§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)
At the start of our discussions on the Bill I hope that we can all accept that, whatever may be our differences on details or methods, or even in some cases on the wisdom of legislation at all, we are agreed on the main objectives. We all want to promote good race relations and are completely committed to the principle of non-discrimination. Such an acceptance could save us from those accusations of racialist tendencies which all too often bedevil sensible arguments on race problems. It would also help us to discuss and, when we think it necessary, to criticise the Bill in a calm atmosphere which will help to remove racial tensions rather than exacerbate them.
We should also appreciate that it is our duty openly to voice the genuine anxieties of many people in this country. In doing so we have equally to differentiate between those genuine anxieties and the real prejudices shown in the vicious correspondence which I am sure all hon. Members receive from the real extremists. We have had a demonstration of that in the Public Gallery this afternoon. But, of course, I can refer only to the paper that has arrived on the Floor of the House. It is at least evidence that there are some real extremists in this country. We have to face that fact.
I start from the conviction that if the Bill is to work—and here I agree with the Home Secretary—it can only be a part of any race relations policy and has to operate against a background of public confidence. Public confidence can be gained if the Government's policy 1569 operates and is seen to operate on the basis clearly set out by the Home Secretary. I wish to put the right hon. Gentleman's words on the record once again. In answer to a Question from me he said:My policy, which I have stated on a number of occasions and repeat now, is that there is, in present or any foreseeable circumstances, a strict limit on the amount of immigration that this country can absorb. It is right and generally accepted that the rules have to be administered with a reasonable humanity—and problems of humanity do arise. Together with that strong control over immigration, we must have a most determined and liberal policy of complete equality for those settled in this country. I regard these matters as two sides of the same coin."—[Official Report, 12th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 596.]I wholeheartedly support that statement, both personally and on behalf of the Conservative Party.
On that basis I want to raise two questions which are vital to the success of the Bill and to race relations policy in general. First, is the policy of strict control of immigration working satisfactorily and, secondly, is it seen to be doing so? In that context I wish to raise two important issues, namely, illegal immigration together with overstaying, and immigration statistics. It cannot be said too often that if illegal immigration and over staying were to be taking place on any substantial scale they would destroy any race relations policy. It would render a Bill of this sort of little value, and would be monstrously unfair to those families from the new Commonwealth and Pakistan who have come here legally and who wish to settle in our midst as full British citizens.
Of course I know that the Home Secretary wishes to see illegal immigration rooted out. I also accept that some of the wilder rumours of the numbers evading the controls and over-staying can be discounted. Nevertheless, I must tell the House, the Home Secretary and the Minister of State that there is real public anxiety and that there is a case to be investigated and answered. I want to refer to an article that was published in the Daily Telegraph on 26th February. The remarks contained in it have been underlined by Mr. Deedes who at one time was the Chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, whom everyone knows and admires, and who took a considerable 1570 interest in this subject. The article by Mr. Barry O'Brien says:Indians, Pakistanis and East African Asians trying to get into Britain have found an easy way to beat immigration controls. They come in as visitors for six months or less and stay on…They troop in endlessly through the arrival terminals at Heathrow, some at least on every flight from India, Pakistan, Africa and the West Indies, and many flights are filled by them.The article continues:Airline and airport staff whose work brings them into continual contact with this daily round-the-clock influx laugh when they read Home Office statistics putting the number of immigrant settlers at 50,000 a year.These are important matters and cannot be written off.
§ Mr. Bidwell
There is a great danger that the right hon. Gentleman's last remarks will be misconstrued by those who have no close acquaintance with the problems that exist in my constituency and at Heathrow Airport. The right hon. Gentleman should be clear about what that means and not refer to an article that was published in the Daily Telegraph. He should be clear what the realities are. There is tight control over immigration and there has been for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman has just said that a stream of people come in. That is not the case.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I did not say that at all. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) will give me the benefit of listening to what I say. I said that that is what an article says is happening. I have not said whether it is true or not. If an article of this sort is published in a reputable newspaper which has a wide circulation, inevitably it raises questions and one would be hiding one's head in the sand if one pretended that it did not and does not present a case to be answered.
