Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Gay pardon filibuster fury fuels MPs' calls for debates reform

Published 25/10/2016

Labour former minister Chris Bryant delivers an emotional speech during the debate on the Turing Bill
Labour former minister Chris Bryant delivers an emotional speech during the debate on the Turing Bill

The Government faced calls to end filibustering following widespread anger at the "disgraceful" talking out of the Turing Bill, which would pardon gay men convicted of now-abolished sex offences.

MPs were left furious after justice minister Sam Gyimah scuppered the chances of the Bill being put to a vote last week by speaking on it for more than 20 minutes.

Politicians for all sides of the chamber queued up to condemn the scenes and urged ministers to create more time for private members' bills, such as the Turing Bill, to be debated.

Asking an urgent question on the topic, senior Conservative Charles Walker said: "Too often on Fridays, when we have private members' bills, this House bleeds. It bleeds credibility and it bleeds standing.

"The Government front bench is well aware of this fact."

He urged the Government to adopt the recommendations of the Procedure Committee to restore "some credibility" to private members' bills, which are heard on Fridays and rarely make it to statute.

Mr Walker added: "The truth is that without will on behalf of the Government to change Fridays, we will still have too many days when we leave this place downcast and sometimes ashamed at the proceedings that have gone on before us."

Proposals include reducing the number of bills given priority for consideration from 20 to 14, of which up to four slots could be chosen by the Backbench Business Committee.

They also suggest guaranteeing votes at second reading for the first seven bills, which would allow them not be defeated at the first hurdle.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who was close to tears as he spoke in favour of the pardon last week, said the system was "bust" and "needs mending".

He said: "Tens of thousands of people were watching the debate last Friday as if it really was a matter of life and death to them because it was about their own sense of shame, how society had treated them, and whether they were going to have the possibility of real exonerations."

He said the scenes last Friday "brought the House into disrepute" and the system must be fixed.

Pete Wishart, from the SNP, said the scenes were "a depressing and dispiriting spectacle" and were a "disgrace".

He added: "The public couldn't hold the way we do our practices in this House with more contempt. On Friday they were proved right."

David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, said the Government would consider the recommendations.

But he defended Mr Gyimah, telling MPs: "I think that the Government and the Ministry of Justice in particular, have nothing to apologise for about the way in which Friday's business was handled."

The Government will bring forward an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill which will put the pardon on the statute book.

Press Association

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph