Amendment 93

Victims and Prisoners Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords am 8:15 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Baroness Fox of Buckley:

Moved by Baroness Fox of Buckley

93: After Clause 25, insert the following new Clause—“Collection of data on victims of crimeThe Secretary of State must issue guidance for relevant bodies including police and crime commissioners in respect of data collection to ensure that sex registered at birth is recorded for both victims and perpetrators of crime.”

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

My Lords, Amendment 93 simply but crucially calls on the Secretary of State to

“issue guidance for relevant bodies”,

such as the police and police and crime commissioners,

“in respect of data collection to ensure that sex registered at birth is recorded for both victims and perpetrators”.

Just to note, the heading in the amendment is rather misleading when it says:

“Collection of data on victims of crime”.

Actually, the main confusion lies with the perpetrators, which obviously has an impact on the victims.

For the policies and proposals in the Bill to be effective, which we all want, many of them will rely on evidence. That means criminological research and official crime data, such as recorded crime and victim surveys, which will enable stakeholders, policymakers and researchers to analyse patterns in both victimisation and offending, and will allow interventions and services to be developed and resources to be targeted effectively.

As I pointed out in Committee, criminal justice data needs to be accurate, credible and consistent. However, data on a person’s sex is now not accurate, credible or consistent because agencies in the criminal justice system do not distinguish between sex, gender identity or self-declared sex. I will not repeat the detailed evidence collected by freedom of information requests that I cited in Committee, but police forces increasingly differ from area to area, recording crime statistics variously, some by biological sex but others by some other concept based on ever-fluid and subjective ideas about gender identity, which is often recorded as if it were sex.

The guidance I ask for in this amendment would clarify that gender should not be used as a synonym for sex, as it leads to confusion and conflation. In turn, this conflation of sex and gender compromises official statistics in terms of trustworthiness, quality, and value for policy and for public understanding. The guidance should untangle the vast array of muddled recording practices around government records, such as passports, driving licences, NHS numbers, et cetera, all of which can be changed, but no amount of documentation changing affects the need for a consistently applied legal identity that is fixed and unchanging from birth to death, registered with the state and necessary for the state to fulfil its responsibilities to citizens—no more so than in criminal justice. That is why data based on sex registered at birth is so important, as it is a fundamental demographic variable, reflecting the reality of sex-based differences between men and women.

Those compiling the guidance might look at other identifiers. For example, in the debate on my Amendment 18 on the previous day on Report, I discussed the problems of identity confusion in relation to safeguarding checks. Keep Prisons Single Sex has made an interesting recommendation relating to the mandatory use of national insurance numbers for DBS checks in relation to identity changes. National insurance numbers remain constant throughout an individual’s life. They are unique to each individual. They do not change and they are unchangeable—even, for example, when an individual obtains legal recognition of acquired gender. So even if someone is issued a GRC, the individual’s new details are listed against their existing national insurance number, which is unchanged and retained until 50 years after the individual’s death. It seems that the state does understand the importance of accurately recording and knowing who a citizen is, and their natal sex, when it comes to collecting taxes. Such seriousness is necessary in other policy areas.

We can see the dangers of confusion if we look at what the Cass review has to say about data in relation to NHS numbers; I am grateful to Sex Matters for its briefing on this issue. NHS numbers are the unique national patient identifier in the UK’s health and social care system, and are vital for clinical safety, record management and, of course, clinical research. However, it has been policy for some time that GP surgeries can change a patient’s recorded sex on their medical records at any time, without requiring diagnosis or any form of gender reassignment treatment, and request a new NHS number. Public Health England tells GPs that medical information on the person’s record must be gender neutralised and transferred to a newly created medical record.

The Cass review found that many children seen by GIDS had changed NHS numbers before they had been seen by specialists, and some were “living in stealth”—that is attending school in the opposite sex. The Cass review draws attention to the dangers this poses, which is helpfully analogous to the problems I am raising and that we face in the lack of clarity on crime data. Dr Cass raises

“concerns about children and young people’s NHS numbers being changed inconsistently, as there is no specific guidance for GPs”.

The review highlighted changing NHS numbers putting children and young people “at risk”—for example,

“young people attending hospital after self-harm not being identifiable as … on a child protection order”,

And, from a research perspective, creating difficulties in identifying

“long-term outcomes for a patient population for whom the evidence base is weak”.

