Mark Drakeford has confirmed he believes “transgender women are women” after he was pushed to define what a woman is during a session at the Senedd.

The First Minister was answering a question about the inclusion of trans athletes in sport at the Senedd when he acknowledged it is an “argument that divides people”.

It comes after continued criticism of Labour’s policies on trans and women’s rights, and the refusal of some party politicians, such as shadow UK women and equalities minister Anneliese Dodds, to publicly define what a woman is.

Welsh Conservative MS Laura Anne Jones said on Tuesday: “I think it’s important that I make it clear that protecting women’s rights does not for one moment mean that you’re anti-trans rights. Female competitors deserve the same rights as male competitors.

“We all know the huge benefits that sports can offer, and we all, I’m sure, want to ensure trans athletes can participate in sport.

“But what we don’t want is a situation where we’re trying to be so inclusive that it is to the detriment of a particular group.

“We have a situation where women athletes are so disheartened that they are pulling out of their own female categories because they say that trans women taking part in a female category have a male puberty advantage.”

The representative for South Wales East asked: “First Minister, do you believe that trans athletes should compete in female sports?

“Can you do something that many other Labour politicians have failed to do so far, which is define a woman?

Mr Drakeford said: “My starting point is the same as Penny Mordaunt’s – the UK minister responsible at the time – who said that the UK Government’s starting point was that transgender women are women. That’s my starting point in this debate.

“It is a difficult area where people feel very strongly on different sides of an argument, and an argument that divides people who agree on most other things.

“What I say to the member is that in such a potentially divisive issue, the responsibility of elected representatives is not to stand on the certainties of their own convictions, but instead to work hard to look for opportunities for dialogue, to find ways of promoting understanding rather than conflict, and to demonstrate respect rather than to look for exclusion.

“I do not understand the point that the member makes that you can be too inclusive. To me, inclusivity is absolutely what we should be aiming for here.”