MARK Drakeford has hit out at “alarming and shameful” u-turns by the UK Government on conversion therapy.
The first minister said Boris Johnson’s about turn which has seen him recommit to a ban on gay conversion therapy, but not outlawing the practice related to trans people, is “completely unacceptable” and he hopes to introduce a ban in Wales.
The deputy minister for social partnership, Hannah Blythyn, has also confirmed the Welsh Government will commission “urgent legal advice on the unilateral action we are able to take to ban conversion ‘therapy’.”
A leaked Downing Street briefing paper seen by ITV News was reported to have said “the PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation” to outlaw the practice in which is when people are offered counselling or psychotherapy to change their sexuality or suppress gender identity.
Theresa May had promised in 2018 to ban the practice and Boris Johnson had also committed to doing so.
But a UK Government spokesman yesterday confirmed that they were looking instead at ways of preventing it through existing law and “other non-legislative measures”.
However, within hours of the announcement, a senior UK Government source was quoted as saying legislation would be included in the Queen’s Speech in May.
The prime minister was said to have “changed his mind” after seeing the reaction to the earlier announcement, and that the legislation would cover “only gay conversion therapy, not trans”.
The prime minister’s shifting positions has prompted first minister Mark Drakeford to hit out on Twitter.
He wrote, in a series of three tweets, that: “The UK Government’s U-turns on banning conversion therapy have been alarming and shameful.
“They have chosen not to protect our Transgender community. This is completely unacceptable.
“The strength shown by the LGBTQ+ community has been remarkable and far beyond a ‘noise’ to be managed.
“Here in Wales, we stand united – understanding that none are equal while rights are up for discussion or barter.
“The Welsh Government has requested urgent legal advice on the actions we are able to take to ban conversion therapy here in Wales.
“We will continue to do all we can to protect our LGBTQ+ community and we will seek the devolution of additional powers where necessary.”
The Welsh Government has requested urgent legal advice on the actions we are able to take to ban conversion therapy here in Wales.
We will continue to do all we can to protect our LGBTQ+ community and we will seek the devolution of additional powers where necessary.
— Mark Drakeford (@PrifWeinidog) April 1, 2022
The Welsh Government had said in June, when it outlined its ambitions to be the “most LBGTQ+ friendly nation in Europe” that it wished to seek the devolution of powers relating to the Gender Recognition Act, to use all available powers to ban all aspects of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy.
In a written statement today Blythyn said the partial u-turn was “unacceptable” due to the exclusion of Trans people from the protections.
She said: “We will do all we can within our devolved powers to protect our LGBTQ+ community. We can no longer have faith that the UK Government will do the same. We will also seek the devolution of any necessary additional powers required to see this through.”
She has also written to the UK minister for equalities, Mike Freer, outlining the Welsh Government’s loss of faith in the UK Government’s committment to equality.
She wrote: “We have engaged in good faith with your office and with the UK Government and seek urgent clarity on how you intend to proceed. If it is indeed the intention of the UK Government to abandon the clear commitments it has made, this would represent a most severe breach of trust for individuals and families who placed faith in the Government to end
this draconian practice that causes direct harm to our LGBTQ+ communities.”
The UK Government’s latest position will now make the devolution of those powers all the more pressing, for ministers in Cardiff, if the UK legislation fails to match their vision and commitment to equality.
UK Labour leader Keir Starmer suggested the double U-turn on the banning of conversion therapy was meant as a distraction from the cost-of-living crisis.
Sir Keir, speaking on a visit to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, on Friday, said that “all conversion therapy in all its forms is wrong”.
He added: “The Government should just keep to its promises on this.
“But look, let’s be honest and clear about what’s happening today – the Government is trying to get us all to talk about conversion therapy because they don’t want us focusing on the cost-of-living crisis, on the increase in energy bills, where they’ve got such a pathetic response.
“So it’s wrong, the Government should keep to its promises.
“But, you know, this is classic Conservative, trying to sort of distract people over here, when really the issue is the cost of living and energy prices.”
- This article originally appeared on our sister site The National. Additional reporting: PA