An MP has spoken in Parliament giving his support to a campaign to make Eid and Diwali public holidays.
Harrow East MP Bob Blackman led the debate yesterday supporting a national petition that has gathered more than 123,000 signatures.
Campaigners have called for the important dates in the Hindu and Muslim calendars to be formally recognised as public holidays.
After the debate, Mr Blackman said: “This is one of the largest e-petitions we’ve ever had and I felt it was extremely important to ensure that it received its deserved time in Parliament.
“I believe very passionately that community barriers and prejudices are best broken down when religions and their festivals are opened out for everyone to enjoy and celebrate.
“We have fewer public holidays in this country than almost everywhere else in the world, and I feel that recognising dates of importance to our Hindu and Muslim communities – the second and third largest religious communities in our country – would be an important statement of recognition of their place in Britain today.”
The petition was previously rejected by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
In response to the petition a spokesman said: “The Government is grateful for this e-petition. We are very aware of the importance of these festivals, which are widely celebrated in the UK.
“We regret however that we cannot agree to create new bank or public holidays to mark these festivals.
“The Government regularly receives requests for additional bank and public holidays to celebrate a variety of occasions including religious festivals.
“However the current pattern is well established and accepted.
“While we appreciate a new national holiday may benefit some communities and sectors, the cost to the economy remains considerable and any changes to the current arrangements would not take place without a full consultation.”
The petition will officially close on August 12 and the calls for new bank holidays can only move forward now if they are attached to a private members bill.