Gay men convicted of historic consensual sex offences will not be able to “delete” them from their records, campaigners say.

The government today announced the full details of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which includes the law change.

But critics said that men should be aware that “deleting” records does not actually mean they will be removed from records.

Last year, prime minister David Cameron promised that the government would “wipe the slate clean” for men convicted of such offences before gay sex was legalised.

The decriminalisation law was not applied retroactively and currently, such convictions are still visible on criminal records and show up during CRB checks.

Today’s bill says that gay men will be able to apply to the Secretary of State for cautions or convictions to be treated as discarded.

However, the convictions will actually remain on criminal records.

The bill clarifies that “deletion” of records means that “the fact that it is a disregarded conviction or caution” will be recorded alongside the offence.

Sexual rights activist Jane Fae told PinkNews.co.uk: “Only in the language of civil servants and bureaucrats does this mean ‘deletion’.

“In practice, conviction details will remain on police databases, for police officers to review and, as a landmark court case ruled last year, open for use when considering a suspect’s status where they deem such use to be justified.

“If this is the best that government can do, they need to think again.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell accused the government with being “economical about the truth” over the plans.

He told PinkNews.co.uk: “The proposed law will not actually delete convictions – it merely instructs the police and other agencies to disregard them.

“A person’s conviction will still remain in their criminal record. This is not a satisfactory solution at all.

“The government is being economical with the truth when it says that convictions will be deleted.”

Andrew Gilliver, of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, welcomed the new provisions but said that men must be aware that the convictions will not be changed automatically.

“People will have to apply to have their convictions removed,” he said. “This really is the most important thing and they must be aware that it won’t just happen.”

The original announcement by Mr Cameron followed a question submitted by a PinkNews.co.uk reader in a questions and answer session with the Conservative leader published in April.

Mr Cameron wrote for PinkNews.co.uk: “We will change the law so that any past convictions for consensual homosexual sexual activities, which have since become lawful, will be treated as spent, and will not be disclosed on a criminal record check when applying for a job. This is a question of justice – and it’s right that we should change the law and wipe the slate clean.”