Labour criticise Kettering MP’s bid to outlaw face coverings

Kettering Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw and Conservative MP Philip Hollobone
Kettering Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw and Conservative MP Philip Hollobone

A Kettering Labour councillor has said a move by the constituency’s MP to ban full facial coverings would “breed hatred”.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone presented a bill, which would outlaw coverings such as the burka and the balaclava from being worn in public, to Parliament last week.

Cllr Mick Scrimshaw, who represents the Northall division on Northamptonshire County Council, said he believed any such move would infringe on people’s freedoms and even breed hatred.

Mr Hollobone has rejected the criticism, saying those who covered their faces in public were the ones being divisive.

But Cllr Scrimshaw said: “A move to ban facial coverings in public places would be an unwarranted infringement on personal freedoms.

“It would also create unnecessary tensions within our communities. I really don’t think it is for the state to dictate what people should or shouldn’t wear, we live in a free country and I would wish that to remain the case.

“Rather than engaging in a proper debate about how to build a more cohesive society, Hollobone is creating social disharmony. “It’s unhelpful and he should focus on real issues that matter to real people in Kettering instead of pursuing his own negative agenda.”

Cllr John McGhee, the leader of the Labour opposition and a Corby councillor, added: “Last year, when the French government attempted to enforce fines for people wearing burkhas in public, after it was made illegal, there were riots. Communities were destroyed. We should have taken a lesson from that.

“There are much more important issues affecting people across Northamptonshire at present like the crippling cost of living crisis and the cruel bedroom tax.”

In response, Mr Hollobone told the Northants Telegraph: “What is divisive is people going round covering their face in public.

“It’s hugely alienating, and doesn’t help these individuals integrate with their local communities.

“This doesn’t happen so much in our area, but go to many larger towns and cities and you will see people wearing full face veils. It makes a lot of people extremely uncomfortable.

“I think the social disharmony is being caused by those who choose to cover their faces.”

He also said Labour had chosen to ignore the fact Conservative-controlled Kettering Council last week agreed to freeze council tax again and reduce car parking charges in the borough.

“While Labour can talk about these things, locally Conservatives are taking effective action to help local people,” Mr Hollobone added.