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Paul Scully apologises for 'no-go areas' comment after uproar in Tower Hamlets

Former London minister Paul Scully on Tuesday apologised after he described parts of Tower Hamlets as a “no-go” area — sparking outrage from MPs and residents.

The Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam made the comments on Monday during a discussion about allegations of anti-Muslim sentiments within the party.

It followed Lee Anderson being stripped of the Tory whip for claiming that “Islamists” had “got control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Scully said: “The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying.

“That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

Mr Scully on Tuesday initially expressed “regret” for the controversy triggered by his contentious description of Tower Hamlets and Sparkhill, both with large Muslim populations, before going further in a follow-up interview with BBC Radio London.

“Absolutely, I'm sorry for using the word ‘no go areas’ because it was a blunt thing that actually feeds into another set of conspiracy theories and some language used by people like Katie Hopkins, which was absolutely not my intention,” he said.

The former London mayoral hopeful added: “I'm feeling really bruised at the moment. I'm slightly furious at some of the pile-on that I had yesterday in some areas, rather than actually people asking me like you have done, what do you mean by that?”

His prior comments and initial refusal to apologise were condemned by Labour MPs Apsana Begum and Rushanara Ali, whose constituencies cover Tower Hamlets.

Ms Ali told the Standard that her constituents in Bethnal Green and Bow were “outraged”, adding: “If he regrets his comments, he should make a full apology to the people of Tower Hamlets who come from all backgrounds and are proud of the strength in our diversity.”

Ms Begum said the East London Mosque had received bomb threats and the far-Right was targeting the Poplar and Limehouse area “more and more”.

Retail worker Trish Donnelly, 58, said: “I’ve lived in Tower Hamlets for many years, it’s brilliant. It is very multi-cultural and welcoming. It includes Brick Lane which people come from all around the world to visit and there is an old London charm. If there are any no-go zones I haven’t seen them and I have lived here for more than 35 years.”

Ali Sarwar, 24, who works in a restaurant, said: “I was born in the borough and to say it’s not a friendly place is wrong. Everyone is welcome from wherever they are from. The restaurant where I work has people eating from all countries and races.

“Of course there is crime in the area but that is the same for every big city. I think the comments from the MP are hurtful and incorrect.”

Legal migration minister Tom Pursglove said earlier on Tuesday that Mr Scully should retract his claim about “no-go areas”, telling Sky News: “I think it would be best, again, if that comment was withdrawn.

“I don’t recognise that as being the situation in London or Birmingham, but we as politicians must always be forward leaning and on the front foot when it comes to integrating people into our communities and making sure that people are able to play a full contribution in UK society.”

But echoing Rishi Sunak on Monday, Mr Pursglove and other ministers refused to call out Islamophobia in the remarks made by Mr Anderson, who has been refusing to apologise for alleging the London Mayor was under the control of Islamist radicals after months of Gaza protests.

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets called Mr Scully’s “no go” remarks “surprising and extremely disappointing”.

“From Wapping to Mile End, from Bethnal Green to Bow, or Stepney to Spitalfields, every part of Tower Hamlets is a ‘go to’ area for millions to visit again and again. That is enough of an endorsement for us.”