§ Amendment made: No. 24, in page 3, line 37, after 'discriminate', insert 'against any other person'.—[Mr. Ennals.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
The next Amendment is Government Amendment No. 25, with which we may discuss Government Amendment No. 26, Amendment No. 27, in page 3, line 40, leave out from 'premises' to end of line 12 on page 4.
Government Amendments No. 29 and No. 31, Amendment No. 32, in page 4, line 10, after 'access', insert:
'but limited to water closet, kitchen or cooking facilities, bathroom or washing facilities, and any living room'.
Government Amendment No. 33, in page 4, line 12, at end insert:
(2) Premises shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) above as small premises if—
(3) During the two years beginning with the commencement of this Act, subsection (2)(b) above shall have effect as if for the reference to six persons there were substituted a reference to twelve persons';
and the Amendments to it in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), in subsection (2,b) leave out 'six' and insert 'twelve', and to leave out subsection (3);and Government Amendments No. 34 and No. 37.
§ Mr. MacColl
I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 3, line 38, at end insert:'at the time of the disposal—(a) the premises are treated for the purposes of this subsection as small premises; and'.325 This is an important group of Amendments. They are the Amendments to which I referred in the debate on Clause 2 in which we have tried to meet the undertaking we gave to look at the various points made in our discussions about accommodation shared by more than one household, or where there was more than one family. We have also taken advantage of this to make some improvements in the presentation of the Clause which make it rather easier to follow.
The Amendment introduces a term of art in the Clause—"small premises" Amendment No. 33 discusses what the term means. Instead of merely saying that the landlord "resides", Amendment No. 26 says "resides and intends to continue to reside". This is to meet a point made in Committee that it might be possible for a landlord to claim exemption from the Bill because he was residing at the time and subsequently to sell the property. This makes it clear that it is intended that he would be exempted only if he intended to stay on and live in the premises as his own home.
The next point is that there are two distinctions, and it is made clear that these are alternatives and not supplementary to each other. These come in the new subsection (2), which makes clear the two tests, one or other of which must be fulfilled, in addition to the landlord's living on the property. One test is that in addition to the accommodation occupied by the landlord, there is not normally residential accommodation for more than two other households, and that the landlord and members of his household are the only other people residing in that piece of the accommodation which is occupied by him.
The alternative for exceptions is that there is not normal residential accommodation on the premises for more than six persons in addition to the landlord and any member of his household. That is an increase from the figure which is in the Bill at the moment, and it is designed to meet the point.
Subsection (3) introduces phasing. I was rather sorry—I put it no stronger than that—to find that the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), who first suggested that we ought to include phasing in this side of the Bill as well 326 as the employment side, had put his name to an Amendment to get phasing out of the Bill. I thought we were meeting his point. The phasing that we propose is that for two years there should be 12, instead of six persons. As in the case of employment, the point is that where these provisions will come as a shock to people living in small households, they will have two years in which to accustom themselves to what the Bill means. It will also make it easier to explain to people the idea. There are parts of the Bill which deal with education. It gives people more time before the full impact comes.
Then we deal with some other points in the Clause which describe and define what is meant by "small premises". They are defined in subsection (2) in the way in which I have described.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
This is the first time that I have spoken in any of the discussions on the Bill. I believe that we are now on the most important Clause in it. It is the one Clause which, as it stands, would tempt me to vote against the Third Reading of the Bill, although on balance I do not intend to do so.
I object to the part of the Clause and the Amendments to it which still retain as a necessary part of exception for any persons letting any accommodation the fact that they have to share part of the living accommodation of the house with the person to whom they are letting.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government said just now that there were two alternatives for exception. One was where there were two households or less, where the premises were let as separate dwellings, or where there were not normally more than six people residing there, and the persons were, presumably, lodgers taken into the house. What the hon. Gentleman failed to say was that the Amendments still require as a qualification for exemption the fact that they must share part of the living accommodation.
The Amendments do not cover what I regard as a very important case—that of the person who lets part of his house as a self-contained dwelling. I should express an interest here, since I live in a house the top floor of which is let as a 327 self-contained flat. The flat has, although I do not think it matters for the purpose of the Bill, a separate entrance and the people who live in it and the rest of us in the house do not share accommodation. However, in letting that flat, we are letting it to people who live in very close proximity to us.
While I hope and believe that I am completely free of colour prejudice, and while I should be willing and happy to have as tenants in the flat people from any part of the world, nevertheless, I believe that there is a principle here in that the owner of property should have the choice of who his tenants are to be in his own house, and I would fight for that right. Where we are concerned with extremely limited accommodation of this kind, it is unfortunate that the Government have not attempted to exempt from the provisions of the Bill the position of a person who has, say, one self-contained flat in his house.
Probably I have put the point badly but I believe that a principle is involved here. Indeed, this is a clash, and an extremely difficult clash, of principles. On the one hand, most of us would say that not only do we regret any form of discrimination but we believe that the law has a part to play in creating a structure which would discourage prejudice; on the other hand, I believe that the individual owner of property has a right to dispose of his own property or part of it in the way he wishes and that, however irresponsible his prejudice may be—whether or not he likes persons with red hair or long hair, for instance—he is, when letting his own premises, entitled to express that prejudice in deciding who he should have in that accommodation when the tenant will be living in close proximity to him.
I do not think, therefore, that the Amendments go far enough. I regret that the Government have not seen fit to exclude the prejudice of the individual when letting part of his own premises as against prejudice which may be expressed from a business point of view when letting a block of flats, for example. I will not vote against Third Reading but if there is anything in the Bill which tempts me to do so it is the fact that the Government have not given way on this point and have not brought in an 328 Amendment to permit the individual living in his own premises to express prejudices, however ridiculous they may be, when letting part of his own house. This should apply irrespective of whether or not he and the tenant happen to have to share a bathroom or a dining room or anything else.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
I have known the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) for a long time and I know that everything he says is said with the greatest sincerity. He is caught by this dilemma of personal freedom in the disposal and use of one's property and another freedom. It is this other freedom which tends to be underrated and perhaps underestimated by certain hon. Members. It is the freedom from discrimination. Just as one upholds freedom from libel or slander as against freedom of speech, so there is the hon. Member's dilemma. I take issue with him, because he fails to distinguish between intimate contact when facilities are shared and when contact is far more remote, when the premises are self-contained and separate. When they are self-contained and separate, there is a different principle.
I wish to address myself to Amendment No. 32 which stands in my name. I have suggested it because, as the Clause stands, it could provide a serious loophole by which its legitimate and reasonable purpose could be defeated and which might permit a whole number of new exemptions which were not envisaged in the wording suggested by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. In my view, it is not unreasonable to define with which shared facilities we are concerned, but there is no attempt, either in the Clause as it stands or as it would be amended, to define what we mean by shared accommodation. The only attempt at that at one time was to deal with means of access. If we can go so far as to talk about means of access as something different from shared accommodation, we could be much more specific and say exactly what we mean by shared facilities.
§ Mr. MacColl
I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Government Amendments No. 31 and No. 32 which will deal with that.
§ Mr. Rose
I have seen those Amendments which deal with storage accommodation and means of access and use the phrase "relevant accommodation". That does not meet the point which I am about to make, because, notwithstanding the wording suggested by the Amendments, it would be possible for a landlord to provide what he might call a common room, lounge, or parlour to which, he said, he gave access to all persons on the premises. He could establish a sort of legal fiction that a room was not part of the premises let to a particular tenant and he could then say that the tenants shared it.
That is why I suggest in my Amendment that we define precisely what we mean by shared premises. I refer to water closet, kitchen or cooking facilities, bathroom or washing facilities and not a living-room. That goes wide enough, because those are the places where in normal living one would come into contact with other people resident in the same premises. It would be going far too wide if, for example, we exempted a room where people got together for a talk in the evening.
§ Mr. Rose
I think that the hon. Gentleman is missing my point. There is a reasonable exemption for shared facilities or shared accommodation. I am saying that it is a reasonable objection in the facilities which I have mentioned, but it would not be reasonable just because access happened to be shared, or because there was a common room, or a sort of lounge, which was shared. I accept that it is reasonable where one would have to share a bathroom and that is why I am trying to make the definition more specific. I do not criticise the Government for making the concession contained in their Amendments, but I believe that the definition is now even more important.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask my hon. Friends on the Front Bench if, before this matter is dealt with in another place, they will look at it again to see whether the definition of shared accommodation can be written into the Bill. Without it, it will be only too easy for 330 someone intent upon driving a coach and horses through the Bill to create the sort of legal fiction where, by saying that a certain room is at the disposal of all the people in the premises, the whole purpose of the Bill will be defeated. I ask my hon. Friend to comment on this, and to undertake that he will look at it further.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am sure that the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow him in the matters which he has discussed. I cannot help feeling, if I am to comment on them briefly, that he is straining after a gnat. I would not wish for one moment to see the definition of "shared accommodation" whittled down—quite the contrary. I wish to follow a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle). I am deeply grateful to him for taking it up.
I took it up in Committee and tabled Amendments designed to exclude from the scope of the Bill houses subdivided into two or three, but not more, units. I entirely share my hon. Friend's disappointment that the Government have not seen fit, on reconsideration, although we divided on this in Committee, to think again about this problem. If one applies the test of initimate personal proximity, what could come more clearly within the scope of that test than the small terraced, semi-detached or even detached house in which the householder, in order to augment his or her income, has subdivided it into two or possibly three units? In the majority of cases, the house is divided into two.
