MoD pays £850,000 to servicemen and women sacked for being gay

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Nearly £1m has been paid in compensation to military personnel who claimed that they were dismissed because they were gay or lesbian.

The Ministry of Defence said it had faced 86 claims of dismissal on the ground of sexual orientation in the six years since the ban on homosexuality in the armed forces was dropped.

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats showed £850,460 had been paid in compensation and legal costs to 24 men and women.

The highest payment was £115,405, with average pay-outs of £35,435, the Defence minister, Tom Watson, said in a parliamentary answer.

He disclosed that 62 claims remained to be settled, including 27 former Army, 19 former RAF and 16 former Navy personnel.

Mr Watson said: "Initial offers of compensation have been made in 29 of these cases but rejected. Negotiations are ongoing."

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: "These disclosures suggest there are unacceptable levels of discrimination against homosexuals in the armed forces.

"Ministers must set out exactly what measures they will be taking to address these problems and to prevent such abuse."

In 1998 Stonewall, the gay rights group, launched a legal challenge to the ban on homosexuality in the armed forces. The Government was eventually forced to lift the ban in 2000 after the case went to the European Court.