Wales is seeking legal advice on the “unilateral action” it can take to ban conversion therapy, after the UK reportedly committed to stamping out the practice for gay people, but not those who are trans.
In a statement on behalf of the Welsh Government, deputy minister Hannah Blythyn said she had written to the UK Government expressing her “strongest condemnation” of its decision to “abandon the pursuit of protections for a part of our community”.
She said Wales would commission “urgent legal advice” on the “unilateral action” it could take to ban the practice, and seek “the devolution of any necessary additional powers required to see this through”.
It comes after Boris Johnson managed to stage two U-turns in the space of a few hours on the controversial issue of LGBT conversion therapy.
It was initially announced that ministers were scrapping plans to ban the practice, sparking a furious backlash.
A Government spokesman confirmed on Thursday 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 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 move.
The ban now set to be brought forward by the Government will cover “only gay conversion therapy, not trans”, ITV’s Paul Brand reported.
The Welsh Government described this as a “partial U-turn”, with the omission of trans people “unacceptable”.
“On the day of Transgender Visibility, the Prime Minister chose to abandon the pursuit of protections for a part of our community,” Ms Blythyn wrote.
“This is unacceptable and the partial U-turn is not a victory. The LGBTQ+ community stands as one, and none of us are equal while our rights are up for discussion or barter.”
She added: “I have written to the UK Government expressing my strongest condemnation of this move and pressed for urgent clarity on their intentions.
“Today, I can announce that the Welsh Government will be commissioning urgent legal advice on the unilateral action we are able to take to ban conversion ‘therapy’. 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.”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also tweeted: “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.”
Mr Johnson was reported to have faced a backlash over the initial move to scrap plans for a conversion therapy ban from 60 of his own MPs, including ministers.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has suggested the Government’s double U-turn was meant as a distraction from the cost-of-living crisis.
Speaking on a visit to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, on Friday, he said that “all conversion therapy in all its forms is wrong”.
“The Government should just keep to its promises on this,” he said.
“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.”
A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Government has a proud record on LGBT rights, and the Prime Minister is committed to bringing forward legislation to ban conversion therapy.
“The content, scope and timing of the proposed bill will be confirmed in due course.”