Conversion Therapy

Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 20th April 2021.

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Debate resumed on amendment to motion:

That this Assembly rejects the harmful practice widely referred to as conversion therapy; notes that the UK Government National LGBT Survey in 2018 reported that 2% of respondents had undergone conversion therapy, with a further 5% having been offered it; acknowledges the damage that this practice causes to the mental health of those who are subjected to it; further acknowledges that this practice has been widely rejected by medical professionals; declares that it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure; and calls on the Minister for Communities to commit to bringing forward legislation before the end of the current Assembly mandate to ban conversion therapy in all its forms. — [Mr Beattie.]

Which amendment was:

Leave out all after "professionals" and insert: “recognises that legitimate religious activities, such as preaching, prayer and pastoral support, do not constitute conversion therapy, cannot be defined as such and must be protected; and calls on the Minister for Communities to consult widely on the way ahead, including relevant legislative options, to ban the practice of conversion therapy.” — [Mrs Cameron.]

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I thank the Members from the Ulster Unionist Party for tabling the motion and for giving us a chance to reject conversion therapy and expose the damaging practices that some have supported and continue to support.

I do not have enough time today to outline my reasons for supporting the motion. It is 2021, and it should not need to be debated. The Green Party has been highlighting conversion therapy in the Chamber since 2012. Nearly a decade later, a ban is still not a reality, but I welcome the commitment from all those parties that support the motion. It is time for some action. Legislation must be passed in this mandate.

I thank those who have got in touch to lobby about this matter, and I also thank the Ban Conversion Therapy group and all others who have campaigned for years to advance LGBTQ rights. We will continue to campaign to show people that minority orientation or gender identity is normal; that you can be happy, healthy and accepted as an LGBTQ person in Northern Ireland; and that your life needs no cure.

There have been previous attempts to carve out circumstances for exemptions, and we have one such example today. I will not get into a debate about religion, although I am happy to have such a debate. We know that this is not about imposing on religious freedoms.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I will not. We all know how far we need to go in recognising and positively acting on LGBTQ rights in Northern Ireland. We need to look at the lived experiences and the health inequalities, and we need to talk about bullying, HIV, stigma, trauma, shame and the impacts of such on everybody in our society, but especially those whom we are talking about today. Anyone who watched 'It's a Sin' recently will know exactly what I am talking about, and, for those who have not watched it, I suggest that they do.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I advise the Member that, whether she takes interventions or not, she has four minutes.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not take my four minutes.

We need proper mandatory and comprehensive relationships and sexuality education that reflects the lives of everybody in our society.

Let us look at the mental health impact of continuing to stigmatise those who identify as LGBTQ, even the young people in our schools. The Department of Education's research into post-primary school experiences showed that two thirds of LGBT young people did not feel welcomed or valued in their post-primary school. Some young people decide not to come out because of the negative attitudes of others, and I know this well through personal experience. So many of my friends have experienced this through secondary school. One of my friends was ganged up on after coming out and had rocks hurled at him. With another friend, I had to call 999 after they took a drug overdose because of bullying.

This is the reality of the school system that we have here. This is the reality of the attitudes that a lot of people have and continue to portray. These attitudes, it appears, are based on a lack of understanding of LGBTQ people, leading to stereotypes and, in some cases, intolerance. Some 88·6% of LGBT people heard homophobic or transphobic language in schools. Two thirds heard people receive verbal threats. Some 88% of respondents to the Rainbow Project's survey reported that teachers rarely talked about LGBT issues sensitively.

Banning conversion therapy is one step that needs to be taken, but we need to do a lot more to right the wrongs and provide support. Previous Executives and Governments have failed queer people. The sexual orientation strategy, promised since 2007, still has not been delivered —

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member draw her marks to a close?

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

— and no funding from Departments with responsibility for equality has been provided to LGBT groups since Peter Hain was Secretary of State. Progress on equality has come through the courts or Westminster. Today is an opportunity to begin to redress that and send a clear signal of support. We will support the motion but not the amendment.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

Thank you to everybody who has contributed to the debate today.

