Phillips, former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was asked by Public Health England to provide expert support for an investigation into the reasons why an increasing number of victims of the pandemic coronaviruses are from BAME.
Early evidence shows that blacks are dying from the virus at almost twice the rate of their proportion of the population, according to analysis of NHS England data for the first 12,600 deaths from the virus in English hospitals. While blacks represent 3.4% of the population, they represent 6.4% of deaths so far.
The Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB), the umbrella group for major mosques and other Islamic institutions, said the death investigation was urgently needed, but opposed the appointment of Phillips.
They say it is inappropriate for a man recently suspended from the Labor Party for allegations of Islamophobia, and who has a history of controversial remarks about Muslims, to be part of the investigative team.