MoD denies that Army is to end gay ban

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The Ministry of Defence last night described as "pure speculation" reports that senior Army officers are drawing up a new code of moral conduct which would in effect end the ban on homosexuality in the service.

According to the Times, the new code would mean that only where a person's sexual behaviour could be shown to have a clear impact on operational matters would they be subject to disciplinary action or dismissal. The draft code would also apply in a similar fashion to officers who committed adultery. If adopted, the new code, which would be ready by the end of 1998, would mark a big shift in policy.

At present, the Government is sticking firmly to the line that homosexuality among serving personnel is contrary to the peculiar demands of service life, where individuals are forced to live and work together in close proximity. The ban has led to a flood of court cases instigated by gays, lesbians and transsexuals in both British and European courts.

The present code, drawn up as recently as 1993, says that anyone who "admits to, displays the orientation of, or indulges in homosexuality" is required to resign or face being discharged.

Similarly, adultery is described as "likely to prejudice the position of an individual and may bring the Army into disrepute".

Significantly, the new approach by senior officers re- casting the code is likely to fit in with thinking in new Labour, which has indicated it will want to change the present policy. One military source last night welcomed the change, saying it was "about time" that the Army got rid of their "Draconian" policy towards gays.

However, it seems likely that other branches of the services, in particular the Royal Navy, will strongly oppose any change in policy amongst their personnel. In particular the Navy is concerned that in the close conditions that exist on warships and submarines, the presence of homosexuals would undermine morale.

Last night an MoD spokeswoman said that a Policy Assessment Team had reconsidered the issue last year, and that the government policy continued "solid and clear". She said that their view was that military life was different from other areas of employment.