The Government should consider banning Muslim girls and young women from wearing the veil in public places, a Liberal Democrat minister has said.
Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.
His intervention came after a row erupted over the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop a ban on the wearing of full-face veils amid public protests.
Mr Browne said he was "instinctively uneasy" about restricting religious freedoms but said there may be a case to act to protect girls who were too young to decide for themselves whether they wished to wear the veil or not.
"I think this is a good topic for national debate. People of liberal instincts will have competing notions of how to protect and promote freedom of choice," he told The Daily Telegraph.
"I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.
"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."We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression."