Elliot Colburn debates involving the Department for International Trade during the 2019 Parliament

LGBT History Month

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 2nd February 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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I begin by congratulating my co-chair of the APPG on global LGBT rights, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Dame Angela Eagle), on her excellent opening speech. It is always a pleasure to work with her on the APPG, and I look forward to all the work we will continue to do together in this space. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee for making time for this debate, particularly during LGBT History Month. I know time is precious, particularly with the recess in February, so I am grateful for the Committee’s attention.

I also welcome the Minister; I am happy that it is this Minister who is responding to the debate, and I particularly want to pay tribute to him; I know he is sick of hearing it, but his bravery in wearing the “One Love” armband in Qatar sent a strong signal. I commend him and am grateful to him for that; it is important that we remember that act of bravery.

We are now 50 years on from the Stonewall riots in the United States, the first ever pride rally in London and the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the UK. We stand here in not only the mother of all Parliaments, but what was, until recently, labelled the gayest Parliament in the world. I think that is a term of endearment and very much a good thing; while I must heap praise on and congratulate our Commonwealth partner New Zealand on recently nicking that title from us, I am sure that we will get it back before too long.

We are here to talk about LGBT History Month, and of course LGBT history stretches much further back than just 50 years—believe it or not, we have been here much longer. For as long as there has been love between humans, there has been LGBT history. In fact, throughout history LGBT love has not just been limited to humans. Historians consider that the first chat-up line ever recorded took place between two ancient Egyptian gods. It is said that the deities Set and Horus argued for nearly a century about who should be the rightful ruler on Osiris’s throne. Considering a different approach, Set turned to Horus and said, and I quote:

“How lovely are your buttocks! And how muscular your thighs…”

One thing led to another and, as they say, the rest is history—I promise that was not from the Grindr profile of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant).

In ancient Mesopotamia, the priests and priestesses of the goddess Ishtar were bisexual and transgender. One of the aspects of the goddess that was considered most awe-inspiring was her ability to turn men into women and women into men. Her father-god Enki is said to have created a third gender, neither male nor female; what today we would refer to as a non-binary gender was first recognised more than 3,000 years ago and a third gender was created by divine will.

We have come a long way since dodgy chat-up lines from the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians—[Interruption.] The point bears repeating that we can find evidence of LGBT people and LGBT history across human history for thousands and thousands of years. Same-sex relationships and gender fluidity were considered very common in many parts of the world, and distinctions concerning sexual and gender identity and prohibitions on such relationships and identities only appeared in recent centuries.

The first recorded criminalisation of homosexuality in England appeared in the 13th century, when sodomy and sorcery were considered punishable by being buried alive. Henry VIII’s Buggery Act 1533 reinforced that, and he exported it across the world. For hundreds of years, that led to the promotion of long-lasting discrimination against LGBT people, which in many places can be seen today.

I do not often praise Napoleon, but the French were way ahead of us: in the early 19th century, the Napoleonic code effectively decriminalised homosexuality for many countries. Despite the absence—[Interruption.]

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. The hon. Member for Rhondda has got to stop giving a running commentary on this speech.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am always happy to be commentated on by the hon. Member—but I digress.

Despite the absence of laws criminalising same-sex relations, many countries still impose restrictions on LGBT people in other ways. The legal position on homosexuality softened in the 19th century with the more progressive and modern move—some might say—from “punishable by death” to just life imprisonment. The lack of sufficient evidence to convict all those suspected of having engaged in homosexual activity led to the introduction of the “blackmailer’s charter”, which criminalised gross indecency between men. That was the legislation under which many people, including Oscar Wilde and Alan Turing, were convicted, and it also affected transgender people.

The prohibition against cross-dressing started to take off during the 19th century, and to this day at least 15 jurisdictions across Africa, Asia and the middle east still impose criminal sanctions against people whose gender expression does not align with their sex assigned at birth. In the early 20th century, Australia introduced legislation specifically to criminalise sexual acts between men, which directly influenced legislation in many other countries including Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Gross indecency”, as defined in law, was limited to men until the 1920s, when people discovered that lesbians existed. English lawmakers identified an anomaly in the law, and attempted to criminalise same-sex relationships between women. Fortunately those attempts failed, but the damage had already been done internationally, and many former British colonies went ahead and adopted the criminalisation of lesbianism. Today—this was a point made very ably by my friend the hon. Member for Wallasey—at least 43 countries continue to criminalise sexual activity between women. Some do so explicitly by criminalising intimacy, while others do so through other gender-neutral provisions.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
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The hon. Gentleman is making some extremely important points. Does he agree that it is a tragedy that countries that stood up against colonialism and imperialism are seeking to entrench what were colonial and imperialist exports of this country through the criminalisation of those very people?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The hon. Member makes an excellent point, and I absolutely agree with him.

David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con)
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I commend my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Wallasey (Dame Angela Eagle) for the important work that they do in co-chairing the APPG, but does my hon. Friend agree that there is a role for all of us, as parliamentarians, in reaching out and working with people in other countries to help them change the regressive laws that he is describing?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I agree entirely, and I commend my right hon. Friend for all the work he has done in paving the way for many of us in this place.

Let me now turn to some of the UK’s more recent history in this regard. As I said earlier, the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in the UK finally occurred in 1967. By the turn of the century, LGBT people could serve in the armed forces and the age of consent had been equalised.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle
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We should note, however, that when same-sex relationships between men were legalised it was due not to some euphoria about gay rights, but to a conservative view held in many quarters that we should look after these sorry, poor, gay individuals who were likely to be blackmailed. While that was a step forward, the transformation in people’s minds in relation to how to consider gay people took many more years. Are there not similarities with the way in which some people talk about trans people now? Perhaps we are on that journey as well.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The hon. Gentleman is right. This was not a euphoric overnight decision in 1967 after which everything was OK; things took much longer. Of course, the circumstances were very different, but the hon. Gentleman has made an important point.

I was talking about some of our more recent successes. The passage of the Equality Act 2010 protected LGBT+ people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in many areas of public life, and the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 and equivalent legislation across the UK—passed in 2014 in Scotland and 2019 in Northern Ireland— finally enabled LGBT+ people to marry.

We have come so far, and it is easy to reel off a long list from the history of discrimination, but it is important not to forget the implications of that history. If many of us—here in the Chamber and outside it—had been born just a few heartbeats earlier, our lives would have been completely different, and would have been hell. That was the reality for millions of LGBT+ people throughout history—our history. We must never forget the struggle that they underwent, and the sacrifices that they made, to lead to the great advances that we enjoy today, but we should also remember that for too many people around the world, that struggle is still all too real. LGBT+ people are still criminalised and persecuted because of who they are and who they love in 67 countries across the world. Half of those are Commonwealth countries, where homophobic and transphobic laws and attitudes exported and implemented by the UK have still not been repealed.

There is hope, however: I want to emphasise that. Recent years have seen an increase in the decriminalisation of LGBT+ people. Just last year, same-sex activity was decriminalised in Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Singapore and Barbados, with many more countries likely to follow. Equal marriage legislation has progressed across the world, in countries including Cuba, Slovenia and Mexico last year. I look forward to visiting the Czech Parliament later this year: it is currently considering its own equal marriage legislation. Thirty-three countries now have equal marriage laws, which means that 1.35 billion people now have access to the joy that is marriage.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he is being very generous to me. Does he note with disappointment Bermuda’s repealing of same-sex marriage legislation, and this Government’s failure to intervene to prevent it despite their ability to do so? They did intervene to prevent Bermuda from legalising cannabis, so they have no problem with intervening, but they did not intervene on the human rights issue of same-sex marriage, which was such a disappointment.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I agree that that is a great disappointment. It also harks back to the point made by the hon. Member for Wallasey about not taking rights for granted, and the fact that the fight for LGBT+ rights does not always move in a linear, A to B direction. There is always a struggle. We have to remember that and always be conscious of it, and the hon. Gentleman has given one such example.

India and Pakistan recently passed legislation supporting the protection of trans people against discrimination in education and healthcare. Further progress can be seen, with Cyprus, India, Canada, New Zealand and indeed the United Kingdom now considering banning conversion practices, or currently legislating for them. I want to go into a bit more detail on conversion therapy, because we have been talking about it for a long time.

