Labour has questioned why the government has not yet revealed who will chair an equalities review, a month after it was announced by Boris Johnson as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
As waves of protest swept across the UK, including Bristol, where the statue of the slaver Edward Colston was torn down and dumped in the harbour, the prime minister responded by promising a “cross-governmental commission” to examine the issues raised.
But little more has been said about the review since. The shadow equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, pointed out on Monday night that no title, terms of reference or chair have been announced.
“It is vital that the government provides clarity now as to who will chair the commission, who will form its membership and what its terms of reference will be,” she said.
“This is urgent, to allow our black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to be able to properly scrutinise and hold this government to account on any action that is taken.”
Johnson announced the review in an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph on 14 June, saying: “There is much more that we need to do; and we will. It is time for a cross-governmental commission to look at all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life.”
De Cordova said: “If the prime minister really meant it when he said there is much more to do, then why doesn’t he just get on and do it? We should not have to keep asking to get even the most basic answers about what will happen next.”
The establishment of the review is being overseen by the head of the No 10 policy unit, Munira Mirza, who has expressed scepticism in the past about the concept of structural racism.
As well as the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, the review is expected to cover other inequalities, including those experienced by white working-class children, for example.
When it was first announced, Labour complained that the government had failed to act on a series of other reviews, including David Lammy’s investigation into the treatment of BAME people in the justice system which was commissioned by Theresa May and reported in 2017.
De Cordova said: “Over the last few years this government has commissioned review after review but done precious little with the recommendations: four reviews in particular give us over 200 recommendations and it is far from clear just how many of those have actually been properly implemented.”
A No 10 spokesperson said: “The race and ethnic disparities commission will set out a new, positive agenda for change – balancing the needs of individuals, communities and society, to maximise opportunities and ensure fairness for all.
“The commission will consider detailed quantitative data and qualitative evidence to understand why disparities exist and commission new research and invite submissions where necessary. The membership of the committee and chair will be announced shortly.”