The Telegraph 2024-02-11 00:00:27


Army to relax security checks for recruits in diversity drive

The British Army wants to relax security checks for recruits from overseas to boost diversity and inclusion, The Telegraph can reveal.

Britain’s armed forces have consistently failed to hit recruitment targets and are looking overseas to boost ethnic minority representation, which currently stands at 14 per cent of the regular army.

A document leaked to this paper, titled The British Army’s Race Action Plan, notes that the Army “struggles to attract talent from ethnic minority backgrounds into the officer corps”.

Published in March 2023 and understood to be the latest guidance, it outlines a series of “actions” to boost representation and describes security clearance vetting as being “the primary barrier to non-UK personnel gaining a commission in the Army”.

It vows to “challenge SC [security clearance] requirements” to boost representation in the intelligence and officer corps, positions which have “uncontrolled access to secret assets”.

People from Commonwealth countries can serve in the British Army, however, the race plan notes that “There are only 131 [serving] non-UK regular officers” of which “28 were recorded as an ethnic minority” with the rest being white Irish or white Commonwealth.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who served as the head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said: “The evidence published today in The Telegraph, which apparently prioritises diversity, equality, and inclusion in matters of national security, is very worrying indeed. Effective security policies at whatever level they are applied simply do not allow for ‘politically correct’ soft edges.

“The fighting capability of our armed forces, already hollowed out as the Defence Select Committee recently documented, must not be further compromised by the over-application of DEI ideology. We are living in a world where the threat of war is getting closer.

“We give succour to our enemies if the concentration on the creation of an effective warrior mentality is not the primary objective of our navy, army and airforce.”

In response to The Telegraph’s findings, Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, has ordered a root and branch review of diversity and inclusion policies in the Armed Forces.

Vetting processes required to become an officer in the Army include undergoing a baseline personnel security standard, counter-terrorism checks and security clearance vetting.

Security clearance is described as being “the most common type of vetting process and determines that a person’s character and personal circumstances are such that they can be trusted to work in a position that involves long-term, frequent, and uncontrolled access to secret assets.”

To gain security clearance, applicants “normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years”.

This requirement is described as “prohibitive to overseas recruits” who are looking to become officers because “failure to have the correct residency requirements for vetting processes omits personnel” from serving in a series of roles across the Intelligence Corps, Royal Military Police and Army Legal Services.

To combat the lack of non-UK representation in officer and intelligence ranks, the plan says: “Action: Challenge SC [security clearance] requirements in trades, identifying under which circumstances the rules and SC accreditation should be updated”.

The relaxed vetting policy for applicants from overseas has been criticised as “wicked” in an open letter to Mr Shapps, published in full in the Telegraph on Sunday, from 12 former senior military officers. “With Islamism and other extremism rampant, this [policy] is nothing short of dangerous madness,” they warn.

They add: “The Russians, Iranians and Chinese will be observing our descent into self-hatred and obsessing over diversity and inclusion with glee” and that “woke” defence policies are leading to a “moral disarmament” in the Armed Forces.

“Nothing could be better calculated to destroy the esprit de corps of our armed forces than this poisonous farrago of nonsense or to deter from serving the Crown precisely the type of people most motivated and apt to our high calling. Ours is a tolerant country and this obsessive racialising of everything is both disgusting and reprehensible,” they add.

The letter comes as General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff and Head of the British Army, warned last month the Government must prepare to deploy a “citizen army” due to increasing threats to peace.

The Army’s Race Action Plan plan is part of a wider Ministry of Defence diversity push that has caused alarm among former defence chiefs.

Edward Stringer, a retired Air Marshal, said that while serving in the Royal Air Force, he raised concerns “at the highest levels”.

He told The Telegraph: “Good commanders have always valued diversity of thought, and that tends to come from a diversity of background.

“Making sure all voices can be confidently heard is a duty of military leadership: to create a genuinely meritocratic, inclusive environment where people can think critically, often under pressure.

“Identity politics can subvert this, inserting segregation into the team, and replacing critical thinking with critical theory.

