Tory leadership contender Penny Mordaunt has hit back at fresh claims that she supported gender self-identification when she was a government equalities minister.
In the first televised debate on Friday, former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who also has responsibility for equality issues, claimed Ms Mordaunt had backed a push for self-ID for those who wish to transition.
They said that together they had reversed the policy.
Ms Mordaunt strongly challenged the claims. She said that while she had ordered a review of the Gender Recognition Act, she was not in favour of self-identification and would “not have divorced it from healthcare”.
However The Sunday Times said it had seen government papers which appeared to suggest she was in favour of removing at least one element of the medical process required for transgender people to legally transition.
Penny Mordaunt is among the frontrunners to become one of the final two in the Tory leadership race. Aaron Chown
It said another paper from February 2020 confirmed that the Government’s support for self-identification ended after she was replaced as the minister in charge.
In response, a spokesman for her campaign said the papers seen by The Sunday Times made clear that all the ministers involved at the time had been in favour of maintaining medical involvement in the process.
“The fact that so much of this contest has been distracted by side issues instead of the cost-of-living crisis impacting millions of people, is a major disappointment,” the spokesman said.
“Arguing about policy is one thing, but questioning Penny’s values and integrity must be challenged. To be clear, on the issue of self ID, leaked documents prove that all ministers in the department wanted to maintain medical involvement, including Penny. Other ministers can back this up.”
Ms Mordaunt was backed by Baroness Williams, who was junior equalities minister at the time, and said the accounts of events given at the hustings and in the media were “completely incorrect”.
“As minister for equalities in the department under both Penny Mordaunt and Amber Rudd I saw first hand that the position stated was absolutely not Penny Mordaunt’s and completely refute the allegations made by other candidates about the self ID debate,” she said in a statement.
Penny Mordaunt has found herself under fire after emerging as one of the most popular candidates among Tory MPs. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
“Having sat in the Equalities Office for many years, I am shocked to see such incorrect reporting and briefings by our colleagues and would question the motives of those seeking to do so.”
The Sunday Times published details of a note from a senior civil servant sent in July 2019 to Ms Mordaunt and other senior officials in the Government Equalities Office (GEO).
At the time, Ms Mordaunt was defence secretary but also had responsibility for women’s and equalities issues.
The note stated: “Currently, applicants are required to provide two medical reports: a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (which we are now intending to remove) and a report detailing any medical treatment received.
“There is no requirement to have undergone any medical treatment as part of transitioning, nor does the report’s contents have any bearing on the panel’s decision, so it is unclear what practical value this current report has in the process.
“However, this element of the process goes to the heart of whether we have a system that is essentially self-identification, or whether there are external checks in place.”
The note went on to state that “you have all indicated you would like some form of medical requirement to remain part of the process — particularly some form of assessment that the applicant is of ‘sound mind’ as they make their application to change their gender.
“This could be from a GP, a registered counsellor or a therapist. This would help safeguard vulnerable individuals, and would also provide a defence against potential vexatious applications.”