Baroness Ashton of Upholland, winner of the coveted Stonewall award for Politician of the Year, has been promoted to the Cabinet by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Previously known as Catherine Ashton, she was made a life peer by Tony Blair in 1999, as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, of St Albans.

She was one of the ministers who shepherded the Sexual Orientation Regulations onto the statue book.

The regulations, which came into force in April, protect gay people from discrimination when accessing goods and services.

In June 2001 Baroness Ashton was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the now-defunct Department for Education and Skills.

In 2004 she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the also defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, the gay equality organisation, said of Baroness Ashton’s new role:

“We are absolutely delighted that Stonewall’s Politician of the Year has been promoted to the Cabinet.

“We are equally delighted to have another ally for lesbian and gay people at the heart of government.

“I have no doubt that her colleagues will be watching this year’s nominations for our awards in November closely, to see who might be promoted to the cabinet next year.”