“These concerns were raised at the highest level.”

Mr Shapps is understood to be “furious” about the findings and “ready to go to battle” on the matter.

“There are personnel issues that need addressing in the Armed Services but some of these policies are about a woke agenda and extreme critical race theories.

“These are leftist ideas that have leaked into the civil service and they are at best a distraction and at worst poisoning the wider discussion,” an MoD source said.

Responding to The Telegraph’s investigation, Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, said: “It is absolutely extraordinary, the self-inflicted damage that impacts on our Armed Forces from these deranged ideas.

“Our job is to protect our nation and our people from those who wish us harm. Anything else is a distraction.”

The Telegraph investigation has found that servicemen are told that they must complete mandatory unconscious bias training, are warned against “microaggressions” such as misusing people’s pronouns, and are encouraged to introduce their own pronouns.

Mr Shapps said: “I am ordering a review of diversity and inclusivity policy at the MoD.

“We want people from all backgrounds to serve in our military but some policies appear to be more about a political agenda than practically improving the lives of our dedicated soldiers and military personnel.

“There will certainly not be any lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch.

“And no one should be offended by having religion as part of remembrance services. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate and respect the history and traditions of the United Kingdom.”

Horizon scandal ‘ongoing’ as sub-postmasters pursued for thousands of pounds

Postmasters are still being traumatised by wrongful demands for thousands of pounds due to continuing faults with the Horizon IT system, The Telegraph can reveal.

The self-employed branch managers have warned of an “ongoing scandal”, with repeated letters from the Post Office, some as recently as last month. leaving many feeling they have to pay up.

Some said they had paid back up to £10,000 as a result of glitches in recent years, despite the landmark Bates vs Post Office ruling in 2019, which found “bugs, errors and defects” in the Horizon software.

Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, one of the key drivers in exposing the original scandal, has called for an “urgent” investigation into the new claims.

Horizon was updated in 2017, with the High Court describing the new version as “robust” relative to comparable systems.

However, The Telegraph has unearthed evidence of widespread and repeated shortfalls.

Although the threat of prosecution has been removed, subpostmasters are still required to attempt to explain any shortfalls.

They have described the process of disputing their culpability as “laborious” and “stressful”.

Some said they have only recently gained the confidence to challenge head office, thanks to the publicity around the public inquiry and ITV drama, but that previously they would pay back the money to avoid the “mental torture” of the process.

However, wrongful repayments made after the 2017 Horizon update cannot be reclaimed via any of the compensation schemes, on the basis that the IT system has improved.

Jacqueline Franklin, a subpostmaster from rural Warwickshire, has paid back £7,000 since 2019.

“People out there don’t realise that this scandal is ongoing,” she said.

“The shortfalls are regular, and when they happen it’s mental torture.

“You don’t know what to do.”

Mark Harrison, who runs two branches near Doncaster, has paid back more than £5,000 since 2017.

“The way the Post Office goes about it, you forget that there’s no longer a compulsion to pay,” he said.

“They make it feel like there is.”

Lord Arbuthnot said: “The thought that some post masters are still going through this awful process is deeply concerning and one that should be looked into urgently, including, if necessary, providing compensation for them.

“I hope the Post Office realises that these problems do not go away if you ignore them.”

The Post Office suppressed evidence of faults in the IT to enable prosecutions, Sir Wyn Williams’s public inquiry has heard.

Fujitsu has also apologised after admitting it knew about bugs in the software as far back as 1999.

The convictions were subsequently described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British history.

A new group, Voice of the Postmaster, is spearheading an effort to persuade the government, which owns the Post Office, to restructure the company, handing ownership to branch operatives.

A Post Office spokesman said: “We are much more transparent when it comes to alerting Postmasters about any potential problems.

“Our CEO has been very clear that in the past there was an assumption that Postmasters were wholly responsible when it came to unexplained losses.

“That was wrong and today we start with a presumption that they are not.”

Women warn Fulham LTN forces them to walk streets alone at night

Female Uber passengers have warned a council that they are being forced to walk home alone at night because their drivers will not enter a controversial low traffic neighbourhood (LTN).

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham set up an LTN near Wandsworth Bridge Road in the west of the capital a year ago.

The South Fulham LTN means that “out of borough” motorists risk fines if they ignore no entry signs that close roads to through traffic.

While black cabs and local minicabs are exempt from paying to enter the LTN, Uber drivers risk hefty fines for doing so.

Hillary Cannon, the owner of Barrefly, a fitness studio on New Kings Road, has written to the Labour-run authority complaining its latest LTN is risking the safety of “young women”, some of whom are having to walk alone through Fulham’s streets late at night after being dropped off on boundary roads.

Explaining how one 22-year-old woman had a 15-minute walk home at 3am while the Met Police was hunting a local sex attacker, she wrote: “I felt a very real sense of horror wash over me… This [LTN] scheme appears to have created a perfect hunting ground for him and others like him.”

She added that the LTN has “not only imperilled the future of local businesses and worsened pollution for residents on arterial roads … it is now posing a very real danger to the young women of our community”.

Tabitha Willett, the 32-year-old Made in Chelsea star who visits a private members’ club and relatives in the South Fulham LTN, said she had either been forced to walk in the dark to meet a minicab or been dropped off on boundary roads by drivers who want to avoid getting a fine.

“My club is inside the South Fulham LTN,” she said. “But, many Uber drivers refuse to drive in which means we have to walk in the dark and the rain. It’s a huge inconvenience. I blame the council for introducing the LTN.”

A council spokesman said it “is more than three years” since it first offered Uber “free access through the cameras to allow residents to be picked up and dropped off at their homes” when it introduced a previous LTN in Fulham.

“Uber has said there are data protection issues which prevent them sharing the number plates of their drivers,” he continued. “We are confident these can be resolved but we need Uber to agree to meet us at a technical level, which they have so far not done. We are still pressing for this to happen.”

An Uber spokeswoman said: “At Uber we know we have a responsibility to help ensure that everyone gets home safely.

“We are aware of these concerns and continue to be in conversation with Hammersmith and Fulham Council to try and find a workable solution for both drivers and local residents.”

Soldiers told to avoid Christian ‘elements’ in Acts of Remembrance

The Army has told soldiers to avoid “religious elements” in Acts of Remembrance on Armistice Day, documents seen by The Telegraph reveal.

The Army’s “Policy, Guidance and Instructions on Inclusive Behaviours”, published in June 2022, states that “Acts of Remembrance, on Armistice Day and others, should be inclusive and seek to avoid being conducted as a wholly religious event”.

The guidance continues: “Acts of Remembrance should be agnostic of religious elements and separated from Remembrance Services. This may be achieved by holding a religious service after the Act of Remembrance.”

Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, is said to be “furious” about the policy, with a source close to him telling The Telegraph: “The Secretary of State is Jewish and he’s not offended one bit by Christian remembrance services – in fact, he believes it’s at the core of our nation’s history and who we are.”

The Army’s inclusivity policy on Remembrance Day is part of a push across the Armed Forces to encourage diversity and inclusion.

Twelve former senior servicemen have written to Mr Shapps, describing the policy as “a particular insult to our ancestors who fought and died to lead the world in ending slavery” and stressed that Britain’s “civic culture on 11th November is sacred, Christian, tolerant and inclusive on our terms”.

The letter, signed by senior military figures including Major General Julian Thompson, Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott and Lieutenant General Sir Henry Beverly, continued: “No one should need to be reminded that this is a welcoming, inclusive and basically Christian country.”

An investigation by The Telegraph has laid bare the Ministry of Defence’s extensive diversity policies.

Official Army plans argue that diversity is crucial for operational effectiveness, and insist that “diverse teams, if well led by inclusive leaders, perform better”.

Last month, the Head of the British Army made shockwaves when he warned that Britain must prepare for conflict “as the pre-war generation”.

However, in the open letter, the former flag officers warned that the military is being forced into a “moral disarmament” due to “the lunacy of pushing woke ideas”.

