MP accuses Government of ‘scaremongering’ over gay marriage Bill

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TIM Loughton has accused the Government of “scaremongering” by suggesting his defeated amendment to the gay marriage Bill would have cost billions of pounds to implement.

The East Worthing and Shoreham MP had tabled an amendment to the gay marriage Bill to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

However, the amendment was defeated heavily on Monday by 375 votes to 70 amid fears it would prolong the Bill’s passage through Parliament and potentially cost billions to implement.

The defeat was largely spear-headed by an 11th-hour plea from the Tory whip to the Labour Party – something Mr Loughton described as a “grubby deal”.

There were 56 Conservatives who voted for Mr Loughton’s amendment, described by some as a “wrecking” tactic, while only eight Labour MPs, three Lib Dems and three MPs in the Social Democratic and Labour Party supported it.

Speaking to the Herald afterwards, Mr Loughton said: “I fully acknowledge there’s a majority in the House of Commons in support of the Bill, but my role as a back-bencher is to scrutinise the Bill and try to make improvements which follow out of it.

“That’s why I tabled the amendment.

“As things stand, there will be a glaring new inequality created, which is that gay couples will continue to have civil partnerships and new access to marriages, while opposite-sex couples will only be able to get married. “That is unequal and unfair.”

A YouGov poll released a day before the vote showed 64 per cent of Britons supported extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

But in the same poll only five per cent of people said they would prefer a civil partnership over marriage.

In response, Mr Loughton said there were around three million couples co-habiting, many of which preferred not to marry, often because of ideological reasons.

Mr Loughton said offering these couples the option of civil partnerships would strengthen families and benefit children.

He also denounced claims the amendment would have cost billions to implement as “scare-mongering” and “back-of-a-fag-pack calculations”.

He added: “The Government was trying to pull a fast one when they pulled this figure of £3 billion out of the air.

“Then it became £4 million and there was even talk of £8 billion. “When the calculations were done for the original civil partnerships Bill, which I supported, the estimates were in the tens of millions.

“The Government saying it would cost billions was a scare-mongering tactic to mussle Labour into voting against the amendment.”

Openly gay Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has been one of the leading proponents of the gay marriage Bill, while Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley also voted in favour of it.

Neither voted in favour of the amendment.

Mr Herbert supports separate plans for a consultation into civil partnerships for heterosexual couples.