Matt Hancock has been accused of not knowing how many black people there are in the cabinet after stumbling over the question on live television.
Appearing on Sky News programme Sophy Ridge on Sunday, the health secretary was questioned by the host about the lack of diversity in the prime minister’s inner circle.
Asked how many members of the current cabinet are black, Hancock replied: “Well there’s a whole series of people from a black and minority ethnic background.”
He then named the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and home secretary Priti Patel – both of whom are from Asian backgrounds.
Matt Hancock is either unaware or unwilling to admit there are no black people in Boris Johnson’s cabinet.— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) June 7, 2020
It’s offensive to say it's OK because they've got "diversity of thought".
Especially at time of real pain for the black community. Do better. #BlackLivesMatter #Ridge pic.twitter.com/CYajyTjLL4
“I think this is one of the most diverse cabinets in history” says Matt Hancock.— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) June 7, 2020
Points to Chancellor and Home Secretary, both from BAME backgrounds.
But there are no black members, or LGBT members, of the current cabinet. #Marr
Ridge warned Hancock not to “lump” people from minority ethnic backgrounds together and pressed him specifically on the number of black cabinet ministers.
"The two Cabinets I've sat in with Boris Johnson as prime minister are the two most diverse Cabinets I've ever sat in," Hancock replied.
He then mentioned former Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng, who was sacked last year during a reshuffle, but failed to recognise that there are currently no black cabinet ministers.
Labour MP David Lammy was one of a number of people to criticise Hancock over his apparent failure to answer the question.
“Matt Hancock is either unaware or unwilling to admit there are no black people in Boris Johnson’s cabinet,” Lammy tweeted.
“It’s offensive to say it's OK because they've got ‘diversity of thought’. Especially at time of real pain for the black community. Do better. #BlackLivesMatter #Ridge.”
While journalist Adam Bienkov tweeted: “I'm not sure 'we had one black cabinet minister until Boris sacked him' is quite the defence Matt Hancock thinks it is.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Hancock said it is "undoubtedly a risk" that there will be an increase in coronavirus cases following this weekend’s Black Lives Matter protests.
He said he supported the protesters' arguments, but added: “Please don't gather in groups of more than six people because there is also a pandemic that we must address and control.
“And so we've got to make the argument, we've got to make further progress, on top of the significant progress that has been made in recent years, but we've got to do it in a way that's safe and controls the virus.”
Mr Hancock also said: “I think we're one of the most tolerant and open societies in the world, but there's always more that can and must be done – especially to empower people so that they can achieve their potential.”