A senior Tory backbencher has accused Nick Clegg of trying to coral Tory MPs on the controversial issue of gay marriage.

Mark Pritchard reacted angrily to suggestions by the LibDem Deputy Prime Minister that voting on gay marriage should not be left to MPs' consciences.

The Wrekin MP spoke out after Mr Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday his party would back legislation legalising same-sex marriage.

Tory leader David Cameron has given his politicians a free vote in the House of Commons on the issue to avoid a rebellion.

Mr Pritchard said: "Nick Clegg can try and whip his MPs, but David Cameron has given a clear commitment to a free vote for all Conservative MPs. Nothing Nick Clegg says changes that."

Earlier, Mr Clegg said: "We are not asking any person with religious convictions to sacrifice anything. We are simply saying those who want to show a lifelong commitment to each other should be able to do so."

He said it was up to Mr Cameron whether he forced Conservative MPs to support the measure, but vowed LibDems would "honour what we have said as a party".

"In the same way the civil partnerships legislation was a whipped vote, I don't think this is something which should be subject to a free-for-all, because we are not asking people to make a decision of conscience."