A Westcountry MP has attacked “voodoo psychology” amid concerns that NHS doctors were referring gay patients for treatment to “cure” them of their sexuality.
During a Westminster Hall debate, MPs called for legislation to ban the “bogus” claims.
Newquay and St Austell Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert said: “In the 21st century no lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual should be accessing this kind of voodoo psychology.
“Instead we should be providing services which help give them confidence and support them with their sexuality.”
Health minister Norman Lamb said the practice was “utterly abhorrent” but ruled out statutory regulation.
In a debate tabled by Labour MP Sandra Osborne, the MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock warned that the practice posed a “real and present danger in Britain”.
It comes just months after the Core Issues Trust, a pro-conversion group, tried to lobby politicians not to support Labour MP Geraint Davies’s motion to regulate counsellors and psychotherapists, including those offering conversion treatment for homosexuals.
“Core Issues are the very same people who tried and, fortunately, failed to put up posters on London buses advertising conversion therapy,” said Ms Osborne.
“And on 30 January this year, alongside Christian Concern, they also hosted a debate on conversion therapy in the committee room in this house.”
She said it was important to debunk the myth that conversion therapy is only happening in the United States adding: “Conversion therapy is a very real and present danger in Britain, that more than just a problem of religious fundamentalists, it’s an issue for the National Health Service and professional sector and that this isn’t a simplistic debate about freedom to choose.”
Mr Lamb, who has faced previous calls to ban conversion therapy, told MPs: “I find this practice utterly abhorrent and has no place in a modern society. That’s my personal view.”
He added: “Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not an illness to be treated or cured. We are concerned about this issue of so-called gay-to-straight conversion therapy.”
The Department of Health, he said, was “not aware” of NHS doctors commissioning such therapy which was “not something that public money should have anything to do with”.