Currie condemns 'pure prejudice'

"If there was a war tomorrow, you wouldn't be discriminating against gays and lesbians. You would be dragging them in just as you did in 1939."

The interruption by the veteran left-winger Eddie Loyden as Nicholas Soames defended the status quo in last night's debate on homosexuals in the armed forces, encapsulated the hypocrisy the reformers see in the MoD's position.

Mr Soames, Minister of State for Defence and a former Hussars officer, argued that allowing gays in the military would undermine morale and damage operational effectiveness. The services, he said, should not be "bludgeoned out of the esprit de corps that has won every war that Britain has fought since 1812".

But Edwina Currie, the former Conservative minister, said in proposing the change that the ban was "based on prejudice - pure and simply - and as such it is offensive, impractical and expensive".

Mr Soames was supported by John Reid, a Labour defence spokesman, who said special relationships within a unit could weaken its effectiveness - "and in battle that may mean the loss of lives, as well as ... battles".

With Labour MPs granted a free vote on the issue, Mr Reid acknowledged that his view was at odds with his backbenchers.

Intervening, George Galloway, Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead, said: "It is possible and acceptable to be a homosexual member of a war cabinet or to be a homosexual defence secretary, but it is not possible to be a homosexual private in the Royal Corps of Signallers. There's an inherent absurdity in that proposition."

Would a war cabinet including two homosexuals in a special relationship be less effective at waging a war, Mr Galloway wondered. But Dr Reid said the difference between a Secretary of State for Defence and a member of an Army unit was "that the defence secretary doesn't have to sleep every night with the Defence Procurement Minister or the Armed Forces Minister".

Tony Banks, Labour MP for Newham NW, raised the case of the three "subhuman" heterosexual soldiers who murdered a Danish tour guide in Cyprus. "They're the sort of people that bring shame to our armed forces, not those homosexual men that loyally serve their country, are ready to die for their country and yet are still treated abysmally by this House."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

£15000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Barnardo's: Young Carers Wirral Intern

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work upon production of rec...

Barnardo's: Business Development Intern (West Midlands)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future