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The Lord Bishop of Chester: Does the noble Lord consider that the distinction in this case, and in all the other cases to which we have referred, is that a genuine medical condition is being addressed by this process and that the presumption of secrecy applies in the case of all medical processes? I recognise that the noble Lord does not acknowledge the validity, authenticity

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and truthfulness of that medical condition. The plain fact is that the strong, predominant—although not unanimous—balance of opinion is that there is a genuine medical condition. For that reason, the presumption of secrecy should apply unless there are recognised reasons—we shall discuss these matters on later amendments—that a balancing of right needs to take place. Generally speaking, I believe that the presumption of privacy goes alongside the recognition that there is a genuine medical condition. That is at the heart of why the Government are so proceeding.

It is one of the areas where a practical matter touches upon the deep division of opinion as to whether the process of gender reassignment is to be recognised. As so often is the case, it is practical matters which bring out those divisions rather than theoretical discussions.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down perhaps I may ask one question of him on a point that he raised. A person asks the registrar, "Can I see my father's or mother's certificate?" It is a changed certificate. If that person were to ask the registrar, "Is this an original or is it changed?", is the registrar not bound to say, "No, it is an original", in which case is not the registrar obliged to lie?

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, yes, the registrar is obliged to lie. I say this to the right reverend Prelate. Yes, there is a controversy in the world of medicine as to whether it is a medical or psychological condition. We also know that the world of medicine changes its mind quite frequently, sometimes in a spectacular fashion as we have seen recently in the press in relation to cases of infant cot deaths, and matters of that kind.

We have to go back and say that the birth certificate should record what is true. If a birth certificate states, as the Bill provides that it should, that where a person was born as a female, has borne children and subsequently has suffered from transsexual dysphoria, the birth certificate which would be shown on any inquiry would say that that person was born a male. That is manifestly untrue. There should be a very high threshold for us to legislate that something which is manifestly untrue should not only be certified as true but that all mention of it being untrue should be concealed. That is the point.

I place a considerable regard upon truth. If there is a conflict between truth and untruth I think that the House should come down on the side of truth even if it is uncomfortable.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, clearly we need to hear the Minister's response. There has to be demonstrated a contemporary relevance for the information to be made available pertaining to the birth gender—or whatever one wishes to call it. I do not think that there is a case for the general availability and openness of the register.

Lord Tebbit: No, my Lords. A case has to be made not for the release of the information but for maintaining secrecy about the information. I think

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that is a different balance, but I do not wish to detain the House longer. I can see that the noble Baroness is slightly uneasy. Was she intending to rise?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I wish to intervene because the debate has gone in a direction that I had not expected. In a way it trespasses on a subsequent amendment. I thought that a lot of these matters would come up then.

Basically, there will be two birth certificates. The original birth certificate will not be destroyed. If someone goes to the registrar he could be provided with a copy of the certificate requested. The original birth certificate remains. Anyone knowing the original name, date and place of birth—as one would expect a child or grandchild with access to relatives in the family to know—would be able to obtain it.

The certificate consists of either the original birth entry or the entry on the gender recognition register, which is the alternative. Both will be genuine. There can be no question of the registrar having to lie. So the original records are there. Those who are privy to such information—usually because they are the son, daughter or a grandchild, and it may have some concern for them if there is a medical history and so on—would be able with that information, as now, to get to the original records. But if we do not have that—so to speak—firebreak, there is no protection to privacy.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, there is no protection to privacy about one's birth anyway. I do not see why one group of people should have it and not others. But I am concerned that we have had an exhaustive discussion about this issue and I would not wish to carry it further.

However, I might leave one thought with the noble Baroness; that is, if we are not careful this will play merry hell at some stage with those who go in for genealogical research, unless we can be sure about it. Perhaps there should be a sunset clause somewhere which states that after 100 years or so the information is freely available.

That is not related to my original point but it had occurred to me. With that thought in mind, and in the interests of getting on this evening, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 56:

    Page 17, line 19, at end insert "during the lifetime of a registered person"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments deals with the rights of third parties. Indeed, some of the debate that has just taken place may see some light when we discuss these amendments.

Basically, these amendments are in two parts. The first group relates to determining the timing when details in the register can be made public; that is, to the general public. The other amendments relate to the family.

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First, I deal with the amendments which relate to the public. Amendments Nos. 56, 62, 72, 74, 77 and 79 determine the timing when details in the register can be made public. In Grand Committee we suggested in our amendments that details should be made public and generally available after 75 years. Our amendments have changed to suggest that the information should become generally available, but not within the lifetime of the applicant.

Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, first made the proposal during our debate in Grand Committee. In response to that suggestion the Minister stated that the proposition "during the lifetime" and not during the lifetime of the applicant may be useful.

My purpose in tabling these amendments on Report is because I am looking to the Government for reassurance that this proposal really will be seriously considered.

In Grand Committee, the Minister explained that a consultation period on civil registration records, as such, finished at the end of October 2003, a major part of which sought views on the ways in which records of births, deaths and marriages should be held and accessed. I accept that and indeed welcome that that review has taken place. I seek reassurance from the Government that this matter is being taken seriously with regard to the Bill. It is unfortunate that the Minister has so far felt it preferable to await the outcome of that consultation process rather than to include something specific on the face of the Bill.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 68, 76 and 82. These amendments relate to the rights of families. They would make provisions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that with the consent of individuals holding gender recognition certificates, or following their deaths, a child or grandchild could be provided with a copy of the original birth certificate. I stress again—my noble friend Lord Tebbit may be interested to hear this; it is an issue on which he asked questions in the previous debate—that we are looking to the question of whether, and if so when and by what means, members of the family can have access to the original birth certificate.

In Grand Committee, the Minister responded that the family is able to access information about the name and date of birth. The Minister said that if a member of the family knew the name and date of birth, they would be able to obtain a copy of the birth certificate. In a sense, that is a good answer. However, where does it say that in the Bill? It is clear from paragraph 3(4) of Schedule 3 that information kept by the Registrar General for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(c)—that is, information to make traceable the connection between the entry in the gender recognition register and the UK birth register entry—is not open to public inspection or search.

However, some of the difficulties that we are debating arise from the fact that so little of that is clear on the face of the Bill. I have spent some considerable time trying to understand the process with regard to what happens to the original birth certificate and where it is kept. The Minister has been very

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forthcoming and helpful in confirming in writing to me and other noble Lords that, for example, the original birth certificate is not altered or destroyed. However, it is regrettable that the process with regard to what happens to the original birth certificate is not clear on the face of the Bill. I therefore urge the Government to think again about making clear on the face of the Bill who can access what information and by what means. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I rise to say that although I think the amendment is defective because it refers to the register as a whole, I have sympathy with the ideas behind it. Since the concealment of information is due to the wish to maintain the privacy of and prevent embarrassment to an individual during his or her lifetime, in due course that information should be made available for the purposes of the historical record. The question of what is the right time to make it available may be open to debate. It certainly would not be appropriate during the lifetime of the person concerned, but it may be after death or at least after a certain interval after death.

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