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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, there are two separate issues. The first concerns access to information, which may or may not be medical, for the immediate descendants of that family. The second issue concerns the point at which the information becomes a matter of public record, so that genealogists and historians can track family histories. In a way, those are separate issues.
In Committee, we gave reassurances on the first issue and spoke to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. The original birth records will not be destroyed. As now, the original birth record will remain in existence and be available for inspection to anyone who has the relevant birth details: name, date of birth and, usually, place of birth. It is difficult to conceive of a situation in which that information would not be known to the spouse or members of the family and therefore available to children. I think that the noble Lord wants to intervene.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the noble Baroness recognises the mischievous look in my eye. Why should the record be maintained? If a certificate has been issued to say that it was wrong and that the person was actually born in the old sex, why not alter it and throw away the old record? Or is the noble Baroness a bit unsure of her case?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my grandmother had a house in Plymouth that was bombed during the war. Opposite was some land that was also bombed and was cleared. Subsequently, new housing was built on it. As a result, her address went from No. 76 to No. 82. Both were true statements: No.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the noble Baroness gives a very good answer, except that no one says that the date on which the number of the house was changed was the date on which it was originally built. The number changed after the house was bombed.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we could continue to discuss the state of my grandmother's house opposite the Marine barracks, which would be fun. My point is that information can be changed in that way and still remain authentic.
As for the wider issue of when the information would become more widely availableto people other than children and grandchildren with the detailed knowledge that one would expect family members and only family members to havewhether after 75 years or in the person's lifetime
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Perhaps I may foreshorten her response by asking whether, if, for whatever reason, we cannot have the information in the Bill, we can have it in the guidance.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am not sure whether Pepper v Hart will do this for us, but I should have thought that our helpful exchanges in Committee and on Report should serve that purpose. If not, I shall take further advice, but I understand that when judgments are made on such issues, the context of parliamentary debate and the parliamentary record to that effect are taken into account. My understanding is that that should serve the noble Baroness's purpose; it certainly has done for previous Bills with which I have been involved. If not, we will return to the matter.
I sympathise with the point about genealogy. As someone who has been involved in historical reconstruction, and so on, I, too, would like access to such records. We mentioned in Committee that consultation is under way on civil registration reform, a major part of which seeks views on how records of deaths, births and marriages should be held, assessed and released. Some people are concerned about ethnicity as a source of information in records. We may or may not need information at that level of detail.
In Committee, we asked the noble Baroness and now ask the noble Lord to let us take the issue on board as part of that general review, rather than seek to prejudge it. I am entirely sympathetic, but any rulewhether for after 75 years or even after a person's deathcould produce distress to others such as descendants. We could argue about how we weigh that against the need and right to know when the individual is no longer alive, but, given that the review is under way, we prefer, and think it reasonable to ask, to submerge the issue within the general review of civil registration reform.
No doubt when and if a Bill is introduced, the noble Baroness and the noble Lord can move amendments if they feel that their concerns have not been met. Given that the review is current, it is unhelpful to try to subtract that issue in advance.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I thought Pepper v Hart only applied if there was ambiguity on the face of the Bill or a conflict with European law? Otherwise, what is in the Bill applies and you cannot look at Pepper v Hart.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, as far as concerns Pepper v Hart, if there is any ambiguity or division of opinion as to what may be the situation, then, as I understand it, you may refer to the columns of Hansard in so far as they clarify the policy intent of Parliament.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, could she also clarify one point for me? It relates to what my noble friend Lord Tebbit said. He said that when you go down to inspect the register, if the birth certificate has been changed, why keep the original? The Minister says there are reasons for that, but does that not mean that there are then two birth certificatesthe original one and the amended one? If so, what is the point of saying that nobody must refer to the original if it is still there?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, this is all about privacy and the right to privacy circumscribed by certain considerationsnational security, crime, public healththat may impinge on that. There are indeed two birth certificates. People would have access to the acquired gender birth certificate. It would not be distinctive in any way. But the original one would exist in the same way as when studying the maps of Nottingham, I found that streets that later got called Corporation Street were originally known as Asylum Lane. I did not, as a result, suggest to my students that they got rid of the original maps. They kept both sets.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, no. If someone goes there they do not inspect the full register; they get a certificate. They will normally get the certificate of their new acquired gender. I suspect that the transsexual person will get half a dozen copies of these birth certificates for passport purposes or whatever. The original records remain. People who have exceedingly detailed informationthe name, date of birth, place of birthwould also have access to the original records. These are likely to be members of the immediate family. Both of those birth certificates are legitimate. But nobody has access to the full register until it is generally released.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response and also all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It is clear that there is a genuine lack of clarity with regard to what happens to the original birth certificate and the whole process of accessing the information either on the part of the family or for the public record. With regard to the public record I accept what the Minister has said. I agree that we should wait for the results of the general review of civil registration and approach this issue when we discuss civil registration reform.
