Labour faces rift over vote on gays in forces

Click to follow
Roy Hattersley, the former Shadow Home Secretary, will lead Labour MPs in support of a move to lift the ban on gays in the armed forces in vote tomorrow which could split Labour's ranks, writes Colin Brown.

John Reid, the Shadow defence minister, and three Labour members of a cross-party Commons select committee yesterday gave unanimous backing to the Ministry of Defence in refusing to lift the blanket ban on gays in the services.

But many Labour MPs are planning to vote in favour of the ban being lifted in a free vote on an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill tabled by two Tory MPs, Edwina Currie and Michael Brown.

The Tories are being ordered to vote down the Currie-Brown amendment on a three-line whip, but a number of other Tory MPs, including David Ashby, were considering voting for it and others were contemplating abstaining.

Stonewall, a gay rights campaign group, has written to MPs urging them to vote for the amendment calling for the ban to be lifted, which was implacably opposed by Nicholas Soames, Minister for the Armed Forces, following a report by an MoD inquiry.

In spite of the widespread unease among Labour MPs about banning gays in the armed forces, the move to lift the ban is expected to be heavily defeated.