In criminal justice, inconsistent data collection, due to the conflation between sex and gender, can similarly compromise safeguarding and especially distort research—as a consequence, potentially distorting the way the public access facts in relation to crime. Take the differing offending patterns between males and females. Males commit the large majority of offences per se, and some offence categories are only or very rarely committed by females, such as sexual offences or violent crime in particular. That means that even if only a small number of natal males who identify as females are recorded as women, this skews the female sex-offending statistics in a misleading way.

This amendment proposes that the Government use guidance to bring clarity to the situation. This is of democratic importance and seems an important part of the Bill, which means more accountability to and about victims and accountability to the public about the victims and perpetrators of crime. The truth is that the practices of criminal justice agencies recording self-declared sex as actual sex were introduced by public authorities without proper democratic debate, behind the backs of the public, depriving the public of clarity about what is measured in crime data. That then seeps over into misleading the public about precisely who commits crime when it arrives in the public sphere, via the media, for example.

I warmly welcome the manifesto for police and crime commissioners published by campaign groups Fair Cop and Keep Prisons Single Sex, and one section seems especially pertinent to finish with. It says that police and crime commissioners’

“Press releases and communication with the public must be written in accurate and accessible language. Suspects, and other persons of interest, must be described in a way that the public can clearly and quickly understand. Sex registered at birth is always information that must be shared with the public” and not concealed. Beyond this official crime agency language and media reporting, police-collected data must not be allowed to erase measurable facts and objective reality.

I hope that this amendment will receive support across the House as a modest contribution to clearing up these confusions. I am hoping the Overton window has shifted of late, by the way. How welcome it was to hear Labour shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood acknowledge that she agrees with JK Rowling that

“biological sex is real and is immutable”.

As well, I welcome her comments on the dangers of justice by hashtag and free speech. This amendment simply seeks to ensure that criminal justice data also recognises the immutable nature of sex. I hope the Labour Party will back me in relation to this. I am grateful as well to the Government and the Minister, who has organised for officials to discuss these issues with Kate Coleman from KPSS before Third Reading. It is in everyone’s interest that crime data is accurate, credible and consistent. At present, it is not. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, for her Amendment 93, which requires guidance to be issued on data collection of sex registered at birth for victims and perpetrators of crime. I recognise the noble Baroness’s commitment to this topic, and I believe the House will return to the subject tomorrow. Many of the points I will make were made last week while discussing the noble Baroness’s other amendment that sought to require data to be collected. I therefore apologise for any repetition.

The Government recognise that accurate data and statistics on biological sex are important to good research and effective policy. For this reason, the Home Office issued guidance in April 2021 in the annual data requirement that sex should be recorded in its legal sense, what is on either an individual’s birth certificate or their gender recognition certificate. Gender identity should also be recorded separately if that differs from that. For consistency, this is based on classifications used in the 2021 census for England and Wales.

Since implementing this guidance, the Government have commissioned an independent review of the recording of sex by public bodies, which will report at the end of August 2024. The Home Office will consider this new guidance once it is available in deciding whether changes are needed to the recording of the sex of victims and perpetrators dealt with by the police.

However, we recognise that there are concerns in this area, and the department has committed to meet groups such as Keep Prisons Single Sex to hear their concerns. Legislation is not required for guidance to be issued on this area. We will continue to work with stakeholders and await the outcome of the review for whether further guidance is needed in this area. I respectfully ask that the noble Baroness withdraws her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Fox of Buckley Baroness Fox of Buckley Non-affiliated

My Lords, when I was at school, there used to be a tactic called sending people to Coventry, in which you were ignored as a sign of contempt. I am disappointed a second time that the Opposition Benches do not think it worth engaging on the issue, regardless of whether they want to engage with the individual who is putting forward the issue. I am very glad to hear the Minister’s words that the Government are taking this seriously. I genuinely hope that Opposition parties will take this seriously as well, because there is a problem. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Bach, talk earlier about the importance of accurate and consistent data and simplifying data. He made a good point, and I backed him up on it. I was rather hoping that this side of the House—the Labour Benches—might see that through and at least make some positive comments in relation to my amendment.

I will, of course, withdraw the amendment, but I do not withdraw the importance of the issue. I hope that the detail that will be brought by somebody who has got a detailed knowledge of this—Kate Coleman—to the meeting will help any guidance that might emerge in August and also ensure that we no longer carry on showing the public confused data and hoping that they can work their way through it. It is a democratic question, and I hope that, in future, democrats will take it more seriously than perhaps we have seen tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 93 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 8.29 pm.