Conservative MP Nick Herbert has circulated an email urging MPs to vote in favour of a Manuscript Amendment to the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, which would start an immediate consultation on civil partnerships for straight couples.

The Labour party has put forward the Manuscript Amendment, which aims to start an immediate consultation on civil partnerships for straight couples.

It can only be considered if Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller’s amendment for a future review on civil partnerships is approved.

Nick Herbert MP, has now circulated an email urging Conservative MPs to vote in favour of the Labour Manuscript Amendment, but against a previously tabled amendment by three Tory MPs – Tim Loughton, Charlotte Leslie and Rob Wilson – which pushes for civil partnerships to be an option for heterosexual couples as part of the bill.

Some in Westminster, including Mr Herbert, the former Police Minister, and current Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, fear the Loughton amendment is an attempt to “wreck the bill” because it could delay its passage beyond the 2015 general election.

Mr Herbert’s full email is available to read below.

Dear Colleague

Thank you for your support for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Second Reading.

You will be aware of the amendments tabled by Tim Loughton and others (new Clauses 10 & 11) to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

I have no issue with the principle of this proposal, but I am very worried that adding this measure to the Bill will create significant new difficulties in the Lords.  You may be aware of Stonewall’s concern that the Bill “is not an appropriate vehicle to progress such proposals” and “risks being delayed by proposed amendments which would widen the Bill beyond its clearly defined purpose”.

I therefore believe that the Government’s proposal for a review (Gov NC16 and Gov 51 – 54), and Labour’s manuscript amendment (a) to ensure that the review is immediate, are a sensible way forward.

I appreciate that many colleagues would like to express their support for equality and vote for civil partnerships for heterosexual couples, and that some have backed the amendment for principled reasons.  However, a large number of MPs who oppose the Bill appear ready to support the amendment for different reasons, and this reinforces to my concern about its effect.

I would urge you, as a supporter of the Bill, to vote FOR an immediate review of civil partnerships (Gov NC16 and Gov 51-54 and Lab manuscript amendment (a)) and AGAINST the Loughton amendment (New Clauses 10 & 11).  I appreciate that many of you might be inclined to abstain on the Loughton amendment, but please be aware that if the opponents of the Bill largely vote for the amendment, it will be necessary to secure a majority against it.

Thank you.

THE RT HON NICK HERBERT MP