Women giving evidence in court should not be able to wear the veil because it is almost impossible to have a proper trial when they are "in a kind of bag", Ken Clarke has said.
The former justice secretary, now a minster without portfolio, said body language plays a vital part in allowing jurors to assess if a witness is telling the truth and insisted he could not see how that was possible "when they are facing somebody who is veiled".
It comes after a row about the use of face coverings in public institutions and a ruling in September that a Muslim woman will be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but must remove it while giving evidence.
Mr Clarke, a barrister by profession, told Radio 4's World This Weekend: "I don't think a witness should be allowed to give evidence from behind a veil."
He added: "It's almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons (is) in a kind of bag."
Mr Clarke, renowned for being one of the most liberal members of his party, said women should be able to wear "what the devil they like" but in a courtroom the judge and jury "have got to be able to see the face of the witness".
"It's a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century," he added.
Mr Clarke called for a "clear rule" for courts but insisted his comments were "not based on any trace of Islamophobia".
Home Secretary Theresa May has previously said it is for women to ''make a choice'' about what clothes they wear, including veils, although there will be some circumstances when it will be necessary to ask for them to be removed.