The Archbishop of Canterbury tonight prompted criticism from across the political spectrum after he backed the introduction of sharia law in Britain and argued that adopting some of its aspects seemed "unavoidable".

Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, said that giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system.

However, the prime minister's spokesman swiftly rejected the archbishop's comments, which were delivered in a lecture on civil and religious law at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Gordon Brown's spokesman insisted British law would be based on British values and that sharia law would present no justification for acting against national law.

Read the complete original version of this item...