I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. I hope, if I have time, to deal with that important point.
Let me roll back the clock to the last general election. I have the three manifestos: the best one, “Invitation to join the Government of Britain”, which is the Conservative one; the Liberal Democrat manifesto, “Change that works for you”; and the Labour one, “A future fair for all”. I also have the coalition programme for government. I have read all these again and they make interesting reading, but they do not deal anywhere with the question of gay marriage or same-sex marriage. It is not even hinted at. I thought that I had better check the number of pages in those documents. The coalition agreement has 35 pages, “Invitation to join the Government of Britain” has 119, “A future fair for all” has 77, and the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto has 109—a total of 340 pages of promises and nothing at all about gay marriage.
That is where there is a huge democratic deficit. When voters went to the polls, they did not vote for candidates on the basis that this issue was under consideration or the subject of a pledge by their party—there was no suggestion of that whatsoever. That is slightly misleading, though, because I vaguely remember —we were all working hard at the time—that the weekend or so before the general election there was a slight hoo-hah in the press to the effect that the Conservatives were going to bring in gay marriage. I thought, “Goodness gracious me—that can’t be right.” My leader, now the Prime Minister, had an interview with, I think, Adam Boulton on Sky television, and thankfully, when he was asked if the Conservatives were planning to bring in gay marriage, he said, “I’m not planning that.” So it was not in our manifesto or in anyone else’s and the leader of my party said that it absolutely was not going to be brought in—and two years later we find there is to be primary legislation about it.
Why should all 646 of us, with our individual consciences, determine this matter? Why is my view or that of the leader of my party any more important than the view of the person in the Dog and Duck in Wellingborough? They have not had a chance to express their view.