Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling, Sir John Stanley, has claimed that homosexuality is a ‘normal phase’ for youngsters before become heterosexual in later life.

The MP who was a defence minister and Northern Ireland minister under Margaret Thatcher made the claim in defence of his decision to vote against same-sex marriage.

In a letter to constituents, the MP wrote: “Enshrining gay marriage into law will be unhelpful and positively damaging to young people going through the perfectly normal phase of being attracted to other young people of the same sex before arriving at a heterosexual orientation subsequently.”

In the letter he also claimed that same-sex marriage would not achieve equality in law.

Nic Evans who owns the MP’s local pub with his civil partner told the Daily Star that he was horrified about his MP’s views. “I find it really disappointing when I discover comments which I believe are homophobic.He’s been there since 1974 and is obviously one of the old guard of the Tories.”

He added: “We’re just lucky we’re part of a community here in Edenbridge where it’s never been an issue.

Sir John is to retire at the next general election.

126 Tory MPs led by the Prime Minister David Cameron voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. 134 Tories voted against and 35 did not vote or abstained.