General Sir Richard Barrons, commander of the Joint Forces Command between 2013 and 2016, told The Telegraph: “The purpose of the army is to fight and win, and that requires some, but not many, operational differences from organisations in civil society.”

Sir Richard continued: “The Armed Forces must reflect the population they defend, and be inclusive of everyone, including its current personnel.”

“In recruiting you cannot convey the impression that you only want ethnic minorities or women to serve. Everyone, including white men, should feel welcome in the Army.”

Government data from December 2023 shows that ethnic minorities make up 10.6 per cent of the UK Regular Forces, up from 9.9 per cent a year before. Some 18.3 per cent of people in England and Wales are from an ethnic minority background, according to the 2021 census.

Diversity training

All military personnel, including civil servants in the MoD, are told to complete mandatory diversity and inclusion training annually.

The Army’s Inclusive Behaviours policy states that part of this training should include lessons on “unconscious bias”, a controversial and contested concept which holds that everyone has hidden prejudices that must be overcome.

The training was banned by ministers in the Civil Service in December 2020, who said that evidence shows “such training has no sustained impact on behaviour and may even be counter-productive”, and other public bodies were encouraged to follow suit.

However, the Army’s Race Action Plan, published in March 2023, refers to unconscious bias in its Elephant In The Room (EITR) training course for soldiers.

The plan states that EITR workshops should “unearth and interrupt unconscious (and conscious) biases”, “raise awareness of and discuss the issues e.g. race/identity, power and privilege” and “educate about micro-aggressions/micro-inequalities (day-to-day exchanges that transmit a sense of subordination) and how to reduce/tackle them”.

On January 30, 2024, the MoD posted an internal blog post for staff on the subject of “micro-behaviours”, defined as “small, and may be behavioural, intentional or unintentional unconscious things people say or do”.

The post warned military personnel against microaggressions, such as “asking a person ‘where they are really from’ or repeatedly misusing someone’s pronoun by referring to someone as a ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

The Royal Navy’s Race Action Plan, enacted in November 2023, pledges to update the Navy’s “mandatory D&I training course… with the inclusion of additional content covering Culture, Race and Intersectionality”, and encourages “all staff engagement in EM [ethnic minority] related events”, including Black History Month.

A source close to Mr Shapps said: “We want an Armed Forces that everyone who is willing to serve their country is welcome to join and that supports them personally.

“But the Defence Secretary is genuinely furious about this woke nonsense and he’s determined it is routed out on his watch.”

Gender neutral ranks

The Army advises personnel to introduce their pronouns, offering the following examples: “Hello, my name is Sgt Smith and my pronouns are she/hers”, or “Hi, I’m Capt Harris, my pronouns are they/them”.

The Army’s Inclusive Behaviours guidance states that “all new Army policies and services must, where possible, use inclusive language”. Military officials argue that such policies are vital for moral, legal and operational reasons.

The Army guidance encourages personnel to include their pronouns in their email signatures to be inclusive of “people who may not conform to gender stereotypes, transgender and non-binary colleagues”.

An Army source, who asked not to be named, said: “The only time I saw a senior instructor lose their cool was when someone used the term ‘rifleman’ at which point they were berated, the instructor shouting at them that they’d better get with the program if they wanted to be a ‘professional f—ing officer’ in the British Army, in the least professional outburst possible.”

He continued: “On another occasion, we were lectured by a senior officer about the importance of not saying things like ‘manpower’, ‘rifleman’, ‘manning’ etc. Amusingly a more junior officer, evidently just trying to go with the flow, mentioned something similar later on, then quite unconsciously proceeded to use one of those terms repeatedly.”

In December 2021, the Royal Air Force transitioned to the use of “gender-neutral ranks and language”, scrapping the use of “airmen” and “airwomen” in favour of “aviator”.

In October 2023, the RAF’s Gender Network, a group for aviators to discuss gender, published a blog on the MoD intranet, accessible to all serving personnel, for “International Pronouns Day”.

The post told airmen and women “it can be offensive or harassing to guess at someone’s pronouns” and pointed to examples of “neopronouns” including “xe/xir/xirs, ze/zir/zirs and fae/faer/faers”. The RAF network defines these as “pronouns that were directly created or adapted within the language instead of evolving with it”.

The Royal Navy’s official guidance on pronouns, released in May 2023, tells sailors to “avoid using gender when referring to a person generically”, encourages them “to routinely share” their pronouns and urges them to avoid saying “Good morning, guys” [and to] replace this with “Good morning, everyone/team”.

The Armed Forces gender neutral drive has led to questions from soldiers; in June 2021, one asked on the MoD’s intranet site where personnel can ask questions of those in higher ranks. “What is a suitable and respectful gender-neutral alternative to Sir or Ma’am?”

An officer replied that while “there’s no specific winner in the debate” there are options including “Mx”, using military titles, or terms from Japanese martial arts “like ‘sensei’ and ‘senpai’ [which] are gender-neutral”.

Non-binary personnel

Official Army Inclusive Behaviours guidance on non-binary personnel, defined as “people whose gender identities do not fit into the gender binary of male and female” gives commanders examples of how to “manage non-binary individuals sympathetically without adversely impacting on operational effectiveness”.

These include providing gender-neutral toilets “where existing infrastructure provision allows”, and allowing male soldiers who wish “to express themselves in a more female manner… to follow the same rules for appearance that are applied to female personnel, that is to say: minimal make-up and hair that is kept off the collar”.

Commanders are also told to use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to non-binary servicepeople.

Diversity officers

An Army briefing note from October 2022 states that “Every sub-unit [a group of around 100 soldiers] is mandated to have at least one qualified Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner”.

Diversity practitioners are serving members of the military who provide support to their unit on diversity-related matters, including training and reports of bullying and harassment.

The Army’s Inclusive Behaviours policy states that Unit Commanding Officers, who are responsible for roughly 600-700 personnel, are also assigned a series of diversity-related tasks including appointing diversity advisors and practitioners to units and providing diversity boards, training, reviews, inspections and assessments to report on the “lived experience of personnel in their unit”.

Commanders must also display a public diversity and inclusion “policy statement which outlines the law, Army policy, their personal commitment and the responsibilities of all unit personnel in creating an inclusive culture and climate”.

One such statement from a Commanding Officer reads “I am fully committed to equality and diversity and everyone has a responsibility and vital role to play if we are to maintain high levels of operational effectiveness.”

The officer continued: “I welcome and encourage you to challenge me when, for any reason, you believe my intent is not being met by myself or anyone else onboard.”

Another poster on display in an army barracks, and seen by The Telegraph, lists the unit’s six diversity advisors.

LGBPTTQQIIAA+ posters

Posters promoting diversity and inclusion have become commonplace across the sites used by all three forces.

The Compass Network, a group for LGBT sailors described on its website as the Royal Navy Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Network, displayed one poster defining 51 of the “most commonly used” terms around LGBT issues.

Among these are “LGBPTTQQIIAA+”, defined as “any combination of letters attempting to represent all the identities of the queer community, this near-exhaustive one (but not exhaustive) represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual, Ally.”

Other terms defined include “cross-dressing”, “bi-gender”, “poly gender”, “drag queen” and “faggot” which is accompanied by the message “HEAR IT, STOP IT”.

Other Royal Navy diversity posters ask sailors “Are you an ally?” in reference to minority groups, display a group of swimmers under different headlines to explain “sexual orientation and gender identity”, and a poster from November 2021 asks personnel to fill out a questionnaire for the controversial LGBT charity Stonewall.

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There has been a significant focus on recruiting ethnic minority people into the Armed Forces in recent years, both to improve ethnic minority representation and to engage with different communities to combat a forces-wide recruitment crisis.

To attract ethnic minorities, the Royal Navy’s Race Action Plan states that “All new marketing communications to be EM [ethnic minority] inclusive by design”.

