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Conversion Practices

Volume 742: debated on Wednesday 6 December 2023

[Relevant Documents: e-petition 613556, Ensure Trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban; e-petition 300976, Make LGBT conversion therapy illegal in the UK; Correspondence from the Chair of the Petitions Committee to the Minister for Women and Equalities, relating to conversion practices, reported to the House on 21 November 2023.]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered Government policy on conversion practices. 

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue—perhaps I will refer to you as Madam Chairman for simplicity.

Colleagues, let me tell the House about Sienna. Sienna, 31, is non-binary and was sent to conversion therapy by her father every summer between the ages of 12 and 15. Sienna has known that she is a lesbian since the age of 8, but her devout Catholic father planned for her to “pray the gay away” at camps. She recalls the worst part of the experience as being when the practitioner or administrator were abusive towards her when she was 14.

“They would often try to beat the ‘queer thoughts’ out of us. During my father’s last attempt at conversion therapy, I knew that these camps would never end if I didn’t pretend to be straight. So, I put on a facade of being ‘normal’ for him. It’s only then that the abuse ended.”

Siena did not tell anyone about what she had been through until her late 20s. Instead, she turned to alcohol, drugs and sex as coping mechanisms.

“I didn’t care about what I was using to cope because it felt like no one cared about what happened to me. Eventually, I did talk about it with close friends and then my mother, years after she got divorced from my father. It was so difficult to open up about.

I’ve always known that I was different. I’ve struggled with my identity for years, but deep down I know who I am. I want countries that are yet to ban conversion therapy to know how damaging it is. It’s a barbaric practice that does more harm than anything else. I’ve known people who killed themselves because they weren’t allowed to be their true selves. Conversion therapy doesn’t work and should never be thought of.”

Ben, 34, is a gay man who also endured conversion therapy in a religious setting, which they describe as “brainwashing”. They say their religion seemed very friendly on the surface. However, there were rules, and mixing outside the religion was frowned upon. Doing so could result in being publicly reprimanded or, more dangerously, disfellowshipped. That meant being shunned by all in the religion, blacklisted and losing all support from friends and family. Their religious parents forced them into studying the Bible daily, attending regular meetings and completing study activities.

I thank my hon. Friend for making such an important point. Does he recognise that some of us who are religious and have religious belief know that this practice is abhorrent?

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I would go one step further and say that not only is it abhorrent; it is evil, and there is no place for it in any part of society.

As well as study activities, Ben also had to go door to door and preach on the streets every week.

“From a very young age, I knew I was gay. However, I had been taught that homosexuality was disgusting in the eyes of God. I felt so alone with the feelings I had.”

Ben was outed by another member of their faith group, who found out that they had a boyfriend. Ben was 21.

“He gave me the ultimatum that I had to tell my parents before he did. We were dealing with a family bereavement, so it wasn’t the right time. I was petrified of the repercussions of coming out, so I initially did it by text message. I hoped it would soften the reaction when I was face-to-face with my parents. However, I was accused of deceiving my parents, and their reaction was hateful. They told me I was ‘disgusting’ as they feared what other people would say. Our family environment became a warzone.”

Ben’s parents tried to tell them that they were going through a phase and had just not met the right girl yet. That went on for months, destroying Ben’s mental health and leaving them with no choice but to endure religious study activities.

“They wanted to ‘make me see sense’. Over a year I had to talk about my sexuality in detail, as I risked being made homeless. I was even made to change my dress sense to stop wearing bright colours and have my hair cut short to appear more ‘masculine’.”

Ben had to read the same scriptures over and over again, even being given “homework” of watching heterosexual pornography, which they did in an attempt to regain stability over their life. Eventually, Ben hit rock bottom and repeatedly ran away from home.

“I have struggled with my sexuality all my life, and what I’ve been through means I now battle constantly with shame, fear, trust issues, needing validation and waiting for people to abandon me.”

I think we will all agree that that is no way to live.

“Everyone deserves a safe space. If I had that, it could have been my chance to escape earlier, and I want that option for anyone in my situation.”

I could go on and share countless testimonies from many people, but I will share the words of just one more person. Penny, 50, from Portsmouth, said it best in 2018:

“Conversion therapy…is abuse of the worst kind and must be stamped out.”

That was not just any Penny; that was our current Leader of the House, who was the Minister for Women and Equalities at the time of those words. Her article in The Independent went on to say that her Department would now consider

“all legislative and non-legislative options”

to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting the therapy in the UK. So as glad as I am to have secured this incredibly important debate, there really should be no need for it. Half a decade has passed, and the Government have betrayed the LGBT community on this issue. There has been U-turn after U-turn because we have had Conservative Prime Ministers who have been too weak to take on the right wing of the party.

Banning all forms of so-called conversion therapy is the right and moral thing to do. A ban on conversion therapy is not woke, left wing or for snowflakes—or whatever other bizarre term certain people opposed to it want to offer up this week. It is not complicated, as some have made it out to be. There has been a failure of leadership. It is the right thing to do.

We sometimes go wrong in this House at times like this. This is not a debate—it should never be a debate. It is a conversation, at best. People are entitled to their own opinions; however, they are not entitled to their own facts. Underpinning this conversation is the fact that conversion cannot be done: we cannot change someone’s sexuality or gender identity, just as you cannot change mine, Madam Chairman. People can go on all the courses and say all the prayers they want, but it cannot be done. It is physically impossible; in fact, it is perverted to think that it is possible.

For someone in a position of power to push their ideas of what sexuality is means that they are imagining what people are doing behind closed doors. It seems to me that that person not only has a problem, but is the problem—it is not the young person who is gay, lesbian or trans. It is not a choice to be lesbian, bi, gay or trans. If it were, why would anyone actively choose to make their life harder? Members should ask themselves the question: “Would I choose to face front-page demonisation almost every single day? Would I have chosen, decades ago, to be jailed for who I fell in love with? Would I choose to be part of a group that saw record levels of hate crime this year?” No, they would not—no one would. Why? Because it is not a choice. We all know who we are in this room. So what gives us the right to tell other people that they are not who they know they are, and to leave the door open for already vulnerable young people to be preyed upon by religious zealots and hateful bigots?

Every child and young person deserves the opportunity to be loved, respected and nurtured—to be a positive force in this world. There is no need for a slanging match on this issue. Not everybody is like the social norms we hold up in society, and that is okay; it is what makes us different, what we should be embracing. We are talking about real people—normal young people—but if we continue on the current path, they will only grow into adults who are severely damaged or, in some cases, dead. They will be dead because the Government did not change something from wrong to right with a flick of a pen on a piece of legislation. We need a meaningful ban on an abhorrent and evil practice.

