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‘Minister for Faith’ role downgraded by government

Baroness Warsi with Pope Benedict XVI during the 2010 papal visit to Britain (AP Photo/Toby Melville, Pool)

The Government has downgraded the role of “Minister for Faith”, handing over the responsibilities to a junior minister.

The position has remained unfilled since the election, but the Communities Department has confirmed the main responsibilities have been passed to Baroness Williams of Trafford in May, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Baroness is a parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

She is now in charge of “integration and faith issues” on top of her policy brief for High Speed Two (HS2) rail programme, as well as travellers, women and equalities, race equality and local government finance and policy.

The role of Minister for Faith and Communities was first held by Baroness Warsi in 2012, who’s brief was to “work with religious and community leaders to promote faith, religious tolerance and stronger communities in the UK”.

Baroness Warsi also held a ministerial position in the Foreign Office, meaning she could attend Cabinet, which Baroness Williams cannot.

Following Baroness Warsi’s resignation over the Government’s handling of the Gaza crisis, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, took on the role.

Taking on the position, he said: “It’s a job I take very seriously, but it’s also a source of constant inspiration when I see time and again the contribution of faith to Britain today.”

No 10 has denied the role has been scrapped or demoted, saying Baroness Williams is in charge of the same ministerial agenda.

Professor Francis Davis, who previously advised the faith minister, criticised the changes, saying is “a positive thing” to have a designated minister.

He added it is “important, however, as Christians to remember that our relationship with government shouldn’t be narrowed to just one doorway”.

Stephen Timms, acting shadow work and pensions minister, said: “It seems to me that ministers have failed to realise that in today’s Britain, faith commitments are becoming more important and not less important, and I think the initiative taken by the last government to introduce a minister with a specific remit in this area was a good move. I think it’s very regrettable that they reversed it.”

Baroness Williams was educated at La Sagesse school in Newcastle upon Tyne, run by the Daughters of Wisdom, which is now closed.