Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to consider the introduction of Gender X passports in an exclusive Q&A with PinkNews.
Answering questions from readers, the Prime Minister ruled out the extension of civil partnerships to straight people due to public opposition, and came out against mandatory sex and relationship education in all schools – but pledged to take a tough stance on ‘gay cure’ therapy.
The Conservative leader also said he would consider following Australia and New Zealand in introducing ‘Gender X’ passports for people who do not identify as male or female – after Ed Miliband also pledged to review the issue in his PinkNews Q&A.
Read Mr Cameron’s answers below:
Q – Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood (Reparative therapy): It’s concerning that in 2015 there’s still a belief, held by some, that gay people can be “cured”. Do you think it’s now time to bring forward legislation to ban “reparative therapy” for gay people, and would you do so?
A – As you would expect, I strongly disagree with anyone who holds those views. As a Government we’ve made it clear that we believe treating lesbian, gay and bisexual people as having an illness to be “cured” is profoundly wrong. We are creating a country where people can be free to be themselves, and no-one should be pressured into being someone that they’re not.
Through the Department for Health, we secured the signing of a memorandum of understanding earlier this year between NHS England and a range of therapeutic organisations to protect people from the dangers of reparative therapy. That agreement makes clear such practices are unethical and potentially harmful, and are neither endorsed nor supported. I think that’s a pretty firm approach to stop the use of these practices, but if we need to go further to protect people from harm, we will.
Q – The Bishop of Buckingham (Church of England): The legislation around equal marriage contained important protections for the consciences of clergy opposed to marrying gay people, but left the many whose consciences lead them to believe they should marry completely unprotected and subject to harassment and victimisation beyond any consideration of what goes on in the Church. This has led, in one instance, to an Archbishop, effectively a qualifications authority within the meaning of the Equality Act, blocking someone from a promotion within the NHS. Many other licensed clergy are now in fear of their position in public service jobs in which they had felt safe. What plans do our politicians have to remedy this manifest injustice?”
A – We were very clear when we proposed equal marriage that the Church would not be forced to change their practices or beliefs as a result. In the legislation we tried to get the balance right between protecting religious freedoms and making this important change. There are strongly held views on each side in the Church, but this is now a matter for debate within the Church. I can’t comment on the individual example raised by the Bishop, which I understand is the subject of a legal case.
Q – June from Bedford (Pride): Why, in ten years as Tory leader, have you never attended a Pride parade? Ireland’s Taoiseach has visited a gay bar and New Zealand’s PM has danced with drag queens – if you’re serious about your support for the LGBT movement, why don’t you want to be seen with us?
A – Over the past five years, I have held a number of receptions and events at Number 10 to celebrate the great contribution made to this country by LGBT people. When I became Prime Minister I saw the guest list used by Labour for these events and I noted it was rather limited to ‘establishment’ figures and celebrities. I thought that was wrong and changed it. I made sure people working or volunteering for LGBT charities, organisations, sports teams and good causes from across the country were invited- including many working on Pride events – they are a great example of the Big Society and it was right their contribution was recognised.
I’m very proud of the diversity and strength of the LGBT community in this country, and Pride parades are great celebrations of that. They highlight the progress we’ve made towards securing equal rights and respect for everyone, as well as the work that still needs to be done. I know that LGBTory attends as many Pride events as they can; under my leadership the Conservative Party had more gay and lesbian MPs than the other parties in Parliament put together, and many of them participate in Pride events too – so we are well represented.
Q – Julia G (Gay parenting support): A YouGov poll for PinkNews last week found that only 52% of people in the UK support gay men becoming parents using surrogacy or adoption – what will you do to help people be more supportive of gay parenting, especially given the shortage of adoptive parents.
Q – Jason Thomas (Surrogacy): For LGBT couples (and indeed all couples) who wish to use surrogacy as a means to start a family, what could a conservative government do to help secure a legal framework to facilitate this?