I came to this House to do what I thought was the right thing—to protect those who are the most vulnerable—and I would like to think that every single Member in this room made that same choice: not to take sides and to argue this to the death, but to find solutions to these problems. That is why we in Labour have said that we will ban all forms of conversion therapy—no excuses, no loopholes; no one can consent to abuse.

It was disappointing to hear some of the accusations from the Government that a ban would inevitably criminalise parents talking to their children. That is a ludicrous suggestion. Parents should always be able to speak to their children, just as I am very fortunate to be able to speak to my daughter. What we do not want, however, is parents sending their kids on a course to have the gay prayed out of them. The Government cannot afford to get this wrong; too many lives are literally at stake. My hopes and prayers are that we will—

The hon. Member is raising some very deep points that need to be in a conversation and considered. Bad parenting is exactly that: bad parenting. But does he believe that, when addressing issues to do with conversion therapy—and therefore issues that go to puberty blockers and issues like that, on the other side of the debate—there should be a policy that says to parents, “You’re not allowed to have a say in that matter for your children, your infant”? Secondly, would it be his party’s policy not only that parents would not have a say on puberty blockers, but that there should not be a lower age limit at which puberty blockers should not be administered and that they should be administered at any age that it is thought they are required?

While I thank the hon. Member for the intervention, I do not think that it is relevant to the debate.

I disagree with the hon. Member. This is about conversion therapy, not about some practices or whether or not someone is trans. I do not think that is relevant.

My hopes and prayers are that we will listen and recognise that outlawing conversion therapy can never have any get-out clauses. Anything else is a ban in name only.

Normally at this point I would finish my speech and sit down; however I want to finish by offering a hand of friendship to the Minister, in good faith. I know that he cares deeply and passionately about this issue. I have heard him speaking in the Chamber and spoken to him outside, and I know how passionately he cares about all this. I really hope that we can work together on this, so let us please work together on a ban on all forms of conversion therapy. Let us not look back at this time as a missed opportunity; let us do the right thing and ban this evil practice.

Order. I remind Members that they should bob if they wish to be called in this debate. I will be imposing an informal time limit of five minutes on speeches, and interventions should be short.

It is a pleasure to serve under you chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) on leading today’s debate. I thank him particularly for sharing the deeply moving stories of Sienna and Ben. I also want to thank the 213 people from Darlington who signed the petition to ensure that trans people are protected under any ban, and the 325 residents of Darlington who signed the e-petition to ensure that LGBT conversion therapy is made illegal.

I cannot believe that we are still having a debate about this. It has been announced in two previous Queen’s Speeches. It has been relentlessly pursued by a team of dedicated Members on this side of the House, including, most notably, my hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn). It has been raised in dozens of written parliamentary questions, and it has been raised many, many times in the Chamber. Indeed, it has been promised by countless Ministers at the Dispatch Box.

I know that the Minister is a good man. Indeed, he was described as an angel in a debate just last week. I know his personal intentions on this matter, and I know a good number of other Ministers who also want to see this policy delivered. The role of any Government is to protect their citizens, and Conservative Governments have a great track record: the Children Act 1989, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Serious Crime Act 2015, the Stalking Protection Act 2019 and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. To my mind, banning conversion practice abuse falls firmly within the remit of those Acts by protecting our citizens.

Our country has made significant progress in many respects on LGBT rights, but with rights come responsibilities, and we cannot be said to be in favour of equal rights if we are giving rights without balancing them with the responsibilities of protection. I have spoken on this issue many times in this place, yet despite the support right across the House for banning this dreadful practice, there has sadly been no progress. There is an argument that this abuse is already covered by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, but there is no guidance for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Will the Minister please look into that?

There are jurisdictions around the world that have made progress on a ban, so I ask the Minister: what is so difficult? Why can we not make progress? Why is the UK so unique that we cannot do this? The Minister will say that it is difficult and complex, and that the Government are looking at it, but I encourage him to stop looking and, please, start doing.

I will struggle to get what I want to say into five minutes, but I will certainly have a stab at it. I will focus principally on the assertion that there is a need for a ban on conversion therapy, including for the conversion of trans people, and I want to look at it through a slightly different lens.

I will start with a quote from Kierkegaard:

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

That is, in essence, the point I want to make. Legislation is supposed to fix a problem, not create a new one, and where evidence of conversion practices exist, they will not be mitigated but exacerbated by such proposals. The true scandal that needs to be addressed is the medical and surgical conversion of young lesbians and gay males by affirming and transing away the gay.

This proposal rests on a bed of dangerous lies, and it is but one part of an assault on the sex-based rights of women, lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. It is perpetrated by and done under the cover of once-important LGBT organisations such as Stonewall, which are erasing gay identities and are complicit in using the T to erase the LGB.

There are three legislative conceits that form part of this movement: gender self-ID, amendments to hate crime and public order legislation, and so-called conversion therapy bans. Each is the antithesis of what it purports to be. Self-ID is not about equality but about promoting supremacy, hate crime legislation is about silencing the raising of valid safeguarding concerns, and preventing conversion therapy is promoting the very thing it aims to stop. The planned Bill is today’s modern conversion therapy scandal, and it is affecting vulnerable children and young people who may be gender non-conforming or struggling with normal yet distressing pubertal body dysmorphia. It would embed the lie that those young people have been born in the wrong body, that the normal development of puberty should be arrested with chemicals—something that can never be restarted or repaired—and that emotional distress can be fixed with hormones and irreversible radical surgical intervention.

That is being facilitated in Scotland and elsewhere by Government non-statutory guidance, promoted by activist teachers and enabled by others who are bamboozled, threatened and afraid to speak out because of the attacks carried out by radicalised gender activists. Social transitioning is being arranged and encouraged in schools, with parents and carers being completely excluded from their own child’s care. The NSPCC recognises that as a form of grooming, stating:

“Groomers may introduce ‘secrets’ as a way to control or frighten the child.”

Teachers prepared to keep secrets with children, to the exclusion of their parents or child protection teams, is not only dangerous to the child but legally precarious for that teacher, and they should be open to prosecution. None of those teachers are employed as experts in psychological therapy, dysphoria or complex gender assessment. What they are doing is top-to-tail dangerous and wrong. In their zeal, and in secret from parents, they are effectively denying vulnerable children access to the very therapeutic support that they so desperately and obviously need, from real experts, not gender ideology radicals. That is chilling.

This is not a debate about trans rights; it is about conversion therapy. I think we have all acknowledged that conversion therapy is abhorrent and evil. If it abhorrent and evil for gay and lesbian people, it is abhorrent and evil for trans people. How this conversation keeps descending to an anti-trans position is wrong. Will the hon. Gentleman think on that point: that conversion therapy is evil and just needs banning?

