My Lords, given the hour, I shall be extremely brief. As a long-standing supporter of single-sex wards and single-sex provision, I raised the issue of the wording of annexe B and the status of its review in Committee. Tonight, I am continuing to attempt to get answers to questions raised in Committee and in correspondence with the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Kamall.
It seems clear that the current review of annexe B is not the review promised by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, last August. We tried to get to the bottom of this in correspondence. I hope that the Minister, when she responds today, will be able to say exactly what the status of that review is. We have been informed that it is a scheduled, standard internal review—whatever that is—but there seem to be no terms of reference, there does not appear to be any analysis of how well the current provision of same-sex accommodation is working, the review has not been publicised internally, the review team is not independent, and the review seems largely to have been conducted behind closed doors. At the very last moment, certain organisations from which evidence was recommended to be taken did indeed give evidence, in a one-hour Zoom session—and that was about it. So it is a totally unsatisfactory form of review and evidence-taking, and it seems to be moving in a particular direction without any transparency at all.
I very much hope that the Minister will be able to give us much more information about the review, its purpose and whether it is indeed the one the Secretary of State promised; and, if it is not, whether terms of reference will be published publicly so that we can actually have a discussion about how they should be formulated.
I would say, in passing, that it is vital as part of this review that the Government publish what their view about the legality of single-sex wards is. We have already had two interpretations of Schedule 3 to the Equality Act 2010. I tend to agree more with that of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer: paragraphs 26, 27 and 28 seem to me to be utterly clear in permitting single-sex wards in the NHS, and I cannot see how the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, has come to the conclusions that he has. But let us see what the Department of Health’s interpretation is and whether annexe B really does conform to the Equality Act. Let us get down to the basics. It is really important.
Finally, I would simply say that it seems to me that there is no way that annexe B can conform to the Equality Act currently. It says:
“Non-binary individuals, who do not identify as being male or female, should also be asked discreetly about their preferences, and allocated to the male or female ward according to their choice.”
Being non-binary is not a protected characteristic, so what on earth is it doing in annexe B?