Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale says his latest comments against equal marriage had “nothing to do with incest” during a speech criticising the government’s marriage reforms.

Sir Roger was among 136 Conservative MPs to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill last Tuesday, and he delivered a vociferous attack against the bill in the debate prior to the 7pm vote.

Hinting that the government should look instead at removing both civil marriages and civil partnerships, the Kent MP said: “There is a way forward. It has been suggested but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not.”

Following widespread criticism, in an interview to the Isle of Thanet Gazette, Sir Roger clarified “I appreciate that certain sections of the press find this disappointing but it has nothing whatsoever to do with sex, or incest, at all.”

He gave greater details of his proposals by saying: “This union would, in addition to heterosexual and gay couples, certainly also include siblings who are at present not afforded the protection in law and in property rights from civil partnership because the last Labour Government specifically excluded this small group of people from the provisions of the Act.

“This is called equality. It means that people who have lived together as, for example, spinster sisters for very many years would no longer face the fear of having to sell the roof from over their heads in order to pay inheritance tax when one ‘partner’ dies.”