Conservative leader David Cameron signalled yesterday that civil partnerships would be rewarded in the same way as marriages.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said that the Tories would change the tax system in order to give benefits to those in relationships recognised by the state.

He said: “There are all sorts of different ways of doing it. My point is that evidence shows marriage is a good institution which helps people stay together, and commit to each other.

“A society that values marriage is a good and strong society. That’s why we will recognise marriage in the tax system.”

However, the newspaper reported that he said civil partnerships would also qualify.

The Civil Partnerships Act, which came into force in 2005, gave gay couples all the rights of marriage.

A Conservative spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “David Cameron has always made it clear that civil partnerships should be treated the same as marriage.”

Children’s secretary Ed Balls told the newspaper: “I think marriage is really important, but you cannot say ‘We will have a family policy which is only about marriage’.

“That ignores the well-being of relationships where there is not a marriage, either due to divorce, separation or whatever.

“The Tory policy is that marriage is first-class and any other relationship is second-class. That is fundamentally not in the interests of children. We should be about supporting strong and stable relationships.”

But Cameron countered: “Labour’s pathological inability to recognise that marriage is a good thing puts them on completely the wrong side of their own dividing line. Ed Balls seems to see marriage as irrelevant. I don’t think it is.

“I think marriage is a good institution. I don’t need an opinion poll to tell me whether it is or it isn’t. That’s just what I think.”