The government has refused to reject the controversial race report, which has been described as “incoherent, divisive and offensive”.
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said she was “very proud” of the “independent” report and criticised the “appalling abuse” suffered by members of the commission on race and ethnic disparities.
She rejected calls to reject the review from Labour, which described it as a “shoddy, point-scoring polemic which ignores evidence and does not represent the country”.
The shadow equalities minister Marsa De Cordova said the report had been “discredited” by the British Medical Association, public health expert Sir Michael Marmot, trade unions, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and human rights experts at the United Nations.
On Monday, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said the “reprehensible” report attempts to “normalise white supremacy” and could “fuel racism” in the UK.
But Badenoch told the Commons: “I’m very proud of it and of course we will not be withdrawing the report.
The equalities minister also said it was wrong to accuse people who argue for a different approach on how to address racial inequality as being “racism deniers” or “race traitors”.
She added: “The government even more firmly condemns the deeply personal and racialised attacks against the commissioners, which have included death threats.
“And in fact one member from the opposition benches presented commissioners as members of the Ku Klux Klan, an example of the very online racial hatred and abuse on which the report itself recommended more action be taken by government.”
House of Commons – PA Images via Getty Images
Badenoch also claimed the report does not deny institutional racism despite a government briefing on the eve of its publication making clear that “the well-meaning ‘idealism’ of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence”.
She told the Commons: “The report does not deny that institutional racism exists in the UK, rather the report did not find conclusive evidence of it in the specific areas it examined.”
The equalities minister also insisted the commissioners did not want to “put a positive spin on the atrocities of slavery”, despite chair Tony Sewell writing in the report’s foreword that schools should teach a “new story” about African people and that the slave period was “not only… about profit and suffering”.
De Cordova hit back: “If left unchallenged, this report will undo decades of progress made towards race equality in the UK. Since publication, this report has completely unravelled.
“Its cherry-picking of data is misleading and incoherent, its conclusions are ideologically motivated and divisive, it is absolutely clear to all of us on this side of the House and across civil society that this report has no credibility.”
She added: “It is reprehensible and I hope the minister will reject it today so that we can get on with the task of tackling institutional and structural racism which is the lived experience of many.”
Badenoch said the government would respond formally to the report by the summer.
She and the prime minister have established a new, inter-ministerial group to review the report’s 24 recommendations, which will be chaired by Michael Gove.