§ Mrs. Helene Hayman (Welwyn and Hatfield)
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the need to review vast generalisations of that sort. Will he take this opportunity to make it clear that the vast majority of those who come here on visitors' permits comply with the conditions and go home within the time laid down?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I must tell the hon. Lady that the question I am raising relates to what is said by many people, and it 1571 is no use pretending that this is not something felt on a very widespread basis. This may not be happening. I do not know whether it is happening or not. I do not believe that the hon. Lady knows whether or not it is happening. I doubt whether the Home Secretary or the Minister of State knows whether or not it is happening. If these claims can be rebutted, so much the better. But if they have any substance, I hope that very firm counter-action will be taken immediately, and that proper checks will be instituted to prevent overstaying. Surely that makes absolute sense.
Dr. M. S. Miller
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that there should be one law for people resident in this country having visitors from abroad and another law for another group of visitors merely because their skin happens to be another colour?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
No, I am not suggesting any such thing. That sort of question shows how important it is calmly to consider—and for the Home Secretary and the Minister of State to consider—whether or not these claims are right. It is no good this House trying to remove arguments of this sort, or trying to pretend that people studying the matter, such as Mr. Deedes, can be disregarded. They cannot be disregarded. We do not do ourselves any service in this House by disregarding them. Therefore, I hope that this matter will be looked into.
Now I want to say something with which the hon. Gentleman and others, I hope, will agree. Surely it is only if these public doubts can be set at rest that the position and the security of those who come from the New Commonwealth who are here already will be fully safeguarded. Surely that is true. Surely that is important, and surely it is right that if there are stories of this sort they should be rebutted if they can be rebutted, and that action is taken if they are right. To put our heads in the sand and to pretend that these stories have no foundation and that these things are not happening will do us no good in the end, because if they are then found to be correct, we shall all be engulfed in a great wave of anger from people who say that we have hidden the truth from them. That will do us no good whatsoever.
§ Mr. Lawson
Quite apart from the people about whom my right hon. Friend is talking, does he not agree that there is considerable cause for disquiet that even on the official figures the rate of entry of people from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan accepted for settlement in this country has risen by 60 per cent. in the past two years?
§ Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you kindly point out to me where in the Bill immigration is mentioned?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that when I consider that the right hon. Gentleman is going out of order I shall make reference to that. A Second Reading debate allows a fairly wide general debate on the whole question.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It is only fair for me to say to the hon. Gentleman that the Home Secretary himself made it perfectly clear in his opening speech that the climate in which the Bill operated and the way in which the whole race relations policy reacted was an essential feature that we had to consider when looking at the Bill. I have thought it only right—and I make no apology for this—to follow up what I said in relation to the Home Secretary's original statement and to consider the two questions that I have raised. I am now coming to the second question.
The second question concerns what is known as illegal immigration, and, indeed, overstaying. We have to face these matters. Here again, on 2nd February 1976, the Home Secretary, in answer to Mr. Robin Day in a television interview, said words to this effect:I believe absolutely firmly the people of this country must be told the truth about what is happening and anyone who tries to conceal that is doing a great disservice to himself, his Government and his country.Again, I agree entirely with the Home Secretary's words. I know that he is absolutely genuine in seeking to fulfil that undertaking. Unfortunately, however, he is faced with a continuing argument about the statistics between what I might call the settlement figure school and the net figure school. The public confusion was certainly increased by the 1573 widely publicised error in relation to the figures. The Home Secretary must appreciate that statistical arguments, whoever is right, usually end in a bemused public concluding that there is something fishy about the whole business.
It is against that background that the Home Secretary now has to fulfil his undertaking and restore public confidence. First, I believe that he must publish Sir Claud Moser's report, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman or the Minister of State will give an undertaking to that effect. However, wider issues are involved. Not only do the public have a right to know exactly what is happening. Those of us who discuss and determine policy on their behalf can do so effectively only if we know the full facts. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) has written an important article in The Times today following his visit to the West Indies. What he says raises many important issues, both for us and for the West Indies. I hope that his article will be carefully considered by the Home Secretary and widely discussed.
