MPs to introduce bill to ban so-called conversion therapy

The bill to ban so-called conversion therapy has the support of nine Conservative MPs, ITV's UK Editor Paul Brand reports

A bill will be introduced to the House of Commons which would ban all forms of so-called conversion therapy.

Backbench MPs from several parties have come together to draft the legislation after the government failed to deliver its promised ban.

The bill – seen exclusively by ITV News – seeks to “prohibit practices whose predetermined purpose is to change or suppress a person’s sexuality, or change or suppress a person to or from being transgender."

It will be tabled (introduced) in the Commons on Wednesday.

Drafted by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the bill has the support of nine Conservative MPs, including the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Caroline Nokes, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns, and Vice Chair of Conservative backbench 1922 Committee William Wragg.

The legislation won’t be voted on until March at the earliest, when it threatens to divide the Conservative Party.

Backbench MPs can introduce bills – known as private members bills – but only a minority become law, normally requiring the support of the government to pass various parliamentary hurdles.

Mr Russell-Moyle said: "Some of the biggest social reforms in this country have happened via Private Members' Bills. I was overwhelmed with support from all sides of the House for this reform.

"Too many have suffered for too long; we have a responsibility to ensure no one else must suffer from this practice."

Ms Nokes noted that 13 countries have implemented nationwide conversion bans, adding: "We'll be reflecting on those examples to make sure we get our ban right".

"The Bill will contain the appropriate safeguards for legitimate forms of therapy, but trying to 'cure' someone from being LGBT is abuse, and we must outlaw it," she said.

A ban on conversion therapy was first promised by Theresa May when she was Prime Minister in 2018, with the pledge repeated by Boris Johnson.

The ban was laid out in two Queen’s Speeches, but dropped from the latest King’s Speech in November, with the government arguing that it needed more time to draft the right legislation.

Backbench MPs have now run out of patience, deciding to introduce their own bill, which is likely to have the support of opposition parties including Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

If a vote goes ahead as expected, the government will have to decide how to instruct its MPs to vote.

Conservative MPs remain deeply divided over a potential ban, with concerns both from the religious wing of the party and MPs who worry about the transgender element of the bill.

Several have voiced opposition to so-called ‘unintended consequences’ of the bill, with a concern that banning transgender conversion therapy could accidentally criminalise healthy conversations about a person’s gender identity, particularly children.

The bill aims to address these concerns by only criminalising practices that have a “predetermined purpose” to try and change someone, as well as emphasising that attempting to pressurise someone into become transgender would also be outlawed.

The wording is similar to a draft previously put together by the government, but ITV News has spoken to several Conservative MPs who continue to have concerns.

At the same time, the former Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has also drafted a private members bill which she describes as “protecting children and teenagers from making irreversible decisions about their bodies."

It is less likely that her bill will be debated, as she was drawn lower down in the ballot of MPs who get a chance to draft legislation, but it will further divide the party.

A government spokesman told ITV News: “No one in this country should be harmed or harassed for who they are and attempts at so-called ‘conversion therapy’ are abhorrent. That is why we are carefully considering this very complex issue."

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