Tories filibuster ‘Turing Bill’ – denying pardons to 50,000 living gay men

MPs and LGBT campaigners have slammed the decision to block a vote

 

A private members bill aiming to erase the criminal records of gay men convicted of now-defunct sexual offences was talked out by Tories in the House of Commons this afternoon.

MPs shouted at Conservative minister Sam Gyimah to sit down as the cut-off time for SNP MP David Nicolson’s bill approached. However, the justice minister continued to speak, a vote was not called and the bill fell. If passed, it would have cleared the way for a pardon of nearly 50,000 men living with convictions for consensual homosexual activity.

Gyimah claimed that the government had already fulfilled its manifesto commitment to formally pardon those convicted under now-abolished laws, firstly by introducing a posthumous pardoning process, and secondly by allowing gay men to apply to have their convictions disregarded.

The government argues that a blanket pardon could lead to some men being pardoned for actions that are still crimes today, although the bill included a clause excluding those convictions from the pardon.

Campaigners and MPs from across the opposition have slammed the filibuster.

John Leech, a former Lib Dem MP who tabled the motion on Alan Turing’s pardon in 2012, commented:

“For years I have campaigned and fought for this moment and this could have been a hugely historic and proud day. Instead, it is adding further frustration and heartache to those affected and their families, not to mention the sheer embarrassment to this country.

It is 2016 and there are more than 75,000 people still convicted of just loving someone, it simply beggars belief! I am absolutely gutted and devastated at the result today, and completely ashamed of our government.”

Labour’s Wes Streeting, who intervened during Gyimah’s speech to warn him against talking the bill out, described the government’s actions as ‘a disgrace’.

Earlier in the debate, Chris Bryant fought back tears as he argued for the bill, invoking the memory of gay parliamentarians who fought appeasement in the 1930s, but were dismissed by the government as ‘glamour boys’.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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