The Army’s equivalent plan mandates “increased EM prominence in all marketing” and the exploitation of “the targeting of cultural, behavioural, structural and policy barriers to EM serving in the Army (e.g. dress, hair and beards)”.

A Royal Navy recruiter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said these recruitment drives were doomed to fail: “As a recruiter, I have always taken great joy and pride in inspiring young people about the Armed forces, no matter their background. However, that job sadly becomes a little more difficult with the disproportionate focus on the race of recruits, rather than how much we can inspire people regardless of their ethnicity.”

They continued: “Most people who join the forces do so because they want to serve their country, follow the tradition of their family or their hometown, and want to take on the challenge of serving. They are not thinking about diversity initiatives, lived experience or their pronouns.”

‘White privilege’ backlash

The MoD’s push for diversity and inclusion has not gone unchallenged among military personnel.

Civil servants and military personnel can question their seniors through the Defence Connect intranet forum.

In February 2022, a questioner wrote: “Sir, sadly I’ve already had to report racist content among the resources… [on] ‘White Privilege’ (the title alone is unacceptable) containing an error-strewn, racist critique of cinematic coverage of the transatlantic slave trade, advocating the apportioning of collective guilt to one ethnicity.”

The question was concerning a blog post on the MoD’s intranet, since removed, on “white privilege”, which states that white people hold inherent advantages over other races.

One officer responded by saying white privilege is offensive, and wrote: “We may stifle recognition of the white privilege that may lurk in the every day – and therefore perpetuate the damage this causes in our (or any other) organisation.”

Another officer agreed, and urged personnel to read the controversial book, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.

However, several junior personnel fought back, with one saying: “There is only one race, called the ‘human race’… As a Christian and a commonwealth soldier myself, I believe that every human being is created in the image of God and we should be treating every human being with respect and dignity.”

Another wrote: “Thank you for calling out postmodern racism” and compared white privilege to Marxism “which also visualised an oppressed and oppressor dynamic as the fundamental ordering of human society, except now it is based on race, gender, sexuality, and politics”.

The MoD was approached for comment.

At least 77 trans doctors have registered change of gender with GMC

At least 77 doctors have changed gender on the General Medical Council (GMC) register, The Telegraph can reveal.

The figure, supplied by the GMC to Labour’s gender-critical Baroness Hayter, is for records since 2003 and has raised concerns that patients could be treated by medics of the opposite sex without their knowledge or consent.

Just two of the 77 doctors have informed the GMC that they have obtained a UK Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), the document that provides legal recognition of the change.

It raises the possibility that doctors are being allowed to self-identify at will to change gender on the register without further checks.

An unknown number have gone through a “gender change recognition” process before coming to the UK.

A total of 14 doctors changed gender on the GMC register in 2022 and nine in 2023.

Writing to Baroness Hayter, Prof Dame Carrie MacEwen, the GMC’s chair, said that “the data on the published register may not reflect, in all cases, a doctor’s sex at birth”.

It means that patients cannot find out if their doctor is male or female from the register.

Dame Carrie told Baroness Hayter: “We believe that patients who want to see a doctor of a particular sex or gender are more likely to seek, and be able to obtain this information, from their local healthcare providers – not from our register.”

When Baroness Hayter pressed the importance of patients knowing their doctor’s sex, the GMC responded that the “the primary purpose” of the register was to show that doctors have “the appropriate training, skills and experience”.

The GMC also provided reassurance that patients could use a chaperone, but the policy means patients will not know in advance whether to ask for one, because their doctor’s biological sex is not shown.

The GMC said it had stopped asking for GRC from doctors in 2010 “because many found it difficult to secure one”.

It added: “The doctor’s entry on the medical register in their previous name, gender and GMC number will in most cases remain, unless there is a risk of disclosing their transgender status which has legal protection.”

Some critics argue the GMC’s policy on GRCs is at odds with its own guidance stating that doctors “must be satisfied that [they] have consent or other valid authority before examining or treating patients”.

