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UK News

Govt pushed on extending number of people at weddings but not budging

by Cara Bentley

The Government has refused to budge on extending the number of people allowed at weddings, despite questions from multiple MPs and a former Conservative minister. 

Wedding ceremonies are currently only allowed 30 people, in line with rules about other public gatherings, despite churches being allowed to have as many people as they want as long as social distancing is maintained. There are petitions to bring wedding capacity in line with church service capacity as many churches are holding more than 30 people in the same building on a Sunday. 

The Government has been asked about it more than once this week. 

Conservative MP Edward Timpson and Labour MP Dan Jarvis, asked almost identical questions, with Jarvis asking the business secretary to publish a timescale for when it was hoped the numbers for weddings would increase. 

Paul Scully, parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, replied on Thursday: "We are continuing to engage with representatives from the industry to explore how larger weddings and celebrations may be resumed in a COVID-19 secure way, once it is safe to do 

"The limit of 30 people who can attend a wedding ceremony is consistent with broader policy on public gatherings - it is unlawful for private parties of over 30 to take place and we are advising that gatherings and events in COVID-19 secure venues should not exceed 30 people."

Labour's Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow secretary of state for housing also asked this week: "what criteria he [Secretary of State for Housing] will use to decide when to increase the number of people permitted to attend a wedding ceremony; and when he plans to review the current guidance."

Conservative minister Simon Clarke responded for the Government by saying: "There is currently a limit of thirty people for attendance at the ceremony, although local restrictions may stipulate a lower number. This limit is to ensure the safety of all those in attendance. There would need to be fewer than thirty people present where social distancing cannot be maintained within the venue.

"Evidence on the most effective steps that can be taken to limit the transmission of the virus continues to be regularly reviewed. This guidance may be updated in the future in response to changing scientific understanding."

One challenge came from the party's own ranks. In an adjournment debate in the Commons, Sir Christopher Cope asked: "Was the postponement of 107,000 weddings across the United Kingdom justified? Could any of the 4,452 weddings which should have taken place last Saturday have been permitted? Why can people sit safely side by side with strangers on aircraft but not at a wedding breakfast or a church or theatre or concert hall?"


 

DUP MP and Christian Jim Shannon added to the same debate: "May I make a quick suggestion on weddings? It is possible, in a bigger venue, to have people self-distanced and to have more than 30 people. It is also possible at weddings to have clusters of families who live closely together: there could be tables of 10 people - genuinely - which could increase the numbers who can go to weddings. To go back to the issue of regulatory impact assessments, if that was done, more people could attend weddings."

Paul Scully replied that the difference between a wedding party and people at a restuarant was that wedding guests usually knew each other so would more likely interact with each other more. 

"Clearly, if someone’s grandmother or extended family are sitting at the next table, as the wedding and the evening develops, social distance suddenly starts to fall by the wayside." he said. 

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