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Trevor Phillips’ appointment to the government’s BAME coronavirus review must have the support of the community, Labour has said.
Following disproportionate death rates among BAME communities as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, the government recently commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to conduct a study.
The appointment of Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has been criticised after he was suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia.
A Labour Party spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We welcome the government’s decision to hold an inquiry, given the devastating impact on BAME communities.
“It’s important that this inquiry has the support and confidence of the BAME community,”
“We are aware of the representations that have been made about Trevor Phillips’ appointment. What we would ask is that the health secretary engages with those concerns and discusses an appropriate way forward.
“We are aware of the concerns that have been raised, this is a government led inquiry, it’s for the government and health secretary to address those concerns.
“Our principle though is that it is important that the communities have confidence in that inquiry.”
Phillips is working on the inquiry alongside Professor Richard Webber to provide expert support via their Webber Phillips company.
An open letter signed by 100 Black women, the InfluencHers, and published on Monday describes Phillips as being famous for “discarding the very real issues and consequences of structural racism”.
Another letter from representatives of thousands of BAME healthcare workers calling for his removal from the inquiry.
Speaking to HuffPost UK on Saturday, Phillips said his priority is assisting with the inquiry.
“Everyone should be contributing anything they can to tackling this crisis,” he said.
“Anyone can see the research Richard and I have already done on our website, which explains why we’ve been asked to help.”
The government will be using his company’s Origins software, which provides information on ethnicity, “amongst other things”, Phillips said.
“We’re delighted to put our team - which together has more than a hundred years experience in this field - and our technology at the disposal of PHE to help it solve the puzzle of who is most vulnerable and why,” he added.
Webber Phillips provides unique data streams and evidence-based intelligence in the fields of gender and ethnocultural diversity.
The algorithm, developed by Webber, a visiting professor at Newcastle University, draws on a database of 1.2 billion individual records globally.
Meanwhile, on Friday, Labour leader Keir Starmer appointed equalities campaigner Doreen Lawrence to head up a Labour review of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.