Former children’s minister Tim Loughton has restated his opposition to equal marriage and has once again said: “marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”

When asked by the Argus newspaper “If you are so committed to gay rights, why are you opposed to legalising gay marriage?” the Conservative MP, who represents Worthing in West Sussex replied: “The two things are completely different issues. It’s true that I personally am not going to vote in favour of gay marriage.

“While I’m a very enthusiastic supporter of civil partnerships, I don’t support this. It’s not about equality because civil partnerships already have all the rights given to married couples.

“I just think it’s a bit of a non-issue when you have got married couples with kids really feeling the pinch. This is an issue of conscience. I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”

The Argus then asked Mr Loughton if he expected his constituents to agree with him on the issue, he replied: “My job is to represent my constituents in parliament. They expect me to have a view on a range of subjects and to stay true to those views.

“Before this came up, I don’t think I had a single letter in more than 15 years about gay marriage.

“Subsequently I have had hundreds of emails and letters urging me to oppose the motion. The number of people asking me to support it is in single figures.

“I have also heard from a number of gay people telling me: ‘We don’t need this. We don’t want to go and get married.’

“So this is a very complex issue and not as clear cut as some people like to portray it.”

In November, Mr Loughton described the Church of England’s marriage service as “a gift of God in creation through which husband and wife may know the grace of God”.