I cannot really respond to the hon. Gentleman constructively because he is obviously not listening to the points I am making.

When I was a young lad—this might stretch Members’ imagination—I was a very pretty boy. In the 1970s, I had long hair and flared trousers, and I was often confused for a girl. The question I am struggling with is this. Is it possible that I would have been open to this form of conversion therapy, and would not have become the successful, happy, gay man that I am today? I can only conclude that, yes, that could easily have happened to me.

We had plenty of struggles growing up, such as section 28. My friend the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) and I attended the first ever Pride event in Edinburgh, Lark in the Park. We have faced these struggles and now we face them once again. I am absolutely exhausted from listening to people using my history and my struggle against me, when I am when I am attempting to stand up for the rights of young LGB people and protect their futures.

I appreciate that I need to draw to a close, so I will conclude with this. It is not a ban on conversion therapy that the Bill proposes; rather, it is rocket fuel for radicalised ideologues, to trans away the gay, depriving a generation of young LGB people from becoming the fabulous, vibrant and unique, gender non-conforming people they have every right to be.

It is an honour to serve under your chairship, Ms Fovargue. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) for calling this debate. I come to this debate from a religious perspective. I am a serving Roman Catholic. I have worshipped at the same church on Brixton Road all my life. My life revolves around that church. I was not baptised there, but my sisters were. I met my husband there, and my children and my mum were baptised there.

We have to be clear that there are a number of people in the Christian faith who are proud of their sexuality, proud to be LGBT. It is important that religious leaders can offer support and counselling, because for many people in our communities, the church is the first support group. They trust the church more than politicians.

On the church and faith settings, does the hon. Member agree that any proposed ban will impinge on many people in a faith setting? They may wish, as mature adults, to go to a meeting—a formal or informal discussion setting—to talk about sexual matters, but they might feel that a ban would restrict that, or prevent them from doing that. That is because of the very radical agenda being pursued by some, not all, of the activists.

I thank the hon. Member for making that point. We need the Government to be clear, so that church leaders do not feel that they will be targeted on this. We should be happy and proud when it comes to GAY: God adores you. God adores all of us. That is the Bible that I was taught.

We must look at the timing of this debate. We have to be honest: this practice is not right; it has done untold harm to many LGBT people. A study in the US found that those who had undergone conversion therapy were twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts—that is a sin in the Bible. We need to look at how we can help people. That is not a rare occurrence; according to the 2017 national LGBT survey in the UK, one in 50 people who had undergone conversion therapy made suicide attempts. For trans respondents, that number was one in seven. Those figures should worry and horrify us. Sadly, a succession of Governments have been either too uninterested or too weak to act on that.

I understand that for some in the Government, this issue may be difficult, but we should not put it in the “too difficult” box. Plans for a ban were first introduced three ex-Prime Ministers ago in July 2018—more than five years ago—but after years of consultation, delays and rumours, those plans were missing from the King’s Speech last month. That is yet another promise that the Government have broken. I invite the Minister, who I know cares about this passionately, to think about the impact of that unacceptable delay.

I am fascinated to see that there is demand for policy and action on the issue on both sides of the House. I want to know, as both a parent and a legislator, what the proposal is. Does the hon. Member believe, for example, that parents should be excluded from knowledge about what drugs our children are taking? Should there be a lower threshold for giving out those drugs? It is absolutely essential that we know that.

I thank the hon. Member for that point. I speak as a parent of an eight-year-old and a six-year-old. I want to know what is happening in my children’s lives, but we must be honest: some parents are bad parents, and children need to be protected. It is important that those parents who cause harm to their children should not make decisions about those children’s lives. That is my personal view.

After years of delays, we see yet another broken promise. We must think about the message that sends to the LGBTQ+ community. We have seen hate crime increase. Hate crime based on sexual orientation has gone up by 70% since 2018-19. In my constituency of Vauxhall, there have been disturbing attacks, rooted in suspected homophobia. When our LGBTQ+ community needs support, the Government are simply not on their side; they are dragging their feet on the issue.

I urge the Minister to think about the issue today. We on the Labour Benches support a ban on conversion practices, and want to ensure that all the areas and communities that are worried have their say and are fully consulted. The Minister needs to ensure that a Bill comes forward. Countless Conservative MPs have promised to deliver a ban, but have failed to deliver. The Minister should come forward with a full pledge today, and look at how we can introduce the ban in this Parliament as soon as possible.

I come to the debate as a feminist and a lesbian who has been out since 1987. Like my friend the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey), I have been active in the gay rights movement since the late ’80s, when I first campaigned against the introduction of section 28. Of course I oppose conversion therapy as it is conventionally understood, but I share the concerns of many feminists and lesbians that the inclusion of the concept of gender identity in any Bill risks threatening the professionals working with children and vulnerable people who are having issues with their gender if they seek to explore the reasons for that distress.

Over the past few years, there has been a worrying rise in the number of children, particularly girls, becoming convinced that they were born in the wrong body and seeking to take puberty-blocking drugs and sex hormones. Looking at the statistics, about 74% of teenagers referred to the gender identity development service at the Tavistock Centre are girls. Only 8.5% of those girls say that they are exclusively attracted to boys; almost 70% of them say that they are attracted only to other girls, and 20% are attracted to both sexes. In other words, the vast majority of teenage girls being referred to the GIDS clinic are lesbian or bisexual.

The treatment with puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones that I described is a controversial, experimental medical treatment for a complex problem. We have also seen an increase in the number of young people who have later regretted the irreversible damage done to their bodies and sought to de-transition. Young women, particularly those who may be internalising lesbophobia or misogyny, must be offered alternatives to such drastic medical pathways, and their teachers, parents and therapists should not be threatened with prison and fines for discussing the options with them.

In the years leading up to puberty, I, like many girls, was a tomboy and wanted to be a boy, but when I grew up, I realised I was a lesbian. It is really very common for young girls to want to be boys. Some of them grow up to be lesbians, some of them grow up to be trans, and some of them grow up to be straight, but they need time to grow up before they make irreversible decisions. What those campaigning for a ban often call “conversion therapy” is in fact legitimate protection of the time and space for a child to reconsider the conviction that they were born in the wrong body, so they can be stopped from going down a pathway of hormones and surgery, which sterilises them and can leave them with no adult sexual function.

The hon. and learned Lady is making a powerful speech; I do not fully agree with it, but it is powerful none the less. It sounds very much as though she is insinuating that this is a trend or phase that young people and children will grow out of. Will she clarify that point?

