Government issues apology for historical anti-gay laws as Parliament gives green light to pardons law

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Plans to issue a pardon with men who were convicted under anti-gay laws have been accepted unopposed.

The Turing’s Law proposals will see men convicted for consensual same-sex relationships, which were criminalised in England and Wales until 1967, formally pardoned.

Rather than bring about direct legislation on the issue, the Ministry of Justice fulflled the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto pledge on the issue by accepting a Lib Dem amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.

The amendments were accepted in the Commons today, paving for the way for the provisions to become law when the bill gains Royal Assent – expected “within weeks”. according to the Ministry of Justic.

Under the new procedure, men living with gay sex offences will receive a pardon when they apply to have their convictions overturned, while a posthumous pardon will be issued to men who are deceased.

Government minister Brandon Lewis, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, issued a formal apology on behalf of the government.

He said: “I want to take the opportunity to apologise unreservedly, on behalf of the Government, to all those men who will receive a pardon. The legislation under which they were convicted and cautioned was discriminatory and homophobic. I want to make sure that all who were criminalised in this way and had to suffer society’s opprobrium, and the many more who lived in fear of being so criminalised because they were being treated in a very different way from heterosexual couples, actually understand that we offer this full apology.

“Their treatment was entirely unfair. What happened to these men is a matter of the greatest regret, and it should be so to all of us. I am sure it is to Members across the House. For this, we are today deeply sorry.”

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: “I am deeply sorry that so many men died without being pardoned in this way. I am sorry too that our country was blind to a simple fact – that love is love.

“My thanks go out to all MPs who voted for this historic Bill. Whilst we can never undo the hurt caused, I am pleased these men could soon be formally pardoned.”

Lib Dem, peer Lord Sharkey, Labour’s Lord Cashman and Conservative Lord Lexden had tabled the amendments which will be accepted.

A minor row erupted over the plans last year, over Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson’s rival plan to create a pardons law via his own Private Member’s Bill.

Mr Nicolson accused the government of playing “dirty tricks” by supporting the cross-party plan from Lord Sharkey despite previously backing his bill.

The MP took his bill to the floor despite the government making clear it would not be allowed to pass, leaving Mr Gyimah to filibuster the plan.

The Policing and Crime Bill is expected to gain Royal Assent “within weeks”.