David Cameron to offer MPs free vote on gay marriage plans

 

David Cameron is to offer Conservative MPs a free vote on the Government's plans to legalise gay marriage amid growing discontent in his ranks.

Critics questioned the Prime Minister's commitment to the reform after it emerged that he will not whip his party to support the move in the division lobbies.

Mr Cameron is personally supportive of the reform and Downing Street stressed again this week the Government's determination to get it on to the statute book before the end of the parliament.

Downing Street initially refused to say whether there would be a free vote on the legislation, saying it was "premature to start talking about whipping" when the issue was still under consultation and there was not yet a Bill.

But Leader of the Commons Sir George Young later confirmed there would be a free vote.

"Along with other issues that involve matters of conscience, it seems to me perfectly proper that this should be subject to a free vote on this side of the House and that is what we plan to do," he told the Commons.

His Labour shadow, Angela Eagle, said the policy would now only become law with her party's support.

"Lacking the courage of the Prime Minister's convictions and threatened with a growing revolt inside the Cabinet, they have decided to grant those opposed to equal marriage a free vote," she said.

"This means that the Government's flagship policy on equal rights will only become law with Labour support."

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "Since the Government is committed to legalising same-sex marriage it is somewhat surprising that it has decided to opt for a free vote.

"If it is official Government policy, surely Government MPs should be required to vote for it?

"Relegating it to a free vote suggests that David Cameron does not regard marriage equality as an important principle and policy."

This week a Conservative Cabinet minister declared his opposition to same-sex marriage in the most high-level challenge to Mr Cameron so far on the issue.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson made clear his hostility to the change in a letter to a constituent.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said recently that it was "not a priority" for the Government after the Liberal Democrat policy was blamed by some for poor local election results.

Defence minister Gerald Howarth is also opposed to same-sex marriage.

Tory critics of the plan see it, like House of Lords reform, as a Liberal Democrat policy that is a distraction from the bigger challenges facing the Government.

But Desmond Swayne, Mr Cameron's parliamentary private secretary, has recorded a video message for the cross-party Out4Marriage campaign backing the plans.

He said: "I'm married, I enjoy being married, it's a huge blessing, and therefore I want that blessing to be extended to everyone.

"I've come at this issue of equal marriage principally because I am a Christian.

"I believe that the promises of the Gospel are unconfined: they're for everyone, and the sacraments that follow from that should be available to everyone. That's why I'm Out4Marriage."

Home Secretary Theresa May also joined the Out4Marriage campaign today.

She said there were "strong views on both sides of this argument" and she would listen to all of them.

But she went on: "Marriage binds us together, it brings stability, I think marriage makes us stronger. But I believe also in commitment and in fidelity in marriage, I think these are good things and we should enable them to flourish.

"That's why I believe if two people care for each other, if they love each other, if they want to commit to each other and spend the rest of their lives together then they should be able to get married and that marriage should be for everyone, and that's why I'm coming Out4Marriage."

PA

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
Sport
Premier League Live Saturday 23 August
sportAll the action from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

Application Support Analyst-(UNIX, Linux, Financial Services)

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst-(UNIX...

Application Support Analyst - SQL, UNIX, Linux

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst - SQL...

Application Support - FIX protocol, UNIX, SQL, Windows, OMS

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support - FIX protoco...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition