The Science Secretary will on Tuesday unveil a review into the “utter nonsense” of public bodies being urged to collect data on self-identified gender rather than biological sex.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Michelle Donelan will sound the alarm at what she calls the “denial of biology and the steady creep of political correctness”.
Ms Donelan has been moved to act by examples such as the NHS sometimes using a person’s stated gender rather than their biological sex in data records.
The review will last six months and be headed up by Prof Alice Sullivan, the head of research at UCL’s Social Research Institute.
It will analyse the collection of research and statistics by all public bodies on sex and gender, with specific recommendations to be made at the end.
Ms Donelan will say in her speech on Tuesday: “To those who think they have the right to impose this utter nonsense on science, let this message go out from this conference hall today… We are safeguarding scientific research from the denial of biology and the steady creep of political correctness.”
She will also say: “We are making a stand before it suffocates British identity and values entirely… That is why we are depoliticising science, because science is the most extraordinary force for good – from curing disease to growing our food – [and] we must keep it that way.”
The intervention comes as the Conservative Party hardens its position on the importance of biological sex being recognised amid the debate about transgender rights.
The issue has played an increasingly prominent role in British political discourse, with all parties facing pressure to make clear how they would strike the right balance.
Rishi Sunak’s Government has long been promising to publish guidance for schools on how they should act when pupils want to self-identify as a different gender from the one assigned at birth.
But ministers have had to water down the proposals after being warned that a change to the Equality Act would be needed to implement them.
Ms Donelan was made the head of the newly created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology by Mr Sunak back in February.
Elsewhere in her speech, Ms Donelan will say: “I think it matters when scientists are told by university bureaucrats that they cannot ask legitimate research questions about biological sex.
“And I think it matters when Scotland’s chief statistician issues guidance stating that data on sex can only be collected in exceptional circumstances.
“And I think it matters when the Office for National Statistics has to be taken to the High Court because the census guidance said it was possible to change your biological sex.”
‘Gender and sex are two different things’
She will add: “I think it matters that in 2021 Police Scotland announced that a male rapist who self-identifies as a women will then be recorded statistically as a female rapist by the police.
“Any credible scientist will tell you that gender and sex are two different things… To suggest otherwise is not only scientifically illiterate, it damages scientific research and statistics in everything from population studies to medicine to sport.”
In 2005 the Athena Swan charter was established to encourage commitment to advancing the careers of women in higher education in areas such as science, engineering and maths.
At first, it monitored the gaps between men and women in recruitment and career progression. But in 2016, Athena Swan recommended that data collections should be based on gender identity rather than sex.
The example was cited by figures close to Ms Donelan to highlight concerning developments that she hopes this new review can address.
The exact changes to be proposed and implemented will depend on what is recommended by the review.
Maya Forstater, executive director of the gender critical group Sex Matters, said: “This is excellent news and not before time, as a review is urgently needed.
“Sorting out data on sex is at the heart of solving how society protects everyone’s rights when it comes to biological sex and gender self-expression.
“This review should make it clear where data on sex needs to be comprehensive, accurate and public, and where the information may be kept private.
“Professor Alice Sullivan is an excellent selection to lead the review after her tireless work on the need for clear data on sex in the census.”