Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Sunday, 4 April 2010 17:26 UK

Unionist attacks Tory B&B stance

Adrian Watson
Adrian Watson said he should be allowed to stand as a Conservative and Unionist

A UUP member who says he was not picked as an election candidate due to his views on gay couples in his B&B has said the Conservatives are hypocrites.

Adrian Watson said in 2006 he felt "uncomfortable" having gay guests in his B&B which was also his family home.

It is believed the Conservatives felt he was unsuitable to run as a candidate in its electoral link-up with the UUP.

His comments were echoed by Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling, who said B&Bs should be able to exclude gay couples.

Responding to an audience question about civil liberties at a Centre for Policy Studies event in London on Wednesday, Mr Grayling said: "I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences.

"I personally always took the view that... if you look at the case of 'Should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from their hotel?'

Mr Grayling's comments are much stronger than anything I've said, yet I've borne the full brunt of David Cameron and his henchmen in Northern Ireland
Adrian Watson
Ulster Unionist

"I took the view that if it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home.

"If they are running a hotel on the High Street, I really don't think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes."

Mr Watson is an Antrim councillor who had hoped to be the Conservative and Unionist candidate for the South Antrim constituency.

However, he was told by a senior Ulster Unionist he was no longer deemed suitable for the South Antrim candidacy, after the Conservatives raised objections.

It is thought that as well as Mr Watson's views on gay couples at his B&B, the Conservatives were also concerned about comments he had made about the Travelling community.

Mr Watson said on Sunday that Mr Grayling's comments put "a whole new question mark over my exclusion as a candidate.

"If this gentleman is allowed to stand, surely there is no good reason now to bar me from standing."

In 2006, Mr Watson said he would feel uncomfortable having gay couples in his bed and breakfast, which was based in his family home, as it could upset his wife and children.

Chris Grayling

Under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, no-one should be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality.

Mr Watson said he has since extended his guesthouse beyond his family home.

He added: "Mr Grayling's comments are much stronger than anything I've said, yet I've borne the full brunt of David Cameron and his henchmen in Northern Ireland, who said I wasn't fit and proper to stand as a Conservative and Unionist candidate.

"It's blatant discrimination against me - Mr Cameron is talking about equality for everyone, but where's my equality?"

According to Mr Watson, 90% of his local Ulster Unionist Party association backed him as a candidate.

He said he was still willing to stand as a Conservative and Unionist in the general election, although he had not ruled out running as an independent candidate.

A joint Conservative and Unionist candidate for South Antrim has not yet been announced.

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