HC Deb 16 July 1965 vol 716 cc1044-65
Mr. Peter Griffiths

I beg to move Amendment No. 53, Clause 5, in page 4, line 40, to leave out from "dwelling-house" to the end of line 2 on page 5.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that we ought to consider at the same time Amendment No. 54, Clause 5, in page 4, line 42, to leave out from "residence" to the end of line 2 on page 5; and Amendment No. 55, in page 5, line 2, at the end to insert: or where any accommodation other than accommodation required for the purpose of access to the premises is shared by the tenants. If desired, I will call Amendment No. 54 for a Division.

Mr. Griffiths

Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) nor I question the right of persons of different colours and races to find it easy and straightforward to find homes. Those of us who are concerned about overcrowding regard it as essential that there should be an adequate supply of dwellings available to them on reasonable terms. But when we are discussing race relations we ought to have some regard to the practicalities as well as to the broad principle.

It is quite common for people to have dwellings within one building, that is, to share accommodation. But we all know that when persons have to share facilities in common difficulties can easily arise. If the facilities are mere entrance halls, there should be no great difficulty, although with children playing in them friction can easily be caused even if the people speak the same language and can understand one another. I am thinking more particularly of the sharing of kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. These are the points of friction when families share one dwelling-house.

Amendment No. 53 deals particularly with an individual dwelling-house used by more than one family. If friction is possible, it is at this point that it will come. The difficulties of two housewives sharing one kitchen are well known, and the difficulties are exacerbated if one of the housewives is, for example, an Asiatic who wishes to cook strange and exotic foods just at the time when an English housewife wants to get on with her bacon and eggs. There is quite enough friction if a kitchen has to be shared by two families both of which want to cook bacon and eggs.

The same applies to bathrooms. Anyone who has ever waited outside a bathroom occupied by someone else knows how exasperating it can be. Particular difficulty can arise over the toilets if they are shared with Asiatic families, for instance. I sometimes think that those who advocate the shared use of toilet accommodation do not fully appreciate the difficulties which orthodox Hindus have when they have to use a Western style toilet. It is extremely difficult if people of different cultural and religious backgrounds have to share toilet accommodation. Serious friction can develop.

I suggest, therefore, that where such facilities are used in common this shall be a good reason for withholding consent to the transfer of a lease. The subsection goes on to give the weakest of all arguments by providing that it is reasonable to withhold permission if the person who holds the lease himself has to share the accommodation. This is really the grossest hypocrisy. On the one hand, it is provided that the person holding the lease shall be entitled to refuse to share with a coloured person or immigrant while, on the other hand, he can tell his tenant that it is quite right for him to share in such circumstances. In my view, this is the worse kind of "Do as I say rather than do as I do." If integration is good, it is good for everyone, and the law ought to be that everybody should do it, or, I suggest, far better that the rule should not be extended to cover these particular points of friction.

With the Amendment, we should have a simple straightforward Clause which provided that the sharing of facilities in one dwelling-house, being likely to cause friction, was a good and reasonable cause for a landlord to withhold consent to the transfer of a lease or tenancy. It would improve the Bill, and I hope that, even at this late stage, the Home Secretary will realise that, if the Amendment is not made, there will be a constant source of trouble and friction here.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Gurden

I will be deliberately brief, because my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) has proposed the Amendment in adequate terms. I just want to say to other hon. Members who have constituencies which are not so terribly concerned with immigrants that this is a very serious matter. Perhaps the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) will be interested to hear some of the things that happen in areas where immigrants congregate in great numbers. People not only have to say, "We must accept settlers from abroad coming to live within our shores; we must do all we can to live with them peaceably," because it is quite a different matter when we say by law that they should be forced to live with them in the same buildings.

Let us remember that the Bill as it stands now, as my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick said, allows the owner or lessee of a building who happens to live in the building to discriminate and say that the Bill does not apply to them and they need not suffer the penalties under the Bill within their own houses. But if the owner or lessee happens to live away from the building, all his tenants have to suffer the difficulties.

