Tony Blair has listed greater equal rights for the gay community as a highlight of his tenure as Prime Minister.

Speaking at his last Labour Party conference, he referred to “changes for gay people denied equal rights,” pointing out the way his party has changed Britain since coming to power in 1997.

Arriving to the theme of Take That’s Never Forget in Manchester, Mr Blair called the UK a “country aching for change” before Labour came along and referred to “things that should never have been banned,” in which he included “civil partnerships for gay people,” which received a rapturous applause.

Civil partnerships were introduced in December 2005 granting gay and lesbian couples legal status together with implications similar to married couples for tax, benefits, pension, property and inheritance rights.

Prior to changes by the Labour government, members of the gay community were subject to Section 28 laws of the 1980s which were eventually repealed in 2003, and an unequal age of consent which was changed in 2001.

Under Blair’s government gay couples in England and Wales have been given greater adoption rights and the incoming Equality Act looks to provide equal access in the provision of goods and services for the LGBT community.

But Labour has come under criticism for not doing enough to support gay asylum seekers and for excluding same sex couples from the institution of marriage.

And members of the government have been criticised for their association with anti-gay groups such as Minister for Women and Equality Ruth Kelly’s membership of Christian sect Opus Dei, and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who is a friend of US homophobe Philip Anschutz.

Also Chancellor Gordon Brown’s poor gay voting record has been highlighted as a cause for concern.