Homophobia is not acceptable in the fire service, a government minister has said.

Sadiq Khan, who has responsibility for Fire and Rescue Services in England, has written to chief fire officers encouraging them to take action by joining Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme.

Mr Khan’s call was backed by the the Fire and Rescue Service’s associations and unions.

“If we are to attract and recruit the best people to the Fire and Rescue Service from the widest pool of talent then all must know that they are welcome, that there is equality of opportunity and they will be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mr Khan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

“Their sexual orientation is an irrelevance.

“Bullying, harassment and discrimination have no place in the modern Fire and Rescue Service; these behaviours will not be tolerated and I expect to see them eradicated.

“I want to see real progress.”

20 of the 46 services in England have alrealy joined the Stonewall programme.

It promotes understanding and provides good practice guidance around issues of sexual orientation in the workplace and has 470 members employing millions of people.

Backing Mr Khan’s call are Stonewall, the Local Government Association, the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, the Fire Brigades Union, UNISON, the Asian Fire Service Association, the Fire Officers’ Association, the GMB, the National Disabled Fire Association, Networking Women in the Fire Service, and the Retained Firefighters Union.

The Fire Brigades Union said last year that only 150 of its members are openly gay out of a uniformed workforce of 46,000.