Labour MPs back separation of state and Church of England

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A growing chorus of voices is calling for the centuries-old link between Church and state to be broken after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, ignited the issue last week by saying that it was “by no means the end of the world if the Establishment disappears”.

Three former ministers openly backed the idea of a separation, with one claiming that the majority of backbenchers would vote to end the special position the Church has enjoyed since the Reformation.

The calls prompted the Conservatives to accuse Labour of trying to dismantle the Church’s position by stealth. They demanded that the Government “comes clean” about a report being drawn up in Downing Street on ways to reform a key element of the established Church, the 1701 Act of Settlement, which bars a Catholic from ascending to the throne.

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