Gender Conversion Therapy Bill talked out

The FSU would like to thank all those who used our template letter to contact their MP, urging them not to support a ban on conversion therapy - thanks to the sheer number of MPs who opposed the Bill in question, it has now been ‘talked out’.

The FSU would like to thank all those members and supporters who used our template letter to contact their MP, urging them not to support a ban on conversion therapy.

Hard Left Brighton MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has brought forward a private members’ bill to ban ‘conversion practices’, which had its second reading in the House of Commons last week. However, thanks to the sheer number of MPs who opposed it, it was ‘talked out’, meaning it’s now at the bottom of a pile of legislation to be debated, and extremely unlikely to ever see the light of day.

Given that Russell-Moyle’s bill would have created a number of unintended consequences, including effectively criminalising parents, doctors, clinicians, people of faith, and teachers who, in their conversations with others, challenge, criticise or deviate from the basic tenets of gender identity ideology, this was a significant victory for free speech.

But we’re not home and dry yet. 

Not only is there another, similar Bill wending its way through the House of Lords (which we’ve written about here), but during the second reading of Russell-Moyle’s Bill, a minister let slip that the government plans to publish its own draft legislation to ban conversion therapy once the Cass Review into NHS gender treatment of children has published its Report.

That’s disappointing news, and many, if not all, of the free speech concerns raised during the debate on Russell-Moyle’s Bill will now need to be articulated again later this year.

As Neale Hanvey (Alba) put it, “this type of legislation is the thin end of the wedge, and it has the potential to be the most dangerous, regressive, illiberal and authoritarian policy proposal that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime”.  

In another powerful intervention, Miriam Cates (Con) read out testimonies from parents whose young children had been pushed towards transitioning thanks to an ‘affirmative’ medical approach to gender dysphoria, which those parents had been denounced, castigated and ostracised for opposing.  

“My particular concerns are for parents who sadly absolutely could be criminalised under this Bill,” she said, adding that it would “very likely to lead to parents being prosecuted, or at least to feeling that they cannot speak freely to their children, as they would wish to keep them safe and prevent them from making irreversible decisions.”

Speaking for the Government, Maria Caulfield MP described how the government has “encountered challenges” in attempting to develop its own Bill: “[N]otably ensuring that legislation is clear, balanced and respects freedom of speech, belief and religion, and does not cause unintended consequences for parents, clinicians, teachers or religious groups.”

One of the problems with legislating in this area has to do with the complexity of the definitional work required. When Labour Equalities Minister Anneliese Dodds said her party was supporting the Bill, Conservative MP Caroline Ansell intervened to ask for more clarity. “She has now said the word ‘practices’ five times, and she has said: ‘Conversion practices are abuse.’ So that I can better follow her, will she describe the scale, scope and nature of the practices that she references.”

“All the examples are detailed in the Bill,” Ms Dodds responded, incorrectly, drawing the attention of the Chamber to a piece of legislation that, according to the human rights barrister Jason Coppel KC, contains such an open-ended definition of ‘conversion practices’ that it will likely bring an alarmingly wide range of perfectly lawful social and religious activities within scope of the ban.

Sir Liam Fox (Con) and Suella Braverman (Con) also both pointed to the fact that while there are some forms of ‘conversion therapy’ no sensible person would object to being banned, such practices are already illegal in the UK.

“Good law,” Sir Liam commented, “needs to be necessary, clear, effective and enforceable and to avoid unintended consequences. Like many in the House, I am not clear exactly what the necessity is for the Bill, because I did not hear described in any clarity the sort of offences that are not covered by legislation already and that would require yet another piece of legislation.”

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman noted that the “offensive and abhorrent practices that we are talking about but cannot yet evidence”, including corrective rape, electroshock therapy, forced marriage, holding down while praying, and so on, are “already criminal under myriad laws, ranging from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.”