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Saturday, June 13, 1998 Published at 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK

UK Politics

Widdecombe rejects abortion role

Widdecombe: a convert to Catholicism

The Shadow Health Secretary Ann Widdecombe is to keep her job even though she has disclosed she would not be prepared to take up the post in government because of her opposition to abortion.

Miss Widdecombe said that if the Tories won the next election she would not do the job of health secretary as it would require her to licence abortions.

"So long as licensing abortions stays with the health secretary, I couldn't do that particular job," she told The Daily Telegraph.

She added that she had already told the Conservative leader William Hague of her stance.

Job safe

A Tory party spokesman insisted Miss Widdecombe's opposition to abortion was well-known and would not affect her ability to do her current job.

[ image: Hague: knew Widdecombe's views when he appointed her]
Hague: knew Widdecombe's views when he appointed her
"We are years away from the next General Election and the prospect of William Hague forming a Cabinet. I don't think it is an issue," the spokesman said.

"She will be a very vigorous sparring partner for [Health Secretary] Frank Dobson and hold the government to account for their broken promises on waiting lists and hospital closures."

He confirmed that Miss Widdecombe had reiterated her opposition to abortion when she was given her shadow cabinet post by Mr Hague.

Asked if there was any question of her losing her job, the spokesman replied: "Absolutely not."

Not all shadows become ministers

The spokesman was emphasised that shadow ministers do not automatically take up the same brief if their party is elected to government, a point underlined by Miss Widdecombe in her interview.

"We are four years off a General Election. Before the last election you didn't assume [Labour spokesmen] were all going to go straight into the jobs they had in opposition," she said.

Miss Widdecombe is a Roman Catholic convert who left the Church of England because of her opposition to the ordination women priests.

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