Tory MP Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) said it was “disappointing and very surprising” the Bank of England had so far “failed to recognise the ethnic diversity of our population on our national currency”.
She said 14 per cent of the UK’s population are from a black, Asian, or minority-ethnic background, and argued the national currency should do a better job of reflecting that diversity.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms Grant said all but three of the notable individuals featured on banknotes had been “historic white men” and there had so far been no-one from a minority background.
She said choosing who to portray on a new £50 note is a “wonderful opportunity” to send a message about modern Britain.
Mrs Grant said the UK’s diverse communities had made a “seismic contribution” to the country, citing Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse who tended soldiers during the Crimean War alongside Florence Nightingale, as an example.
She also referenced war hero Noor Inayat Khan, Suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh, and Sir Charles Kao, who pioneered the use of fibre-optic communications, as deserving candidates to be included on a banknote.
Mrs Grant said: “I believe the Governor of the Bank of England now has a unique opportunity to address an archaic stereotype, one that completely undermines the credible efforts towards diversity and inclusion that are indeed taking place at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
“The 2011 UK census showed that 14 per cent of the UK population were from a black, Asian, or minority-ethnic background. And like everywhere else around the globe and around the UK, the population will become even more diverse in the coming decades.”
She said people and communities “need to see their stake in Britain’s past, present and future is universally recognised”.
Mrs Grant said including “a person of diversity on our banknotes” would be a “fundamental shift from a national stereotype”.
“Such positive action would underline the pride we have in this country’s great multi-culture. It would also help to defeat the despicable influence of hatred and division that seek to destroy our libertarian way of life.”
The Banknote Diversity Bill will be brought back for a second reading on 5 April.