The former deputy party leader said Christians were not being persecuted, but that poor interpretations of equality rules led some officials to assume that any public expression of Christianity might be offensive to atheists or people of other religions. The 70-year-old MP, who has served longer than any Lib Dem MP since David Lloyd George, blamed a ‘completely false interpretation of laws, regulations and changes’ for ‘silly things happening, which were not the intention of any legislative change’.

Speaking at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow in September, Sir Alan said that people were, as a result of misunderstandings, ‘being asked…to hide and keep under wraps their religious views in civil society’. He said that this manifested in Christians feeling they were not allowed to wear religious symbols. ‘I am the kind of Protestant that doesn’t go in for wearing religious symbols very much,’ he said, ‘but for some people they are important.’

His comments come after the European Court of Human Rights in January upheld a Christian woman’s complaint at being sent home for wearing a crucifix at work.