Skip to main content

Banning conversion practices: MPs express concern about Government's proposals

9 December 2021

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has written to Equalities Minister Mike Freer, expressing concerns about the Government's plans for a proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy.

During the initial six-week consultation period on the proposals, the cross-party group of MPs sought evidence from religious leaders, LGBTQ+ rights representatives and human rights experts, and are today submitting their letter to the consultation, the original deadline for which was today, Friday 10 December. The consultation period was yesterday extended for a further 8 weeks.  

The MPs also offer to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill next year.  

In the letter, the Committee:  

  • Urge the Government to adopt the term 'conversion practices', dropping the 'overly broad' and 'misleading' label of 'therapy', which risks confusing professional treatment with harmful practices, and to produce guidance to illustrate which practices would be recognised as conversion practices by the law.   
  • Call for 'more ambition' in the Government's proposed communications for its victim support scheme. The Government should, say the Committee, launch a public awareness campaign and aim to educate the public on the illegality of conversion practices and how victims can access support. 
  • Press for answers on how a consent provision would be included in legislation, and the implications of a law that might allow individuals to consent to serious harm. There must, say the Committee, be 'absolute clarity' on what would count as a voluntary action when seeking conversion practices, including evidence that the person is fully informed and not influenced by others.
  • Recommend that the Government produce statutory guidance for schools, setting out how to support children exploring their gender, sexuality and relationship diversity. The guidance should also make clear how teachers will be supported. 

On Wednesday 24 November, the Committee explored different concerns about the Government's proposals with two panels of witnesses. Click to access the transcripts for the first and second panels.  

On Tuesday 30 November, the Committee questioned Mike Freer MP. The transcript for this session can be found here

Chair's comment 

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: 

"I welcome the Government’s extension to its too-short initial consultation period. The potential consequences of this Bill for the LGBTQ+ community are huge- it is important that a broad range of voices are heard. There are clearly significant gaps in the proposed legislation which must be addressed. 

"I hope that the Government's Equality Office will consent to working with the Committee so that we can undertake important pre-legislative scrutiny, allowing us to recommend evidence-driven improvements."

Further information

Image: PC