Bill to ban conversion therapy blocked in Parliament

The government first promised to ban conversion therapy in 2018, but there have been several delays and u-turns preventing the ban from actually coming into force. Credit: PA

A bill to ban conversion therapy failed to move through Parliament on Friday, after a debate on it ran out of time.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw accused "a small group of mainly Conservative MPs" of intentionally delaying the debate to block the bill.

Because it was a Private Member's Bill, MPs were only given a certain amount of time to debate it, and it's now unlikely to be consider further.

The government first promised to ban conversion therapy in 2018, but there have been several delays and U-turns preventing the ban from actually coming into force.

Conservative MP Elliot Colburn said on Friday that Equalities Minister Maria Caulfield was "making excuses" to delay the ban.

But Ms Caulfield said the Bill has a “lack of legislative clarity, which risks unintended consequences”.

She told the Commons: “The Government has rightly taken time to carefully consider our own position on these pitfalls and will be publishing a draft Bill on this topic for pre-legislative scrutiny, and we expect this to be after the publication of the Cass Review, which will be in the coming weeks.”

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Another Tory MP, Peter Gibson also challenged the minister on the delays to the government bill: “We have had so many promises from the Government of bringing this legislation forward," he said.

"It has appeared in two Queen’s Speeches. We were promised this legislation in January 2023.

“It is March 1, 2024. If the Government wants us all in this House to debate and consider its legislation can I please urge her to publish it, and table it so that we can discuss it?”

The Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill was tabled by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle in a bid to ban offering or advertising LGBT conversion practices.

Mr Russell-Moyle’s Bill would create new offences for a course of conduct whose “predetermined” purpose was to change a person’s sexual orientation or to change a person to or from being transgender.

It also offers “clarifications” about actions that do not meet a criminal threshold, including for the actions of parents, health practitioners and those exercising freedom of religion and other beliefs.

Neale Hanvey of the Alba party said the bill could place therapists, counsellors and family members at risk of "prosecution"

“This is the wrong legislation for young gay, lesbian and transgender people", he said.

There was a heated exchange in the Commons between Conservative MP Alicia Kearns and Mr Hanvey - after he removed the 'T' from the acronym 'LGBT' in his speech against the bill.

Ms Kearns accused him of "suggesting that trans people don't exist".

In March 2022 then-PM Boris Johnson dropped plans for the legislation, then later decided to go ahead but to exclude trans people from the ban.

In January 2023 the government reversed this, saying they would ban conversion therapy for "everyone".

The human rights watchdog called on the government to ban "harmful" conversion therapy practices in October 2023.

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