Penny Mordaunt has been plunged into fresh controversy over trans rights after a leaked document suggested that she backed moves to allow gender self-identification.
On Friday’s TV debate, the Tory leadership candidate said she had ‘never been in favour’ of letting people choose their own gender with minimal medical involvement. But The Mail on Sunday has obtained a secret document which suggests she did want to loosen the rules.
The paperwork was drawn up by civil servants in July 2019 when Ms Mordaunt was Equalities Minister. In it, officials tell her: ‘It has been very helpful to clarify in recent weeks several elements of how you would like to reform the Gender Recognition Act’ – including ‘Ministerial agreement around removing the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria’.
Currently, people wishing to change gender need to provide evidence that they suffer from that medical condition – which means they suffer distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity – as well as report detailing what medical treatment they have received. A gender recognition panel then decides if the applicant can officially change gender.
Penny Mordaunt has been plunged into fresh controversy over trans rights after a leaked document suggested that she backed moves to allow gender self-identification
However some trans activists are calling for a ‘self-identification’ system that requires no medical diagnoses.
The document says that Ms Mordaunt had proposed that while ‘some form of medical requirement’ should remain part of the process, it could be restricted to an assessment of whether the individual is ‘of sound mind’.
And it adds: ‘I think the “sound mind” test needs more work – in terms of who would deliver it, how it would be administered… more generally, I think there is still considerable further debate to be had publicly and politically about how far we want to move towards self-identification for transitioning.’
A senior source claimed last night that the memo contradicted the Trade Minister’s insistence during the Channel 4 debate that ‘I have never been in favour of self ID’.
But Ms Mordaunt denied that interpretation, with a source close to her campaign saying the document was consistent with her view that she believed in some form of medical component to gender-changing. In the televised debate Ms Mordaunt said she would ‘not have divorced it [gender redefinition] from healthcare.’
But rival candidate Kemi Badenoch said that while ‘I’m not going to call [Mordaunt] a liar, I think it’s very possible she genuinely did not understand what she was signing off, because it’s a very complex area.’
The Trade Minister has long been a vocal support of the trans community, which has come back to haunt her during the campaign. Last night, she faced even more questions on the issue after The Mail on Sunday discovered that a key backer of her leadership campaign, Sue Pascoe, is a strident trans activist who once appeared to compare a feminist author to the Nazis.
The leaked document emerged as the race between Ms Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to become one of the final two candidates was tightening – down to ‘a handful of MPs’, according to allies of Ms Truss. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the clear leader among the Parliamentary party, but polls indicate that in the final two-way race he would lose to either woman in the postal vote of 160,000 members.
The memo, which was dated July 15. 2019, said that officials had ‘redirected resources’ to fulfil Ms Mordaunt’s request ‘to announce a potential package on Thursday July 18’.
Government sources said last night that Ms Mordaunt appeared to want to announce reforms to the process before Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May on July 24, 2019.
Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat at the Tory leadership debate last week
Ms Mordaunt was sacked from both her equalities job and her position as Defence Secretary when Mr Johnson became Prime Minister
The new row came as:
- Ms Truss was boosted by the backing of Attorney General Suella Braverman, who was eliminated from the race on Thursday, with three-quarters of her 27 backers now expected to switch to Ms Truss;
- Ms Braverman uses a column in today’s Mail on Sunday to call on the 49 MPs who voted for fourth-placed Ms Badenoch to swing behind Ms Truss;
- Allies of Boris Johnson reacted with fury to Mr Sunak apparently questioning the Prime Minister’s ‘integrity’, with one ally warning that there would be ‘consequences’ if he continued with the strategy;
- Mr Sunak was accused of secretly trying to block the Government’s programme of flying migrants to Rwanda.
Seven months after Ms Mordaunt was ousted from her post, the decision was taken to ‘no longer… proceed with self-identification,’ according to further leaked documents.
The move came because Ms Truss – who by then jointly held the equalities brief with Ms Badenoch did ‘not support a move to self-identification’.
The 2019 document warns Ms Mordaunt that trying to announce changes without wider Government agreement ‘leaves us constitutionally and politically exposed’, adding: ‘The alternative is for you to set out what you would like to achieve in more of a personal capacity, acknowledging that you will be seeking support from the future Prime Minister to achieve this.’
Last night a source close to Ms Mordaunt rejected claims that the document indicated that she was in favour of self-ID, pointing out that it includes the line ‘you… indicated you would like some form of medical requirement to remain part of the process – particularly some sort of assessment that the applicant is of “sound mind”.’
The source said: ‘The document you sent us demonstrated, regardless of whatever officials may have suggested, that Ministers insisted on some sort of medical requirement to remain. This is clearly stated on page two of the document and was the view of all in the Department at the time and confirms that Ministers were not in favour of self ID.’