House of Commons Prime Minister’s Question Time 24 November 1999

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham): Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to see the recent Channel 4 documentaries on slavery, in which it was stated that one in five white people in Britain have the blood of African slaves running through their veins? Similarly, people from the Caribbean have white blood running through their veins. I do not want to worry him, but my mother’s maiden name was Blair. Perhaps I should refer to him as my right honourable relative.

My question relates to the past 1,000 years, 400 of which were taken up by enslavement and 200 by colonisation. There has been no acknowledgement of the contribution made to the wealth of Britain, Europe and America by millions of African people. The Guildhall and other places in London have monuments to the slavers, not the enslaved. Will my right hon. Friend set the historic record straight? Will he apologise to people of African origin, living and dead, for the part that Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to acknowledge the pain and suffering of people who were enslaved in times gone by. I was in Hull recently, in the constituency of the Deputy Prime Minister, which was once represented by William Wilberforce. Many radical politicians in this country fought against the slave trade. I should like in particular to acknowledge the massive contribution made by Afro-Caribbean and black people in this country today, and to say how much we value and treasure it. One of the great things that has happened in politics in the past few years is that every political party in this country is now committed to a multiracial, multicultural society. We owe an awful lot to the pain and suffering of those people who went before us.”