A – First of all, I’ve made it a priority to sort out the adoption system and make it less bureaucratic and time-consuming. As a result of the action we’ve taken, and the huge efforts of local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies, the number of adoptions has risen by 63 per cent in just the last three years.
My view is simple: if you are the right person to bring up a child, you should be allowed to do it. Just as it was wrong to deny people the chance to get married because of their sexuality, it’s also wrong to deny a couple the chance to be parents because of their sexuality. I’ve been clear that when there are children in need of a loving family, and gay couples who can give them that love and security, we should not allow prejudice to stand in the way. I think that sends a powerful message about who we are as a country in the modern world.
Q – Ross Watters (Business and diversity): With the recent drive for 20% women in the workplace, specifically on the boards of FTSE 100&250 organisations – why is there no specific target on LGBT board members? It feels like there is only one focus area and leaving LGBT community behind when this should be a target for a truly diverse workforce.
A – It’s very important we support people into work to then pursue their chosen career; there should be no barrier to the most able making their way to the top of all professions, whatever their background or sexuality. We have some excellent LGBT business leaders who provide great role models – people like Antonio Simoes at HSBC or Dawn Airey at Yahoo- but clearly there’s more to be done. Organisations like OUTstanding and Radius, and initiatives like the Stonewall champions programme are doing a lot of good work to encourage more people into these jobs, and that’s the sort of approach we need- no specific targets, but no barriers.
We also need an economy that creates jobs, thanks to our long-term economic plan and the tough decisions we took as a Government, the economy has created 1,000 jobs a day – with Yorkshire creating more jobs than all of France– that is why the choice at this Election is so important, stick with a plan that is working or give it up for the economic chaos of Ed Mililband propped up by the SNP.
Q – David Gee (Blood ban): As a medical student I am all too aware of the national blood bank shortages and the risk of blood-borne infections. Whilst the country has moved forward in terms of LGBT equality, as a gay man I still feel like a second-class citizen. Why does the country allow gay men to donate organs but not blood? How can we uphold these double standards when countries like Russia have better equality legislation on blood donation than us? Surely accepting a blood transfusion carries risks like tissue donation, and surely our tests are sensitive enough to detect HIV, a condition which is now manageable with medications? What promises can you make to ensure that LGBT individuals can be included to help society?
A – I know this is a contentious issue, but ultimately this is rightly a decision for clinicians, not politicians, to make. I hope they can reach a solution that is fair to everyone.
Q – Keith Reynolds (Spousal veto): In 2014, the government made it so that a married transgender person needs their partner’s consent to change their gender legally. Many transgender people aren’t happy with this. Do you have any plans to revise this?
A – This is an issue which a number of people have raised, and which I know has caused some concern. I’m pleased we now live in a country where everyone can get married and where transgender people are recognised and supported, we are continuing to look at what we can do to address these specific remaining challenges.
Q – Saskya Monchar (Housing): A lower percentage of people in the UK now own their home than in France, and the problem is worsening with rising house prices. What would the panel do to help British citizens to be able to own their own home?
A – This is a key part of our long-term economic plan – helping young people realise the dream of owning their own home, and enjoying the security and stability that comes with it. We want to build a Britain where everyone who works hard can have a home of their own. We’ve now got the highest level of house building since 2007, with more than 700,000 new homes – including over 217,000 affordable homes – built over the last five years.
We announced in our manifesto a plan to build 200,000 more homes that young people can afford. These new Starter Homes will be 20 per cent cheaper than the market price, and reserved exclusively for first-time buyers under the age of 40.
This is in addition to our successful Help to Buy scheme, which was aimed at giving people access to an affordable mortgage – it means you will only need a deposit of 5% as long as you can afford the mortgage repayments. This scheme has already helped over 88,000 buyers own their own home, with over 80 per cent of sales going to first time buyers. You can find details at http://www.helptobuy.org.uk/. At the last Budget we also introduced the Help to Buy ISA to help you save that deposit – for every £200 you save, the Government will top that up with £50, so if you raise £12,000 for a deposit the Government will top this up with £3,000.
