Plan to ban gay conversion therapy brought back by government and will include trans conversion

A plan to ban gay conversion therapy will be brought back by the government and will include the outlawing of trans conversion therapy, the culture secretary has confirmed.

The policy had been proposed several times by successive Conservative governments, starting with Theresa May back in 2018.

Boris Johnson also supported the move, but after a raft of U-turns, he eventually dropped protections for trans people last year after some Tory MPs voiced concerns about parents supporting children who are questioning their gender identity.

Now, Michelle Donelan has issued a written statement to the Commons promising a new draft law that would include the measure.

"We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse," she wrote.

"It is right that this issue is tackled through a dedicated and tailored legislative approach, which is why we are announcing today that the government will publish a draft bill which will set out a proposed approach to ban conversion practices, this will apply to England and Wales.

"The bill will protect everyone, including those targeted on the basis of their sexuality, or being transgender."

Ms Donelan said the government will publish the draft bill shortly and will ask for pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint Committee "in this parliamentary session".

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns - who has tabled an amendment to the Online Safety Bill to ban conversion practices being done to children - has campaigned for a full and inclusive ban since her election in 2019.

Responding to Ms Donelan's announcement, she said: "This ban is about protecting individuals from predatory practices, and it has been heartening to see the level of support behind it from across Parliament.

"If we are to protect people, it is vital that we can properly define the crimes being committed against them.

"By legislating specifically to ban conversion therapy, we will protect the next generation of LGBTQ+ people from the traumatic consequences of this quackery.

"This is a big step forward and I look forward to concluding the pre-legislative scrutiny and seeing a bill to ban conversion therapy before the House imminently."

The announcement comes amid a row over Scotland's gender reform bill, which the UK government has taken the unprecedented decision to block from Westminster.

What is conversion therapy?

Also called cure therapy or reparative therapy, conversion therapy refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change a person's sexual orientation or suppress a person's gender identity.

Therapies and prayer can be used, while more extreme forms can include "exorcisms, physical violence and food deprivation", said Jayne Ozanne, a former government equality adviser.

LGBT charity Stonewall says conversion therapy is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be "cured".

The NHS and other professional bodies have warned that all forms of conversion therapy are "unethical and potentially harmful".

'Conservatives have allowed online harms to thrive'

Responding to Ms Donelan's announcement, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell accused the government of having "failed to read the room" on the Online Safety Bill.

"The government has now confirmed what we knew already, they've failed to read the room on the Online Safety Bill," she said in a statement.

"These concessions show the prime minister's weakness in having to roll over to vested interests and his fractious party to avoid defeats in the House of Commons.

"Labour was ahead of the curve calling for stronger regulation online that protects children, our society and democracy. We welcome these changes but in watering down this legislation the scope of the regulator is too narrow.

"Labour will continue to press government to improve this bill. The Conservatives have allowed online harms to thrive and proliferate because of their failure to deliver on this legislation which is years in the making."