§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy)
The Government are today publishing, as Cm 5875, a draft Gender Recognition Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Human Rights which will be introduced to Parliament as soon as parliamentary time allows. The draft Bill follows the ministerial statement on 13 December 2002, announcing the Government's commitment to legislate to allow transsexual people who have taken decisive steps to live fully and permanently in the acquired gender to gain legal recognition in that gender.
The legislation demonstrates that this Government are committed to understanding and recognising the needs and aspirations of those members of society who are in a minority; committed to securing their rights and committed to their social and legal inclusion. I hope that transsexual people can now look forward with optimism to the enjoyment of those rights, responsibilities and protections previously unavailable to them in their acquired gender.
Transsexual people, some of whom may have lived in their acquired gender for many years, are not treated as being of that gender in law. They do not have access to any of the rights or responsibilities confined to people of that gender. They are not able to change their birth certificates. They live in a state of limbo, between the gender in which they are living and the gender in which they were born; because that is how the law defines them. The Bill will mean that transsexual people will for the first time be afforded all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to that gender. It is fundamental to an inclusive society that individuals and groups be given the rights to which they are legitimately entitled and wherever possible be allowed to live their lives as they determine. The Bill will give transsexual people the right, from the date of recognition, to marry in their acquired gender and be given birth certificates that recognise the acquired gender. Transsexual people will be able to obtain benefits and State Pension just like anyone else of that gender.
The Gender Recognition Bill will establish a Gender Recognition Panel with the power to decide applications from transsexual people seeking legal recognition in their acquired gender. Transsexual people who seek legal recognition will have to provide evidence supporting their applications in accordance with prescribed legal and medical criteria. Legal recognition will follow from the issue of a gender recognition certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel. Before issuing a certificate, the Panel must be satisfied that the 67WS applicant has been diagnosed as having the medical condition gender dysphoria; has lived in the acquired gender throughout the preceding two years and intends to continue to live in the acquired gender.
It is fitting that it is the anniversary of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in Goodwin v UK and I v UK. The European Court found the UK to be in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to respect a person's privacy and family life and a person's right to marry. Under this Bill, the UK will meet its commitment to implement those rulings and to deliver its obligation to give transsexual people their Convention rights.
Provision will need to be made across the United Kingdom to comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. The Bill as drafted covers England and Wales. Agreement has been gained with the Northern Ireland Office for provisions covering Northern Ireland to be added before the Bill begins its passage through Parliament, in the absence of restoration of the devolved institutions. The Scottish Executive wishes to comply at the earliest opportunity with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and to achieve an integrated solution that avoids cross-border anomalies. Accordingly, the Executive intends to invite the Scottish Parliament to approve a 68WS Sewel motion which will enable devolved as well as reserved aspects to be dealt with in the one Westminster Bill.
The Government look forward to receiving the report of the Joint Committee and I encourage people to submit evidence to the Committee as it conducts pre-legislative scrutiny. The draft Bill, together with Explanatory Notes, has been published as a command paper. It is available via the website of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.