Liberal Democrat MP David Laws has spoken frankly for the first time about his homosexuality.

The MP resigned from the Cabinet last May after it was revealed he had broken Commons rules by claiming expenses to pay rent to his boyfriend.

Last week, an inquiry ordered him to repay £56,000 and apologise to parliament. He claimed he paid rent to his boyfriend to keep their relationship secret.

Speaking to the Times, Mr Laws explained why he felt the need to hide his sexuality.

He said: “When I was born it wasn’t that long after homosexuality was decriminalised and, while I certainly wasn’t thinking about issues of law when I kept my sexuality secret, the view of homosexuality back in the 1970s and 1980s was not very tolerant amongst a large group of people.

“I think everybody when they grow up and when they are young, likes to fit in and doesn’t like to … stand out in a way that is likely to be ridiculed or to cause people to not want to be friends with them or whatever. And therefore it was always easier at school, ever since I can remember being aware of my sexuality, to keep it secret.”

Mr Laws said he had been in a relationship with James Lundie, a lobbyist, for nine years. He described the stress of trying to hide the relationship.

“You never know where you are going to bump into people and you never know when people are going to put two and two together. Given that this went on for nine years or so, that’s quite a long time to live in secrecy.”

He also said he regrets his actions because they set a poor example to LGBT young people.

“I don’t think that as an MP and somebody who was education spokesman for the party that I set a very good example in that regard,” he said.

Mr Laws was thought to be a millionaire after quitting the City to enter politics in his late twenties. However, he revealed that he plans to sell his Yeovil constituency home for a smaller property in order to pay back a loan from his family which he took to repay his expenses.