UKIP councillor Donna Edmunds in 'women and gays' row

Man wearing UKIP rosette UKIP said it "did not endorse the position intimated" by Donna Edmunds

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A UKIP councillor has said businesses should be able to refuse services to women and gay people, in comments posted on an internet forum.

The Argus reported the remarks made by Lewes councillor Donna Edmunds.

She posted her views after being asked whether she supported Henley-on-Thames UKIP councillor David Silvester, who said the government's support for gay marriage had caused the recent floods.

Ms Edmunds defended her comments as "an essentially libertarian stance".

However, she later issued a statement saying she regretted the remarks.

On the forum, Ms Edmunds said she did not agree with Mr Silvester, who has been expelled by UKIP, but said business owners should be allowed to refuse services to anyone they wanted for any reason.

When The Argus asked her to clarify her statement, Ms Edmunds said it would be OK for a shop owner to refuse her based on no other fact than she was a woman, or if service was refused to a gay person.

'Somewhat misguided'

She said: "I'm a libertarian so I don't think the state should have a role in who business owners serve."

Norman Baker, Lewes's Liberal Democrat MP, tweeted about his surprise at the capacity of UKIP repeatedly to pick candidates with "abhorrent" views.

And the Conservative Party Press Office tweeted: "UKIP MEP candidate & Cllr says businesses should be able to turn away women, gay & black people. @UKIP do? Nothing."

A spokesman for UKIP said: "Ms Edmunds' comments appear somewhat misguided and we do not endorse the position intimated, but we believe she has apologised for the remarks."

And the party's chairman Steve Crowther later said: "Whilst we are a libertarian party this kind of ultra-libertarianism really goes beyond what is acceptable.

"Society has to have rules and it is certainly not UKIP's policy to allow people to refuse service to each other on the grounds of race, sexuality etc."

'Cutting red tape'

Ms Edmunds, an MEP candidate for the South East, issued a statement which said: "I regret what I wrote and can see how an essentially libertarian stance could be broadly misinterpreted.

"I in no way endorse any form of discrimination. I believe in cutting red tape for business and I also strongly believe in an individual's personal and religious freedoms, but I stand against any form of prejudice."

The mother of one added: "I hope this remark has not caused any embarrassment for the party."

Lewes District Council said Ms Edmunds's views were her personal opinion and not shared by the authority.

A spokeswoman said the council had a statutory duty to protect people from discrimination and believed everyone in the area should feel "welcome, safe, valued, included and respected".

She added: "All officers and councillors receive regular training opportunities and there is no excuse for them not to be aware of their duties as council employees and elected members."

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