Reynolds sparks debate over strengthened contributory benefits

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When the Public Health England report on disparities in the risks and outcomes of Covid-19 was belatedly published this week, it confirmed that Black and Asian people are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than white people. It also said that the risk is higher for people living in deprived areas. This was useful, but the document – despite promising to do so in the terms of reference – did not delve deeper: we needed conclusions on the causes of these disparities and recommendations for what needs to be done next. Anything less lets the government off the hook.

That is why Labour and the TUC have welcomed the statutory inquiry launched today by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. The equalities watchdog has promised to use its legal powers – such as the ability to compel evidence from government departments and other organisations – to investigate the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities and “develop clear, evidence-based recommendations for urgent action”. The need for such action makes the fact that the equalities minister had never heard of the Marmot Review until yesterday is even more worrying – or “shameful”, as Jonathan Ashworth said. It is fitting that a Covid equalities plan is the subject of his latest weekly update setting out Labour’s coronavirus response.

Labour members online are discussing Britain’s welfare system this morning. In an interview with PoliticsHome, new Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has expressed support for greater contributory aspects to our benefits. His unequivocal commitment to scrapping Universal Credit in his LabourList piece last month was received well. He also calls for the abolition of the two-child limit, the welfare cap and no recourse to public funds in this interview. But the argument about contributions – not a surprising one, given that leader’s office policy director Claire Ainsley also supports the principle – has resurrected a fiery debate within the party.

If you’re interested in further discussion of Labour policy, LabourList is planning video interviews with several shadow cabinet members over the coming weeks, which readers will be able to watch live on the website and on Facebook. We have one lined up with international development spokesperson Preet Kaur Gill on June 18th. The next one is on Tuesday, June 9th, with Luke Pollard. As I said yesterday, please feel free to email in suggestions for questions. Remember to keep checking the site today and over the weekend as we host plenty more interesting Labour news and comment. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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