A ban was first announced back in 2018, as part of the LGBT action plan. I welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, at the conclusion of our proceedings on the Online Safety Bill, that the Government intend to publish the Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the current parliamentary session, and that it will be trans-inclusive. However, I hope that the Minister will either be able to give us a bit more of a timeline today or commit himself to sharing that information with us soon, because we have been waiting for this for a long time. Pre-legislative scrutiny is a rare tool for Parliament to use. I understand why the Government wants to ensure that legislation is done well and done right—Parliament’s job is, after all, to produce good, well-worded legislation—but I sincerely hope the Government will not allow pre-legislative scrutiny to enable a watering down of the Bill, and I hope that we can have that commitment from the Minister.

I have one final thing to touch on—I realise that I am being very selfish with my time—which is the current discussion around the trans debate, gender recognition reform, the use of section 35 in Scotland, and the potential for delisting countries for acceptance of gender recognition certificates. The hon. Member for Wallasey put it very well indeed when she said that there seems to be hysteria around trans issues at the moment. Often, discussions on those issues have become so blown out of all proportion and so lacking in any fact that we have lost sight of what people are attempting to do.

Public opinion polls have shown that, overwhelmingly, the British people come at this issue from a position of compassion. We might not necessarily understand all the issues, we might not necessarily think that everything that some people propose is correct, but the British people are overwhelmingly compassionate in this space and really want Parliament to get a grip of what has become a very toxic public debate. This is a failure of this place to get to grips with difficult issues, to calm things down and to talk about issues on the basis of fact and move the conversation on.

We will not always agree—I know that. We have seen examples of that with the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland and the subsequent use of section 35. I do have concerns that there seems to have been a lack of discussion between Holyrood and Whitehall in the run-up to the passing of the Bill. I appreciate that it took a long time for all the amendments to be considered in the Scottish Parliament, but the Government have indicated that they are willing to accept a form of gender recognition reform Bill in Scotland if certain criteria are met. That is all well and good, but I do not think that it has been adequately explained exactly what that framework would look like—what the Bill would look like.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of many lawyers that we have received evidence from on the Women and Equalities Committee and beyond, the statement of reasons for the section 35 order are shaky. I worry about the Government going into legal proceedings—inevitable legal proceedings—against the Scottish Government not only because of the effect that will have on the Union and the constitution, but because it will bring trans people into a very public fight.

Again, I understand where the Government are coming from: they say that this is about procedure and not the policy itself. I hope that the Government and everybody in this House can understand the problem that many trans people have in believing that at the moment. It is because the talk about trans issues has become so toxic in Parliament, in the media and beyond. The idea that there is any sort of goodwill or benefit of the doubt that this is more to do with procedure and constitutional issues than trans people is hard to believe, whether or not it is true.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
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The hon. Member is making some very important points. Does he agree that one thing that we can all do in this place, across the House, is speak to and listen to trans and non-binary people? Quite frankly, much of the debate that goes on is about people without our having listened to them and their lived experiences.

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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I agree with the hon. Member. Indeed, in the Women and Equalities Committee we have had some very fruitful discussions with the trans community in this space. It is worth remembering that the UK does now have the first ever trans MP sitting in this House. We do need to be mindful of the way we approach this issue and of tempering our language.

There is one thing that I am struck by when it comes to gender reform—[Interruption.] I promise you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am coming to the end of my remarks. In the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry, and in discussions that we have had beyond that, there is an overwhelming consensus among both those who are in favour of reform and those who are against that the current legal framework for gender identity in the UK is very confusing, is now out of date and requires updating. There is obviously a debate to be had among parliamentarians about what that update looks like, but the current legal framework is very confusing, particularly the interaction between the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 and the exemptions within it. We have a duty to address that matter as parliamentarians, because the law currently is in a very difficult place.

I wish to leave with one final point: LGBT History Month is important for us not just to reflect on the past, but to send a message to the LGBT community more widely that they are heard and they are valid—their existence is valid. We are standing here in the name of LGBT History Month not just to explain and explore the past, but to show that we as a community do have a future.

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Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
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The allocation of parliamentary time is not within my gift, but I assure the hon. Lady that we are working extremely hard to get this done as quickly as possible. Many of the points that she has raised explain why we will go through pre-legislative scrutiny process.

In the meantime, that is why we funded in October a conversion therapy victim support service, providing expert advice and assistance in a safe and confidential environment. I urge anyone who has been a victim or is undergoing any experience of conversion practices of any kind to get in touch with that service through its website or helpline.

As I touched on a moment ago, too many people sadly experience violence and discrimination because of who they are. In the UK, the police and the courts have considered the aggravating factors when determining sentences, but we know that we must do more. For me, that will also start with education. We cannot deal just with the symptoms—violent acts. We must educate people about the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect. That is why, since 2020, age-appropriate sex and relationship education in primary and secondary schools across England has quite rightly included LGBT families and relationships. Not only does that reflect the reality of modern society, teaching our young people that families come in many forms; it is also vital for our LGBT youth, so that they know that they are not alone, that they are valued, and that they can lead full, open and happy lives. That will, I hope, reduce many of the awful suicides that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Olivia Blake) quite rightly mentioned.

The hon. Member for Rhondda spoke about faith. I have also talked in this place about faith and my personal battles. Faith is not the preserve of heterosexuals. That is something that I have sometimes had to reconcile myself to, but I have come to the conclusion that he is my God, too.

We have learned a lot along the way, and as global leaders on LGBT rights, it is also incumbent on us to support other countries, as hon. Members have said. That is why at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, the UK announced just under £3 million to support civil society organisations in the Commonwealth to amend discriminatory laws and practices. It is why, since 2018, the UK has invested £11 million in the promotion of such rights across the Commonwealth. And it is why, in 2022, Lord Herbert, the Prime Minister’s special envoy on LGBT rights, was delighted to join Ukrainian LGBT organisations and activists for the joint Warsaw-Kyiv Pride in Poland. We continue to consider how the specific needs of LGBT people are met as part of the humanitarian response to the illegal invasion.

We are also working to encourage British overseas territories that have not put in place arrangements to protect LGBT people to do so. Nine of the overseas territories now have legal recognition and protection for LGBT people, and six have also introduced legislation on civil partnerships or have legalised same-sex marriage. We regularly engage with all the British overseas territories to ensure that their legislation is compliant with their international human rights obligations.

I will touch on health before concluding. We want to ensure that all our citizens, including LGBT people, are healthy and able to reach their full potential. I am pleased to say that the numbers of new cases of mpox—formerly known as monkey pox—have been steadily falling since the end of July. We have seen a negative growth rate in cases indicating mpox, and the UK is now in a declining epidemic. I am assured that the UK Health Security Agency is working closely with partners to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms, and of how people can seek vaccinations, information and help if they have concerns. We have provided more than £200,000 to fund an outreach programme to encourage hard-to-reach demographics to take up their first or second vaccines, and we will announce those bids very soon.

On our ongoing efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS, I am really proud that we have committed to trying to achieve a target of zero new HIV transmissions and zero AIDS and HIV-related deaths in England by 2030. This is an important fight. I am pleased to see that the milestone ambition of an 80% reduction by 2025 is on track.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am sorry if I am about to nick what the Minister is about to say, but next week is National HIV Testing Week. Does he agree that the indicative results from the roll-out pilots, particularly in London, have been very positive, and will he commit the Government to consider rolling out opt-out HIV testing nationwide as soon as humanly possible?

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
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I am more than happy for my hon. Friend to steal my lines, because it means I have the chance to repeat the message and hammer it home. He is absolutely right: testing is an important part of this, and we are pleased that the opt-out HIV testing has resulted in more diagnoses. I will continue to have those conversations with Department of Health and Social Care colleagues.

While I am on this point, I want to take the opportunity to thank Ian Green, who has stepped down as chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust after almost seven years, and to congratulate Richard Angell, who has today been announced as the new CEO. I wish him the very best of luck in the role as he continues the trust’s inspirational work.

