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Conversion Practices Bill fails to pass Second Reading

Religious Liberty
1 March 2024
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A private members' bill which aimed to ban so called 'conversion practices' has failed to pass at Second Reading this afternoon in the House of Commons.

The Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill was introduced by MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle. It came high up the ballot of private members bills following the King's Speech last year. Bills that come higher up the ballot are given more time for debate.

Concerns had been raised by a leading KC, one of the UK's top human rights experts, who, in a clear and compelling legal opinion, said that the Bill would have had a detrimental impact on freedom of speech and expression.

The legal opinion said:

I consider that the Bill and the Amendment, 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.
Expert Legal Opinion on Conversion Practices Bill

During the debate, MPs also raised concerns about the legislation. For example, Miriam Cates MP said:

The problem for those of us who question the Bill is that it contains no threshold for torture, abuse or even harm, so it will capture practices that are not harmful and for which we should not be legislating.
Miriam Cates MP

Rosie Duffield also argued the definitions in the proposed Bill were not clear:

First, in order to legislate we would need clear legal definitions of terms that are contentious and vague. For example, how does one define the concept of converting someone to change their “true identity”? A qualified therapist exploring a client’s feelings of gender dysphoria will cause them to question those feelings in order to understand them—that is therapy. In everyday conversations among friends or families, who steps in, and at what point, to decide that those conversations amount to attempted conversion?
Rosie Duffield MP

The Conversion Practices (Prohibition) Bill will not move to Committee Stage.

However, thanks to amendments tabled to the Criminal Justice Bill, it is possible MPs will debate a conversion practices ban in the coming weeks, especially if the Speaker selects the amendment and it goes to a vote.

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