Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has accused Tony Blair of abusing Parliament by not allowing MPs more time to debate the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales said that adoption agencies will close rather than comply with new rules outlawing discrimination.

Cardinal Murphy O’Connor said:

“It is, surely, an abuse of Parliamentary democracy that these regulations are being considered only through a hurriedly arranged and very brief meeting of 16 appointed MPs, and a short debate in the House of Lords.

“During the House of Commons committee meeting, opportunity for serious debate was denied. Profound public concern about aspects of these regulations has not been heard.”

The government insist that normal procedure has been followed. The Prime Minister’s Official Spokeman told journalist this morning that

the issues had been well aired.

A proposed opt-out for Roman Catholic-run adoption services caused a Cabinet row earlier this year.

After meeting with MPs and the Cabinet, Prime Minister Tony Blair has bowed to strong criticism from his own party over a suggested exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

In the end it was decided that adoption agencies would have until the end of 2008 to comply with the regulations.

Other faith groups, including Muslims and Jews, have expressed concern about the impact of the new regulations, which outlaw discrimination against gay, bisexual and lesbian people when they access goods and services, including adoption agencies.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have wrote to the Prime Minister in January in support of an exemption from anti-discrimination legislation for Roman Catholic adoption agencies.

In the letter the Archbishops, the most senior clergy in the Church of England, told Mr Blair that, “the rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.”

MPs voted for the regulations in committee last week. Tory members forced a vote last night on the floor of the House of Commons. Their attempt to stop the regulations were defeated 310 to 100.