Minister hopes to soon make a decision on summer weddings

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Socially-distanced small weddings will be given the go-ahead "as soon as we can", a senior minister has told MPs.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick was pressed by Conservative colleague Laura Farris (Newbury) to announce a date for summer weddings, in a further easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Mr Jenrick replied: "I really appreciate the concerns Ms Farris raises, I know how important weddings are for venues and of course how many people's plans have now been disrupted.

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"I can tell her that there is a significant effort across Government to allow people to hold weddings, in particular small ones with appropriate social distancing, as soon as we can. But this must be done safely."

Socially-distanced small weddings will be given the go-ahead "as soon as we can"Socially-distanced small weddings will be given the go-ahead "as soon as we can"
Socially-distanced small weddings will be given the go-ahead "as soon as we can"

He added that he is working with the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and faith leaders on the issue.

MPs also called for more clarity on the rules for places of worship being allowed to reopen.

Tory former minister Tim Loughton said members of the clergy were "confused" by the guidelines.

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He said: "One vicar said to me, so is it right that I can invite five members of my congregation to the church grounds for a barbecue and some beers but if we start saying prayers we'll get busted?

"So I suggested to him he could advertise his services as a barbecue with a very long grace.

"We need much clearer guidance if we are to get our churches properly and fully back into use as soon as possible. They should never, frankly, have been put out of use in the first place."

Mr Jenrick replied: "The guidance was worked through by faith leaders in our task force, places of worship can open for funerals and Public Health England have previously published guidance on how to manage funerals safely.

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"And as I said earlier, I very much hope we can set a date for weddings soon."

Mr Jenrick later admitted the current rules which only allow places of worship to open for individual prayer have "limited applicability" to members of the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Shadow communities minister Janet Daby said: "The Secretary of State has announced the opening of places for individual prayer despite some faiths only practising communal prayer in their place of worship.

"This operation has caused confusion which turned to chaos when they only published the nine-page guidance on Friday.

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"Why did the Government not provide clear and timely guidance to all places of worship regardless of their message of prayer?"

Mr Jenrick replied: "I appreciate and am very conscious of the fact that the first step in this process, individual prayer, is much less relevant to some faiths than others - in particular, it has limited applicability to Muslims and to Jews in our communities.

"But I hope that they will see this as the logical first step towards a much broader reopening soon."