Finally, I want to talk about our transgender friends. I am glad that many Members have talked about trying to take the toxicity out of this debate. Mature discussion is how we will get to a compassionate and sensible solution, I am sure. We are taking meaningful action to address many of the problems of the long waiting list. We are doing that by establishing a more modern, flexible care model to support transgender people. We are working to tackle the long waiting lists and are establishing new pilot gender clinics, the first of which was opened in 2021. In addition, we have established four new community-based clinics in Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside, and London and east of England.

50 Years of Pride in the UK

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 30th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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As one of the co-chairs of the all-party group on global lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) rights, let me begin by wishing my constituents and everyone across the UK a very happy Pride as we approach London Pride this weekend. It is important to recognise how far we have come over the past 50 years, and it is pleasure to follow the excellent opening remarks from the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley). It is poignant that this debate follows the one on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, because this shines a light on how far we have come as a country; when there are still countries around the world today where being LGBT+ is punishable by death, we are lucky to live in a country such as the UK that protects our rights in law. Of course that does not mean that there is not still progress to be made and things that need to be done.

I have been incredibly lucky as a young openly gay man growing up in the UK. I was very supported by my family and my school was miles ahead of its time; Carshalton Boys Sports College had a fantastic, inclusive, relationship and sex education curriculum before it was mandatory. I have had nothing but excellent experiences in every workplace I have been in, so I have been one of the lucky ones, but that is not the case for every young person growing up who is LGBT+ in the UK today. That is why Pride still matters to this day and why it is so important to continue shining a light on those issues, because there are still people who think that they may be better off dead than being openly who they are. As long as that is the case, we must continue to celebrate, to be visible and to raise these issues.

Angela Eagle Portrait Dame Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
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On people who still struggle with their sexual orientation, did the hon. Gentleman happen to see the documentary Dame Kelly Holmes has just broadcast, where she demonstrates with great heartache the problems that were caused in her life by the ban on gay people serving in the military, the misery that that has caused her, despite all her fantastic achievements, and how she is now striving to overcome it? Will he join me in wishing her all the best as she is now out and proud?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention and I will absolutely join her in congratulating Dame Kelly Holmes on her bravery. Indeed, sport is one of the areas where we continue to see struggle for the LGBT community. We still see homophobia, biphobia and transphobia; they are very pertinent in sport, which is why it is important to continue to raise those issues.

My first Pride was back in 2012, which coincided with this place deciding on whether two people of the same sex could get married. It was a new experience for me. I did not know anyone else who was going, so I went along on my own, which I do not think I would have the confidence to do now. The experience of my first Pride really struck me and stayed with me. What it highlighted to me was that I have been lucky but only because of the brave people who came before me and gave up so much to fight for the rights that I enjoy today. I am lucky enough to come to this place and say, “I am an openly gay man and I have had a pretty decent life so far.” I thank everyone who came before us.

There is always more to do. That was touched on by the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East, particularly in relation to conversion practices. I do not want to go over too much of the ground that I know has already been covered. The Minister was present in the debate that we led in Westminster Hall just a few weeks ago. I do not want to repeat all the arguments that were made there. I will just stress that conversion practices are still taking place in the UK today. The need to ban conversion practices is not symbolic; it is needed to protect people from undergoing harmful practices simply because of who they are. That surely cannot be acceptable in 21st century Britain, which is why it is so important to do so and, indeed, to make sure that such a ban is inclusive of gender identity as well.

I pay tribute to colleagues who, sadly, could not make it to today’s debate, but I know would have wanted to if their diaries had allowed. I am thinking in particular of my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Jacob Young), for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan), for Darlington (Peter Gibson), my right hon. Friends the Members for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell), and for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), my hon. Friends the Members for Southport (Damien Moore), for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison) and many others. I am sorry if I have not mentioned all of them. I particularly pay tribute to the bravery of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis), the first ever openly trans Member of Parliament. I do not want to steal their story away from them; that is for them to tell. But I just wanted to put that on the record.

That leads me very neatly into my next point, which is on the current public discourse on trans issues. Again, the Minister was present in Westminster Hall when we had a debate on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. I do not intend to go over the specifics of that again, but I completely agree with the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East about the current public discourse and the toxicity of the debate that has arisen around trans issues in the UK and, indeed, in much of the world at the moment. We have a responsibility to try to take the heat out of that discussion and try to calm things down and actually talk about the real issues—what is actually needed.

Much of the public discourse at the moment is completely nonsensical. It is driven in the most awful way. Again, the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East—I am embarrassing her by referencing her far too often—hit the nail on the head. Much of what is said about the trans community today could almost be copied and pasted from the text books of history: things that were said about openly gay men, lesbians and bisexual people in the past, particularly around the threat they posed to the safety of women, to the safety of children, and to the rights to practise religion freely. Much of that is completely nonsensical. I really hope that, in this place, we can start setting a better example for the public discourse that we need to have and really take the heat out of it. I think the debate we had in Westminster Hall on reforming the Gender Recognition Act was a good one and got to the heart of some of the issues. Serving with colleagues on the Women and Equalities Committee during our inquiry into the GRA, I was struck, when we were taking evidence both from those in favour of reform and from those opposed to it, by how much agreement there was between the two sides.

Both sides agreed that there needed to be much better healthcare support for trans people in the UK, ranging from mental health support all the way through to more physical interventions. It was agreed that many of the structures that exist in both legislation and institutions do not currently work for the trans community or for anyone else. They agreed that there was a lot of confusion, and that implementation of exemptions within the Equality Act 2012 and the GRA, for example, was confusing.

Hannah Bardell Portrait Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP)
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The hon. Gentleman is setting out perfectly some of the challenges, but does he agree that there is a more sinister and deep-rooted issue with misinformation and disinformation that has been funded by the religious right and is seeping into our society, part of which plays into what is happening in the USA on abortion rights and reproductive healthcare? Does he agree that we must do something about that and we must work together cross-party to challenge that misinformation and protect our trans and nonbinary siblings?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady; that could not be more true. One of the most bizarre things that seems to be invading the debate at the moment is the idea that a person will wake up on a Monday and suddenly decide that they are trans, and that by Friday they will have had invasive surgery that cannot be reversed. Of course that simply does not happen. There is so much misinformation going on about what is happening in the UK today, and we must not allow that to permeate the debate. I hope that parliamentarians can take that much-needed lead in calming that debate down and having a discussion based on fact and on what is needed to progress our country and make it an even better place to grow up LGBT+.

Coming back to that point, it is important that, when the Government bring forward the conversion practices Bill later on this year—I hope it will be later this year—it is trans inclusive. I hope the Government will make the decision to do that themselves, because there is no doubt that there will be an amendment tabled in the House, and I must warn my own Whips in advance that there is absolutely no way that I could fail to support such an amendment. It is much more desirable to come forward with that from the beginning. I particularly thank my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) for her fantastic campaigning on this issue. She has been quite superb.

I hope we will not allow this issue to become a wedge issue. Politicising the trans debate to gain electoral capital from it is not something that any political party should think is desirable. To any politician in this place from any political party who is thinking of doing that, I would point out that we already have an example of where it has not worked, in Australia. The Australian federal election was heavily fought on that issue, and it did not work. I would really advise against doing it.

I will wrap up my remarks, as I realise I have been talking for quite some time, but for me the reason Pride is still important and must still be celebrated today goes back to the point I made earlier. Some people believe they would be better off dead than being who they truly are. Pride is all about celebrating the fact that people can be who they are without living in fear, and that is pertinent given the current toxic debate going on in the country.

Of course we will find people who preach and say things that we find abominable or crazy, but overall Pride for me is about everyone just getting to live their lives in peace the way they want to—not bothering anyone else, not trying to impinge on anyone else or to tear down the foundation of society as we understand it, but just wanting to live their lives. Pride is so important to this day because some people still do not feel they can just live their lives. For as long as that is the case, I will continue to come here and celebrate my LGBT+ family and make sure that we in this House never forget how far we have come or how far there is to go.

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Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
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I have to say that I get camper by the year. I look back on my first speech in the House after my election in 2017, when I spoke about being gay, and about being Plymouth’s first ever “out” MP. I was cautious: I was careful with my words, because I was very conscious that the words I used could inspire some people but offend others. Since then, however, I have been on a diet of rainbows and glitter. It is so much better being honest about who you are, because when you are honest and authentically you, not only do you live a better life, but you allow others around you to live a better life. I think that no matter who we are, we should be encouraging everyone to be authentically themselves.

