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MPs shout ‘shame’ as UK Justice Minister prevents vote on Turing Bill

MPs shout ‘shame’ as UK Justice Minister prevents vote on Turing Bill

A private member’s bill before the UK Parliament has been filibustered by the Government’s Justice Minister, Sam Gyimah – just a day after he proposed a Government-approved alternative.

The legislation, which sought to pardon gay men prosecuted for gross indecency before homosexual activity was decriminalized, was named Turing’s Bill after persecuted math’s genius Alan Turing. It was proposed SNP MP John Nicolson.

Raised for discussion in the House of Commons this afternoon, it could not be voted upon as Gyimah talked for so long.

If passed, the bill would have conveyed pardons to an estimated 50,000 gay and bisexual men.

Although it is unusual for a minister to filibuster legislation in this manner, the Government stated yesterday that it would not support the bill and instead offered its own proposal for pardons for gay men.

The Government’s legislation, in the form of an amendment to the Policing and Crimes Bill, will grant pardons – both to the living and posthumously – after application for ‘disregard’.

It will pardon ‘gross indecency’ charges between consenting gay adults if the activity is legal today.

It is believed it may be used by up to 15,000 men still alive, but not if they were charged with gross indecency in a public toilet, which is still technically illegal.

Nicholson’s bill would have been more far-reaching, conveying a blanket pardon for all gay men charged with gross indecency prior to the change in the law in 1967.

In a statement yesterday, Gyimah explained why the Government didn’t support today’s bill, ‘I understand and support the intentions behind Mr Nicolson’s Bill, however I worry that he has not fully thought through the consequences.

‘A blanket pardon, without the detailed investigations carried out by the Home Office under the disregard process, could see people guilty of an offence which is still a crime today claiming to be pardoned.

‘This would cause an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of distress to victims and for this reason the Government cannot support the Private Member’s Bill. Our way forward will be both faster and fairer.’

Although yesterday’s Government announcement of pardons was largely welcomed, Gyimah’s actions in Parliament today prompted shouts of ‘shame’ from some of Nicolson’s fellow SNP MPs.

His behavior was also widely criticized on social media – possibly by users confused by what appeared to be Gyimah’s change in attitude.

Nicolson himself tweeted throughout the discussion, increasingly dismayed when it became apparent that Gyimah was going to filibuster.

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A spokesperson for the Minister of Justice confirmed to GSN that despite Gyimah’s filibustering in Parliament today, the Government’s proposed amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill was going ahead as planned. That bill is expected to become law next year.

Before that, Nicolson’s Private Member’s Bill is expected to return to Parliament for a further reading – in late November or early December – but whether it gets to be voted upon remains to be seen.

In a statement released following today’s Parliamentary discussion, Nicolson said: ‘I’m very disappointed that the Tory government decided to filibuster and talk out the Turing Bill.

‘The bill was intended to be kind and bring closure to generations of gay and bisexual men found guilty of homophobic crimes no longer on the statute book. Many of these men are now elderly and have lived with unjust convictions for years – my bill would have given them an automatic pardon.

‘As MPs of all parties made clear today there was no good reason for the government to block this Bill. The compromise amendment being suggested instead does not go far enough to right the wrongs committed against these men and their families.’