Chris Bryant, the openly gay minister for Europe, mentioned executions of gay people in Iran while arguing for the need to press other countries to abolish the death penalty.

Speaking in parliament today, he cited his Christian beliefs as one reason for his strong feelings on the issue.

Bryant also argued that in many cases, the wrong people were being executed for crimes and that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent.

On the issue of human rights, he added: “We cannot say that we will stand up for women’s rights in Iran, but that we will not stand against the death penalty.

“We cannot say that it is wrong for people in Britain to be murdered for their sexuality, but that it is not wrong for people in Iran to be executed for their sexuality.”

He also mentioned two high-profile attacks on gay men in the last month.

“It is particularly poignant that in the past couple of weeks, a man – Ian Baynham – was murdered about 300 yards up the road in Trafalgar square for being gay and that only last weekend a police community support officer was attacked in Liverpool because of his sexuality.”

Bryant cited China, Japan, the US and Belarus as specific countries which he felt the UK needed to focus on regarding the death penalty.

He was promoted to Europe minister earlier this month, having previously been a junior minister with responsibility for Africa and Asia.