Part of that means challenging that culture of comfortable complacency and the idea that it only ever gets better. What we are seeing now, in America and, sadly, in the UK, are deliberate attempts to take us backwards—attempts to rewrite LGBT rights and to roll them back. Many of those who are comfortably complacent and are not active in this fight have not experienced that rollback, but we do not need to look far to find people who are experiencing it right now. They are members of a group within our big LGBT+ family: trans and non-binary people. The level of hate crime, the level of abuse, the marginalisation, the cutting and pasting of 1980s headlines that were applied to gay people then and are now being applied to trans and non-binary people—we can see the rollback of rights that is directly in front of us, but only if we open our eyes to it.

Our history is littered with examples of the policy that to conquer, it is necessary to divide. That is what we are seeing here, and that is why all of us, whether we are trans or not, need to stand with our trans and non-binary friends in the fight that lies ahead. This means ensuring that we have a fully trans and non-binary inclusive ban on conversion practices, and it means making a stand when attacks are made on their presence, their identity, their visibility, their legitimacy to exist. That is why we need to ensure that there is no rollback of rights, here or abroad. We need to ensure that there is no growing exceptionalism, with people saying, “LGB rights are fine, but those trans folk—well, they are different.” We have all heard that in our communities, and it is something we must challenge because being LGBTQ+ is not a single identity. It is a liberation of authenticity. It is a community where everyone is different, but it is those common bonds that make that community worth while. We must stand together, and if we do not address that comfortable complacency, hate will spread and breed more division.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The hon. Member speaks powerfully about the need not to be complacent. Does he share my disappointment that at the same time as we are having this very collegiate cross-party debate in this Chamber today, there is a very reactionary debate going on right now in Westminster Hall? Does this not demonstrate the very point he is trying to make?

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have been watching the notifications on the Annunciator about who is speaking in that debate, and I really hope that that Chamber is experiencing the same uplifting warmth and generosity that we are in here, but I suspect that it is not. That is why we need to make sure we keep challenging.

Equality campaigns are not a military confrontation. We do not defeat the opposing side through their utter destruction and annihilation. We win an equality campaign by turning the people who oppose us so that they share our beliefs. We do that not with a big stick but with kindness, understanding and listening—but, my word, we will need a lot of kindness, understanding and listening if we are to win those fights. But win them we must, and that is why the culture of comfortable complacency must be challenged.

It is not for young LGBT people in our country to say that they are lucky to be here. It is not that they have been born by accident in a place: they are here and able to be themselves because of the work that was done in the past and that is being done today. This is not just something in our history books. The struggle is not something that is only in the past tense. That is something we must communicate to others as well. Telling our story means explaining where we are now, how we got here and where we are going—and that it matters. We need to recognise that, if we do not tackle that comfortable complacency, the attention will move to another group. It is targeting trans and non-binary people now, but who will be next? Which group will be targeted next?

There has always been hate against LGBTQ+ communities, and not just from those wearing fascist emblems and insignia. We need to recognise that hate turns up now wearing different clothes. It turns up wearing common sense, it is plain English, it is something about chipping away, not taking everyone on at the same time. Those forces on the right and far right of politics, and sometimes those with a perverted sense of religious values, have seen an Achilles heel in our democracy. They have seen the way in which they can roll back our rights by creating division within our alliances, our coalitions and our big families. Hate dressed up as common sense, fearful spectres, stereotypes and division must not pollute those big families, because at the heart of that big LGBT family are love, value and understanding. We must not lose sight of that.

This is not just about those who have a plan to divide us. It is also about those useful idiots who are content with breaking consensus, dividing communities and turning a blind eye to the violence that their actions encourage in order to get one step forward, a tactical gain, a partisan advantage or a few extra votes here or there by creating a wedge issue on which they can squeeze people and headlines that will bash a group so that they can avoid attention elsewhere. In Britain we know these people as those behind the culture wars. Every party has individuals like that within their movements, as the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) said.

We must each of us commit to engage and discuss this. It is hard sometimes, but we must do so to make sure that we are getting there, because as we have seen in America, we should be in no doubt that those who want to take us back have a plan. It is a long-term plan and will take many years for them to achieve it, but there is a plan and a direction of travel. The assumption that things only get better and that those who campaigned do not need to go as hard any more is part of their plan. That comfortable complacency is something they rely on.

We are seeing trans people being attacked in America, and the proponents of those arguments are now coming for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. Although we have a different set-up here in the UK, the US Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade has the same consequences on this side of the pond: an attack on women’s rights, on bodily autonomy and on an individual’s choice of what happens to them. So totemic is that decision, it is not just American women who will feel the ruling’s consequences. When they come after a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, who is next? We are already seeing it in Florida with “Don’t Say Gay,” with rainbows being painted over, with the status of LGBT-safe classrooms being removed and with LGBT young people being marginalised by their allies being afraid to say something. It is the return of section 28, and we need to be very conscious of that. Once it happens there, next it will be equal marriage and the other rights that LGBT citizens currently enjoy.

There are songs by Katy Perry and One Direction that are older than my right to marry my boyfriend. Hell, we all probably have spices in our kitchen cabinets that are older than the right to equal marriage in this country. This is a young right, a new right, and we know that young and new rights can sometimes be the easiest to sweep away. Let us commit ourselves not only to clearing out our kitchen cabinets every now and then—

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Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to follow such a powerful speech from the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting this debate. It is an honour to sum up in this debate for my party, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) on securing the debate and on her incredibly powerful speech. The speeches we have heard today have been absolutely worth listening to in full, every single one of them. The points made by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Dame Angela Eagle) about why this matters and why nothing should be taken for granted are ones we ought particularly to reflect upon.

Clearly, lot of the speakers today have spoken from the perspective of personal experience, and I cannot say that I do. But it is important that I stand up and speak today, and reflect on what I have heard, all the same. It is good to be speaking on the 50th anniversary of Pride. As we have heard, it is a time for people to come together in unity and celebration. We have heard eloquently today about why this movement has been born out of protest, and why both the celebration and the protest remain very relevant, because we have made so much progress but we are absolutely not there yet. It is brilliant that we have so many visible and powerful role models, a number of whom are in the Chamber today, and it is fantastic that Pride parades take place so widely. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) spoke warmly about the local Pride parades, which are so important to communities. It is important that local authorities fly the flag—my local council in East Renfrewshire raised its Pride flag recently, which is fantastic—and that corporates wear their Pride colours with, well, pride. My hon. Friend spoke insightfully about what lies beneath that. Despite all those positives, clearly challenges remain and part of the way we continue to deal with those is by speaking out and trying to empower others to do the same.

For that to be possible, we need, for instance, to have an unshakeable commitment to proper, open education for young people. That is absolutely vital to making sure that we continue on a positive, inclusive road, and that we make these critical school years so much better than they were for my peers in the 1980s. For that to happen, work that groups such as the TIE—Time for Inclusive Education—campaign in Scotland do in making sure that inclusive education is delivered is hugely important, and I want to put on record my admiration for what they do. Our young people deserve to have inclusive, open and clear education, to have that confidence that goes all the way through their schooling that they are perfect and valued just exactly as they are.

I also thank LGBT Youth Scotland for what it does and for the really positive influence that it brings to the table. Obviously, here in this place, we often disagree, and that is healthy and vital for democracy. I wish to note the tireless work of Out for Independence, which is the SNP’s LGBT group, but I also applaud its counterparts in other political parties. That focus that political parties have on equalities issues, driven by the volunteers within these groups, is incredibly important for all of us here.

That broad input matters. The progress that we have made, and the progress that would be really easy to take for granted, is not guaranteed and is not worldwide. As we can see from the very depressing recent events in the USA, progressive policies can be reversed and rights can be removed. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston and the hon. Member for Wallasey spoke very powerfully about the vested interests and the misinformation that lie beneath some of these regressive and discriminatory moves that we can see.

