Cabinet Office minister Damian Green has been criticised after appearing to get two Asian MPs confused in the House of Commons – while talking about the government’s newly-published race disparity audit.
Labour’s Faisal Rashid said he was “very disappointed” when the de facto deputy prime minister apparently mistook him for colleague Afzal Khan.
Rashid asked Green about the small number of ethnic minority workers being recruited through the civil service fast stream programme during a Cabinet Office questions session on Wednesday – highlighting that just one in every 100 of those offered a job are black.
In his response, Green said he had raised “a perfectly reasonable challenge” and added: “The honourable gentleman asked about this in my statement yesterday.”
In fact, Green had been quizzed the previous day by Labour’s Gorton MP Afzal Khan – who had asked about racial discrimination and the lack of its inclusion in the race disparity audit after the minister made a statement on it.
The government unveiled its findings – along with a new website housing all of the data – this week as part of Theresa May’s flagship pledge to tackle inequality across the UK.
Rashid, who represents Warrington South, told HuffPost UK: “I wasn’t sure I’d heard the minister correctly at the time, but now I’ve checked Hansard, I’m very disappointed.
“In a discussion about breaking down barriers for minority ethnic groups, the minister responsible has confused one MP with another, on what would appear to be the grounds that they both happen to be Asian.
“This in itself is obviously very disappointing, but it also shows how little attention the minster must have been paying to the questions he was receiving, which is incredibly disappointing on such a serious issue.”
A spokesman for Damian Green said the minister had “simply forgotten” which member he had spoken to the previous day.
He added: “The first secretary of state spent an hour the previous day answering questions from dozens of MPs on the race disparity audit and simply forgot which honourable member had spoken to him during that session.
“He answered the question in its fullest and is having follow up meetings on the audit with all MPs who have requested them.”
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