A former First Sea Lord says he was “shocked and appalled” at the way gay people were previously treated in the armed forces.

The ex-head of the Royal Navy, Lord Alan West of Spithead, made the comments in Tuesday’s report stage debate of same-sex marriage bill.

Stating his support for the bill, Lord West said he discovered “absolutely degrading treatment” of people in the forces on the basis of sexual orientation during the 90s.

“I was shocked and appalled at how people treated them and what was done.

“I stopped it immediately and I then pushed very hard to allow them to be 
accepted in the armed forces and thank goodness we did it, because it has worked brilliantly and was a good thing to have done.”

He added: “We have a terrible baggage of how we have treated homosexuals in this country.”

Britain’s ban on gay people serving in the armed forces was removed in 2000 following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The year before the law was lifted 298 service personnel were dismissed for being gay – many having suffered intrusive interrogations beforehand.

After retiring from the Royal Navy in 2006 Lord West then served as a security minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour government from 2007-2010.