WATCH: Labour MP Chris Bryant fights back tears in emotional speech backing gay pardon law

Posted On: 
21st October 2016

A top Labour MP fought back tears today as he begged the Government to back a blanket pardon for all those convicted under now abolished sexual offences.

Labour former frontbencher Chris Bryant gave an impassioned speech in support of a Private Member's Bill
Credit: 
PA Images

Chris Bryant argued people who had had their lives ruined by the convictions would not wish to contact the Home Office for a pardon - as the Government proposes.

Ministers are pushing a similar proposal through an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill, which would pardon the dead but force the living to apply to have their names cleared through a "disregard process".

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SNP MP John Nicolson presented a rival bill to the Commons today which would pardon all those convicted before homosexuality was decriminalised. Crucially it would also apply to those still living.

In an impassioned speech Mr Bryant said there was a “real problem” in forcing those still alive to go through a new process to clear their names.

He questioned why those affected, who may be in their eighties, would want to dredge up what had been a “brand” on their lives and which may have caused “terrible problems” in their family, social and work lives.

“Why on earth would you want to write to the Home Secretary and say ‘please can I be pardoned’?” he went on.

“Why on earth would you want to go through a process all over again? Why on earth would you want someone to analyse whether or not you were guilty at all way back when?”

 

 

Mr Bryant argued the bill should remember a group of gay MPs from the 1930s - Ronald Cartland, Jack Macnamara, Anthony Muirhead, Robert Bernays and Victor Cazalet.

The group became staunch opponents of appeasement after a visit to Germany, but the Government at the time branded them “glamour boys,” hounded them and threatened them with deselection.

He added that if it was not for those MPs "we would never have faced down Hitler and wouldn't enjoy our freedoms today".

'NOT WATERTIGHT'

Minister Sam Gyimah argued the Government bill will secure against pardoning those whose convictions still stand, such as if they had sex with a minor.

For the same reason Tory MP Craig Whittaker said Mr Nicolson’s Private Member’s Bill was not “watertight”.

But Mr Bryant retorted: “If there are things that need to be put right, let’s put them right.

“If this bill is not watertight, let’s make it watertight. But the place to make it watertight is in the committee, not by turning our back on this today.”

SNP MPs argue the bill is safeguarded by refusing pardons for those convicted of anything which remains an offence.