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary said, Kitchens are perhaps the most fertile premises of dispute, when he was giving the reason before for the owner of a building not having to suffer the restrictions of the Bill, and my hon. Friend and I see no reason at all why other tenants in the building should have to live with people they do not want to live with, no matter whether it is an English person, a Scottish person or a person from overseas. If they do not want to share that accommodation with them, we do not see any reason why they should be forced by law to do it.

I will leave the argument at that. Very much more could be said about the Amendment because, as I said earlier, hon. Members have to have the sorts of constituencies where the troubles arise before they are able to see the importance of the Amendment.

Sir D. Renton

The Government have got themselves into a proper jam on this Clause. It is very selective. It deals with only a highly selective part of the law on the relationship between landlord and tenant.

The strange position which arises on the Clause was brought to a head by my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), whose absence we very greatly regret today and whose interesting leadership of the Opposition on the Committee stage was, I think, appreciated by all. In column 301 of the Committee proceedings, he asked this question of the Home Secretary: I have listened to what has been said about the sharing of bathroom and kitchen. But why is it easier to share it with a tenant than with a landlord? The only answer that was given by the Home Secretary was: The answer is that one has to draw the line somewhere". It is a pity that we are in the position of having to draw the line anywhere at all in a situation of this kind. My hon. Friend who spoke when he moved the first of the three Amendments now under discussion suggested one point at which the line should be drawn, and that is to say that the subsection should not apply to a tenancy of premises forming part of a dwelling-house at all.

We do not go quite so far as that. What we say—I think that our two Amendments can rightly be looked at together; indeed, if the first is accepted, the second could be accepted too—is that the second part of the proviso is likely to make race relations worse. The Home Secretary was very candid when dealing with this in Standing Committee. He said: The kind of situation which one has in mind is sharing kitchens. A proviso of this sort, is, as it were, an invasion of the general purpose and spirit of the Bill. It is designed to deal with, shall we say, a situation in which friction may develop between housewives. Experience has shown, I think, that, however friendly relations may be between families living in the same accommodation, if they have to share kitchens, bathrooms, and similar facilities, disputes and friction may arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 24th June, 1965; c. 300.] Too true. That is a statement of a situation in human relations which could not be more accurate, and a situation which apparently the Home Secretary is prepared to stomach—and very surprisingly. But he need not stomach it if he will accept the two Amendments which my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) and I have put forward.

If the proviso is allowed to remain as it is, I shall find it a most illiberal provision. As an old Liberal myself, I deprecate interference with the right of privacy to the extent proposed. If the proviso is not amended on the lines that we have suggested, it must be clearly understood that a man's home is no longer his castle. Whether he is an Englishman, a Jew or an Indian, it will no longer be his castle.

Is it not intolerable that a person good enough to allow a tenant or sub-tenant the right under a tenancy to share his bathroom or his kitchen should be compelled by law to consent to that tenant or sub-tenant nominating another person to share his accommodation whom the landlord may not even ever have seen? I find it hard to believe that, whatever views we may have about the best way of dealing with this very difficult question of race relations—on which the Opposition have made some constructive efforts, which have been acknowledged by the Government, to handle the matter more satisfactorily—it is right for us to leave the Bill in a way which would enable what I have described to happen.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth said in the Standing Committee: The most difficult examples centre on the situation where a house has been sub-divided. It may be quite unreasonable to complain that a coloured person is living in the house next door, but, as the Home Secretary argued in his intervention, it is a different matter when people of different colours and races, and different cooking habits, are sharing a kitchen. To start legislating in some way which says, 'We think that they ought to share the kitchen", is going rather far in the anti-apartheid approach to life. It is taking such an exaggerated view that one is more likely to cause trouble than to ease the differences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 24th June, 1965; c. 308.] I think that looking at it from the most humane point of view, from the viewpoint of anyone having the strongest desire to improve race relations in this country, this is such a plain case for amending the Bill that I most earnestly hope that we shall have a sympathetic reply from the Solicitor-General.

Mr. Thorpe

I rise to support the spirit of the Amendment. Since the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) mentioned his antecedents, I would say that I do so in spite of the fact that a "nationalised" Liberal supported it. There is a strong case for the Amendment. We start with the first proposition that it shall be unlawful to refuse consent on the ground of ethnic origin. We then seek to carve a limited exception out of that general proposition, an exception which I think extremely artificial. We say that if the person who is required to give the licence is himself the co-occupant, it is entirely reasonable for him to refuse such a licence, but that if he does not live there and is not sharing the premises, then for anybody else to oppose the licence at once becomes unreasonable.

I cannot see the distinction between the two. Either it is consistently wrong to refuse a licence on the basis that the shar- ing betwen different communities might cause friction and difficulties and lack of racial harmony—either it is wrong in all cases to refuse it, in which case I cannot see why we should make a distinction between the person who grants a licence and the person who occupies the shared accommodation; or, alternatively, it is reasonable to allow the right both to the landlord and to the tenant. I cannot see why we should try to make this distinction. There is very little logic in it.

What the Bill tries to do is to express the public abhorrence which we feel in the House towards those who try to stir up race hatred and lack of harmony between races and towards those who discriminate in private places. But he would be the first to accept that, while one may publicly express one's view, an Act of Parliament in itself cannot change people's morality and private attitudes. It is merely a public example which perhaps will have some part in educating public opinion at large. Therefore, if one tries to force people to accept something which is abhorrent to them—which to others would not be abhorrent and which they would not mind in the least—and if one tries to ram it down their throats, one may well cause more trouble than one cures.

I therefore hope that this artificial distinction in respect of withholding a licence will be recognised and that one or both of the Amendments wil be accepted.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Dingle Foot)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I fully appreciate the force of what has been said by every hon. Member who so far has addressed the Committee on these Amendments about the difficulties which may arise when there is the sharing of a bathroom, of a kitchen or of a lavatory—the sort of difficulties with which many of us were familiar about a quarter of a century ago when we had the evacuees at the beginning of the war. But I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the House that in this matter there is a very clear distinction between the position of the landlord and that of the tenant. It is because we appreciate the arguments about shared accommodation that we want to include the proviso to Clause 5(1).

3.15 p.m.

I come now to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths). If that were accepted, it would make nonsense of the whole Clause, for it would provide that the subsection should not apply to the tenancy of premises forming part of a dwelling-house. All dwelling-houses would then be excluded from the operation of the Clause. So far as we on this side of the House know, there has been no instance of discriminatory provisions on racial grounds in leases of commercial or agricultural or other non-residential property. If it happens, it must be very rare. The area in which that discrimination arises is precisely among dwelling-houses and therefore the Clause would have no value unless it were directed to accommodation in dwelling-houses. I therefore invite the House to reject that Amendment.

I fully appreciate the force of what the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said, but I hope that I can satisfy the House that Amendment No. 54 would create considerable difficulty.

Mr. Gurden

I am not quite clear what the Solicitor-General meant about Amendment No. 53. The Bill refers to parts of dwelling-houses.

The Solicitor-General

But the effect of the Amendment would be that the Bill would read: Provided that this subsection does not apply to a tenancy of premises forming part of a dwelling-house. Therefore, the prohibition would apply only to premises which did not form part of a dwelling-house, that is to say, to other forms of accommodation.

Mr. Thorpe

Surely the Solicitor-General is not right. It does not apply to all dwelling-houses, but only to dwelling-houses in which there is some accommodation, that is to say, dwelling-houses which may be in multi-occupation.

The Solicitor-General

Certainly a limited category of dwelling-houses, but, none the less, there would be this distinction between dwelling-houses and other forms of buildings which are let, and that would be a perfectly illogical distinction and would deprive the Clause of nearly all its force.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment No. 54 would end the proviso at the word "residence" so that it would read: Provided that this subsection does not apply to a tenant of premises forming part of a dwelling-house or which the remainder or part of the remainder is occupied by the person whose licence or consent is required as his own residence Supposing, for example, that there were a block of flats and the landlord owning it retained one flat for his own residence, he would be able to veto any assignment or sub-letting of any other part of the block. This is much further than it is necessary to go and certainly further than the Government desire to go.

On the face of it, the next Amendment is attractive. It would have a somewhat different effect. However, it would still produce a rather anomalous result. In the block of flats which I have instanced some part of the accommodation, say, a common laundry, might be shared in common, and in that case if the landlord himself were the occupant of a flat within the block, the Amendment would operate and he would be able to have a complete veto.

Mr. Sharples

The proviso in the Bill would already cover the situation where the landlord lives in the block. What the Amendment refers to is where the landlord himself is not the occupant, but is not able to protect his tenants as he would himself.

The Solicitor-General

I appreciate that and that brings me to what, I think, was the principal argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the distinction between landlord and tenant.

This is a matter with which the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), was also concerned. He suggested that it was illogical to have this veto so far as a landlord is concerned where there is shared accommodation in the house and not so far as the tenant was concerned. I appreciate what both hon. and learned Gentlemen have said on this point, but I submit that there is a very clear distinction here. The landlord is the owner of his own house and the effect of this Clause is that he can at least prevent an assignment or subletting where there is a common kitchen, lavatory or bathroom. We all appreciate that that is necessary.

When one comes to the tenant, he is in a different position. The tenant, when he takes on a tenancy of this kind, enters it on condition that certain facilities are to be shared. If one goes into a lodging house, where there is a common bathroom, one of the conditions of the tenancy is that the bathroom will be shared. That is to say the tenant has no complaint because other people are entitled to share the accommodation. It would create an undesirable situation, to deal particularly with the lodging house, if any tenant of the lodging house had a veto over any coloured person coming into the lodging house.

That is what the effect of these Amendments would be. I cannot imagine anything more likely to stir up racial prejudice in a lodging house where there might be a dozen or two dozen lodgers, for one tenant to be able to say, "Because I have shared accommodation, which I undertook to share at the time of taking the tenancy, I can veto anyone of another race coming in with the consent of the landlord and taking lodgings in the same premises."

Sir D. Renton

What the hon. and learned Gentleman was saying a moment ago about a proviso in a lease having the undesired effect is surely not relevant to this discussion, because subsection (2) of this Clause would permit no such proviso.

The Solicitor-General

I am not concerned with subsection (2). I am concerned with the proviso and with the arguments addressed to me. I say that the Amendments would inevitably have the result that any single tenant in a lodging house or premises would have a veto over any coloured persons coming into those premises, even though everyone else living there is perfectly willing to accept him. I do not think that is the result which hon. Members in any part of the House would wish to bring about and, therefore, I invite the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Peter Griffiths

I have listened with great respect to what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, but I must say it is completely unsatisfactory and I could not withdraw my Amendment. The responsibility must fall to the Government to reject this sensible proposal.

Sir D. Renton

I am in your hands, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I did not move the first of the three Amendments although I have already spoken in the debate. As I understand it, and I am rising to a point of order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman will have to ask leave of the House.

Sir D. Renton

If I may have the leave of the House to speak very briefly, may I say that I think everybody on this side of the House who heard the argument put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General was amazed. He did not acknowledge that there was any need whatever to cope with the great difficulty in human relations caused by shared kitchens and bathrooms. The only reason, as I understand it, why he would not accept Amendment No. 54 was because in a particular example, a rather extreme case which he gave, the situation would not be satisfactory.

The Solicitor-General instanced the example of a block of flats. Everyone knows that the more common case to consider is the house in the twilight area which is divided into a number of small flats, sometimes consisting of only two rooms each, but with certain common facilities being shared. But, even if we take the block of flats, is that a sound answer? A block of flats contains, in effect, a large number of separate dwellings. Indeed, each flat may be within the definition of a dwelling-house. It is self-contained in every sense. The only thing which is shared is the access. In any event, if the Government are worried about that situation, would not the proper and open thing be for them to introduce legislation to cover the wider issues of the letting of tenancies in blocks of flats?