Photo of Gerry Carroll Gerry Carroll People Before Profit Alliance

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Speaker said previously that all Members on the speaking list would be called in the debate. I was on the speaking list, and I think that others might have been. Can you advise on that point?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I have been given direction that there is a time allocated for this debate, and I have exercised that direction. The Minister has attempted to allow as many people as possible to speak, but I was advised by the Speaker's Office before coming in here that it was to be four minutes, with one more person to speak. Apologies for that, but the Business Committee allocated an hour and a half for this debate, and that is what has been afforded to Members. If, in future, you wish to have more time in the debate, it is important that those representatives in the Business Committee decide such things.

Photo of Kellie Armstrong Kellie Armstrong Alliance

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not mean to question your ruling on this. However, as a member of the Alliance Party, under d'Hondt, I would have been entitled to speak as the second Member speaking for the Alliance Party. I was not brought into the debate today. I ask that you take that decision back to the Speaker's Office to review.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Members, your comments are on the record and will be fed back. I repeat that there is a limited time opportunity, and I have been operating under the appropriate direction from the Speaker himself.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

Thank you again to all the contributors today, and to John and Doug for tabling the motion. I agree wholeheartedly that so-called conversion therapy is a cruel and inhumane practice, and it should be ended now. Legislation to ban it should be introduced as soon as possible. Indeed, I am exploring all legislative options available to me.

This is an abhorrent practice, and it is cross-cutting: there was the potential for it to be caught up and lost between several Departments. To ensure the protection of our LGBTQI+ community, my Department has taken the lead in this policy area. I call on everyone around the Chamber to support our work in bringing a ban into effect. We need to do this properly, through research, consultation and producing effective legislation, and we need to make sure that we get the policy right. We can learn from the experience and situation of other jurisdictions. We will work to ensure that we avoid the pitfalls and shortcomings that they faced, and I do believe that we can lead the way in producing a model of best practice and provide the best possible protections for our community here. We need to hear from those who have lived experience of this so-called practice, in whatever form it took, by listening to and involving those impacted by discrimination and injustice and by working with them through a co-design approach, which we are using to take forward the LGBTQI+ strategy on behalf of the Executive.

Last year, the Department established an expert panel as part of the development of the strategy. One of the recommendations put forward by the group was the ban of this practice. That is a recommendation that I wholeheartedly support. I have listened to the lived experience and stories of those who have been impacted by the practice. Those emotional and traumatic experiences should guide us as we move forward to protect our community by bringing in a ban.

I know how huge the hurt and damage to people can be when they are told that they need to be fixed or cured. We have heard that hurt again from many in recent days. That language and behaviour are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Such language will not be included in any proposals that are put forward by my Department. We need to accept people for who they are, and that is what I will be sure to do.

I know that this has been touched on, but who are they? They are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex. As was said, they are family members, loved ones and neighbours in our community. They are those who treat us and who teach us. Indeed, they are our co-workers in this very Chamber.

I have also engaged political reps and parties to listen to their views, concerns and lived experiences. I welcome their support and look forward to working in partnership with them. My officials have commenced policy work to inform the drafting of the legislation alongside work that we are doing on the LGBTQI strategy. We need to identify the facts —.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

No, you are OK, thank you.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Are you scared to give way?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

No, I am not. I am definitely not.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

We need to identify the facts, such as how widespread the practice is and the forms that it takes. We need to look at legislation in other areas by pulling out what has worked and what has not worked. We need to be clear on what we are going to ban, and we need to look at what is already in place. Just as importantly, we need to consider how we can help and support those who have been most impacted on and start to repair the damage of this so-called conversion therapy.

As we work through the drafting and, ultimately, the passing of legislation, there are things that can be implemented now. The strategy aims to tackle the wider inequalities that LGBTQI+ citizens face at every stage of their lives, promoting acceptance and recognising and enhancing the visibility of our LGBTQI community. I encourage all aspects of our society to take what action they can on this. I welcome —.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

No, you are OK, thank you. I listened to your contribution.

As was said —.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I hope that this is a point of order.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Have we got to the stage in the Assembly that a Minister cannot even take a legitimate intervention?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

As the Member will recognise, that is not a point of order, but his comment is on the record.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order, Members. The debate has gone quite well. Members have generally been respectful. Please do not let it descend into lots of points of order.

Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Mr Wells has been bouncing around the Chamber and has not sanitised a single desk today, including this one, that one and the one behind me. Perhaps you could remind him about safety —.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. That is clearly not a point of order. Members, you are making this trivial. Please allow the Minister to make her response.

[Interruption.]

Order.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

There has been good conversation and debate, and I hope that that is the train as we move through in looking at the ban. There were impassioned contributions and, indeed, personal experience as well. Again, I welcome all those. I know that Members talked about this also being a torture treatment, and I completely recognise and understand the impact that that has had.

My father was tortured before I was born. I know the impact that that had on him and that torture and that type of treatment have on families. I also know the ripple effect that they have on wider families and, indeed, friendship groups and circles. For those cruel reasons, it is a practice that we need to end.

I also note that theology and religion were mentioned during the debate. This is not about religion or theology; it is about human rights. Indeed, the UN special rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief said recently that attempts to change someone's sexuality or gender identity were "chilling" and that a ban on those practices:

"would not violate freedom of religion or belief under international law".

Some Members mentioned —.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

No, thank you. I have already said that I will not give way. I listened to your contribution, and I know that there will be more in the time ahead.

Some said that they want an effective ban. I want that as well. I want to make sure that we do not leave any loopholes in any legislation. As we move ahead, I want to make sure that we engage with the community, particularly those who have been affected by the practice.

I also note the words of those who said that lobbyists are engaged on the issue. I do not see that as lobbying in the same way as the recent story about Greensill, in which big corporations wanted to profit from lobbying Ministers. Those who emailed me and, I am sure, other Members are people who have been impacted. Their lives have been put at risk by this cruel practice. I welcome their lobbying and know that they will continue to do that. I want to listen to and engage with those members of our community as we go forward.

As was touched on in Members' contributions, homophobia is in our society. Just like racism, sectarianism, sexism and ageism, we need to challenge it where it raises its ugly head and face it down. That is by —.

Photo of Deirdre Hargey Deirdre Hargey Sinn Féin

I will not give way to anyone. I have not given way, and I want to be fair across the board, but thank you.

The strategy looks at protections, support for the community, visibility — that is also important — and, indeed, inclusion as citizens in our society.

As Members touched on today, society is changing. Andrew Muir mentioned marriage equality, and the same applies to language and other rights. The sky did not fall in when changes were made in that area, and they did not infringe on other people's rights; other people's rights were not put at risk by those changes.

We can lead the way. We can provide a rights-based approach that is framed in an international human rights framework. I look forward to working with all who support the motion and making the ban a reality. I will work to ensure that we bring it forward in the right way and work with the co-design group and the wider community. We need to ensure that the legislation is robust enough to protect those whom we wish to protect. I commit to doing that.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

The motion starts by rejecting the:

"harmful practice ... referred to as conversion therapy".

Of course we do that. There are some appalling stories of techniques that were used in conversion therapy, and we do not speak without compassion for those who suffered in those appalling situations.

The motion ends with the words:

"to ban conversion therapy in all its forms".

Members across the Chamber have made much of the clumsy positioning of the DUP amendment, but, if you believe Mr Beattie's remarks, he has also been clumsy in the construction of the motion. He said that it is not about Christian beliefs and so on, but he used the words:

"to ban conversion therapy in all its forms" in the motion text. I will deal with that at a later stage.

A Member:

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

No, I will not give way.

If the Northern Ireland Assembly is to make law, we have to be very clear about what we are and are not banning. As a party, we do not support gay conversion therapy, and we are clear that no one should be forced into any treatment against his or her will.

Our approach to any legislation that may come forward will be an adherence to that principle. In equal measure, we believe that there must be a balance between safeguarding against dangerous practices and any attempt, deliberate or otherwise, to restrict the freedom of religious belief, speech or association.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

I do not have time, Jim. Sorry.

