I take this issue very seriously and I know that my colleagues in the Equalities Office remain committed to tackling conversion therapy in the UK. I am absolutely clear that this practice has no place in civilised society. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not an illness to be treated or cured.
I am encouraged that this view is shared by the head of the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the British Medical Association. Each of these bodies have concluded that such therapy is unethical and potentially harmful.
The Government Equalities’ Office commissioned a large-scale LGBT survey in 2017. Sadly, two per cent of respondents to the national LGBT survey said they had undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT. Unfortunately, in this survey, what conversion therapy entailed was not defined, nor were the respondents asked whether or not the conversion therapy referred to in their answer was offered in the UK.
I very much welcome the fact that the Government is delivering on its promise and will legislate to ban conversion therapy to protect LGBT people from this harmful practice. Ministers will launch a consultation to ensure the proposals work for those in need of protection and are also making funding available to develop a support service for victims of conversion therapy. I understand that the Government aims to bring forward this legislation toward the end of this second Parliamentary session.
You may welcome the fact that the Government is aware of the concerns that you have raised regarding religion and faith. Ministers have said that they will continue to engage with religious organisations and groups to understand how best to support LGBT people of faith. While it is not the Government's place to dictate what is legitimate spiritual guidance, it is the Government’s place to protect all their citizens, and I will not tolerate the use of harmful coercive practices under the guise of spiritual support.
On the wider issue of freedom of religion, you may welcome the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. I am assured my colleague will work hard to protect and defend this key right. However, I am also clear that defending the rights of one person should not cause harm to another.
The Government has been very clear that it will seek further views from the public and key stakeholders to ensure that the ban can address the practice while protecting the medical profession; defending freedom of speech; and upholding religious freedom. I welcome the engagement that Ministers will have with my constituents and I would recommend making sure you take part in the consultation to ensure your views and concerns are heard.
I am positive about the steps that have been made so far in the UK to achieve LGBT equality and am confident that this good work will continue.