Equalities minister confirms Government is committed to conversion therapy ban

An equalities minister has confirmed the Government is “committed” to banning conversion therapy, despite delays.

Stuart Andrew said it is a “very challenging issue to get right” but added the Government is clear that the practice is “abhorrent”.

Labour’s shadow minister Ashley Dalton accused the Government of not being able to make up its mind and kicking the issue into the long grass.

A ban on conversion practices, which aims to suppress or change a person’s sexual orientation was first promised in 2018, by former prime minister Theresa May.

Mr Andrew told the Commons on Thursday: “No one in this country should be harmed or harassed for who they are and attempts at so-called conversion practices are abhorrent.

“And we’re clear on our stance, that they are harmful and they simply do not work.

“And that’s why we are committed to publishing the draft Bill, I know it’s taken time but it’s been a very challenging issue to get right and I am committed to us doing it.”

Stuart Andrew
Stuart Andrew said the Government was committed to the policy (Adam Davy/PA)

“Two weeks ago it was reported that the Prime Minister was killing it off, but a week later that the minister for women and equalities was still working on it.

“The position changes depending on whomever was asked last, but the fact remains that the Government is still kicking a Bill on conversion therapy into the long grass, with no expectation it will make it to the statute book during this Parliament, despite it being promised six years and four Tory prime ministers ago.”

Earlier this year, a Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill, tabled by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) in a bid to ban offering or advertising LGBT conversion practices, was blocked by MPs.

During the Bill’s debate on March 1, equalities minister Maria Caulfield said the Government intends to bring forward draft legislation following the Cass Review, which was published on April 10.

On Thursday, Mr Andrew also confirmed that access to fertility treatment for female same-sex couples remains a priority for the Government, despite taking longer than expected.

Labour MP Kate Osborne (Jarrow) has argued that the LGBT+ community is being “priced out” of accessing IVF treatment.

During the debate on lesbian visibility week, Mr Andrew said: “Our initial priority is to remove the requirement for female same-sex couples to self fund six rounds of artificial insemination before being able to access NHS funded treatments.

“My colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care are working with NHS England to take this forward along with other commitments that are deliverable through the (Integrated Care Boards).

“Now, I accept that this is taking longer than expected, which I realise is disappointing to those affected but please be assured it remains a priority for delivery.

“And (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is also currently reviewing its fertility guidelines and we’ll consider whether the current recommendations for access to NHS funded treatments are still appropriate and we expect that review to be published next year.”

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
SNP MP Joanna Cherry questioned the use of the term LGBTQIA+ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking from the frontbench, she said: “Back in 2021, the inclusive Britain report found that aggregate terms like BAME were no longer helpful and took no account of the differing needs and outcomes of those included under that umbrella and that they should be dropped.

“And the findings of that report were adopted by the Government and the acronym BAME is no longer used in Government.

“I and many other lesbians think the same principles should be applied to acronyms like LGBTQIA+, so that lesbians are not force-teamed with other identities.”

Ms Cherry added: “The Cass report has identified that a large percentage of girls presenting with gender dysphoria are same-sex attracted young women, and I would like to have time to talk about how important it is that we don’t shut down holistic talking therapy.”

Ms Osborne accused the MP for Edinburgh South West of using “problematic” language during the debate.

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