Labour urges government to publish recommendations of BAME coronavirus review amid anger from MPs
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch was grilled by MPs on the lack of recommendations in the report (Parliamentlive.tv)
Labour has called on the Government’s Race Disparity Unit to publish recommendations following a review into the impact of coronavirus on the BAME community.
The intervention came as Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch faced a backlash from MPs as she was questioned on the report’s conclusions.
Public Health England’s review, published on Tuesday, found that people from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus.
But, Labour has raised concerns that the report contained no recommendations on how to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.
Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, Marsha De Cordova said: “[The] review told us what we already know, that BAME people and the most disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.
“But it failed to provide any recommendations on how to reduce these disparities, leaving us with more questions than answers. The Government must not wait any longer to address underlying racial and socioeconomic injustices, so that no more lives are lost.
“That is why Labour is calling on the Government’s Race Disparity Unit to immediately publish recommendations, along with a detailed action plan on how they will be implemented.”
The call on Thursday came as Ms Badenoch was grilled in the Commons following an urgent question from Shadow Equalities Minister Gill Furniss over the response to the review.
Ms Furniss said: “It is time for the Government to take action on the devastating impact this virus has had on BAME communities."
Meanwhile, Ms Badenoch admitted to “hoping to see” more in the report, adding that “Public Health England did not have all the data it needed”.
“Some of the things that weren’t present included co-morbidities, population density, public transport use, household composition, housing conditions," she said.
“The government will commission further research to identify gaps in the report,” she added.
The minister also faced strong criticism in a series of heated exchanges with MPs.
Much of the anger in the Commons referenced George Floyd, whose death in US police custody has sparked worldwide protests including several in London.
Labour’s Rupa Huq quoted a sign she had seen at one such protest yesterday which stated: “being black is a death sentence in this country”.
She urged the Government to issue a “detailed plan” in response to the report to ensure it was not merely a “box-ticking exercise”.
But Ms Badenoch responded: “I do agree with her that we cannot be seen to do anything that looks like a box-ticking exercise.
“But we also should not just be accepting statements like ‘being back is a death sentence in this country’.
“It is not true. It is true that there are disparities. It is true that there are other factors that can make outcomes worse. Let’s look at that."
She added: “But let us not, in this House, use statements like ‘being back is a death sentence’ which young people out there hear, don’t understand the context, and then continue to believe that they live in a society that is against them.
“When, actually, this is one of the best countries in the world to be a black person.”
She also hit back at SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who said the policy of ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ - which bars access to a raft of welfare benefits for some migrants - should be scrapped, branding it a “racist policy”.
The minister criticised Ms Thewliss, saying it was "absolutely wrong" to "conflate" black people with recent immigrants "just so it can get traction in the press".
She said: "It is not right to use confected outrage.
"We need the courage to say the right things and we need to be courageous, in order to calm down racial tensions and not inflame them just so we can have something to put on social media."