We retain a level of concern that the debate on this important issue has at times become conflated with efforts to restrict those freedoms and constrain legitimate activities by religious organisations or others that cannot reasonably be deemed to be conversion therapy. In striking an appropriate and balanced outcome, we will continue to take account of the views of professional bodies on issues relating to conversion therapy and appreciate what future steps should be guided by such relevant expert advice.

I have, as, I am sure, others have, received an increased postbag on the issue. I received a letter from the general presbytery of the Free Presbyterian Church in which it expressed its concern. It states:

"Some activists are deliberately confusing conversion therapy with Christian conversion. Becoming a Christian leads to changes in behaviour. Repentance is central to our theology. A conversion therapy law must not criminalise Christian conversion."

I note the article in the 'News Letter' on Saturday by Dr Mike Davidson of the Core Issues Trust, who expressed his concern about:

"intelligence gathering and tracking systems to identify individual [sic] and groups that are continuing to carry out conversion therapy".

He asked:

"Could this lead to a mole in every church and classroom?".

One of my constituents who is concerned wrote:

"In the media, the concept of conversion therapy seems to be conflated with the idea of religious conversion. At the very least, this conflation of ideas could cause confusion, and, at the worst, would make it difficult for a believer to share their faith with an enquiring individual."

My constituent also cited the case of Nelson McCausland, who was hounded because he mentioned an individual who wrote a book. It was said that the Minister should get rid of him from the Education Authority. My constituent stated:

"A catch-all therapy would turn all ministers into criminals for preaching about Christian views and marriage. It is also amazing that many of those demanding a ban even want to outlaw praying with people who have asked for prayer."

Another constituent — an elderly lady — stated:

"I am writing in respect to the debate concerning conversion therapy. This therapy would turn Christian ministers into criminals for preaching the gospel and teaching about the Christian view of marriage."

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Will the Member draw his remarks to a close?

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

Mr Deputy Speaker, five minutes is nowhere near adequate. I am sorry that I did not get to the contributions made by the many Members who spoke during the debate. We are coming at this with a very sympathetic ear to the concerns over what is known as conversion therapy.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I now call John Stewart to conclude and wind on the motion. You have up to 10 minutes.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity today, on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, to wind on this important motion. I thank my party colleague Doug Beattie for moving it.

I will address at the outset the issue of the DUP amendment. The Ulster Unionist Party will not be supporting that amendment to the motion, as my party colleague stated, because of its omission of the following important phrase:

"it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure".

We, as a party, stand by the rights of ministers and people of faith to give pastoral care and religious guidance and to offer prayer to those who seek it.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

I am not giving way, Jim. The motion does not inhibit those rights.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

You do not even know what I am going to say.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

I have 11 minutes of a speech and 10 minutes in which to give it, Jim. I do not get an extension.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Thirty seconds.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

I will carry on. You will have plenty of chances.

We seek a ban on harm being caused. I thank everyone today for what, for the most part, has been a well-natured debate. I think that we can all agree on that. Many have spoken with compassion and empathy about this truly emotive subject. I also thank the many thousands of people from across the country who have emailed as part of the Ban Conversion Therapy campaign to lobby their MLAs. I would say that that has happened on both sides of the argument but particularly as part of that campaign.

It was not just members of the LGBTQ+ community but their families, friends and allies.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

Jim, please. I am just carrying on with my speech.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Are you scared to give way?

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

I am not scared to give way.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. I ask Members to stop commenting from a sedentary position.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

With respect, Jim, I will happily chat to you any time, but the last four or five Members have not given way to you,.

As I say, I thank everyone for that.

What an amazing age we live in. Recent years have seen unbelievable advances in our thinking and in our society. We have seen huge progress in technology and in our ability to communicate across the globe. In many ways, this is an age that would have been unrecognisable 30 or 40 years ago. Paradoxically, though, it is an age when some in our society cling to a nonsensical belief that they can convert or cure gays. Can we just take a moment to reflect on how primitive that concept really is? It is cruel; it is outdated; and it is a hangover from a darker time when to be LGBT was to be flawed or inadequate and in need of being fixed. Rather than the offer of re-enforcement through love, compassion, tolerance and understanding, the offer of LGBT conversion therapy is the very antithesis of that. Our LGBTQ people are not sick, so they do not need a cure; our LGBT people are not broken, so they do not need fixed. Changing people's sexual orientation is scientifically impossible. LGBT people are who they are in the way that we all are who we are; it is what we are. If anybody has a problem with that, I am sorry, but that is their problem; it is not the problem of members of the LGBT community.

