Following claims by the Mail on Sunday that the Tory Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin told MPs that proposals for equal marriage will be “kicked into the long grass”, the Prime Minister has used a pre-local election interview to reaffirm his commitment to the cause.

The Mail on Sunday claimed that Mr McLoughlin privately assured anxious Tory backbenchers that the current proposals for equal civil marriage in England and Wales will “not come to a vote,” and that they will be “kicked into the long grass.”

Today, David Cameron told the Evening Standard that he is “clear about my views” on the issue. He said:“I ask myself the question, why is it that we deny gay couples the ability to get married, and I don’t think that’s right.

Recognising the heated debate on the subject within his own party and the Church, Mr Cameron said: “Obviously this is a controversial issue. I feel the time for change has come. If you ask, particularly young people, they say this feels like a very natural change to make … We are not changing what happens in church.”

When questioned on the role of the Church of England in the debate and his role in the appointment of the successor of the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the newspaper wrote that the prime minister “suddenly looks genuinely upset”. He told the paper: “I have said enough. I don’t want to start getting into a fight with the Church. The Conservative Party has been on a journey to where all small-c institutions go, in a modern world, which is that if marriage is good for heterosexuals it is good for gay couples too.”

Asked if he is worried if he’d lose support to UKIP, criticised by PinkNews.co.uk for its approach to homosexuality, Mr Cameron said: “I am a heartfelt Conservative. The reason I wanted to lead the Conservative Party was that I felt it needed to make important changes, to broaden the base of its support.”

Last year at the Conservative Party conference, Mr Cameron said: “I stood before a Conservative conference once and I said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a man and another man or a woman and a woman.

“You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

“And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.

“So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”