I would urge the Minister to consider my suggestion for having in the guidance a clear set of instructions or explanations as to this whole process. One of the reasons why this issue has been put down again on Report is that I have personally been asked by a number of noble Lords what actually happens with this situation. When the Bill was first published there was enormous concern as to whether this meant that the original birth certificate would be in some way destroyed or altered. I have to say that if that were the case I would certainly have great difficulty in supporting it. It really would be rewriting history.
I accept what the Minister has said. I do not want to delay the House, but I urge the Minister to consider making it as simple as possible for all of us, particularly applicants for gender recognition, to understand the process that they are entering into. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments is split into five separate groups. I had every intention of speaking to the whole lot together, but, by leave of the House and after consultation with both Front Benches, I will try to get through as many as I can. In moving Amendment No. 66, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 75 and 81. All the amendments deal with religious issues in the Bill.
The Bill takes away rights from religious people. By giving transsexual people an officially altered birth certificate, it creates an official way of concealing their true sex from religious groups that they might try to join. That is an issue of great religious importance. As Christian teaching is that sex is determined by God from conception, Christians believe that to reject one's God-given sex is to reject God's will for one's life. They also believe that the male and female sexes reflect the image of God and that to attempt to switch the two is a desecration of the image of God in oneself.
If one is in a Church that teaches that, it matters very much whether a person really is the sex that they claim to be. If someone considering an application for membership, which means being an integral part of the Church's fellowship, has any doubts, they need a way of getting to the truth. At present, a person who attempts to conceal his true sex from a Church does not have the assistance of the state. A Church can, like
A Church that relies on official information could be duped into accepting into membership a person who fundamentally rejects some of the basic teachings of the Church. It could even inadvertently marry such a person to a member of the congregation or employ them on the church staff. In Grand Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, expressed incredulity that a person who professed faith could perpetrate such deception on their place of worship. I do not say that all transsexuals would do so, but some might. Sadly, not all people who claim allegiance to a faith are honest and straightforwardI am not talking about transsexuals now. Transsexuals tend to rewrite their own history. That is undeniable. Almost by definition, some will have a strong desire to keep their true sex secret. They may even effectively blank out the truth from their own mind. So somebody could try to deceive a Church with assistance from the state. There is a real need to have clear and water-tight protections on the face of the Bill to protect religious bodies from this possibility.
The noble Lord, Lord Filkin, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, said that the state should not get involved in this relationship between a Church and an individual worshipper. In fact, the noble Baroness stated in Grand Committee that,
The Bill already represents a major intervention in the relationship between a transsexual and his place of worship. I suggest that the Government cannot create this totally new legal situation and then step back and wash their hands of the consequences.
Amendments Nos. 66, 75 and 81 are part of a group which specifically address marriage, membership and employment with a religious group, as well as use of a church for services. I will say more about the rest of these amendments as we come to them. But the purpose of this amendment is to make it clear on the face of the Bill that, with consent, the Registrar General can disclose the fact that a person has an entry on the gender recognition register.
I suggest that there is no invasion of privacy here. The Registrar General can provide a third party with official notification of a change of sex only with the consent of the person concerned. If there is no consent, there is no disclosure.
The Government clearly believe that the people who would have gender recognition certificates as a result of the Bill would be open and transparent with Churches. But in the Bellinger case, it is quite clear that the registrar was duped because in the certificate that was presented for the marriage of Bellinger, it specifically said, according to the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that Mrs Bellinger was a spinster. Surely the Government must realise that if the registrar can be duped, Churches can also be duped.
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