Articles such as this raise the basic question on the general problem: how can we be sure that the basic requirement of the Home Secretary's policy, a really strict control of immigration, is being met unless we can have statistics presented on a widely acceptable and understandable basis?
For these reasons, I believe that we need a totally independent inquiry into the way in which immigration statistics are collected, compiled and presented. I ask the Home Secretary to set up such an inquiry as soon as possible and so enable us to get away from all the arguments and to make a completely fresh start which will rebuild public confidence and give us an opportunity to reassess the working of the policy of strict immigration control.
This would be wise action to take at a time when the Home Secretary has rightly said that he is about to consider proposals for revising the British nationality laws. Provided that the first part of the Home Secretary's basic statement of policy is successfully implemented and can gain public confidence, I believe in principle that legislation has a part to play in fufilling the second.
1574 In its Report for Session 1974–75 on the organisation of race relations administration, the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration called for a clear and demonstrable Government commitment to equal rights. In general—here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—this Bill gives that commitment. I hope that I can strengthen it by supporting fully the principle of equal rights on behalf of the Opposition.
The Select Committee also recommended that the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission should be merged into a single agency. I know that there are doubts about this agency in some quarters, and I heard what the Home Secretary said. I have come to this matter fresh and I have considered all the arguments very carefully, and I have concluded that this move is correct. My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) will deal with the new Commission in more detail if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, at the end of the debate.
The Home Secretary will have our full support if he takes steps, as a believer in containing public expenditure, to ensure that the new Commission does not spread its wings and that the merger of the two agencies leads, as it surely should, to some streamlining of administration. We shall also wish to question critically the Commission's investigating powers, under Clauses 47 to 51, to ensure that they are not to be used in a bureaucratic and harrying manner.
The Bill also puts forward various proposals in the employment, housing and educational fields, which in general we would support. At the same time, we shall have some questions, some criticisms and some objections, which would be best raised in Committee.
In the rest of my speech I shall concentrate on the major issues on which we disagree with the Bill as it stands. First, Clause 25 refers toany association of personsand, more clearly, to clubs. I am grateful for the fair and proper way in which the clause has been explained. It represents a completely revolutionary attitude to the private life of the citizen. Clubs have been held in law to be an extension of the home and an area which should be exempt from Government interference.
1575 I believe it to be an area in which legislation is likely to be counter-productive.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's anxieties about associate membership and the difficulties that are caused by such membership. From my membership of various social clubs and golf clubs throughout the country I appreciate the difficulty of defining the real problem areas, but I believe that the Home Secretary has reacted too forcibly to the House of Lords judgment which put some 4,000 working men's clubs beyond the reach of the Race Relations Act 1968.
There is surely a mood of increasing tolerance in such clubs. Such a mood is very much in line with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who reported a general increase of tolerance throughout the country. I think he is right. I believe that that tolerance has entered the feelings of many members of clubs, and that, left to themselves, the vast majority of clubs, be they Labour clubs, Conservative clubs or working men's clubs, would not exercise discrimination on racial grounds. I agree with what the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) was saying in that regard. Furthermore, clubs which seek to exercise discrimination will come, if my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and others are right, under increasing pressure from their members.
The Home Secretary, having tried to force the pace by means of legislation, is likely to be confronted by procrastination, evasion and plain blocking tactics. The opportunities that are available to those who wish to frustrate this legislation are considerable.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The right hon. Gentleman must be careful about what he says. As the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) has said, the Working Mens Clubs & Institute Union Ltd. makes it clear to its members that it wishes to comply with the spirit of the legislation.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Either I am unable to make my remarks heard, which I think is unlikely, or I have not been clearly understood. I thought I was saying that many clubs would, without legislation, conform to the non-discrimination principle. As 1576 they would conform, I suggest that legislation is better not undertaken. I suggest that it is wrong to introduce it. That is what I thought I was saying. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) for giving me the opportunity to repeat it a little louder.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
The right hon. Gentleman is putting his argument very fairly. He began by comparing a club to a home. Does he accept that the spread of clubs in our society has changed? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the licensing sector the Government have made it clear that in forthcoming legislation the police will have powers of entry to clubs?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I do not wish to prejudge what will be put forward in future. Any intrusion into this area must be carefully calculated. I accept that the Home Secretary has carefully calculated this intrusion. My argument is that he has been mistaken in so doing. By insisting on legislation in an area where it is quite inappropriate, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will stir up resentment and antagonism at a time when there was a move in the right direction, a move which would have continued. It is a grave mistake to stir up resentment and antagonism. We shall return to this matter in Committee, but I must tell the right hon. Gentleman now that I feel that he is making a great mistake in bringing forward the clause. I believe that if it remains in the Bill he will regret it.
