Defence Secretary Philip Hammond was “shocked” by the legalisation of equal marriage for England and Wales – but has conceded that he will eventually be “quite comfortable” with the reform.

He abstained at second and third reading of the same-sex marriage act in the Commons.

In an interview with ConservativeHome, Mr Hammond stated that the policy had been damaging for the Conservative Party – but that it was now time to “move on”.

“It was damaging because it created a perception that the leadership was in a different place to the core of the party’s active supporters,” Mr Hammond said. “But I think the Tory party is nothing if not pragmatic and most people will now regard this as something that’s behind us, and we have to focus on the challenges ahead, not carping on disagreements that have happened in the past, and I think people will move on.”

Although civil partnerships were first legalised nearly eight years ago, Mr Hammond claims the transition to equal marriage has occurred far too quickly.

“I was definitely uncomfortable about civil partnership at first, but you know it happened, it became part of the furniture, just another feature of everyday life.”

The MP continued: “I think my position on the same-sex marriage thing probably sums up the kind of conservative that I am. I’m a small c conservative as well as a big C Conservative, and that means that I prefer my change to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and you know I got myself quite comfortable with the institution of civil partnership, but I was then quite shocked by the urge to move on so quickly to the next stage, but I dare say in time I will become quite comfortable with the institution of same-sex marriage, and I suspect I speak for a large number of Conservatives when I say it isn’t so much the substance of the change as the process and things being evolutionary and gradually taking root rather than through tumultuous change which is disturbing to the settled instinct.”

Mr Hammond first went public about his opposition to marriage equality in May 2012, when he said it was “too controversial”.

Four weeks prior to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act receiving Royal Assent in June, Mr Hammond said on the BBC’s Question Time: “This change does redefine marriage. For millions and millions of people who are married, the meaning of marriage changes. There is a real sense of anger among many people who are married that any government thinks it has the ability to change the definition of an institution like marriage.”