Coronavirus: Government accused of using ‘racist policy’ to drive black people back to work during pandemic

Minister rejects accusation, says UK ‘one of the best countries in the world to be a black person’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 04 June 2020 12:03
Comments
Alison Thewlis accuses government of forcing black people to work during covid-19 with 'racist policy'

The government has been accused in the House of Commons of using a “racist policy” to drive black people back to work during the coronavirus outbreak.

The SNP’s Alison Thewliss made the allegation as MPs debated the recent report on the causes behind the higher rate of Covid-19 deaths among black and minority ethnic (Bame) communities.

But equalities minister Kemi Badenoch accused her of “confected outrage” and declared that Britain is “one of the best countries in the world to be a black person”.

Ms Thewliss told the Commons that Bame people were being denied the chance to stay home to protect their health during the pandemic because of the government’s “no recourse to public funds” policy, which bars many migrants from receiving welfare benefits.

Boris Johnson last week agreed to “look at” the rule after apparently being unaware of it during a grilling by MPs, but made clear at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday that he was not planning to reform it.

Ms Thewliss told the Commons: “It is one thing to say ‘black lives matter’, but quite another to force black people and people from Bame backgrounds out to work because they have no choice whether they go to work because they have no recourse to public funds.

“No recourse to public funds is a racist policy. Will she abolish it?”

Ms Badenoch – who is herself of Nigerian background, but was born in the UK – retorted: “It is wrong to conflate all black people with recent migrants… I’m a black woman who is out at work.”

To an angry response from the opposition benches, she accused the SNP MP of inflaming racial tensions for the sake of publicity.

“It is wrong to conflate different issues and merge them into one just so you can get traction in the press,” said Ms Badenoch.

“It’s not right for us to use confected outrage. We need courage to say the right things and we need to be courageous to calm down racial tensions, not enflame them just so we have something to put on social media.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in