I stand with black communities in the fight against racism, both here in the UK and around the world. The shocking death of George Floyd in the US must be the catalyst for change.
This means recognising the deep hurt that so many black people in our country have spoken so powerfully about and setting out steps for meaningful action against racism and inequality in our country: in people’s interactions with the police; in the criminal justice system; in our education systems and across wider society. This is a powerful moment in our history and the Government must act.
I think it is a legitimate concern that British-sold equipment may have been used in these incidents in the US. I have called on the Government to immediately suspend any exports of riot control equipment to the US, pending a review of whether they are being used in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. I have attached a link to a parliamentary letter I co-signed to the Conservative Government demanding this: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/george-floyd-protests-uk-export-tear-gas-rubber-bullet-us-a9551006.html. I also believe the next time the Prime Minister speaks to President Trump he must convey to him our abhorrence at his response to these events.
As you may have heard, the Prime Minister has said he wants to see a cross-governmental commission into all aspects of inequality. However, there have already been at least seven reports into racial inequality in the past three years but unfortunately very little action.
Most of the recommendations in the Lammy report into inequality in the criminal justice system have yet to be implemented, three years after the report was published. The recommendations in the long-delayed Williams review into the Windrush scandal have also yet to be implemented. I think now is the time for action and the Prime Minister should start by implementing the recommendations in these existing reports.
I share concerns that the coronavirus has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on people from BAME communities. Statistics show that Black men and women are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white men and women, and people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian and mixed ethnic groups also have an increased risk of death involving COVID-19 compared with those of white ethnicity.
BAME groups account for approximately 21% of staff employed in the NHS yet 63% of COVID-19 deaths reported in these settings. Among medical staff, around 44% are from BAME backgrounds while 95% of reported COVID-19 deaths among medical staff involved people with BAME backgrounds.
These devastating figures cannot be ignored. I believe it is vital that more must be done to support BAME workers on the frontline.
Public Health England’s (PHE) report into the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups found that institutional racism and bullying has resulted in some health professionals from BAME backgrounds being “afraid to speak up” about issues that put them at higher risk of COVID-19. This is completely unacceptable, and I believe the Government should take immediate steps to address historic racism in the health service and in workplaces more widely.
The report also concluded that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities may be explained by social and economic inequalities, racism, discrimination and stigma. It includes several recommendations on the need for better data collection, supporting further research to understand increased risks, improving BAME groups’ access to NHS services, and ensuring that COVID-19 recovery strategies actively address inequalities to create long-term change. I welcome PHE’s recommendations and I believe the Government must implement all of them without delay.
We must all take the action that we can to dismantle the structural and institutional practices that entrench racism in our societies. The Government must not only acknowledge these injustices but act on them too. I would therefore like to see a race equality strategy that sets out plans to reduce the structural inequalities and institutional racism faced by black people and other ethnic minorities in Britain.
I have spoken publicly on these crucial matters, and have attached some examples via my Twitter for you here:
Black lives matter, and we must stand together to build a better society.