‘Prioritises trans identities’

Maya Forstater, executive director of Sex Matters, which campaigns for clarity on sex in law and everyday life, said: “The General Medical Council’s handling of this issue is chilling and demonstrates that it prioritises trans identities over the safety and wellbeing of female patients.

“If a woman has been told that she will be examined by a female doctor, then it is a violation of her consent for her to find herself with a man posing as a woman. In a similar way to the issue with male police officers searching women, this policy disregards women’s human rights and put women at risk of state-sanctioned sexual assault.

“Social norms and the power dynamic between doctors and patients make it nearly impossible for female patients to object to being examined by a male doctor who may have attempted to appear like a woman, and this may be especially the case if there are age, cultural, language or cognitive factors involved.”

Speaking about the GMC’s policy, Baroness Hayter said: “While welcoming the ability of any doctor to live in their chosen gender, this must not overwrite patients’ rights. Any patient must be able to ask for a medic of their own biological sex and not be faced, without their consent, by a biological man. I am concerned that the GMC, by putting doctors’ interests above those of patients, is failing in its statutory duty.”

A GMC spokesperson said: “We recognise that some people will, for various reasons, want to see a doctor of the same sex, and the relevant healthcare provider – whether a GP practice, sexual health clinic, or other service – is best placed to handle such requests to ensure those patients’ needs are met. They will also be able to take other steps where appropriate, for example, by providing a chaperone.

“We have been processing gender-change applications since the early 2000s. Our current approach to enable registrants to change their gender on the medical register is compliant with the existing legislative framework.

“We have responded directly to the Baroness’s most recent letter on the points she has raised.”

Smart Motorway ‘cash cow’ rakes in millions in fines with 60mph limit to ‘lower pollution’

A smart motorway which had a 60mph speed limit imposed to “lower pollution” has netted millions of pounds in fines for the Treasury.

A total of 22,546 motorists were fined for speeding on a 2.6 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 33 and 34 near Sheffield and Rotherham over four years.

A single camera issued the tickets on the northbound section of the motorway where National Highways had reduced the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph from 2020.

If those fines were paid in full, the Government would have received more than £2.25 million as part of the 60mph speed limit “trial”.

A total of 119,204 fines were issued to motorists who broke all speed limits – from 70mph down to 30mph – and ignored Red X lane closures on a wider stretch between junction 30 and 35a from 2020 to last year, the newly released data shows.

It means that the 18-mile stretch of the M1 made £11,920,400, or £8,164 a day over four years.

National Highways can impose variable speed limits and close lanes to traffic by setting signs on overhead gantries on smart motorways. The failure to obey new signs can result in a £100 fine and penalty points, as well as increased insurance premiums.

About 1,300 motorists are fined each year on this section of the M1 for failing to obey Red X signs that close a lane to traffic.

Between 2022 and 2023, a total of 2,629 fines were issued to motorists who ignored Red X lane closures. In 2022, there were 1,341 fines issued, dropping slightly to 1,288 last year.

That is equivalent to about three vehicles driving in closed lanes each day. A lane can be closed with a Red X in the event of a life and death emergency where a car has broken down in a live lane where the hard shoulder has been scrapped.

The South Yorkshire Police data, released after the Telegraph submitted a Freedom of Information application, shows how automatic number plate recognition cameras captured the most fines when a 60mph speed limit was imposed.

Four years

Over those four years between junctions 30 and 35a, a total of 41,224 fines were issued for 60mph speed limit contraventions, worth £4 million.

However, only 24,511 fines were issued for motorists exceeding the 70mph motorway limit across the same stretch and time period.

In September 2020, National Highways introduced “air quality trials” involving a 60mph speed limit between Junctions 33 and 34 to try to improve pollution across South Yorkshire.

The experiment was abandoned due to the pandemic reducing traffic volumes, but was reinstated in 2021 and is currently ongoing.

Asked whether the 60mph trial had actually improved air quality, Stephen Elderkin, National Highways’ Director of Environmental Sustainability, said: “We are working hard to finalise the analysis of the vast amount of data collected and will be publishing the reports in due course.”

