Police have formally warned Birmingham Hall Green MP Tahir Ali for a suspected breach of coronavirus restrictions after he attended a funeral with up to 100 mourners.
Ali was criticised as “totally irresponsible” by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson. He said: “It is very important those in public life and elected officials set an example to the public – the law applies to us, and the bar is even higher and we need to set that example.”
In a statement West Midlands Police said: “Following recent media coverage of a large gathering of mourners at a funeral in Birmingham earlier this week, we can confirm that we have spoken to Tahir Ali MP about a suspected breach of coronavirus restrictions.
“We warned Mr Ali about his behaviour and reminded him of the clear need for everyone to follow the rules surrounding social distancing and the guidelines that have been issued around funerals.
“New restrictions have been placed on the numbers of mourners that can attend funerals in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19. We would urge people to check their local authority websites for guidance. It is vital people follow these rules.”
Mr Ali issued an apology over the funeral last week. 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.”
In a statement he said: “I apologise unreservedly for the confusion caused by my presence as an observer at a funeral in Sutton Coldfield on Wednesday. I will not be attending any other similar gatherings.
“I wholeheartedly support the Government’s measures on social distancing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and urge everyone to follow them, in all our interests. I want to pay particular tribute to the outstanding work being done by our police, NHS and other statutory bodies in these most challenging of circumstances.
“It is clear that the message is not getting through and that a unified approach is needed by local authorities in the West Midlands and across the UK, with explicit guidance on funeral attendance, to avoid a repeat of Wednesday’s scenes.
“I want to play my part in establishing a set of clear rules that allow a safe number of mourners, while doing everything necessary to protect our NHS and save lives.”
Gatherings in public of more than two people who do not share a household have been banned under coronavirus lockdown measures. 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.