What I said, if the hon. Gentleman was listening, was that many young girls are confused, have gender dysphoria, want to be a boy and find the onset of puberty deeply alarming. There is a lot of internalised lesbophobia and internalised misogyny in our country at the moment, and I do not want the state to say that there must be an assumption that any girl who wants to be a boy should be told that she can become a boy. She needs to be allowed to explore whether that feeling comes from internalised lesbophobia or internalised misogyny. Sure, some of those girls may be trans, but the stats from the GIDS clinic show that most are lesbians. I do not want lesbians to be transed away. Staff at the GIDS clinic have expressed concern that that is what is happening.

As I said, many of the children who go down the medical pathway are same-sex attracted, and some of them are autistic. Of the first 70 adolescents referred to the Amsterdam clinic that pioneered puberty blockers for children, 62 were homosexual and only one was heterosexual. I am concerned that that is a form of modern conversion therapy. I want young women, particularly those who may be lesbians, to be able to discuss what is making them wish they had been born a boy, with professional support if necessary, before they embark on life-changing treatment with puberty blockers, which could leave them permanently infertile and undergoing surgery to remove their breasts. There are documented examples of girls going through the procedure, deeply regretting it and wanting to de-transition.

I hoped to include in my speech this comment from a young de-transitioner:

“I delayed my appointment for surgery for over two years, because I had doubts. But then they gave me an ultimatum and I knew that if I was not going to go through surgery I would lose my therapist.”

Does the hon. and learned Lady believe that that is coercive control or informed consent?

I do not know the full facts of the case, but it sounds far from ideal. We must have informed consent, and children are not always in a position to give informed consent.

One would not know it from the Library briefing for this debate, which is extraordinarily one-sided and sets out only the views of certain stakeholders, but many lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and many feminists, share the concerns that I am expressing. LGB Alliance welcomes the fact that the UK Government plan to ban gay conversion therapy, but it is worried that

“the inclusion in the proposals of ‘transgender conversion’ therapy threatens to amplify what we consider to be the greatest risk to young LGB people today: the promotion of the notion that children who have gender dysphoria can change their sex, or should begin to do so, before they are fully adult.”

My friends at LGB Alliance are concerned that, “by a tragic irony”, some of the conversion proposals could lead to thousands of children, most of whom would have gone on to be happy lesbian, gay or bisexual adults,

“having their puberty blocked by experimental drugs and”


“pushed into life-long medical treatment.”

In other words, the legislation could promote, not stop, gay conversion therapy.

Sex Matters—I declare an interest, because I am on its advisory board—has put forward a proposal for legislation to ban what it calls “modern conversion therapy”, which should be considered. “Modern conversion therapy” means

“treating someone with medication or surgery to modify their sexual characteristics, when they…are too young or vulnerable to make a fully informed decision”,

or where they have

“confounding mental-health issues that have not been addressed”.

I am coming to the end of my speech, Ms Fovargue, but I had two interventions so I have taken a little longer. I note that the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) said that he wanted all forms of conversion therapy banned. Would he and the Minister think about modern conversion therapy, and making sure that lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are not told that they were born in the wrong body?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Fovargue. Men and women are peculiar. All of us are characterised by as many particularities, preferences and preoccupations as can possibly be imagined. When we look from a distance, the beach looks uniform; when we get closer, every pebble is different, and so are we. Yet there is a constant in all our lives, and that constant is change, with all its joys and sorrows.

Change is at its most profound when we are growing, maturing and developing, as the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) said. Some changes are permanent and some are ephemeral, but coping with both means learning from others—often others who know much more. Sometimes we need to ask; sometimes we need to question. If, in the secret garden of love, which is adorned with flowers of all kinds, some blooms are perpetual and some fade, and if we are told that what we choose is no longer permitted and that we need to be forced to grow a different flower altogether, can that be right? Can that be squared with the eclecticism, the strangeness and the particularity of life? For me, it cannot.

Exploring desire is a journey that we all travel. Being guided, counselled and advised sometimes helps us to navigate our way on that difficult journey. Prohibiting guidance, in my judgment, is a short step from a ban on friendship—friendship, which may make burdens lighter and suffocate the fire of fear. Could we, in conscience, really want to make consensual, quiet conversations illegal? No one in this Chamber and no one who contributes to this debate wants cruel, inhumane and spiteful interventions in people’s particular and very different lives. Surely, we cannot ban the freedom to speak, to put our case, and to converse.

I glory in our differences in all its richness, and I congratulate in particular the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) on what I thought was an outstanding speech. Life is complicated, and in the mists of its confusion is the torch of free speech and free thought, which burns brightly.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about life being complicated, it is complicated for a number of people, including the many black and minority ethnic people who still, to this day, have not had the courage to come out because of the stigma and fear. Does he not appreciate that those practices make it even harder for those people to speak out and be their true selves?

If the hon. Lady is speaking of what I described as cruel and spiteful interventions in quiet, or sometimes less quiet, lives, then yes, of course. However, if she is referring to the kind of conversations that I described, which help people to navigate their way through life, would she really want those prohibited and made unlawful? I cannot think she would.

When we consider cancellations, bans and prohibitions —on whatever grounds, but particularly on the grounds of activists who legitimise them on the basis that they are progressive and that anyone who opposes them is a heretic—I say that if to be part of a crusade against puritanical militant transsexuals is heretical, then sign me up. If it is heresy to say that sex is a biological fact, then count me in. On that basis, I am proud to be a heretic.

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Fovargue, and to speak in this debate. I may have a slightly different opinion from many here due to where I come from. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will show the respect that I have shown in listening to them and listen to me as I put forward my point of view. I say that, but some of the speeches this morning were incredibly balanced. As I have said, I may have a different opinion, but I’ll tell you what: Members have put their point of view over very admirably and in a very balanced way, and that is appreciated.

I am very grateful that we are having this debate today on an important subject that will affect many in our constituencies: I have certainly had occasion to use my position as a representative to try and help people, although not on a regular basis. I will be very conscious not to give away any confidential information on issues or conversations I have had. I am not even going to talk much about individuals, because I would not want to have any impact on them, but parents have come to me with great concern over what is happening with their children.

I am going to give a parent’s point of view, as both a parent and a representative. I very much recognise the need for nuance and a careful, measured analysis of the impacts of any policy proposals. It is vital to preface any discussion of conversion therapy by clearly condemning abuse and coercion of any kind, be it physical, mental or emotional. There can be no tolerance for any form of abuse in this country or any other. I express my deepest concern, sorrow and sympathy for all who have suffered from any form of harassment, abuse or discrimination. I say that very clearly as an introduction.

The issue at hand is wide-ranging and affects a number of areas. When we discuss possible legislation, we must reflect this broad awareness of the situation. Banning conversion therapy involves several parties, including children and youth, parents, schools, religious and belief communities, and others. I would like to address potential issues for several of those parties that may be caused by a ban on conversion therapy.

