The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBT+ rights, which Blunt chairs, has not been adequately transparent.
The main focus of the investigation was a position paper on gender self ID developed by the APPG, in consultation with transgender lobby groups.
The paper was circulated to government and opposition leaders in July 2020 as “a satisfactory outcome” to the public consultation on self ID, backed by “all mainstream LGBT+ groups” and the LGBT groups of the main political parties.
The APPG position paper:
- called for people to be able to change their legally recorded sex without any medical diagnosis or treatment
- said women-only spaces and services should include “all women, including trans women”
- supported medical and social transition of children, including in early childhood, and warned of “distress and lost opportunities” if this was not enabled
- called on the government to impose sex and relationship education materials in line with its views on all schools “in collaboration with the Government Equalities Office”
- called for a ban on “conversion therapy” in respect of both gender identity and sexual orientation, but said GIDS should be exempt from litigation.
The existence of the secret position paper was only revealed in September 2020, following the Government’s announcement that it would not go ahead with gender self-ID.
Blunt, writing on the APPG’s website, complained that the government had not adopted its recommendations despite “considerable work done in privately agreeing a way forward by the wider LGBT+ lobby both in Parliament and outside”.
Lord Collins, speaking in the House of Lords on 25th September, said:
The APPG on Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights presented a report to Liz Truss in July which sought to deliver reassurance around trans people – but also to deliver trans rights. Did the Noble Lady see or consider the report and can she explain why it was rejected? – bearing in mind it was also backed by the LGBT Groups of the main political parties including her own.
But when later questioned by the Parliamentary Standards watchdog, Blunt as Chair of the APPG denied that it had been an APPG paper, saying it was only “an agreed position of the Officers of the Group”. He said this meant the paper was not required to be published it at all.
The APPG’s Officers are Crispin Blunt MP, Baroness Barker, Lord Cashman, Peter Kyle MP, Stewart McDonald MP and Lord Collins.
The coordinator of the group, who is employed by LGBT charity the Kaleidoscope Trust, responded to further questions, saying that her understanding was that rules on transparency only apply to reports “prepared with the intention of being public”.
Asked to explain why the paper was not made public, Blunt told the Parliamentary Standards watchdog:
“I was trying to enable the Government to adopt it with confidence as the core of its own response to the 2018 consultation before it issued a public response.”
He said “It was my judgement that if this paper could be communicated to the Government privately, and as representing a wide collective agreement, they would be more likely to adopt it as theirs.”
Publishing the document and making it open to public debate while the government was still considering its response “would have undermined our political strategy”.
Blunt has apologised for what the Commissioner called a “delay in publication”, but it seems likely from his answers to the investigation that the intervention by the LGBT+ lobby group would have remained secret had the group been successful in directing government policy.
The investigation found a lack of adequate transparency around meetings and funding for the APPG, whose coordinator’s salary was paid for with contributions from external organisations including Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust.
The Standards Commissioner also pulled up the group for rebranding the APPG “portcullis” logo with rainbow stripes. She ordered that it should be changed back to the standard black and white symbol used by all other APPGs.
Sex Matters is calling for the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life to hold a public inquiry into policy capture by lobby groups on this issue.