PinkNews.co.uk exclusive

The vice-chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party has said that “very, very few” of the party’s MPs want a change to the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

Angela Eagle, the MP for Wallasey, spoke out after the Independent on Sunday reported that Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly wants to allow adoption agencies controlled by the Roman Catholic Church to turn away gay or lesbian couples.

Ms Eagle, who in 1997 became the first woman to come out while an MP, spoke exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk about the reported row within the Labour party over the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations in Great Britain.

“It’s not acceptable to exempt gay couples before considering whether they are suitable,” she commented.

“You can’t have an equal rights law with exemptions like that – you either have equal rights law or you don’t.”

Ms Eagle refused to comment on reports that there was a row between Prime Minister Tony Blair and MPs at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last Wednesday.

“I cannot confirm or deny any such disagreement.

“There was a vigorous discussion and very, very few people in the party want an exemption.”

Ms Eagle, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1992, also said she hoped the current row will not distract from what ten years of Labour government have delivered for LGBT people.

“We have a fantastic record which must not be forgotten.

“It is precisely to finally put the equality law in place that we are having these discussions. I am confident in the argument.

“An exemption would send a terrible and unintended signal about gay parents.”

Ms Eagle, who was a junior minister from 1997 to 2002, pointed out that the issue of gay couples adopting had already been discussed.

“It is the people who didn’t win the argument last time who are just trying to win it again.”

However, time may be running out for those objectors. In order for the new rules to be ready in time to become law, they need to be published at least six weeks in advance.

That means the regulations will have to be made public by mid-February.