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Minister accused of making ‘more excuses’ to delay LGBT conversion practices ban

The Government has faced claims of making “more excuses” to delay a ban on so-called LGBT conversion therapy as a backbench proposal was blocked by MPs.

Equalities minister Maria Caulfield said the Government intends to bring forward draft legislation once a review examining gender identity services for children and young people is completed in the coming weeks.

Conservative MP Elliot Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington) argued there is “no reason” to wait for the Cass Review, telling the Commons: “It feels as if there’s more excuses as to why we need to delay this.”

The exchanges came during consideration of the Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill, tabled by Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle in a bid to ban offering or advertising LGBT conversion practices.

Mr Russell-Moyle’s Bill would create new offences for a course of conduct whose “predetermined” purpose was to change a person’s sexual orientation or to change a person to or from being transgender.

It also offers “clarifications” about actions that do not meet a criminal threshold, including for the actions of parents, health practitioners and those exercising freedom of religion and other beliefs.

Mr Russell-Moyle brought forward his Bill in the absence of a Government proposal, which was first announced in 2018 and has undergone a series of delays.

But the MP for Brighton Kemptown’s Bill was talked out on Friday and therefore blocked, with some Conservative MPs and the Alba Party’s Neale Hanvey among those expressing opposition.

The second reading debate was still ongoing as the clock reached 2.30pm, which is the cut-off point for consideration of Private Members’ Bills.

Mr Russell-Moyle asked for the debate to resume on March 15 although it is unlikely to be considered further.

Ahead of a failed vote to curtail the debate, Ms Caulfield said the Bill has a “lack of legislative clarity, which risks unintended consequences”.

She told the Commons: “The Government has rightly taken time to carefully consider our own position on these pitfalls and will be publishing a draft Bill on this topic for pre-legislative scrutiny, and we expect this to be after the publication of the Cass Review, which will be in the coming weeks.”

Mr Colburn (Carshalton and Wallington), intervening, said: “As we’ve already heard throughout the course of the debate, Dr Hilary Cass has said there is no reason to delay on conversion and she’s said that multiple times.

“There is no reason to await the Cass Review to move forward with this and this was never mentioned before. All the promises that have been made to bring forward this Bill have never mentioned the Cass Review before.

“It feels as if there’s more excuses as to why we need to delay this. So when was the decision made to now wait for the Cass Review because that’s news to many of us?”

Ms Caulfield, in her reply, said: “Through the review there has been some evidence found which will, may – and this is why we’re waiting for the report – be of influence to our conversion practices Bill and that is why we’re waiting for that.”

Tory MP Peter Gibson (Darlington) said: “We have had so many promises from the Government of bringing this legislation forward. It has appeared in two Queen’s Speeches. We were promised this legislation in January 2023.

“It is March 1 2024. If the Government wants us all in this House to debate and consider its legislation can I please urge her to publish it, and table it so that we can discuss it?”

For Labour, shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds earlier criticised the Government for a lack of action to introduce a ban.

She said of Mr Russell-Moyle’s Bill: “In the absence of any draft legislation being laid by the Government, this Private Member’s Bill represents an opportunity to protect LGBT people from harmful practices and to ensure that critical issues around scope can be thoroughly debated and resolved during committee stage.”

Mr Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) said young people would struggle to speak to trusted people if the Bill was approved.

Mr Hanvey, who spoke for more than an hour against the Bill, said: “This is the wrong legislation for young gay, lesbian and transgender people. It attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and fosters a new, chilling, homophobic culture just like section 28.”

Opening the debate, Mr Russell-Moyle said the Bill offered protections to expressions of religious belief, parents and others.

He added: “To frustrate this Bill today would be to break the pledges of the last five prime ministers, the election promises at the last election and before.

“But, most importantly, to frustrate this Bill today would be to let down the survivors and the future victims.”