Coronavirus: MP Tahir Ali apologises after funeral during lockdown

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image captionTahir Ali, Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green, attended a funeral gathering on Wednesday

A Labour MP has been blasted for "endangering lives" by attending a large funeral and ignoring coronavirus lockdown measures.

Tahir Ali was also criticised as "totally irresponsible" by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson.

Mr Ali, elected to represent Birmingham Hall Green in December, issued an apology over the funeral on Wednesday.

He said he was at the Sutton Coldfield gathering only as an "observer".

Mr Ali reportedly attended two services that day, but has said he will "not be attending any other similar gatherings".

Gatherings in public of more than two people who do not share a household have been banned under coronavirus lockdown measures.

'Should set an example'

West Midlands Police confirmed it was called to Sutton New Hall Cemetery following reports of a large crowd of people.

"On arrival, officers found approximately 15 people socially-distanced into family groups, therefore no action was taken," the force said.

Mr Jamieson issued a statement on Friday in which he said Mr Ali had been "undermining the work of the police" by attending.

"He should be setting an example. He very clearly isn't," he said. "He is not serving his constituents by endangering their lives."

Mr Ali said he believes the government's message on social gatherings "is not getting through" and has called for "explicit guidance on funeral attendance" from local authorities.

"I want to play my part in establishing a set of clear rules that allow a safe number of mourners," he said.

media captionWhat is social distancing?

Birmingham City Council limits mourners at a funeral to six, but there is no national guidance.

The council said different authorities had to consider "the size of available facilities" and "equality procedures" when setting a limit.

Because Birmingham has "a high proportion of citizens who do not wish to be cremated due to their religious beliefs", the number of mourners allowed had to be reduced due to space limitations around graves compared to room available in a crematorium.

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