POLITICS
13/05/2012 07:05 BST | Updated 31/01/2013 15:52 GMT

Philip Hammond: Gay Marriage 'Not A Priority'

Lords reform and giving gay people the right to marry are not priorities for the government, defence secretary Philip Hammond has said.

Speaking on BBC One’s the Andrew Marr Show, Hammond said the public wanted politicians to concentrate on “things that matter” and said gay marriage was “clearly” not the “number one priority.”

“If you stop people in the street and ask them what their concerns are, they’ll talk to you about jobs and economic growth, they’ll talk to you about the level of the wages they’re earning, wanting to see real growth in wages again. They’ll talk about rising prices, they’ll talk about crime, they’ll talk about immigration.

“But I think the government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to the people in this country - not just the short-term things but the long-term things as well.”

His comments were echoed by Baroness Warsi, who told Sky News on Sunday morning: "I’m a member of the House of Lords, so I’ve probably got an interest to declare before I answer this question, but do I feel that the House of Lords reform is an absolute priority right now? No I don’t.”

Hammond’s comments come after children’s ministers Tim Loughton told a constituent he was opposed to gay marriage, writing in a letter seen by the Mail on Sunday: "For me, marriage as a religious institution cannot be anything other than between a man and a woman, and particularly when all the rights and responsibilities of marriage are available to non-heterosexual couples through civil partnerships."

The government backed off from introducing a Bill for same-sex marriages in last week’s Queen’s speech, but outlined plans to reform the House of Lords and replace the appointed peers with a largely elected second chamber.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the coalition "must not backtrack" on gay marriage.

"Legislation on equal marriage doesn't prevent government prioritising jobs, growth or family finances - it is the Coalition economic policy which is preventing that."

Gay rights campaigners expressed disappointment that long trailed plans to introduce same-sex marriage were not included, with Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall, saying he was concerned plans for gay marriage legislation would be abandoned.

"Stonewall will fight on to push both coalition parties to deliver on their promise to implement this measure by 2015," he said.