East Ham MP attacks government for closing places of worship during second lockdown
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 November 2020
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The government has been criticised for banning public worship during the second lockdown.
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.
“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.
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“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.
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