Burqa
Holland's lower house of parliament has voted to ban the burqa in public areas including courtsGetty Images

Dutch lawmakers in the lower house of parliament have approved a ban on face coverings – including Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab – in some public places.

The bill was passed by a landslide in the 150-seat lower house, and must now be approved by the upper house before becoming law.

The proposed ban applies to schools, hospitals and public transport.

The ban does not apply to wearing the burqa on the street, but only "in specific situations where it is essential for people to be seen" or for security reasons, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists after the cabinet meeting, reported AFP.

"The bill does not have any religious background," Rutte said.

The government said it had "tried to find a balance between people's freedom to wear the clothes they want and the importance of mutual and recognisable communication".

Research indicates that only a small number of women in the Netherlands wear the face veils, however the issue has become a contentious topic, with the far-right Freedom Party of Geert Wilders arguing for a total ban on Islamic face veils.

The party currently leads in polls ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

An earlier bill proposing a ban in all public places has been withdrawn.

France is one of a number of European countries to have introduced burqa bans, with French lawmakers approving the controversial measure, which has been criticised for contravening the right to freedom of worship, in 2010.