Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has rejected laws banning veils but says there is a debate about when they are appropriate
THE Deputy Prime Minister has said he “sympathises” with teachers who object to students wearing full face veils.
Nick Clegg ruled out Government legislation to prevent people covering their faces.
But he said it was right to have a “complex debate” about what students wore in schools or colleges.
He was speaking in a television interview during the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, after Lib Dem Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne suggested action might be needed to protect the freedom of choice for Muslim girls too young to decide for themselves whether they wanted to wear the veil.
Mr Browne said: “I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice . . . but there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.”
It followed the announcement by Birmingham Metropolitan College that it was scrapping a ban on facial coverings including veils which had been imposed for security reasons.
Mr Clegg said: “I am firmly against Government legislation or edicts from Whitehall telling people what they can wear in this country.”
But he said there was a sensible debate taking place about when veils should be removed for security reasons, giving the example of an airport security check.
He continued: “There is a more complex debate about what teachers can expect.
“I can sympathise with teachers who say they should be able to communicate in a face-to-face way with pupils.”