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Why they had to say no

THE Conservatives back the principles behind the change but have called on Labour to hold fire for at least six months while ministers consider further reforms to local government. Scrutiny panels, chaired by opposition members, would be vital, said Iain Whyte, the party's spokesman.

Teresa Gourlay, spokeswoman for the Catholic Church, said: "The basic line is that we do not want church representation disappearing from policy-making It's the one statutory place we have in the system. We are there to look after an aspect of education that is important."

She retains "considerable caution" about church reps' position in a cabinet system if no opposition councillors were included.

Henry Philip, Church of Scotland representative, insisted: "We should be there when policy is being made. Any committee which discusses education, we should be present."

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