We need in this place to be ready to call out issues when they arise. We need to keep pressing for equality. That means that we have to speak out and that we have to decry the terrible plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda, not just for the very obvious straightforward reasons, but because the UK Government know full well the peril that that puts LGBT asylum seekers in. It means pointing out that that inclusive education that I just spoke about, and that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) powerfully explained, really does matter. It means calling out dog whistle language and calling out those who would happily engage in what they would probably term “culture wars”.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East was very powerful when she talked about hate crime statistics, particularly in regard to trans people. She very correctly reflected the similarity of some of that narrative to the period around section 28. I can remember that; it was all going on when I was at school. I am really glad that we have moved on from that particular issue, but we have heard here today, and we need to be frank about this, that the narrative around trans issues now is just as toxic—the othering, the misdirection and the hostility that we hear is disgraceful.

For the avoidance of doubt—I have said this before and I will no doubt say it again—I consider myself to be a feminist. That is in no way in conflict with my support for LGBT rights, or for trans people in particular. My rights are not threatened by other people having their rights respected.

As the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport said so effectively, our rights—the rights of all of us—are better protected and far more secure when we do not permit the rights of any one group to be eroded.

The UK Government, the Prime Minister in fact, behaved very shamefully around the issue of conversion therapy—so-called therapy—when he U-turned and said that the support previously expressed for a ban on conversion therapy was no longer in place. That was swiftly followed by a partial U-turn on that U-turn—how confusing! None the less I do take my hat off to those members of the Conservative party who were absolutely scathing in their views about this. I am sure that some of that heat was responsible for the partial change of heart, and I applaud them for that.

The situation remains that, as things stand, the UK Government plan to ban conversion therapy in a limited way. There are very large holes in the provisions as far as I understand them. It is absolutely unjustifiable to exclude trans conversion practice from the plans being put forward. The suggestion that trans people would be excluded because it is too complex is both nonsense and shameful.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The hon. Lady is making a very powerful case. Does she agree that the concern that has been raised by many charitable organisations rings very true? It is that, by excluding trans people, there is the potential to allow the conversion practice of LGB people to continue through the backdoor, by dressing it up as if it is conversion therapy on gender identity rather than sexual orientation?

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He is absolutely right, and that is one of the many holes within the plans, as I understand them, that need to be filled in. That really must be dealt with. That is why we must keep pushing for progress, including on that matter. Nobody’s identity should ever be up for debate. Nobody should ever need to fear being converted away from being themselves.

As I often have, I want to put on record my admiration for our Equalities Minister, Christina McKelvie, who is unstinting in her commitment to ensuring that that point is clearly made as Scotland moves towards a ban on all conversion practices. That is welcome progress, and progress continues in other places too, such as the Church of Scotland, whose general assembly voted this year to permit the marriage of same-sex couples—well done to them, I say—and the world’s oldest Methodist church, which I believe is in Bristol, which has started to marry same-sex couples to coincide with Pride month.

There is much to be positive about. We can see positive progress, but while we keep moving forward, we need to reflect. For me, the unstinting focus of Nicola Sturgeon on fairness and equality is very welcome in that context. We heard from the First Minister this week about our route to independence, and in her speech she once again made the point that the opportunity to build a better future was in a fairer, more inclusive country. The reason I support independence for Scotland is that I know it is a chance to improve the lives and circumstances of all the people who live in Scotland, and maybe to show that positive, fair, inclusive face to other countries around the world.

It is a real privilege to have heard the speeches in this debate and to be able to reflect on the points made. I know we still have work to do, but as I move forward with my work and look at how Scotland is moving forward, there is much for us to be proud of and much that we can build on in this Chamber. I know we can do that, and I look forward to a commitment both here and in Scotland to focusing on the principles that led to that first Pride march, 50 years ago.

Transgender Conversion Therapy

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Graham Brady Portrait Sir Graham Brady (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before I call Elliot Colburn to move the motion, it will help if I say that as this is a heavily subscribed debate, I might have to impose a five-minute time limit. The more Members keep their contributions brief, the more likely I can avoid doing that.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 613556, relating to transgender conversion therapy.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. I will heed your words and try to keep my remarks as brief as possible.

The petition, entitled “Ensure Trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban”, states:

“Ensure any ban fully includes trans people and all forms of conversion therapy. It’s shameful that the UK intends to deliberately exclude trans people from a ban in contrast to the approach taken by many countries, despite trans people being at a greater risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices. The government’s own figures show that trans people are nearly twice as likely to be at risk of experiencing the harmful & degrading practices of conversion therapy. A ban needs to ensure all forms of conversion therapy are banned.”

The petition remains open, and as of this morning when I checked as I wrote this speech, there were more than 45,000 signatures, including over 220 from my own Carshalton and Wallington constituency. I thank the petition creator and the organisations and charities that helped to brief me in advance of today’s debate, and indeed colleagues around this packed Chamber, which has got even busier since I last looked up from my notes. It is great to see the Public Gallery so full as well.

There is no doubt that trans issues have caused polarisation in the United Kingdom, with threats, intimidation and even violence from both sides of the debate. No doubt today will amount to much of the same, particularly with the horrible things being said on social media.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I apologise for not being able to miss a meeting that I have at five o’clock. My hon. Friend has talked about the vile way some people are treated, which probably includes the way Kathleen Stock and Helen Joyce have been treated. They have given very fair descriptions of trans issues and yet have experienced a great deal of bullying and online harm from people who ought to say, “Can’t we try to work together to do sensible things?”

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, which highlights the fact that we do need to have respectful debates on both sides of the argument.

It might help, for the purposes of today’s debate, to narrow down exactly what the petition asks for and what this debate is all about. To be crystal clear, it is not about reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004, nor is it about access to single-sex spaces, trans women in sport, trans women in prisons, or any of the other issues that have caused such a stir in this place, in the media, in academia, and beyond. This debate and this petition are specifically about the harmful practices of so-called conversion therapy and whether we, as a House and as a country, think it is acceptable for anyone, regardless of who they are, to be subjected to such things with no recourse to justice. I will argue that nobody should be denied access to justice if they are being subjected to the abhorrent practices encapsulated by so-called conversion therapy.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are enough laws already in place to cover the abhorrent practices that he talks about? We will be creating a problem with freedom of speech and people being able to talk to their children about the way they feel about themselves.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, but I am afraid I do not agree. There is nothing in the proposals and the consultation that the Government set out to suggest that there would be an impact on freedom of speech. Although a lot of the practices—a point that I was going to come on to in a minute—are already outlawed, there are many forms of conversion practices that are not, which is why a ban is necessary.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In relation to the previous point, does my hon. Friend agree with me the fact that so many respondents to the Government’s survey said that they had either been offered, or been subject to, conversion therapy shows that conversion therapy does exist for trans people?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I totally agree. The national LGBT survey in 2018 showed that trans people were twice as likely as LGB people to be offered, and to undergo, conversion therapy. Those practices can take many forms, but the evidence that has been presented shows that they all have the same aim—and all are harmful. That aim is to supress or change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is true that many of the harrowing stories we have heard about things such as corrective rape and physical assault, which many survivors have come forward to share, are already illegal.

Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise for missing my hon. Friend’s opening remarks, but rape is already illegal—an offence. Can he identify an offence that will be included in the Bill that is not already an offence? What is the offence that is going to be created?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I will gladly identify that offence. As I just said, rape is already illegal. However, it is the pseudo-psychological and spiritual so-called talking and behavioural therapies—exorcisms, deliverance prayers and other such things—that are not currently illegal and are included in the proposed ban. Indeed, the ban makes those things aggravating factors when prosecuting. That is currently not in law, but it is necessary.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that there is ample evidence to show that transgender people submitted to any form of that conversion therapy potentially suffer greater psychological impacts, including harmful outcomes and lifetime suicide attempt risks?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. I have had the privilege of listening to many survivors who have come forward to share their stories—I am sure many people in this place have—and those stories demonstrate just that fact.

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The practices my hon. Friend has just described are basically exorcisms and witchcraft, frankly. Does he agree with me that we are dignifying such abhorrent practices by calling them therapies?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I absolutely agree. That is why language is so important—that is going to be the theme of my speech. The tight wording of the ban is very important. Conversion practices is a much better description than conversion therapies. I only used conversion therapy for today’s debate because it is the go-to term.

Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that part of the concern about a ban—wrongly, I think—is that it would catch people who are engaged in legitimate therapy aimed at relieving emotional and psychological distress?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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That concern has been brought forward, but as I hope to say later, there is a way that we can alleviate those concerns and still pass an inclusive ban.

I thank the survivors who came forward to share their stories. It is true that conversion practices are happening in the UK right now. It is not something that happened decades ago but has now stopped; those kind of practices still happen in the UK today. Nor is it only happening here; the threat or action of sending people overseas to undergo such practices is still happening.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I commend the hon. Gentleman for listening directly to those who have been affected by this issue. It is often the voices of trans people that are missing from this debate. I was contacted by a constituent who said,

“as a trans woman, surely I deserve to feel safe, have some dignity and live my life in peace without being demonised?”

Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the way that the exclusion has happened serves to further demonise an already demonised group?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. I want to talk about some of the concerns that have been brought forward about a trans-inclusive ban, particularly those focused around unintended consequences —the potential of criminalising legitimate conversations between trans people and, for example, their parents, doctors or religious leaders. Those concerns are legitimate, and it comes down to us as legislators to ensure that we pass good legislation that does not catch those out.

I and many other hon. Members have seen the legal evidence provided to the Government Equalities Office that shows that it is perfectly possible to pass a ban without such unintended consequences. What is important is having a tightly worded Bill with clear language, as well as an extensive list in the legislation about what is and is not intended to be caught by a ban on conversion therapy. Let us be very clear: campaigners who have been fighting for this say that a ban is not intended to capture legitimate conversations, questions or even disagreements between individuals and their parents, doctors or religious leaders, for example. Legitimate explorative therapies, the teaching of scripture or even the ability to say that they do not agree with a person’s identity is not intended to be covered within the scope of a ban, and that should be explicitly stated within it.

The argument is also made that to exclude trans people is the right thing to do because sexual orientation and gender identity are different and so should not be covered by the same legislation. However, although they are different parts of a person’s individual identity, separating them would create big problems for the Government in law, as many trans people are also LGB, and vice versa. Plus, I believe that it would allow conversion therapy for LGB people to continue through the back door, because it could be claimed that it was being done because of their gender identity. We have seen that happening already. I have heard of cases of survivors who have come forward—for example, camp gay men and butch lesbians who have undergone conversion therapy because of their gender identity, not because of their sexual orientation. I believe that that is the reason why all leading medical, psychological and therapy organisations back an inclusive ban. Twenty-five organisations have signed up to the memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy in the UK, and more than 370 religious leaders from around the world are also calling for a ban on conversion therapy.

However, I do not think that I can put the need for a trans-inclusive ban much better than by referring to this perverse situation, which I would just like colleagues to consider. It is based on a real-life example of a set of twins—one gay and one trans. Both are forced to undergo hours of talking therapies to get them to change their identity. They are taken for exorcisms, with people shouting over them. They are monitored to ensure that they are not meeting anyone who might be considered “wrong”. They are unable to seek out accredited counselling and support and they have to endure treatment that is degrading and shaming.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because I genuinely have come to this debate to learn about the issues. I thought the most important word that he just uttered was “forced”. I think everyone could agree that no one should be forced into any sort of therapy. The question is whether we would be banning people from seeking this therapy if, for whatever unaccountable reason, they wished to do so. That is where a line needs to be clarified.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. Indeed there is a consent clause in the Bill. That is an entirely separate debate. I know that many colleagues on both sides of the House do not agree with that—I am one of them.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I think we are missing the point. Actually, the therapy in itself is the issue. It is likened to torture by many leading organisations. On the issue of sexual violence and LGBT survivors, 24% of the people that Galop spoke to had experienced sexual violence, but that figure leapt to 32% for the non-binary and to 35% for trans men. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that we should not be creating spaces that are safe for people to perpetrate sexual violence against individuals?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention and I absolutely agree with her. Again, it comes back to the general theme of the debate—for me, at least—which is that this is about harmful practices and whether we think anyone, regardless of who they are, should undergo harmful practices. My answer is no.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this really important debate; he is making an excellent speech. The United Nations report in 2020 called for a global ban on conversion therapy. The UN said:

“Such practices constitute an egregious violation of rights to bodily autonomy, health, and free expression of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Does he agree with me that there is real clarity in that statement and that it is very useful for this debate?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention and I absolutely agree with her. I am conscious of time, Sir Graham, so I will start to wrap up my remarks so that we can get on to other people’s contributions.

Going back to the example of a set of twins where one twin is gay and one is trans, as the proposals stand, the law would only protect one of those two individuals. The other twin would be left open to continually being subjected to the kind of practices that we have been discussing, with no legal protections. By deliberately excluding trans people from the ban, I believe that the message that we would send is that it is acceptable to inflict such behaviour on someone because of who they are, which just cannot be right.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There seems to be a bit of confusion about exactly what this so-called “therapy” entails. It is perhaps worth saying that these coercive and “abhorrent practices” do not work. By the way, “abhorrent practices” are the words of the Conservative Government, although they have done a reverse ferret on this, of course. Perhaps for those who have come to this debate to listen with an open mind, the hon. Gentleman might explain what those “abhorrent practices” involve and why they are not voluntary.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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Absolutely. This comes back to the issue of consent. Can someone actually consent to having harm done to themselves, even if they have all the facts? For me the answer is no. Again, that comes back to the core point, which is that these are “abhorrent practices”—harmful practices and that cause people to have to undergo years of psychological therapy to try to get over what has been done to them, which is why they need to be banned in law.

Sir Graham, I am coming to the end of my remarks. What this issue boils down to is that achieving a trans-inclusive conversion therapy ban without any unintended consequences is, frankly, what we should be doing anyway—in other words, we should be producing good, tightly worded legislation. That has already been achieved in multiple countries and territories with no unintended consequences whatsoever, so we already have international working examples to draw upon when it comes to the drafting of this legislation.

All sectors of UK society, from health to religion, have supported calls for a trans-inclusive ban. That, after all, is what this debate is all about. It is not about the noise around trans issues, which I mentioned at the start of my remarks; it is about protecting people from harm, no matter who they are. We have a duty as parliamentarians to protect the people who we serve from harm, so I urge colleagues to join me in exercising that duty.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

--- Later in debate ---
Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell, at the end of this debate. I join my hon. Friend the Minister in thanking all right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions today. I put on record my thanks to the petitioner, Sammantha, and the Petitions Committee staff, who have done such an excellent job with public engagement in the run-up to today’s debate.

I thank the Minister for his carefully considered response. We are lucky to have him, and I am not just saying that because of the kind words he had to say about me. It is true that we are shooting a little bit in the dark with today’s debate because the Bill has not been published. Indeed, I was heckled earlier by an hon. Member who is no longer in their place to say, “Well, that’s the title of the Bill.” Well, no one knows that yet, so I hope they come back and correct the record.

I welcome the fact that the Minister used the phrase “conversion practices” rather than “conversion therapy”. Indeed, the Bill that has just been passed in New Zealand is the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Act 2022, and I believe we should replicate that phrase. While there are complexities, I have never been one to believe that complexity means that we should not do what is right. At the end of the day, as we have heard and as set out by all the evidence, conversion therapy is harmful and degrading, and does not work. No one should go through it, and we have the opportunity to make sure no one does.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 613556, relating to transgender conversion therapy.

Gender Recognition Act

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Monday 21st February 2022

(2 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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George Howarth Portrait Sir George Howarth (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before we begin, I remind Members to observe social distancing and wear masks. I call Elliot Colburn to move the motion.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 327108, relating to reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I would like to begin this debate, as I have begun every Petitions Committee debate that I have led, by going over the prayer of the petition before I make a few observations. Formally, on behalf of the Committee, I have moved the motion on the petition entitled “Reform the Gender Recognition Act”.

The prayer of the petition states,

“Reform the GRA to allow transgender people to self-identify without the need for a medical diagnosis, to streamline the administrative process, and to allow non-binary identities to be legally recognised. The response gathered by the government showed strong support for this reform with 70% in favour, but the results seem to have been ignored by policy makers. The current process is distressing and often humiliating for transgender people, as well as lengthy and costly making it inaccessible to many people. Reform is needed to improve the lives of trans people, and I don't think the proposed measures will negatively impact existing provisions under the Equalities Act.”

The petition closed with 137,271 signatures, including 224 from my Carshalton and Wallington constituency.

I have a speech to make about the specific asks in the petition, but I want to make a few remarks first, because there is no denying that the petition and this debate are being followed with great interest across the country, as is the issue of trans rights more widely. The debate has raged not only in this country, but across much of the world. Sadly, it has not been conducted in a well-mannered or well-reasoned way. The discussion around trans people has become so toxic that it frightens people away from engaging with it. Indeed, when the Petitions Committee tried to schedule this debate, it was quite difficult to find a Member to agree to take it on for fear of what might happen on social media should they do so.

To an outsider looking in, it may look like the debate around trans issues is one where there can be only one of two extreme points of view. We have seen the most appalling, dreadful things said on both sides of the debate, with threats, intimidation and venom spat at either side, and there has been a failure to conduct it in a civilised and respectful way. I want to be clear that the failure lies squarely at our doors. It is the failure of MPs, leaders, the media, academia and beyond to make space for a respectful, real and genuine discussion.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that MPs are afraid to engage in this debate because, if they do so, as I have, they receive death threats and, in my case, a threat of corrective rape from a member of my own party?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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I completely agree with the hon. and learned Lady. We have failed to make a genuine space to express concerns and come to an understanding with one another, and that has left a vacuum, because, in that space, where the few people making their voices heard want to pull us into one of two very extreme positions, we are left with only one of two options if we want to engage with this debate. It seems we must agree that to be trans is not right or even real and that trans people are inherently dangerous and need a cure rather than support, or, on the other side, we must use trans people as an example of why the entire western liberal system is wrong, and agree that no one can be truly equal until the very foundations of what we understand about society are broken down. The failure to have a real discussion has consequences for us all. We now have a situation where people fear speaking up, and they fear to ask questions in case they get attacked or targeted. There are, of course, strongly held views on both sides, but to shut down discussion and to say that everyone must agree with one’s own worldview, or else, is damaging to society and poisons the debate.

One of the most common things I hear from colleagues in this place—and I am sure Members will agree—is that they just do not know enough about the issue. They have not given much thought to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 before, and, as far as they know, they have never met a trans person. That is completely fine, but it therefore falls to us, when we bring these matters to a national platform, to allow space for discussion to happen, so that we can explore and ask questions.

Mhairi Black Portrait Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
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Given that we are legislators, does the hon. Member agree that, particularly when talking about some of the most marginalised people in society, we have a job to educate ourselves? In actual fact, we have had five years to educate ourselves.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I agree with the hon. Lady, who leads me towards points I will come on to later.

If we allow this toxicity to continue and refuse to lead from the front, we will end up in the situation we are in now, where we have ridiculous public conversations about erasing language or trying to figure out if certain words are offensive, and where we label anyone who expresses concerns about the protection of sex-based rights a TERF—trans-exclusionary radical feminist— or transphobic, rather than actually talking about the issues. If we allow that to continue, we abdicate our responsibility as a House and, most importantly, we forget the people in the middle of all of this: the hundreds of thousands of trans people living in the UK, who, like the majority of us, just want to live their lives. They do not want this massive, toxic debate about their existence going on. They just want to be able to live their lives.

I plead with colleagues to use today’s debate as an opportunity to change that narrative. Let us lead from the front, have more respectful discussions and debates with one another and explore these issues without the need to rip each other’s throats out. From looking around the room, I know that there are strongly held views on both sides of the debate. Colleagues will no doubt want to focus on appalling things that have been said and done on both sides of this debate and talk about the more nasty and absurd parts of the far ends of the debate. However, I urge colleagues to just take a moment.

People say that this House is at its best when we come together in total agreement on an issue and get things done, but I would like to go further. I genuinely believe that this House can demonstrate its strength and the strength of the democratic process by coming together on an issue where there is not agreement, creating space to talk about that respectfully and finding a way forward. That demonstrates the best of what this House can do.

I hope today will be that opportunity. We do not do ourselves any favours by taking the easy road of appealing to those who we think are shouting the loudest. Please, colleagues, join me in rejecting the Twitter-isation of this debate, where our arguments are condensed to miniature soundbites. We can find the answers and a way forward together, rather than tearing each other apart.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle Portrait Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member is making an important argument to frame the nature of the debate, but does he agree that it is sometimes important that we do not talk in big, grand narratives about our political beliefs one way or another? This debate is specifically about the GRA and the process of applying for a gender recognition certificate, so colleagues should not be having these big, grand debates about trans issues and feminism. Instead, we should talk about the practical things that the GRA and GRC do. It does two practical things, and nothing else. It does not give someone rights to anything other than the following two changes: a birth certificate and pension rights. We should limit the debate here to that. That will provide civility.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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The hon. Member has second-guessed what I am about to move on to. I truly believe that there is a way for the House to come together on this issue. As a member of the Women and Equalities Committee, which conducted a very recent inquiry into reform of the GRA, I was struck by how much agreement there was on both sides of the debate on many of the practical issues this petition is calling for. There was also repetition of what the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) said, specifically on the issue of the application process for the GRC. After all, that is what the petition is all about. Much of the discussion has centred around access to such things as single-sex spaces, but those are not catered for in the GRA or included in the scope of this petition; they are instead governed by the Equality Act 2010, which sets out provisions around single-sex spaces. It is right that we make space for that discussion to happen, because part of the reason that the debate has become so toxic is the confusion around the application of the Equality Act and its relationship with the GRA.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I just disagree with the hon. Member on the legal impact of the single-sex provisions in the Equality Act? There is a respectable body of opinion that there will be an impact on the single-sex provisions in the Equality Act, and we are waiting for guidance to come out from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Does he agree that that guidance is much needed and will bring some clarity to the debate?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I agree with the hon. and learned Lady on the point of guidance, and I will come on that point next. It is the failure of successive Governments since 2004 and 2010 to produce any guidance about the relationship between the GRA, the Equality Act and the exemptions provided for that has led to a disjointed application of those exemptions in much of public life. There are those who use it to exclude everyone, those who use it to exclude no one and a large majority in the middle who simply do not know what to do, because there is no guidance from the centre as to what best practice looks like.

I therefore urge the Government to look again at the recommendation of the Women and Equalities Committee to produce that guidance and to convene an advisory panel of those on both sides of the debate to look at what that guidance could look like and to bring that guidance before the House so that we can debate and discuss it.

I want to focus specifically on the application process for a gender recognition certificate, as catered for within the petition. In the Select Committee inquiry, we received evidence from those in favour of further reform and those who were against it, but what struck me was how much agreement there was between the two sides on the application process. Indeed, the three big asks for reform of the GRC application process were more or less welcomed universally. I strongly hope that the Government will have a chance to look at those in a bit more detail.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I absolutely agree with the hon. Member that we need to have a civilised discussion about this issue, but given the difficulties and given that it is clear that the Act as it stands creates huge problems for transgender people, does he agree that we need reform of the Act?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

Absolutely. There is a strong case, simply if we look at the statistics around GRCs, to show that the process does not work. The fact that only 1% to 3% of trans people go through the process of obtaining a GRC demonstrates to me that the process is too bureaucratic, too expensive for many and simply not fit for purpose.

Jackie Doyle-Price Portrait Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear the point that my hon. Friend makes, but should we not also consider whether GRCs fulfil any useful purpose? The GRA was introduced in 2004, at a time when we did not have same-sex marriage. We now do, so what is the point of a GRC?

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I think the point of a gender recognition certificate is the difficulty that trans people have in getting their legal gender recognised by very many bodies. That is why reform of the GRA to allow for an easier process to obtain a GRC is needed. We may need to come on to a discussion later about whether GRCs are fit for purpose in their entirety, and I would welcome that discussion, but given what we have been left with through these two bits of legislation, the first step is reform of the GRA to get us to that point—then we can look to the future.

The changes that were recommended in the Government’s 2018 consultation and in the two Women and Equalities Committee inquiries focused on three particular asks. The first was for the removal of the requirement to obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before applying for a gender recognition certificate, as well as removing the need to provide medical reports detailing all treatment that people have undertaken. Both sides of the debate throughout the Select Committee inquiry agreed with that. The 2018 Government consultation showed that 64% agreed with removing the need for a diagnosis and 80% supported the need to remove detailed medical reporting.

