Anger as Tories again delay renters’ reform bill and conversion therapy ban

Blame game erupts over hold-up in Michael Gove’s housing reforms, while conversion ban ‘stuck in a loop’

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Friday 15 September 2023 16:33 BST
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<p>Housing secretary Michael Gove is under pressure to deliver reform </p>

Housing secretary Michael Gove is under pressure to deliver reform

Rishi Sunak is facing growing anger over fresh delays to promised reforms to protect renters and a ban on conversion therapy amid internal squabbles.

Michael Gove’s renters’ reform bill, which would end “no-fault” evictions in England, is said to have been put on hold over disagreements in government.

And the Sunak government is also expected to push back a conversion therapy bill that would ban people from trying to change someone’s sexuality amid disputes over wording.

Some supporters of the renters’ reform bill believe its second reading has been put on ice due to fears within the Tory whips’ office, according to the Financial Times.

The newspaper notes that five of 16 whips own rental property.

“There are a number of landlords in the whips’ office who are amplifying the level of concern among Tory MPs and holding things up,” said a Whitehall official.

But the whips denied that any vested interest was influencing the legislation, with one source saying it was an “an absurd suggestion”.

Mr Gove plans to reform the rental market to offer tenants greater protection. Campaigners hope it will allow tenants to challenge slum landlords without losing their homes – but some Tory MPs have pushed property owners’ concerns.

The legislative plan would also give landlords more powers to repossess homes if tenants repeatedly fall into arrears or show anti-social behaviour.

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt did not include the second reading of the bill in her latest announcement of parliamentary business. But Mr Gove is thought to be hopeful it can still happen before the start of the next session in early November.

Mr Gove promised greater protections for tenants – while Rishi Sunak faces growing anger over fresh delays

A delay this autumn would allow Labour a line of attack at next month’s conference. Deputy leader Angela Rayner said the “zombie government has failed to lift a finger to progress that legislation”.

After slow progress on the promise to ban no-fault evictions, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the failure to “urgently progress the renters’ reform bill has abandoned millions of renters to broken private renting”.

On the legislation, a government spokesperson said: “The government remains absolutely committed to delivering a fairer private rented sector for tenants and landlords through the renters’ reform bill. The bill, which delivers our manifesto commitment, is progressing through parliament and second reading will follow shortly.”

Meanwhile, LGBT+ campaigners reacted with fury to suggestions that the Sunak government had again delayed the introduction of legislation to ban conversion therapy.

Ministers promised a draft bill to ban religious groups from trying to change someone’s sexuality would be set out by the end of the parliamentary session.

Campaigners who support a conversion therapy ban say the government has ‘consistently delivered only obfuscation and delay’

But Ms Mordaunt refused to guarantee it would be ready when grilled on the issue on Thursday. “I understand the concern that members across the House have and want to see action taken on this matter,” she said.

One source close to government told The Telegraph that the ban appeared to be “dead in the water”, while another said the government was “stuck in a loop” amid disagreements on the wording of the ban.

‌Jayne Ozanne, who leads the Ban Conversion Therapy coalition, said: “I am extremely angry that the government has continued to promise action, but has consistently delivered only obfuscation and delay.”

‌Caroline Noakes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, urged Mr Sunak to “crack on” with the legislation – but warned they had heard nothing from the government’s equalities hub “as to whether they will be progressing it”.

Former prime minister Boris Johnson backed away from including transgender people in the ban on conversion therapy, much to the dismay of trans campaigners.

But the Sunak government reportedly wants to extend the legislation to include a ban on attempts to persuade a child against changing their gender.

Opponents have warned that it could mean parents, teachers or doctors could face court action for discussing gender transition with a child.

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