BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Saturday, 10 April 2010 19:25 UK

Conservatives 'would erase consensual gay convictions'

David Cameron
Mr Cameron said his party "wholeheartedly supports gay equality"

The Tories would change the law so convictions for consensual gay sex with over-16s would not show up on criminal record checks, David Cameron has said.

There would be "no going back on equality legislation" under the Conservatives, the Tory leader added.

Lib Dem Chris Huhne said shadow home secretary Chris Grayling "let the mask slip" when he said guest house owners should be able to refuse gay couples.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has called Mr Grayling the "homophobe secretary".

'Totally committed'

Mr Cameron said the Conservatives would allow men with convictions for consensual gay sex would have them omitted from their Criminal Records Bureau certificate.

The move would only apply to convictions that were no longer illegal - so it would not apply to convictions for sex with somebody aged under 16.

The Conservative Party supports the gay community and wholeheartedly supports gay equality
David Cameron

In addition, the party would amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 so people convicted of consensual gay sex with over-16s would not need to disclose this when applying for jobs.

The Tory leader, who announced the proposed changes whilst answering questions from readers of Pink News, said the Conservatives were "totally committed to the fight for gay rights".

He added: "From my first speech as party leader, I have made it clear that the Conservative Party supports the gay community and wholeheartedly supports gay equality.

"We have backed tougher legislation to crack down on gay hatred and we will extend tax advantages and new rights to flexible working to those in civil partnerships."

Mr Cameron said the party had selected some "brilliant" gay and lesbian candidates in safe seats.

However, Mr Huhne, the Lib Dems' home affairs spokesman, said Mr Cameron was "desperate" after Mr Grayling "revealed the Conservatives' true colours".

Mr Huhne added: "The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for serious reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which governs the disclosure of criminal convictions.

"It is ridiculous that people have to disclose minor convictions long after they were committed, especially for something that is rightly not illegal any more."

Earlier, the Tories proposed an annual £150 tax break for four million married couples and civil partners.

The Lib Dems called the plan "patronising" and Labour said other families would lose out.

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