HC Deb 20 November 1969 vol 791 cc1482-4
3. Sir G. Sinclair

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the working relationships between the headquarters of the Community Relations Commission and the community relations councils throughout the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Callaghan

I believe that these working relationships are satisfactory, and I am aware of the great importance which the commission attaches to the support it can provide for the work of these councils.

Sir G. Sinclair

In view of the public evidence of widespread dissatisfaction, will the Home Secretary inquire further into the relationship between the commission and the community relations councils, especially those of Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Wandsworth, and make a report to the House?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman has referred to three councils out of 80. I am aware that there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction among a small number of councils. I constantly keep myself abreast of the relationship between the commission and the councils, and there is no evidence of widespread unrest.

9. Sir G. Sinclair

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the work of the Community Relations Commission.

Mr. Callaghan

The commission has been in existence for less than a year. It is operating in a difficult area, but its annual report, which has been laid before Parliament, shows that a good deal of positive work has been done.

Sir G. Sinclair

In view of the evidence of dissatisfaction among many senior members of staff, two of whom have resigned and others are contemplating employment elsewhere, will the Home Secretary now publish the Civil Service report, or will he institute an inquiry of his own and report to the House?

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman seems intent on making these assertions based on very little evidence. I am sorry that he is doing it when the commission is operating. It is a new body, which has teething troubles, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support it.

I will consider publication of the report, but the hon. Gentleman should not draw the conclusion that that means I will publish it.

Mr. Bidwell

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to draw to the attention of the commission and its chairman the need to get maximum local authority co-operation in community relations, as many Tory-controlled authorities, particularly Powellites and neo-Powellites, are dragging their feet on this question?

Mr. Callaghan

I hope that local authorities will co-operate. My hon. Friend spotlights one of the difficulties in the relationship between the commission and local committees, which are voluntary bodies partially financed by other institutions, and it is likely that they will have their own views about the way that the matter should be conducted. It is for the commission to try to harmonise

these views into a common programme of education in the matter.

Mr. Deedes

Accepting what the right hon. Gentleman says about it being early days, will he accept that several things are wrong: first, the lack of a full-time chairman; second, a good deal of internal dissension; and, third, a lack of resolution by the Home Office in following up the results of its own inquiry early in the summer?

Mr. Callaghan

On the first point, there need by no difficulty, if it were thought right, in considering whether the appointment should be full-time. That is not a point of principle.

Second, I am not aware of any widespread dissatisfaction. 'The hon. Gentleman should not speak for the Commission or its staff. I am aware that a small number of people are dissatisfied and are certainly doing their best to ensure that the hon. Gentleman makes the most of their dissatisfaction. However, I have no evidence that it is widespread.

On the third point, if we are at fault, I will follow it up; but I was not aware that we were at fault.