HC Deb 09 July 1968 vol 768 cc264-73

It shall not constitute any offence under this Act to advertise, offer or provide special facilities for education, instruction or training primarily or solely for the members of a minority community resident in the United Kingdom, provided that the provision of such facilities is restricted to the members of such a minority community.—[Mr. Gower.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is suggested that with this new Clause we should discuss New Clause 6 (Banking, insurance, & c, facilities for minority communities), New Clause 7 (Welsh proprietor of hotel, & c.,), New Clause 8 (Jewish proprietor of hotel, & c), New Clause 9 (Scottish proprietor of hotel, & c), New Clause 10 (Mohammedan proprietor of hotel, & c), New Clause 11 (Hindu proprietor of hotel, & c), and New Clause 12 (Irish proprietor of hotel, &c).

Mr. Gower

These new Clauses deal with certain marginal albeit difficult aspects of the legislation. It may be that the fears which have been expressed to me are exaggerated, but I hope that the Government will acknowledge that difficulties may arise.

In the case of new Clause 5, for example, it is possible that a school or college might be opened in London for the benefit of the relatively small commercial Japanese community in London. In such circumstances, it would be reasonable and in no way objectionable if entry to it were limited partially or even completely to the children of that community. After all, there have been many instances in the past of schools in foreign countries for the benefit of the resident British minority communities there. One has only to think of British communities in countries like the Argentine in the past.

A glance through the London classified telephone directory or the classified directory of any other large city in the United Kingdom will reveal details of various forms of lycée, certain kinds of convent schools, Jewish kindergartens or day schools and schools for other specified groups. One can realise some of the problems which may arise if this Clause or something like it is not inserted in the Bill.

Let me turn briefly to the matters referred to in New Clause 6. Under the Bill as it stands, I apprehend that it would be an offence for a Malta-born resident in London to organise special credit facilities for the benefit of members of the fairly large Anglo-Maltese community in this country. What might otherwise be regarded as a beneficent and enlightened action in some circumstances could infringe the provisions of the Bill. In the same way, it appears that it might be an offence for an Indian-born resident in the United Kingdom to make mortgage advances or credit facilities available only to Indians.

In the case of the new Clauses which deal with hotels, perhaps I might cite the example of the many small Welsh hotels which one finds in the Bloomsbury and Paddington areas of London. Seldom, if ever, are they restricted to Welsh visitors, but, quite naturally, some of their proprietors have confessed their anxieties to me about the possible conse- quences of the Bill. In most cases, the vast majority of their visitors come from the Principality, and, at busy times of the year, it is quite natural for the proprietors to tend to make special efforts to accommodate them. Confronted with two or three would-be guests, they tend to give some kind of priority to a late arrival from Wales. This is not to be construed as racialism, but they fear that in these marginal cases of difficulty they may be exposed in some way to the provisions of the Bill.

It is obvious that the position could be even more serious in the cases of the many Jewish hotels in Bournemouth, for example, where they provide in addition kosher food for orthodox Jews. In most cases, their proprietors would be the last persons in the world to exclude someone who was non-Jewish, but I know that some of them feel a little anxious about the Bill in its present form. The Bill should not be left unamended so that it could conceivably be employed to oblige the proprietor of an establishment advertised as kosher to accept visitors who might require different kinds of food.

These are some of the problems on which I think it is right to comment. Here we have a rather difficult and perhaps marginal aspect of the Bill, but I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will feel that these are valid observations and that there are real cases for examination in which it may be wise either to seek to adopt the suggested wording in the new Clauses or something similar in order to prevent these cases being brought entirely within the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)

I rise briefly to support the new Clauses and, if possible, to extend the philosophy behind them. At first sight, these may seem to be minor matters, but I believe that they affect the whole philosophy behind the Bill, because we strike here a contrast between those who wish to assimilate and those who wish to integrate, and the new Clauses bring out the dilemma.

It is not a bad idea to project oneself a decade or two ahead and try to visualise the sort of society which will bring happiness in the situation that we face. There are those who visualise some kind of neutered, grey Englishman in a certain number of generations, in whom all races will be completely assimilated—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are on Report. We cannot discuss the philosophy behind the Bill. We can only discuss the new Clauses at the moment.

Mr. King

Then I will move to them. I had intended to argue from that that any community, as a community, has rights and that the new Clauses seek to confer upon a community the rights which it ought to have. I think that that is within the ambit of the new Clauses.

