Justice Secretary Robert Buckland's leads Stonewall 'exodus'

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland’s leads Stonewall ‘exodus’: MoJ will withdraw from LGBT group’s ‘dubious’ diversity training scheme… with other departments expected to follow

  • Robert Buckland is leading ‘exodus’ of departments from Stonewall scheme
  • Charity’s diversity programme includes controversial guidance on pronouns 
  • But critics accuse Stonewall of promoting ‘culture of fear’ in the workplace 

The Ministry of Justice is leading an ‘exodus’ of government departments from Stonewall’s diversity scheme, amid controversy over the charity’s ‘dubious’ training.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is preparing to withdraw his department from the LGBT charity’s ‘diversity champions’ programme, which includes guidance on the use of pronouns and gender-neutral spaces.

Other departments are expected to follow suit, after Equalities Minister Liz Truss suggested that government bodies should withdraw from the scheme over growing concerns about its value for money.

Sources at the MoJ told the Sunday Telegraph that the decision to withdraw from the scheme was also based on concerns about Stonewall’s approach to free speech and what they called its ‘dubious’ training.

Campaigners have accused the controversial equality charity of encouraging public bodies and firms to adopt policies that create a ‘culture of fear’ among workers who disagree with transgender ideology.  

Antonia Romeo, the Permanent Secretary at the MoJ, is now reviewing the department’s diversity policy on behalf of Mr Buckland.

An MoJ source told the paper that Stonewall ‘has totally lost its way and the ministers just don’t think it’s justifiable to give Stonewall taxpayers’ money’.  

‘The department will be just as welcoming to LGBT people as before, but we really shouldn’t be paying thousands of pounds for controversial advice about pronouns and gender-neutral spaces,’ they added. 

Robert Buckland is preparing to withdraw the MoJ from Stonewall’s ‘diversity champions’ programme, which includes guidance on the use of pronouns and gender-neutral spaces

The Ministry of Justice is leading an ‘exodus’ of government departments from Stonewall’s diversity scheme, amid controversy over the charity’s ‘dubious’ training

1 – Newcastle City Council

2 – Gentoo Group

3 – Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service

4 – Pinsent Masons (Top Northern Ireland Employer)

5 – Ministry of Justice

6 – GSK

7 – Citi

8 – National Assembly for Wales (Top Welsh Employer)

9 – Welsh Government

10 – Cardiff University

Stonewall claims its Workplace Equality Index, which allows employers to ‘measure their progress on lesbian, gay, bi and trans inclusion in the workplace’, makes companies more attractive to prospective employees.

The group has issued guidance to employers wanting to make the cut on its index, which has attracted more than 500 applications in the last year.

A Stonewall spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘All employers need to ensure that their staff, including LGBTQ+ staff, are free from discrimination and prejudice at work, and our Diversity Champions programme is one way for organisations to be supported to meet this requirement. 

‘More than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35 per cent) hide who they are at work, while one in five (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments because they’re LGBTQ+. 

‘Since we set up the Diversity Champions programme in 2001, many large employers have developed major internal programmes to promote diversity and inclusion across their staff and make the workplace better for LGBTQ+ people. 

‘As with every membership programme, organisations come and go depending on what works best for them at the time, and it’s great that organisations can continue this important work on their own. 

‘We are pleased to say that our Diversity Champions programme is continuing to grow and take on new members. This year alone, from 1 June 2020 to 1 June 2021, our membership grew by thirty organisations in total. 

‘We are very proud of the work we’re doing with more than 850 organisations to help create inclusive working environments for their lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer staff.’ 

A number of government departments, such as the Home Office, the Department for International Trade and the Ministry of Justice – ranked as high as fifth – feature on the list, as well as the likes of MI6 and the British Army. 

However, its guidance includes urging employers to add gender pronouns to email signatures, outlawing single sex toilets and changing rooms, and running a rainbow laces campaign, the Telegraph reports.

Other departments are expected to follow suit, after Equalities Minister Liz Truss suggested government bodies should withdraw from the scheme over concerns about its value for money

Stonewall: The controversial LGBT charity which has come under fire in recent weeks 

Just this week, the Equalities Minister Liz Truss said she wanted the Government to quit a diversity scheme run by Stonewall amid a row over trans rights.

Miss Truss is said to be pushing for departments to join the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Acas in dropping the Diversity Champions scheme over fears it is not providing value for money. 

After criticism from the gay former Conservative MP Matthew Parris, Ms Kelley told the BBC: ‘With all beliefs including controversial beliefs there is a right to express those beliefs publicly and where they’re harmful or damaging – whether it’s anti-Semitic beliefs, gender critical beliefs, beliefs about disability – we have legal systems that are put in place for people who are harmed by that.’ 

According to Stonewall there are more than 850 organisations, including 250 government departments and public bodies such as police forces, local councils and NHS trusts, signed up as ‘diversity champions’.

Membership to the scheme starts at around £2,500, which according to the LGBT charity’s website, buys employers access to expert advice and resources to make their workplaces ‘inclusive’. 

However, the charity was embroiled in a new row over transgender rights last week, when its chief executive Nancy Kelley likened ‘gender critical’ beliefs to anti-Semitism as she defended its pro-trans campaigning.

