Conversion therapy ban among the missing Bills
A CONTENTIOUS ban on conversion therapy could be forced through by rebel Tory MPs after it was one of many long-awaited proposals left out of Rishi Sunak’s plans for the next year.
A law making it illegal to force someone to change their sexual orientation or gender identity was not included in yesterday’s King’s Speech, despite being promised by ministers for several years.
But some fear it could criminalise parents, teachers and doctors.
Its omission provoked anger from some Conservatives as well as opposition MPs, who vowed to join forces in an attempt to introduce the ban by tabling amendments to upcoming legislation and voting it through Parliament.
Backbench Conservative MP Elliot Colburn told the Mail: ‘The decision to not include conversion therapy in this King’s Speech was totally wrong, but it’s not over yet.
‘We now know there’s a Criminal Justice Bill coming and this is an opportunity to get this into law. We will use every possible mechanism in Parliament to deliver on our promise and finally end this heinous practice in the UK.’
Fellow Tory Alicia Kearns – who tried to introduce the ban in an amendment to another law this year – agreed: ‘There will now be more amendments.’
She had already angered Conservative colleagues who oppose the ban by sug
‘We will end this heinous practice’
gesting they were bigots, telling LBC Radio: ‘I think the only people who have anything to fear from a ban on conversion therapy is those who are bigots.’
Ministers insisted the ban was still on the table, however.
Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart told the BBC: ‘Just because something isn’t in the King’s Speech doesn’t mean that it’s been ruled out.
‘It’s very important we get this right. What we don’t want is a situation where we get legislation that accidentally criminalises parents or teachers. We do want to do something, we just don’t want to end up in a bad legal space.’
The Government may yet publish a draft Bill, but has promised it would be subject to detailed pre-legislative scrutiny and so it is unlikely to become law before the next general election.
It was one of a number of laws missing from the last programme of legislation before the next election.
There was surprise that reforms to pensions were left out of the speech after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said in his Mansion House speech in the summer that major schemes would invest more in pioneering UK companies.
Helen Morrissey, head of retirement analysis at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, said the Pension Reform Bill was ‘noticeably absent’, adding: ‘It means much-needed progress could effectively grind to a halt.’
Charities were dismayed at the lack of a Mental Health Bill, which would have reduced the number of people being detained in hospitals, despite it being promised in the 2017 and 2019 Conservative Party manifestos.
Dr Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the charity Mind, said: ‘The long overdue Mental Health Bill is a chance to overhaul the way the system works when people are in a mental health crisis. That chance has been missed, and the Government has broken its promise to thousands of people, their loved ones and the nation to reform the Act.’
Other ministerial priorities left out of the list of 21 new Bills included measures to regulate artificial intelligence, despite the UK hosting a summit on the subject last week, and boosting housing by scrapping ‘nutrient neutrality’ restrictions on planning.
There was no Employment Bill despite the pledge to improve workers’ rights featuring in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, and there was nothing to enshrine in law the ‘plan for drivers’ announced by Mr Sunak last month, such as restrictions on 20mph zones and low-traffic neighbourhoods.