Search

East Ham MP attacks government for closing places of worship during second lockdown

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 November 2020

Communal worship is not allowed under the latest coronavirus restrictions. Picture: Laura Lean/PA

Communal worship is not allowed under the latest coronavirus restrictions. Picture: Laura Lean/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

The government has been criticised for banning public worship during the second lockdown.

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, has called on the government to publish the scientific evidence behind the decision. Picture: Ken MearsStephen Timms, MP for East Ham, has called on the government to publish the scientific evidence behind the decision. Picture: Ken Mears

East Ham MP Stephen Timms has accused prime minister Boris Johnson of not consulting the government’s own faith leaders taskforce over the latest restrictions.

He urged ministers to publish the scientific evidence for closing venues.

Mr Timms said: “The move to ban public worship shows a lack of appreciation for the importance of places of worship to our communities.

“I know this is a view held by many people in East Ham – I have received a huge number of emails this week from constituents outlining their frustrations at being unable to attend their regular place of worship.

Mr Timms has written to prime minister Boris Johnson about the issue. Picture: Frank Augstein/PA Wire.Mr Timms has written to prime minister Boris Johnson about the issue. Picture: Frank Augstein/PA Wire.

“It is deeply troubling that the government made this announcement without consulting its own taskforce.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: “Places of worship bring huge solace and comfort to people, especially at this challenging time.

You may also want to watch:

“That is why we are keeping them open. However, for now, communal worship will not be possible.

“The government doesn’t take imposing further restrictions lightly but this action is vital in tackling the spread of the virus. We continue to work closely with senior faith leaders.”

The government created a places of worship taskforce in May to discuss lockdown regulations with senior faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and representatives from the Hindu Council UK, City Sikhs and the British Board of Scholars and Imams.

However, taskforce members were not met in advance of the announcement on October 31 of the second lockdown regulations.

Mr Timms pointed to a letter from the taskforce to Mr Johnson in which the group said the government had overlooked the work places of worship had carried out in making sure they are Covid-19 secure.

The taskforce also questioned what scientific evidence there was to justify the ban.

The government maintains that the minister for faith chaired the prime minister’s Covid-19 places of worship taskforce on November 2 and held five roundtables to make clear what is reasonable during the second lockdown.

Guidance was updated on November 6 to provide advice and support to faith leaders across the country who are putting the new national restrictions into practice.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder