Sir Keir Starmer would change the law to allow transgender people to self-identify their gender if Labour is elected, it has been revealed.
The Labour Party’s divisions over Scotland’s controversial new gender law were laid bare yesterday, as MPs were said to be split over whether the party should back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon‘s new rules, supported by Scottish Labour, on transgender recognition.
Mr Starmer has now said he would ‘update’ the gender recognition act, despite concerns the move could affect women’s rights, The Telegraph reported.
The policy announcement follows Holyrood’s new rules on gender policy, which allow 16 year-olds and over to self-declare their gender without a medical diagnosis.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon successfully passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Scotland on Thursday
UK Labour has said it wants to give trans people greater protections, but Sir Keir Starmer last night refused to say how far he would go
The Gender Recognition Reform Bill (Scotland) also lowers the minimum age to change gender from 18 to 16, and slashes the time to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from two years to three months.
But the Bill has provoked fears abusive males could take advantage of the system.
It also puts the Government on a constitutional collision course with Holyrood. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he was considering blocking it from becoming law with a Section 35 to stop the bill gaining Royal Assent.
It would be the first time such powers have been used.
Labour criticised the Government for threatening to ride roughshod over devolution, but the party refused to detail its plans.
Instead, a party spokesman said: ‘Labour is proud of the Equality Act, including its provision for single-sex spaces.
‘Modernisation of the gender recognition process can and should be consistent with this.’
A Government source accused Labour of trying to play both sides, saying: ‘They can either acknowledge and defend the rights and safety of women and girls, or they can stand with the SNP in unpicking those rights, and the potential consequences of that decision.’
A Labour MP said Sir Keir appeared to be following views of ‘Labour’s young, mostly London-based activist staff’.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he was considering blocking the bill from becoming law
The MP asked: ‘What are the opinions of the leader or the shadow women and equalities secretary?’
Another Labour MP said ‘a lot of women in the parliamentary party are against it’ with ‘as many for as against… it could be 50/50’.
And another MP said: ‘On so many levels this bill is flawed but the intended and unintended consequences this legislation will have on everyone including our trans community is going to be a nightmare to resolve across the UK.’
But Labour’s Baroness Kennedy, a human rights barrister, said Sir Keir should ‘look at legislation that is appropriate to England and Wales’.
‘The idea that the Scottish parliament should be overridden by Westminster because the Conservative Party don’t like this would really be very disruptive to the unity of the UK, and I think that would be absolute folly,’ she added.
Ministers are anxious about the impact of the gender bill, which is a devolved matter, on the equalities law, which covers all of Britain.
The Government can challenge devolved legislation if it feels it impacts on national security or reserved matters.
Any action to block it would be unprecedented – and likely be subject to judicial review.
Women’s rights campaigner JK Rowling condemned the legislation, sharing an article arguing Labour would pay for supporting the SNP’s ‘trans crusade’. PM Rishi Sunak said it was ‘completely reasonable’ to consider blocking Scotland’s gender legislation.