HC Deb 09 March 1967 vol 742 cc1729-31
7. Sir G. Sinclair

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the fact that a report commissioned by the Race Relations Board into the extent of racial discrimination in housing, in employment, in financial facilities and in public places not covered by the recent Act is expected to be published at the end of March, what preparatory work he is having done with a view to possible legislative action.

9. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce legislation to amend the Race Relations Act.

19. Mr. Rose

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he now intends to take following the Report of the Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants to deal with discrimination in housing and employment.

26. Dr. Gray

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now seek to extend the Race Relations Act to cover private hotels and boarding houses.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

In the light of the reports referred to by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and any other possible evidence about the extent of discrimination in this country and the effectiveness of the Race Relations Act, the Government will review the need for and the practicability of strengthening the existing law and administrative machinery. Meanwhile the Departments concerned are carrying out what preliminary studies are possible at this stage.

Sir G. Sinclair

But what steps are the Government taking to ascertain the extent of discrimination, if any, in organisations either under their direct control or receiving funds from them?

Mr. Jenkins

I think that to some extent that is a separate question. But we are keeping that aspect of the matter under very close review.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

While I thank the Home Secretary for that reply, is it not now abundantly clear that as a result of the hotel cases in Great Yarmouth and Birmingham the Race Relations Board is virtually impotent in such cases? Can we have a firm undertaking for legislation to cover those cases and the discrimination that occurs in housing and employment?

Mr. Jenkins

I have no doubt that there is a problem here, although the hon. Gentleman will have noted that the Yarmouth hotel keeper has now come into line as a result of pressure. I would not say that the Race Relations Board is impotent over the whole field. It is doing a very useful job, and I am carefully studying whether it could do a still more useful job.

Mr. Rose

Since housing and employment are the most serious spheres of discrimination, would my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will not allow timid conservatism on one side of industry or vested interests on the other to stand in the way of much-needed amendments? Is he aware of the very grave danger if the amendments are not passed of British citizens being born in this country to second-class status in the next generation?

Mr. Jenkins

I shall bear in mind all my hon. Friend's points.

Dr. Gray

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although the outcome of the Yarmouth case has been satisfactory, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General was unable to take action because the word "hotel" is so narrowly defined in the Act? In the consultations that he will have, will he ensure that the Race Relations Act is extended to cover private hotels and boarding houses?

Mr. Jenkins

I am aware of the view which my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General took-and took inevitably in the circumstances. Although I greatly welcome the fact that the outcome in the Great Yarmouth case was satisfactory in the last resort, that does not necessarily prove that the machinery is satisfactory.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many people regard this kind of legislation as an improper intrusion into the realm of private judgment and that they reject the implications contained in the question that where there is something wrong there should be a law about it?

Mr. Jenkins

I shall bear in mind that on this issue, as on very many, there is a difference of view within the House and in the country. But I do not think that that is necessarily always a reason for inactivity.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, at the recent conference concerning race and employment, nearly everyone present felt that there was a tremendous need to extend the Act to cover employment? Will he bear those views in mind?

Mr. Jenkins

I had the advantage of opening that conference and I took note of the views which were expressed there. But I should say, to balance this, that I have no doubt that there are people who were not represented at the conference who would take a different view.

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