THE Church of England has been urged by David Cameron to "get with the programme" after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle.

The Prime Minister was disappointed about the narrow defeat of the draft measure at the General Synod.

Mr Cameron told MPs: "I'm very sad about the way the vote went yesterday and I'm particularly sad for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, because I know he saw this as the major campaign he wanted to achieve at the end of his excellent tenure of that office.

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"I'm clear the time is right for women bishops, it was right many years ago. They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme."

Dr Williams told the General Synod the Church had a "lot of explaining" to do. He said: "Whatever the motivation for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society."

The Scottish Episcopal Church is closest to the Church of England north of the Border for Anglicans.