The Speaker of the House of Commons was left red-faced after accidently referring to rugby star Ben Cohen as “openly gay” – even though the former player has a wife and is straight.

Bercow made the gaffe last night at a meeting of ParliOut, the Houses of Parliament’s gay staff network.

The MP was introducing the ex-England rugby international to a room full of guests when he made the slip-up.

Since retiring from professional rugby in 2011, Cohen has dedicated much of his time to tackling the problem of homophobic bullying among young people through his StandUP Foundation.

Keen to press the point home to the assembled guests, the Speaker introduced Cohen by saying:

“I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Ben Cohen before but I’m delighted to remedy that serious deficit.

“For those of you who aren’t aware, and I’m sure this august and well informed audience will be – his background is as a rugby international – capped no fewer than 57 times for his country”.

However, John Bercow was then left embarrassed by his subsequent comment of Cohen being “openly gay” as the MP praised his dedication towards “fighting for gay rights”.

Instantly realising the error, the audience burst into laughter and Cohen jokingly shouted: “Don’t tell my wife!”

Bercow quickly corrected himself: “No he’s not openly gay!” before adding. “I am not in favour of outing people against their will and that was an ignorant outing that I apologise to Ben for.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to be getting back from this faux pas!”

Afterwards, Cohen said the gaffe had been taken with good humour.