Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 6:29 pm, 18th November 2020

I thank Claudia Webbe for her comments, but if she listens further to my speech, she might fully appreciate the points that I am trying to make.

The conclusion that the NHS is somehow structurally racist can come only from the new logic of our age. The standard form of this new logic is this: if 10% of people are characteristic x, then 10% of workers should be x, 10% of every company should be x, 10% of every role should be x and 10% of all chief execs should be x, and where that is not true, it is offered as evidence of discrimination—differences are inequalities, and the logic assumes that what is unequal must be wrong. We have seen this logic applied to sex, gender, education or geographical background, disabilities and race, and now it is being applied to a virus: if 10% of NHS staff get covid, 10% of NHS staff with characteristic x should get covid, and because that does not hold for BAME staff, it is viewed as evidence of racism. I am staggered by how many intelligent people seem to have bought into this argument.

Characteristics cannot be taken in isolation; we have to control for variables. Moreover, no free society will ever see equal distributions for anything, even if individuals started from the same place. And, Madam Deputy Speaker, we do not—we do not in character; we do not socially; we do not genetically; we do not economically; we do not in terms of upbringing, geographical opportunity or education; we do not in health and diet; we do not in career paths; and we do not in our preferences. These may be inequalities, but they are not evidence of discrimination. That does not change when characteristics are used to define groups. As any scientist should know, correlation is not causation. As scientists also know, getting particular diseases and viruses is not uniform, particularly across ethnic groups. No organisation could escape from this mad progressive logic: if it was not damned for one thing, it would be damned for another, no matter how woke its values—just look at The Guardian.

I want to be very clear: obviously there are incidents of racism within our NHS. There is still racism within our society. The NHS is far more diverse than most organisations, but it employs human beings, and it gets its fair share of bad ones. This needs to be detected and it needs firm action. Likewise, the NHS can be unwieldly and inefficient, so problems are not always dealt with as they should be. But this pandemic has shown our NHS at its best and its staff at their best. We ought to be proud of them. If—