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Lord Monson: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is an extremely hard act to follow when talking about matters of this kind. I shall not even try to emulate his tour de force. However, there are a couple of points that even he did not cover in his splendid peroration.
If I have interpreted the noble Baroness's speech correctly, which I hope that I have, I am relieved to learn that Amendment No. 103 is in effect tongue-in-cheek. I hope that I am right about that because, if it is not, we must consider some of the consequences. Clause 16 as it stands talks only about descent but Amendment No. 103 refers to actual titles. If a baronet were to change his sex, presumably he would become either a lady or possibly a dame, I am not sure which. However, if the amendment is tongue-in-cheek, that does not really matter.
The other curious aspect of the amendment is that it would give someone the right to require an organisation or body to address them by the style appropriate to their acquired gender. How can they do that? No criminal penalties are set out in the amendment or in the Bill. Would the people in question be able to take civil action against the organisation in question to force it to address them in a certain style? I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say on the matter.
The Government do not hate hereditary Peers. I am a Member of the Government. My closest friend, who does not sit in this House, is a hereditary Peer. Without wishing to pre-empt anything that may happen later in the Session, it may be hereditary Peers sitting in the
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for that. He challenged me to answer all the questions that he raised. I shall not do so this evening as we hope to finish by 10 or 10.30 p.m. However, the week-long holiday will soon arrive and I should be very happy to spend that week with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, talking about the extraordinary family he has constructed in which everyone seems to have changed sex.
I must apologise to the noble Earl for saying in Committee that I was so overwhelmed by his arguments that the Government would bring forward amendments on this matter. However, we have not done so. We have not done so because after very careful reflectionbut I am afraid that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will need a great deal of persuading on thiswe consider that Clause 16 is necessary and that it ought to remain in the Bill. I shall tell the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, why that is so in rather a dull way, I am afraid, which does not match his style and humour. However, it is important that this is put on the record.
Clause 16 states that the issue of a gender recognition certificate does not affect the descent of peerages. It has been included so as to exclude the possibility of a person changing genderI refer to an elder daughter changing gender in these circumstancesin order to leap-frog a sibling and in that way obtain a peerage, dignity or title of honour. If that could occur it would defeat the expectations of the person to whom the peerage would have otherwise descended. Peerages are also unique because they descend to the eldest son, according to birth. That is another reason why birth gender should continue to count. The adoption and children act of 1992 makes a similar exception, about which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, may have waxed eloquently 13 years ago. The exception is there so that the adopted children may not inherit a peerage, even if they qualifyas, for example, the eldest son.
I can see from the expression on the face of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that he does not think that my argument is impressive. But it is our argument and we have considered his comments in Committee. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Filkin and I can have a meeting with the noble Earl so that we can sit down and avoidif we wish to avoida brilliant performance from him at the next stage or perhaps we should just wait and enjoy his comments when we discuss the matter again. I can see out the back of my head the expression on the face of my noble friend Lord Filkin. Seriously, the noble Earl made some interesting points and we would like to discuss them with him over the next week or soeven if I have to do that myself.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for half a moment? I am amazed that he could see what his noble friend Lord Filkin was saying and thinking, since he was sitting behind him. He must have eyes in the back of his head, like a chameleon. My real concern is that he said I had waxed eloquent over a matter some 13 years ago. I do not wax eloquent over many issues, but I do over some. There are so many matters, that I cannot remember my actual comments 13 years ago. I am deeply impressed that the noble Lord did.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I was imagining what the noble Earl may have saidI have not read Hansard to see whether he did contribute. I shall do that first thing in the morning. I am taking the matter extremely seriously. Before I move away from the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, I wish to say that although his comments were amusing, he made some serious points and I would like to make a valiant attempt to convince him that the clause should stay in the Bill.
Amendment No. 103, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raises the issue of forms of address. The noble Baroness also raised the issue in Committee. It was never the intention that a Knight Commander who became a woman in the eyes of the law should continue to style herself as "Sir". But the noble Baroness has raised a valid pointand I hope that I am not upsetting the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, by acknowledging thatabout whether a Peer or the holder of another title can legitimately swap it when his or her gender changes in law.
In fact, all of us are in the gift of Her Majesty. She, alone, can confer a title and she, alone, can alter the form of address that a holder uses. However, that does not mean that an amendment to the Bill is necessary. The Government have, since Committee, consulted the Palace and the Garter Principal King of Arms. We are in agreement that the best way to proceed in such rare casesI underline "rare"would be for the holder of the title to petition Her Majesty to ask that she change the form of address. There is a wide range of circumstances under which an individual may wish to adopt a different form of address as a result of the Bill. In addition to transsexual people themselves, the former or future spouse of a transsexual person may have a claim on a courtesy title.
Legislating for this multitude of circumstances would seem disproportionate given the very low frequency with which the situation would arise. It would also reduce Her Majesty's prerogative powers in this area. Accordingly, the Government are satisfied that the right to petition Her Majesty, which already exists and will continue to do so, is a sufficient and proportionate method of dealing with the matter.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, this has been an extremely illuminating debate and I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for, as I suspected, illustrating the fact that he knows more about peerages
I join my noble friend in regretting that there is no clear amendment to the Bill to deal with the problem. However, I recall that during Grand Committee I looked to the officials with considerable sympathy, given their task of coming up with a solution in time for the Report stage. I take my hat off to them and to the Minister for turning to Garter Principal King of Arms and the Palace for their support in their search for the solution.
While the Minister's proposal seems convoluted, it is fair to say that for those who will have to go through the difficult and lengthy process of gender recognition, this final phase for a tiny number of individuals will not be viewed as particularly arduous. It surprised me that the Bill would necessitate involving Her Majesty. I wonder whether that is why it was not even mentioned in the gracious Speech. Perhaps if it had, it might have caused some disturbance at that stage. It seems an enormous length to go to in turning to Her Majesty to change a form of address.
That said, I suspect that this is the best and most practical solution that could be found. Like all noble Lords, I accept that we are talking about a tiny number of individuals in the years to comeperhaps none at all, who knows? I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and my noble friend Lord Ferrers, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Evans, for the answers he gave. Unfortunately, during the Committee stage he said that the Government would have to think about these things and I had hoped that he would come up with some answers. I believe that the proper thing would be to have a Division in order to discover what people really feel. We would then know where we were.
However, I would not wish to disturb the noble Lord, Lord Evans, too much and I think that he had better go away and think about it. Perhaps he could consider the questions I asked and give me some answers. I would not want him to do that first thing tomorrow morning because that would be most disturbing. He has plenty of time to think during the forthcoming Recess. I do not want him to go to any great trouble nor, particularly, to chat me up about it because he might persuade me. But if he would give me the answer on apiece of paper I should be very grateful. I shall not move the amendment.
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