The Conservatives' record on gay rights took a hit last night after it emerged that Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said that people who ran bed and breakfasts in their homes should be able to turn away homosexuals.
Mr Grayling was secretly taped making the comments at a meeting of the right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies think-tank last week. In a recording obtained by The Observer, Mr Grayling said gay people should not be turned away from hotels, but said there was a difference with B&B owners running their business from home.
He said: "I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences... If it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home."
However, the law states that any commercial operation – including B&Bs run from homes – must not refuse service to homosexuals. It followed the row over the gay couple turned away by a Christian B&B owner in Cookham, Berkshire, last month. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said the comments would be "very alarming to a lot of gay people who may have been been thinking of voting Conservative".
David Cameron has in the past been embarrassed over the voting record of Tory peers and MEPs on gay rights.
A Tory spokesman said Mr Grayling had been clear about the obligations on hotel owners, but refused to comment on the MP's views on B&Bs.Reuse content