A Pakistani arriving in this country for the first time naturally will seek to go to a Pakistani lodging house. It would be extraordinary to promote a Bill which, if I read it correctly, would make it illegal for a Pakistani lodging house to restrict its clientele to Pakistanis. Indeed, it would not be sensible to do that, because it in no way contributes to the solution of the problem that we all wish to solve.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has dealt with the Welsh, Jewish and various other communities, but the spirit which I have tried to describe seems to run right through the Bill, and it will be a bad Bill if we do not recognise the rights not only of an individual but of a community. I believe that communities will thrive as communities, and that is relevant to these Clauses. If the Clauses or something similar are not incorporated in the Bill, we shall deprive the different communities in this country of the rights that they should have.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)

I do not know whether it is any consolation to the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) but, initially, the Government had some sympathy with the matters which concern him. When the Bill was submitted orginially to the House and to the Standing Committee, Clause 2(3) said that nothing in the Clause would …render unlawful anything which is done in good faith for the benefit of a particular section of the public which has the effect of promoting the integration of members of that section of the public into the community. In Standing Committee, I argued that there would be some advantage in having this sort of protection for the efforts which might naturally be made in the interests of minority groups.

6.0 p.m.

The matter was fully debated in Committee, but the views which I then argued were not shared by hon. Members. The arguments adduced against putting in such a protection were three-fold. The first was the feeling that such a protection was not necessary. There was a recognition of activities specifically designed to assist minority groups, such as Pakistanis, Italians and Japanese. We thought that it was extremely unlikely that such an activity would be open to criticism or be brought before the Race Relations Board. It was aruged in Committee that there was nothing wrong in discriminating in favour of a minority group, since we are concerned with discriminating against.

It was argued, secondly, that such a provision might open the door to various forms of abuse. Some hon. Members feared that it might lead to the sort of "separate but equal" argument which we debated earlier.

The third argument—and this is the essence of the matter, particularly in relation to new Clauses 5 and 6—was that it was best to rely on the good sense of the Race Relations Board and the conciliation committees. This, I believe, is the soundest argument of all. It is unlikely that the Board or the conciliation committees would consider the sort of activities referred to by the hon. Member for Barry as being in any way in breach of the spirit or letter of the Bill. The Board is a responsible body and the conciliation committees are equally responsible.

The other new Clauses, Nos. 7 to 12, deal with hotels and slightly different principles apply. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Barry is not seeking to allow proprietors of hotels to operate their premises exclusively for their co-nationals or co-religionists but only primarily for that purpose. It is fair to say that hotels which are known to cater for certain types of residents will probably attract that type of resident.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it would be extremely expensive for, for example, a Jewish hotel which caters for orthodox people, who require a special diet, to provide an alternative diet for other visitors?

Mr. Ennals

It is unlikely that someone who does not wish to partake of the diet offered would seek to go to that hotel. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman need worry because hotels already come within the scope of the 1965 Act. He said that certain hoteliers were worried about the Bill. The evidence in the three years since the 1965 Act was passed is that no such cases have arisen. The matter has not been brought before the Board and since the provisions in the Bill for hotels are almost identical to the 1965 Act, the hon. Gentleman's fears seem unfounded.

In any event, one could add to the list he gave. One can think of Italian, English, Welsh, Scottish and other hotels. It is at this point that the question of evasion arises. I hope that, with these assurances, the hon. Gentleman will not feel it necessary to press the new Clause.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Hotels in areas like Folkestone do a lot of catering for conferences. Does the hon. Gentleman see any possibility of an hotelier who wishes to fill up his hotel with a community, so to speak, forming a conference would be guilty of an offence under the Bill?

Mr. Ennals

No. Not at all. An hotel which sets aside its accommodation for a conference would refuse to take others because it would not have other accommodation. However, if it were to say, "This conference includes some Pakistanis or West Indians and therefore we are not prepared to accommodate that conference ", then that would be a form of discrimination and would be covered by the Bill.

Sir D. Renton

I have much sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) in this matter. I acknowledge, however, that it would be difficult to fit into the framework of the Bill the new Clauses which he has tabled.

Difficulties arise when we legislate in this way. Hard cases make bad law and my hon. Friend referred to potentially hard cases. The crux of the matter is that my hon. Friend is trying to make it possible for people to discriminate in favour of certain ethnic groups without falling foul of what will become the law by avoiding any sort of discrimination against. The principle of the new Clause is worthy of further consideration.

The Under-Secretary took refuge in the original Clause 2(3) and said, in effect, that that would have met the difficulties to which my hon. Friend referred, but I do not think that it would have done. There were many reasons why hon. Members on both sides of the Committee threw out that subsection. It would not have met the point made by my hon. Friend because it was cast in somewhat restrictive terms. Besides being in favour of a particular ethnic group, it insisted that what was done was done to integrate that group with members of the public at large. It cannot be said that a Welsh or Italian hotel proprietor catering mainly for people of Welsh or Italian origin is helping to integrate them with members of the public. For this reason that original subsection would not have done the trick.

