A government Bill to allow Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy to sit as MPs survived a wrecking amendment and completed its commons stages.
Conservative MPs had a free vote on what they considered a matter of conscience, but shadow home secretary Ann Widdicombe proposed the amendment which would have destroyed the aims of the Bill. In addition, it would have imposed a new disqualification on Church of Wales ministers, who are part of the episcopal Anglican church, who can currently take seats in the commons. Among those voting against the amendment - which was defeated by 264 to 17 - was another prominent Anglo-Catholic, former Conservative environment minister John Gummer. He argued that the commons benefited from having people from all backgrounds, including those who continued their professions and vocations.
The House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Bill repeals legislating dating as far back as 1801, and puts the commons on the same footing as the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly, where the disqualifications have never existed.
The Bill was sent to the lords, where it received a formal first reading. It seems certain to become law before the general election and will therefore allow Roman Catholic priest David Cairns, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for its safe seat of Greenock and Inverclyde, to take his seat if elected.
Hansard 1 Mar: Column 1055-1140