Boris Johnson is facing an instant backlash after the government confirmed plans to legislate to ban LGBT+ conversion therapy have been dropped.
A government spokesman said ministers will review how existing law can be used more effectively to prevent the much-criticised practice and to explore “other non-legislative measures”.
The announcement came after ITV News obtained a leaked document stating “the PM has agreed we should not move forward with legislation”.
The document states: “Given the unprecedented circumstances of major pressures on cost of living and the crisis in Ukraine, there is an urgent need to rationalise our legislative programme”.
The move was condemned as giving a “green light to a form of torture” and an “utter betrayal” of the LGBT+ community.
The u-turn comes after equalities minister Mike Freer told MPs on Wednesday that the government was “wholly committed” to legislation.
Conversion therapy attempts to change or suppress someone’s sexuality or gender identity and is already outlawed in a number of other countries.
The government announced it would be bringing forward legislation in last year’s Queen’s Speech after ministers originally promised a new law in 2018.
The move was strongly condemned by Jayne Ozanne, who campaigns for LGBT+ rights within the Church of England and who quit the government’s LGBT+advisory panel last year accusing ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.
“I gave (the prime minister) the benefit of the doubt thinking he would keep his word and he would deliver for the LGBT+ community the one thing they promised for us,” she told ITV News.
“How on earth are we meant to trust those in power when they renege on any promise that’s been made and don’t seem to understand the harm that so many people are facing right now in Britain today?”, she added.
Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry tweeted: “Just when I thought my contempt for this disgusting government couldn’t sink lower. A curse upon the whole lying, stinking lot of them.”
Last year, Carrie Johnson defended Johnson as “completely committed” to LGBT+ rights, despite the government’s delay in banning conversion therapy and the push back against trans rights.
In a speech to a drinks reception at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the prime minister’s wife said it was “blatantly untrue” that it was “incompatible” to be both LGBT+ and a Tory.
In response to the u-turn, Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow equalities secretary, said: “This outrageous decision shows you simply can’t trust a word Boris Johnson says.
“A government that believes conversion therapy is acceptable in 21st century Britain is no friend of the LGBT+ community.
“Labour will never abandon the fight to ban this insidious practice forever.”
Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson Wera Hobhouse MP said: “This is not just yet another u-turn from the Tories, but giving the green light to a form of torture in the UK. This is an utter betrayal of the LGBT+ community.
“Conversion therapy should have been banned years ago, but the Conservatives are looking the other way on this abusive and dangerous practice, this is a complete injustice. The government must ban it without dither or delay.”
A government spokesperson said: “Having explored this sensitive issue in great depth the government has decided to proceed by reviewing how existing law can be deployed more effectively to prevent this in the quickest way possible, and explore the use of other non-legislative measures.”