Lambeth council voted on 15 July to call on national government to examine reparations for enslaved people. The motion was initiated by Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie and prepared jointly by the ruling Labour and the opposition Green groups of Lambeth council. It is the first such motion to be passed by a UK local authority.
The motion calls for an all-party parliamentary commission of inquiry for truth and reparatory justice “to begin understanding the legacy of slavery on the society we live in and to start conversations on how to address it, which go further than a symbolic apology.”
The council noted the UK’s role in the transatlantic traffic in enslaved Africans, the resulting loss of life on British ships and that a great deal of the wealth of the UK “was founded on this vile crime against humanity”. They also noted that on the abolition of slavery the UK paid out £20m, the equivalent of £17 billion today, to British enslavers, whilst those who were enslaved were not compensated at all. The money the UK government borrowed to pay this compensation over two centuries ago was not paid off until 2015.
The enduring legacy of the enslavement, systematic racism, is currently seeing a revitalised challenge from organisations within Black communities such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Pan-African Liberation Movement and the International Decade for People of African Descent Coalition UK.
Green Councillor Scott Ainslie said
“This is an historic motion, and long overdue. The repercussions of hundreds of years of slavery are still all too visible in the inequalities and prejudice which exist in our society today.
I was delighted that we were able to work together and cross party on this important motion calling on the national government to act. I hope other councils throughout England and the devolved administrations will follow this lead so we can begin to rid this country of the shameful legacy of its colonial past.”