16/10/2011 06:55 BST | Updated 16/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Andrew Mitchell Denies Cutting Aid To Anti-Gay Countries Will Punish The Poor

International development secretary Andrew Mitchell has confirmed the UK government will withhold aid from countries with homophobic policies such as Malawi - and denied it will punish the poorest.

Speaking on Sunday morning, he said that it was part of the coalition's "human rights" agenda.

“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", he told Sky News.

“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 Dfid said it had raised objections to developments in Uganda and Ghana, months after it suspended £19m of general budget support to Malawi. Malawi received £96 million in aid from Britain in 2010.

Sam Dick, Head of Policy at Stonewall, a gay rights group, said: "Gay taxpayers contribute £40 billion a year to the public purse, including international aid. It is not unreasonable that these questions are asked at the point of awarding aid."