To say that if the kitchen, bathroom and lavatory, because they are the most ordinary examples of shared accommodation, are not shared, then one has entirely separate households, and not intimate personal proximity, seems to me an absolute nonsense of the application of this principle to the legislation. I do not have the personal experience of my hon. Friend because I do not live in a house divided in that way. In Committee I spoke on behalf of those who had converted such houses, and earlier this evening I spoke on behalf of widows.
I hope that I will not bore the House by returning to this cause again. The type of person most likely to have converted her house is the widow, who finds that the 331 accommodation left to her by her husband is too great, and who serves an extremely useful social purpose in subdividing her house, perhaps providing accommodation for a young couple. It is a shocking thing that the State should now intervene and seek to exercise control, however remote, over the choice of the person living in the other part of the accommodation.
When the people of this country realise what is being done to them by this part of this legislation—I think a great many of them do already—it is then that the legislation is most likely to defeat the ends of those bringing it forward. Instead of improving race relations it is likely to embitter them. What could more embitter someone than that, when they should have part of their house on the market, the hitherto irrefutable right to exercise their choice as to its tenant should be challenged? Someone could, possibly quite wrongly, say that they were being discriminated against and the person who had let the accommodation would have to go before the Race Relations Board, and explain their case, with all the inadequacies of the power of explanation which such people often have. It cannot improve the cause of good relations; it can only harm it. I ask the Government to think again about this.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Gentleman fails to realise that for the first time the Legislature is interfering with what has hitherto been regarded as the fundamental right of our people to say who they shall have under their roof. The burden on those who seek to do that, however good their reason for doing it, it very great; it is enormous. I find the interference in the private household, whether the kitchen, lavatory and bathroom are shared or not, absolutely intolerable. I think that that would be the reaction of the vast majority of people in this country.
I hope for the sake, not only of our ancient and fundamental liberties, but of the cause which I believe Government 332 Front Bench spokesmen and those behind them have at heart, of good race relations in this country, that the Government will think again about this matter.
§ Dr. Miller
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) talked about depriving people of the right to decide whom they should have as tenants and who should occupy their houses. The people still have that right. I call his attention to the object of the Bill, which is merely that one should not discriminate on certain grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin. This holds good for the fears which the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) has in connection with his dilemma about shared accommodation or accommodation which is separate but where people nevertheless live in close proximity.
Why should the principle that discrimination on the grounds mentioned in the Bill be maintained? The Bill does not prevent people from deciding who should occupy their premises. I would go so far as to say that it may have a beneficial effect, because in many instances more care should be taken in letting or disposing of accommodation of this kind. It is wrong to say that the Bill should apply only to large premises, because it is in small premises that the greatest hurt and offence occur. We must always remember the tremendous affront and offence given to a group of innocent people who are our citizens and who in every respect may be admirable tenants but the colour of whose skin might not be suitable to certain prejudiced individuals.
All that is requested is that discrimination should not take place on grounds of colour, or ethnic or national origin. In other words, no one denies people the right to prevent someone from occupying premises which belong to the owner on any other ground except those which I have mentioned. I do not think that the establishing of a principle in this respect is something with which the hon. Member for Runcorn would disagree.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Surely, there is this trouble. Let us leave aside for the moment the question of colour and come to nationality. With great respect to the hon. Member, let us say that a Scotsman comes to one's door to take a flat. One 333 may say, "I do not like his face, I do not want him", but under the Bill there is the danger that the applicant would go on to say that he was turned down because he was a Scotsman. The landlord would be in great difficulty in replying that he refused him, not because he was a Scotsman, but because he did not like the man's face.
§ Dr. Miller
That is precisely the point. A balance is involved. The owner of the property might not like the person's face or the way he looks, and the person might then take objection and feel that the reason why he was refused the premises was that he was a Scotsman or was coloured or whatever reason is applicable under the Bill. When the complaint is made to the Race Relations Board, it would soon be obvious that the reason for refusal was not ethnic or national origin or colour but was something entirely different. That is the important point. This is where the balance is involved.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I agree that with a conciliation stage the landlord might be able to show that he turned the applicant down, not because he was a Scotsman, but because he did not like the man's face. The danger is, however, that a person in that position would be afraid to refuse to let the flat to a person whom he did not like because he would say to himself, "Although I do not like him, he is also a Scotsman."
§ Mr. Carlisle
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. If I may conclude, the landlady or landlord would be afraid to refuse the person because he was a Scotsman or was coloured in the belief that he or she would be taken to court.
§ Dr. Miller
On balance that is not a bad thing at all, because if the landlord wishes to refute the allegation that he 334 has refused on the ground of colour or for the other reasons set out in the Bill, he is at liberty to do so. If he does not want to get himself involved in any possibility of proceedings, I submit with humility that on balance this is a good thing. It is not necessary that every object should be achieved—indeed, every object will not be achieved—but one has to have a balance in this.
I suggest that to reduce the number of people to which this provision applies by making it not applicable to smaller households would destroy one of the main objects of the Bill. It is obvious from all reports that people who are being discriminated against find the greatest difficulty when they go to households of that kind. In most instances, it is the rent of only the smaller households that immigrants can afford. I would suggest therefore that to increase the numbers, thereby making the provision apply only to larger establishments, would be against the principles of the Bill.
§ Mr. Gower
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think he is living in a world of make-believe in considering this problem. Enough has been said by my hon. Friends to show that these Amendments are not adequate. I hope the hon. Gentleman will realise that this is a highly personal relationship; it is not a normal relationship to have someone under one's own roof, or even to be in close proximity at the entrance, where there is a common entrance, or even a common drive; and the Clause, even with the Amendment, will not operate in anything like the manner which the hon. Gentleman suggested.
What will happen will be that the uninitiated widow who has been mentioned may well be afraid not to let her premises for some quite extraneous reason, but the cleverer person will not let at all. The person who is initiated and who can see ahead will refuse to let at all and will keep the place vacant until such time as she has a tenant of her own choice. Therefore, it will not operate fairly between two persons. It will operate most unfairly unless there is a further Amendment. I implore the Government to look again at this matter in that light.
I accept that the Amendment is a slight improvement but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) suggested, where there is a 335 letting of part of a house, with the owner and the new tenant in constant proximity, perhaps every morning and every evening, in those circumstances the objective of creating more accommodation for persons who are short of it, people for immigrant communities and so on, would be defeated. We need to create more accommodation, and we would be defeating the objective unless we widened the exemptions which are granted by these modest Amendments.
§ Mr. Heffer
I wonder whether the hon. Gentlemen understand the situation when they speak in terms of shared accommodation or separate accommodation under the same roof. I have a feeling that, apart from the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) who gave his own personal experience, it has not been the experience of many hon. Members opposite to be involved in this sort of situation.
I understand very well the position that could arise with shared accommodation, in the sense of a shared bathroom, shared toilet facilities, a shared kitchen or possibly a communal room. I understand that this could lead to all sorts of problems which would never arise with separate accommodation in the sense of a completely self-contained flat. What do we mean by "close proximity"? It would mean that somebody in a self-contained flat, possibly in the upstairs part of a house, would come down the stairs in the morning and go out of the front door to work, or come into the front door at night and go up to the self-contained flat. That is the sort of proximity we are talking about.
That is the reality of the situation, which is very different from the situation that would exist with two women at night using the same kitchen facilities. I know about shared accommodation. I mentioned to the Committee my own experience of living with a Jewish family for seven years in genuine shared accommodation, where we did not eat the same foods, but we shared the toilet facilities, the cooking facilities and we both had bedrooms on the first floor. I know about shared accommodation and I know the problems which can arise from close proximity where two women share a kitchen. However, that is not the same thing, and it must be kept in perspective.
Once again, the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) drew the 336 picture of the poor widow woman. He did not use the name "Mrs. Murphy", who was referred to frequently in Committee. Indeed, I remember referring to her myself and saying that I knew all about her because she lives in my constituency. The point is that the widow woman who lets off one or two rooms in the form of shared accommodation is not touched under the Bill. Therefore, the problem does not arise.
§ Mr. Grieve
But the widow who divides her house into two, even though it be a small house with thin walls and ceilings and a small garden, is.
§ Mr. Heffer
In such a case, the accommodation becomes a self-contained flat and creates the sort of proximity that I have referred to already.
There have been the Mrs. Murphies who themselves have been prejudiced in the first place but who have taken in coloured families. Originally, she was not happy with the idea, but she took in the family and eventually has been seen holding the baby, looking after the children and becoming part of the family. Those of us who live in areas where there are coloured populations know what happens in such cases.
I ask hon. Members to keep matters in perspective. I understand the problems and fears involved, but we are discussing separate accommodation and, in these circumstances, I think that the Bill covers all the fears that hon. Members have expressed.
§ Mr. Deedes
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), I find that this part of the Bill brings me closer to direct conflict with it than any other section. What I have heard of the discussions so far in no way reduces my feeling, partly because every hon. Member is speaking from his own experience, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has just done and as my hon. Friend did. The simple fact is that we shall not be able with exactitude to determine the conditions which cover the wide miscellany of instances which will arise under these provisions.
