Rishi Sunak will press ahead with plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’, including for transgender people, after a backlash from Conservative MPs and warnings that ministers could quit. The Times has the story.
The Prime Minister will include a draft bill in the King’s Speech which will ban attempts to change someone’s sexuality and gender identity in England and Wales. It will make doing so a criminal offence.
Sunak had been considering dropping the bill amid claims of “unintended consequences” for teachers, parents and therapists helping children who are struggling with their gender identity. Some Tory MPs have warned that they could effectively be criminalised.
However, Simon Hart, the Chief Whip, warned that the Government could face a revolt if it failed to go ahead with the ban.
There were concerns that Tory MPs could join Labour in backing amendments to the Crime and Justice Bill to introduce a conversion therapy ban. This would put a flagship part of Sunak’s legislative agenda at risk.
Stuart Andrew, the Equalities Minister, was also said to be prepared to consider his position if the Government failed to go ahead with the ban.
More than a dozen Tory MPs, including two ministers, complained to the Chief Whip last month after Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, said that homosexuality should not by itself allow people to claim asylum.
One MP who has campaigned for the change said: “Simon has been brilliant on this. He’s listened to our concerns and been a real champion for us. He gets it.”
It is an issue that polarises Conservative MPs, with those on the right expected to oppose the ban amid claims that teachers and parents could face criminal sanctions if they advise children against changing their gender.
The Government has previously said that it would ensure that the bill did not have such “unintended consequences” and would protect “legitimate conversations” between parents, clinicians and children.
Kemi Badenoch, the Women and Equalities Minister, has expressed reservations about the plans but is not expected to oppose them.
Sir Peter Bottomley, a Tory MP, said: “Over the last three years I and others have asked a succession of ministers and their officials to name one or more of the practices they intend to criminalise which are not already criminal. There is no specific answer.
“The government is facing a choice of splitting the Tory party on this or leaving this on one side until it’s clear that there’s a need for precise legislation which will stop things that should be criminal happening. Without being specific about what you are criminalising you are putting parents at risk, you are putting other advisers and supporters of children at risk.”
Worth reading in full.
Yet another opportunity to stand up for personal freedom and common sense surrendered to the woke activists. Why is a Conservative Government criminalising help for gender-confused children and adults? How is that good politics, quite apart from the ethical considerations of abandoning people – children and adults – to the delusions of activists? How does it make sense to close down the NHS Tavistock clinic for being too keen on pushing children towards transition, and then to ban helping children to accept their biological sex?
And why would a Conservative Government risk criminalising religious groups who abide by traditional norms? Note that a ‘conversion therapy’ ban is likely to include a ban on any effort to discourage people from acting on feelings of gender confusion or same-sex attraction, meaning traditional religious groups encouraging abstinence from homosexuality (such as the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church) are caught in it.
Anything which should be banned in this area is already banned, as Sir Peter Bottomley points out. Do the Conservatives really want to criminalise their own supporters?
This could easily blow up in the Government’s face, as public opinion is now much more critical of trans activism, while religious traditionalists will be very unhappy with the restrictions on their freedom. It’s also part of an unwelcome streak from the Government of banning things – smoking, therapy, boilers, cars – which is draining support among those who still love freedom.
Stop Press: Ella Whelan in the Telegraph writes that “a conversion therapy ban would be a disaster for free speech“.