MPs voted to back David Cameron's plan to legalise gay marriages after a Commons debate which exposed the depth of the split within his Conservative Party over the issue.

The Commons voted by 400 to 175, majority 225, to give the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill a second reading.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the legislation for England and Wales would create a "fairer place to live" but insisted that religions which objected to the plans would not be forced to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

She claimed it was "simply inconceivable" that the European Court of Human Rights would unpick the Government's "quadruple lock" aimed at protecting religions who did not wish to opt-in to the proposals.

In a late intervention just two hours before MPs voted on Tuesday, the Prime Minister made a televised statement to say the move was about "making our society stronger".

But the debate heard from a number of prominent Tory critics of the proposals who argued they undermined marriage, would alienate voters and could damage the party's election prospects.