No ‘clear strategy’ to tackle BAME ‘vaccine hesitancy’, Labour MP says

Elizabeth Arnold and Lewis McKenzie, PA Political Staff

The Government has “still not produced a clear strategy” to tackle “vaccine hesitancy” within black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, Labour has said.

Minister for equalities Kemi Badenoch said she recognised the issue “is very serious”, adding: “We have seen some progress.”

Speaking during Women and Equalities questions in the Commons, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Marsha de Cordova said: “South Asians in particular, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, are still experiencing three times the risk from coronavirus in the second wave… take-up of the vaccine is vital. We know that historical issues of mistrust and culturally inappropriate public health information has contributed to… vaccine hesitancy.

“The Government has had time to plan to mitigate all this but has still not produced a clear strategy to engage with our black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Can I ask the minister what steps she is taking to ensure the vaccine rollout reaches all our communities, particularly those who are unequally impacted?”

Ms Badenoch said: “This is an issue that we recognise is very serious, the disparities are changing for different groups. We have seen some progress for instance amongst black groups, however we do emphasise the vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus.

“The DoH (Department of Health and Social Care) and the NHS are working closely with black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to support those receiving a vaccine and help anyone who may have questions about the process. As part of this we’re working with faith and community leaders.”

Labour’s Janet Daby (Lewisham East) said the lack of diversity in the judiciary was “deeply troubling” as she called for a “clear target” to be brought in.

She said: “A lack of diversity in the judiciary is something that should concern the Government. This is deeply troubling as it is one of the major reasons all communities including black, Asian and minority ethnic communities lack confidence in the criminal justice system.

“There are currently zero Supreme Court judges who are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. Steps need to be taken to fix the justice system so that it is fair and equal for everyone. Will the Government introduce a clear target for a representative judiciary as called for in the Lammy Review?”

Justice minister Lucy Frazer replied: “From 2014 to 2019 there have been some small improvements in judicial diversity. The proportion of women judges increased from 24% to 32% in the courts and 43% to 46% in tribunals, and the proportion of BAME judges increased from 6% to 7% in the courts and 9% to 11% in the tribunals.

“However, we do need to do more work but the judiciary is independent and I know that they’re very concerned about this issue.”

Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes asked Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss whether there is robust enough evidence that enforcement is needed for the reporting of gender pay gaps.

Ms Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities committee, told MPs: “With no enforcement in place, so far this year, just one-third of last year’s total have reported. Is that robust enough evidence for her that without enforcement there is a danger equal will slide backwards?”

Ms Truss responded: “Well I’m pleased to say that we have seen the gender pay gap fall to a record low last year, but of course we need to continue making progress on this issue, including making sure we’re tackling the cause of the gender pay gap.”

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