Kemi Badenoch, minister for equalities and Saffron Walden MP. (Chris McAndrew/Official portrait of Kemi Badenoch)
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has “refused to give evidence” to a key inquiry into the government’s handling of Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reforms.
The Women and Equalities Committee, which scrutinises the Government Equalities Office (GEO), said in a letter published Friday (11 June) that Badenoch declined to attend an upcoming meeting scheduled for 16 June.
The committee is probing the GEO’s decision to cut the cost of GRA applications rather than the more sweeping reforms that were mooted.
Badenoch, who has faced repeated calls to resign her post for “failing” the LGBT+ community, had been invited to give evidence.
But the letter from committee chair Caroline Nokes to Badenoch, dated 1 June, makes clear that Badenoch had insisted she “would not be able to impart any additional information as part of your inquiry”.
The communication references an earlier letter from Badenoch, dated 21 May, in which she asked to “postpone” her attendance of the session, where both lawmakers and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) officials are set to attend.
Nokes said in a social media statement: “We are both frustrated and bewildered that the Government Equalities Office, which has oversight of trans policy, has refused to provide oral evidence to our inquiry into the Reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
“In recent months the GEO has made a number of policy announcements that will significantly affect the lives of trans people in the UK, and this refusal is another example of GEO ministers evading essential parliamentary scrutiny of crucial policy issues.”
‘In recent months the GEO has made a number of policy announcements that will significantly affect the lives of Trans people in the UK, and this refusal is another example of GEO ministers evading essential parliamentary scrutiny of crucial policy issues .’ (3/4)
— Women & Equalities Committee (@Commonswomequ) June 11, 2021
When responding to Badenoch’s letter, Nokes said that by refusing to attend the session, the minister would “compound the perception” that the government has fuelled a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people after several members of the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel quit earlier this year.
Similar fears were voiced by LGBT+ advocates after it emerged that the minister had quietly met with the anti-trans hate group LGB Alliance last summer.
Responding to Nokes’ letter on Monday (7 June), Badenoch wrote that with the minister for prevention, public health and primary care Jo Churchill in attendance, the “government will be well represented at the session”.
“I have full confidence in the minister to represent the government’s position and appropriately respond to any questions you may have,” she wrote in her letter, also publicly published by the committee.
“We know from our research that improving healthcare is a priority for transgender people so it is important minister Churchill is there to represent the government on this important issue.”
She added: “I assure you that the minister for women and equalities [Liz Truss], the minister for women [Baroness Berridge] and myself remain committed to engaging constructively with your committee and progressing the government’s ambitious agenda to improve the lives of all citizens in the UK and reduce disparities wherever they lie.”
In 2020, the committee launched an inquiry into the government’s proposed changes to gender recognition laws. It is expected to conclude within the next few months.
Lawmakers will decide whether women and equalities minister Liz Truss’ miniscule GRA shakeup goes far enough.
The upcoming session, Nokes said in the letter, will focus on the price cut of acquiring a Gender Recognition Certificate, which was slashed from £140 to £5.
The price cut was announced after sweeping, impactful changes to the GRA, which trans Britons use to change their legal gender, were scrapped.