Openly gay Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant has extended his support to two British ambassadors who were criticised for their support of gay rights.

The British ambassador to Bulgaria, Steve Williams, and the British ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, both came under fire earlier last month when they showed their support for gay Pride marches.

Williams was told by a far-right leader in Bulgaria that he should “mind his own business”, while Todd was accused of “representing the homosexual lobby”.

In a couple of hand-written letters seen by PinkNews.co.uk, Bryant praised the courage of the pair, saying he felt it would give confidence to many.

He told Todd: “We have not met but I wanted to congratulate you on your flying the rainbow flag next to the union flag last year and your UK guide to LGBT rights in Polish this year. I know you had some flak but frankly, all power to your elbow.”

A similar letter, sent to Williams, read: “I just wanted to write and congratulate you on the message of support you sent to the Rainbow Friendship Rally in Sofia. I know you have come under attack in some quarters but I fully support what you have done. Britain supports everyone regardless of their sexuality and it is only right we make that clear.

Responding to the criticisms of Todd and Williams, the Foreign Office said: “The FCO promotes human rights around the world regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Showing support for Pride events, where people seek to assert their rights and highlight the challenges they face, is part of this work.”

Poland and Bulgaria were named in an EU report in March as two countries which routinely block gay events.

A 2008 poll found that 80 per cent of Bulgarians have negative attitudes to gays and lesbians.

Seventy per cent would not allow their child to be educated by a gay teacher and 50 per cent would not work with someone who was gay.