First, children and youth may be affected in significant ways by a conversion therapy ban as currently described. Such a ban could lead to limitations on the ability of children and youth to maintain informal or formal religious groups, such as prayer groups, which are used to promote spirituality and repentance in the Christian context. That is where I am coming from. People make their choices, but I am trying, as I do in all areas of my life, to be balanced in what I say and respect other people and points of view. With that in mind, I hope that people will also respect my point of view.

As a Christian myself, I recognise the importance of prayer as a tool to promote wellbeing. I believe that prayer can move mountains: the mountains in our lives, the mountains in the world, and the obstacles we come up against. For many Christians, it is an important devotional practice that may be limited by a conversion therapy ban. I am giving a parental point of view, and hopefully a very balanced Christian point of view as well—I am trying to do that very humbly, respectfully and sincerely to everyone.

Another consequence of a potential conversion therapy ban is that parents could be significantly affected in their daily responsibilities for the welfare of their children. According to some of the proposed conversion therapy bans, parents could be legally threatened if they choose not to allow their children to take puberty blockers. My hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) has referred to it twice, and I cannot ignore it. We cannot ignore this issue. It is a transformative medical practice, into which parents of children and youth surely ought to have an input. That is what the hon. Gentleman said, what my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) has said, and that is what I believe as well.

I fear that a conversion therapy ban could leave well-meaning, responsible parents vulnerable to unfair legal measures and social retaliation. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) encompassed many of my thoughts. I know the hon. Lady very well, and we have had conversations, so I understand the issue.

Ms Fovargue, I recognise that the time you indicated is up. There are some things I need to put down. Do we have time?

Thank you very much; I appreciate that.

It is vital for the wellbeing of any family that parents have the ability to raise their children within their own culture, religion or belief standards. If they are unable to do so, we will see negative impacts on families of all types, which will affect the wellbeing of communities and schools. We ought to embrace diversity, understanding and tolerance of others. Conversion therapy was addressed in the 2021 Queen’s Speech. The background briefing notes for the Speech noted the Government’s intention:

“We will ensure the action we take to stop this practice is proportionate and effective, and does not have unintended consequences.”

There are unintended consequences to a conversion therapy ban—potentially some of those that have been described. I ask that we all diligently examine the effects of such a ban on every party that might be affected.

In conclusion, abuse of any kind is unacceptable, as is discrimination and intolerance. I ask that each of us—individually—closely examine our policies to ensure that those behaviours are properly condemned in all settings. We need to be building cultures of love, warmth and growth. I am grateful for my colleagues’ important contributions to that effort, which I may or may not agree with. Let us continue to seek solutions that will foster those environments, while respecting the rights and duties of parents every time—of parents from diverse backgrounds. A conversion therapy ban as typically described does not, to me and to others, seem to do so. But I believe that we can, and will, come to solutions that will be in the best interest of all affected parties.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Fovargue. I want to start by thanking the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford), who opened this debate extremely powerfully. The way he brought testimonies right to the forefront of his contribution was very moving and thought-provoking. I heard what he said about Sienna, who described being beaten as part of the conversion therapy that was forced on her. She described putting on a façade in an attempt at self-preservation and the horrific personal impact.

I also pay tribute to the excellent speech by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi). She made some very powerful points from the standpoint of her faith, and that is something we should all take full account of. She described her worry for those in this situation who are plagued by harm and suicidal thoughts, and pointed out the damage she could see because of the delay and inaction from this UK Government.

We have to be clear: conversion practices should have no place in our society. They are harmful and discriminatory. Yet, in this place—and I say this with absolutely no intent to criticise the Minister, who I think feels very strongly about this—the UK Government are all over the place. The SNP Government in Scotland remain committed to banning these harmful practices, as far as that is possible within their devolved competence.

However, it is not just the SNP that expresses that view and oppose these practices. I have heard from Humanists UK, which says that conversion therapy causes lasting harm to people—I think that is true. Stonewall has pointed out that there have been five years, five months and three days of unkept commitments on this issue by the UK Government, and I look to the Minister to respond to that. The British Psychological Society has made its views on the issue clear. The Church of Scotland passed a motion at its general assembly calling for a ban.

The Royal College of Nursing has said that it is opposed to all forms of so-called “conversion therapy”—so-called is a sensible way to put it, because this is no therapy; let us be realistic about that—based on sexual orientation or gender identity. At its congress last year, members voted overwhelmingly to support a full ban on conversion practices in all four UK nations and they called for an LGBTQ+ inclusive ban on all forms of conversion practices.

The hon. Lady makes an important point about the timing and delay by the Government. As an LGBT young person, I feel genuinely privileged that I have not had to live through the scourge of section 28 or any of the other phases that colleagues in this room today have so nobly resisted in the past. However, does she agree that that compels us to ban the appalling practice of conversion therapy today for young people, who are trapped in a form of living hell that we have a power in this place to alleviate?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that contribution and I agree; that is our job. It is one that we need to take seriously and we really need to get a move on with it. It is unforgivable for it to have been strung out so long.

Going back to the people and organisations with significant knowledge who have commented on this issue, the British Medical Association has long opposed what it also says is so-called conversion therapy, believing that it must be banned in its entirety. It also points out that the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), first committed to banning conversion practices back in 2018. Again, we have that timeline. The BMA suggests that any proposals that are brought forward to ban these practices must extend to transgender and non-binary people. It points out that the UK Government’s own analysis found that conversion therapies can result in negative mental health impacts, including depression and suicidal thoughts.

The BMA also points out that, given that transgender people are already most vulnerable to being subjected to conversion practices, with one in seven of them reporting that they have been offered or had conversion therapy, it is vital that any ban extends to gender identity. In addition, it points out that the UK Government previously cited legal complexity as justification for their decision to exclude gender identity from legislation, but says that conversion practices for sexual orientation and gender identity can be intrinsically linked, meaning that excluding conversion practices that target gender identity from the ban would in practice weaken any attempt to implement a ban.

These are people and organisations that are coming at this issue from a position of professional knowledge, or even professional expertise. We should listen to them. However, the UK Government are not doing that. In 2018, in their LGBT action plan the UK Government made a commitment to:

“bring forward proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy in the UK”.

In 2021, the UK Government’s Queen’s Speech also included a commitment to bring forward measures to ban conversion therapy. Then, they ran a consultation on banning conversion therapy, which extended from October 2021 to February 2022. They have yet to publish their response to that consultation. They said that a draft Bill would subsequently be prepared for spring 2022. Then, in spring 2022, ITV reported that the UK Government no longer planned to introduce legislation to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy. However, after a huge media furore—it could even be reasonably described as fury—sparked by some Conservative Members, the UK Government made a screeching U-turn, saying that they would indeed introduce a ban.

All of that having happened, we are still no further forward. We are still in the same place, where nobody really knows what is going to happen. And it is not because we have not sought to find out. I had a look back at some of the questions that have been put to the UK Government. Way back in May of this year, the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) asked the Minister what plans the Government had for pre-legislative scrutiny of its ban on conversion practices. In July, the Minister said that the Government would “shortly”—I think that we are stretching the definition—publish a draft Bill. If we go a little bit further forward, I asked the Minister, on 19 September, what plans were in place to publish a draft Bill. The Minister answered:

“No one in this country should be harmed or harassed for who they are”—

I agree—

“and attempts at so-called ‘conversion therapy’ are abhorrent.”

Again, I agree. He finished by saying:

“That is why we are carefully considering this very complex issue. We will be setting out further details on this in due course”.

I say to the Minister that “in due course” should not be five years.

It is not just me who has been asking. The same answer has been given to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn), my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and the hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson), who also referred to the volume of written questions and contributions on this issue. Those are not the only hon. Members; I just did not want to spend all of my contribution making a list.

I do not blame the Minister for this situation—I believe that he feels very deeply about this—but I say to him that we need action. We cannot carry on like this. It is deeply and grossly unfair. There is no credible evidence to suggest that conversion practices can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity—not that we should wish to do that—but there is very credible evidence to tell us that these things cause significant harm. Nobody’s identity should be up for debate and no one’s identity should be treated as a political football, but I am afraid that that is what the UK Government are doing; they are diminishing people’s rights because they see it as being politically expedient to do so. That is unforgiveable. I would like to hear from the Minister about what is going to happen, how it can be that all of the commitments that we have heard have fallen by the wayside, what he thinks this means for the safeguarding for people who are in that most vulnerable of positions and how he thinks this can be remedied and rectified.

I want to re-emphasise the point that neither should we nor can we change who people are. It is cynically damaging and simply wrong that the UK Government have very deliberately put the brakes on this; it will never work. I will finish where the hon. Member for Bury South ended, by saying that people simply are who they are. They are worthy of respect. The need for a ban is greater than it ever was, and I look forward to hearing how the Minister thinks that we can go forward.

It is a pleasure to participate in this debate with you in the Chair, Ms Fovargue. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) for securing such an important debate, for his powerful contribution and especially, as many Members have mentioned, for ensuring that Sienna and Ben’s testimonies were heard in this place.

I do not know how others are feeling, but I have to confess to a certain sense of déjà vu. Just 18 months ago, we were in this Chamber considering a Petitions Committee debate on transgender conversion therapy. That debate, like this one, featured contributions from Members on both sides of the House concerning why a ban on all forms of coercive conversion practices was urgently needed. We have seen that again today, although this discussion has covered a wide range of other matters, which I will come back to. Here we are, a year and a half since that last debate, and there are still no legislative proposals before the House for a ban on conversion practices. When we met in June last year, I described the policy process towards developing a legislative ban as chaotic; today, I can emphatically say that it has been shambolic.

Let me briefly recapitulate the merry-go-round that Ministers have been riding on—the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) has gone through some of that. It is more than half a decade since the ban on so-called conversion therapy was first promised in the Government’s ill-fated LGBT action plan, which was published back in the summer of 2018. After commissioning research and setting up an LGBT advisory panel to develop proposals, a draft conversion therapy Bill was first promised in the 2021 Queen’s Speech. In March 2022, it was reported that the Government planned to drop the plans entirely, only to U-turn and recommit to a ban in the Queen’s Speech that year, but one that would exclude transgender conversion practices. Then, at the beginning of this year, the Government U-turned again by committing to a trans-inclusive ban, but when the King’s Speech finally arrived, there was no draft conversion therapy Bill. If hon. Members are a bit lost, that reflects the chaotic nature of what has happened. Four Prime Ministers and more than five years since a ban was first promised, we are no further along.

I suspect the Minister may join me in lamenting this sorry saga, but ultimately it is LGBT+ people I feel sorry for, because they have not been kept safe. I look forward to the Minister explaining what his Government’s policy on conversion practices actually is now, because I want to understand why no draft Bill has been introduced and why the Government find it all so difficult. Is this really about policy differences, or is the problem that personalities in the Minister’s Department simply do not want to deliver on what was promised? Can he confirm that there is a draft Bill ready to go, sitting in No. 10 waiting for sign-off from the Prime Minister? Does he welcome the move by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle), backed by Members of the Conservative party, to introduce a private Member’s Bill to do what the Government seem unable to do and ban conversion practices once and for all?

The hon. Lady can probably anticipate my question. As legislators, we are entitled to know what the Opposition’s policy will be, if there is to be a different Prime Minister—a different personality—in place in the next year. Can we have clarity on puberty blockers, which form part of the proposal? Will there be a lower age limit? Will parental consent be required?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising those issues. However, they are distinct from a ban on the practice of conversion therapy. I will come back to the exact drafting and how a ban should operate. I am slightly surprised that no one has mentioned that a review is being conducted by the paediatrician Hilary Cass into the treatment of children and young people in gender identity services. It has already produced an interim report and it is producing additional research. I think it is sensible to follow what that expert review produces. We will certainly examine its findings very closely, as we have its interim report.

I am delighted to hear the hon. Lady say that her party will wait for the outcome of the Cass review, but what does she have to say about the statistics I cited showing that the vast majority of young girls and teenagers referred to the gender identity clinic at Tavistock for therapy are same-sex attracted? Does she have any concern that what is going on here is a type of modern conversion therapy, converting young gay women into boys?

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her intervention, but I have actually said that a number of times before. The interim Cass review is clear about an issue that has not received any publicity from Government Members: the lack of psychological provision in general for children and young people, which is also impacting on those in gender services. That did not come as any surprise to those of us who do casework—we are well aware of that—but sadly the Government have not focused on it.

I also want to ask the Minister about pre-legislative scrutiny of a future Bill, to which the Government are apparently still committed. When will it get under way? Is the Minister confident that we will be able to conduct meaningful scrutiny before the end of this Parliament and the general election, or is this effectively window dressing to hide the reality that the proposals have been junked by the Minister for Women and Equalities with the connivance of the Prime Minister? Does this Minister accept that, as things stand, there simply is no meaningful Government policy on conversion practices?

We have been here before, and we have already heard all the excuses for the lack of action. Eighteen months ago, I asked whether the Government had gathered any evidence about the impact of a well-drafted ban on conversion practices on the provision of legitimate talking therapies.