We are also aware that many people in social houses love their homes, and dream of owning them for themselves – we will make this possible by offering substantial discounts to those tenants. But we also need more social housing, that is why we are guaranteeing that for every home sold through this scheme another will be built.
Q – Leuan King (LGBT homelessness): What would you do to protect and provide homes for LGBT homeless youth, who make up around 20% of all homeless youth in the UK?
A – First of all, the measures we’ve already taken – largely focussed on funding prevention services in local authorities – have had an effect, with overall homelessness now around half what it was under the last government. But of course I recognise that young LGBT people can face special difficulties, and the reasons they might find themselves homeless need to be dealt with sensitively.
So the second part of our approach has been to change the law to allow councils, working with voluntary groups and charities, to help single homeless people find a place to live in the private rented sector. We’ve given funding for this, and provided Crisis with £13 million to help homeless single people find stable accommodation, which has helped over 9,300 people since 2010. It is important that we work with charities and voluntary organisations – like the Albert Kennedy Trust, which has a long record of expertise on this issue – and continue to improve how we deal with young people who no longer have the basic security of knowing they’ve a warm bed for the night or place of sanctuary and love.
Q – Ryan Delo (Domestic abuse): If you stay in power after the election, then how will you make the awareness of the significance of emotional and mental abuse caused by domestic relationships?
A – We’ve already taken serious action to tackle domestic violence, including the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – widely referred to as ‘Clare’s Law’ – so people can check if their partner has a history of abusive behaviour. We’ve also changed the definition of domestic violence so it now includes coercive or controlling behaviour, funded the ‘This is Abuse’ campaign, and made sure that associated teaching materials in schools are inclusive of same-sex relationships.
But I think there is a lack of awareness about how this can affect LGBT people, which is why the work of Stonewall and charities like Broken Rainbow, which campaigns and provides support on this specific issue, is important. I’m pleased that the Government has been able to support their work. We want to ensure people can feel safe from abuse, inside the home as well as out of it, so we have committed in our manifesto to consider extending the scope of hate crime laws so they cover crimes committed against people on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity.
Q – Christie Elan-Cane (Gender X passports): If you win a further term in government, what, if anything, would you do in order to rectify the situation for non-gendered and bi-gendered people in the UK who were desperately hoping the coalition government would follow the lead taken by governing authorities of Australia and New Zealand and permit the issuance of non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports to those who require them, and were very badly let down by your government in its first term of office as proposals in favour of ‘X’ Passports and the fundamental needs of those who require ‘X’ Passports were ignored? Are you prepared to personally look towards addressing our situation, starting with reversal of the decision to reject provision of ‘X’ Passports?
A – I understand the concerns of people who want to have their gender recorded differently on their passport, but this is a complex issue, particularly given the risk that people might encounter difficulties with entry restrictions into other countries. We would want to consider these issues carefully, and study the experience of those countries which have done it before making any proposals for change.
Q – Connor Packwood (Straight Civil Partnerships): Why did the Government not open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples and will you support expanding civil partnerships to include heterosexual couples in the next Parliament?
A – I believe in marriage, and I’m very proud it was a Conservative-led government that introduced the legislation to make same-sex marriage a reality in this country. Everyone now has the freedom to get married, with all the rights and responsibilities that brings. Following that important change we held an extensive consultation on the future of Civil Partnerships, which considered whether there should be any changes to how they operate. Of the 10,000 responses, three quarters opposed opening them up to heterosexual couples, so we are not proposing to make this change.
Q – Cliff Joannou (SRE): Will the Prime Minister commit to implementing statutory age appropriate SRE in ALL English schools as part of PSHE lessons that is – crucially – inclusive of LGBT relationships?
Q – Sir Richard Branson (SRE): Will the PM agree with me that the best way to tackle this is through early lessons in schools on Sex and Relationship Education?”
