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 Cashman Lord Cashman Non-affiliated 1:30 am, 16th March 2022

My Lords, it is late, so I will abandon the speech that I prepared. I absolutely agree with the analysis by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, of the Equality Act and annexe B in relation to it, as well as of the inclusion of the NHS’s 2019 guidance.

When we address issues of balancing rights, we must always address them on an evidence-based approach and never on anecdotal evidence. Freedom of information requests around the country have shown that there is no evidence to suggest that annexe B in its current form needs to be revised. I could talk about my concerns about what this amendment would cause for trans women and trans men seeking treatment and care in the NHS. I will leave that to your Lordships’ imagination. However, I have to say, hearing the way in which trans women, trans men, trans families and trans teenagers have been represented by some in this House tonight has left me deeply ashamed. It is part of a continuing narrative to grab something of a minority of a minority and use it to represent the entire minority. It was done to people like me when we were arguing with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, when he was in Home Office, for an equal age of consent.

This was the language being used privately and publicly to describe people like me—men like me—to suggest that I was not worthy of being treated as an individual, contributing member of society who should be afforded the same protection of the law and the same obligations to the law. History shows me that the language being used to represent trans women, trans men and trans teenagers—and their mothers and fathers—is exactly the same as has been used against minorities across the centuries to diminish those individuals, to dehumanise and demonise them, and then to remove their rights, including their right to belong.

As the co-founder and founding chair of Stonewall, I am immensely proud of the inclusion of rights which Stonewall has adopted, continues to adopt and will not flinch away from. As an equality organisation, it cannot believe in partial equality; it believes in the equality afforded to individuals regardless of difference. I urge the Minister to respond by calling for the withdrawal of this amendment, which causes me deep, deep concern. Can she please reassure us that any review of the extremely important Equality Act and the guidance of 2019 will be only evidence-based, and that she will then publish the evidence?