HC Deb 30 April 1958 vol 587 cc387-8

3.50 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make illegal discrimination to the detriment of any person on the grounds of colour, race and religion in the United Kingdom. This is the third occasion on which I have asked the House for permission to bring in this Bill. On the first occasion, the Bill was talked out, on the second occasion it was rather discreditably counted out, but I have taken notice of speeches delivered during those debates and I have amended the Bill to meet some of the objections which were then voiced.

I doubt whether there are many hon. Members of the House who do not accept the principle that there should be no discrimination on grounds of colour, race and religion, but very often it is urged that this is a matter for education rather than for legislation. I admit that this country is remarkably free from race prejudice. During this week many of us have had the opportunity of meeting students from Colonial Territories, and from countries which have emerged recently to independence, who are undertaking a course of Parliamentary study in this country. We have been impressed by the surprise expressed to us by them at the degree in which all races and all colours can mingle freely in our community.

When that has been acknowledged, however, there are occasions when I believe legislation is necessary, as well as education. The Bill that I am seeking to introduce draws a clear line between what may be regarded as personal relationships and public relationships. Probably the occasion when race prejudice arouses most feeling is when students and others in this country apply for lodgings, and those lodgings are denied to them on the ground of their colour.

The proposed Bill does not seek to interfere with the householder who offers lodgings, because it would probably be going too far to ask that any person should take into his or her home anyone against whom that racial prejudice existed. What this Bill would do is to apply this principle in public places. It would apply to lodging houses, to restaurants, to dance-halls and places of entertainment. It would insist, in those cases, that no one should be denied the opportunity of entering them or enjoying them, on the ground of race, religion or colour.

The second section of public relationships with which the Bill would deal is the leasing of premises for use or occupation. There are certain cases in this country where the lease of premises is denied to coloured persons. My Bill would seek to end that possibility.

The third public relationship to which it would apply is that of employment, promotion in employment and the rate for the job, whatever the race or colour of the person may be. These are all public matters and it seems to those who are presenting the Bill with myself that they are properly the subject of legislation.

May I say, finally, that sometimes we criticise other countries, and particularly one country in the Commonwealth, for the practice of race prejudice. We shall only be free to do that fully and faithfully if we end, by legislation, the practice of race discrimination in our own public relations.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Brockway, Mr. Sorensen, Mr. Leslie Hale, Mr. Wedgwood Benn, Mr. Orbach, Miss Jennie Lee, Mr. Ian Mikardo, Mrs. Castle, Mr. Janner, Sir Leslie Plummer, Mr. Julius Silverman, and Mr. Frank Allaun.