Stonewall has welcomed Hazel Blears to her new role as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

She has an excellent record on gay rights, voting for the equalisation of the age of consent, for the rights of gay couples to adopt, for civil partnerships and against Section 28.

By contrast, Ruth Kelly absented herself from every vote on gay rights until she was appointed as Communities Secretary.

In 2006 the Women and Equality Unit was moved from the DTI to the DCLG.

In a statement, Ms Blears said:

“People are looking to us to create stable and safe communities, thriving neighbourhoods and affordable homes.

“I have always championed local communities, and sought to give local people more influence and control over their lives.

“I pledge today to carry on the work to make our communities stronger, safer and great to live in.”

Ms Blears came sixth in the contest for Deputy Leader of the Labour party, but a breakdown of the votes cast by the members of the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (LGBT Labour) revealed that 18% of them voted for her as their first choice.

Alan Wardle, head of public and parliamentary affairs at gay equality organisation Stonewall, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“We welcome Hazel to the job. She has always been very pro-equality. We will want her to press within cabinet for a new offence of incitement to homophobic hatred.”