Parliament equalities chief Maria Miller blames government instability for delay on trans reforms

Maria Miller, the chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, has questioned why the government is taking so long to reform laws relating to transgender people.

Miller’s committee put out a landmark report in 2016 recommending a string of changes to modernise and liberalise provisions for transgender people – calling for urgent expansion of healthcare provisions, reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and changes to the Equality Act.

However the government has been slow to respond, and while Theresa May last year announced plans to consult on changes to the Gender Recognition Act, progress on the issue has been plagued by setbacks and hostile media coverage. Few other reforms have been announced.

Speaking at the Trans Equality Event in Parliament today hosted by PinkNews and Stonewall, Miller suggested that repeated changes to the equalities brief were partly to blame.

During the panel, Maria Miller highlighted that the government has not yet responded to a series of 33 recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee, including the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

She said: “In terms of why has the government not yet published the consultation, I would also say why have they not addressed some of the 33 recommendations that were in the report that we issued three years ago. This is continuing to be put into that box marked ‘too difficult’.

“My slight frustration is that a lot of the recommendations in our report were more pressing than reforming the Gender Recognition Act, particularly in access to health services and the way training is put in place for other public service organisations. I rather regret that the GRA has become so totemic and eclipsed everything else.”

Miller added: “Why has it not been done? I think having three Secretaries of State in such a short period of time is unfortunate, and Minister for Women and Equalities has become the fastest-changing Cabinet post of all Cabinet posts.

“I think that has probably caused a lot of the delay.”

The panel at the event, Maria Miller centre (Jess Glass / PinkNews)

There have been three cabinet ministers responsible for the equalities brief in the past six months.

Education Secretary Justine Greening was equalities minister until January, when she was sacked by Theresa May in a reshuffle. Home Secretary Amber Rudd took over, until her resignation last month. The brief is currently held by Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt.

The event held in Speaker’s House on Tuesday was a cross-party panel event with key members of the transgender community and their allies in order to discuss the steps needed to promote trans equality in the UK.

The non-partisan event was triggered in part by aggressively anti-trans media coverage over recent months and a recent PinkNews investigation which exposed an event held in Parliament where trans people were compared to parasites.

Miller continued by praising events such as the Stonewall and PinkNews Trans Equality Event as a demonstration of the real support that trans rights have in the UK, despite ongoing media narratives of transphobia.

(Jess Glass / PinkNews)

She said: “I think the government is probably hoping more Parliamentarians hold events like this, to show the real support there for getting this right, and balance some of the negative comment that is coming out in the media.

“We need to have a balanced debate and we need to demonstrate that there is a balanced debate, that all voices are heard and they are heard fairly.”

During the event, Miller also called for increased inclusivity in healthcare for transgender people.

When asked a question from the floor regarding the funding of Gender Confirmation Surgeries and other trans-related healthcare, the Conservative MP stated that funding for the NHS was not the only issue, and instead there needed to be a focus on including transgender people in all services of the NHS.

“Everyone needs access to the NHS, whether you’re trans or not,” Miller said.

Penny Mordaunt (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Mordaunt, the newly appointed Minister for Women and Equalities, has recently faced pressure from LGBT rights activists over reform to the Gender Recognition Act, stating that by stalling the reform, the government was “enabling abuse.”

A total of 34 pro-LGBT organisations and individuals including representatives from Amnesty International, Mermaids and Stonewall signed an open letter to Mordaunt, stating the importance of promptly reforming the Gender Recognition Act.