MP votes against gay marriage bill

THE MP for North East Hampshire voted against the gay marriage bill, but said his opinion might yet swing the other way.

James Arbuthnot, whose constituency includes Bramley and Odiham, was one of 175 MPs to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill that was debated in Parliament on Tuesday last week.

A total of 400 MPs voted in favour of the bill which was introduced by Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, Minister for Women and Equalities. MPs were given a free vote, meaning they were not ordered to vote in a particular way by their political parties.

In a statement, Mr Arbuthnot said he voted against gay marriage but admitted being uncertain during the debate.

He said: “I voted as I did because my instinct, my upbringing and our history made me think that marriage ought to be between a man and a woman, and that we should change that law only if a strong case had been made for doing so.

“I felt there had been insufficient warning to, or preparation of, the country for this change. And given that I was so torn, I felt that it would be arrogant of me to do other than give great weight to the views of my constituents, who had written to me overwhelmingly opposed to the bill.”

He added that the support shown meant the bill would go through “and the world will not come to an end, neither will our society descend into decadence or immorality as a result”.

He said: “I shall analyse the discussion, and may well find myself persuaded to support the third reading of the bill.”

* In a separate development, Mr Arbuthnot has been appointed parliamentary patron for the Rural Fair Share scheme, a lobby group that argues rural areas do not receive as much Government support as urban areas.

The campaign states that people living in rural areas earn less on average than urban-dwellers, pay more in council tax and receive less in government grants.

Mr Arbuthnot said: “Rural areas tend to be good stewards of public funds and make do with what is offered. This has sometimes been used as an excuse to provide them with less funding.”

There are around 45 members of the cross-party group.

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