Labour backbenchers press Blair to try again for repeal of Section 28

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Tony Blair was under strong pressure from Labour MPs last night to make another attempt to scrap Section 28 in November after the Government abandoned plans to repeal it in the current parliamentary session.

Tony Blair was under strong pressure from Labour MPs last night to make another attempt to scrap Section 28 in November after the Government abandoned plans to repeal it in the current parliamentary session.

Mr Blair faced a backbench rebellion when ministers suggested the moves to abolish the controversial clause in the 1986 Local Government Act, which bans councils from promoting homosexuality, were likely to be delayed until after the next general election.

Downing Street announced the Government's climbdown after it suffered a second crushing defeat over the issue in the Lords on Monday night.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said Mr Blair regarded Section 28 as "a piece of prejudice" and remained committed to its abolition. But he added that ministers did not want to risk the defeat of a Bill to improve local government, of which the move to abolish the clause forms part.

"We have given it our best shot. We cannot proceed with repeal without wrecking the whole Local Government Bill and we are not prepared to do that," the spokesman said.

Downing Street said a decision would be taken in the coming months on whether to include a separate Bill to scrap Section 28 in the Queen's Speech in November or to delay legislation until after the election.

But Labour MPs and gay-rights campaigners demanded a Bill in the Queen's Speech. Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, attacked "elderly homophobes" in the Lords" who were "spouting their prejudices". Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, said: "It is disgraceful that an unelected body can ride roughshod over our civil rights."

* The Government will offer a £20,000 compensation payment to each of 85 servicemen and women sacked from the armed forces for being gay, at a cost of £1.7m. Yesterday, three men and a woman who were discharged won compensation and legal costs totalling more than £400,000 at the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in September that the ban on homosexuals serving in the military was illegal and it has since been scrapped.

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