Junior equalities minister Stuart Andrew ‘promises’ trans-inclusive conversion practices ban: ‘I’m doing everything possible’

Equalities minister Stuart Andrew speaking at the PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception

Junior equalities minister Stuart Andrew has highlighted the current divisions in the Conservative Party by reaffirming his support for a complete, effective and trans-inclusive ban on so-called ‘conversion therapy’.

The Conservative MP for Pudsey gave an address at the annual PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception on Wednesday (7 June), where he acknowledged the “frustrations” around the lack of information on the ban, and said that it “must be effective” and “protect everyone”.

“I promise you I’m doing everything possible to get that out almost imminently,” the junior equalities minister continued. “I can also confirm that the ban will protect everyone.”

Andrew currently serves as the under-secretary for equalities and under-secretary of state for sport, tourism and civil society, working under equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and culture, media and sport minister Lucy Frazer.

His speech comes as the Conservative government – and Badenoch in particular, who Andrews appears to contradict – faces criticism for a lack of clarity surrounding the so-called ‘conversion therapy’ ban.

There is still concerns around when an effective ban will be put in place, following the widely-criticised move by former prime minister and former Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP Boris Johnson to create a ban that wouldn’t cover trans people.

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Johnson was forced to U-turn just hours after announcing that he planned to drop the ban completely, instead promising legislation that wouldn’t include trans people.

Despite eventually committing to a trans-inclusive ban after entering Number 10, Rishi Sunak has faced criticism for the lack of movement on the legislation, and absence of reassurance that the ban would have no legal loopholes.

Former culture secretary Michelle Donelan published a statement in January confirming that the ban would include trans people, while emphasising the importance of deploying comprehensive legislation as soon as possible, despite the deafening silence from many ministers.

“We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue of harmful conversion practices and remain committed to protecting people from these practices and making sure they can live their lives free from the threat of harm or abuse,” Donelan’s statement read.

Similarly, Andrew emphasised the importance of the ban in the House of Commons during February’s LGBT+ History Month, reiterating that so-called conversion practices remain a danger to all LGBTQ+ people.

“The publication of a trans-inclusive bill to ban conversion practices is key,” he said. “Not only to protect LGBT people from harm, but to prevent efforts to invalidate our existence.

“I look forward to working with honourable members on both sides of the House to deliver this landmark legislation for our community.”

The openly gay MP reassured his constituents that, while he admitted that many people believe debate had “gotten toxic”, he would protect the rights of everyone.

“Frankly, for me, I don’t care what the family looks like. What I care about is that the family is full of love,” Andrew continued. “I care that those children are brought up in a loving environment.”

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has been heavily criticised for her approach to trans issues

During her time as equalities minister, Tory MP Kemi Badenoch has been heavily criticised for her lack of clarity on the current state of the ban, as well as her approach to issues relating to trans people.

She gave an update on the conversion practices ban while speaking in front of the Women and Equalities Select Committee in March, saying that she was “pleased” with the progress of the draft and that it was coming in “due course”.

“We’ve stated multiple times that we do intend to bring in a legislative ban on conversion practices, and we call it conversion practices, because it’s not therapy,” Badenoch said.

But the reassurances of a minister who has previously signalled her support for groups such as the anti-trans organisation LGB Alliance, have not been enough to assuage concerns among LGBTQ+ Britons and allies.

During her first appearance as equalities minister in the House of Commons, Badenoch accused PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen of using “Twitter as a tool for defamation”.

Badenoch said: “What I would like to say Mr Speaker as we do begin a new era of equalities is that the Equality Act is a shield, not a sword.

“We are running a compassionate equality strategy and we should not be distracted by people who use Twitter as a way to insult or accuse members of parliament.”

Cohen responded to the accusation in a statement expressing his disappointment in Badenoch spreading “misinformation and untruths”. Cohen also requested a formal apology.

“They inaccurately stated that I use ‘Twitter as a tool for defamation’, also alleging that ‘Members of this House’ have sued me.

“This is a disgrace and a complete fabrication, seeing as neither PinkNews nor I have ever been successfully sued by anyone,” Cohen said.