Labour MP: Government wrong to say banning gay ‘cure’ therapy could affect pro-gay counselling

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Labour MP Geraint Davies has criticised Health Minister Daniel Poulter for ruling out statutory regulation of psychotherapists in order to prevent them from providing gay-to-straight conversion therapy – the minister claims it would have “unintended consequences” for counsellors who are supporting gay people.

In December, Mr Davies published a Private Members’ Bill in Parliament aimed at banning the practice by regulating the psychotherapy sector.

The bill will receive its second reading next month.

Last week, Christian group Anglican Mainstream described it as a “threat” to Christians.

Christian Concern, the evangelical organisation founded by Andrea Minichiello Williams in 2008 to protect “Britain’s Judeo-Christian values”, is also opposed to Mr Davies’ proposal.

Speaking today in the House of Commons, Mr Davies asked Health Minister Daniel Poulter if the government would support the bill.

The Labour MP said: “Mr Speaker, he knows that under this government the number of people referred to psychotherapists and counsellors has tripled to a million at a cost of £400 million, and some of these are faced with so called gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

“When will he support my bill to regulate psychotherapists and ban so called gay ‘cures’ which cause enormous trauma amongst victims and are being promoted this Thursday at a big conference in Westminster?”

In response, the Tory MP said: “On the point specifically… of the principle of what you say about a gay-to-straight aversion therapy, I also find that absolutely, in principle, abhorrent. But the issue is that if we were potentially to ban or put regulations in about that, it may have unintended consequences that we may stop counsellors practicing who are supporting people coming to terms with their sexuality. That’s an important service and one that I hope on both sides of this House we can support.”

On the issue of therapist spending, Mr Poulter replied to Mr Davies: “The reason, I’m sure you’re aware, there has been increased referrals to therapists is because this government is investing in early intervention and ensuring that we make sure that we invest in the Iapt (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme so we can get to people with mental health problems much earlier and give them better support before they reach the point of crisis.”

Speaking after Health Questions, Mr Davies said: “Once again the government has rejected my attempts to have this harmful practice banned. In doing so the minister made the ridiculous claim that my bill would jeopardise positive, professional counselling for LGBT people. This is nonsense, as anyone who has read the bill can see.”

In November, the UK Government resisted calls by MPs to introduce statutory regulation of psychotherapists in order to prevent them from being able to carry out gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb said it was “utterly abhorrent” but that the Department of Health was not aware of cases of it being prescribed on the NHS.

Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was found to be providing the therapy, was struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) in September 2012.