Hmm. More to this than meets the eye eh?
- Letter to peers claims MPs were warned opposing same sex marriage would end their career
- David Cameron said he was ‘proud’ to support equality laws
- 130 Tory MPs including ministers opposed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in free vote
- Peers fear next week’s crucial vote will be delayed until after 2am
By GERRI PEEV
Ministers warned backbenchers that their careers would be ruined if they did not support gay marriage, it was claimed last night. Angry MPs have written to members of the House of Lords, telling them that the House of Commons did not have a truly free vote last week and that many felt coerced into the decision. Conservative backbenchers are furious at the pressure exerted by Number 10, ministers and whips to back the legalisation of same sex marriage – which sailed through its third reading thanks to the support from Labour.
They are now urging the Lords to vote down the legislation when it comes before them on Monday. It is convention for the Lords to ultimately bow to the will of the Commons – but MPs are now claiming that their will was ignored by the government. Some claimed they were warned they would lose financial backing and campaigning help before the next election if they refused to back the Bill – a complaint refuted by government sources. Despite being promised a free vote, backbenchers said they had had been advised not to defy the Prime Minister. Ultimately 130 Tories rebelled.
A letter signed by 15 Tory MPs said:
‘The main parties announced a free vote but we saw varying degrees of coercion, with threats made, for example, to an MP’s future political career or withdrawal of party support at future elections.’ The letter adds: ‘Regrettably our ability as MPs to oppose, amend or scrutinise this Bill was heavily constrained. ‘The Government presses on without any mandate from a party manifesto.
We are all elected representatives by none of us was elected on a platform to redefine marriage.
‘Genuine concerns about the impact on society’s understanding of marriage and the Bill’s implications for free speech and civil liberty have been swept aside.
‘Our postbags testify to the deep unpopularity of this Bill.
‘Most of our constituents simply believe marriage is a unique institution that forms the bedrock of society and should be left as it is.
‘Millions of people with marriage certificates imprinted “Marriage Act 1949” are entitled to ask what right anyone has to redefine their own marriages over their heads.’
Signatories of the letter included Tim Loughton, the former education minister whose attempt to extend civil partnerships to straight couples was voted down, Jim Paice, the former farming minister Sir Gerald Howarth, the former defence minister.
Sir Gerald told the Mail: ‘We are doing a really good job on the economy and Europe and cutting immigration but this is being obscured by this obsession with a massive social change that has no mandate. ‘I cannot understand why the Prime Minister is hell-bent on driving this through. ‘It is gratuitously disrespectful to the party and the country.’
The former minister added that many of his local activists had quit his association while another Tory MP had told him a quarter of hers had deserted the party.
David Burrowes, a ministerial aide who signed the letter, said: ‘The manner of the process of this bill as much as the substance has been causing great concern.’
He added that while he was not personally coerced by the whips, ‘I understand some colleagues may have felt the pressure from the Prime Minister and ministers about the impact on their careers.’
Michael Gove and Theresa May had also publicly urged Tory MPs to back the legislation.
Other MPs to sign the letter include Glyn Davies, Fiona Bruce, Richard Drax, Karl McCartney, Therese Coffey and Stewart Jackson.
Mr Jackson said: ‘My main issue is that there was not sufficient scrutiny of the Bill, and there was no mandate. It wasn’t in the Coalition Agreement, it wasn’t in the manifesto, it wasn’t in the Queen’s Speech. It is right that the Lords have the opportunity to vote on this.’
‘Genuine concerns about the impact on society’s understanding of marriage and the Bill’s implications for free speech and civil liberty have been swept aside.’
– The letter
MPs said that the legislation was railroaded through, with backbenchers given just four minutes for speeches at second reading while the committee put in charge of scrutinising the bill had 15 MPs in favour of gay marriage and four against.
However, the Conservative party strongly denied issuing threats to MPs who did not fall into line.
A Tory party source said: ‘The Whips’ Office was strictly neutral and left it to the advocates on either side of the arguments to put forward their case.’
David Cameron has said he is ‘proud’ of the Bill going through its third reading in the Commons last week.
Polls show that the public is broadly supportive of extending the right to marry to same sex couples.
But a poll of MPs conducted by ComRes showed that almost three in ten Tories (27 per cent) did not feel they had a free vote on gay marriage, despite being promised one.
One in ten Labour MPs expressed the same opinion. Angry MPs have pointed out that normally on conscience issues around 200 MPs would abstain.
But on the second reading of the same sex marriage bill it was only 67. A crunch vote at the Second Reading in the Lords on Monday could be held after 2am as 80 peers have put their names down to speak.
Culled from dailymail.co.uk