This Clause, as drafted, was obviously intended to deal with houses mainly in twilight areas divided into a number of separate small flats. We discussed it in Committee on that basis. Therefore, we cannot accept the Solicitor-General's answer to Amendment No. 54 as being even reasonable. When it came to Amendment No. 55, I found it impossible to follow him.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: In page 4, line 42, to leave out from the word "residence" to the end of line 2 on page 5.—[Sir David Renton.]

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill, put and agreed to.

3.30 p.m.

Sir F. Soskice

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

We have come within sight, I hope, of the end of what I believe have been constructive and sincere discussions on a Bill of great public importance. As has been said before, its purpose is to meet a new and developing situation. The Government envisage the Bill as a Bill designed to get in first, to be ready to cope with frictions and difficulties which may arise. Let us hope to goodness that they do not arise, or that if they do they will arise in very small compass.

We regard this as an experimental Bill forming part of our own legislative system. Other countries have introduced legislation of this sort. Many people in this country, among them some of my hon. Friends, think that we should have gone further and tried to reproduce in greater completeness the pattern of civil rights legislation in countries which have had in perhaps a more acute form the problems with which we are confronted.

We have taken what in a sense is a first step. I hope that events will show that it is not necessary to take any further step and that this may be the last step. If the Bill turns out to be a successful Act of Parliament and to achieve its purpose, it will, by a paradox in a sense, very rarely need to be called into operation.

The Bill contains two parts. The second part deals with incitement. That I think, is a necessary part of it, and I propose to say no more about it. The major portion of the controversy has arisen about the first part, on which some have urged that it goes too far and many have urged that it does not go far enough. I simply say that the Government will watch the situation as it develops. Should it appear that the provisions are inadequate to deal with the mischief against which it is directed, it may well be necessary for the Government later—one hopes never—to expand its scope and to reconsider its effect and operation. I have said and I repeat, that I pray that we shall never be faced with that need.

It would be an ugly day in this country if we had to come back to Parliament to extend the scope of this legislation, which is designed to prevent frictions from developing between different communities in the country. We must therefore keep our minds active on this matter and the position open.

Secondly, it has been urged that the functions of the committees should be more widely flung and that the Board should have greater powers of research and investigation. As hon. and right Members will have observed, the committees must make reports to the Board. The Board must make reports to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must lay them before Parliament. I believe and hope that in the course of time the committees and the Board, and particularly the Board, having to consider their reports, will accumulate a considerable body of knowledge, of understanding and of expertise in these problems.

Speaking for myself, I should certainly welcome advice from the Board, as indeed I always welcome advice from which ever quarter it may come. It will come from public opinion, public discussion, and public reactions to the problems as they arise. The Government will most certainly consider carefully what emerges in these coming months and years and will take such steps as may be dictated to suit the needs of the developing situation.

I want to say little more in commending the Bill to the House on Third Reading, except this. I desire to emphasise that the Bill takes away no existing right which anybody has. It is not as if a person who is dissatisfied, or feels that he has a grievance which can be vindicated by the law as it at present stands, in any way has his rights inhibited or curtailed. Those rights remain exactly as they have always been. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) is particularly anxious that that should be the case, and I gladly emphasise that the Bill does nothing to curtail the existing rights of any citizen. It creates a new class of unlawful conduct, a course of discrimination on the ground of origin.

It is designed, in the first place, to bring such discrimination, if it comes to light, to an end in conciliation, but providing, nevertheless, that if conciliation does not prove possible, up and down the country a Board may take the matter further, and that ultimately, if necessary, it may fall to a judge, in a county court or in the High Court, to consider whether an injunction ought to be declared to stop that course of conduct. If a person persists against the injunction he will stand at risk of the ordinary consequences—of a motion to commit him.

