In a move designed to please disgruntled Tory backbenchers – many of whom are angry over the government’s equal marriage policy – David Cameron has reshuffled Energy Minister John Hayes.
He becomes a cabinet office minister and the prime minister’s senior parliamentary adviser, putting him at the heart of Number 10.
The move is seen as a pre-emptive measure by Mr Cameron ahead of difficult local elections in May, where the Tories are expected to lose hundreds of council seats to Labour and the UK Independence Party.
Mr Hayes’ energy responsibilities will pass to Business Minister Michael Fallon, who earlier this year called on the Conservative Party to unite in the wake of February’s contentious equal marriage vote.
He told the BBC’s Daily Politics: “But I was wrong, the majority of people in parliament have voted the other way and we’ve got to accept that now and make this thing work.”
Mr Hayes is popular among Tory backbenchers in part because of his criticism of wind farms and same-sex marriage.
Last December, the minister said equal marriage “would depreciate the value of marriage.”
He said: “I shall be voting against changing the law to introduce marriage between homosexuals. I believe marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.
“I have always been a passionate supporter of the institution of marriage – it provides the best environment for children and families and provides a stable foundation for the wider society, too.
“We can trace the roots of many of Britain’s social problems today to a decline in marriages, as well as an increase in divorces.”
Of the remaining Conservative MPs, 127 were in favour, 35 did not vote, and five registered an abstention by voting both in favour and against.
The bill completed its committee stage on 12 March 2013 and is due to have its report stage and third reading by MPs on a date to be announced.
It will then proceed to the House of Lords for further debate and scrutiny.