As my hon. Friend said, this is the most personal and perhaps the most difficult area into which the Bill takes us. We are dealing with no past experience 337 and very little data by way of a background. In a sense, we are guessing what will touch people here or there. As the hon. Member for Walton has just done most reasonably, we talk about close proximity. That may be defined in a dezen different circumstances and in a hundred different ways. We shall discover this as we go along.
I do not want to delay discussion about this except to express the view which I share with my hon. Friend, but I think that this part of the Bill ought to make us very careful of any assumption that the Measure will last for three or five years and will be beyond change or remedy after it is passed tonight.
There are many people with strong views about race relations who feel that this is the last chance in the sense that it will be the last Measure for a long time and will become the definitive Statute on the subject. They think that what we do here will be final. But if there is any part of the Bill which makes me hope that that is not so and about which we shall want to consider amending legislation in the light of experience, it is that with which we are dealing now.
However sincerely hon. Members apply their minds to this problem and speak from their experience and from the experience of their constituents, we cannot—even the Home Secretary cannot, with all the assistance at his disposal —guarantee to get this right first time. Some of this legislation is, therefore, bound to be wrong. I hope, therefore, that we will approach the possibility of amending legislation with an open mind, remembering that changes may be necessary in due course.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I wish to concentrate on Amendment No. 27, which seeks to exclude shared accommodation, as mentioned in subsection (l)(c), and which is designed to delete subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) which, in any event, the Government propose to delete. I commend the Amendment as being the way in principle to consider this whole matter.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) approaches this matter with a complete disregard of the principle that is involved. There is a direct conflict here between the principle 338 that there should not be discrimination on grounds of colour or race, with which the Bill deals in part, and the principle that there should not be invasion of the personal privacy of an individual in his own home. A person in his home has, I believe, an absolute right to discriminate against everybody.
If I dislike Jews or coloured people, if I am an Ulsterman and object to those who come from Southern Ireland or if I dislike the Chinese, I have every right to discriminate in my own home. If, for reasons of prejudice, I have become, as is referred to in Mau Mau, so persecuted by a particular sect that I can no longer stand them—and there are people throughout the country, and in the party opposite, who would under no circumstances have an ex-member of the Nazi Party in their homes if he was a German and who would be objecting, therefore, on ethnic grounds—[Interruption.]
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I will give way shortly. I wish to be explicit about this. The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) knows this.
§ Mr. Rose rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I was putting the question to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackely, who is of the Jewish faith and who would be absolutely justified in refusing to have a Nazi or ex-Nazi in his home. I would agree with him.
§ Mr. Rose
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I would be perfectly happy to welcome a German into my home? Is he also aware that to discriminate against a Nazi would be to discriminate on grounds of his politics and beliefs, inherent in his being a Nazi, and not because he is a German, which is no fault of his, any more than it is the hon. Gentleman's fault that he is what he is, unfortunate though that is?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
That is not true. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a well 339 known, perfectly proper and reasonable fact that those of the Jewish faith would be singularly unlikely to accept Germans into their homes at the present time. [Interruption.]
§ Several Hon. Members rose․
§ Mr. Heffer
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we in Liverpool, as trade unionists and as members of the Labour Party, have been inviting young German trade unionists to Liverpool for many years and that many of our Jewish colleagues have been accepting them gladly into their homes?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Of course, I entirely accept that statement but, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, it is quite irrelevant to my point. What I am pointing out is that we have an absolute conflict here between two principles, and the House must face it. It is the conflict between whether or not it is believed that an Englishman's home is his castle, and that he is entitled to discriminate in his own home but not outside it. I was merely seeking to point that out as a fact, and to say that we are faced with this position. Hon. Member, opposite always try to have their cake and eat it. They will not face the fact that there is here a fundamental conflict of principle.
I believe that a man should be entitled in his own home to decide, on prejudice or any other grounds, either to have or refuse anyone in that home. I am entirely in favour of a Bill, and this Bill, in so far as it seeks to prevent discrimination in jobs, and outside homes—in hotels, for instance, and many other places. But I say that in his own home, whether or not it is shared accommodation, a man ought to be entitled to do exactly as he pleases, and that no one at all in this country, least of all the Government, should have any power to interfere with the way in which he seeks to operate the management of his own home. I hope that at least we can agree on that point.
It is not a crime to have a prejudice. It is only a crime to express it in circumstances which will violate the accepted rules of human conduct. I may intensely dislike some particular form of colour, or 340 class or nation—so many other hon. Members—either for good cause or no cause. It is no crime in this country to be able to feel that, but in one's own home it ought not to be any crime to express it.
How can one make the situation plainer? Suppose an individual has a violent objection to the Jewish race, wishes to express it in the privacy of his own home but, perforce, has had thrust on him someone upstairs of the Jewish nationality. That will obviously cause trouble and will end up before the Board. It is not right that we should intrude. Let me give another example. I would always resist, and have resisted, efforts of Government to introduce into the affairs of matrimony as between husband and wife in their own home. We do not seek to probe that conduct at all unless it offends certain matrimonial laws, because it is the privacy between husband and wife.
Likewise, here, there is a conflict of principle. I quite accept that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton comes down, from the practical experience of which he has spoken, and which I entirely accept from him, on the side of preferring a Measure which outlaws discrimination rather than one which does not involve the invasion of one's own private home. I point out, and I am sure that he will be tolerant enough to accept this, that many of us take precisely the opposite view where that conflict arises. Amendment No. 27 goes to the root of the matter, and is the only way of doing what we want.
In the place of this Amendment, it is sought to put Government Amendment No. 33. It is no answer to earlier debates on Clause 2 to say that inserting the words "small premises" and seeking to add permission to have six persons in addition to the landlord and his family will answer the problem of the small paying-guest accommodation.
The House will remember that earlier the Under-Secretary pointed out that we had to come to Clause 7 to answer the position of the small boarding-house keeper, but this Clause does not answer it. It is no answer for the small boarding-house keeper to be told that with his family he can have up to six guests only in the establishment and if it is 341 not more than six he will not be guilty of discrimination provided those six share the accommodation in that establishment. If the law is passed in this form, it will mean that Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs can have up to six people in their accommodation provided it is shared, which means the kitchen, bathroom and other facilities are all shared, and they can be exempt. But if there are seven, eight, nine or 10 guests in the modem type of accommodation, such as flatlets, even if there are thin partitions through which people can be heard, they will be caught. I find that wholly inadequate.
There is an Amendment in the names of my hon. Friends which seeks to make the number 12. That would have been infinitely more reasonable although I do not think it would have gone far enough. If the Government had made some effort to meet this position we would have been happier. They have not done so and I do not think they have faced the dichotomy of these two principles which are at loggerheads. Time will show that we shall have to amend this Measure in order to put this right. This will be so because in the years ahead personal freedom will become the dominant principle.
§ Sir D. Renton
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have said that Amendment No. 33, which provides a new Government subsection to Clause 7, shall be discussed with Amendment No. 25. On the Notice Paper my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Mary-lebone, other hon. Friends and I have put down two Amendments to Amendment No. 33. We attach great importance to those two Amendments. I hope that we may have your permission to have a Division, at any rate on the first of them, in order that our views may be expressed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member. I think that to ask for two Divisions would be unreasonable, but I am prepared to grant a Division on the first Amendment to Amendment No. 33.
§ Sir D. Renton
I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker.
In Clause 7 we are dealing with one of the most difficult parts of the Bill. We are dealing with human relations at their most intimate and most sensitive stage— 342 people living cheek by jowl under the same roof in what is normally a private house. In those circumstances, one would generally say that the right to privacy should prevail and there should be no interference with it whatever. That is another way of saying, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, that an Englishman's home is his castle. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was wrong."]
We should be very careful indeed before we depart from that principle. The Government have said that some houses are so large and contain so many people, and the accommodation may be so separated, that we should legislate in such a way that the letting of that accommodation should not be the subject of discrimination. The Government themselves have accepted up to a point the principle of privacy, but they then say that we must draw the line. These are complicated Amendments. The Parliamentary Secretary did his best to explain their effect. I understand the position is that in order to gain exemption from the general discrimination part of the Bill, the accommodation in the circumstances we have in mind must clearly be for not more than six people and the landlord, the landlord must reside there and intend to continue to reside there, and there must be shared accommodation, which is defined as accommodation other than storage accommodation and means of access.
Bearing in mind our discussions in Committee, which were on somewhat the same lines as the discussions we have had tonight, although I think that some important new points have been brought out tonight, I find the Government's attitude disappointing. They still have too stringent an attitude towards what will happen under the roof of a private house. I do not think that the Government Amendments adequately meet the realities of the small divided dwelling, because that is what we are dealing with, especially in crowded conditions.
Further, as my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) pointed out, no provision is made as to a part of a private house which is let as a self-contained flat—that is, without there being any shared accommodation. In any event, quite apart from the points 343 raised by our Amendments, that is a point which should engage the Parliamentary Secretary's attention as something to be dealt with later.
I come to our Amendments to Amendment No. 33. Amendment No. 33 would provide that, apart from the landlord and his household, there must be no more than six people in order that there shall be exemption; but it says—this is in the new subsection (3)—that in the first two years it will be all right if there are 12 people. We say that that is unrealistic and too restrictive. The combined effect of our two Amendments to Amendment 33 would be that the exemption should apply if there are no more than 12 people plus the landlord and his household.