The Government should consider this matter further so as to make it abundantly clear in the Bill that when there is a genuine attempt to discriminate in favour of an ethnic group in a way which is not contrary—I speak in broad terms—to public policy, then that should be within the law.

The Under-Secretary considers that this matter is best left to the good sense of the Race Relations Board and the conciliation committees. I do not deny that they will have good sense, but it is better that we should spell out in the Bill just what we are getting at, instead of leaving it to the Board and the conciliation committees virtually to exercise a dispensing power, because that is what we are in danger of doing. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Barry is to be congratulated for raising this matter, and I hope that we have not heard the last word on it.

Mr. Ben Whitaker (Hampstead)

I wish to raise an additional item which supports the comments of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. The analagous provision which was removed in Committee stipulated that such an activity should be to the benefit of the minority community concerned. No such words appear in any of the new Clauses tabled by the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). Although I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's intention, the wording he has suggested would leave it open to maliciously minded persons to provide separate and worse facilities in, for example, banking and insurance for the very minority groups whom he wishes to assist. Although his intention is otherwise, his proposals would leave the Bill open for a coach and horses to be driven through it.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

I, too, have considerable sympathy with what my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is trying to do, particularly when I remember that the only conclusion we reached in an argument in Committee on Clause 2(3) was that these matters should be left to the discretion of the Race Relations Board. The Undersecretary has re-echoed that view.

It follows, notwithstanding what has been said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), that over a period we shall build up a loose system of what might be termed case law arising from decisions reached by the Board. It follows, again, that it will be very important for the Board to report adequately what decisions it has reached in certain cases, and its reasons for reaching them. I only wish to put on record my belief that in getting the right answers to the point which troubles my hon. Friend we shall eventually depend heavily on a sort of case law built up by the Board.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

These new Clauses have drawn attention to one of the anomalies in the legislation, which is that we are putting race relations into a straitjacket. The Clauses are not, in principle, unlike the matter with which we dealt in Committee when we discussed an Amendment of mine to exclude from the scope of Clause 6 advertisements by restaurants or places of entertainments dependent for their appeal on a national or regional atmosphere, for staff of that region or nation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has now drawn attention to another anomaly. Clause 6 deals with every kind of advertisement where race enters into its spirit. Such advertisements may be bad, and we therefore support Clause 6 when it deals with them—the vile street corner advertisement, "No coloureds need apply". That is what Clause 6 envisages. But I ask the Government to consider between now and when this Bill goes to another place, the restrictive aspects of the legislation, and to see whether some means can be devised to give effect to the improvements proposed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Whitaker

It might assist the hon. and learned Gentleman were he to look at Government Amendment No. 64, which attempts to meet his point.

Mr. Grieve

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I have seen and studied the Amendment to which he refers, and I am grateful to the Government for their concession. In that case, they have excluded from the scope of the Bill—and it is in accordance with their assurance in Committee, on which our Amendments there were withdrawn—employment by such institutions as I have in mind of a national or a particlar type if it is designed to give effect to a national or regional atmosphere. Amendment No. 64 clearly meets that point, but not the advertisement difficulty or the practical difficulty referred to by my hon. Friend.

6.15 p.m.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I have a good deal of sympathy for the new Clauses standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower). I was not very convinced by the interjection of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker), who said that such a provision might be used for affording inferior facilities, inferior hire-purchase companies or inferior loan associations. I understand that a number of the new communities in the country already have their own hire-purchase and loan associations.

There is nothing compulsory about the proposal. It does not say that a Pakistani will only get his hire-purchase or his building society loan from a certain organisation. It merely says that it would be in order for a minority to have a special organisation for the provision of education, loans or other facilities. Incidentally, I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) is not present. Had this Bill already been on the Statute Book, what would have happened to the Temperance Building Society when it started? I assume that, in that case, the Society would have been held to be discriminating against part of the population.

My view is that the Clauses would be accepted were it not for the problem presented by the English. The Government would be perfectly prepared to allow the Welsh to advertise their hotels as having a special welcome for the Welsh, and for Scottish hotels to advertise their hotels as having a special welcome for the Scots, but they could not include the English, because to do so would be to produce a wall of discrimination against anyone else. That is the difficulty which my hon. Friend faces. One can bring in Amendments to deal with all the minority groups, but not to cover the major groups.

The Government are right, in my view, not to accept the Clauses, but, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) has said, my hon. Friend has drawn attention to a sufficiently important problem. I therefore hope that, before the Bill is enacted, the Government will look again at this matter, because my hon. Friend has shown quite clearly that, in a desire to have no discrimination, we can produce, in a strange sort of way, more discrimination than we are stopping.

Mr. Gower

As I am given to understand that something will be done in this respect, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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