"People from all backgrounds helped build Britain."
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering a proposal for influential ethnic minority figures to be featured on a set of UK coins to celebrate Britain’s diversity.
It was reported that plans have been submitted to the Royal Mint to work out some proposals as Mr Sunak reflects on a campaign to have influential BAME figures from history on a set of coins titled ‘Service to the Nation’.
No non-white person has ever been featured on British currency.
Former Conservative candidate Zehra Zaidi is leading the campaign.
She said: “Who we have on our legal tender, our notes and our coins, builds into a narrative of who we think we are as a nation.
“People from all backgrounds helped build Britain.”
Ethnic minority figures from the military and healthcare have been put forward for the proposed set of coins.
The candidates include Noor Inayat Khan, a World War II spy and one of only four women to have received the George Cross, and Khudadad Khan, the first soldier of the British-Indian Army to receive the Victoria Cross.
In a letter to Mr Sunak, Ms Zaidi said:
“We propose a specific next theme of service to the nation by black, Asian, and other ethnic minority people, both in military conflict and on the home front.
“This theme will unite people, especially now as the nation has come together through the pandemic, and is collectively recognising the heroic work by ethnic minority staff in our health and care services.
UK Treasury Minister John Glen said that Mr Sunak was “keen to support” the “timely proposal”.
He said: “It is surely essential that this country does not lose another opportunity to demonstrate that the contributions of black, Asian, and other ethnic minority groups are truly valued.
“Symbols matter and we urge you to support our campaign.
“The Chancellor [Sunak] is reflecting on the letter from Zehra and will reply in due course.
“We are obviously supportive and keen to be positive about it, we need to see some firm proposals from the Royal Mint but we are keen for this to happen.”
On Noor Inayat Khan’s proposed inclusion, Ms Zaidi said:
“She was the first female radio operator to be sent to enemy-occupied France.
“She was one of only four women in history to receive the George Cross.”
Ms Zaidi’s campaign for ethnic minority figures is supported by several historians, including Shrabani Basu, the author of Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, who stated:
“I am absolutely delighted that the story of Noor Inayat Khan has inspired so many people and that she has become an icon. Noor was an extraordinary war heroine.”
Politicians such as Conservative Party MP Tom Tugendhat and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas also support the campaign.
In 2018, Ms Zaidi campaigned for Noor to be featured on a new £50 note, however, computer pioneer Alan Turing was the choice for the new banknote which goes into circulation from 2021.
Mr Sunak previously expressed support for the anti-racist cause and also supported calls for widespread changes in attitudes.
He said: “As a British Asian of course I know that racism exists in this country. And I know people are angry and frustrated. They want to see, and feel, change.”