If that is right, it would be right for a good many years to come. I do not say for all time, because, as was pointed out so rightly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), there can be no finality about legislation of this kind. We must feel our way. However, all the indications are that the Bill will be in operation for from three to five years. The next Government—we have a pretty good idea of which party they will be composed—will have to take a careful look at it, and especially at Clause 7. We believe that for the few years for which the Bill will run it would be right to plump for a limit of 12 people as forming the right dividing line between the circumstances where complete privacy should be allowed to prevail and the circumstances in which there may be scope for preventing discrimination.
I do not want to repeat the points made so forcefully by my hon. Friends. A very strong case has been made for further thoughts to be taken on this very delicate matter. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary himself would not wish to invade the right of privacy in a man's own home any more than is absolutely necessary to prevent discrimination in circumstances where it would be reasonable to do so.
§ Mr. MacColl
This is, as right hon. and hon. Members on both sides have said, a very difficult problem. It is a question of striking a careful balance between the rights of the owner of the 344 house and those of the unfortunate person who is trying to find somewhere to live. I fully accept that. I fully understand the difficulties. I thought that it was all the more unfair of hon. Members opposite to chide us with having done nothing to meet any of the points that they had raised.
§ Mr. Grieve
We did nothing of the kind. My hon. Friends the Members for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and others and I chided the Joint Parliamentary Secretary with not meeting the specific question of the house sub-divided into independent units.
§ Mr. MacColl
I wish to deal with the other point raised by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, the question of the number of people, the number of lodgers, to be written into the Bill. In Committee, hon. Members suggested 20, but, as the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said, there was general agreement that that was too high. In their Amendment to Clause 2, hon. Members suggested 10. We suggest that for two years it should be 12 and that after two years, after the test period or phasing for which the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) asked, it should come down to six. All the response we have to that is that we ought to make it 12 for all time. Right hon. and hon. Members may not think that we have gone far enough in this difficult matter, but to say that we have not looked carefully and anxiously at the question is to be less than fair.
I agree with what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said in his last speech in the House. He said that there was a problem here, that one was not entitled to interfere with conduct because one thought it morally reprehensible unless there were important social consequences arising from the conduct in question. I entirely share that view. It is a good starting point. Where I part company from the right hon. and learned Gentleman is in my assessment of the social consequences. In housing more than in any other field in which racial prejudice can operate, the social consequences, the consequences to the public apart from the parties directly concerned, can be disastrous because, unless people can have a 345 wide choice of homes, they cannot avoid the sort of concentration in certain parts of towns which becomes known as the ghetto.
When the Government are scolded, as they often are, for not doing enough to deal with overcrowding caused in certain areas by immigration—this is the problem, the problem of concentration, not a wide spread over the country—one can only reply that it is possible to do little unless in addition to the public sector housing available there is also a wide choice of private accommodation. As one of my hon. Friends said, it must be accommodation which is cheap, accommodation of the kind which ordinary people want to use, not merely large houses. That is the reason why we consider that we have drawn the right line.
I should draw attention to one point about the self-contained flat which has not been mentioned. Under the Clause as we propose to amend it, if there are, say, three storeys to the house, the bottom one being in the occupation of the owner and the next sharing accommodation with it, the top storey can be self-contained. It is not necessary to have sharing of accommodation with each of the other two households. To some extent, therefore, that goes in the direction of meeting the point made by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle).
§ Dr. Miller
Surely, my hon. Friend is aware of the situation in places like Glasgow in the tenement blocks which may be three, four, or sometimes 10 or 12 storeys high. There is separate close accommodation for people, but there are all kinds of common parts, a common entrance and common facilities. There is really no difference between that kind of proximity and the kind of proximity about which hon. Members opposite are worried.
The difficulty here is to decide where to draw the line. I am dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member for Runcorn, whose views everyone respects. The great snag in this proposal which he saw was the one raised by the self-contained flat. When we come to draw the line, the self-contained flat with its separate door which can be locked is a reasonable test of whether or not the man's home is being shared or a separate home is created with which he 346 is dealing as a separate unit of accommodation. If we went so far as to include vertical self-contained accommodation, we should have the difficult question of what we do about self-contained accommodation going laterally. There is the problem of the next door house, of the two semi-detached houses, when the man who buys them lets one and not the other, as so often happens. One would soon get into great difficulties about the kind of test to be applied.
I recognise that this is a difficult problem which the Street Committee found baffling. It did not come to a conclusion on it, but set out clearly the choice which should be made and took as the test the question of intimate personal proximity. It said that if the owner of a block of 50 flats chooses to live in one he is quite clearly not living in his own home with the others. Similarly, if there are three self-contained flats with three different tenants, the Committee did not think that that should be regarded as the letting of a home. It is a commercial transaction. It then considered the case where there are other tenants in the accommodation sharing the facilities, and thought that this was the strongest. Interestingly enough, it used the widow, whose shadow has been the background of all our proceedings, to show that her main needs would be met not by converting to self-contained accommodation but by dealing with the sharing point.
Therefore, the Clause in its new form is the result of very careful, painful and conscientious examination of the problem to try to find the right balance between a number of possibilities, all of which are attractive in one way or another. My advice to the House is that it should accept the Clause in its new form.
§ Mr. Hogg
I must begin by apologising for not having been present throughout this important discussion. Obviously, in a prolonged debate such as this, one must delegate one's rests when one is away. I apologise to the hon. Members who have taken part, including my hon. Friends, for not having been present throughout.
Everyone would agree that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has proceeded in a peaceable and wholly acceptable manner. I hope to do the same, although I think that the question will inevitably proceed to a Division. I hope that it 347 will be a Division without any ill-will, as the last one can be said to have been.
There are points of agreement, at any rate between the two Front Benches, and it is as well to emphasise them and the points of difference here. Both sides are agreed that in the intimate field of housing, both for reasons of convenience, which are important, and for reasons of principle, there must be an exemption limit of some kind. We think—we have divided upon this, and, therefore, I do not need to elaborate the difference—that there should be separate treatment for temporary accommodation and accommodation which is sought as a permanent home. I do not want to embark upon this again.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.
§ Mr. Hogg
The Government on the whole have sought to place their exemption limit common to both temporary accommodation and permanent accommodation, and we have sought to make a separate exemption limit for temporary and permanent accommodation. We are now dealing with permanent accommodation, recognising that the Government have ha$ their way in embracing temporary accommodation with it.
The first question is that of sharing. Should that be an essential factor in declaring what is meant by "small accommodation"? We think "no"; I understand that the Government think "yes". This is not a fundamental difference between the two sides of the House, although it is a difference on which we may have to choose by voting.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), to whose views I always listen with respect, spoke of his own experience and tended to think that the Government were right. I can speak only of my experience. I have had only the shortest period of my life in shared accommodation, but in the course of my professional life I have had considerable 348 experience of the bitterness and misery caused by people who do not get on in multiple units whether the accommodation of the kitchen and so on is shared or not.
I do not find the criterion of shared accommodation decisive. It is, of course, extremely important. Whether a kitchen, a toilet or a bathroom is shared is perhaps one of the most important factors in the situation, and I do not want to underestimate it, but noise and deliberately engineered nuisance occur whether the accommodation is shared or not. In my early days at the Bar in the Shoreditch and Clerkenwell County Courts the number of miserable, bitter, prolonged, expensive and unrewarding disputes that I heard being fought out to nobody's advantage which depended simply on noise or mutual persecution were almost unnumbered. I admit that shared accommodation is important, but I do not find it decisive.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that most of those cases, which I entirely accept exist, had nothing to do with colour, racial or ethnic problems? It was merely that individuals did not get on with each other.
§ Mr. Hogg
I agree absolutely with the hon. Gentleman. In those days—I am speaking of many years ago—the question of race hardly arose. This is a novel problem, but I think we are entitled to bring our personal experiences to bear on the problem of race as it has emerged in the last 12 or perhaps 20 years. The reasons why people do not get on are innumerable. It may be religion, it may be race, it may be family or it may be personal. They are irrational in their inception, but they are none the less miserable in their results.
The question we are trying to concentrate on is the point at which we draw the line, there being two incompatible principles, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, to bring to bear in the situation. There is the right of the individual to do what other people think wrong and there are the social consequences which proceed from the fact that a great number of people act in the same way. The question is not one of a vast gulf between the two sides of the 349 House. That would be a wrong way of presenting the problem. The Government have yielded to the Opposition on an important and significant but not fundamental point. The Bill as unamended said "four". The Government have said "twelve for two years and six thereafter." This is a concession and it would be churlish of me to under-estimate that they have argued this matter out with us and have come to a conclusion based on the desire to be reasonable.
The point at which we are at issue is not a vast question of principle but it may be one of considerable practical importance. The Government have moved from four to 12 for two years and thereafter to six and we say that there should be 12 but without a tapering period. That is the question we are debating. It is a narrow question but one which affects the fortunes of many thousands and, therefore, I am entitled to spend time upon it. It is not a question which shakes society to its foundations. If we divide upon it, I hope that we shall do so without bad temper.
The reasons which have led me to take the higher rather than the lower limit are twofold. The first is the question of workability, of the practical efficiency of the Bill. It is true that a large number of people live in units of accommodation which come within the higher exemption limit which I would seek to impose, bat on the other hand the amount of reward one gets for investigating any particular complaint which affects the range between six and 12 is very small.
I want the Race Relations Board to do significant and important work. I do not want it to get bogged down on a great number of small and individually unremunerative cases, each of which takes just as much time and trouble to investigate as one of the larger cases. That is a reasonable and practical ground of convenience.
