David Cameron has personally responded to a letter sent to him by the former Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan after the Tory MP expressed her concerns over the government’s marriage reforms.

In the letter, dated Friday, 19 October, Mr Cameron wrote:

“I do take on board your concerns – like many colleagues, I have also received a full postbag on this issue. I understand that this is a very sensitive issue for many people on both sides of the argument, which is why we have held a public consultation and why this will be a free vote for Conservative colleagues when it comes before the House of Commons.”

Mr Cameron continued: “Like all Conservatives, I believe passionately in marriage as an institution which helps people to commit to each other and to say that they are going to care and love for another person. It helps people to put aside their selfish interests and think of the union that they are forming.

“Society is a better and stronger place as a result. The state should not stop people getting married unless there are very good reasons – and I sincerely believe that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not one of them”.

The prime minister then went on to cite polling data, in order to bolster his argument, and said:

“Of course, we have put forward these proposals because we firmly believe that they are fair and the right thing to do. But they are also popular. There have been several recent published polls on the issue of equal civil marriage. All of the published polls have found that more voters support equal civil marriage – however described – than oppose it, with the number in favour ranging from 43% to 65%, depending on wording, and the number opposed ranging from 27% to 36%”.

Mr Cameron added: “All of the published polls also have found that support for equal civil marriage is fairly consistent across all socio-economic groups and every region of Britain. Furthermore, a recent poll by ComRes found that 10% of current Conservative voters say the policy would make them ‘less likely to vote Conservative’ compared with 7% saying it would make them ‘more likely to vote Conservative’. The difference between these figures is within the poll’s margin of error, so the finding it not statistically significant”.

The PM continued: “And the same poll also finds that among voters who say they generally think of themselves as a Conservative, more say that the government’s backing for equal civil marriage makes them more likely to vote Conservative than say it makes them less likely to do so”.

Mr Cameron concluded his letter by saying: “I know that it is very doubtful that any of this information will change anyone’s mind, once made up, on this issue and I would not hope or expect to do so. However, I hope you will also respect why I firmly believe that the government’s proposals are entirely consistent with Conservative values, and that is why I will be supporting them.”