Peers call for a pardon for Alan Turing


The House of Lords debated the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill at second reading on 19 July 2013.

The private members' bill would pardon computer pioneer Alan Turing from a conviction for gross indecency dating from 1952.

The former Bletchley Park codebreaker, who has been called "the father of the computer", was convicted when homosexual acts were illegal in the UK.

Conservative peer Baroness Trumpington also worked at Bletchley Park, the UK's main decryption establishment during World War II, and gave her backing to the bill.

"This is not about legal issues but about recognising the debt that this country owes to Alan Turing," she said.

"I cannot claim that I knew him but I am certain that, but for his work, we would have lost the war through starvation."

Mr Turing worked as part of the team which cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma code and went on to help create the world's first modern computer, the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, who introduced the bill to the Lords, argued that a man whose work may have shortened the war by two years and saved thousands of lives was later convicted of an offence "that now seems both cruel and absurd".

Alan Turing died from cyanide poisoning two years after his conviction and it was ruled at his inquest that he had committed suicide. He was just 41.

Labour's Baroness Dean asked what further benefits Alan Turing's work might have brought had he lived.

She noted that then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the government in 2009 and called Mr Turing's treatment "appalling". While this was welcome, Baroness Dean claimed, it was "not enough".

The bill will now proceed to committee stage but will need government support in order to become law.

In February 2013 Justice Minister Lord McNally rejected an earlier motion from Lord Sharkey.

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