Debates between Baroness Noakes and Lord Paddick during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 15th Nov 2021
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Lord Paddick
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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I will tell the noble and learned Lord what I know, which is that the Law Commission said that it hopes for a final report by the end of this year. It is then normal to give a period of time for the Government to consider their response and then there is a period after that for deciding on a legislative route.

My amendment offers a fast way through. If the Law Commission makes certain recommendations and the Government decide to accept them, my amendment gives the Government the power by regulations to amend Section 66 of the Act to achieve those recommendations. That is the best I can offer. I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, can give me a long lecture on all those Law Commission studies that have never ended up in law and the length of time taken. But this is another good reason why we should not, I think, proceed in haste on this.

I was about to move on to the second reservation I have with Amendment 219, which is whether, if hate crimes were extended to sex, they should also include gender. Amendment 219 includes the formulation “sex or gender” and that was, indeed, the Law Commission’s provisional view. However, its conclusion was rather more tentative than some of the other conclusions in the consultation document, and I think this is an area where its final views will be particularly important. In its very large consultation document on hate crime, it did not spend very much time on whether gender should be included as an addition to sex, and I suspect there will be a fuller examination on the basis of the responses to its consultation.

Sex is a concept that is easily defined: it is binary, based on biological reality and recorded on everyone’s birth certificate. Sex, as we have been debating, is a protected characteristic in equality legislation. Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct. It has no ready legal definition and is most definitely not a protected characteristic. While gender is sometimes used in legislation, it has in the past genuinely been as a synonym for sex. However, I believe that it is increasingly problematic for the word “gender” to be used in that way because it is being used by those who claim that gender is different from—and sometimes more important than—sex, and it is not binary. Some describe gender as a spectrum, some say that there is a finite number of genders, but there is no consensus on how many genders there are, with claims in excess of 100 genders.

I can illustrate how difficult the use of “gender” is becoming from something I discovered called nominalgender. Nominalgender means,

“a gender where the person’s gender is so much just them that no one else can even experience it. Most nominalgender people will define their gender as a mashup between other genders of a certain kind (like beegender, angelgender, etc) but it’s not a multiple gender, it is one”.

Who knew, my Lords? This new lexicon of gender is part of a gender identity theory. It is a controversial issue and has not hitherto found its way into legislation for very good reason. I believe that legislating for hostility towards gender would make for very uncertain law. The use of the word “gender” has moved well beyond an attempt to achieve drafting neutrality and has started to acquire a very different meaning.

There was discussion earlier about where transgender fits in. I do not believe adding “or gender” is necessary to meet any needs of those in the transgender community. Hostility related to transgender is already included in hate crime legislation. If the term “sex” was added to Section 66, hostility towards, say, a transgender woman would be automatically covered, either because she is transgender or because she is presumed to be of female sex. Therefore, there is no need for the ambiguity of “gender” to be introduced into the definition of the hate crime because there were no people excluded from that.

I have deliberately not addressed the substance of Amendment 219, which is whether misogyny should be added to the list. I am personally not convinced that the case has been made, but I did not table Amendment 219A to oppose the extension of hate crime to sex. Indeed, my amendment would allow a fast-tracked route to legislating for it if that were the outcome of the recommendation from the Law Commission. I believe that Parliament would be negligent if it rushed through a solution without waiting for the Law Commission to report on this difficult subject. I know that many noble Lords feel strongly about misogyny, as I do as a woman, but I entreat noble Lords not to legislate in haste.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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Could I ask the noble Baroness a question on her remarks? She said that sex was binary, male and female, as recorded on birth certificates. How does she account for people who have a gender recognition certificate, who are able to change the sex on their birth certificate in those circumstances?

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, that is dealt with by the Gender Recognition Act. In that case, the birth certificate is altered and for many purposes, though not for all, that person is treated as a woman.