MPs to get free vote on gay marriage

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David Cameron is set to avoid a Commons showdown with rebellious Conservative MPs by offering a free vote on the Government’s plans to legalise gay marriage.

The Prime Minister is facing fierce opposition to the move from some on his own benches, including ministers.

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

But it is understood Mr Cameron will allow MPs to vote according to their conscience rather than whipping them to vote with the Government.

Any such scenario is unlikely to arise in the next year as there was no Bill for the reform of civil marriage in the Queen’s Speech.

A Conservative Cabinet Minister, Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, this week declared his opposition to same-sex marriage in a letter, the most high-level challenge to Mr Cameron so far on the issue.