The British Army’s decision to join a programme designed to promote equality in the workplace was welcomed with a champagne reception last night.

Law firm Clifford Chance laid on the bash at their Canary Wharf offices, and representatives from some of the more than 400 companies who are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme were in attendance.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, recalled that just eight years ago the gay equality organisation helped bring the British government to court for barring gay people from serving.

He added that his grandfather, father and uncle had all served in the Army and while “that was never going to be an option for me because of the way I was born” he said was particularly proud that young gay men today have no such barriers placed before them.

Major General Andrew Gregory, the Army’s head of personnel, attended the event as a representative of the chief of the general staff, Sir Richard Dannatt.

He said the decision to join the programme was “really important.”

“I hope it sends a powerful message that we are looking at each soldier and officer within our organisation,” he said.

“Within the Army we have six core values. They are loyalty, courage, selfless commitment, discipline,  integrity and respect for others.

“It is the respect for others that is part of the trust that binds the Army.

“We want the message to go out that the Army is keen to recruit, develop, support and encourage as well as recognise each individual, independent of their background, in order to generate operational capability.”

Major General Gregory said the Army has made “strides forward” in the last few years and he was “delighted” that personnel marched in uniform at Pride London this year for the first time.

The Army will work with Stonewall to promote good working conditions for all existing and potential employees and to ensure equal treatment for those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual.

Members of the Diversity Champions programme now employ more than four million people between them. Member organisations include IBM, Barclays, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.