Gender Recognition

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 1:47 pm ar 6 Rhagfyr 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities 1:47, 6 Rhagfyr 2023

I thank the Minister for Women and Equalities for advance sight of her statement. I welcome the chance to respond to her on these important issues. Such opportunities are vanishingly rare, given that I believe this is the first oral statement she has made on the women and equalities brief this year. Like Santa Claus, it seems she gets to work when Christmas is around the corner.

I started this morning by joining a debate on the Government’s continued failure to ban conversion practices, a promise that was made over half a decade ago. I was sorry not to see the Minister there to explain that failure in person—no conversion practices ban, no commitment to making every strand of hate crime an aggravated offence in order to tackle the staggering rise in violent hate crime targeting LGBT+ people, and no provision to schools of the guidance that has been promised repeatedly but not delivered. She has been unable to deliver in any of those areas, and she even tried in her statement to say that legislation passed over 13 years ago has caused those delays—you couldn’t make it up.

Let us be clear. There are millions of British LGBT+ people in this country. I would love to hear from the right hon. Lady what she is doing for them, after her Government ditched their LGBT action plan, disbanded their LGBT advisory panel and frittered away taxpayers’ money on a cancelled international conference that LGBT+ organisations refused to attend.

Of course it is important that the list of approved countries is kept up to date. That was what Labour provided for when we passed the GRA back in 2004. The list was last amended in 2011, when two countries were removed from it and nine added. At that time, the Government said that they expected that it would be necessary to update the list

“within the next five years.”

Here we are 12 years later and the Minister has just got around to it. That is the kind of timescale our country has grown used to when it comes to Conservative delivery. Indeed, even she herself said that it is long overdue.

The right hon. Lady outlined several changes, and it is important that we understand fully why the decisions have been made. Why is there so little information on why they have been taken? As just one example, as I understand it, Germany approved self-ID this summer, but it is still on the list. Is that because its changes apply to birth certificates rather than to GRCs—it does not have such a certificate—or is it because of the timing of its reforms? There is no clarity and no information. We are talking about likely very small numbers of people, but for those individuals it is important to get this right. It is extremely difficult to determine the Department’s approach on the basis of an extremely thin explanation.

Many people living in this country who hold GRCs from the overseas route will be worried about what this means for them. Will the Minister be clear—do the changes impact their rights in any way? What about those with applications that are still outstanding?

As a result of the changes, many countries that are close allies of the UK have been removed from the list. Will the Minister explain whether she has had bilateral discussions with each of them over the implications of this move? She referred to thorough checks, but not to any bilateral engagement; does that mean that none took place? If so, why was there no such engagement on an issue on which I suspect we as the UK would expect to be consulted were the shoe on the other foot?

On that note, what assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the changes on the mutual recognition of UK GRCs in other countries? Did she consult her newly appointed colleague in the other place, the Foreign Secretary, about the diplomatic impact of the changes? If so, does he agree with them? I note that, for example, China is now on the approved list, but our four closest Five Eyes allies are not.

The Minister mentioned that there was consultation with the Scottish and Northern Irish authorities, but she did not say what the upshot of that was. She also did not indicate what the impact of the change is on our arrangements with Ireland. Will she please clarify that?

Finally, changes to the rights of foreign nationals in this country may lead to wider concerns about the mutual recognition of marriage rights, and other rights such as adoption. Will the Minister clarify whether the Government have any plans in those policy areas?

Let me be clear: Labour wants to modernise the Gender Recognition Act while making sure that that does not override the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. We recognise that sex and gender are different, as the Equality Act does, but I am afraid the Minister’s statement only underlines how chaotic her Government’s approach has become, with the Conservatives apparently completely divided on these issues and focused on rhetoric rather than delivery. LGBT+ people deserve better.