Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable: NHS must provide equal access to IVF

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has spoken at the PinkNews reception in Parliament.

Cable was addressing the PinkNews summer reception in Westminster in partnership with Zurich, which follows events in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

The former Business Secretary, who took over from the embattled Tim Farron as leader of the Lib Dems in 2016, has attempted to reassert the party’s strong pro-LGBT stance.

Sir Vince Cable (Carl Court/Getty)

Speaking at the event in Speaker’s House, Cable paid tribute to Lynne Featherstone, the former Lib Dem minister who “made equal marriage a reality”.

He also spoke about “remarkable journey” of the Republic of Ireland, which has embraced LGBT equality in a “particularly dramatic and moving way” by embracing equal marriage and appointing an openly gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister)

Cable added: “There are still serious barriers. One of the reasons I’m supporting diversity week in schools is recognition of the fact we still have attitude problems to overcome.

“In my constituency, we’ve just established a new school, the Turing Academey, in honour of one of our most distinguished residents Alan Turing… who was persecuted for his sexual [identity].

“It is a great advance that our school is named after him.”

Cable vowed to tackle barriers on in vitro fertilisation, revealing he had written to the Health Secretary to ask for rules to be equalised.Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable: NHS must provide equal access to IVF

“There are still practical barriers. One of the things that has come to my attention is that for women who are seeking IVF treatment, there is still a barrier in NICE, in the way in which the NHS fund the treatment, to those who want shared parenthood or reciprocal IVF.

“I’ve written to the head of Nice and to [Health Secretary] Jeremy Hunt to sort this problem out. It’s not massively expensive but it is an infringement on individuals who want to pursue that particular choice.”

Cable has had an uphill battle to “detoxify” the Liberal Democrats following damage done to the party’s reputation by Farron, who was dogged throughout his leadership by questions about his beliefs on homosexuality.

In an interview in January, Farron finally admitted that he had misled the public while serving as party leader by claiming he did not believe gay sex to be sinful.

The ex-leader, an evangelical Christian, said he “regrets” making the comments, saying: “I foolishly and wrongly attempted to push it away by giving an answer that frankly was not right.”

Sir Vince Cable at the 2017 PinkNews Awards (John Phillips/Getty)

Cable distanced himself from Farron – even as the ex-leader continues to serve on his frontbench.

Sir Vince tweeted: “I strongly disagree with @timfarron’s personal views expressed today. @libdems have a long & proud record of fighting for #LGBT+ rights: campaigning to repeal section 28, equalising age of consent and legislating for equal marriage.

“I will continue to champion rights and dignity.”

Critics questioned why Sir Vince was still willing to allow Farron to serve on his frontbench, as Spokesperson on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs & North of England, after the spat.

PinkNews asked Sir Vince why he had appointed Mr Farron to his frontbench back in November.

Sir Vince said that he hoped for Farron to play a “substantial” role in the party’s future, telling PinkNews: “He’s obviously learnt from that unfortunate episode.

“As I say, he apologised, stepped down as leader, but he’s a very good liberal and genuinely a liberal. His voting record is exemplary on gay rights issues.

Vince Cable and Tim Farron in happier days (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

“He led the fight on refugees, is very strongly committed to the European project, [which] is the big issue of the day. He’s now committing himself to defending both his majority in parliament and on foreign affairs and on issues around the north of England.”

Sir Vince Cable told PinkNews at the time: “It was very unfortunate, the difficulties Tim had with squaring his Evangelical Christianity with the long-term commitment of the party to LGBT equality.

“It became an election issue among lots of supporters and lots of gay people.

“I don’t think it was handled very well… it did us quite a lot of political damage and we all know that. I am keen to get us back on track.”

(Oli Scarff/Getty)

Sir Vince added: “We do need [to be tolerant]. We are a party committed to equality and that includes gay rights, but the simple truth is we have millions of people in the country who are committed Christians, Jews, Muslims who have a different view.

“We need to stand our ground in defence of secular values, but understand that people are coming at this from a different point of view in religious terms. I don’t think the two are inconsistent.”

PinkNews’ summer reception in Belfast last week was attended by all major Northern Irish party leaders, with DUP leader Arlene Foster making her first ever appearance at an LGBT event.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones spoke at the Cardiff reception, while the summer reception in Edinburgh on June 20 was addressed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.