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Truss silent on conversion therapy ban as ally insists U-turn hint was wrong

Former equalities minister Mike Freer says he has been assured that Liz Truss’s views ‘have not changed’

Adam Bychawski
11 August 2022, 4.42pm

The Truss campaign would not answer a direct question about whether she would go ahead with the proposed bill to ban conversion therapy.

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Prixpics / Alamy Stock Photo

A key Liz Truss ally has claimed her campaign director was “wrong” to suggest she would U-turn on banning conversion therapy – as Truss herself remained tight-lipped on the subject.

Asked directly whether the foreign secretary would keep the government’s ban on anti-gay conversion therapy in her legislative agenda should she become prime minister in September, an official spokesperson dodged the question, saying only that she would “ensure that LGBT people can live their lives free from harm”.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was criticised by LGBTQ+ campaigners yesterday after openDemocracy revealed he had described plans to ban the practice as “ghastly woke culture” while standing in for Truss at an event. But today north London MP Mike Freer, a former equalities minister who worked with Truss, told local paper the Ham&High that Truss still supports the policy.

“I have checked with the team and Liz’s views have not changed. Mr Duncan Smith was wrong,” he said.

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Asked about the Truss campaign’s stance on conversion therapy at an Q&A organised by the Christian Conservative Fellowship on Tuesday, Duncan Smith had said: “I hate it. Can I be clear about that? I think when you start banning things like this you enter a maze of problems. And I absolutely believe that Liz is very much there.”

He doubled down on criticism of the bill when confronted by Sky News today, but tried to distance his boss from the position, saying she was in favour of the ban and then it was only his personal opinion that the planned legislation “needs to be reworked”.

A spokesperson for Truss’ campaign said that: “There is no place for the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy in our society. We will ensure that LGBT people can live their lives free from harm, prevent under-18s making irreversible decisions about their future, and protect freedom of speech and choice.” They did not answer direct questions about whether the ban would be brought forward in its current form.

Former Conservative Party leader Theresa May first promised to ban conversion therapy in 2018, but it was not until 2021 that proposals were finally published. Boris Johnson initially backed the ban but then announced in May 2022 that the plans would be scrapped. 

After a backlash from LGBTQ+ groups and members of his own party, he rowed back and said the ban would go ahead – but that it would not include conversion therapy for transgender people.

The government announced the Conversion Therapy Bill as part of the Queen’s Speech later that month and said that it would “carry out separate work to consider the issues of transgender conversion therapy”.

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