Westminster Hall, where a debate on gay conversion therapy takes place next week

Could the government finally be about to stamp out gay conversion therapy?

Could the government finally be about to stamp out gay conversion therapy?

The prospect of government action against so-called gay conversion therapists grew yesterday, after it emerged it planned to respond to concerns about the practice when they are voiced in a parliamentary debate next week.

A Westminster Hall debate on the issue moved by Labour MP Sandra Osborne will receive an official government response, raising hopes among campaigners that officials may be intending to introduce regulatory controls on the controversial practice.

No law currently prohibits conversion therapists operating in the UK, even though the Department of Health has acknowledged the practice "may well cause considerable harm".

Virtually every professional medical organisation has warned that efforts to change people's sexuality are ineffective and potentially psychologically harmful, but councilors and psychotherapists remain an unregulated profession.

Most other healthcare professionals have to sign up to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Labour originally planned to regulate the industry, but the coalition dumped the proposals when it came into power.

Campaigners are also concerned at evidence that customers for conversion therapy are often forwarded on by professional doctors.

An undercover investigation by the Independent newspaper found one conversion therapist boasted of having most of clients arrive following a referral by the local GPs' surgery.