It is clear that members of the Government which includes Conservative MPs who were Ministers until recently will have to work very hard to stop their Government from being challenged over our nations impact by COVID-19. Trying to blame other people or other organisations is of course a tempting thing to do when you are trying to avoid accountability for your own failings. However when you focus on organisations that your own Government controls and then claim that they don’t, it raises all sorts of problems if people take the time to listen to your words. Nusrat Ghani is the Sussex based Wealden MP who was a Minister in Chris Grayling’s Transport Department until Boris Johnson replaced Grayling with Grant Shapps in February. Ghani was responsible for the Marine aspects from January 2018 until earlier this year. Although she has never been a Minister in the Health Department, given that she has been an MP since 2015, there is no real excuse for the bizarre claim that she made on Thursday as shown below. The focus of her criticism was perfectly reasonable which was about the number of BAME deaths due to COVID and in particular those who work in the Health Sector. That said it is not just in the Health sector that the number of BAME deaths is something for all of us including the Government to be concerned about. However there are many strong views regarding the failure of the Government to protect all of their NHS workers including their BAME workers. Thankfully Kemi Badenoch who like Ghani is from a BAME background did not join in to blame others but she did not take on board the accusations either. We clearly need to get this taken seriously or hold Ghani to account for making false claims regarding racisim within her own Government:
Nusrat Ghani: The lack of leadership and transparency in Public Health England and NHS England has been shamefully exposed, with BAME health workers dying at a greater rate. Covid has showed us what it means when these institutions are not equal, with BAME workers saying that they did not have the same access to personal protective equipment as their white colleagues and felt pressured to work on the frontline. As both Public Health England and NHS England are independent, how will my hon. Friend hold them to account?
Kemi Badenoch: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the concerns that we have been hearing anecdotally. This is something that needs to be handled sensitively, because on the one hand, we know that there are areas that need to be addressed, but on the other hand, I do not want anyone to think that we are criticising NHS workers for not looking after their own. It is something that needs to be handled absolutely sensitively, but we are on top of it. I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point.
So perhaps it would be helpful to explain to Ghani the way in which PHE and NHS England are constructed. First of all PHE which is led by their Chief Executive Duncan Selbie who used to be the CE of the Brighton and Sussex NHS Trust. Duncan is responsible for the leadership and management of PHE and the delivery of its objectives and his senior team includes Professor John Newton, Professor Yvonne Doyle and Professor Viv Bennett who have all apart from Bennett and Selbie participated in the evening press sessions with Government Ministers over the last 12 weeks. Selbie is accountable to the Secretary of State who is Matthew Hancock.
Then there is the NHS whose Chief Executive is Sir Simon Stevens and his senior team includes Amanda Pritchard Stephen Powis and Ruth May. All of these folk apart from Pritchard have participated in the press sessions. Simon is accountable to his Board which is led by the Chair Lord David Prior who was the Conservative MP of North Norfolk from 1997 to 2001 and he was then made Baron of Brampton in May 2015 when David Cameron appointed him as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health. In December 2016 Theresa May transferred him to the role of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for BEIS until October 2017. A year later in December he was appointed as the Chair of NHS. Along with Prior there are a number of other people on the Board but Prior is accountable to Matthew Hancock.
So the simple response that should have been made by Badenoch to Ghani is that that neither the NHS nor the PHE are independent and in fact they are controlled by the Government and so if the problem is genuine in terms of the lack of PPE for BAME workers which would certainly be a very serious accusation, this needs to be dealt with by Matthew Hancock and indeed if this accusation is correct Ghani should be also involving the Police to clarify where the cause is from and who will be prosecuted and given that Matthew Hancock is the head of both organisations he would need to be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police!