National Health Service should be instructing or allowing staff to mislead patients—to tell a straightforward lie. It is not acceptable. The National Health Service is admired globally and the duty of candour makes it imperative that it should be frank, open and honest with the patients, yet trust after trust has informed its staff that they must say the opposite of the truth when this situation arises. The impact on my new friend is appalling. I beg to move.