In response to a number of high-profile trials for homosexual offences the Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, better known as the Wolfenden Report after its Chair,Lord Wolfenden, was instituted to examine homosexuality and prostitution in the UK in 1954.
The report was published in 1957, recommending that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private be no longer a criminal offence” and that the definitions of ‘in private’ and ‘consenting’ be the same as they were for heterosexual couples. This report paved the way for the partial decriminalisation of homosexually in England and Wales in 1967.
Worried for the sensibilities of female secretaries assisting Wolfenden and other panel members during the production of the report it was decided that in internal messages the code ‘Huntley and Palmers’ would be used for homosexuals and prostitutes respectively. Huntley and Palmers were a well- known biscuit manufacturer of the time which had a branch factory in Huyton, Liverpool from 1955 until 1983.
When the recommendations of the report were implemented in 1967 and most consensual gay sex was decriminalised it remained unlawful for two men to arrange to meet for sex, to exchange phone numbers with a view to having sex or to even chat each other up in a public place. It was not until 2001 that gay and bisexual men achieved sexual equality when the age of consent was equalised.
Lesbian sex, though highly taboo, was never illegal in the UK.