A Conservative councillor accused of labelling gay people as paedophiles has been voluntarily interviewed by police in Brighton.
Peter Willows, a Hangleton and Knoll ward councillor, faced widespread condemnation last week over comments labelling gay people as paedophiles, which he was reported to have made at an annual Brighton and Hove City Council.
The councillor, who is currently suspended from the local party, gave a statement to officers yesterday to aid an investigation into whether he broke the Public Order Act.
In an interview with the Argus after the incident, Mr Willows admitted he may have said the remarks, but was drunk, “I don’t have the same hatred for the gay community that I have for paedophiles. But I don’t like them.
“They seem to want the rest of us who don’t agree with what they do to accept whatever it is they want.
“I don’t think the world should be that way,” he said.
A council spokeswoman said: “The alcohol purchased was wine at a cost of about £7 a bottle. The maximum allowance catered for is three glasses for those who drink. A large number drink fruit juice or other non-alcoholic beverages.
“As mayoral receptions only last an hour, most people, if they are drinking wine, only have one glass.”
He also wrote a letter to the Argus stating his opposition to flying the rainbow flag on the International Day Against Homophobia last week because, “a flag should be for every person in that particular country to be proud and highly honoured of that flag. Why should any country have to fly a flag because of men sleeping together to have sex.
“And also women sleeping together to have sex. In my world that does not justify flying any flag. It’s an unnatural act, men or women.”
Mr Willows released a statement after a meeting with the local Brighton and Hove Conservative Party group leader, Brian Oxley, “I recognise that the comments I have expressed in a recent letter to the Brighton Argus, about flying the rainbow flag on a civic building, have caused serious offence to the LGBT community and I wholeheartedly retract them and apologise for them.
“If other comments I have made, at a recent civic event, were taken to mean that I equate paedophiles and gay people, that was not my intention nor my belief and again I apologise.
“I believe LGBT people contribute positively to our society in Brighton and Hove and in the wider world. As a Ward Councillor, I have helped people from all walks of life irrespective of their background.
However, he has now been suspended as a councillor pending a police investigation and scrutiny from the Standards Board for England, who investigate behaviour of political representatives, Brighton and Hove City Council Conservative Group Leader, Councillor
Brian Oxley, said: “In the light of a police investigation into these remarks and a possible reference to the independent Standards Board, it would be inappropriate for Councillor Willows to continue serving as a Conservative representative on Council Committees during this time.
“Conservative Councillors value highly their Ward work on behalf of local people and so Councillor Willows as a Ward Councillor will continue his work by discussing issues direct with officers and making representations on local issues in the usual way.
“Once these enquiries are concluded and their findings known, the Conservative Group will consider the matter further.’
This is not the first time Mr Willows has spoken out against Brighton’s gay community, in August 2005, he wrote a letter to The Argus criticising Gay Pride, “The Pride this year was a huge success for Brighton and Hove and for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
“The gay police association headed the parade from Madeira Drive through the city to Preston Park. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were represented for the first time ever. Organisers say the crowds of 120,000 poured into the city and spent lots of money in pubs, bars, restaurants, and businesses throughout the city.
“Great. In these days of political correctness, people are reluctant to voice their own opinions but I’m not. To Pride operations manager PJ Aldred and to all the helpers on the day, I say congratulations.
“In The Argus on Monday, August 8, we had a coloured photograph edition with pages of some of the more outrageous costumes – one man exposing his rear end for everyone to see and a lady also exposing everything from the waist upwards. And this is in the procession.
“If these two people were walking along the seafront in such a manner, would those gay police officers on frontline duty on the seafront arrest them and charge them with indecent exposure in a public place?
“It makes you think, doesn’t it?
The gay and lesbian community is very fragile to any type of criticism. But someone has to point these things out.
“Councillors and especially MPs are frightened to death of criticising the gay and lesbian community.
“At the end of the day, it’s the vote that counts, you see.
Chris Bryant, gay Labour MP for Rhondda, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s depressing to realise that such bigoted prejudice is still alive and well in the heart of the Tory party.”
Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, told PinkNews.co.uk: “Everyone knows these attitudes are still alive and well in some parts of the Conservative Party.
“It will be interesting to see what action is taken locally and nationally since a Sussex MP (Howard Flight) was dismissed before the national elections for talking about taxation.
“I wonder whether bigotry counts as a sackable offence!”
Brighton gay Green councillor Simon Williams said: “As a co-proposer of the recent successful motion in the city council to fly the rainbow flag for the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May, I think it’s very sad that a city councillor in this gay friendly city could object to a day that commemorates innocent victims of violence and prejudice and to make such an offensive slur on gay men.
“Councillor Willows is obviously entitled to disapprove of homosexuality but to object to a day that commemorates innocent people who have been murdered or suffered violence just because of their sexuality is totally inappropriate behaviour. I’m pleased that Cllr Willows has apologised for the comments and his Tory colleagues are distancing them from his remarks.
“However the LGBT community should not pay too much attention to these fringe views and we need to be careful to avoid giving them undue attention in the media by hysterical and adversarial counter-comments.”
The Crown Prosecution Service will now decide if Mr Willows should face criminal charges.
Mr Willows was unavailable for comment.