Keir Starmer Says He Has 'Concerns' About Aspects Of Scotland's Gender Reform Laws

The Labour leader said he did not believe that someone aged 16 was old enough to legally change their gender.
Kier Starmer said Labour wanted to "modernise" the law around gender.
Kier Starmer said Labour wanted to "modernise" the law around gender.
James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images

Keir Starmer has said he has “concerns” about some aspects of a law passed in Scotland that will make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender.

The Labour leader said he did not believe people were old enough to change their legal gender at 16.

The Scottish parliament recently passed its Gender Recognition Bill that will allow trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate without the need for a medical diagnosis.

It will also lower the age at which a certificate can be obtained, from 18 years old to 16.

The Labour leader said his specific concerns were around the lowering of the age requirement and the 2010 Equality Act.

But he said he also believed that “we should modernise the law” and that certain “indignities” should be removed from the process.

Asked about the passing of the law in Scotland, which was supported by Scottish Labour, Starmer replied: “I have concerns about the provision in Scotland, in particular the age reduction to 16 and in particular the rejection of our amendment in relation to the Equalities Act.

“But across the whole of the area, I think we should modernise the law.

“I think we need a respectful debate that recognises the different arguments that are being made.

“At the moment, this is being treated as a political football from start to finish and I don’t think that actually advances the cause of anyone.”

Asked whether he believed someone would be old enough to change their gender at 16, he said: “No, I don’t think you are.”

And pressed on whether Scottish Labour was wrong to support the bill, Starmer replied: “That was a matter for Scottish Labour.”

The Labour leader’s comments come following reports that Downing Street could seek to block the bill passed at Holyrood from becoming law by refusing to give it royal assent.

Ministers in Westminster can block Holyrood legislation by triggering section 35 of the Scotland Act, which brought the Scottish Parliament into being in 1999.

Whitehall sources told HuffPost UK that Alister Jack, the secretary of state for Scotland, will announce on Wednesday that the UK government will block the bill.

Transport secretary Mark Harper confirmed on Sunday that the government was awaiting legal advice on on how the Bill may affect other parts of the UK before it decides whether or not to intervene.

“The prime minister set out the position very clearly this week when he was in Scotland,” he said.

“The decision will be for the government, it is technically a decision for the Scottish secretary, and one of the things we are waiting to see is some detailed legal advice about the impact of that legislation on the rest of the UK.”

Pressed on whether he would individually want to see the reforms blocked, Harper said: “That was a decision that the Scottish government made. We are not proposing to make those changes for England, but what we have to do is make a decision about whether that legislation impacts on legislation elsewhere in the UK.

“One of those pieces of legislation is the Equalities Act. That is why we need a detailed analysis of that, and that is the information the government needs before it can take a decision.

“We are doing it carefully because I think these are subjects which are best approached with care. There are conflicting rights involved in this discussion and that is why I think it is right for the government to take the decision in a careful, thoughtful way.”

Asked about whether he would block the legislation if he were prime minster, Starmer said he would “wait and see” what the UK government decided to do.

“The government has floated some ideas about what it might do. We haven’t seen that yet.

“I think they are taking more legal advice, so I’ll wait and see what the government actually says in relation to that.”


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