Prayers — [Mr Speaker in the Chair] — Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill — [Mr Speaker in the Chair] — 1 Mar 2024 at 12:56

“‘conversion practice’ means a course of conduct or activity, the…intent of which is to change someone’s…to or from being transgender,”
“a course of conduct or activity”.
“to change someone’s sexual orientation or to change a person to or from being transgender”
“to suppress a sexual orientation or transgender identity”.
“(a) persons of the same sex,
(b) persons of the opposite sex, or
(c) persons of either sex.”
“references to being transgender include references to being transsexual, or undergoing, proposing to undergo or having undergone a process or part of a process of gender reassignment”.
“hostility related to transgender identity”.
“We should never legislate lightly in the religious sphere, but Parliament has done so before to prevent harm.”-[Official Report, House of Lords, 9 February 2024; Vol. 835, c. 1896.]
“When I was younger, I told my parents I thought I was bi and they sent me to a counsellor who tried to convince me I was straight, and that my desire to be ‘different’ was purely for attention. Even though that was years ago, the effects of the counselling are still ongoing. It’s left me with a lot of guilt and confusion around who I am and how I’m supposed to act around other people.”
“I consider that the Bill…if passed, would constitute a serious intrusion into the legitimate activities and practices of Christian churches and religious communities, which would be contrary to their rights protected by the ECHR, and so to the Human Rights Act 1998. They would also interfere with the legitimate expression of gender critical views, again in a manner which would be likely to breach ECHR rights.”
“would apply both to practices which seek to ‘change’ sexual orientation or transgender identity and practices which seek to ‘suppress’ sexual orientation or transgender identity i.e., to change conduct.”
“would apply to acts which cause no injury or distress; and, indeed, to acts to which the person in question consents.”
“would apply across a wide range of settings, including social and religious settings (although, the Bill…would exempt at least some conduct of parents vis-à-vis their children). Whilst some attempt has been made to craft exemptions or exceptions so as to ensure that the practice of religion is not prohibited, the central prohibition in the Bill…remains a wide one, applying to churches and other religious organisations, and to those expressing certain views, including gender critical views, outside those settings.
The Bill…would, if enacted, interfere with a number of rights protected by the ECHR.”
“would (by way of example) restrict the ability of religious organisations to express their beliefs (both within their own communities and to the wider world) and the ability of gender-critical persons to express their beliefs to persons who profess a gender identity which is inconsistent with those beliefs. Such restrictions are likely to interfere with (at least) the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 ECHR); the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…the right to freedom of expression…and the right to freedom of assembly and association (Article 11 ECHR)… It is very difficult to see how the wide-ranging interference with fundamental rights contemplated by the Bill…could be justified. Put shortly, the Bill…would criminalise expressions of personal conviction even if they are made without expressions of hatred or intolerance, or improper purpose or coercion, or abuse of power. Restrictions of that nature run contrary to the consistent case law of the European Court of Human Rights”.
“This is perhaps best described as ‘jellyfish legislation’. The concepts it uses are impossible to grasp; its limits are wholly undefined; it contains a sting in the tail in the form of criminal sanction of up to 7 years and unlimited fines; and thus it will have an undoubted and intended effect of dissuading persons from ever even entering the now murky waters of what may or may not constitute unlawful ‘conversion practices’.”
“I became attracted to girls, but I had never had a positive association with the term ‘lesbian’ or the idea that two girls could be in a relationship. I wondered if something was wrong with me. I was adamant that I needed to transition. It was the kind of brash assertion that’s typical of teenagers. After a series of superficial conversations with social workers, I was put on puberty blockers at age 16. A year later, I was receiving testosterone shots. When 20, I had a double mastectomy. As I matured, I recognised that gender dysphoria was a symptom of my overall misery, not its cause.”
“Homophobia was rife in the local culture, my family and school and it seemed to be the worst outcome ever to end up gay. My behaviours were policed by others for being too flamboyant or eccentric, and I struggled with fitting in with others. I latched onto the idea with an unfounded zeal, and not a single medical professional stopped me thereafter. I delayed my appointment for surgery for over two years, because I had doubts. But then they gave me an ultimatum and I knew that if was not going to go through with the surgery I would have lost my therapist. As soon as I was conscious, I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My sex has been lobotomised.”
“Transitioning evangelists on the forums tell young people like me that all will be well. After cutting my long hair short and wearing men’s clothes for a year, I was put on a 12-month waiting list for treatment at a gender clinic in Glasgow. I could not believe how easy it was. What I needed was counselling to uncover why I had come to loathe my body. Instead the professionals appeared to take what I said at face value. When I said I was in the wrong sex and wanted to be a man, they agreed and prescribed me with testosterone. No one ever told me the truth: ‘You’re not a man. It’s impossible to de-sex yourself.’”
“it was the job of the professionals to consider all my co-morbidities, not just to affirm my naïve hope that everything could be solved with hormones and surgery.”
“The wide net of criminal liability in the bill”.
“The bill provides via clause 1, 4 and the Sentencing Act 2020 that:
a. a single act
b. the purpose and intent of which
c. is to change or suppress
d. sexual orientation or transgender identity
e. be a criminal offence if not excused by a defence in clause 1(2)
We draw attention to the terms ‘suppress’, ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘transgender identity’.
‘Suppress’ in comparative Scottish proposed legislation is defined widely, it includes, for example, a concerned parent forbidding an autistic daughter from wearing a breast binder because regulation of clothing is specifically cited as an act of suppression.
This bill proposes that the terms ‘Sexual Orientation’ and ‘transgender identity’ mean the same as in the Sentencing Act…this is problematic because that act defined neither term. It is important to note that the meaning of ‘sex’ (and therefore sexual orientation) is not settled in law and a Supreme Court Case on the subject is pending.”
