Rishi Sunak refused to apologize for the UK’s history of slavery and colonialism and rejected an appeal to pledge to redress when challenged in the House of Commons.
The prime minister said he was committed to ensuring the UK was an “inclusive and tolerant” society and said trying to “unravel our history is not the right way forward”.
But he declined to accede to a Labor MP’s call for a “full and meaningful apology” to people of African descent for Britain’s colonial and slave-holding past.
Activists are calling for the UK to deliver compensatory payments to countries that have been harmed by the slave trade or colonialism.
In Prime Minister’s Questions, Bell Ribiero-Addy, MP for Streatham, described the slave trade as “one of the greatest atrocities in human history”.
He reminded Sunak that the late Labor MP Bernie Grant had founded the reparations movement in the UK and that ‘in his last Prime Minister’s Questions before his death he demanded an apology to people of African descent living and dead for the role of our country in slavery and colonialism”.
“Since then, prime ministers and heads of state have expressed only grief or deep regret,” he said. “These are not sentiments befitting one of the greatest atrocities in human history.
“There has been no acknowledgment of the wealth that has been amassed or that our country has taken out the largest loan it has ever had to pay off the slave owners, and not the slaves.”
Ms. Ribiero-Addy asked, “Will you do what Bernie Grant asked all those years ago, what I asked and what countless others have asked since, and offer a full and meaningful apology for our country’s role in slavery and in colonialism, and will you commit to restorative justice?”
Mr Sunak said: ‘No. What I think should be our focus now is, of course, understanding our story and all its parts, not running away from it, but right now making sure we have a society that is inclusive and tolerant of people from all backgrounds.
“This is something we on this side of the House are committed to and will continue to do, but trying to unravel our story is not the right path to go, and it’s not something we will focus our energies on.”
Nor labor policy
A Labor spokesman said Ms Ribeiro-Addy’s compensation claim was not party policy.
The spokesman said “he is right to point out the appalling history of the slave trade” but “on the specific point of reparations, the point he was making is not Labor Party policy”.
Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that a group called Heirs Of Slavers, made up of descendants of several prominent British slave owners, have launched a campaign calling for “apologies, dialogue, reconciliation and restorative justice” and support for institutional and national remedial actions”. justice” for the transatlantic slave trade.
Tony Blair, when he was prime minister and challenged and challenged as to whether he was willing to apologize for the slave trade, said: “I said we’re sorry and I’ll say it again.”
Blair spoke in 2007 as the government prepared to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
During a visit to Barbados in November 2021, King Charles III, then Prince Charles, spoke of the “appalling atrocity of slavery, which taints our history forever”.