Sunak and Ribeiro-Addy
Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise for Britain’s role in the slave trade and rejected calls for reparations.
He was challenged during prime minister’s questions by Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy.
The PM said he was committed to ensuring the UK is “inclusive and tolerant” but that trying to “unpick our history is not the right way forward”.
During today’s #PMQs, I asked Rishi Sunak to offer a full & meaningful government apology for Britain's involvement in slavery & colonialism.
His reply: "No".
The racism people continue to experience today is rooted in these evils.
An apology can be a basis for action. pic.twitter.com/8zAtvXQhsG
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) April 26, 2023
Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, asked him: “This month marks 23 years since the passing of the late, great, Bernie Grant, a former member of this house, and the founder of the UK reparations movement in the UK.
“In his last prime minister’s questions before his death he asked for an apology to the people of African descent living and dead for our country’s role in slavery and colonialism.
“But since then, prime ministers and heads of state have only ever expressed sorrow or deep regret.
“These are not sentiments that are befitting one of the greatest atrocities in human history.
“There has been no acknowledgement of the wealth that has been amassed or the fact that our country took out the largest loan it ever has to pay off the slave owners, and not the enslaved.”
She asked him if he would now offer a “full and meaningful apology” for the country’s role in slavery and colonialism, and to commit to “reparatory justice”.
Sunak replied “no” and added: “What I think our focus should now be on doing is, of course, understanding our history and all its parts, not running away from it, but right now making sure that we have a society which is inclusive and tolerant of people from all backgrounds.
“That’s something that we on this side of the house are committed to doing and will continue to deliver, but trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward, and it’s not something that we will focus our energies on.”
A Labour spokesman said Ribeiro-Addy’s call for reparations was not party policy.
He said she was “right to highlight the appalling history of the slave trade” but on the specific point of reparations was not Labour Party policy.