A Labour former minster has attracted criticism during his speech at the House of Commons against equal marriage, because he said the main reason behind marriage was procreation, yet he attended the wedding of a Labour colleague who said it was clear that she was too old to have children.

Stephen Timms said he had planned to vote against the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill at third reading because the main reason for marriage was for people to have children. He said allowing gay couples to marry would undermine that reasoning.

Mr Timms told MPs: “Children are at the heart of marriage… but they are barely mentioned at the Bill. The Bill aims to open up the benefits of marriage to people excluded from it at the moment but it is doing at the price of taking away a significant part of its meaning.

“Children are the reason marriage has been so important. If it was purely about a loving relationship between two people… then it would have been much less important than it has been.

“Does this matter? Well, yes I think it does because it is right that society to recognise, as marriage does, the value to all of us of people who bring children in to the world and then bring them up as well.

“That is the ideal that marriage reflects. It would be a mistake to lose the value which that places on the creation and bringing up of children and in the end it will be children who lose out if we do.”

Mr Timms’ comments drew fire from fellow MPs such as his Labour colleague, Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham, who said she invited him to her wedding.

She questioned: “You were at my wedding and I was not young when I got married… and it was highly unlikely to after all that time procreate. Are you telling me that my marriage is less valid as anybody else is?”

He responded that he did not intend to undermind the value of her marriage.

Another Labour MP, Madeleine Moon also asked: “Are you suggesting that children should only be adopted by couples who are married or somehow that children who are within a same-sex parentage have a lesser right to have loving parents who are married?”

Mr Timms denied that he didn’t mean either of those things, but did say that he thought it was “ideal” for marriage to support the bringing up of children.

Not the only Labour MP opposed to the bill, Michael McCann, Labour MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow said he would vote no.

He said: “Whilst civil partnership legislation unequivocally broke the back of unlawful discrimination this Bill doesn’t end any discrimination whatsoever and has the potential to open up a can of worms of Olympian magnitude.

“I’m also bitterly disappointed about the way people’s genuine concerns on this matter have been dismissed by Government ministers. Logic has been responded to with platitudes and there has been no greater offender than the Secretary of State.

Jim Dobbin, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton called the bill “hasty and destructive”. He said: “Worryingly this Bill rarely mentions children and parenthood.. We should be promoting equality not uniformity and be able to celebrate the difference.”

He said that the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill “dilutes the meaning of marriage”.

He said: “Having a traditional view of marriage should not be seen as discriminatory, unfortunately the Bill has promoted this notion. It has not created tolerance and has highlighted division.

“The Government cannot possibly guarantee protection for churches or individuals with a traditional view because it cannot predict or control what happens in the courts.”