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Conservative minister obstructs progression of gay pardon bill

26th Oct 2016

A Conservative minister has halted the progress of a new law to pardon all gay and bisexual men in England and Wales historically convicted of sexual offences that are no longer criminal.

The legislation, put forward by John Nicolson of the SNP, failed to pass to its next stage in the House of Commons after an emotional debate that brought former Labour minister Chris Bryant close to tears.

Nicolson’s bill would have given an automatic pardon to men convicted under the obsolete laws relating to gross indecency with other men. It would go further than an amendment to the policing and crime bill proposed by the government, which only pardons the 40,000 men who are already dead, while the 15,000 living will have to apply to the Home Office to get their convictions overturned.

Nicolson said his bill would “provide a blanket pardon for any gay man convicted of a crime which is no longer a crime”.

“The meaning of that is patently obvious,” he said. “If the crime for which you were convicted is still a crime, by definition you are not pardoned.”

However, Sam Gyimah, a justice minister, ensured the bill could not go forward on Friday by filibustering the House of Commons. He argued that the bill did not give strong enough protections against men being accidentally pardoned for sex with a minor or non-consensual sex.

Gyimah, said: “As well as honouring the dead, [the Nicolson bill] seeks a pardon for the living. We have developed a way to do this without giving any perception that the pardon covers perpetrators of sex with a minor or non-consensual sex.”

An attempt by the SNP to force a vote was unsuccessful because there were not the required 100 MPs in the House of Commons. Debate on the bill is set to resume on 16 December, but is unlikely to progress without the support of the government.