The government has announced it will take immediate action on four aspects of the recent Lammy review into the justice system's treatment of people from minority ethnic groups.

The Ministry of Justice will commit to publishing all criminal justice databases held on ethnicity by default, as part of wider measures introduced by the prime minister Theresa May today to tackle racial inequality.

May is challenging society in general – and the MoJ in particular – to ‘explain or change’ disparities in how people from different backgrounds are treated.

Confirming a cross-department audit of public services, the prime minister says the work will become an ‘essential resource in the battle to defeat ethnic injustice’.

Labour MP David Lammy made 35 separate recommendations last month following an 18-month examination of the treatment of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system.

The government stresses that it will respond to each recommendation in time, but for now the focus will be on four elements of Lammy’s work.

As well as demanding the ‘explain or change’ approach in the criminal justice system and committing to publish datasets, the MoJ will also be expected to develop performance indicators for prisons to assess equality of outcomes for inmates, and to work to ensure that prison staff are more representative of the country as a whole.

At a Downing Street roundtable today, May was expected to say: ‘This audit means that for society as a whole – for government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide. These issues are now out in the open. And the message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed.’

Lammy had suggested that all judges’ sentencing remarks should be published in audio and written form, with a system of online feedback for court users to report back on how judges conduct cases.

Lammy told the Guardian newspaper today: ‘We simply can’t let this racial disparity audit bring forth more talking shops. We’ve had a lot of talk, it’s now time for action.’