The second ask was for the removal of the spousal veto, which requires a married transperson to obtain consent from their spouse before getting their legal gender recognised. Again, in the Select Committee inquiry there was agreement about this from both sides, and 85% of consultation respondents agreed that it should be scrapped.

Finally, there was a call to remove the need for transpeople to provide evidence that they have lived in their so-called “acquired gender” for two years prior to obtaining a GRC. That was condemned very strongly by both sides because it was felt that it reinforces gender stereotypes, and because there is no agreement on how to define or prove that someone has lived as a man or a woman for two years before obtaining legal recognition of their gender. Again, nearly 80% of people who took part in the Government consultation agreed that that should be removed.

Instead of having to collate all the information and submit it to the gender recognition panel, which from the anecdotal evidence we received is very confusing because there does not seem to be any accountability as to who sits on that panel or how it operates, the call was instead for a form of Registrar General to be introduced in England and Wales, before whom transpeople would have to make a legal declaration to an official in order to obtain a gender recognition certificate and legal recognition of their gender. That would, of course, come with consequences in law for any false declarations being made.

That change would not allow people to self-identify without an application to an official. The phrase “self-identify” has been confusing and, potentially, unhelpful. I admit that it conjures up images to those on the outside, who might think people can just wake up one day and decide to change their gender. That is not what the petition calls for, and I do not think anyone here would recommend that.

The model I have outlined has already been introduced in a number of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, France, Portugal, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg and Malta, as well as four provinces of Canada and 10 states in the United States, and it is being introduced in New Zealand and Germany. The Irish model is probably the closest example to what some campaigners have been asking for, and is reported to have worked particularly well.

There is a lot of agreement, Sir George, about reform of the application process to obtain a GRC, so I hope the Government can take that away and look at it again, and that colleagues here, as well as those who have not taken part in the debate but would have liked to, can come together to realise that politics is a battle for hearts and minds, but we do not need to be at each other’s throats to talk about this subject.

There are strongly held views, and a temptation to steer the conversation into areas that are not directly relevant to the GRC, but we have to appreciate that transpeople face huge challenges in the country today, not least recognition of their gender, as well as the violent and sexual crimes to which they are subjected. They are twice as likely as other LGBT+ people to be subjected to conversion therapy, for example, and they face discrimination in their everyday lives.

However, there is reasonable and understandable concern, particularly from women, about the protection of sex-based rights. That comes from unacceptably high levels of physical and sexual violence towards women, which creates concerns about erosions of these rights. We must allow space and time for everyone to legitimately be heard, and to find a way forward.

Change is a slow process. I know that is frustrating to hear, particularly in the age of social media in which we live, where we demand instant gratification and action, but in my short time in this House I have found the real world, and the battle for hearts and minds, to be infinitely more complex. We have a duty to lead from the front, in order to remove the toxicity from the debate, because continuing in that way will not end well. It will just push people further in one of two directions, or leave them afraid to say anything or to act.

I urge colleagues to join me today in trying to take the toxicity out of this debate. Let this be the moment that we come together to do more and express the real and genuine concerns held on both sides, so we can work towards what everyone wants: a society where the rights of all are respected, and where what people get out of the country is what they are willing to put in.

Let us try to be the leaders on this issue that the country needs right now and calm this debate down, working together across the divide to find the answers and find the way forward.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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--- Later in debate ---
Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I join the Minister in thanking colleagues across the House and on both sides of the discussion for their participation today, and particularly for having the bravery to come to this Chamber and speak on this topic. I would be shocked—I am prepared to bet with any Member in or outside of this room—if every single person who has contributed today, on either side of the debate, does not receive abuse. That is appalling and a shame.

I agree with the Minister that today we have managed to conduct ourselves better, frankly, than I expected— [Interruption.] It’s true. As I said in my opening speech, when the Petitions Committee was presented with this petition and tasked with scheduling it for debate, the look of fear on colleagues’ faces as we were deciding who would take it forward was genuine. I do not make light of that, but I am glad that we have managed to come to this position and have this conversation. I particularly welcome that it is this Minister who is in his place today, as I do not doubt his personal commitment to the issue one iota, and he has spoken incredibly well. I really feel that he is someone with whom we can have real and genuine conversations on both sides of the issue, and be sure that our voices will be heard; I am grateful that he has come here to respond to the debate.

I was interested to hear that the Government intend to remove the words “gender dysphoria” from the requirements set out in the Act.

Mike Freer Portrait Mike Freer
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“Disorder”.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
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Yes, sorry. I appreciate that the Minister cannot give any more details here, but he knows my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, as well as I do, and I am sure that he will definitely be asked to come back to the Committee to give more details on that point.

The Minister also mentioned that the spousal veto will be removed in a divorce measure. That just leaves living in the acquired gender for two years as the last bit of the equation. It sounds as if the Government are already moving in the direction that the petition is asking them to. I know that we will want to flesh out some of the detail in the Women and Equalities Committee and in Women and Equalities questions, but if the Government are already minded to remove the words “gender dysphoria” and the spousal veto, that just leaves living in the acquired gender for two years.

Mike Freer Portrait Mike Freer
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I need to correct my hon. Friend. It is “disorder” that will be removed.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for that clarification. I look forward to having more discussions with him on that in the Women and Equalities Committee.

I reiterate what everyone has said throughout the debate: we have to remember that at the heart of this matter are people who are just trying to live their everyday lives. If we can conduct ourselves with the respect and tolerance that we are showing each other in this room today, we can successfully take the heat out of the debate, have those discussions with one another and find those answers, because they are there and they are fixable. I am sure that this will be the first of many conversations. I thank all Members for coming today; it is one of the most well attended Petitions Committee debates that I have taken part in, and that can give us faith in the petitions system.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 327108, relating to reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Gender Recognition Act Consultation

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 24th September 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The administrative changes will make the process considerably better. As I have said, we are also putting additional resources into transgender services. The clinical diagnosis is a matter for clinicians, and the Health and Social Care Secretary is working with them on this issue. I think there needs to be a medical element to the process, so that there are proper checks and balances in the system, but the specific diagnosis is a matter for clinicians.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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I am proud to be the first openly LGBT person to represent Carshalton and Wallington in this House, and I stand by the trans community in saying that their rights are human rights. The reforms are a welcome first step, particularly in relation to health, but they need to go further. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give that this is indeed the first step and is not the end of what we are going to do for trans people in this country, that we will bring the UK into line with countries such as Argentina and Ireland, and that we will make those changes that cost so little but mean so much to trans people?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I point out to my hon. Friend that on this issue we are in line with the vast majority of major European countries, and we are working, through our international LGBT conference, to improve the rights of LGBT people across the world. I am very proud of the leadership that we as a country have shown in areas such as equal marriage and other issues of LGBT rights. It is important to note, though, that while we do want to improve healthcare services—and I am committed to working with the Department of Health and Social Care on that—we do not believe in moving to a model of self-ID. We believe that the system needs proper checks and balances.

Oral Answers to Questions

Elliot Colburn Excerpts
Thursday 5th March 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con)
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4. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) (Con)
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17. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18. What recent assessment she has made of the potential contribution of future foreign direct investment to the economy of each region of the UK.

--- Later in debate ---
Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, because FDI is so important to the UK. Foreign-owned firms represent only 1% of businesses, yet they contribute 22% of economic output and deliver 15% of employment. My Department uses our regional teams right around the country, and in 110 countries around the world, to make sure that we get that message out. Only yesterday, I hosted a meeting with regional leaders from right across the UK at No. 10 to show the importance we attach, as my hon. Friend does, to sharing these FDI benefits right across the country.

Elliot Colburn Portrait Elliot Colburn
- Hansard - -

Does the Minister agree with me and with residents of Carshalton and Wallington that instead of talking down London, as the current Mayor does, we should be supporting Shaun Bailey’s idea to put in a deputy Mayor for trade to make sure that London remains a destination with one of the highest levels of FDI in the world, to attract businesses and entrepreneurs?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. I think the people of London want a Mayor who makes things happen, who is a champion of business and who recognises that, for all the wealth in London, there are too many people left behind. We need a Mayor who gets on with the job—one who does not act like a commentator but who actually acts like a leader.