TORY MP Steve Barclay is on paternity leave and did not attend the Commons for last night’s gay marriage debate and vote – but would probably have supported the Bill.

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That was the considered view today of his Parliamentary researcher Iain Carter responding to questioning on which way Mr Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, might have voted.

“Steve was not present in the House of Commons last night as he was on paternity leave,” said Mr Carter. “I think that is all you can report with certainty.

“In answer to your question how would he have voted I am not able to give you a definite answer?”

However Mr Carter pointed out some views expressed by Mr Barclay in the run up to the debate and in correspondence with constituents.

“I recognise the strength of feeling that exists on this subject,” wrote Mr Barclay. “I have yet to hear the full debate on same sex marriage and will make up my mind once it has been fully discussed and debated by all Members of Parliament across the House.

“I am minded to vote with the Government as I feel it is important to allow equality of marriage in this modern age but I reserve judgement until I nave heard the arguments from both sides.”

Mr Carter said: “This suggests he was more likely than not to vote in favour but as he was not there I can’t say for sure.”

MPs across Cambridgeshire were split over the issue of legalising of gay marriage.

South East Cambs MP Sir Jim Paice was one of 136 Tories to vote against his party in the free vote, which was won by the government by 400 votes to 175.

Sir Jim said: “I voted against the legislation last night because it was not in the Conservative Manifesto on which I campaigned during the last election and, based on the extensive correspondence I have received, it appears that this was not something that the majority of my constituents elected me to do.

“I am not against same sex relationships, but civil partnerships already provide all the rights and privileges of marriage and I do not believe there is a need to go beyond them at this time.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said the vote had been “an important step forward” and Labour leader Ed Miliband called it a “proud day”.

The legislation will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny. If it becomes law, the bill will enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies.

Supporters of the Bill included South Cambridgeshire Tory MP Andrew Lansley and Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert.

Alan Haselhurst, Tory MP for Saffron Walden, and Shailesh Vara, Tory MP for North West Cambridgeshire both voted against the bill. North East Norfolk Conservative MP Henry Bellingham also voted against his party.

Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon, abstained from the vote

Stewart Jackson, a Peterborough MP who opposes the gay marriage bill, told Reuters. “There is only so much the Conservative party is going to take. He has to deliver some authentic Conservative policies very soon.”

Mr Jackson warned during the debate that gay marriage would open a “Pandora’s box” and threaten religious freedom. He said Cameron’s authority had been fatally undermined.

“The only comparable rebellion is the Iraq war vote in 2003 which undermined Blair’s Premiership. Tonight’s vote will do the same for Cameron” he said after the vote.

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