Sleeper ministers on ‘gay rights’ watch

The Government has “sleeper” ministers in various departments monitoring gay rights, Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has said.

Another Government Minister, Angela Eagle, promised that “deeper rights” for homosexuals would be included in the Equality Bill, which is expected to place new requirements on public bodies to promote equality.

Miss Eagle also said that the decision of an employment tribunal to uphold Lillian Ladele’s right to be exempt from performing civil partnerships “does not seem to be equal access to me”.

The two ministers were speaking at a fringe meeting of the Labour Party conference, organised by LGBT Labour (a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Labour supporters).

Miss Harman also said that the upcoming Equality Bill could present problems for faith schools, but insisted that “cultural views” must not be allowed to cut across “absolute rights”.

The Christian Institute has raised concerns about how the Bill may impact religious liberty.

When challenged from the floor, Miss Harman failed to give a defence for the appointment of Joel Edwards, the outgoing head of the Evangelical Alliance (EA), to the board of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The appointment has been criticised because of EA’s activities in campaigning for Christian freedoms to be protected from the impact of recent gay rights legislation.

A Government spokeswoman later defended Mr Edwards’ appointment to the Commission.

She said: “EHRC commissioners have wide ranging and often contrasting views.

“Diversity is one of the Commission’s strengths and means that all areas of society are represented, ensuring robust debate where they have opposing views on matters.

“As well as Joel Edwards, who is a senior figure in the faith and black communities, other EHRC Commissioners include Ben Summerskill, head of Stonewall, and Kay Carberry, assistant general secretary of the TUC.”