The TBEN for Rishi Sunak to decide whether to block Scotland’s gender laws arrives this week as he considers legal advice on their impact.
Multiple reports have suggested that the legal advice received by the British government will provide the Prime Minister with the cover he needs to trigger Section 35 of the Scotland Act.
If he does, he will become the first number 10 to use the blocking mechanism.
The Scotland Act, which established a devolved Scottish government and parliament, gives Westminster four weeks to consider bills passed by Holyrood which could have an “adverse effect on the operation of the Act”.
With the Gender Recognition Reform Act (Scotland) passed by the MSPs on 22 December, the TBEN will be reached on Wednesday.
The bill allows transgender people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) without the need for a medical diagnosis — a process known as “self-identification.”
It also allows 16- and 17-year-olds to apply for a GRC for the first time, and would reduce the amount of time it takes for a person to live in their acquired gender before the document can be granted.
According to the TBEN, Mr Sunak – who said he was concerned about the gender bill on a visit to Scotland last week – is preparing to block the bill before the Statute, with a decision due as early as Monday.
The paper reported that legal advice given to the leader of the Conservative Party says the bill passed by Edinburgh “crosses” UK equality law.
The FT report described Scottish Secretary Alister Jack as “fully in favor” of an intervention by the Prime Minister.
A UK government spokeswoman said no decision had yet been made.
She said officials are carefully assessing the impact of the law passed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the Equality Act.
“We share the concerns others – including the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls – have about the bill, particularly about safety issues for women and children,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are looking closely at these issues, as well as the implications for the Equality Act 2010 and other UK legislation.
“Our concerns include the protection of gender segregated spaces and the checks and balances involved in obtaining a legal gender recognition certificate.
“No final decisions have been made yet and we are considering our next steps.”
Labor has also expressed concern about the legislation, with the party leader citing both the age reduction and the potential impact on equality.
Sir Keir Starmer told the TBEN he thought 16 was too young an age for people to decide to legally change their birth gender.
Labor colleague Baroness Chakrabarti supported the principles behind the bill, but warned the Westminster government “might have a point” about its impact on UK law.
The former shadow attorney general and ex-director of the Liberty Civil Liberties group told TBEN Radio 4’s Today programme: “While I sympathize with the change that has been made to bring about transgender rights in Scotland, I think we have a clash between the position in British law and the position in Scotland.”
She said it “could mean – even though I suspect political mischief on the part of the Conservative government and culture wars – that they may have a point, it is at least plausible that what happened in Scotland has a potential impact on the legislation as it works. UK wide”.
But Stephen Flynn, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, said it would be a “scandal” if London chose to intervene, saying it would amount to “massively overstepping” the UK Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is reportedly planning to ban all conversion therapy this week, opting to go further than his recent predecessor Boris Johnson.
The move is being reported as an attempt to sideline campaigners for equality, despite Sunak being about to step in to block gender self-identification in Scotland.
Mr Johnson promised to ban homosexual conversion therapy during his premiership, but decided not to do the same for transgender conversion therapy.
The Daily Telegraph said ministers will announce their intention to “introduce a total ban on both forms of proselytizing” and will make legal changes to enforce the position.