Campaigners warn government it risks breaking pledge to ban conversion therapy

Anti conversion therapy protesters gather outside Parliament. Credit: Alavari Jeevathol

The government risks breaking its promise to ban conversion therapy, as time runs out to publish a draft bill.

Earlier this year, the government promised to outline its plans to MPs, who were then due to debate and refine the bill in time for the King's Speech in November.

However, despite repeatedly promising that a draft bill was imminent, campaigners now say the government has run out of time.

It's anticipated that 'pre-legislative scrutiny' of the bill would take a minimum of six weeks, with parliament due to break for a long recess next week, not returning until mid-October.

Earlier on Thursday, the Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, refused to repeat the government's previous promise, despite committing it to writing in a letter to MPs, in March.

Asked by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse if the bill would be ready in time for the King's Speech, she avoided the question, simply stating that conversion therapy was an "abhorrent practice".

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside Parliament accusing the government of breaking its pledge.

It's five years since former prime minister Theresa May first promised to ban conversion therapy.

Since then, every other prime minister has committed to the policy, although Boris Johnson attempted to drop it before his plans were exposed by ITV News and a U-turn was performed.

In June, ITV News reported that a draft ban was sitting in Rishi Sunak's red box, ready for his sign-off.

However, since then, no apparent progress has been made, with sources suggesting that there is some internal wrangling taking place over the exact scope of the ban.

Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, Jayne Ozanne, told ITV News: "I am extremely angry that the government has continued to promise action, but has consistently delivered only obfuscation and delay. 

"Whilst the prime minister has been on his summer break, I fear that many young LGBT+ people will have been sent to summer camps, where they will have been subjected to a range of conversion practices, particularly in religious settings. 

"It would seem that this government has no intention of protecting them and cannot be trusted to deliver on their promises.

"To be aware of harm, to have the power to protect and to choose to do nothing is a total moral failing."

Anneliese Dodds, Labour's Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said: "The continued failure to ban so-called conversion therapy is another example of the do nothing zombie Conservative government that is holding Britain back.

"Over five years have passed since the Conservatives first promised to ban conversion practices - four prime ministers ago.

"The Conservatives have run out of ideas and run out of road. Only Labour has the courage to ban conversion therapy in full and give LGBT+ people hope for the future."

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