» Monday, February 11, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury

Asked for a characterisation of the reported conversation between the Prime Minister and the Archbishop, the PMS replied that journalists would not expect him to discuss the private conversations that the Prime Minister had with people including the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, as was said last Thursday, they did have a close relationship and they stayed in close touch; the Prime Minister believed the Archbishop of Canterbury was a man of great integrity and dedication to public and community service. The Prime Minister understood the difficulty that the Archbishop was facing at the moment; the Archbishop had been clarifying, and setting in wider context, the comments he had made.

Asked if the Prime Minister had read the Archbishop’s original comments, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been kept informed of this debate and what the Archbishop had been saying.

Asked if the Prime Minister accepted claims that the Archbishop’s comments were taken out of context and misconstrued, the PMS replied that he had made the Prime Minister’s views on this matter very clear; the Prime Minister was very clear that British laws must be based on British values and that religious law, while respecting other cultures, should be subservient to British criminal and civil law.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the timing of the Archbishop’s comments and the comments from Phil Woolas could be seen by the Muslim community as an attack on them, the PMS said that he was not sure that anybody had put that interpretation on it, but one of the benefits of living in a free and tolerant society was that people were able to express their views as they felt appropriate.

Asked if it was a problem that people could look for leadership from the Archbishop, the PMS replied that that was not a matter for the Prime Minister or the Government to comment on, it was a matter for the church.

Asked if the Prime Minister supported an established church, the PMS said that the Government’s position on the establishment of the Church of England had not changed.

Asked for an outline of the Prime Minister’s role in the involvement of appointing Archbishops, the PMS said that a change had been made; previously the convention had been that two names would be put forward to the Prime Minister who would then make a recommendation to the Queen as to which of the two names was the Prime Minister’s, and therefore the Government’s, preferred candidate. We changed that convention in July; for the details it was best to refer to the document published at that time, but from memory, the Government said that we would only take one name and we would effectively act as a post box in terms of making that recommendation to the Queen.

Asked who now picked the Archbishop, the PMS said that it would be for the relevant appointments commission.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Archbishop now that he had clarified his position, the PMS repeated that the Prime Minister believed that British law should be based on British values; there were no plans to change that and there was no plan to introduce Sharia law or make British criminal and civil law in any way inferior to religious law.

Asked if the Government was prepared to look at the laws regarding marriage, the PMS said that there were no plans to change civil or family law in that area.

Put that there had been a change of law regarding Islamic mortgages, the PMS said that that was correct; the law evolved and it needed to evolve to reflect modern Britain. The fundamental point was that there was only one single legal system in the UK and that was British criminal and civil law and that that law applied to everybody. In terms of Islamic mortgages, the Government was able to make a change in response to representations in order to remove the penalty that faced people who took out Islamic mortgages previously – that they would have to pay twice the amount of stamp duty that everybody else would have to pay. There had been particular instances where it had been possible to accommodate the concerns of particular groups, but that was a different proposition from what this debate was about, which was the relationship between British law and religious law.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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