We have given great thought to this and I acknowledge freely that we have received a great deal of valuable advice, and I do not hesitate for a moment to say that we have changed the first view we took upon it as a result of the general reaction to our first proposals. I do not think that there is anything unnecessarily discreditable in that. I would personally never hesitate to change what I thought was a right decision if it turned out to be a decision which could be improved upon, and that is what we have done.

I hope that the House will think, after we have gone through its provisions and changed it in places, that it is now a useful Measure, which should be put on the Statute Book, and I invite the House to give it the third Reading.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Sharples

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Home Secretary, has acknowledged, generously I think, that the Bill owes much to the representations which we on this side of the House have made. Certainly, the Bill which we now have before us is a very much better Bill than that against which we put down a reasoned Amendment on Second Reading. It contains conciliation machinery which was one of the main features of the reasoned Amendment which we put down.

One of the difficulties which has arisen over the Bill is that through the substitution of a conciliation machinery for the criminal procedure that we virtually had to consider in Standing Committee, and then on Report, was a new Bill which never in its present form had a Second Reading. Here today hon. Members on both sides of the House have had to exercise a considerable amount of restraint. Hon. Members, who have never had a Second Reading chance of con- sidering the Bill in its present form, had to exercise a great deal of restraint in order to get the Bill through, if it was to have its Third Reading today.

I do not think this was a satisfactory means of proceeding, and I think that even at the risk of trotting out old horses again, it would have been much better if the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he found the original proposals would not be acceptable, had taken the Bill back, redrafted the whole thing, and brought it forward for Second Reading again properly, so that the House would have had the time to consider this important Measure properly, and not in the rushed conditions which we have had today in the situation in which we found ourselves.

As I say, the Bill provides for conciliation machinery. I believe that a great deal of the success or failure of the Bill will depend upon how that conciliation machinery is set up. On an Amendment, the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the composition of the Board. I know quite well that he will be determined, in his selection of the Members of the Board, to give the machinery as good a chance as possible of making an effective contribution.

I think that much more difficult will be the selection of the members of the conciliation committees. They are the people who will come into direct contact both with the person making the complaint and the person complained against. The Board will have to give very careful consideration to the selection of members of the conciliation committees, because it is essential that they should be respected locally both for their impartiality and for their sound judgment. A great deal will depend, too, on the competence and fair dealing of the officials who are called on to assist the conciliation committees in their work.

As the Home Secretary has acknowledged, the Bill deals only with a very narrow aspect of the whole problem of race relations. Clause 1 deals with such matters such as ships, aircraft, and public transport, where the problem of race relations is hardly likely to arise. It deals also with places of public resort maintained by public authorities, where, again, the real difficulties of race relations are not likely to arise. Thus, if one deletes those places, one finds that there is very little left in Clause 1.

One of the difficulties with which we have to contend is that people like licensees wonder why the Government have decided to single them out in an effort to find a solution to the problem of race relations. For good reasons the Bill does not, and cannot, deal with the real basic problems of race relations. It cannot and does not deal with the problem of jobs, of advancement, of trade union membership and of apprenticeship, simply because those things cannot be dealt with by law.

The Bill does not deal with the main problems of housing. We have just concluded a debate on a Clause which deals with a tiny fraction of the whole problem of the law of landlord and tenant. The Bill does not deal with the social problem. It does not deal with the housing problem, the allocation of council housing, and problems like that. It does not deal with them, simply because it cannot. As the Home Secretary admitted, these problems are far too difficult to be dealt with by law. The Bill does not deal with the problem of social relationships between the different races now in this country. These things simply cannot be dealt with by law.

I still have some reservations about Clause 6, which deals with incitement. I am sure that we all abhor the scurrilous pamphlet, the dirty obscene piece of paper pushed through the letter box with the intention to frighten. If the Clause had been confined to the written word, to the pamphlet, it would have been very much easier to administer. I think that it will be very much more difficult to administer where it deals with the spoken word. It introduces a new principle into our legal system, and places a very heavy onus on the individual policeman to decide whether to bring a complaint to the notice of his superiors. I do not want to dwell at length on that, because I know that some of my hon. Friends wish to take part in the debate.

