Banning gay-to-straight conversion therapy could have “unintended consequences” on people coming to terms with their sexuality, a health minister has said.

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Dr Dan Poulter said he found the so-called gay cures “absolutely abhorrent” in principle, as Labour’s Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, urged him to ban them.

But Dr Poulter said regulations or a ban on the therapy, which seeks to turn gay people straight, could stop counsellors from providing the “important service” of supporting people coming to terms with their sexual orientation.

The minister told Mr Davies: “On the point specifically... of the principle of what you say about a gay-to-straight aversion therapy, I also find that absolutely - in principle - abhorrent.

“But the issue is... if we were potentially to ban or put regulations in about that it may have unintended consequences.

“We may affect counsellors and stop counsellors from practising through supporting people coming to terms with their sexuality and that important service is delivered and one that I hope on both sides of this House we can support.”

Mr Davies had asked Dr Poulter during health questions: “You know that under this Government the number of people referred to psychotherapists and counsellors has tripled to a million at a cost of £400 million and some of these are faced with so-called gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

“When will you support my Bill to regulate psychotherapists and ban so-called gay cures, which cause enormous trauma amongst its victims and being promoted this Thursday at a big conference in Westminster?”

Mr Davies presented his Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) Bill as a private member’s bill last October. It is due to have a second reading next month.

On the issue of therapist spending, Dr Poulter replied to Mr Davies: “The reason, I’m sure you’re aware, there has been increased referrals to therapists is because this Government is investing in early intervention and ensuring that we make sure that we invest in the Iapt (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) programme so we can get to people with mental health problems much earlier and give them better support before they reach the point of crisis.”

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