SIR Richard Branson has instructed Virgin Trains to re-stock the Daily Mail after its decision to stop selling the newspaper was criticised as "censorship".

The train operator said it made the decision in November, pointing out in an internal note to staff that "considerable concern" had been raised by colleagues about the newspaper's editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.

But the Virgin boss has distanced himself from the move, saying neither he nor Brian Souter, chairman of Stagecoach, were aware of the decision before reading it in media reports.

"It was not part of some grand campaign or at my behest," Sir Richard said in a statement on Monday.

"Brian and I agree that we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice. Nor must we be seen to be moralising on behalf of others.

"Instead we should stand up for the values we hold dear and defend them publicly, as I have done with the Mail on many issues over the years.

"So Brian and I have instructed our team at Virgin Trains to reconsider this decision and re-stock the Daily Mail while they undertake a full review of their sales policy, making clear that this policy should not single out individual media titles."

The Mail accused Virgin Trains of censorship following the decision and claimed the company had said the only reason the paper would no longer be stocked was to "save space".

It added sales were only 70 copies a day.

Commentators and MPs also criticised the move, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling it an "absurd" and "pompous" ban that resembled censorship.

Sir Richard said the decision was made "in response to feedback from some of our Virgin Trains employees", but admitted the decision to stop selling the paper "has not been seen to live up to principles of "freedom of speech, freedom of choice and tolerance for differing views".