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LGBT People

Volume 738: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2023

The UK has a proud history of LGBT rights, and one of the world’s most comprehensive and robust legislative protection frameworks for LGBT people. We have taken great strides as a country over the last couple of decades and it is my job to continue that journey.

The Minister is absolutely right: great things have been done for LGBT+ people in the last 13 years, including blood donation changes, the PrEP—pre-exposure prophylaxis—roll-out, and of course same-sex marriage. However, hate crime against LGBT+ people is on the up, conversion therapy still has not been banned and the UK has slipped down the ranking for LGBT+ equality. I know that this Minister takes these issues incredibly seriously, but how can he assure me that the Government take them seriously and that they will tackle them as a matter of urgency?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issue of all forms of anti-LGBT hate crimes. They are utterly unacceptable, and we have a robust legislative framework to respond to that. I met representatives of the Metropolitan police and other stakeholders just last week to ensure that everything possible was being done to crack down on such crimes. There will be further questions later about conversion practices, and we are considering all those issues. This is a complex area of work, but I give my hon. Friend a personal commitment that anything to do with LGBT rights and improving the lives of LGBT people will be high on my agenda.

A Bill banning the psychological abuse that some people call conversion therapy has been promised repeatedly in this Session from that Dispatch Box. Where is it?

I accept that, and I apologise for the fact that it has taken so long, but, as I have said, it is a complex issue. I have been personally campaigning for this for many years, but even I recognise there are deep complexities. It is right that we take the time to consider each of the issues carefully, so that what we have in place is consistent, robust and up to date, and tackles these appalling practices.

Almost 2,000 days have passed since the Government first promised to ban conversion therapy, and 533 days have passed since a conversion therapy Bill was promised in the last Queen’s Speech. The delays are not this Minister’s responsibility; according to the press, they are a result of differing views on the Government Front Bench, but because of that there is still no Bill. Can the Minister tell the House whether the next King’s Speech will include a commitment to a full, loophole-free ban on LGBT conversion therapy—yes or no?

I should have thought the hon. Lady would know that no one ever makes announcements about what is in the King’s Speech ahead of His Majesty’s delivery of that speech. Let me also say to her, respectfully, that she should not believe everything she reads in the press. As for the rest of her question, I refer her to the answer I gave a few moments ago.

I would therefore counsel the Minister to advise his colleagues to stop briefing the press on these issues and get on with delivering, because there are failures when it comes to delivery for LGBT+ people. Yesterday I met Michael Smith, who was viciously attacked at a bus stop simply for being with his partner. Police-recorded sexual orientation hate crime has increased by more than 70% in the last five years, and more than a third of all hate crimes are now “violence against the person” offences. I know that the Minister cares deeply about this subject, so can he please explain why his Government do not agree with Labour or with the Law Commission that every violent act of hatred should be punished in the same way—as an aggravated offence?

Let me say to the hon. Lady that as someone who was hospitalised after being attacked because of my sexuality, I know how difficult that is. It is not just the attack that is painful but what is left afterwards.

I will continue to raise each of these issues, but I want to make this point. I keep hearing that we do not care about LGBT issues. It was this Government who introduced same-sex marriage, and it was this Government who introduced it in Northern Ireland. It was this Government who introduced Turing’s law in 2017. We have modernised gender recognition certificates and made them affordable. We have removed self-funding for fertility treatment for same sex-couples, lifted the ban on blood donation, and tackled LGBT-related bullying in schools. We have apologised for the way in which LGBT people were treated in the armed forces, and we have provided funding to ensure that LGBT rights across the Commonwealth are protected.[Official Report, 7 November 2023, Vol. 740, c. 4MC.]