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Conversion Therapy Ban

Volume 711: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2022

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the enormously personal statement that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis) made this morning. I hope I speak for the whole House in sending our support. It is so important that people are free to be safe to be themselves, whoever they are and whoever they love.

We remain wholly committed to bringing forward proposals to ban conversion therapy practices. We recently concluded a consultation period on the proposals being analysed, based on which we will be developing legislation to be brought forward later this spring.

My best wishes also go to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis). The Minister will be aware that the Cabinet Office recently tendered a contract for the provision of a conversion therapy victim support service. Does he agree that including a consent loophole in the Government’s proposals to ban conversion therapy will allow some of its worst practitioners off the hook, inevitably creating more victims who will need support?

No, we do not agree. We believe that, in a free and open society, consenting adults—provided that there is appropriate advice and information so that people understand exactly what they are doing—should be able to take informed decisions for themselves.

May I echo the words of the Minister in respect of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis)? As the Minister rightly said, it has now been two months since the consultation on banning conversion therapy closed and almost three years since the Government made the pledge to ban this insidious practice. Why is it taking so long?

Actually, I secured the first Westminster Hall debate on the subject in 2015. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that, if it were easy, Governments would have done it before. We have taken time to analyse the results, and we have had a significant response. It is important that we get this right; that is why we are analysing the significant response and bringing forward the legislation later this spring.

I would also like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis) for his incredible bravery. Can the Minister reassure me, and indeed the whole House, that legislation on conversion therapy will be introduced to this place prior to the conference that is scheduled to be hosted by the Government in the summer? Will he let us know how preparations for the conference are going?

I can give my right hon. Friend the commitment that the Government remain committed to bringing forward the legislation. It is a matter for business managers when the exact parliamentary slot will be, but a Bill team has been stood up and we are progressing at pace.

I very much understand the intentions behind the proposed Bill, but can my hon. Friend tell the House what evidence has come to light of unacceptable conversion therapy practices in the UK, by which I mean practices that are not already illegal, but that the Government think should be banned?

My hon. Friend raises a very fair point. Both the national LGBT survey of over 100,000 LGBT people and the in-depth Coventry report demonstrated that violent and harmful talking conversion practices continue to take place. That is why we need to act.

I would like to add my best wishes to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Dr Wallis). The Scottish Government are clear about the need to act to end conversion practices in Scotland. They have established an expert advisory group to inform their approach to banning this abhorrent practice. The group will include people with personal experience of conversion practice, representatives from LGBTI organisations, faith communities, mental health professionals and academics; it will meet for the first time tomorrow and complete its work by the summer, reflecting the Scottish Government’s recognition of the urgency of the issue. Given that the UK Government’s consultation on their proposed ban ended on 4 February, can the Minister confirm that the UK Government’s approach will be taken forward on a similarly inclusive and urgent basis?

I can certainly confirm that we are taking it forward on an urgent basis. Since I took up the role with responsibility for LGBT+ issues, I have engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders, including those who have been victims of conversion therapy. I have engaged with all the stakeholders, listed by the hon. Lady, from whom the Scottish Government took evidence, from an England and Wales point of view.