HC Deb 07 April 1964 vol 692 cc771-2
1. Mr. Brockway

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he considers it inappropriate to include in Government contracts a condition that the private firms fulfilling them should make no inquiry into the religion of applicants for employment.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

Because to do so would be to introduce questions of religious faith and conscience into commercial relations between Government Departments and industry. To do so would raise not only large questions of principle, which in my view ought not to be dealt with by a sidewind, but also immense practical difficulties.

Mr. Brockway

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is exactly what is happening now and that certain firms are demanding to know the religious faith of applicants for posts? Is he also aware that in areas of religious tension this causes great misgivings and—and I ask him to pay particular attention to this—that the firms involved are now prepared to consider this practice? Would he use his influence in order to end it?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That question is quite different from that on the Order Paper. It is not for me to comment on the practice concerned, but it is my view that it would not make for an easy solution, of what I agree to be a very difficult matter, to condemn those who would otherwise be employees of this firm to unemployment in order to deal with this practice.