A LEADING French politician who supports banning the full Muslim veil debated the issue with community leaders on a visit to Blackburn.

Rachida Dati said she had been impressed by what she heard during a visit to Tauheedul Islamic School, but still supported France’s moves to ban the burka in public places.

Ms Dati, a former French justice minister who is now a Euro MP, also toured Blackburn town centre as a guest of MP Jack Straw.

At Tauheedul’s science block, in Randall Street, she held a long discussion with Mr Straw, Tauheedul head Hamid Patel, and Blackburn peer Lord Adam Patel on the issue of the veil.

She also met a French teacher who wore the full veil.

Ms Dati, a Muslim herself, asked whether Britain’s liberal policy caused problems for people looking for jobs.

The headteacher told her: “One of the great things about this country is that there are no barriers.

"We have councillors and parliamentary candidates wearing the headscarf.”

Ms Dati replied: “I find it very interesting, because we have this issue as well in France.

“The fact you have told me there is no issue between men and women, that students are taught all religions, is very different.

“In France you cannot possibly become an MP if you wear a headscarf.”Mr Patel also said he expected to receive applications for the school, which is now under local authority control, from non-Muslims because of its high exam results.

Mr Straw, who hit the headlines in 2006 when he spoke out against the veil, said: “I would prefer if people didn’t wear the burka, but you can’t go banning it. It might work in France, but it won’t work here.”

Ms Dati was named French justice minister by president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, the first person of North African origin to hold a top government post. She resigned in 2009 and successfully became an MEP after being criticised for returning to work just five days after giving birth.

She praised Mr Straw for his role in bringing communities together, adding: “What I have seen is that things are very tolerant and open.

“We have a country, near France, where people can stand for office wearing the veil.”

She said the issues faced in France, which has a large North African population, were very different to England.