HC Deb 21 November 1974 vol 881 cc1499-500
2. Mr. David Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if it is his intention to introduce legislation to amend the Race Relations Act.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I am reviewing the working of the Act and will announce proposals for amending legislation in due course.

Mr. Stodart

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that the Lords' decision on the Preston Docks and Working Men's Club case has further compounded the damage done to race relations by the Charter case? Will he take into account this aspect of the matter and give an assurance that he will bring forward legislation early in the new year?

Mr. Jenkins

Clearly the House of Lords decision is a factor which must be taken very closely into account in any review of the legislation, but, as I have indicated, I should prefer to do this in conjunction with certain other matters which I think were ready for review in any event, with a view to producing amending legislation in due course. I cannot give my hon. Friend the promise that legislation will be introduced in the new year. We have to get through the sex discrimination Bill. But we shall give priority to race relations legislation after that.

Mr. Churchill

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable disquiet in Lancashire and through- out the country at the case of Mr. Sherrington? Will he undertake to uphold the rights of every British citizen, no matter what his colour may be? Is he also aware that it is intolerable that there should be discrimination on grounds of colour against British subjects? Is he aware, finally, that he will certainly have support from some hon. Members on the Opposition benches should he take steps to amend the Act?

Mr. Jenkins

I take note of the forthright views of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill). He hesitated only over the word "some". In our approach to this matter I believe that we shall have the support of all Members on the Government benches and, I hope, of as many as possible on the Opposition benches.

Mr. Bidwell

May I remind my right hon. Friend that there is no such thing as "the Race Relations Act"? There are two Acts—those of 1965 and 1968—and what is really needed is bringing into one comprehensive whole the meaning of Section 6 of the 1965 Act, which was designed to outlaw the propagation of race hatred.

Mr. Jenkins

I am aware of Section 6 of the 1965 Act, and I shall consider it in any review. I remind the House that I was the original promoter of the 1968 legislation, although it did not fall to me to carry it through all its stages. I believed that the 1965 Act needed strengthening. At present, there is a substantial case building up for strengthening the 1968 Act. As I have already indicated, though I am grateful for its views, I do not altogether share the views of the Select Committee of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) was a distinguished member. I wish to go further than the Select Committee did.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Since both the 1965 and 1968 Acts are totally objected to in principle by all reasonable people, will the Home Secretary realise that the only sensible way of amending them is to repeal them entirely?

Mr. Jenkins

I am afraid that my definition of "all reasonable people" and that of the hon. and learned Gentleman do not often coincide.