Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 680: debated on Wednesday 23 September 2020

I want transgender people to be free to live and prosper in modern Britain. We will maintain the Gender Recognition Act, protect single-sex spaces, and work to make the recognition process kinder and more straightforward. In line with the priorities of transgender people, we are improving health services and reducing waiting times, and we have also launched the Cass review to ensure that under-18s are getting the right support.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, as well as to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Prime Minister, for backing my campaign to end the abhorrent practice of so-called LGBT conversion therapy. Will my right hon. Friend kindly update the House on when she hopes to introduce that vital legislation?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her leadership on this issue, and on her work to support women when they are giving birth. Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice and we are currently conducting research, which I hope will be finished by the end of this month, on how to end it in the United Kingdom. Shortly after that, we will set out steps to end it.

Yesterday, after nearly three years, the Government finally published their response on reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004; disgracefully, they have let the trans community down. The written statement said that the Government were opening at least three new gender clinics this year. Will the Minister clarify whether the mention of those three clinics was a reference to the pilot services committed to by the previous Government in 2018, or represents a new investment by this Government to improve trans healthcare?

In line with the priorities of the transgender community, we are seeking to reduce waiting lists in the health service by 1,600 people, as well as to improve access to services, with three new gender-identity clinics. We also want to make sure that proper training is available to general practitioners so that we get better services on the frontline.

I did not get an answer to my first question, but I will try this one. The average waiting time for NHS gender services is 18 months, yet the NHS constitution says that the first appointment should be within 18 weeks. The Government have rightly committed to reducing waiting lists by 1,600 people by 2022, but that will still leave an estimated 10,000 trans people on the list. Will the Minister set out what steps the Government are going to take to bring the waiting lists down, to ensure that trans people can access healthcare within the time set out in the legal framework?

The hon. Lady is right that it is a priority to bring down waiting lists and make sure that transgender people get the healthcare that they deserve. That is why the Government Equalities Office has put in extra funding to support Dr Michael Brady as our LGBT health adviser. We are working closely with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the NHS to make sure that those services are in place.

Does the Minister agree that if girls aged between 16 and 18 are persuaded to be married instead of continuing their education, they are likely to be disadvantaged for the rest of their life and less economically active than those who complete their education when they are at least 18? (906613)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: education is important and it is obviously wrong when girls get married at an early age against their will. My hon. Friend has done a lot of work to raise these issues, and the Government are listening carefully to the debate on the legal age of marriage and continue to keep it under review. Tackling forced marriage is one of our key priorities, and I am proud that we made forced marriage an offence in 2014.

The recent report by the all-party group on sexual and reproductive health in the UK found that women are increasingly having difficulty accessing contraception because of cuts in budgets and complex commissioning arrangements. The past president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, has pointed out that Viagra was made available to men over the counter and without a prescription within a year of being licensed, whereas the safe progestogen-only pill has been licensed for more than 60 years and we still do not trust women to get it over the counter at the chemist. What is the Minister going to do about this blatant discrimination against women? (906605)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I will take the issue up with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Being gay in the farming community is incredibly hard, not least because of isolation. The Gay Farmer Helpline plays a vital support role, but has highlighted a high suicide rate. What is the Minister doing to support gay farmers, and will she meet me and representatives of the helpline to see what else we can do? [R] (906619)

Farming is a vital industry in Britain, and I want all farmers to feel supported. I applaud the work of groups such as Agrespect in supporting LGBT farmers to thrive. I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues to discuss what more we can do.