Boris Johnson 'sad' LGBT+ conference boycotted but defends conversion therapy plan

Boris Johnson has said he's "sad" his LGBT+ conference was boycotted over plans to drop a ban on trans conversion therapy, but defended his decision to exempt transgender people from new legislation.

The government was forced into a partial U-turn on its plan to scrap a total ban on conversion therapy after ITV News was leaked a document showing Mr Johnson had decided to break his Queen's Speech commitment to entirely outlaw the practice.

Following the ITV News report, Number 10 said the ban on gay conversion therapy would go ahead but trans conversion therapy would escape the legislation because it's a "legally complex area...particularly in the case of under-18s".

Speaking during a visit to a hospital in Welwyn Garden City, the PM said: "We will have a ban on gay conversion therapy, which to me is utterly abhorrent."

"But there are complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender," he said, adding: "There are things that I think still need to be worked out.

"I'm sorry we haven't been able to reach agreement with the organisations concerned but that will in no way diminish our determination to tackle prejudice wherever we can."

Iain Anderson, who had been the government's LGBT business champion, exclusively told ITV News he was resigning from the role over the plan to exclude transgender people from the policy.

He accused ministers of waging a "woke war" on the community and "trying to drive a wedge" between trans and lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Hours later the government announced it was cancelling an LGBT+ conference planned for this year after 100 charities and organisations pulled out following ITV News's report.

"Safe To Be Me" was scheduled to take place in London in June to promote LGBT rights in the UK and around the world, but according to UK Editor Paul Brand, Equalities Minister Liz Truss stepped in to cancel it.

Ms Truss, who is also foreign secretary, was not aware of plans to scrap to conversion therapy ban until ITV News revealed the leaked document.

The senior minister "must have decided the conference was pointless" given 100 organisations had boycotted it, Paul Brand said.

A source who had been working on the conference said: "Lots of international stakeholders, particularly those in the Global South, will be dismayed at this cancellation and the loss of this golden opportunity to advance LGBT rights and freedoms in the most hostile environments."

Watch Iain Anderson explain his resignation:

Keir Starmer has said ministers should honour their promises to ban all forms of conversion therapy.

Speaking during a visit to Bacup in Lancashire, the Labour leader said: "Conversion therapy in all its forms should be banned. That used to be the Government's position.

"They have been flip-flopping on this over the last few days. The need to stick to their promises."

Sir Keir accused ministers of using the issue to try to distract from the cost-of-living crisis as the rise in national insurance contributions kicked in.

"They know that what is keeping people awake at night is the cost of living, whether they can pay their bills or not," he said.

"In order to try to distract from that the government wants to create an argument about conversion therapy. It is not going to wash."

Mr Anderson, announcing his resignation from government to ITV News, said: "Britain needs a strategy for trans people and I can’t see one at the moment."

He added: "We have a tabloid debate going on about people’s lives. It’s not a respectful debate, it's turned into a woke war. It's turned into a wedge issue... I was LGBT Business Champion not LGB or T, and that’s why I’m walking away."