Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell has tweeted that “Gay marriage is neither urgent nor important” and says Labour leader Ed Miliband must allow Labour MPs to have a conscience vote on the issue.

He made the comments on Monday morning on his personal Twitter account @AVMitchell2010.

“Gay marriage is neither urgent nor important. It’s also a moral issue therefore a free vote on which basis it won’t pass,” the MP said.

Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, Mr Austin defended the remarks and said a whipped vote by Labour would make him instantly more inclined to rebel as it would go against “personal freedom”.

When asked if he would support the government’s equal marriage proposals, the Labour MP said he was currently “undecided” and that he would not make up his mind until a draft bill was published.

Mr Mitchell also stated that parliament should be concerning itself with “more important issues”.

Unlike their Conservative counterparts, who have already been promised a free vote when the government’s equal marriage bill comes before parliament, Labour is likely to follow the option of the Lib Dems, by invoking a three-line Commons whip.

It means Labour MPs such as Jim Dobbin, Joe Benton and Mary Glindon, who have already signalled their public opposition to marriage equality by signing a petition against the measure, risk potential disciplinary action if they go against party lines and pass through the no lobby.

In September, Ed Miliband released an Out4Marriage video and said churches should be given the right to hold same-sex weddings.

David Cameron has promised a change in the law in England and Wales by the next election in May 2015.

Speaking in favour of religious equal marriage on Friday, Mr Cameron said he did not want gay couples to be excluded from a “great institution”.