One of Test Valley’s MP’s has criticised the government’s equality body for “evading scrutiny” over its LGBTQ+ policies.

Caroline Nokes, the chair of the Women & Equalities Committee, said that the Government Equalities Office (GEO) had refused to provide oral evidence to its inquiry on reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The act allows for people to change their legal gender, but has faced criticism for its “intrusive medical requirements”.

Caroline Nokes said: “We are both frustrated and bewildered that the GEO, which has oversight of trans policy, has refused to provide oral evidence to our inquiry into the Reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

“In recent months the GEO has made a number of policy announcements that will significantly affect the lives of trans people in the UK, and this refusal is another example of GEO ministers evading essential parliamentary scrutiny of crucial policy issues .”

In response, the minister for equalities, Kemi Badenoch, said the government had an “ambitious agenda to improve the lives of all citizens in the UK and reduce disparities wherever they lie”.

The Women & Equalities Committee is carrying out an inquiry into the Reform of the Gender Recognition Act following a government review, with a look to remove medical diagnoses from the requirement to change gender and allow individuals to self-identify.

At present, to obtain a gender recognition certificate and change gender, applicants must have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria; have been living as the gender they wish to be certified as for two years; commit to living as that gender for the rest of the their life; be undergoing treatment of some kind to modify their sexual characteristics and pay £140.

It follows criticism from campaigners and other bodies that the process is currently too long and complex, with the European Commission having classed the UK as having “intrusive medical requirements” for transgender people.

Following a consultation, 80 per cent of people said that a medical report shouldn’t be needed, 64 per cent that a gender dysphoria diagnosis shouldn’t be needed, and almost 79 per cent that people should not have to prove they have lived as a different gender from their legal one for two years.

Following this consultation, the government chose not to make any major changes to the Gender Recognition Act, instead saying that they would digitise the process and reduce the application fee to £5 instead.

This is one of the topics being considered by the Women & Equalities Committee as to why they government did not choose to reform the act despite public support. They invited the minister for equalities to help discuss this matter with them.

In a letter to Kemi Badenoch, Caroline Nokes said “You may be aware that on May 19 we heard from former members of the LGBT Advisory Panel, who stated that the Government was creating a 'hostile environment' for LGBT people in the UK.

“We are concerned that an unwillingness to attend on the part of GEO Ministers will compound that perception. We would urge you to reconsider our invitation to attend on June 16, to demonstrate your commitment to the issues we intend to discuss.”

However, this invitation was declined by the minister, who said that she would provide further thoughts via correspondence but would otherwise a health minister, Jo Churchill, in her stead.

Kemi Badenoch wrote: “The government will be well represented at the session, with Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care in attendance. I have full confidence in the Minister to represent the government’s position and appropriately respond to any questions you may have.

“We know from our research that improving healthcare is a priority for transgender people so it is important Minister Churchill is there to represent the government on this important issue.”