Lord Keen of Elie KC: ‘Constitutionally improper’ for UK government to not block GRR Bill

Lord Keen of Elie KC: 'Constitutionally improper' for UK government to not block GRR Bill

Lord Keen of Elie KC

Former Dean of Faculty and Advocate General of Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie KC, has suggested that UK ministers should block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

The Conservative peer urged the UK government to consider availing itself of section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998.

Lord Keen said the Scottish government’s position was “opaque and at times contradictory” on the bill.

It brings to an end the need for a medical diagnosis for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) and reduces the waiting time from two years to six months. It also lowers the eligibility age from 18 to 16.

Supporters of the changes say they will rectify a process that degrades trans people, while its critics warn that it could be abused by predators to access women-only spaces.

Lord Keen’s comments appear in the foreword to a paper by Glasgow University legal academic Dr Michael Foran published today by the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank.

Dr Foran argues that the UK government should prevent the GRR Bill from receiving Royal Assent.

He also suggests that the Scottish government has been untruthful in suggesting that the bill’s interaction with the Equality Act 2010 was minimal.

Such statements, he said, “have been mostly false”.

He said the bill changed at least six aspects of the law, among them making it harder to exclude biological males from women-only spaces, as well as giving some biological males “a legal right of admission to girls’ schools which otherwise does not exist”.

Lord Keen states in the foreword: “It would not only be impractical but constitutionally improper for the UK government to permit a devolved legislature to enact a provision that had a material impact upon the operation of the law throughout the United Kingdom.

“The immediate concern identified by Dr Michael Foran is the potential impact of the Scottish government’s gender recognition legislation upon the operation of the Equality Act 2010, an Act which clearly addresses issues reserved to the UK government and which operates throughout the UK.”

A letter from the LGBT Consortium to the UK government, however, noted that there had been years of debate and scrutiny around the bill and that any challenge would not be based on evidence or experience.

It stated: “It sends a clear message that the UK government does not feel trans people are worthy of respect in our society; instead, they are a threat to contain.

“These moves also directly oppose the inclusive values that characterise modern Britain and will actively harm the UK’s international reputation as an open, diverse and dynamic society – an important reason why global corporations who proudly support LGBTQ+ rights are attracted to doing business in the UK.”

Share icon
Share this article: