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First shot

Mark D'Arcy
Parliamentary correspondent


Is the opening shot about to be fired in the parliamentary battle on gay marriage?

In a couple of weeks' time, on 30 October, Labour MP Chris Bryant will propose a ten minute rule bill "to remove restrictions on marriage and civil partnership, including the prohibitions on marriage between two people of the same sex, on civil partnership between two people who are not of the same sex… and on the use of religious premises for the solemnisation of certain marriages.."

Ten minute rule bills are usually little more than an excuse for a ten minute speech on a particular cause - and Mr Bryant has, in the past, made a habit of opposing them, because he thinks the whole procedure is a bit silly. But now he appears to be using it to get the debate onto the floor of the Commons and force a vote, in order to demonstrate the level of support among MPs.

It would be surprising if someone didn't seek to oppose the bill, and make a ten minute speech against: so a division is quite likely, unless opponents decide to duck the challenge.

And it's worth remembering that while ten minute rule bills rarely become law, it is not impossible for them to do so - smart manoeuvring by Andrew Dismore, who lost his seat at the last election, got one such into law. It takes timing, luck and cooperation, not least from the government whips, and I'm sure Mr Bryant would like nothing better than to have the chance to hold a second reading debate, to air the arguments and push the government on an issue where legislation is supposed to be forthcoming.

This is both because he believes in the cause - and because many in the Conservative grassroots clearly don't.

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