The EHRC, Britain’s equalities watchdog, then cut ties with a Stonewall scheme for ‘woke’ workplaces after claims that it curbs free speech among staff.

Its decision comes amid accusations the scheme is encouraging public bodies and firms to adopt policies that create a ‘culture of fear’ among workers who disagree with transgender ideology.

A letter to the feminist campaign group Sex Matters from new commission chairman Baroness Falkner revealed: ‘We wrote to Stonewall in March to let them know that we would not be renewing our membership, and this has now expired.’

Before that, a former top judge claimed transgender groups such as Stonewall are having too much say over hate crime laws that could cause freedom of speech to ‘suffer’.

Charles Wide, a retired Old Bailey judge, said last month only an ‘limited range’ of views was being sought out to advise on a possible expansion of legislation.

The government currently looking at expanding hate crimes, and the Law Commission is consulting on whether misogyny, age, sex workers, homelessness, and some subcultures should become protected groups.

But the judge fears the Commission’s over reliance on certain campaign groups has seen it move away from its non-political brief to draw on ‘contentious and controversial sociological theories’.

Writing for the think tank Policy Exchange, he said: ‘No adequate thought seems to have been given to the difficulty of reaching beyond a limited range of academics and organisations to the full variety of academic voices, organisations, commentators and members of the public who have no organisation to speak for them.’

He singled out LGBT campaigners Stonewall, saying the Commission was treating them more like ‘a consultant than consultee’. 

Now its call to ban the word ‘mother’ has sparked a backlash, with campaigners calling for an inquiry into how the group has had such an influence on Whitehall. 

The MoJ is ranked fifth in the 2020 index, making it the highest government department on the list, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

It is understood to pay £3,500 per year to be part of the diversity champions scheme – funds that will now be ‘reallocated’ to causes such as disability and autism training. 

The MoJ decision to withdraw comes after the Equality and Human Rights Commission chose not to renew its membership over ‘value for money’ concerns.

At least five other public bodies had quietly pulled out of the scheme since 2019. On Friday, it emerged that Channel 4 had also withdrawn.

According to Stonewall there are more than 850 organisations, including 250 government departments and public bodies such as police forces, local councils and NHS trusts, signed up as ‘diversity champions’.

Membership to the scheme starts at around £2,500, which according to the LGBT charity’s website, buys employers access to expert advice and resources to make their workplaces ‘inclusive’. 

Stonewall insists that all employers ‘need to ensure that their staff, including LGBTQ+ staff, are free from discrimination and prejudice at work but it is up to them how they meet this statutory requirement’.

‘Since we set up the diversity champions programme in 2001 many large employers have developed major internal programmes to promote diversity and inclusion across their staff’, the charity said last week.

Stonewall was embroiled in a new row over transgender rights last week, when its chief executive Nancy Kelley likened ‘gender critical’ beliefs to anti-Semitism as she defended its pro-trans campaigning.

After criticism from the gay former Conservative MP Matthew Parris, Ms Kelley told the BBC: ‘With all beliefs including controversial beliefs there is a right to express those beliefs publicly and where they’re harmful or damaging – whether it’s anti-Semitic beliefs, gender critical beliefs, beliefs about disability – we have legal systems that are put in place for people who are harmed by that.’

Meanwhile, the EHRC, Britain’s equalities watchdog, then cut ties with a Stonewall scheme for ‘woke’ workplaces after claims that it curbs free speech among staff. 

A letter to the feminist campaign group Sex Matters from new commission chairman Baroness Falkner revealed: ‘We wrote to Stonewall in March to let them know that we would not be renewing our membership, and this has now expired.’

Now, documents seen by the Telegraph reveal the extent of the guidance Stonewall gives employers wanting to make its leaderboard.

Edinburgh University was discouraged from using the term ‘mother’, instead being told ‘parent who has given birth’ was more strongly recommended.

Similarly, Merseyside Police was told ‘pregnant employee’ was ‘a more inclusive term’, while the Welsh government removed ‘mother’ from its Maternity policy, even though ‘father’ still remains.

Maya Forstater, co-founder of campaign group Sex Matters, told the paper: ‘The Committee on Standards in Public Life [should] undertake a public inquiry as to how an organisation that is basically a lobby group got into such an influential position in so many institutions’.

A spokesperson for feminist campaign group FiLiA told MailOnline: ‘FiLiA recognises the impact that dehumanising ‘gender neutral’ terms such as ‘pregnant person’ or ‘birthing parent’ has on women and girls.

‘The recent MOMA (Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances) Bill debate showed that Parliament would not allow the word ‘mother’ to be replaced, yet Stonewall continues to push organisations, including Government departments, to adopt these terms – again, not complying with the Equality Act 2010 but attempting to set the rules as Stonewall would prefer it to be. 

‘Maternity and pregnancy is yet another protected characteristic that Stonewall have ignored in their pursuit of gender identity extremism. 

‘We should have the words to talk about these characteristics, not least for those whom the English language is difficult. 

‘We are extremely disappointed at the lack of critical thinking of the organisations opting into Stonewall’s version of the law purely for the virtue signal of appearing on their ‘Workplace Equality Index’, and their lack of respect for women, and in particular pregnant women and mothers.’  

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