The UK Government has introduced its proposals for how it will seek to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales.
But what are the next steps, when can we actually expect a ban, and how can you get involved?
What’s the current situation?
Earlier this year, almost 35,000 of you wrote to your MPs and asked them to call for a ban on conversion therapy. That groundswell of grassroots action led to real results, and the UK Government has now launched a consultation on banning conversion therapy. There are several more stages before a ban is introduced in law, but we’re already well on our way. Now, we have a chance to speak up and help shape the proposed ban to ensure it protects all LGBTQIA+ people. If we keep the pressure up and make our voices heard over the coming months, we’re sure to succeed, together.
What comes next?
The UK Government is inviting responses to its consultation until 10 December. This is an opportunity to feedback on what you think their current proposals do well, and where they could improve. So, if you have thoughts about anything the ban should cover and doesn’t, or if you think any of the proposals don’t go far enough – this is your chance to tell the Government! After that, responses will be interpreted and used to inform the proposals they have already made. This process is likely to take a couple of months, taking us to the end of February 2022.
The Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss stated in her Ministerial Foreword to the consultation that ‘legislation that is being prepared for spring 2022’ – likely sometime during March-May. This might seem like a very quick turnaround, but the UK Government can draft legislation during the analysis period. They can work their proposals into a Public Bill while the consultation is ongoing and its findings being considered. Then, once the Bill is ready, it will enter Parliament. After that, it begins the process of passing through the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and finally being signed off by the Queen.
However, there is a slight snag in the ‘spring 2022’ promise. This is because Parliamentary sessions generally run from the Queen’s Speech opening Parliament in May, to the proroguing (essentially closing down) of Parliament the following April. This means that the UK Government could be planning on introducing legislation for a conversion therapy ban before the close of this Parliamentary session (April 2022), or at the start of the next (May 2022) – which runs through to April 2023!
What’s most likely to happen?
It's difficult to predict how long any Bill will take to pass through Parliament. There are no limits on how short or long a time a Bill has in order to pass – although if a Bill is not passed before a Parliamentary session, then Parliament must agree for it to be carried over.
Emergency laws can pass in a matter of weeks, or even days. For example, the Coronavirus Act 2020 took only seven days to pass. However, standard UK Government Bills – which a conversion therapy ban Bill would be – tend to take about 6-8 months if they don’t span the Summer Recess and 8-10 months if they do.
It's likely, though not certain, that if a Bill for banning conversion therapy were introduced in May 2022, we would see a legal ban by December 2022 or January 2023.
If a Conversion Therapy Ban Bill was introduced earlier than May, could it pass sooner?
Yes! If the UK Government were to introduce ‘legislation that is being prepared for spring 2022’, as stated in the consultation launch, a Bill could be introduced in March or April 2022.
However, even if this happens it’s very unlikely that a Bill will be able to pass before the Summer Recess 2022, in time for the UK Government’s international ‘Safe To Be’ LGBTQ+ conference. What's more likely is that, if a Bill is introduced in March or April, it would carry over to the next Parliamentary session and be passed later on in 2022.
How can I get involved?
There are lots of opportunities to get involved in the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign as the Bill passes through Parliament.
First up, you can respond to the UK Government’s consultation letting them know what you think of their current proposals. We've provided guidance to help you fill out the consultation. The UK Government’s legislation will only cover England and Wales. However, responses from Scotland and Northern Ireland will be considered and will be sent to their respective national Governments to inform their own plans for a ban.
In the Committee Stages, in both Houses, individuals and organisations can submit evidence and arguments for changes to current proposals. In the Report Stage, amendments can be put forward. At Third Readings, MPs and Lords can introduce and vote on further amendments.
You can get involved in each one of the stages. We’ll let you know when to speak up, and how to push your MP to vote for the amendments we need to get a full and comprehensive ban on conversion therapy for all LGBTQIA+ people.
What if I live elsewhere in the UK?
You can respond to the UK Government’s consultation letting them know what you think of their current proposals, but the UK Government’s legislation will only cover England and Wales. However, responses from Scotland and Northern Ireland will be considered and will be sent to their respective national Governments to inform their own plans for a ban.
The Scottish Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee has been undertaking detailed consideration of a public petition that is calling for a ban on conversion therapy in Scotland. Over the summer of 2021, they conducted a ‘call for views’ on the petition, and have since been taking oral evidence from key stakeholders. It's expected that they will report back to Parliament on their findings, and this might include recommendations to the Scottish Government or suggested next steps. In November 2021, the Scottish Government announced that it will be establishing an Expert Advisory Group to advise them on banning conversion therapy, and this will begin work in early 2022. You can find more information here.
In September 2021, the Scottish Government committed to 'protect LGBT people from harm by banning the damaging promotion and practice of conversion therapy, bringing forward legislation that is as comprehensive as possible within devolved powers by the end of 2023, if UK Government proposals do not go far enough' in their ‘Programme for Government’, which sets out their plans for the year ahead. The UK Government has since made clear that their proposals will only apply to England and Wales.