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Summary

  1. MPs debate private members' bills
  2. Day focused on Conservative John Glen's Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill

Live Reporting

By Patrick Cowling

All times stated are UK

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House adjourns

House of Commons

Parliament

Clock
BBC

The adjournment debate comes to an end and that brings to an end the week's business in the House of Commons.

MPs and peers return on Monday from 2.30pm - but until then, goodbye. 

Minister attacks rail unions

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Transport Minister Andrew Jones responds to the debate by attacking the trade union position in the long-running industrial dispute with Southern Rail's operators Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

The strike action originated due to a dispute over the introduction of Driver-Only Operated trains. The Aslef and RMT unions say this is a passenger safety issue, as it means the train is to be run with no conductor.

The minister disputes this argument by saying "this way of working is perfectly safe" and that the unions have "no credible argument".

It is also important that GTR are held to account for the quality of their product, he says.

Debate on Southern Rail

Adjournment debate

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Caroline Lucas' bill unsurprisingly runs out of time.

We now move on to the last business today which is the adjournment debate being led by the Conservative MP for Lewes, Maria Caulfield, on the subject of the problems with the service provided by Southern Rail.

She says that when the trains don't work in her rural constituency, people are "literally cut off from the rest of the world".

Ms Caulfield says that although she and others who use the network were pleased to hear that upcoming industrial action has been called off, "the fear of a normal Southern experience fills some people with trepidation".

She tells MPs that a "normal" Southern Service is often "extremely poor". 

Maria Caulfield
BBC

'Great shame' that time is so short for next debate - Lucas

Private members' bills

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Caroline Lucas
BBC

Green MP Caroline Lucas says that although she "completely supports" the previous bill, "there is an irony that my bill is actually about tackling the discrimination and bullying around LGBT issues".

"It's a great shame that we don't have more time to debate it," she says.

When a Conservative MP rises to intervene, Ms Lucas responds: "There is absolutely no way that I am going to give way to anyone on that side of the House, who have spent so many hours filibustering a perfectly serious bill."

Bill passes second reading

Private members' bills

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The Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill passes second reading just four minutes short of the 2.30pm cut off.

Green MP Caroline Lucas now has the floor for her Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill

The bill would require the government to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools; for PSHE to include Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and education on ending violence against women and girls; to provide for initial and continuing teacher education and guidance on best practice for delivering and inspecting PSHE and SRE education. 

Cometh the hour, cometh the minister

Private members' bills

House of Commons

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Andrew Jones
BBC

Transport Minister Andrew Jones now rises to respond to the debate, which is running down to the wire of the 2.30pm cut off.

Mr Jones tells MPs that the government is happy to support the bill, which he says addresses a "historical hangover" from when it was possible that an employee could be dismissed for being gay. 

He says that Acts of Parliament represent in a practical way and in the signals that they send the morals and values of our country.

Hansard flashback

Private members' bills

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Thomas Cromwell
Getty Images / Hulton Archive
Thomas Cromwell

In case you were wondering when the last time that the merchant navy was mentioned in Parliament - it was only last Thursday by Labour MP Albert Owen during a debate in Westminster Hall on the future of the UK maritime industry.

Mr Owen served as a merchant sailor for 17 years, as he reveals in his speech during the debate which can be found here.

Thomas Cromwell has also featured several times in this debate due to his role in the creation of the Buggery Act of 1533 which made homosexual acts a capital offence until 1861.

The last time that he was mentioned in Parliament was by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore in October 2016 during a debate on reform of the House of Lords.

New initiative

Lib Dem MP tweets

Time marches on

Private members' bills

House of Commons

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Alan Mak
BBC

Conservative MPs Alan Mak and Wendy Morton join their colleagues in making lengthy speeches in support of the bill. 

Mr Mak says that it is crucial for the UK to show "global leadership" in the pursuit of legislative equality and of the importance of merchant shipping in a post-Brexit world. 

Wendy Morton highlights the sacrifices made by the merchant navy in World Wars I and II, and the thousands of lives that were lost. 

The chances of Green MP Caroline Lucas getting much of a look in with her Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill or her Railways Bill - which are next on the order paper, do not look too good. 

Remember, if a bill is not passed by 2.30pm then it will not progress today and it's chances of becoming law get ever smaller. 

Wendy Morton
BBC

'Get on with it'

BBC journalist tweets

Bill is 'good practice' - Tory MP

Private members' bills

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Another Friday veteran, Conservative MP David Nuttall, makes the point that in the merchant navy a seafarer is simultaneously at their place of work and also in their residence, so different rules can apply for practical and safety reasons.

He shares with MPs the experiences of his brother who is in the merchant navy.

Mr Nuttall says that as the UK is hoping to become an outward, global looking nation, it is "very important" that we encourage people from all walks of life to apply to commercial organisations such as the merchant navy.

"Any artificial barriers to employment are very unhelpful indeed," he says.

He says that he believes laws should be "clear and precise", adding that even if there is no enormous practical problem, the statute book needs updating.

"It is simply good practice," he says.

By elections announced

BBC assistant political editor tweets

What do you need to know about private members' bills?

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Private members' bills are public bills introduced by MPs and peers who are not government ministers. As with other public bills, their purpose is to change the law as it applies to the general population. 

A minority of private members' bills become law but, by creating publicity about an issue, they may affect legislation indirectly.