I will continue for the moment, but the hon. Gentleman is welcome to intervene on me later if I have not answered his question.

I asked for any evidence or statements from medical bodies suggesting any concerns that a conversion therapy ban would have a chilling effect, or that a trans-inclusive ban would put such treatments at risk. I did not get any answers then and I do not expect to hear any today, because these are straw-man arguments, unfortunately erected by those trying to justify inaction. I say respectfully to the hon. Member and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) that conversion refers to changing, and not to the exploration of people’s real selves, including for young gay men or young lesbian women.

The shadow Minister is raising the central point of my contribution. Many young people who have been through gender services and have then decided to desist from transition have realised that, in fact, they were always gay. What safeguards or principles does she envisage would be introduced to prevent the acceleration through affirmation of young gay people into gender services, where they are experiencing conversion therapy of radical surgical and medical intervention, which is distorting their future lives? One young man said that his sex had been lobotomised.

I am grateful to the hon. Member, but I will not take any more interventions—I am conscious that there are others who need to speak. The point about surgical and medical interventions is precisely what the Cass review has been working on. I will come to the issue of precisely how a Bill would be drafted, so the hon. Member will hear my comments on that in a moment.

However, I need to ask the Minister another question. Last summer, I wondered whether we would back here in another year asking exactly the same questions. Well, here we are, asking the same questions and, I suspect, getting exactly the same answers, going round in circles. I feel sorry for the Minister; I know that his hands are tied. The hon. Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) was spot on in that regard, although perhaps even this Minister would not be able to live up to his celestial claims. Surely the Minister is getting fed up with making excuses for his colleagues, who do not have the courage to tell LGBT+ people that banning these abusive practices is not a priority for the Conservative Government.

We have a different approach; we acknowledge that there are complexities.

I will push on to give others time. There are complexities but it is our job to protect the public from harm. Labour, like the BMA, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and countless other organisations, believes that conversion practices constitute abuse. We are clear that a Bill to ban those practices must, of course, be carefully and sensitively drafted, so that it does not cover psychological support and treatment, non-directive counselling or the pastoral relationship between teachers and pupils, or religious leaders and worshippers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) set out clearly that those practices are not a part of religious worship. She provided a clear answer to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), who always puts his points respectfully. These are matters that legislators can work through sensibly, and I am confident we will do so.

A ban would not cover quiet conversations and friendships, contrary to the claims of the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes). A ban would not cover discussions within families, which are based on the need for love and support. A ban would not—and must not—have an impact on the provision of psychological, medical and supportive services for children and young people. As I said, much more support and psychological counselling is needed, not less, and that is very clear from the interim Cass review.

Labour also believes that any ban must be carefully, tightly and clearly worded, and appropriately implemented and assessed. That should surely be par for the course for any legislation, and it must apply to a ban on conversion practices, too. I remain confident that it is possible to deliver a ban without ending up in the quagmire in which the Government have found themselves.

I have the utmost respect for the Minister; I know he is in a difficult spot. I say, slightly cheekily, that someone cannot choose their boss. However, if he did rise to say again that this is all too difficult and complicated, I would gently ask him whether he considers the Conservative Government are still fit for purpose.

Sorry, but I have said I will not to give others time.

LGBT+ people need a Government that will not simply use complexity, which is common to all legislation, as an excuse for inaction. The Government should instead ensure that every LGBT+ person can live their lives in dignity and free from abuse, just like everyone else.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship this morning, Ms Fovargue. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bury South (Christian Wakeford) on securing the debate. I fully empathise with the strength of feeling shown today on this issue, appreciate the candour of the debate, and empathise with some of the emotional and harrowing stories that we heard, in particular those of Sienna and Ben.

So-called conversion therapy practices are dangerous and pseudo-scientific. They are based on two ill-founded beliefs: one is that being LGBT is a defect and that not being LGBT is somehow preferable, and the other is that it is possible to forcibly change somebody who identifies as LGBT to fit that preference.

I want to lay out my position clearly. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are invaluable, loved and integral members of the UK communities, and they deserve to be able to live authentically and openly, without fear of discrimination or of being targeted by perpetrators of conversion practices. To put it simply, conversion practices are wrong, and they do not work. The practices can take many different, sometimes overlapping, forms. They may involve the use of physical or sexual violence to hurt, scare and punish the victim. They may also involve abusive and hateful language—shouting at and continuously berating someone for being gay or trans.

Such harmful efforts may also be pitched as therapy, but far from being legitimate support, they are carried out by someone with a predetermined outcome in mind and a specific desire to change the individual accordingly. They may involve telling the LGBT person that their identity is wrong or an illness, and claiming that they can be fixed to be “normal.” To be clear, I absolutely condemn those acts. No individual should be forced or coerced into changing their identity.

I completely understand and empathise with the strong views expressed by hon. Members who want to see meaningful and timely action by the Government. I fully appreciate that the uncertainty around the Government’s next steps in this space, and how those have been reported and discussed, has sometimes been unsettling and frustrating, not least for the LGBT community, who are undoubtedly the group most affected by the issue. I express my sympathies with those sentiments and my apologies for the delay. I continue to be committed to tackling conversion practices—as I was long before I was a Minister—and delivering on our manifesto commitment to combat harassment and violence against LGBT people.

I am working closely with the Minister for Women and Equalities in the hopes of setting out further details in Parliament on the Government’s plans in this space in the near future. Last week in this hall, a debate was held on the 20th anniversary of the repeal of section 28. There was a consensus that this country has come a long way on LGBT rights. I am proud that the UK has built one of the most comprehensive and robust legislative protection frameworks for LGBT people in the world, but of course there is more to do. Many harmful, physically violent acts done in the name of conversion practice are, rightly, already illegal in this country, but there remains a gap, albeit narrow, in the existing legislative framework, particularly surrounding non-physical and speech-based acts, such as specific instances of verbal degradation or abuse that are not covered by existing legislation.

The Minister will be aware of my recent written parliamentary question and the question that I raised in my speech about whether the provisions in existing legislation, such as the Offences against the Person Act 1861, are sufficient to tackle some abusive practices that are used in conversion therapy. Are the Government actively looking at providing guidance for the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, based on what may already be on the statute book, to provide them with the tools to tackle those practices?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. There are elements that could bring about prosecutions, but we are aware that more work needs to be done on providing the guidance that the police, the CPS and so on need. There have been accusations that nothing has been happening in the past couple of months, but that is part of the work that we have been looking at. What could we do to provide encouragement and confidence to those who are implementing the protections of the law and give them the guidance that they will need? I hope that we will be able to provide more of an update on that in the time to come.

