by LAUREN CODLING
A LABOUR MP has urged the government to consider making Diwali and Eid national holidays in the UK.
Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Gareth Thomas called for the government to debate on recognising religious celebrations such as Diwali, which fell last Sunday (27), as a national holiday across the country.
The Harrow West MP explained that many of his constituents celebrated Hindu and Muslim religious events, but some found it difficult to take time off work to mark the day. He stressed that he would continue to campaign until the festivals were recognised as “nationally significant” days.
Thomas added: “If ministers are not prepared to have these days marked out as public holidays, they could at the very least work with business organisations so that those who wish to spend this time with their families and, for example go to the temple, will have the support of their employers to do so.”
He argued that a debate should be held, so that those sympathetic to the campaign could have their case heard by ministers.
In 2014, an e-petition demanding the change in Parliament was signed by more than 120,000 people. However, it was rejected by the government. Last year, a petition to the Commons was debated again – however there has never been a government debate and it has always been opposed.
A few other lawmakers have shown support for Thomas and his proposal.
Conservative MP Bob Blackman has been a particularly vocal supporter to the cause, having already raised the issue on several occasions. He had earlier said that the UK should show that it “embraces” the Muslim and Hindu faiths by making Eid and Diwali public holidays.
Speaking to Eastern Eye, the Harrow East MP reiterated that he still stood by his claim.
“I strongly believe that Diwali and Eid should be public holidays in the UK, and this is a position I have long advocated,” Blackman said. Although he is yet to be successful bringing the issue to government debate, he feels that there may be other alternatives so that families are able to celebrate the holiday without difficulties.
“I think that businesses and the government should work out a way in which worshippers can go about their religious business on these given holy days with full support from their employers,” Blackman said.
In response to Thomas’ proposal, life peer Baroness Sandip Verma suggested that focusing on the flexibility that employers give staff may be a better option.
Speaking to Eastern Eye, Baroness Verma said the UK has already shown “great examples” of flexible working.
“It is important to remember that employers, especially small- and medium-sized businesses often have the biggest impact on managing their day to day running” she said. “I think strengthening flexible working and taking into account the needs of the business community
must be balanced.”