Many of the Members who spoke today have set out with passion, emotion and clarity the barbarity of conversion therapy, a sad and widespread coercive practice that seeks to erase, repress, cure or change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapy causes severe physical and psychological suffering, violates the human rights of the LGBT community and is, for good reason, considered by some to be a form of torture. The testimonies of many people who have been through those forms of treatment are often stark and unsettling. There is strong evidence of the harm that conversion therapy inflicts. More than half of those who have gone through it report mental health issues, including breakdowns, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Evidence also suggests that it is being inflicted mainly but not only on vulnerable LGBT teenagers. We must treat the term "therapy" with the contempt that it deserves. We must be clear: it is not a therapy. It is a pseudo-psychiatric 21st-century snake oil, nothing more.

Despite all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies in the UK, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the NHS and hundreds of charities and health bodies around the world condemning LGBT conversion therapy, it is still legal, and LGBT individuals in the UK are still exposed to that psychological, physical and emotional abuse to this day. In 2017, the Church of England also passed a motion condemning such practices and called on the UK Government to ban them. That call has now been echoed by over 370 religious leaders and organisations worldwide, and that is growing by the day.

I want to finish by saying that there is a misconception that a ban on conversion therapy somehow impinges on the practice of religion: it does not.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

Please, Jim.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. A Member has the Floor. If the Member wishes to give way, he may do so. Mr Stewart, please continue.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Member said that he is going to run out of time. He has only reached half his time and he says that he is about to finish, so he can take points of order.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order. The Member will know that that is not a point of order. It is up to the Member who has the Floor to decide whether they wish to give way.

Photo of John Stewart John Stewart UUP

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. With respect, Jim, you had your chance to speak. Everyone else has had their chance to speak, and now it is my chance to speak.

There is a misconception that banning conversion therapy somehow impinges on the practice of religion. In my opinion, it does not. My colleague Doug Beattie has actively sought to allay the concerns of those inside and outside the House that a ban on conversion therapy could lead to the criminalisation or sanctioning of religious leaders in the routine work of pastoral care, prayer or spiritual guidance. It will not, and any form of legislation should reflect that. Religious freedom is fundamental, but so too is people's freedom and right to live their life free from intolerance and identity-based violence and abuse. We must protect the conversations between Church leaders and members of their flock. This should not be a fight between faith and non-faith; rather, it should be about protecting the freedoms of the LGBT community and stopping those who abuse their power.

This is not just not a motion. It may be non-binding, given that it has no legislative framework at this stage, but it will deliver a strong vote, hopefully of unanimity, that will be a powerful signal to the LGBTQ+ community, their families and their allies that we are willing to do what is needed to protect them against these awful, coercive practices. I commend the motion to the House and urge you all to support it.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 3:15 pm, 20th April 2021

The Question will be put again in three minutes. I remind Members that we should continue to uphold social distancing and that Members who have proxy voting arrangements in place should not come into the Chamber.

Before I put the Question, I remind Members that, if possible, it would be preferable if we could avoid a Division.

Question put a second time.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I remind Members that, as per Standing Order 112, the Assembly has proxy voting arrangements in place. Members who have authorised another Member to vote on their behalf are not entitled to vote in person and should not enter the Lobbies. I remind all Members of the requirement for social distancing while the Division takes place. I ask you to ensure that you maintain gaps of at least 2 metres between yourselves and other people when moving around in the Chamber or Rotunda and especially in the Lobbies. Please be patient at all times, observe the signage and obey the instructions of the Lobby Clerks.