Read more about private members' bills here.

Fulsome support from Shipley

Private members' bills

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Philip Davies
BBC

Veteran Friday attendee Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, is giving fulsome support for the bill - so fulsome that his speech is approaching the hour-long mark.

The MP congratulates Mr Glen for being close to getting two private members' bills onto the statue book, musing that this is something he will never be able to do.

"I have a feeling that if I were to introduce a private members' bill that there should forever be seven days in a week, someone would talk it out just for the hell of it," he says.

The leading Friday filibusterer says that he has "no idea why someone would feel so motivated to do such a thing".

On the subject of the bill, Mr Davies says that it should be seen as part of the journey of progress on social issues over the years. He says that he does not see this issue through the prism of gay rights but rather of correcting legislation that should never have been law in the first place.

King on trial

Parliament tweets

Shadow minister - tolerance and freedom can never be taken for granted

Private members' bills

House of Commons

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Daniel Zeichner
BBC

Shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner makes a two-minute speech in support of the bill.

He says that although the bill is largely symbolic, "symbols do matter", and that Labour supports amending legislation to reflect equal rights that have been "so hard won".

The shadow minister says that the provisions being removed are "archaic leftovers from a more illiberal time", adding that this was a time "which was sadly not nearly long enough ago".

Mr Zeichner says that the bill should be a reminder of how far we have come but also that tolerance and freedom for everyone "can never be taken for granted".

Bill is 'not just a tidying up exercise'

Private members' bills

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Iain Stewart
BBC

Conservative MP Iain Stewart, who is gay, contributes to the debate by saying that he sees a "strong parallel" between the process of arriving at same sex marriage equality and this bill. 

He says that at the time when the Civil Partnership Act was introduced, he felt "perfectly comfortable" with the arrangement and thought that pursuing same sex marriage would have been "a sideshow". 

But he says that he came to realise that although it was almost equality "it wasn't the same" - gay people and straight people were treated differently under the law. 

Mr Stewart says that the proposed change to the law in this bill is based on the same basis of seeking equality and addressing an issue where discrimination exists in statute. 

"That's wrong," he says. 

He says the bill is not just a "tidying up exercise", and argues that it sends out a powerful signal, even though it might only affect a few people.  

"Homosexuality on the high seas is not a new concept," he tells MPs.  

He ends by warning of the potential for "significant" psychological damage to young people that the existing law can have in creating a fear that they cannot pursue a vocation they want because they are different. 

Concluding a 60 year legislative journey

Private members' bills

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John Glen
BBC

John Glen introduces his bill saying that many MPs will be "surprised and even astonished" that this anomaly remains on the statute book.

"There is no place in our society today for employment discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation," he says.

Mr Glen says that his bill is important as it will remove the last remaining historic legislation on the statue book that penalise and directly discriminate on the grounds of homosexual conduct.

He calls it the conclusion of a journey we have been on for 60 years in this country, and says it would demonstrate Parliament affirming commitment to justice and equality.

Momentous anniversary

Parliament tweets

What's on today?

PA's parliamentary editor tweets

Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill

Private members' bills

House of Commons

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First up today we have Conservative MP John Glen's Merchant Shipping (Homosexual Conduct) Bill.

The bill would repeal aspects of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which suggest it would be lawful to dismiss a seafarer for a homosexual act.

That law is in fact of no effect, as such a dismissal would fall foul of equality legislation.  The current bill is therefore primarily of symbolic value.

Up to the early 1960s, police actively enforced laws prohibiting sexual behaviour between men.

By the end of 1954, there were 1,069 gay men in prison in England and Wales, with an average age of 37.

On 22 July 1967, a law was given Royal Assent which decriminalised homosexual acts between two consenting men.

The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised homosexual sex if it was consensual, in private and they were over 21.

Counting carefully?

BBC parliamentary correspondent tweets

Motion to sit in private defeated

Private members' bills

House of Commons

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The motion for the House to sit in private is defeated by 40 votes to 1.

The House of Commons is quorate and the first private members' bill begins its debate.

Sit in private

Private members' bills

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Welcome to the world of House of Commons procedural tactics on a Friday morning.

Conservative MP David Nuttall has moved "that the House do now sit in private" and MPs have divided to vote on the motion.

This particular motion, if approved, would mean that the day's debates would be held in private and members of the public and press would be removed from the galleries and the television cameras would be turned off - but this is not usually the desired outcome of moving the motion.

The tactic is used on Fridays to disrupt or delay the already time limited debates on private members' bills and is moved at the start of the day because this motion can only be moved once per day - and so doing it early means it cannot be sprung on unsuspecting MPs at a later point in the day. 

The motion is also used to test the quoracy of the Commons, as if fewer than 40 MPs take part in the vote the House is deemed inquorate and business comes to an end.

Friday in the Commons

House of Commons

Parliament

Welcome back to our live coverage of the Houses of Parliament.

It is just the Commons sitting today, as MPs debate private members' bills - pieces of legislation that are brought forward by MPs or peers who are not government ministers. 

Fridays play by a different set of rules than the rest of the week in Parliament, as speeches have no time limits and if a bill is to progress to its next legislative stage then it must be passed by 2.30pm.

This rule means that MPs who dislike particular legislation will often "talk it out" - which means they will speak at great length so that either the bill being debated or a bill further down the list will run out of time.