HC Deb 12 April 1965 vol 710 cc923-5
1. Mr. Freeson

asked the Minister of Labour how many firms discriminating against the employment of people on grounds of race, colour or creed, have been consulted by the managers and staffs of his Department's employment offices with a view to persuading them to drop this practice; and how many firms have been struck off employment offices' registers for failing to end such discrimination.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. R. J. Gunter)

Such consultations have been going on informally over many years as needs arises. No record of the number of firms concerned has been kept. So far there has been no cause to deny our placing services to any firm because of its prejudice in such matters, though a few cases are still under discussion.

Mr. Freeson

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask, in view of previous questionings in the House on this matter, if it not a matter for regret that no record of this kind of thing is being maintained? Is is not accepted that there is in fact discriminatory practice in a number of places of employment in this country? If we are to do something about it through the agency of a public service such as the employment exchanges, a record should be maintained and evaluated so that right policies may be pursued. Does my right hon. Friend accept——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think we had better have the question answered so far as the hon. Member has gone.

Mr. Gunter

I think that my hon. Friend does not make the distinction which is very necessary in this matter. That is the distinction between employers who may have personal prejudices of this sort, and employers who have difficulties which they cannot overcome because of the feelings of their workers or their customers. There may be other reasons unconnected with prejudice—lack of right qualifications for the job, for example, In cases of this sort it might help nobody if we withheld our services. We are aiming to find out what the real root of the trouble is, and, if it is the employer himself, to persuade him to withdraw discriminatory conditions. This approach is showing results, but we will not help an employer who turns out to be intransigent.

Mr. Thorneycroft

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in any event, in matters of this kind conciliation is a better approach that importation of the criminal law?

Mr. Gunter

I agree. What we must attempt to do is to remove the attitudes and not to place the whole of the odium on the employers.

Mr. Lipton

Will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that employers are not entitled to use the machinery of the State for the purpose—for whatever reason—of practising or putting into effect in any form religious or racial discrimination?

Mr. Gunter

I think that my hon. Friend is quite right when he says that there must be no discrimination, but the difficulty at our exchanges is to come to the root of the problem and to find whether it is the employer to blame. When he seeks to give indications to the exchange of what he wants or does not want, he is very often powerless to do any other because of the attitude either of the employees or customers.

Mr. Godber

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether it has been necessary to invoke the new procedures which I instituted last year to bring up to Ministerial level any cases of real difficulty? Is that procedure working as arranged?

Mr. Gunter

Yes, indeed. As I indicated, there are a few cases under discussion. I would not hesitate to do what the right hon. Member suggested it we cannot get it right.

Mr. Freeson

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the subject on the Adjournment.