Tory leadership hopeful Esther McVey has said parents should be able to withdraw their children from relationship or sex education on religious grounds until they are as old as 16.
Speaking to LBC on Wednesday morning, McVey was challenged over whether she thought children should be taught about LGBT relationships.
She said while she was “happy” for LGBT lessons to be included in relationship education, parents were the “best” people to decide what was “age appropriate”.
McVey was asked at what age she believed there should be “mandatory relationship or sexual education” in schools.
“I think you’d say once the person is coming to an adult age, then that is where the state can come in, that would be later, it would be 16,” she said.
“If I had a child, and I don’t, I would have my child having those sex and relationship education. That’s fine. That would be my choice. I do appreciate other people would have a different choice.”
She later suggested mandatory relationship education could be introduced for 12-year-olds.
McVey also rejected the suggestion she was homophobic. “Never have been, never will be,” she said.
The former work and pensions secretary has repeatedly been forced to defend her views on LGBT education.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, has said McVey’s argument was “illegal, immoral and deeply dangerous”.
It comes as protesters demonstrating against LGBT teaching at a Birmingham primary school have vowed to continue their campaign despite an injunction.
An interim High Court injunction secured by the council has banned demonstrations taking place within an exclusion zone around the site.
The legal bid bars those objecting to use of particular relationship education materials from protesting anywhere near the school.