The Minister will be aware that many young people go through gender dysphoria and there is some evidence that that has increased over time. Growing up is a confusing time, as I said in my speech. Although I entirely agree with him about prohibiting cruel and spiteful practice, on the business of seeking counsel during that confusion from family or friends, or perhaps from an organisation or a church, we surely would not want to ban that.

Absolutely. I think we can agree that we must take particular care in this area when we consider legislative action. Any legislation targeting harmful practices must not affect the wider ability of parents, teachers, councillors, religious leaders or healthcare practitioners to have open, exploratory and sometimes even challenging conversations with young people who are expressing or exploring their identity. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Florence Eshalomi) put it very well when she talked about her church and many people seeking support from that church. Protecting legitimate talking therapies is essential, especially for young people. We must not inadvertently criminalise or have a chilling effect on legitimate interventions and conversations.

I know from personal experience that it was conversations with my mum that helped me get through my period of coming out and realising what my sexuality was. I would not want my mum to feel that she could not have that honest conversation. Despite the fact that I am a big supporter of the conversion practices Bill, I have, as I have got into the detail, recognised that there are complexities that need to be addressed to ensure that those honest conversations can be had.

The Minister touches on a really important point: what exactly is in scope here? For many of us with deep concerns, particularly the ones that I have raised, it is important that we understand that practices such as affirmation-only models, which accelerate young people on to irreversible pathways, would form part of any conversion therapy ban and that we ensure that young people are given the space, as he was so lucky to have—the space and time of his mother; myself likewise—to explore their identity and move forward with confidence. When will the Government set out exactly what is in scope and what is to be banned? That might assuage some of the concerns that many people have. Will it include preventing teachers who have absolutely no experience in gender ideology or gender identity care from keeping secrets from parents?

The hon. Gentleman makes some interesting points, but there is an assumption that conversion is a one-way street. It is not. It goes both ways. That is what we are trying to address in the draft Bill. There has been some criticism, but our intention is to have pre-legislative scrutiny precisely so that we can check that we have got this right and that it will be the right legislation to bring about the banning of abhorrent practices that are happening to young people. I was not going to mention this, but I was part of a church. My faith is very important to me. But when I was coming out, some of the things that were said to me took me to the edge of ending it all—although it is something I never thought of doing—because it was so horrific.

I want to stop those practices being done to other people. Of course I do. However, I want to make sure that we get this absolutely right and make good legislation. Others have mentioned legislation around the world: yes, other countries may have introduced it, but how many prosecutions have they brought? Does the legislation cover the issue in the way that was intended? That is why we are considering other legislation carefully, to see what we can learn from it and get it right.

I am delighted to hear that the Minister is giving this such careful thought. Has he read the interim report of the Cass review? It states:

“We have heard from young lesbians who felt pressured to identify as transgender male.”

Does he agree that we should wait until we get the final report of Hilary Cass’s review before framing any legislation?

Obviously I have read it, and I look forward to seeing the final report. It will be an important area of work. I cannot give specifics on timing, but if PLS is being done at the time, I imagine it will include consideration of the review’s findings.

I know that the Minister cares deeply and passionately about the issue. I commend him for his honesty about his personal experience, but, equally—I do not impose my faith on anyone—I recognise that many people in the faith community welcome everybody and respect them for who they are. On the issue of parents and schools, after every little scratch or sneeze, I get a letter home about what my children are doing. We will work through this with schools and, in the case of the small minority of parents who, sadly, do not have the best interests of their children at heart, we will make sure that the legislation protects those children.

The hon. Lady makes an important point. I have always been welcomed at every church to which I have been since that time.

Thank you. That is very nice. Society has moved on, but some people are still subjected to pretty horrific experiences.

I thank the Minister for giving way and for the careful thought he is putting into his responses, especially in sharing his experience. My sympathy goes out to him for having had to endure it.

If the Prime Minister supports a ban—I think we all support a ban, although what it might look like is open to debate—surely the earlier we start pre-legislative scrutiny, the sooner we can answer these questions. We do not necessarily need to wait for reports to be finished; they can be added into the scrutiny as and when they are complete. Surely we should have the conversations and scrutiny now and feed into the process later. Does the Minister agree?

I hope it will not be too much longer before the hon. Gentleman enjoys the opportunity to put that suggestion forward. I hope the House will understand what I am trying to get at.

During my time as Minister for Equalities, to ensure that I fully understand all the viewpoints and concerns, departmental officials and I have engaged with a wide range of stakeholders on conversion practices, including with victims and survivors, LGBT rights groups, healthcare professionals, faith groups and groups advocating for sex-based rights. I am grateful to the stakeholders and the victims who have provided their testimonials and contributions through the Government’s public consultation. I am also grateful to everyone here for taking the time to consider and inform debate on how best to tackle this issue.

These sensitive issues must be discussed in a respectful and tolerant way, in line with our shared values. As we know, with such strength of feeling, the debate and rhetoric has the potential to become divisive and toxic. I am therefore encouraged by the many Members of the House and members of the public who get their points across while remaining open and respectful towards those holding differing views. We must remember that these discussions concern the lives of real people, not theoretical scenarios or sensationalist headlines, and that all individuals deserve to be spoken about and treated with dignity and compassion. In the same way, all victims of conversion practices deserve adequate, free and confidential support. That is why the Government continue to fund a support service open to all victims and those at risk of conversion practices, regardless of their background or circumstances. The support service is operated by Galop, the UK’s leading LGBT anti-violence charity. It combines decades of expertise with an approach of patience and empathy. The confidential service is open to anyone who is currently experiencing, has previously experienced or is at risk of experiencing conversion practices. The service helps people to not only to report their situation, but to access tailored support and guidance on relevant external assistance such as counselling or emergency housing. I encourage anyone affected by or at risk of conversion practices to contact the service as soon as possible so that they can get the help they need.

Once again, I thank the hon. Member for Bury South and all colleagues who have contributed to the debate. I personally understand the significance of a Bill; I will do everything I can to ensure that we can get to pre-legislative scrutiny as soon as possible, and I hope that we can continue to work together towards our shared vision of a fairer and more inclusive society.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. Although I may not necessarily agree with everything that everyone has said, we can disagree respectfully. These conversations need to take place, and I urge the Minister to bring forward pre-legislative scrutiny sooner rather than later.

Many Members could not be here today, including the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Dehenna Davison), and many other Members who have been mentioned, especially in the questions raised by the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald). Many people in this place are deeply passionate about this conversation, and I am sure that a majority in the House would want to see delivery. Again, I urge the Minister for a timely response, but we will do what we can to help that process along the way. I thank all Members for their contributions and you, Ms Fovargue, for your chairmanship. Hopefully we can start the conversation moving forward from this point.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered Government policy on conversion practices.