Nicky Morgan MP: Legislation needed to close loophole which risks 'outing' transgender people
Companies House are currently unable to withhold information about a Director's former name, even if that would result in their transition being disclosed, says Nicky Morgan MP.
On Wednesday 1 March former I will be introducing a 10 Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons which aims to protect trans people from unintended public disclosure of their former names by the Registrar of Companies.
In 2004 the UK Government introduced the Gender Recognition Act. This was followed in 2011 by the Coalition Government publishing the world’s first transgender action plan. In July 2016 I published the Government’s response to a Women & Equalities Select Committee report on transgender equality. I am proud that this Conservative Government wants to tackle remaining inequalities, unfairness, violence and discrimination faced by trans people.
In September 2016 I was alerted about an unintended consequence of the interaction between the Companies Act 2006 and the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which means that Companies House refuses to withhold from public inspection details about a Director’s former name even if that would mean that the individual’s transition and personal history was therefore disclosed to anyone searching the Register of Directors.
I think their interpretation of the current law and the ability for them to refuse to withhold publication is legitimate which means a change in the law is needed.
Why does such disclosure matter? Well, as a country, we have provided a legal mechanism for people to change their gender. In my experience this is not a decision that anyone enters into lightly nor does it happen quickly.
And once that decision is made then, again in my experience, transgender people want to be able to move on with their lives, to be treated with respect and to live without the fear of being inadvertently “outed” which could perhaps then lead to violence or discrimination.
Living in fear because of who you are is unacceptable in the modern United Kingdom and it cannot be right for anyone to live in fear of violence because of official documents they have filed in compliance with a particular Act of Parliament?
So my Bill will close this loophole by amending the 2004 Act in a way which would allow transgender persons to apply to Companies House to withhold from public inspection information about a director’s former name and treating that information as protected information under section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. I hope it will be supported by MPs across the House of Commons.
Nicky Morgan is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Loughborough