Amendment 184ZBA

Part of Health and Care Bill - Report (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 1:30 am on 16th March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Conservative 1:30 am, 16th March 2022

My Lords, I am so pleased I waited to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, make an excellent speech. I think what he said is apposite, and I hope the Minister will deal with the point about the quality of this review and how public it will be.

When we moved an amendment in Committee to protect female patients and ensure their rights under the Equality Act 2010 to have NHS hospital accommodation exclusively for women of the biological sex of a woman, a number of Peers, including the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who did not agree with our amendments nevertheless pointed out that there was a complete disconnect between the general guidance issued in 2019, which stated that women must have their choice of single-sex wards protected as a top priority, and annexe B, which completely undermined that guidance and said that men identifying as women could also be placed in female-only wards.

The general guidance and that annexe B guidance fail to set out the rights that biological women have under the Equality Act; and our amendments seek to rectify that by calling for annexe B to be rewritten as soon as possible and for the new guidance to clearly spell out to NHS trusts the exceptions and rights of women under the Equality Act as far as healthcare is concerned. Who could object to that? Well, of course, the main briefing against this perfectly reasonable suggestion comes from those in Stonewall, a now thoroughly discredited organisation that has abandoned gay women. They have been thrown out of this place, and many other organisations, and yet they push their ideology in contravention of the facts. Stonewall did an absolutely excellent job when it was created, fighting for gay and lesbian equality, but it has abandoned gay people, especially lesbian women, in a feverish pursuit of trans ideology.

When we debated this, and prison units for women, many Peers seemed to think that most trans women had made strenuous efforts to become women. That is simply not the case, as my noble friend Lord Farmer has pointed out. Only a very small minority—well under 5%—with genuine gender dysphoria has taken hormone treatment, had operations and adopted the lifestyle, behaviour and character of women. I salute their courage in all the steps they have taken to change their gender and live in that lifestyle. They should be treated equally, both legally and morally, and there is ample scope in all NHS hospitals to have special provision for them.

But I am afraid that the vast majority of men claiming to be women or self-identifying as women have done absolutely nothing to try to become like a woman, and they simply do not intend to. They want to keep all their male attributes but demand the rights of real women. What sort of men want to invade women’s toilets, changing rooms, safe places and hospital beds, when they have not made the slightest effort to become like women or behave like women? I suggest that they are acting out a perverse fetish whereby they can go into women’s spaces and flash their body parts and get away with it when they would be arrested if they did that outside. Therefore, while we should have the utmost respect for women, men, and men who have genuinely made the change to become women, we should have nothing but contempt for these fake trans women. We may not force a vote on this tonight, but a time is coming soon when we will, and Ministers had better choose the right side.

Last week, the right honourable Harriet Harman said that Labour had a problem with women. I commend her honesty. Also last week, the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, was asked to define a woman. Three times, she said that she did not want to go down a rabbit hole on this. Now most dictionaries define the Alice in Wonderland phrase “down the rabbit hole” as meaning entering a strange and absurd alternative universe. The shadow Minister for Women, Anneliese Dodds, was asked the same question on “Woman’s Hour” and said that the definition of a woman depended on the context. So, noble Baronesses, there you have it. Depending on the context, you may or may not be a woman, and trying to define your biological sex more may result in entering a strange alternative universe.

However, of course, there is always a man who can cut through all that nonsense and define a woman. Keir Starmer was able to pronounce that trans women are women; that is the answer of a lawyer, not a doctor. No, Sir Keir: men can legally change their gender and call themselves trans women, but they are still men, not women. No wonder JK Rowling said at the weekend:

“I don’t think our politicians have the slightest idea how much anger is building among women from all walks of life at the attempts to threaten and intimidate them out of speaking publicly about their own rights, their own bodies and their own lives. Among the thousands of letters and emails I’ve received are disillusioned members of Labour, the Greens, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Women are scared, outraged and angry at the deaf ear turned to their well-founded concerns … Now Keir Starmer publicly misrepresents equalities law, in yet another indication that the Labour Party can no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights. But I repeat: women are organising across party lines, and their resolve and their anger are growing.”

I know that most Ministers in this place have a sensible view on this, but they are tied to the policies of Cabinet Ministers in another place. So I say this to my right honourable friends in another place: get off the fence and publicly support women, or suffer the same fate of the opposition parties that are now regarded as hostile to women. Accepting this amendment would be a start to showing that the Government will defend the rights of women to have their own safe spaces, to have their dignity respected and to have the Equality Act properly applied in all NHS facilities.

I am pleased to support my noble friend Lady Nicholson.