A – I agree, it is important that high-quality PSHE is taught in all schools. That means those lessons, and education generally, should prepare pupils for life in modern Britain, which includes LGBT relationships. It should promote our core British values of tolerance and respect, and recognise that those values apply to everyone.
But rather than focusing on making the subject statutory, which I think could lead to it just becoming a tick box exercise, we’ve taken steps to improve the quality of PSHE teaching. That’s why Nicky Morgan recently announced a new charter mark for schools that teach it well, so other schools can learn from their example. At the same time she also announced that we would work with the PSHE association to create a list of the best PSHE teaching materials, so that teachers know which resources to trust when teaching the subject.
As with all the equalities measures we’ve taken since I became Prime Minister, this is about building a decent country where people are free to be themselves, and are afforded the respect they deserve – and that should start in schools – only then will people be able to achieve their full potential.
Q – Jayne Grenfell (Trans healthcare): The NHS say the waiting time for the first visit to a gender clinic should be 18wks, but some clinics can take up to 68wks for the first appointment, how will you tackle this problem?
A – We’ve increased the NHS budget by £7.3 billion over this Parliament – there are now 9,500 more doctors and 6,900 more nurses than when we came into government. I’ve said we’ll continue increasing that funding by a minimum of £8bn over the next parliament, which is what the head of the NHS has said is required and is more than the £2.5bn pledged by Labour.
That’s how we plan to ensure that everyone, including trans patients, can get the care they need quickly.
Q – Harry Small, Baker & McKenzie (Commonwealth): What more can be done by the UK government to end discriminatory treatment and persecution of the LGBT community in the Commonwealth and beyond?
A – I think this is really important, and it’s a big challenge. Through the measures we’ve taken the UK is leading the way globally on LGBT rights, and we should use that experience to encourage others to follow our lead. We must stand up for the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people everywhere, and our commitment to the British values of decency and respect should know no borders. That’s why I took Russia to task for their anti-gay law and will always use my position on the international stage to tackle intolerance.
On the Commonwealth specifically, we’ve already acted to raise the profile of LGBT issues, including the signing of a new Charter in 2013 which commits member countries to ‘equality and respect…for all without discrimination on any grounds’. Obviously there is still much work to do to make that a reality, but I raise these issues with Commonwealth leaders at every opportunity, as do ministers across government, and we will continue to do so.
Through our overseas aid programme we are supporting LGBT activists on the ground to lobby for improvements in their own countries, and working with organisations like the Human Dignity Trust, Stonewall and Kaleidoscope to support their efforts to tackle homophobia and transphobia worldwide.
Q – Tania Smith from Truro (Same-sex marriage): Did you think it would be as hard as it was to get same-sex marriage through- did you anticipate the level of opposition within your own party?
TAKEN TOGETHER WITH
Q – Alexis G (Same-sex marriage): Do you partly attribute the rise of UKIP to your position on SSM – did it alienate traditional Conservative voters?
A – I am tremendously proud that we now have same-sex marriage in this country, and am particularly proud that it was a Conservative-led Government that introduced it. In fact I understand I’m one of only a few Conservative Prime Ministers in the world who have introduced equal marriage.
I am aware that there are people who weren’t convinced by the arguments, but equally I have been heartened by the number of people who, both during and after the debate, have said that they changed their minds and are now strong advocates for equal marriage. You have to lead and take a positive stand when you think something is simply the right thing to do.
Q – Russell Langrish (Pensions inequality): I have been a teacher for 35 years, living with my same sex partner for 30 years, “Civil Partnered” with him for five years and intent to convert to marriage later this year. When can I expect equal Teachers’ Pension conditions as my married heterosexual colleagues?
A – Best wishes for your forthcoming marriage – I’m glad that it is now possible for you both to convert your civil partnership to marriage; it was right that we took the time to get the legal changes right to make it possible. As regards pensions, I know this is an issue that is receiving attention, and it is important we give it proper consideration.
Q&As from Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage will be published soon.