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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I also thank particularly my noble friends Lady O'Cathain and Lord Ferrers for their support. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, for his sympathy for the spirit of the amendment, although I cannot agree with the noble Lord that the amendment is otiose. In a sense, I am considering the perspective of the spouse and the children. I believe that Clause 3(6)(c) focuses on the perspective of the panel and the information that the applicant might wish to include, as opposed to the information or evidence that the spouse or children might wish to include.

That said, I am grateful to the Minister. I welcome also the support of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who has clearly thought the matter through in a way similar to the way in which I have done with regard to the difficult dichotomy between rights and responsibilities. When we come down to it, the Bill focuses on the rights of the applicant.

There is no question but that the Minister has responded to our concern. Of course, I would prefer to see our amendment made. I accept the difficulty that the Minister highlighted with regard to including in the Bill a provision that relates to a late stage in the process. I hope that the Minister will assist me and other noble Lords by writing to us, first, with regard to the timing of the introduction of the guidance that will be attached to the legislation and, secondly, to help us to understand better how the process will be effected, such that the interests of the spouse and family, where they exist, are tested. In other words, at what stage will their evidence be included? Will it be an ongoing process, leading up to the application to the gender recognition panel? Will it be enough for evidence from a wife, spouse, partner or family to be offered once, or will consideration of the interests of the family continue right through the difficult process leading to gender re-assignment and the application to the gender recognition panel?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for the opportunity between now and Third Reading to consider what he tells us in writing before deciding whether it is enough to have the matter dealt with simply in guidance—I accept why he wants to do that—as opposed to having it in the Bill. I am grateful that the Minister and his officials took considerable time to tackle such a difficult and important issue. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham) moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 3, line 5, at end insert—

"( ) If the Panel which is to determine the application requires information or evidence under subsection (6)(c) it must give reasons for doing so."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move the amendment and speak to this disparate group of amendments on behalf of my noble friend. The amendments arise from discussions in Committee, and I hope that they will address the concerns raised at that stage and be welcomed by your Lordships. In moving Amendment No. 26, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 46, 71, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123 and 125.

Amendment No. 26 relates to a request by the gender recognition panel for further information when determining an application from a transsexual person for recognition in the acquired gender. In Grand Committee, the Government indicated that it was not uncommon for judicial panels to request further information when they consider a case. We agreed that it was good practice for a panel to give its reasons for such a request, not only to assist the individual to provide the correct information but to reassure him that it is necessary. Therefore, on behalf of my noble friend, I propose that a requirement to give reasons should be enshrined in law.

Clause 7(2) allows the Secretary of State to determine the fee that should be charged for making an application to the gender recognition panel. At present, this power is not subject to any parliamentary procedure. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee did not recommend a change, but invited the House to question the Government about why no parliamentary procedure was required.

Of course, fees are routinely changed, often increasing annually with inflation. However, I am alive to the concerns of the Members of this House that Parliament should have some scrutiny over the fees that are charged. Subsequent to comments made in Grand Committee and given that all other court fees are set by order, subject to the negative resolution procedure, we agree that the fees for an application to the gender recognition panel should be set in the same way. Amendments Nos. 46 and 123 achieve this. Again, I hope that the House welcomes this move.

Clause 22 sets out a power to modify statutory provisions in relation to persons whose gender has become the acquired gender, or any description of such persons. This power is delegated separately to the Secretary of State, to the Scottish Ministers where the provision to be made is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, and, similarly, to the appropriate Northern Ireland department. It is a narrow power, designed to ensure the proper working of Clause 9 and the fundamental proposition that once a full gender recognition certificate has been issued to a person, that person's gender becomes, for all purposes in law, the acquired gender.

Legislation has used gender-specific terms and categories for centuries, and while we have been thorough in trying to identify what problems may arise

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from a person changing gender in law, we cannot discount the possibility that problems requiring an adjustment of statutory provisions will be needed. These adjustments will be to give effect to the principle that a person is to have all the rights and responsibilities appropriate to the acquired gender.