Secondly, I appeal to the principle of justice. The managers of small units of accommodation have to face different management problems from those of the larger units. I have pointed this out before and I do not want to weary the House with it, but the question of scale ultimately develops into a question of principle. If one employs five men, one cannot make switches or make individual arrangements of the sort one can make 350 if one employs a large number of people. It is a question of judgment as to where to draw the line and I would prefer the higher to the lower limit.
Lastly, we come to the question of tapering. There are those who have used the question of tapering in seeking to show that we on this side, by avoiding the tapering provisions, want to enshrine our limit in permanent form for ever. That is not so. I have said this before but it is important to repeat it. We are embarking upon a novel and in some ways perilous kind of legislation, as our current discussions have shown. I do not pretend that the limit which we have proposed is a matter of eternal verity at all.
In the nature of things—and I say this without attempting to make a party point —this Parliament is ultimately coming to an end at some time. The tapering limits which have been proposed by the Government in both this and the employment provisions probably overstretch the bounds of this Parliament, and another Government, conceivably of the same, but probably of a different complexion, will take their place. Are we to legislate for that Parliament or that Government, or to legislate as far as we can see? We on this side of the House think that we should legislate as far as we can see, and that is not particularly far in this context. A new Government—and a new Parliament will legislate in the light of the experience of what the limits should be. We think that 12 and not six is the right limit. We think that we should not limit the legislation to shared accommodation and we think that temporary accommodation should be separately treated.
In those circumstances, despite the very courteous, careful and conscientious speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide the House as I have indicated.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: No. 26, in page 3, line 40, leave out 'resides' and insert:
'(in this subsection and subsection (2) below referred to as "the landlord") resides and intends to continue to reside'.
§ No. 29, in line 41, leave out paragraph (b).351
§ No. 31, in page 4, line 9, leave out from 'by' to 'shared' in line 10 and insert 'the landlord, relevant accommodation'.—[Mr. MacColl.]
Amendment proposed: No. 33, in page 4, line 12, at end insert:
'(2) Premises shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) above as small premises if—
(a) in the case of premises comprising residential accommodation for one or more households (under separate letting or similar agreements) in addition to the accommodation occupied by the landlord, there is not normally residential accommodation for more than two such households and only the landlord and any member of his household reside in the accommodation occupied by him;
§ (b) in the case of premises not falling within paragraph (a) above, there is not normally residential accommodation on the premises for more than six persons in addition to the landlord and any members of his household.
§ (3) During the two years beginning with the commencement of this Act, subsection (2)(b) above shall have effect as if for the reference to six persons there were substituted a reference to twelve persons'.—[Mr. MacColl.]
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in paragraph (b) leave out 'six' and insert 'twelve'.—[Mr. Hogg.]
§ Question put, That the Amendment to the proposed Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 234.353
|Division No. 272.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Astor, John||Gresham Cooke, R.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Grieve, Percy||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Gurden, Harold||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Peel, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Percival, Ian|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Biff en, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pym, Francis|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Blaker, Peter||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Higgins, Terence L.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Body, Richard||Hirst, Geoffrey||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Brewis, John||Holland, Philip||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bryan, Paul||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Royle, Anthony|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Iremonger, T. L.||Russetl, Sir Ronald|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Burden, F. A.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Speed, Keith|
|Cooke, Robert||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Stainton, Keith|
|Cordle, John||Kirk, Peter||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Rlpon)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kitson, Timothy||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Costain, A. P.||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Tapsell, Peter|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lane, David||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Crouch, David||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Maddan, Martin||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Maginnis, John E.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Marten, Neil||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Doughty, Charles||Maude, Angus||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshahon)||Monro, Hector||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||More, Jasper||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Murton, Oscar||Younger, Hn. George|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Goodhart, Philip||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gower, Raymond||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Grant, Anthony||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Mr. Bernard Weatherill|
|Abse, Leo||Forrester, John||Millar, Dr. M. S.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Freeson, Reginald||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Anderson, Donald||Galpern, Sir Myer||Molloy, William|
|Archer, Peter||Ginsburg, David||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Gregory, Arnold||Moyle, Roland|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Murray, Albert|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Neal, Harold|
|Barnes, Michael||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Newens, Stan|
|Barnett, Joel||Griffiths, Rt. Hn, James (Llanelly)||Ogden, Eric|
|Baxter, William||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Beaney, Alan||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Bence, Cyril||Hamling, William||Orme, Stanley|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Hannan, William||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Blackburn, F.||Haseldine, Norman||Paget, R. T.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hattersley, Roy||Palmer, Arthur|
|Boardman, H. (Le'gh)||Hazell, Bert||Pannell, nt. Hn. Charles|
|Booth, Albert||Heffer, Eric S.||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Boston, Terence||Henig, Stanley||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hilton, W. S.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Boyden, James||Hooley, Frank||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Horner, John||Pentland, Norman|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Rankin, John|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howie, W.||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Buchan, Norman||Hoy, James||Richard, Ivor|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Huckfield, Leslie||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E)|
|Chapman, Donald||Hunter, Adam||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Coe, Denis||Hynd, John||Rose, Paul|
|Coleman, Donald||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se &Spenb'gh)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Concannon, J. D.||Janner, Sir Barnett||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jeger, Mrs.Lena(H'b'n& St.P'cras,S.)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Cronin, John||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Rt. Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Silverman, Julius|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Judd, Frank||Slater, Joseph|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire,W.)||Kelley, Richard||Small, William|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stratford)||Lawson, George||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Leadbitter, Ted||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Davies, S. 0. (Merthyr)||Lee, John (Reading)||Summersklll, Hn Dr. Shirley|
|Dell, Edmund||Lestor, Miss Joan||Swain, Thomas|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Taverne, Dick|
|Dewar Donald||Lomas, Kenneth||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Luard, Evan||Urwin, T. W.|
|Dickens, James||Lubbock, Eric||Varley, Eric G.|
|Dobson, Ray||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Doig, Peter||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Dunn, James A.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Dunnett, Jack||McCann, John||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||MacColl, James||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Macdonald, A. H.||Weitzman, David|
|Eadie, Alex||McGuire, Michael||Wellbeloved, James|
|Edelman, Maurice||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross& Crom'ty)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Ellis, John||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Ennala, David||Mackintosh, John p.||Whitlock, William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Maclennan, Robert||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Winnlck, David|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Manuel, Archie||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Marks, Kenneth||Yates, Victor|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mikardo, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ford, Ben||Millan, Bruce||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Mr. Neil McBride.|
§ Amendment agreed to.355
Further Amendments made: No. 34, in page 4, line 13, leave out 'subsection (1)' and insert:
the foregoing provisions of this section'.
§ No. 35, in line 14, after 'accommodation', insert 'or to the landlord'.356
No. 36, in line 28, leave out 'subsection (1) above' and insert:
'the foregoing provisions of this section'.
No. 37, in line 30, at end insert:
'and "relevant accommodation" means any accommodation other than storage accommodation and means of access'.—[Mr. Callaghan.]
§ Mr. Speaker
We now come to Amendment No. 38, in page 4, line 32, at end insert 'cabin', with which I suggest that we take also the following Amendments:
§ No. 39, in line 33, leave out 'accommodation' and insert 'cabins'.
No. 40, in line 33, after 'accommodation', insert:
'in a hotel, boarding house, or other similar establishment or'.
§ No. 42, in line 36, leave out 'such accommodation' and insert 'any such cabin'.
§ Amendment No. 44, in line 36, after 'such', insert 'residential'.
§ Mr. Rose
As Amendment No. 39 by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary entirely meets the point of my Amendment No. 38, I do not propose to move it. I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for meeting the wishes of the Committee in this matter in distinguishing between cabin accommodation, on the one hand, with its necessary close proximity and intimacy and, on the other hand, the general accommodation in ships. For that reason, I do not wish to proceed with my Amendment.
§ Amendment made: No. 39, in page 4, line 33, leave out 'accommodation' and insert 'cabins'.—[Mr. Callaghan.]
§ Mr. Rose
I beg to move Amendment No. 41, in page 4, line 33, after 'ship', insert:'on the specific request of an intending passenger'.The addition of the words which I propose would prevent the occurrence of a situation which was referred to in Committee whereby a shipping company or the employees of a shipping company attempted to operate a policy of segregation or apartheid. As I said then, I recognise that with the provision of cabin accommodation one cannot force people to share accommodation which puts them in close proximity for the period of a long voyage. I cited the problem which might arise if, for example, a Turkish and a Greek Cypriot were asked to share the same cabin. The same situation might well arise, after the proceedings on this stage of the Bill, if I were asked to share 358 a cabin with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).
What I cannot accept is that, without a specific request from a prospective voyager on a shipping line, the shipping line should nevertheless allocate accommodation on a racial basis, because it would be open to the shipping line to use the legitimate exemption which is provided for in the Clause to give legal sanction to a policy of segregation in the allocation of accommodation.
Even on this side of the House, we have to concede to prejudice where to ignore it would create a worse situation. We should not, however, pander to the possibility of prejudice which has not already been expressed or shown. That would be the sure way to stimulate that kind of prejudice. It therefore seems to me that, where there has not been a specific request, the wording should be so framed as to prevent the possibility of places on a ship being allocated on a racial basis.
For that reason I commend the Amendment to the House, because the Clause, as it now stands, cuts down the scope not only of the Bill as it stood before Committee stage, but also of the Race Relations Act, 1965, which applied to places of public resort. Essentially, if one is not to undermine the basis of the Bill and of the 1965 Act, we have to be careful in circumscribing the exceptions that the law permits to the general provisions with regard to discrimination. I believe the Amendment does precisely that, and for this reason I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be as helpful in meeting this point as he has undoubtedly been in meeting the earlier Amendment with regard to cabin accommodation as distinct from general accommodation on board ship.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It seems a little churlish after what my hon. Friend said about my meeting him on the previous Amendment not to be able to do so in relation to the cabins now, but I regret that I cannot.
I have discussed this matter with the Board of Trade. As my hon. Friend knows, the shipping companies do not 359 operate discrimination in these matters. They have no intention of doing so. It would be foreign not only to their policy but to their interests to do so, because they run ships that cater for people of all colours. The main objection that they have, and which I ask the House to accept, to a provision on these lines is that it puts them in a very difficult position without altering the policy that they endeavour to follow. They make certain assumptions, they operate on the basis of very long experience, and on the whole the system works out very well at present. If it did not work well, then we would have to look at it again, but I know of no discrimination of this sort at the present time, and therefore I would ask my hon. Friend not to press the Amendment.
|5||(5) It shall not be unlawful by virtue of section 5 above for any person to discriminate against another with respect to the disposal by the former of his interest in any premises owned and wholly occupied by him unless he uses the services of an estate agent in connection with the disposal, or publishes or displays, or causes the publication or display, of an advertisement or notice in connection therewith.|
|10||(6) For the purposes of subsection (5) above a person shall be taken to own premises if the fee simple or a lease of the premises is vested in him, and in that subsection 'estate agent' means a person who in connection with the disposal of an interest in land does any of the following acts in the course of a trade, business or profession, that is to say, he brings together or takes steps to bring together the person proposing to dispose of the interest and the prospective purchaser thereof, or acts as an auctioneer.|
|In the application of this subsection to Scotland 'fee simple' means the estate or interest of the proprietor of the dominium utile.|
§ Mr. Speaker
With this Amendment we can discuss the Amendments to the Amendment, in line 2, leave out from 'of' to 'by' in line 3 and insert:an interest in any premises owned'in line 2, after 'in', insert 'or the letting of' and in line 3, leave out from 'him' to end of line 5.
§ Mr. Callaghan
This is an Amendment of substance that I should say a word about. It arose out of a discussion in Committee, and the Amendment, which will form the new subsections (5) and (6) of Clause 7, sets out circumstances in which it is not unlawful to discriminate, which is perhaps an odd way of putting the proposition. To put it positively, the Amendment means that a private householder who seeks to dispose of his house privately without advertisement shall not be regarded as being in breach of the Bill if he discriminates. I do not know the circumstances in which this is likely to arise, but the position which the Committee had in mind, and which I am meeting by the Amendment,
§ Mr. Rose
Although I cannot say that I am entirely satisfied with the reply of my right hon. Friend, and it was not my intention to allege that any particular shipping company would necessarily want to discriminate—I was basing this upon the interpretation that might be given to the wording—since my right hon. Friend has been so forthcoming in the other matter, perhaps I may meet him half-way and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: No. 42, in page 4, line 36, leave out 'such accommodation and insert' any such cabin'.—[Mr. Callaghan.]
§ is that of a man who wishes to dispose of his house to a son or a daughter, or to an even more distant relative or to a close friend. He does not advertise it in any way. It is a private transaction and, as such, it is right that no third party should intervene in it. It is for that reason that I am proposing to except these genuinely private sales by an owner-occupier.
§ If, however, he uses an agent to dispose of his property or if he publicises the matter or displays an advertisement for the sale of his property, then it ceases to be an entirely private transaction, and in that case it would be subject to the Measure and the normal provisions would apply.
§ I have heard it said many times that this requires a private house owner to sell his house to a coloured man. Of course it does not mean anything of the sort. In the case I am now discussing, of a private transaction, he can do exactly as he pleases. But if he advertises or uses an agent, he may not refuse to sell 361 his house on grounds of colour, race or whatever the ethnic provisions contained in the discrimination provisions. That is the difference. It is an important difference. This concession to the views expressed in Committee will apply to owner-occupied property and, for this purpose, owner-occupied property includes leasehold property.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
It would be nice at this hour to be able to welcome this as a major concession, but transparently it is not. This concession is likely to be very limited in its practical scope. The right hon. Gentleman said that people may do what they please in their private transactions of selling houses. But how many people buy or sell their houses as a purely personal and private transaction, without any intervention or assistance, save possibly that of solicitors for conveyancing?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman may or may not be conversant with these matters. I do not recall having seen him often before. I do not know for how long he has been an hon. Member or what experience he has of these matters.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be interested to learn that only six months ago I disposed privately of the house which I then owned. This is not uncommon in parts of the world where, I admit, we do not own rather grand houses.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The Home Secretary is very fortunate. According to what I read in the newspapers, the right hon. Gentleman has had four houses to dispose of or acquire in one way or another. We do not know whether or not he made a good bargain. Nor do we know whether the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) made a good bargain. It might help if I tell the hon. Gentleman my qualifications, such as they are, in these matters. I have practised in the law for a great many years, and in a side of the law which has brought me a little into contact with these issues. So my experience extends a little beyond the six months for which he takes such credit.
362 Despite those two interventions, I repeat that I do not believe that it is very normal for people to buy or sell houses as a purely personal, private and unaided transaction. Apart from his personal experience, to which the Home Secretary evidently attaches so much importance—[Interruption.]—he would not have mentioned it if he did not attach importance to it.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I thought when I gave way to the hon. Member when he made an intervention from a seated position—[Interruption.]—is the hon. Member criticising me for having given way to him and his hon. Friends?
I submit—as I did before those three interruptions to which, I hope courteously, I gave way—that in my experience and in the general experience it is not very usual to buy or sell houses as purely private and personal transactions unaided by any advice or assistance. [Interruption.] Hon. Members say, on what evidence? Has any inquiry been made?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making very heavy weather of this, but he knows that he is wrong. This Amendment was pursued and was pressed on me by his own side in Committee.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
If the right hon. Gentleman would amend it in the form suggested by my hon. Friends, to exempt private transactions without the limitations which the right hon. Gentleman puts on it, I would willingly concede that it was a concession of substance which we should receive with appreciation.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not on the Committee. The point put to me was about the owner-occupier. He should know when he is on a weak point.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
If the right hon. Gentleman will extend his Amendment, as he is asked to do by the Amendment in the names of my hon. Friends, to all sales by owner-occupiers without the limitation that they should not use an estate agent, and should not advertise them, I am sure that we would all accept his Amendment as a substantial concession and one which we ought to welcome. Will he do that? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If he does not do that, I repeat that this is not an Amendment of substance and not one which should be welcomed.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer this. What is the position where a surveyor is employed to give a report on the condition and physical state of the house for both parties? What is the position where a surveyor is brought in to make a valuation for the joint information of both parties? He is clearly bringing the parties together by rendering his services in that way, but under the Amendment that will exclude those parties from the concessions the right hon. Gentleman is making.
How is it suggested that the vendor of a house can fix the price without testing the market; if he is to make a private sale, if he is not allowed to consult an estate agent, if he is not allowed to insert an advertisement and not even allowed to erect a notice. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is."] If he does, he does not get the benefit of the concession which the right hon. Gentleman is making. How can he test the market without doing one or other of those things? Any prudent person when selling a house, even if he is to sell it by private transaction, will test the market in one or other of those ways. Very few people indeed will enter into the transaction without doing one or other of those things. That being so, this concession as it is framed is illusory and a mere piece of window dressing. Far from being worthy of being welcomed by the House, it is evidence of the very limited degree of concession which the Home Secretary is willing to make in the passage of the Bill.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Whitaker
I am unhappy about this concession, but for precisely opposite reasons to those of the right hon. and learned Member the Mem- 364 ber for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). I believe I am right in saying that only last month the Supreme Court of the United States of America declared that discrimination in any private sale in housing is illegal, which is something which we are seeking not to do in the Bill.
It has rightly and often been said that our circumstances in Britain are not exactly parallel to those in the United States. The chief difference is that the racial problem in the United States is of far greater magnitude than it is in this country. Therefore, racial legislation should certainly not be any less strong in this country than it is in America. I do not wish to prolong this point, but this is one of a number of concessions which have been made to weaken the Bill. In general, I cannot help feeling that any pandering to prejudice does not diminish that prejudice. It increases it. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend, who has made a number of concessions to weaken the Bill, will, with impartiality, make some more concessions—to those on this side who wish the Bill to be strengthened.
§ Mr. Costain
I am in full agreement with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). His experience in housing is very great. I hope that the Home Secretary is not going to claim that I have no experience of houses and house sales.
§ Mr. Callaghan
What I would claim is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who I respect for his knowledge, displays a lamentable ignorance of the way in which most people in Britain know the state of the market and the value of their own houses without having to go near an estate agent and are quite capable of forming their own view as to what the value of their house is.
§ Mr. Costain
The Home Secretary talks utter poppycock. He may, from what we read in the Press, be an expert at selling four houses, but I doubt if anybody, with present house values, has the ability properly to assess the value of his house without testing the market. The Amendment is not a concession. It represents mixed thinking. It is said that 365 somebody can sell a house privately, provided that he does not use the services of an estate agent, but the Bill makes no reference to what is an estate agent.
