The government has “no current plans” to ban gay conversion therapy, a Conservative health minister said today after the practice was attacked by both Tory and Labour MPs.
Recent research carried out by Britain’s leading LGBT charity, Stonewall, revealed that one in 10 healthcare workers had witnessed colleagues express their belief in the so-called treatment.
The statistic rises to 22% in London health and social care environments, and has been hailed “incredibly harmful and dangerous” by Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists have said previously that conversion therapy creates “a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish”.
Tory MP Mike Freer led a debate on the practice in parliament on Tuesday and called for it to be banned. “Being gay is not a disease, it is not an illness and it is not something that I or any other gay man or woman can be cured of. To suggest otherwise is not only demeaning, but morally and medically wrong,” he said.
“Imagine the outcry if Parliament were to give tacit approval to curing heterosexual men and women of their heterosexuality. There would be uproar. Allowing conversion therapy to try to turn our straight colleagues gay would not last a day, yet we allow therapists to peddle the myth that they can ‘cure’ people of being gay.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting said “the suggestion that there could be a gay cure that makes all LGBT people, and young people in particular, feel that they are different and somehow alien”.
He added: “That is what causes them mental ill health.”
However Health minister Jane Ellison said while the government did not believe that being lesbian, gay or bisexual “is an illness to be treated or cured” – a ban was not currently being considered.
“I fully understand the concerns about so-called gay conversion therapy, but the government have no current plans to ban or restrict it via legislation, or to introduce statutory regulation for psychotherapists,” she said.
Ellison said she acknowledged there was a “continued challenge to the government to go further” in preventing gay conversion therapy.
Former Tory minister Nick Herbert said there needed to be a “a stronger statement of guidance from the government” that it was wrong.
Before the General Election, David Cameron said that the therapies were “profoundly wrong” and pledged to “protect people from harm” under a Conservative government.