The Prime Minister this evening told a gay audience that the fact that civil partnerships are legal in the UK makes him proud.

Speaking at the Stonewall Equality dinner in the Dorchester Hotel in central London, Mr Blair said it was a positive development that every major party leader supports equality and he is hopeful that will not change in the future.

He went on to say that the example Britain has set in giving gay and lesbian couples equal rights to those enjoyed by heterosexuals was influencing politicians in Italy and Spain to grant similar rights.

Mr Blair paid tribute to the way in which gay equality organisation Stonewall has consistently lobbied for many years for a range of rights that are now law, and singled out former chief executive Angela Mason for particular praise.

He said that last night’s vote in the House of Lords approving the Sexual Orientation Regulations was a further example of how British society had changed since he came to office in 1997.

The Prime Minister told an audience of prominent gay people, business leaders and entertainment stars that there are not many “dance around the office” moments as Prime Minister, but watching the joy of gay and lesbian couples finally being allowed to legally register their partnerships was something that he would be proud of when he leaves Downing St.

Mr Blair said that before coming to the dinner, he had re-read a speech he made in 1994 as Shadow Home Secretary, supporting an amendment to equalise the age of consent.

He joked that the amendment was tabled by Edwina Currie and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, an unusual combination.

Mr Blair spoke for around ten minutes, and spent 25 minutes before the dinner meeting prominent members of the gay community, including Torchwood star John Barrowman.

Also attending the dinner were the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, environment minister Ben Bradshaw, gay MPs Chris Bryant and Stephen Williams, Tory MP John Bercow, comedian Amy Lamé, award-winning novelist Sarah Waters and deputy editor of The Telegraph Andrew Pierce.

To read a transcript of Tony Blair’s speech click here