A Conservative Party candidate has joined the row over whether bed and breakfast owners should be able to bar gay couples.

Last week, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was reported as saying that B&B owners should have the right to bar whoever they choose from entering their homes.

Today, Andrew Bridgen, who is standing in North West Leicestershire, said he had “considerable sympathy” with B&B owners.

He was speaking after Mr Grayling made a visit to the marginal constituency to help canvass votes.

Mr Bridgen told the Leicestershire Mercury: “At the end of the day our policy is, we voted for the Equality Bill and as far as people who run a business, they have to offer the same services to everyone.

“But I do have sympathy with someone who is opening up their own home to a guest.”

He continued: “A public house has the right to refuse a customer and they don’t have to give a reason, so I have considerable sympathy for B&B owners in this case.

“It’s a grey area, but perhaps the size of the establishment could separate the difference between opening your home to paying guests and a business.”

Current laws ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in goods and services and Mr Grayling was attacked this week for criticising legislation he had voted for.

His comments, which were secretly recording at a thinktank meeting, are the latest in a string of gaffes and some analysts have predicted he will not become home secretary if the Conservatives win the election.

Mr Grayling was referring to the case of Christian couple Mike and Susanne Wilkinson, who refused to let a gay male couple stay in their Berkshire B&B.

He later said that people should be “sensitive” to faith groups but was satisfied with the current laws and said he was not homophobic.