Legal Recognition of Non-binary Gender Identities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 23rd May 2022.

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Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Equalities) 5:30 pm, 23rd May 2022

The hon. Lady seeks to tempt me down a particular path, but the only view I have on that is the view of Her Majesty’s Government, which is that the Bill will proceed without the trans inclusion while we do further research on the complexities. All I can say to her is that it is a work in progress, and I cannot be tempted down that path at this stage. However, I have committed to ensuring that some of the day-to-day issues facing LGBT+ people are addressed across Government, and I hope to be able to discuss further details in the coming months.

Members have referred to single-sex spaces, and the hon. Member for Oxford East talked about the guidance that has been issued by the EHRC. Members also took part in what I thought was a very good debate in Westminster Hall a few weeks ago. Those on all sides of the debate agreed that clarity on the law and on the rules around single-sex spaces was to be welcomed, and I think that is a position that we are getting to. It is important that the principle of being able to operate spaces reserved for women and girls is maintained, and I think we all agree that that clarity is important.

Turning to prisons, there have been incidents in the past, but I refer Members to the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend James Cartlidge, who made it abundantly clear that the rules were changed three years ago and that there have since been no incidents in prisons. Where a prisoner is placed is not down to what gender the prisoner identifies as; it is down to the offence for which they have been convicted, their physiology, their medication and where they are on the trans journey. All those factors form part of the risk assessment, which is how the Prison Service comes to a conclusion on where place a prisoner. It is simply not true to say that a prisoner can self-identify and place themselves in a prison of their choice.

I want to touch on the issue of trans people in single-sex spaces. For many years, trans people have used single-sex spaces in their gender without issue, and we have no interest in curtailing that. The law strikes the right balance, and we will not be changing it. The newly published guidance does not change the legal position or the law; it simply seeks to provide clarity to providers on the existing legislation, and that will not change.

To touch on the issue of trans adolescents and healthcare, it is important that under-18s are properly supported in line with their age and decision-making capabilities. To be clear, the child and adolescent Gender Identity Development Service does not provide any surgery to those under the age of 18, or permit any treatments that the NHS believes to be irreversible. That is the NHS’s view and the Government’s position. If Members believe that the NHS is prescribing puberty blockers inappropriately, that is a matter for the NHS and Members need to take it up with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.