KEIR Starmer has been challenged on his claim Labour were “proud” to overturn the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forced.

The Labour leader’s comments came after the Prime Minister made a public apology to LGBT servicemen and women who were dismissed from the military for their sexuality in the 20th century.

Rishi Sunak’s apology came as a result of a review carried out by Lord Etherton into the experience of LGBT veterans who served in the armed forces between 1967 and 2000.

Starmer said Labour had been “proud” to overturn the ban in January 2000 – but neglected to mention that decision had been taken after the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] had in 1999 ruled Britain’s ban on gay men and women serving in the military was a breach of their right to privacy.

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He said: “Labour in government was proud to repeal the ban on LGBT+ people serving in our armed forces and today we strongly welcome this apology from the prime minister as a recognition of their historic mistreatment.”

When the Labour government was taken to the European court in the 90s by ex-servicemen and a former RAF nurse who had been sacked after their sexualities were investigated by the Ministry of Defence, Government lawyers attempted to defend the ban.

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John Nicolson (above), the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, tweeted: “Fact check. Keir Starmer says that Labour was ‘proud’ to repeal the ban on LGBT people serving in the military.

“In reality the Labour government defended the ban on gay people serving. It was the European courts which overturned the ban. Talk about rewriting history…”

Announcing the Government’s change of policy in the Commons, then-defence secretary Geoffrey Hoon focused his statement on the duty placed on the government by the court ruling and concerns about the “operational effectiveness” of the armed forces.

Hoon said: “The ECHR ruling makes it clear that the existing policy in relation to homosexuality must change.

“As all personal behaviour will be regulated by the code of conduct with the object of maintaining the operational effectiveness of the three services, there is no longer a reason to deny homosexuals the opportunity of a career in the armed forces.

“Accordingly, we have decided that it is right that the existing ban should be lifted.

“As no primary or secondary legislation is required, with effect from today, homosexuality will no longer be a bar to service in Britain's armed forces.”

Challenged on whether he agreed that “homophobic bigotry” had no place in the military some months prior to that announcement, Hoon would not be drawn, replying: “I have made it clear that the Government—unlike, apparently, some opposition members—are determined to uphold the law, but that we will do so in a way consistent with the operational effectiveness of our armed forces.”