A spokeswoman for Conservative Central Office has said the party has no statement to make about Tony Blair’s announcement that Roman Catholic adoption agencies will not be exempted from anti-discrimination legislation.

Meanwhile a LibDem MP who tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the government to exempt the Catholic Church has branded Tony Blair a coward.

Richard Younger-Ross defied the orthodoxy of his party to speak out in defence of the Catholic agencies in his EDM, tabled last Thursday, which only six other MPs have signed.

“This is an act of cowardice from the Prime Minister,” he told PinkNews.co.uk

“This is an issue that should have been debated in Parliament, not stitched up in the smoke-filled corridors of Westminster.”

A Tory spokeswoman repeated that the party’s MPs will be given a free vote on the regulations when they come before the House of Commons next month.

This morning Conservative leader David Cameron told BBC Radio 4 that there should be no exemption for Catholic agencies, but that there should be a transition period – exactly what Mr Blair announced this afternoon.

PinkNews.co.uk was informed of the imminent announcement of the Prime Minister’s decision by the No 10 press office ahead of the 16:30 embargo.