Sir Keir Starmer backed calls for gender recognition laws to be reformed and said more “respectful” debate is needed on transgender issues.

The Labour leader stated that he supports the Gender Recognition Act being changed to allow trans people to get legal recognition of their identity through self-identification, as opposed to the requirement of a medical diagnosis.

“The process that people have to go through does need to be looked at,” he explained to The Times.

“If you talk to anybody who’s been through the process there’s a real issue about respect and dignity.”

The 59-year-old called on people to have a “more considered, respectful, tolerant debate about these issues”.

He added: “A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view — that is actually the law.

“It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act. So that’s my view. It also happens to be the law in the United Kingdom.”

Starmer, who is the Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras, also said he supports “safe spaces for women”.

“I’m very clear about those too,” he continued. “I think the 2004 act needs to be reformed, I think the 2010 act, the Equality Act, which does provide for safe spaces for women is right. And therefore I’m very straightforward about this.”

His comments come after extensive debate over trans rights from prominent public figures.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative MP, claimed that the rights of women in women-only spaces were being “threatened” during a House of Commons argument on 10 March.

He demanded that lawmakers be “clear and courageous about what a man is and what a woman is”.

Jenkin also claimed that “there is a new and growing category of violence against women by people who calls themselves women but are biologically male”.