UKIP MEP Roger Helmer – who is running for Parliament this week in the Newark by-election – has claimed the NHS should fund ‘gay cure’ therapy.

In an interview with the Daily Mail today, Helmer claimed that offering gay cure therapy on the NHS was no different from treating trans people.

He said: “One person is unhappy with their physical sex and wants to change it and we say, ‘OK you can do it’.

“You have a homosexual who says, ‘I’m homosexual, actually I’d rather be straight, is there a way of fixing it?’

“We say to the person who wants to change from a man to a woman or vice versa, ‘Please do that on the NHS’.

“We say to this guy, ‘That’s wicked, you’re not allowed to think about it’.”

“I don’t know if homeopathy works or not, but I will defend the right of anyone who believes it works to try it.”

He continued to claim that ‘strident’ gay rights groups like Stonewall had twisted his previous anti-gay comments, claiming they could not be described as homophobic.

He said: “Phobia is well defined in psychiatry – get a definition of it.

“We [Ukip] don’t deny there’s prejudice against minorities, and we condemn it.

“However, it isn’t a phobia. When people say ‘we support traditional marriage’, Stonewall says, ‘Homophobia, homophobia’. It’s a perfectly respectable position to take, it doesn’t require abuse and isn’t a phobia’.”

He also repeated his previous claims that same-sex relationships don’t deserve the same respect, saying: “Marriage is defined by history, culture and reproductive biology and deserves special respect in society. (I am) perfectly relaxed about other relationships but they don’t justify the same respect.”

Helmer, 70, is no stranger to controversy, and has been involved in a long-running homophobia row in recent months.

UKIP MEP Roger Helmer is standing in next week’s Newark by-election, despite a row over homophobia.

Helmer, 70, has previously said the public should be able to openly dislike gay people.

He also claimed homosexuality is not a lifestyle worthy of respect, and claimed that the media are “obsessed” with sexuality.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage had attempted to defend Helmer from accusations of homophobia, claiming that “most” over-70s feel uncomfortable about gays.

He said: “Roger Helmer is fighting this by-election for us; he’s somebody of 70 years of age who grew up with a strong Christian Bible background; he grew up in an age when homosexuality was actually imprisonable, and he had a certain set of views which he maintained for many years which he now says he accepts the world’s moved on and he’s relaxed about.

“As I say, when Roger grew up and, indeed, when he was an adult, homosexuality was illegal in this country, and he held that view for some period of time.

“And actually, if we asked the 70s and over in this country how they felt about it, most of them still feel uncomfortable.”