The Daily Mail has reported that 118 Conservative MPs could potentially vote against government plans to legalise marriage rights for gay couples.

The story is carried large on Saturday’s front page and has been written by the paper’s columnist Andrew Pierce

Mr Pierce has previously voiced his opposition to equal marriage despite claiming to be a supporter of gay rights.

According to the Mail, 118 out of 303 Conservative MPs have reportedly written to their constituents about their unease over the policy.

Unlike Labour and the Lib Dems, Tory MPs have been granted a free vote on the issue.

Even if 118 Conservative MPs voted against an equal marriage bill – it would still be likely to pass through the House of Commons as most of Labour and nearly all Lib Dem MPs are expected to back the measure.

Conor Burns, the gay Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, Branksome East and Alderney, is cited in the Mail as a key parliamentary opponent.

Last month, the MP told the Belfast News Letter that civil partnership legislation had granted gay couples all of the necessary legal entitlements.

However, Sky News reports on Saturday that Mr Burns hasn’t decided whether to abstain or vote in favour but says he doesn’t understand why it’s being brought forward now.

It is the second time the Daily Mail has splashed heavily on equal marriage in successive days.

Claims made by the paper on Thursday evening, that David Cameron was looking to “fast-track” equal marriage legislation have since been downplayed by Whitehall officials.