Boris Johnson u-turns on plans to ban conversion therapy in the UK

Boris Johnson u-turns on plans to ban conversion therapy in the UK just one day after equalities minister said the Government was ‘wholly committed’ to legislation

  • A leaked Downing Street paper seen by ITV News revealed the plan was dropped
  • Equalities minister said just yesterday the govt. was ‘wholly committed’ to plans
  • The move has been strongly condemned by Labour and Lib. Democrats 

Boris Johnson has dramatically dropped plans for the Government to ban so-called LGBT conversion therapy, it has been confirmed.

A leaked Downing Street briefing paper seen by ITV News said ‘the PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation’ to outlaw the practice.

In response, a Government spokesman said they had decided to look at how existing law could be applied more effectively as well as ‘other non-legislative measures’.

The move was condemned by the Liberal Democrats as giving a ‘green light to a form of torture’ and an ‘utter betrayal’ of the LGBT community.

The announcement came just a day after Equalities Minister Mike Freer told MPs the Government was ‘wholly committed’ to legislation and that work was ‘progressing at pace’.

However, the leaked briefing document disclosed that ministers involved in drawing up the legislation – including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is also Equalities Minister – had not been told of the decision.

‘While Liz is not ideologically committed to the legislation, she is likely to be concerned about owning the new position, having personally committed to delivering the Bill,’ it said.

It warned that Mr Freer could resign, and that the Prime Minister’s special envoy on LGBT issues, Lord Herbert, may also consider his position.

The Government has dropped plans to legislate to ban so-called conversion therapy, it has been confirmed. ITV News obtained a leaked document stating ‘the PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation’

The u-turn comes after Equalities Minister Mike Freer told MPs on Wednesday that the Government was ‘wholly committed’ to legislation

Conversion therapy refers to the pseudo-scientific practice of trying to change one’s sexual orientation.

The term is used for any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to reduce or stop same-sex attraction, but also extends to techniques used to try to suppress a person’s gender identity.

While violent forms of the therapy are already illegal under other offences, the planned legislation would make all coercive conversion therapies illegal. 

The practice of conversion therapy is widely considered unethical but advocates still remain.

Techniques used prior to the 1980s in conversion therapy included extreme treatment like lobotomies, chemical castration and hormone therapies.

More recently treatment focuses on counselling, visualisation, social skills training, psychotherapy, and spiritual interventions. 

Chair of the Labour party and Shadow Equalities Secretary Annelise Dodds said today the Government’s u-turn on conversion therapy legislation was an ‘outrageous decision’.

‘A government that believes conversion therapy is acceptable in 21st century Britain is no friend of the LGBT+ community,’ she tweeted. 

Yesterday, equalities minister Mike Freer told MPs that the Government was ‘wholly committed’ to bringing forward proposals to ban conversion therapy practices and that work is ‘progressing at pace’.

Mr Freer told the Commons: ‘We remain wholly committed to bringing forward proposals to ban conversion therapy practices. We recently concluded a consultation period and those proposals are being analysed, on which we will be developing legislation being brought forward later this spring.’

Labour’s Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) asked: ‘In terms of the issue of conversion therapy though, as he rightly said, it’s two months now since the consultation into banning conversion therapy closed. It’s almost three years since the Government made the pledge to ban this insidious practice. Why is it taking so long?’

Chair of the Labour party and Shadow Equalities Secretary Annelise Dodds said today the Government’s u-turn on conversion therapy legislation was an ‘outrageous decision’. ‘A government that believes conversion therapy is acceptable in 21st century Britain is no friend of the LGBT+ community,’ she tweeted

The drawing up of legislation to ban all forms of conversion therapy in the UK was announced last October by Liz Truss. At the time, Truss said the safeguarding under-18s was a key a priority and pledged that future laws will place a strong emphasis on preventing children undergoing any practices considered to be conversion therapies 

Mr Freer responded: ‘I held the first Westminster Hall debate on this subject in 2015 and I have to tell (him) if it was easy governments would have done it before, so have taken time to analyse the results.

‘We’ve had a significant response, it’s important we get this right, and that’s why we are analysing the significant response and bringing forward the legislation later this spring.’

He added: ‘The Government remains committed to bringing forward the legislation. It is a matter for business managers as to when the exact parliamentary slot is brought forward, but a Bill team has been stood up and we are progressing at pace.’

Conversion therapy is still legal in the UK but medical and government bodies here, as well as in the US, have expressed concern over conversion therapy. 

Conversion camps include one-to-one therapy and group work where people are told to change their sexual orientation.

The drawing up of legislation to ban all forms of conversion therapy in the UK was announced last October by Miss Truss.

At the time, the minister said the safeguarding of under-18s was a key a priority and pledged that future laws will place a strong emphasis on preventing children undergoing any practices considered to be conversion therapies.

Miss Truss said: ‘There should be no place for the abhorrent practice of coercive conversion therapy in our society. 

‘I want everyone to be able to love who they want and be themselves.’ 

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