The former Archbishop of Canterbury has clashed with prominent Catholic MPs over the opening of new Catholic schools.

Lord Williams co-signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph attacking the plans to lift a 50 per cent cap on the number of pupils a new school can select on the grounds of faith.

The letter, also signed by God Delusion author Richard Dawkins among others, said it was “difficult to bring to mind a more divisive policy, or more deleterious to social cohesion”.

Last week five Catholic MPs – Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Bill Cash and Martin Vickers – wrote their own letter to the Telegraph, rejecting the argument as “illogical”.

If the cap were lifted, dozens of new Catholic schools would be expected to open. The Church has not opened any free schools since the cap was introduced. That is because if a school is oversubscribed it would be forced to turn away pupils because of their Catholic faith – which bishops say would violate canon law.

The Conservative manifesto promised to remove the cap.

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