A homophobic number plate has been withdrawn by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) after complaints by a leading gay MP who claimed that the number plate H8 GAY was offensive to gay people.

The DVLA at first refused to recall the number plate H8 GAY which is read as “hate gay” as it believed that it was not offensive on the grounds of “political, racial or religious sensitivities”.

Labour MP for Rhonda, Chris Bryant complained to the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling who ordered the government agency to reverse their decision.

The number plate currently belonged to a gay couple who purchased it as a joke for their blue Jaguar, they are understood to have emigrated to France.

Jocelyn Carr a businessman from Notting Hill, West London, made the initial complaint to the DVLA after he spotted the number plate on a car. He told the Daily Mirror: “”I was amazed. I just couldn’t believe it had been allowed and I assumed it was being driven by a right bigot.”

The DVLA told him it withholds numbers “if they are likely to cause offence or embarrassment to the public on the grounds of political, racial and religious sensitivities or simply because they are in poor taste”. It decided the number “when correctly spaced does not fall into any of these categories”.

Disappointed with the decision, Mr Carr referred the matter to Mr Bryant who is a well known gay MP.

Mr Bryant told the Daily Mirror: “If the DVLA sold H8 JEW or H8 WOG, there would rightly be a public outcry.

“Clearly this goes beyond the realms of free speech and is a directly and deliberately offensive and abusive statement.”

A friend of the couple who own the number plate claimed that it was purchased as a joke and that they did not intend to offend fellow gay people.