Andrew Mitchell, the International development secretary has confirmed that the British government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic countries but denied that it will harm the most poor in those countries.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Mitchell said: “We have been very clear on this – where we think Governments do not have respect for human rights, it will have a big effect on the way we carry out this funding. Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures..

“It is not about taking money away from countries but finding other mechanisms to help them. We take a very clear line. In a number of countries in Africa that discrimination against homosexuality has concerned us. In Malawi when they kicked out the British High Commissioner we looked at the whole nature of that relationship.

“We were aware there had been some expenditure by the President. We were aware there had been some lack of human rights – the intention to criminalise lesbianism – all took a part in my decision to stop funding the government centrally.

“What we don’t want to do is take money away from very, very poor Malawians who England, and particularly Scotland have a strong relationship with.”

Last week, the Mail on Sunday revealed that aid ‘fines’ may be imposed on countries such as Uganda and Ghana for hard-line anti-gay laws.

Malawi, which sentenced a couple to 14 years’ hard labour for contravening anti-gay laws, has already had its aid cut by £19 million.

But Mac-Darling Cobbinah, the executive and national director of the Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights Ghana, said the move would only bring “pain and anguish” to the struggling country.

He added that the plans could backfire and lead to gay people being blamed for aid cuts. “We from Ghana LGBTi community think this is not enough. Cutting down aid will not bring anything other than pain and anguish to the already polarised society or country and LGBTi people will be used as scapegoats for under development in our countries,” he said.