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LGBT Action Plan

Volume 792: debated on Tuesday 3 July 2018


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given in the other place by my right honourable friend Penny Mordaunt. The Statement is as follows:

“In July last year, the Government launched a national survey asking lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people about their experiences of living in the UK. I am pleased that the Government are today publishing the findings from the survey, alongside an LGBT action plan that sets out the Government’s policy response to the results.

The national LGBT survey received over 108,000 responses, making it the largest national survey of LGBT people conducted in the world to date. Responses covered a range of issues, including safety, health, education and the experience of being LGBT in the UK. The findings will serve as a crucial addition to the evidence base. While there were many positives to take from the findings, they also showed that there is more to do before we achieve equality for LGBT people in the UK.

The LGBT action plan contains 75 actions that the Government will take to address the survey findings. These include the appointment of a national LGBT health adviser within the NHS to tackle the health inequalities that LGBT people face, the extension of our existing anti-homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying programme, and a commitment to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. This plan will be supported by the provision of £4.5 million from within existing Government Equalities Office budgets between now and 2020. I want this plan to be delivered by the end of this Parliament, and funding beyond 2019-20 will be agreed through the spending review process.

The documents that the Government are publishing today represent a significant milestone in this Government’s commitment to building a country that works for everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Statement and welcome the action plan and the announcement today that the Government will launch a consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act. However, as the Minister said, some of the findings from the survey suggest that there is more to be done and can make difficult reading. It is clear that there will be a lot of work to do to ensure that LGBT people are respected and able to live their lives in public without fear.

The LGBT action plan says that the Government will bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy, which is to be welcomed. Can the Minister confirm that this will be a full ban and tell the House how it will be enforced?

I am glad to see that the action plan promises a national health adviser to work with healthcare professionals and raise awareness of LGBT issues. How will this role be resourced and what powers will be given to the national health adviser towards making progress on health inequalities faced by LGBT people?

The national LGBT survey referenced Stonewall’s findings that more than 25% of trans respondents who were in a relationship in the past year had been subject to domestic abuse. What are the Government doing specifically to support trans people experiencing such abuse? I say again that we welcome the plan, and we look forward to working with the Minister to make sure that all the recommendations are implemented.

I thank the noble Baroness for her questions. When I first started in my role as Equalities Minister, I did not believe that conversion therapy existed. I thought that the like of what happened to people like Alan Turing was gone, only to find that it still exists. One upshot of the survey is to highlight that it does exist. It exists not just in some of the settings where we think it exists but in all sorts of settings which affect all government departments. In terms of how exactly we are going to end it, we have deliberately not been specific, because it will require a series of both legislative measures and non-legislative measures. The proposals will be outlined in due course.

The national adviser will explore the areas where health inequalities exist for LGBT people in our society and will advise the Government and other providers on those inequalities. In terms of money, we have put in £4.5 million to help us deliver the action plan. On trans abuse, the noble Baroness is absolutely right—trans people appear to be the most unhappy of our LGBT friends in society and to face the worst abuse. This abuse is not just from people in the street; it might be from inappropriate healthcare, in school settings, or in the workplace. We are well aware of trans abuse, and many of these things have been at the forefront of our minds with the refreshed hate action plan, which we will be publishing soon.

My Lords, I very much welcome this piece of work. I had a chance this morning only to skim the surface of it, but it represents a huge amount of research, and I hope the Government will make that research available to academics and other researchers as quickly as possible, as it is immensely valuable. I will ask the Minister two simple questions. Regarding the NHS post, in discussions with other people this morning when we got the report, the general consensus was that having one person try to represent the whole community would be rather difficult. However, the key issue is the training, knowledge and understanding of staff in the NHS. Who within the NHS will have responsibility for overseeing the change envisaged in this report, which is very badly needed?

Secondly, on conversion therapy, what plans do the Government have to engage faith groups in the work they are planning to undertake? Faith groups are often where these practices are found.

Finally, on inclusive sex and relationship education, I know that the Government are keen for this to come about as it is the key to so many of the issues that have been highlighted. Can the Minister tell us when the Government are likely to bring forward proposals?

I thank the noble Baroness for those questions and I was pleased to see her at the launch event this morning. She is absolutely right that out of this huge survey—the biggest in the world ever, I believe—there is loads to be gleaned through the analysis we can do, and I think that we have probably only just begun that process. But it must not be just a survey that is done and put on a shelf, and I am absolutely certain that it will not be. I am sure there are stakeholders all over the world who will be interested in our survey findings.

On the national adviser who will oversee the change in the NHS, I suspect—though those proposals have probably not yet been worked through definitively—it will be somebody who can see at a strategic level just where those gaps lie, given some of the feedback they will get from LGBT patients and users of the health service. I do not necessarily think a clinician will be needed, but someone who can take a strategic look at how the NHS operates and propose changes and provide advice to practices.

The noble Baroness is right to bring up conversion therapy and faith groups. Interestingly, however, it is not just faith groups who use it—I was shocked to learn that. In all this, there is a balance to be had. I strongly believe we should respect people’s right to practise their faith. Similarly, they should respect people’s right to live the authentic life they wish they lead. As I said, there is a balance to be struck, and there is an engagement to be had across the various sectors, including faith groups, and that is how we intend to proceed.

My right honourable friend Justine Greening announced that sex and relationships education would be made mandatory—I think from September, but I am not certain, so I shall leave a question mark there. If it is not September, I will write to the noble Baroness to let her know.

My Lords, I give a very warm welcome to the Statement from the noble Baroness regarding the survey that the Government have carried out and the action plan that will now be put in place. Embedded in it is the valuable recognition that far too much discrimination and hostility are still faced by LGBT people across the country. However, I urge the Government to take one further step, which is to ensure that full equality becomes available to LGBT people across the entirety of the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland.

I thank the noble Lord. Clearly, we engage regularly with the devolved Administration but matters such as this are for that Administration. Looking at how far southern Ireland has moved towards equality just in the last couple of years, I have high hopes for our friends in the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, I echo the comments from the noble Lord, Lord Smith. We may think that there is equality in this nation and look at the progress we have made, but there is not equality. With the World Cup now taking place, it is significant that a professional footballer has yet to come out and identify as gay, unlike the position in rugby and other sports.

It is always quite mystifying to me that rugby has been so open, inclusive and supportive of rugby players who have come out, mainly, as gay and that football has not. In fact, football seems to remain a hostile sport for LGBT people, and I hope that that will change soon.