Financial interest

Junction 30 to 35a of the M1 became notorious after four motorists were killed when their vehicles broke down in live lanes after they failed to reach an emergency refuge.

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason, 44, was killed on that section of the M1 in 2019 and has campaigned against the smart motorways ever since, said the number of fines issued suggested the Government may have a financial interest in keeping existing smart motorways.

“Is the massive revenue smart motorways provide the reason why the government defends them in the face of overwhelming hatred towards them from the public?,” she asked.

She added that she fears National Highways has failed to adequately educate the public about Red X signs.

Money raised from all such fines goes to the Consolidated Fund, essentially the Government’s bank account, and is not ring-fenced to be spent on transport.

A Government spokesman added: “Speeding on any road is dangerous, which is why we have strict laws in place against it, and fines help to enforce them.

“Recognising public concerns, we’ve cancelled new smart motorways and we’re investing £900 million for safety improvements, including progressing the construction of 150 extra emergency areas.”

Bank of England accused of ‘Project Fear narrative’ with Brexit obsession

The Bank of England has been accused of maintaining an “obsession” with Brexit as it emerged it is continually asking business leaders to rate the level of “uncertainty” the 2016 referendum result is causing their firms.

A monthly survey issued by the Bank to some 10,000 chief executives and chief financial officers, and used to formulate monetary policy, continues to ask how much “the result of the EU referendum” has affected “the level of uncertainty affecting your business”.

No equivalent questions have been asked about factors such as the war in Ukraine and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, since 2022.

One member of the Bank’s so-called Decision Maker Panel, which completes a survey each month, said: “There are many, many things that cause uncertainty – the war in Ukraine, the Middle East, Covid, and yet Brexit is an ongoing obsession, it seems, within the Bank of England.”

The businessman, who asked to remain anonymous, said there appears to be a “concerted, anti-Brexit Project Fear narrative, a campaign within the Bank of England”.

He added: “If you are a small business trying to think about new regulations, new taxes, things that will have a material impact on your future then an incoming Labour government is a genuine concern. If this Bank of England exercise was honest and objective it would be asking questions about that.”

David Jones, the former Brexit minister said: “It is positively shocking that the Bank of England has still not come to terms with the outcome of a vote that took place almost eight years ago.

“The referendum was an exercise in democracy. As an important public body, the Bank should accept the vote and adapt to the new environment.

“A more interesting and useful exercise would be to ask business leaders for their views on the Bank’s failure to revise interest rates sooner and the regrettable impact that failure has had on inflation.”

‘Architect of Project Fear’

The Bank of England’s former governor, Mark Carney, was branded the “architect of Project Fear” after repeatedly claiming that the economic consequences of Brexit were all negative. He claimed unemployment would rise under anything except a “close” relationship with Brussels after Brexit. Recently, the Bank has come under fire from Conservative MPs for its part in failing to keep inflation under control.

The businessman suggested the possible answers to the Brexit question asked of CEOs and CFOs were weighted in favour of “uncertainty” given that the majority involve some level of uncertainty.

Of four possible answers, three correspond to different degrees of uncertainty, while one is that the referendum result is “not important”.

According to the most recent data, 1 per cent of respondents said that the 2016 referendum result was the “main source” of uncertainty for their business in January 2024, a drop from 26 per cent in August 2019, when Boris Johnson was prime minister, while 19 per cent said it was among their top three sources of uncertainty, a fall from 30 per cent in August 2019.

The proportion of business leaders saying that the 2016 result is now “not important” rose from 8 per cent in August 2019 to 31 per cent in January, according to data published earlier this month. Bank officials claim the data shows Brexit continues to be an important concern for a significant portion of businesses – justifying its repeated posing of the question.

A spokesman for the Bank of England said: “This survey was set up to help us better understand the impact of Brexit. The scope of the survey has widened significantly, and we have since asked business about the impact of a range of issues, including, for example Covid and the invasion of Ukraine. This survey is just one of many sources of information that feeds into decisions on monetary policy.”