Gay conversion ban ‘not appropriate’ say ministers

The government today rejected calls for a ban on gay conversion therapy, claiming that any regulation would be too expensive

"There are no plans at this stage to introduce statutory regulation of psychotherapists," health minister Norman Lamb told MPs this afternoon.

"We believe statutory regulation would not be appropriate and the costs to registrants or the taxpayer could not be justified."

He added that "while statutory regulation is sometimes necessary it is not always the most proportionate or effective means of ensuring the safe and effective care of patients."

Lamb insisted the department of health were "not aware that the NHS commissions this type of therapy," but said they were exploring ways to ensure that it did not take place in the future.

He said the government would instead press ahead with a new "voluntary register" for psychotherapists.

However, he admitted it would not prevent the practice from going ahead.

Lamb's comments follow reports that potentially thousands of gay people have been referred by the NHS for gay conversion therapy.

One survey of 1300 mental health professionals found that 300 admitted to trying to change the sexuality of at least one patient.

MPs from across the house urged Lamb to announce an outright ban on the gay therapy.

"The Department of health have been very weak on this," Conservative MP Mike Freer told the Westminster Hall debate.

"Rather than simply not condoning this, they should outright ban this voodoo medicine and so-called conversion therapy."

Labour MP Sandra Osborne said gay conversion posed "a very real and present danger in Britain" and should be banned.

Sharon Hodgson MP added that GPs were breaking their oath not to harm patients.

"Doctors swear to do no harm, not to do whatever their patients ask them to. We know that conversion therapy is harmful and doctors should know that too."

Lamb said the government were not ruling out a ban at some point in the future but would "continue to assess" their options.

Last month Labour MP Geraint Davies proposed a private members bill calling for the statutory regulation of all counsellors and psychotherapists.

"Currently anyone can set themselves up as a psychotherapist with no training or recourse for the patient when something goes wrong," he said.

"This gives a free rein to those offering bogus treatments like conversion therapy. It’s a scandal that someone can offer this discredited, so-called treatment and still call themselves a professional therapist.

"The only way to stop this awful practice is to make regulation compulsory and to strike off anyone attempting to 'cure' a person’s sexual orientation."