MP close to tears as Justice Minister's speech thwarts gay pardons bill to cries of 'shame'

Furious MPs have heckled Justice Minister Sam Gyimah with cries of "shame" as he talked for enough time to stop a vote being held over proposals to pardon gay men for now-abolished sexual offences.

Labour's Chris Bryant was close to tears as he joined fellow MPs in urging the Government to pardon all living gay men who were convicted of crimes that are no longer on the statute books.

But Mr Gyimah spoke for more than 20 minutes at the end of a lengthy debate to prevent a so-called "Turing Bill" brought forward by the SNP's John Nicolson from being put to a vote.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah, seen taking a group selfie during July's Conservative leadership contest, talked to prevent a vote. Credit: PA

The Government announced on Thursday plans for thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of out-of-date offences to be posthumously pardoned.

But Mr Nicolson brought forward a private member's bill which sought to go even further, proposing an automatic pardon for the living too, and accused ministers of trying to "hijack" his legislation.

In a debate punctuated by emotional speeches, former Labour minister Mr Bryant recalled gay and bisexual MPs who "faced down" Adolf Hitler, insisting they and others should receive "something that feels like an apology".

Conservative MP Nigel Adams apologised for voting against gay marriage during his address to the Commons. Credit: PA

There was support from Conservative benches too with former justice minister Crispin Blunt warning the Government's proposals did not have the desired "symbolic effect".

His party colleague Nigel Adams labelled the behaviour of ministers "a little bit slippery" as he urged support for Mr Nicolson's Sexual Offences (Pardons Etc) Bill during its second reading.

Speaking to reach the time limit for the debate, Mr Gyimah called on Mr Nicolson to withdraw the Bill and work with the Government and LGBT equality campaign group Stonewall.

World War Two codebreaker Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013. Credit: PA

The Government has said anyone living who has been convicted of such abolished offences can already apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through a disregard process, which removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks.

Ministers are also planning to introduce a new statutory pardon for the living in cases where offences have been deleted through the disregard process.

Alan Turing's grand niece Rachel Barnes handed in a petition at Downing Street last year calling for 49,000 people to be pardoned. Credit: PA

Calls for wider action emerged after Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013 over a conviction in 1952 for "gross indecency" with a 19-year-old man.

Turing was chemically castrated and died two years later from cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide - though there have been suggestions his death was an accident.