MPs have defeated a bid by Conservative MP Richard Bacon to scrap the Human Rights Act, which opponents of equal marriage have argued is a key threat to religious freedom.

Richard Bacon, who represents South Norfolk, said the act had been used by the European Court of Human Rights to influence British law, which was “fundamentally undemocratic”.

The act had too much sway on social policy matters such as abortion and employment laws, the MP added.

However, Labour MP Thomas Docherty argued in the Commons that Mr Bacon had misunderstood the legal impact of the act.

Ultimately, the European court had jurisdiction in the UK, not because of the Human Rights Act, but because of the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Docherty said.

Repealing the act would therefore not achieve Mr Bacon’s aims, the Labour MP concluded.

On Tuesday, MPs voted against Mr Bacon’s 10-minute rule bill by 195 to 72.

It will therefore make no further parliamentary progress.

Last month, Conor Burns, the gay Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, Branksome East and Alderney, warned that he would not support government plans to introduce equal marriage while the act remains in place.

Mr Burns, along with Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, have repeatedly said that being linked to the act increases the risk of faith organisations facing potential legal action if they refuse to provide gay couples with same-sex marriages - once the measure is introduced by the government.

In November, Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities Maria Miller announced that gay couples would be prevented from using European law to force a particular church to marry them as part of the government’s marriage reforms.