Ban on conversion therapy 'absolutely possible' - government 'dragging its feet', says Labour shadow home secretary

A ban on conversion therapy is "absolutely" possible and the government is "dragging its feet" by not bringing forward legislation, Labour's shadow home secretary has told ITV News.

Speaking on the Acting Prime Minister podcast, Nick Thomas-Symonds said the lack of a ban shows the government has a "blind spot on the issue".

A ban on the practice, which attempts to change or suppress a person's sexuality or gender identity, was promised by previous prime minister Theresa May and then by her successor Boris Johnson.

But three government advisers quit over a lack of progress on the issue, with one saying the government was creating a "hostile environment" for LGBT+ people.

When asked about the issue, the PM's spokesperson said the government is "considering both legislative and non-legislative options" to "end" conversion therapy.

As podcast host Paul Brand pointed out on Twitter, "'end' doesn't necessarily mean 'ban'", which is what campaigners had been hoping for.

Paul asked Mr Thomas-Symonds, a former barrister, whether banning a religious practice was achievable. The MP responded: "It absolutely is possible. And that is what the government should be doing.

"I don't find the government's arguments at all convincing on this. You can clearly define things in legislation and indeed set out parameters that the courts then apply."

He added: "What we know is that the government is dragging its feet. It seems to have a blind spot on this issue. The government should just get on with it, put the ban in place. It's an abhorrent practice and it shouldn't be something that's lawful."

Pressed about how a ban could be enforced, with infringing on religious freedoms a "grey area", the Labour frontbencher said: "As in any other law, you'd look at the particular action and what the person who is acting intended to do.

"I don't think that this is a difficult thing. There are such a myriad of different areas where you have these balances you have to strike in law where you're trying to draw a line through what's lawful and unlawful."

ITV News has been told the government intends to bring forward its proposals on conversion therapy within weeks - which are currently sitting on the Prime Minister's desk.

But on Monday, equalities minister Kemi Badenoch wouldn't be drawn on the specifics of any plans, telling MPs: "I assure honourable members that we are committed to ending conversion therapy in the UK and we take the issue very seriously.

"The Prime Minister reiterated recently that we want to end conversion therapy and underlined that the practice has no place in a civilised society."

"We need to explore all measures to combat these abhorrent practices and ensure survivors have access to the help and care they need."

Mr Thomas-Symonds also spoke out about violence against women, following developments in the Sarah Everard investigation, telling the podcast it is time to "acknowledge the scale of the problem".

"Why on earth should women be adjusting their behaviour because they are likely to face danger? Surely what we need to be doing is - on the other side of this - why are men causing danger?"

He said there's a need for a "national discussion", with people "acknowledging the scale of that problem and recognising the scale of the change that needs to occur".

The MP, who only joined Parliament in 2015, also spoke about his path to becoming shadow home secretary, what he'd do as head of the Home Office under a Labour government, and which of his political heroes he hopes to emulate if his party wins the 2024 election.

Listen to the podcast below, or watch in the video at the top of this page