We certainly hope that the Bill will work, but we have grave doubts whether it will make any significant contribution to the real problems of race relations. Although we hope that it will work, I cannot say that we are able to give it our unqualified blessing.

3.45 p.m.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Eton and Slough)

I have changed my mind twice about the Bill. When it first appeared I was fairly convinced that it was likely to do more harm than good—more likely to frustrate its objectives than to achieve them. It was then turned almost upside down in Committee, and I found that I could not really maintain any of my earlier objections to it. But I was still doubtful about the opportunity of it. I still felt that it would be better to allow the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to get on with the job that he is doing. Incidentally, I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the work that he is doing. I felt that the introduction of the Bill, harmless though it was, might interfere with the success of his task.

During the course of the past few weeks, however, we have seen a movement in the direction of the imposition of restrictions on Commonwealth citizens in this country. I have always felt that if we are going to make a success of race relations our policy must include some element of reassurance to the man in the street. It is no good making him feel that he is in the dock because he still harbours lingering doubts about admitting coloured people to full comradeship with him. In my view we have to to take him along slowly, and an element in this task has to be some kind of reassurance that he will not be flooded out or forced to live in a completely coloured neighbourhood.

I felt doubtful about the effect of the Bill on the white population, but since we have had this sudden lurch of both parties in the direction of applying greater restrictions to Commonwealth citizens it is important that we should couple this movement with an element of reassurance the other way—to Commonwealth citizens in this country. In speaking on this subject my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) always made a great point of the importance of marching in double harness—of coupling every measure of restriction with a measure of liberalisation. In those circumstances it is immensely important, now that we are moving towards a greater restriction of Commonwealth citizens, that we should simultaneously adopt a Measure which, for all its imperfections, will be regarded by the coloured people in this country as something for them.

Although I have spoken somewhat less than wildly enthusiastically about the Measure—and there are points about it which do not make me entirely happy, especially the question of shared accommodation, which was covered by the Amendment which has just been lost—once the Measure becomes law I pledge myself to do everything in my power, both in my constituency and outside it, to see that the Bill contributes to the improvement of race relations in this country.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Chapman

All of us will welcome very much what the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Sir A. Myer) has said. He and a number of his hon. Friends have been extremely helpful on these issues of race relationships in recent months. We should be proud of the bridge between the parties on this matter as something which has emerged in this Parliament. I am particularly pleased about it.

We wish particularly to thank the Home Secretary. We have had our battles with him throughout the Bill. He is right in saying that we appoached the matter from a rather different standpoint. We believed that once we began to alter the Bill it should have been altered to something more like the civil rights legislation of other countries.

I summarised this legitimate difference between us in Committee on 23rd June. I hate doing it, but I quote one of my own sentences on that occasion, when I referred to my right hon. and learned Friend and said: He hopes that the good sense of the British people will be such that, having outlawed it in the most public of places, they will follow his reasoning and apply it more widely than is defined in the Bill and will be tolerant in every field of a public nature."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, Standing Committee B, 23rd June, 1965; c. 263.] This is my right hon. and learned Friend's intention—to do the job by example, by outlawing discrimination in most of these places so that this will provide the main cure to this disease which otherwise, in our most difficult circumstances, might spread in our society.

We accept the legitimate difference between us, but we are grateful for my right hon. and learned Friend's assurance this afternoon when he said that as this Bill is experimental, in the sense I have been talking about, its progress will be carefully studied and a watch will be kept on possible loopholes. He said that if necessary—he did not commit himself on this but I hope that he meant it—legislation would be introduced in due course to take the matter further. Let us hope that that situation does not arise and that the example which the Home Secretary is setting in the Bill will do the job and take a great step forward in securing permanent harmony in race relationships in our community.

