Former Thatcher Cabinet Minister Lord Fowler has called on the Church of England to allow gay clergy to marry, and appoint the first openly gay bishops.

Norman Fowler, a former Conservative Party Chairman and long-serving member of the Thatcher Cabinet, made the comments ahead of World AIDS Day.

He told Radio 4: “There’s a big revolution that has got to take place in the Churches.

“We’ve had this debate on equal rights of gay people. I think they should be totally in favour of that, and unequivocally in favour of that.

“I would like them to appoint gay bishops, and I would like gay clergy to have the right to marry like everybody else now has in this country.

“It’s about accepting gay people as a normal, straightforward part of this country.”

He added of the fight against HIV: “One point is the immense prejudice there is against gay people. You have 80 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal.

“There’s an immense problem here, an immense issue here, and it acts as an enormous barrier to people coming forward for testing.

“I’d like to see the Churches playing a campaigning part. The more we can have of that kind of scheme, the better it will be.

“My view is, I fear to say, that over the last years, the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church have stood back.

“It’s been a very moderate campaign – there’s good will there, but I don’t think that they’re completely concerned with changing attitudes, particularly as far as gay people are concerned.

“It goes further than just the UK, because there are links with the UK outside.

“If you go to Uganda, for example, the Anglican church, they support the repression that is taking place there. The same is true in Russia, where the Orthodox church is supporting the repression.”

Lord Fowler was presented with the PinkNews Award for Peer of the Year last month.