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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 13:21 GMT
Apologise for Henry VIII, MP says
Keith Michell as King Henry VIII and Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn in 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'.
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, as portrayed in a TV drama
A Tory MP has made a light-hearted call for the prime minister to apologise for what he called King Henry VIII's "disgraceful treatment of his wives".

Veteran Conservative backbencher Sir Peter Tapsell made the suggestion during Women and Equality questions in the House of Commons.

He was mocking Tony Blair's "statement of regret" earlier this week for the UK's involvement in the slave trade.

Minister Ruth Kelly said the statement on slavery had been widely welcomed.

Instead of apologising for Britain's role in the international slave trade, the government should have been celebrating this country's lead in abolishing the trade
Philip Hollobone
Conservative MP

Mr Blair wrote an article on Monday in which he said he felt "deep sorrow" for Britain's role in the slave trade, which had been "profoundly shameful", although he stopped short of a full apology.

The issue was raised during business questions in the House of Commons and Sir Peter, MP for Louth and Horncastle, to widespread laughter, asked: "When are we going to get a prime ministerial apology for King Henry VIII's disgraceful treatment of his wives?"

Ms Kelly replied: "I've great respect for you and you make your point in your own way.

"I think the majority of people think it was right to utterly condemn the history of our involvement in the slave trade and also to express our deep sorrow at our involvement in it.

"I think that will resonate with most people, who see the bicentenary of its abolition as a huge milestone."

European convention

During earlier exchanges another Tory MP, Philip Hollobone, said: "Instead of apologising for Britain's role in the international slave trade, the government should have been celebrating this country's lead in abolishing the trade.

"Will you take another lead today in confirming to the house that the government will soon sign the Convention of Europe's convention against human trafficking so this evil trade can be brought to an end."

Ms Kelly said on the bicentenary the government would celebrate having been at the forefront of abolishing "this evil trade".

She added: "You're absolutely right that while recognising that 200-year history, it's also right that we face up to the new challenges that confront us in today's world and don't ignore the thousands of people who've become victims of human trafficking."

Ministers supported the aims of the convention and were currently considering whether or not to sign the convention, she said.


SEE ALSO
Henry VIII - the omnipotent king
01 Dec 04 |  Magazine
Blair 'sorrow' over slave trade
27 Nov 06 |  UK Politics
10 things about British slavery
03 Aug 05 |  Magazine

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