If my right hon. and learned Friend does this with this limited attack he will have a great achievement to his credit, something other countries have not been able to do. This is to harmonise race relationships and cut out discrimination by the most gentle of interventions by Parliament. If he does it he should be very proud, and he will be able to say that in this as in so many other fields Britain has set an example to the world. A number of us differed from him on the way we thought the Bill should be developed but we are grateful for his assurance and we are delighted to wish the Bill Godspeed. It may well be that he will be proved right, that it will do the job and that we in the end will be proved wrong.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

I should like to say a few words as an individual Member of the House about the Bill. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I am glad that the Bill, in an amended form, has become a matter of much wider agreement between the parties than it looked like being at the beginning.

I speak of one aspect of it, and that is part of Clause 6, because I think that I am able to give a warmer welcome to that Clause than has been given from this side of the House by any other speaker. I represent a constituency in which there are a large number of Jewish people. I do not think that we have many immigrants. I have been very much disturbed recently by the number of attacks on Jewish property. They can be dealt with by the ordinary criminal law, and they ought to be because the penalties of the ordinary criminal law are more severe than the penalties imposed by this Bill. Nevertheless, one should remember the extent of these outrages in approaching a Bill of this kind. The Board of Deputies gave me a list of 22 outrages against Jewish property since last November, divided into 8 major and what they call 14 minor, but the minor cases involved petrol bombs thrown against Jewish property. One major case involved loss of life.

It is not simply a question of ordinary criminal offences. Side by side with outrages of an ordinary criminal kind there has been, to the knowledge of all of us, a recrudescence of written matter going through the post attacking Jewish people and coloured people—written matter of a kind which is quite certain in the end to lead to the open outrages of the kind which I have mentioned.

I therefore approve of and support that part of the Bill which deals with this kind of thing. I had believed and hoped that the Jewish people had suffered enough in our life-time without having this frightful thing rearing its head again. I should have thought that the example of their suffering was enough in our time to stop people from attacking other men and other communities. I hope that the Bill will be a success and I hope that this kind of conduct will be treated as the criminal thing which it is.

3.56 p.m.

Mr. Woodhouse

It would be churlish at this late stage to reiterate any reservations which may be felt on this side of the House.

I think that all that needs to be said about the Bill can be said very shortly and simply: it is that it is my belief and my hope that no successful case will ever come to court under any Clause of the Bill. If that is so, some of us may continue to say that it proves the Bill to be unnecessary while others will continue to say that it proves that the Bill has done its work. Neither of us need feel any disposition to oppose the Bill at this stage. I only hope that it will never be used.

It is the first racial legislation that we have ever had in this country—the first legislation involving the word "race" on the Statute book. I can only again express my hope that it will never be used as a precedent for the introduction by people, however well-intentioned and well-meaning, of legislation of a more serious racialist kind such as other countries in the world have unfortunately put on their Statute books.

3.57 p.m.

Sir B. Janner

I should like in one or two words to express my personal thanks to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) for his remarks in respect of a very serious matter which is perturbing not only the Jewish people in this country but also other Jewish communities abroad. Jewish communities outside as well as within Britain have a very high respect for the outlook, ideas and ideals of our country, and incidents of the kind which are taking place at present, such as the right hon. and learned Gentleman described, horrify Jewish people within the country and Jewish communities throughout the world.

I have just come back from Israel where ex-inmates of Bergen-Belsen and their children from all parts of the world are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the liberation of that camp. If this Bill does anything to help in the direction of preventing a repetition of some of the horrific events of the past, it will do extremely important work.

3.59 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

One is placed in a quite impossible position in debating the Bill on Third Reading. I do not wish to obstruct its passage, but it is unfortunate that those who have opinions on the Bill which are different from those which have been expressed in the last twenty minutes have had no opportunity of debating a Measure which reaches us in an entirely new state from the Standing Committee.

I will use this minute to say that, contrary to what the Home Secretary said, the Bill takes away from the ordinary citizen two rights which he possesses—to behave in the manner described in Clause 1 and to say the things which are proscribed in Clause 6. In my view it is not within the proper function of the State in ordering the affairs of those who live within it to enter upon either of those spheres. I have always believed in liberty in its widest aspect. I regard this Bill as a most dangerous attack on liberty, and I greatly regret its passing.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.