If the Bill is enacted, Parliament will have agreed the basic principle—that a person is to have the rights and responsibilities appropriate to the acquired gender. The power to modify statutory provisions will be used only to ensure that this principle has full effect.

The question of ensuring that before exercising those powers there should be appropriate consultation was raised in Grand Committee. The amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, was entirely sensible and an important safeguard. I am therefore introducing government Amendment No. 118, which I believe will achieve the desired objective.

The next two amendments in the group, Nos. 119 and 120, are consequential. The Bill makes provision for the particulars to be held on the gender recognition register to be prescribed by secondary legislation. This is the same provision as for other registers—for example, the birth register. From time to time, the set of details held on these registers is changed. The same flexibility should exist vis-a-vis the gender recognition register. That is the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is therefore necessary that the powers in Clause 23 should extend to the Chancellor as well as to the Secretary of State. The two amendments achieve that purpose.

Amendment No. 122 implements two recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. Again, I hope they will be welcomed by the House. Applicants who already have recognition overseas may apply on a simpler procedure whereby they have to prove that they have recognition overseas and that the country in which they have recognition is an "approved country or territory".

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, just to put the record straight, the noble Baroness referred to Amendment No. 122 when I think it should be Amendment No. 121.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, whenever the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has challenged parliamentary counsel, as he has done on at least three previous Bills, he has been proven to be correct. I am sure that he is correct about this, too, in which case I apologise.

Applicants who already have recognition overseas may apply on a simpler procedure. As the Bill stands, under Clause 2(4) the Secretary of State has the power to specify a list of approved countries or territories. The power will be exercised only after consultation with the Scottish Ministers and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland.

At present, Clause 23 provides that countries are "approved" by an order made by the Secretary of State subject to the negative resolution procedure. In its

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report, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee agreed that it is appropriate that approval should be given by order, as the list of approved countries will change from time to time. However, it was concerned that on the face of the Bill it was not explicit that only those countries that have criteria equivalent to our own would be approved. It was concerned about future policy changes which might change the criteria by which other countries were approved for these purposes. The committee therefore concluded that the negative procedure would not provide an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny for a power of such potential significance in the context of the Bill and recommended that the affirmative resolution should apply.

Taking into account the views of those noble Lords who, in Grand Committee, expressed similar reservations and the recommendations of the committee, we are proposing an amendment to Clause 23 which I hope will find favour. It will provide the assurance sought. The power to prescribe approved countries will now be subject to the scrutiny and approval of both Houses.

Let me turn to the amendment as it relates to paragraph 11 of Schedule 3. At this point, Amendment No. 71 is also relevant. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee recommended a change to the provision in Schedule 3, paragraph 11. That provision seeks to accommodate a regulatory reform order that is already under way and which relates to the registration system for England and Wales. We explained that the original purpose of the paragraph was to enable the registration provisions contained in the Bill to be amended so that the gender recognition register conforms to the forthcoming changes being brought about by the General Register Office in England and Wales. I think this is a matter of some concern to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe.

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee accepted this argument and that the scrutiny process for the order could be shortened as proposed. However, rather than altering the requirements for an order under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, the committee recommended that the Bill should give an express power for Part 1 of Schedule 3 to be amended, and that any such amendments should be made by affirmative resolution.

The amendment to paragraph 11 of Schedule 3 fully meets the committee's recommendation and I hope that it finds favour with noble Lords who, in Grand Committee, drew our attention to the matter.

The final amendment in this group, Amendment No. 125, is, again, a drafting amendment. Clause 21 includes the power to specify further exceptions to the prohibition against disclosure. Clause 21 provides that the power may also be used by Scottish Ministers in areas within their competence. Unfortunately, however, the present version of Clause 23 does not subject this power, in contrast to the power given to the Secretary of State, to any parliamentary procedure. The amendment corrects this unintended omission.

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I hope that your Lordships will agree that we have sought to meet the concerns expressed in Grand Committee and by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and are happy to accept these amendments. I beg to move.

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