The UK’s largest trade union has backed calls for sexual orientation regulations to be universal.

UNISON President Malcom Cantello, speaking at the group’s LGBT network conference in Manchester, said there should not be any exemptions for religious groups in the new goods and services bill, which is due next April.

The 300 delegates at the conference also welcomed commitments from Government Minister Ian McCartney that he would work for LGBT human rights issues at home and throughout the world. He said: “Human rights belong to everyone, sexual orientation is not a qualifying factor. Cultural differences do not excuse the abuse of basic human rights.

“I give you a commitment today that I will take a lead from you, before I visit other countries, on the issues you want raised to support brothers and sisters around the world in gaining equal rights and helping those who fear imprisonment, torture or death simply because of their sexual orientation. And I will report back to you with an analysis of where we’re going.

“It’s dead easy to stand up and make a speech here, but it’s not at all easy to speak out if you live in countries such as Nigeria, Jamaica or Eastern Europe. Consensual same-sex relationships are still outlawed in over 70 countries and are punishable by death in 9 countries. In Brazil, on average one LGBT person is murdered every three days and in Colombia, for example, paramilitary groups engage in so-called Œsocial cleansing of homosexuals’ with impunity.

“Labour will bring the same determination to international gay rights issues as we’ve done at home with you in partnership.”

Other guest speakers at the two-day conference were Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Europe region and Christine Burns of Press for Change.