My right hon. and learned Friend referred to a surveyor or valuer being brought in to assess the property. Is he an estate agent, or is he not? Most valuers are in some capacity connected with the estate agency business. If someone calls in a partner in an estate agency who happens to be the valuer in that agency, does he contravene this provision?
Has not the Home Secretary forgotten what this is all about? Someone who is about to sell his house probably is not very concerned about who he sells it to. The people who will be concerned about that are the neighbours of the vendor. The result of this so-called concession will be a black market in houses. So many Socialist controls end up in black markets. There will be a black market in houses because the next-door neighbour will want to acquire the house so as to have some control over who his neighbours are. He is the person who will be affected. When anybody wants to sell a house, provided that he can persuade his next door neighbour to buy it from him without the services of an estate agent, this will be the easiest way to do it, because the vendor and his next door neighbour can talk over the fence. The neighbour will buy the house and it will be his job to select the person who is to live next door to him. This concession is unworkable. It is not really a concession at all. It would lead to a black market in housing, a situation which this House should not bring about.
The right thing to do is to accept the Amendments to the Amendment and so make it possible for people—owner-occupiers—to have freedom to sell their own properties. Does the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) want to intervene?
§ Mr. John Lee
Yes. I want the hon. Member to make it clear to the House whether he wants to limit the scope of discrimination or extend it? This is what the Bill is about. It is not at all clear from what he has said where he stands on this. We want to know.
§ Mr. Costain
I made my position perfectly clear when we had a debate earlier this evening whether an Englishman's home should be his castle. There is here reference specially to a person's own home. That is a special situation. A person should be free to deal with it as he wishes. That is my view on this.
I suggest that this Amendment is not really a concession at all unless we accept the Amendments to it, and I hope the House will accept them.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)
My right hon. Friend moved this Amendment in response to requests from hon. Gentlemen opposite, and now they say they do not like it. What we want to know is, are they going to divide the House against it? Because, if so, they may find some support from this side of the House; and, indeed, we could vote the Amendment down. I ask the hon. Gentleman the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), did he mean what he said? Because if he did, if he does not like the Amendment, he is going to divide the House and vote against the Amendment. All right. I would make two suggestions. One to my right hon. Friend: since the gift which he has offered to hon. Gentlemen opposite has been so brusquely rejected, he ought to withdraw the Amendment. I see that my right hon. Friend is tempted. I think he would satisfy all quarters of the House if, for once, he went along with his old schoolmate and withdrew this Amendment. But if he does not, then those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken against this Amendment will be manifestly guilty of the most arrant hypocrisy if they do not divide the House against it, and if they do, I think I can almost assure them we can vote it down.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Not being a lawyer, and not having sat on the Committee on the Bill, I do not wish to detain the House for long, but in reply to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) I would say I do not wish to look a gift horse in the mouth, but, on the other hand, I do wish to speak to the Amendments which I and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) have put down to the Amendment. Alas, those Amendments to the Amendment have not been called and cannot be moved. Otherwise, they 367 would have considerably improved the Amendment moved by the Home Secretary.
I am most concerned about the position of the owner-occupiers of houses or flats or other property. As I understand it, this Amendment denies to an owner-occupier the right to dispose of his house or flat or other property as he may see fit. When the Home Secretary says it is nonsense for one to go to an estate agent when one is seeking the best price for a house I ask him to think again. I can assure him that during the time he was Chancellor of the Exchequer the Railways Board disposed of quite a number of houses privately in my constituency and certainly did not get the best price in doing so. I regard the Amendment as a thoroughly mean, unhelpful concession. I wish to amend it, but my Amendment has not been called. It is unhelpful to say that an owner-occupier can dispose of his property privately, but not through an estate agent or by advertising.
Does the Home Secretary realise that this places very severe limitations on the freedom of an owner-occupier? In my Amendment I added the words "or letting", because to a layman like myself "disposal" means selling and not "or letting". However, I understand that in the lawyers' sense "disposal" includes letting.
It is a fundamental right of an owner-occupier to do what he wishes with his home, and the Home Secretary is taking it away. It is another case of the man in Whitehall knowing best. The Home Secretary is acting under a dictum which one used to see in big letters as one crossed the frontier of Spain: "There is no freedom without order". Why cannot he trust the good sense of Englishmen to act fairly in these matters? It is not orders or dictates from the Home Secretary or anyone else that will improve race relations, but a growing sense of responsibility. The more one resorts to orders and the less to appeals to responsibility the more difficult it will be to overcome the very difficult problem of race relations—[Interruption.]—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Some hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like my speech, but I wish that they would let me make it as I want.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Why should not the owner-occupier have the freedom of the open market to sell or let his house as he wishes? What reason has the Home Secretary to believe that an owner-occupier will not act in the best way to achieve racial harmony and good relations? This is bad law. We shall put 8,550,000 owner-occupiers in grave danger of breaking the law. They must be allowed to retain the right to choose.
If the Home Secretary really believes that it is right to sell by private means, why is it wrong to sell by public means? In this Human Rights Year of the United Nations he is taking away a fundamental right of an owner-occupier to act as he thinks best and to sell his house if he wishes. He is taking away the freedom to choose. Does not the right hon. Gentleman trust his own countrymen to act as they see fit?
Whilst I realise that it is difficult to divide against the Amendment, I shall certainly vote against the Third Reading of the Bill because of it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
No. The words "three Amendments thereto" are in brackets. Mr. Speaker's selection indicates that the three Amendments to the Government Amendment can be referred to in the debate on the Amendment, but they are not selected. They cannot be called, and there cannot be Divisions on them.
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Winstanley
I am not an estate agent, not yet; I am not a solicitor; and I have certainly not disposed of as many houses as the Home Secretary, but I should like to ask the House in making up its mind about this Amendment and 369 the subject to which it relates to think about what would happen in reality in regard to private sales.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) that the Home Secretary's Amendment is drawn pretty tightly. There are not many people who sell their houses wholly by word of mouth. There are many who seek to avoid estate agents, for very understandable reasons, and seek to sell their houses themselves, but usually they advertise them. Therefore, I accept what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said when he pointed out that this is drawing it rather narrowly. But in deciding whether or not this matters, let us think for a moment what happens under the Bill with regard to private sales within the definition the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind.
We are not dealing here with making a whole series of acts illegal. We are dealing with procedural for introducing conciliation through the Race Relations Board. If a person who is anxious to purchase a house finds that the house is not sold to him, what can he do? He cannot automatically put some embargo on the sale. All he can do is to complain to the Race Relations Board that the house has not been sold to him, and I think the Board is going to say in 99 cases out of a hundred, "Hard luck". It is only when he can produce evidence that the house was not sold to him on grounds of racial discrimination that the Board is going to investigate the matter.
If the Board get a constant series of complaints from someone that in his efforts to purchase a house through a particular estate agent he has constantly been told that the house has been sold, or that they have refused to give him leaflets about properties, and so on, this is precisely the kind of situation which the Board surely ought to investigate, because here one would have an organised pattern of discrimination practised systematically by an organisation or individual agent.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are dealing with a particular limited Amendment, an Amendment proposed by the Home Secretary to provide that something shall not be unlawful. In discussing this Amendment it is not open to hon. Members to ventilate the whole question of what happens to the Race Relations Board.
§ Dr. Winstanley
I hope you will immediately rebuke me if I stray out of order again, Sir Eric. My point is that this Amendment proposed by the Home Secretary has been objected to by many hon. Members because they believe it does not provide a sufficient safeguard. I am trying to explain that a safguard does exist in the circumstances in which this Amendment is set, namely, in the circumstances under which the procedures are carried out. But in view of your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will not pursue that particular line, save to say this. I want to put this question very clearly to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East and others who have objected to this Amendment, in order to make then-position perfectly clear. They have objected to this, and I hoped the right hon. and learned Member would intervene to answer my question.
If we take a private sale of a house, arranged privately by an individual, and the sale is arranged to a person named let us say, Mr. Arthur Brown—[Interruption.]—Mr. George Brown, if one likes, and let us accept that his credit-worthiness has been established and all the procedures have been gone through, and the householder who is making the private sale discovers—on the threshhold of doing the final irreversible act—when he meets this Mr. George Brown that Mr. George Brown is coloured. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that this person should be allowed to say, "I did not realise that you were coloured, and therefore I am not selling the house to you"? That is what this is about. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say "Yes" or "No"?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I am not saying that for a moment. Whatever the colour of the hypothetical Mr. Brown in the example, the transaction should obviously go through. All I am saying is that the number of transactions done on this basis 371 will be very small, and the text of the Amendment constitutes an invitation and inducement to people to sell and buy houses as a personal private transaction and eschew the benefits of professional advice, which they would be much wiser to avail themselves of.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) will not be surprised, because of his experience, if any Amendment is criticised for inadequacy or any other reason. This is what my hon. Friends have done.
I recognise that the Home Secretary has made some concession but it is a very strange and unusual one. He is, in effect, saying that he does not like discrimination but apparently it is all right to discriminate as long as one does it out of sight. There is nothing very noble about that. As long as one does it without the advice of an estate agent or auctioneer it is apparently all right, but if one engages one of those professional men it becomes wrong. I can see no great virtue in that.
