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Conversion Practices: Legislative Ban

Volume 736: debated on Wednesday 12 July 2023

The Government remain committed to publishing a draft Bill on banning conversion practices for pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee of both Houses in this parliamentary Session.

It is now over five years since the Government first made a commitment to legislate on conversion therapy, and more recently there was a promise that legislation would be tabled this spring. Can the Minister elaborate on some of the reasons for the delay, and perhaps be more clear about when the legislation will be brought forward?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely committed to introducing the Bill in its draft stage as soon as possible. It is a complex matter. It is something that I have felt very passionately about over many years, but it is right that we get the legislation right. I hope that we will be able to present it as soon as possible.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and, indeed, with the former Prime Minister that conversion therapy is “abhorrent”? If he does agree, does he think it is abhorrent for everyone?

I thank the Chair of the Select Committee for her question. I absolutely agree that it is abhorrent; moreover, it does not work—that is a serious point. Yes, I do believe that that is with regard to everyone.

Given that the Minister has agreed that conversion therapy is abhorrent, and given what my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) said about five years having passed since we were first told that it would be banned—we were then told that the Bill had been scrapped, then that it would be coming back, and then that it would come back with a loophole about consent—does the Minister agree that that confusion is causing unacceptable stress, confusion and fear among the LGBT community? Will the Government commit to ending the confusion soon?

I do not want anybody in the LGBT community to feel fear—I have had that experience myself and I would not wish it on anyone. That is why we are making sure that the Bill is a good Bill that delivers good law to ensure that we outlaw those abhorrent practices. I recognise that the delay has caused some issues for the community, but I assure them that we are on their side.

Through my personal dealings with the Minister, I know how much he is committed to making sure that this legislation comes forward. Can he reassure me that, despite what some have said, the Bill is not about stopping parents from having meaningful conversations with their children who may be questioning their sexuality?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. That is why we need to consider the evidence carefully; those conversations that parents have with their children are really important. I will never forget the conversations I had with my mum and dad, who helped me when I was coming out.

Some 1,835 days have passed since the Government first promised to ban conversion practices. That is longer than it takes to make a good Bill—it is longer than it took to build the Empire State Building and the Shard put together. We were told in January that a Bill would be published “shortly”. Seven months later, can the Minister tell LGBT people how many more days, weeks, months, or even years they must wait?

The answer that the Minister gave a moment ago was that we would see something before the end of this Parliament. I am afraid that is not good enough for those LGBT people who have been waiting for too long.

I will ask the Minister another question. We heard from the Government during their consultation on this ban—even that was almost two years ago now—that they would let some of the worst practitioners off the hook by including a consent loophole. Does the Minister seriously think that LGBT people can consent to abuse and, if not, will he end the charade and remove that loophole so that every LGBT person is protected?

I respectfully say to the hon. Lady that she has not seen the Bill yet, so it is a bit early to make those comments. This is exactly why we are making sure that a Joint Committee of both Houses looks at the Bill; it is a very complex piece of legislation. We want to make sure that it outlaws those awful practices, but also ensures that people—clinicians, parents, teachers and so on—do not feel a chilling effect. It is right that we get stakeholders and people from this House engaged in that process, so that when the Bill is presented to the House for debate, it is in the best possible position.