The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 28; Noes 59

AYES

Mr Allister, Mr M Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Dodds, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mrs Foster, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Storey, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Givan, Mr Newton

NOES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Ms Anderson, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lynch, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCann, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Mullan, Mr Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Stewart, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Noes: Ms Ennis, Ms Sugden

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

We will now pause briefly to allow Members who wish to return to the Chamber for the next vote to do so.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I assume that we are going to move to the substantive motion.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

We have a vote to take.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I understand that the amendment has fallen. Am I therefore right to believe that the substantive motion is before the House and that there should be a vote on it?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Sorry. To be clear, we are pausing in case some Members who went out whilst proxy voting was taking place wish to come in prior to the next vote. We are moving to that stage as I speak.

Main Question put. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 59; Noes 24

AYES

Dr Aiken, Mr Allen, Ms Anderson, Dr Archibald, Ms Armstrong, Ms Bailey, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Blair, Mr Boylan, Ms S Bradley, Ms Bradshaw, Ms Brogan, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Catney, Mr Chambers, Mr Dickson, Ms Dillon, Ms Dolan, Mr Durkan, Ms Ennis, Ms Flynn, Mr Gildernew, Ms Hargey, Ms Hunter, Mr Kearney, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Ms Kimmins, Mrs Long, Mr Lunn, Mr Lynch, Mr Lyttle, Mr McAleer, Mr McCann, Mr McCrossan, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McGuigan, Mr McHugh, Ms McLaughlin, Mr McNulty, Ms Mallon, Mr Muir, Ms Mullan, Mr Murphy, Mr Nesbitt, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr O'Toole, Ms Rogan, Mr Sheehan, Ms Sheerin, Mr Stewart, Ms Sugden, Mr Swann, Miss Woods

Tellers for the Ayes: Ms Sheerin, Miss Woods

NOES

Mr Allister, Mr M Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Mr T Buchanan, Mr Buckley, Ms Bunting, Mr Clarke, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Mr Frew, Mr Givan, Mr Harvey, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Irwin, Mr Lyons, Miss McIlveen, Mr Middleton, Mr Newton, Mr Poots, Mr Robinson, Mr Stalford, Mr Storey, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Newton, Mr Wells

Question accordingly agreed to. Resolved:

That this Assembly rejects the harmful practice widely referred to as conversion therapy; notes that the UK Government National LGBT Survey in 2018 reported that 2% of respondents had undergone conversion therapy, with a further 5% having been offered it; acknowledges the damage that this practice causes to the mental health of those who are subjected to it; further acknowledges that this practice has been widely rejected by medical professionals; declares that it is fundamentally wrong to view our LGBTQ community as requiring a fix or cure; and calls on the Minister for Communities to commit to bringing forward legislation before the end of the current Assembly mandate to ban conversion therapy in all its forms.

Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask that you review the Hansard report of today's debate because Mr Wells consistently and repeatedly sought to intervene when a number of Members were speaking. Whilst those Members did not accede to those interventions, he persisted. It was grossly discourteous, and it is important that you review Hansard in order to ensure that Mr Wells's conduct was in line with the standards that we expect in the House.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Members are entitled to seek a Member to give way. That is in order, but when they persist, having been declined, it becomes an issue of order. The Member has made his point, it is on the record and I am sure that the Speaker will review it. However, when I saw that there was a need to intervene, Mr Wells ceased making such interventions. The Speaker may wish to review that and perhaps come to a different view, but there is an issue with Members' behaviour generally, so I ask Members to continue to be courteous with each other so that we can have constructive debate.

Photo of Jim Wells Jim Wells DUP

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, we have reached a stage in the Chamber where we have a Minister who does not allow one intervention throughout her entire speech. Equally, the seconder to the motion did not allow an intervention. Surely, in any democratic Chamber, we have to have the situation where people have the courage of their convictions and take interventions.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Member has made his point. I am not sure that it is a point of order. It is a point of debate, and it is up to those who have the Floor to decide whether they wish to give way.

Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Please let us not go on and on with points of order.

Photo of Paul Frew Paul Frew DUP

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is most disappointing and incredibly sad that the House has not been able to find common ground and that the amendment tabled by my party and the genuine concerns motivating the amendment were not accepted. Nonetheless, my party voted against the motion because our very serious concerns were not addressed, not because we support conversion therapy. We do not.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Clearly, that is not a point of order, but you have made your point, and it is on the record.

I ask Members to take their ease while we move to the next item of business.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)