The Home Secretary is admitting that this part of the Bill is unenforceable, that if one makes it completely an offence he knows full well that all this kind of thing will go on underground, that these transactions will not be done with the publicity which will enable the Bill to operate. Therefore, the only thing he has power to do is to enable some check to be made through the medium of the Amendment, which preserves some control through the limitation on the employment of an auctioneer or estate agent.
It is a very slight concession. It is a most unusual one. I see nothing very wonderful about it. It is an admission by the Government that in reality this is an unenforceable part of the legislation.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
When the Home Secretary was proposing to make the concession in Committee I expressed some reservations about it but was told that it was necessary to placate the Opposition and carry people with us. As it is evidently not placating the Opposition he should withdraw it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Before we get carried away on too great a wave about this I had better restate the facts.
The Amendment was pressed upon me from the Opposition Front Bench and hon. Gentlemen on the back benches opposite, including all three wings of the Conservative Party on this Bill—the progressives, the reactionaries and those who are either one or the other depending on the issue. So it was a united request. More than that—I say this seriously to my hon. Friends—it was also pressed upon me by hon. Members on this side. It was because it came unitedly from the Committee that I undertook to look at it, and it was on that basis that other Amendments were withdrawn.
This ought to be stated as a fact. We can have a bit of fun and say, "If they do not like it and gibe at it, withdraw it", but there was strong feeling in the Committee—perhaps in rather a less heated or hilarious atmosphere than we have now and a rather better informed atmosphere than in some of the contributions that we have had—that this would provide a useful means of effecting a concession. It was on that basis that I tabled the Amendment, on the basis that I was asked to table it by general consent, and it is on that basis that I shall ask the House to vote for it. I would not dream of withdrawing it at this moment. I say this with due deference to my old schoolmate. I will meet him some other time on some other particular matter, but on this one I hope that he will not press me.
I want to put the issue in relation to housing. Although I respect your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must say that we heard some prejudices expressed by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). He even dragged in Third Reading in order to make his speech. He must recognise that all experience shows that discrimination in housing and employment is the most serious aspect of discrimination that we have to deal with. Moreover, we have many coloured citizens who desire to purchase their own houses and they must be free to do so. We cannot create ghettos. We cannot have areas where they may buy and areas where they may not. One owner-occupier is as good as any other, no matter what may be his colour. That is the basis on which this proceeds and it 373 is a fundamental part of the Bill. If we allowed a substantial measure of discrimination in housing, Parliament would be storing up great trouble for the nation in future. This is a serious case and that is why I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's proposal that we should widen the concession to the limits to which he wishes to go.
I like and respect the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and I say to him that this really is a useful concession. My experience is long and good about what my constituents do and the way they test their market. In Cardiff, they know pretty closely—I do not know what it is like in Hertfordshire—the value of their houses and now that values are going up about 10 per cent. a year they keep an even closer eye on them. An increasing number of people have a very good idea of the value of their houses and do not wish to employ an estate agent. They wish to dispose of their houses privately and undertake the transaction. It is worth while providing for those cases.
Where the transaction is private, then no mischief is done. This provision does not stop anyone disposing of his house. It merely says, "If you advertise the sale of your house, you shall not specify, 'no coloureds need apply'". That is our purpose. I think we are all agreed that public offensiveness of this sort should be outlawed. That is why the House gave the Bill its Second Reading. Similarly, estate agents cannot be used for purpose of advancing discrimination.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about the position of a surveyor. The surveyor is a person who is engaged by both parties to give a valuation. He is not a person who, in the words of the Amendment…brings together or takes steps to bring together the person proposing to dispose of the interest and the prospective purchaser thereof, or acts as an auctioneer.Therefore, the surveyor engaged professionally in order to give a valuation is excluded.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I hope that it is as the right hon. Gentleman says, but he will appreciate that, if an agreement is made conditional to a valuation, the act of the valuer in giving his joint valuation is of course bringing the people together 374 in the sense that he is bringing them to a consensus, a contractual agreement.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I disagree with that. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are not a lawyer."] I thank heaven that I am not a lawyer sometimes when I hear the differing views which they put upon simple propositions. But I am advised, and I take my stand on the ordinary understanding of this matter, that a surveyor is engaged by two persons who have been brought together. He is engaged to give a valuation and he is not to be construed as being a person who has brought together the person who wishes to dispose of the property and a person who wishes to buy it.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Dr. Miller
Will my right hon. Friend give me a little clarification? The practice in Scotland is somewhat different from that in England. In Scotland estate agents are neither so popular nor so prevalent as they are in England and houses are sold by lawyers if not sold privately. Would a lawyer come into this category if he and not an estate agent were acting for this purpose?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The words are clear. If hedoes any of the following acts in the course of a trade, business or profession, that is to say, he brings together or takes steps to bring together the person proposing to dispose of the interest and the prospective purchaser".If a solicitor does that in the course of following a trade, business or profession, clearly he would be caught by the Bill in that connection, whether in Scotland, England or Wales, where these things sometimes happen.
I do not wish the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) to be misled by an aside which I just caught and which suggested that "disposal" would include lettings. I want to make it clear that it does not.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not want to get into deep water, but leaseholds are included and I understand that in the accepted sense a leasehold is for a relatively long period. I understood the 375 intention of the hon. Member for Harwich to be to deal with short lettings of, say, 12 months. I did not want him to be under any misapprehension as the result of an aside. I know that that does not make it any more palatable to him, but I did not want there to be any misunderstanding.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Did I understand the Home Secretary to say that his legal advice was that the words of the Amendment as they stood would not preclude a private owner-occupier from advertising his house for sale provided that the offensive words which he has mentioned were not included in the advertisement?
§ Mr. Callaghan
There seems to be some misunderstanding about this. Anybody can advertise his house for sale and there is nothing in the Bill to prevent anybody from doing so. Perhaps I have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
I want to get this clear. There is no question of the house having been publicly advertised by the owner-occupier and the fact that he has merely advertised it attracting penalties under the Bill?
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not know whether this is a purely private fight or whether I am allowed to take part. [HON. MEMBERS: "You started it."] That gives me a sort of locus standi. The Home Secretary perfectly rightly said that this discussion originated on this side of the House. I was one of those who originated it and I was supported from both sides. My Amendments are like bacon and eggs—excellent when eaten apart, but even better when eaten together. This was, in fact, intended to be taken together with a number of other Amendments, and it is not for me to accept the responsibility if the Home Secretary decides to take egg by egg and the bacon by bacon while, at the same time, omitting some of the more important parts.
It has been said that there is an element of horseplay between the two sides of the House, but that is not true. 376 The Home Secretary has a case of merit, and I have tried, in spite of the fact that I have not met with universal approval, to have a purely objective attitude; an attitude which was consistent.
The value of this Amendment has been under-estimated. During the Committee stage it was attacked from both sides of the House, by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) saying it was so enormous a concession on the part of the Government that the proverbial coach and horses could be driven through the Bill if it was accepted, and by my hon. and leaned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). He is somewhere about. Like the poor, he is always with us, and he mentioned, as did many of my hon. Friends during the course of that rather hilarious little debate, that so far from the hon. Member for York being right, the Amendment was valueless. They said that, they claimed, because statistically, it represented so tiny a proportion of the sales of houses in this country.
My own view is that both the hon. Member for York and my hon. and learned Friend were wrong. I agree that the vast majority of people who own houses sell them through the medium of an estate agent or by way of advertisement and, sometimes, through both; but, after a great deal of hesitation—and I must tell the House that I had great hesitation about this—I decided that it should be included in the Bill if I was to be consistent in my attitude.
I say that because I have consistently said that one must draw a distinction between the morality of the individual case and the social consequences resulting from a large number of cases piling up. One cannot get away from the fact that half of the immigrants buy their own houses. It is a fact, because it is recorded in the second report of the Race Relations Board, and one cannot get out of it. My hon. and learned Friend probably underestimates the number of people who do without an estate agent and also do without advertising and I think that it is in the nature of things that I cannot give the numbers who do.
It cannot be ignored because we do not know how many people sell their houses privately. But, if they do so and 377 select their purchaser on discriminatory grounds, then that is consistent with what I have said from the beginning; namely, that they should be allowed to do so whether it is morally desirable or not morally desirable. But if they use one of the principal means for selling their house, and unless one is to exempt freehold property altogether, then on that assumption, I cannot see how they could be exempt. If we can be told how it can be exempted, I would wish that it could be given sympathetic consideration.
I want on the whole to present a consistent view from this side of the House as to what we think ought to be done in this kind of situation. I have tried to do so, admittedly I have sometimes fallen foul of the Government, and sometimes of my hon. Friends. My view has been consistent. It has been that we are legislating for social conditions and not private morality. This is the line which I draw.
So far as units of accommodation are concerned, I have tried, in one way or another, to put an exemption limit by a numerical maximum. That seems sensible. If people choose to operate through the large agencies, the total effect of which is to create a social condition, and subject to the other limitations I have sought to insert into the Bill, it does not seem to me that I can think of a way in which one can exempt them altogether. If, on the other hand, they choose to use their own discretion, refuse to pay commission to an agent, select their own purchaser, it seems that they are indulging in an act of private morality, and I ought not to intervene. I said that I wondered whether this was a private fight or one in which I was entitled to intervene. I am bound to say that I felt in honour bound to the right hon. Gentleman to state my conclusions, and to say why I supported the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.