“to suppress a sexual orientation”?
“‘sex’…is not settled in law and a Supreme Court Case on the subject is pending. ‘Transgender Identity’ is similarly problematic because the concept of ‘identity’ is wider than the equivalent protected characteristic”
“While Clause 1(2) of the bill makes serious efforts to deal with concerns around prosecutions each defence raises serious issues in the following terms:
a. The religion defence is not a statutory defence at all because it cannot apply where a conversion practice has taken place. This means it is not an excusatory defence in criminal law.
b. The ‘approval/disapproval’ defence is vague and ‘disapproval’ is not defined
c. The ‘health practitioner’ defence is a complex three-part defence which places the ‘reverse burden’ on a Defendant. The definition of a ‘health practitioner’ at Clause 4 covers most but not all clinical roles, (unregulated therapists, counsellor, helpline operators or online forum moderators would not qualify). To rely on this defence, a health practitioner must also prove to the civil standard (i) they were complying with regulations (this term is not defined) (ii) that the action they took was reasonable and (iii) that there was no ‘predetermined outcome’. Placing reverse burdens on Defendants (particularly clinicians or similar) is generally considered to be undesirable because Defendants are not expected to prove their innocence. Legitimate clinical practice will sometimes have a predetermined outcome where a confident and clear diagnosis is made.”
“d. The ‘assisting’ defence is unclear and undefined.
e. The ‘exploring or questioning’ defence suffers from the same flaw as the religion defence, it applies only where a conversion practice is not proved and so is not a statutory defence at all.
f. The ‘parental responsibility’ defence applies only where a person having parental responsibility (i) is exercising it and (ii) where they prove on reverse burden that the welfare of the child was their paramount consideration. As children get older parental responsibility in law is ‘exercised’ less and less. Requiring a parent to prove that welfare was not simply a consideration, but a ‘paramount’ consideration is onerous and likely impossible for a Defendant parent to prove.”
“We take the view that the bill as drafted is not compliant with the Human Rights Act 1998 and would likely be declared incompatible with the convention for the following reasons:
Right to a Fair Trial (Article 6)
A prosecution alleging a parent supressed an identity by regulating clothing would require a parent to accept that such an identity exist. That is contrary to Article 6 which requires criminal tribunals be independent. It would also compel belief in the criminal sphere in such a concept while disbelief in such a concept is a protected characteristic in the civil sphere. That would create a serious inconsistency in law.”
“The bill leaves key terms undefined which is contrary to the Article 6 right that a Defendant understand the case against them in ordinary and clear language. The reverse burdens in clause 1(2) impose significant and onerous burdens on Defendants and in some cases do not amount to statutory defences at all.
Right to respect for private and family life (Article 8)
The bill makes significant incursions into family life by potentially criminalising parental guidance or regulation that touches on sexual orientation or ‘transgender identity’. Difficult conversations that parents have”-
“as a matter of course would potentially be criminalised. Further, a parent can only rely on the relevant defence as outlined above. This is highly likely to be viewed as significant state overreach by domestic and supra national courts.
Right to freedom of conscience (Article 9) and expression (Article 10)
This bill would significantly curtail both religious and political expression. A similar bill passed in Victoria, Australia, led to the domestic human rights body regulating public prayer. The fact that criminal liability can trigger from a single incident and the wide meaning of the term “supress” casts the net of criminal liability so widely the offence is likely to be declared incompatible with the convention.”
“While the member for Brighton Kemptown has made significant efforts to deal with such concerns our position is that a bill based on the self-reported phenomenon of ‘identity’ and the wide term ‘supress’ might, despite best efforts, perversely fuel the very problem that it intends to solve.”
“In response to the interim findings of the Cass review…the Association of Clinical Psychologists-United Kingdom…published a statement demanding a radical shift in the support for young people with gender concerns. They called for more comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessments and increased consideration of sociocultural factors, such as homophobia. The ACP-UK also strongly conveyed the uncertainty about how best to intervene related to the dearth of robust and high-quality data on the safety and effectiveness of medical transition, and the inability of clinicians to ascertain clearly who will persist or desist in their gender dysphoria…The ACP-UK statement was met with a rebuttal from a group of clinical psychologists in an open letter to the ACP-UK…They disassociated themselves from the ACP-UK response…Within educational psychology professions, however, only two educational psychologists have publicly referenced the concerns reflected in the Cass review.”
“There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young.”
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
“The Cass Review was commissioned as an independent review of NHS gender identity services for children and young people. Its terms of reference do not include consideration of the proposed legislation to ban conversion therapy.”
“No LGBTQ+ group should be subjected to conversion therapy. However, through its work with clinical professionals, the Review recognises that the drafting of any legislation will be of paramount importance in building the confidence of clinicians working in this area.”
“course of conduct or activity”.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

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What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (Aye)Minority (No)BothTurnout
Alba0 1050.0%
Con11 14 (+2 tell)07.7%
Green1 00100.0%
Independent4 0028.6%
Lab49 (+2 tell) 0025.5%
LDem2 0013.3%
SNP1 002.3%
Total:68 15013.9%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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Crispin BluntReigateConaye
Elliot ColburnCarshalton and WallingtonCon (front bench)aye
Dehenna DavisonBishop AucklandCon (front bench)aye
Simon FellBarrow and FurnessCon (front bench)aye
Mike FreerFinchley and Golders GreenCon (front bench)aye
Peter GibsonDarlingtonCon (front bench)aye
Alicia KearnsRutland and MeltonCon (front bench)aye
Caroline NokesRomsey and Southampton NorthCon (front bench)aye
Gary SambrookBirmingham, NorthfieldCon (front bench)aye
Jamie WallisBridgendCon (front bench)aye
William WraggHazel GroveCon (front bench)aye

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