Clause 69 deals with incitement to racial hatred, on which we have already had some discussion and a little incident. By means of the clause the Government will be seen to be taking dangerously arbitrary powers, which certain commentators believe have more than a hint of censorship about them.
I shall give the Government the benefit of the doubt. I do not believe that they wish to curb the basic right of free speech. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to do so. However, I am bound to tell him that I do not find his argument convincing. The burden of it is that this is an area in which this sort of clause is necessary, and that there is the safeguard that any 1577 prosecution would require the consent of the Attorney-General.
I find that difficult to accept as convincing. It would be a very unsatisfactory piece of legislation which resulted in a spate of frivolous complains by troublemakers being turned down by the Attorney-General. That would be a waste of everyone's time, with no satisfaction for anyone. It would also bring this section of the law into complete disrepute. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think again.
There are widespread objections to the clause on the ground of public policy of the broadest nature. I understand the reasons for it being brought forward, but I believe that it is wrong. Those are two clauses which are open to the most serious objection.
In conclusion, I return to the basic climate within which the Bill will operate. The main requirement for the Bill's success is that the Home Secretary gives the public real confidence in his approach to race relations policy as a whole. He must demonstrate clearly that there is strict and effective control of the numbers entering the country. That is as important to the position and security of those who have settled here with their families from the New Commonwealth within the past 20 years as it is to those who have been born and brought up in the United Kingdom.
Provided that the Home Secretary can fulfil that part of his clear compact with the British people, the Bill will play a part in ensuring equal rights for all our citizens. It is because of the Conservative Party's clear commitment to that principle in the interests of future racial harmony that I advise my right hon. Friends not to oppose the Bill on Second Reading, but I must equally warn the right hon. Gentleman that we shall take a strong line in seeking to amend certain parts of it in Committee.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
As Chairman of the Select Committee, I intervene briefly. Many of my Committee colleagues are present, and no doubt they wish to take part in the debate. Previously the Committee has complained of a lack of response to its activities. On this occasion I am sure I can express its appreciation of the 1578 commendable response of my right hon. Friend. He has largely met the expectations and recommendations of the Committee.
My right hon. Friend has confessed that he was hesitant in accepting the Committee's recommendation on community relations officers. I am not surprised about that as it is a matter on which the Committee itself found some difficulty. We have been given some reassurance in that eventually he has come to the same conclusion.
We are dealing with the legislative framework of race relations. I think I can say, speaking for the Committee generally, that by and large our recommendations have been fully accepted with one exception. I do not want to over-commit the members of the Committee because we were solely concerned with questions of organisation. The exception was our recommendation that a statutory obligation should be placed on local authorities to promote equal rights, and that the funding should be done on a county basis. I still feel that that was an important recommendation and no doubt the matter will be seriously considered in Committee.
I have been involved in the issue of race relations for only the last year or so, but my experience confirms what the Home Secretary said. There has been a marked shift in public opinion. I pay tribute to the Race Relations Board, the Community Relations Commission and the host of organisations which have contributed to that end. In short, the views passionately and controversially expressed by Hugh Gaitskell 14 or 15 years ago are now generally accepted. We have now reached a fair measure of agreement and share common ground. In those circumstances what is remarkable is that there is still an urgent need for this legislation in spite of and not withstanding the general overall improvement of race relations. Actual discrimination has continued, with little change or abatement. We are told in the White Paper that the housing conditions of immigrant communiies have hardly improved, that job disadvantages have persisted, and, to use the graphic phrase in the White Paper, there has beena vicious downward spiral of deprivation.Before the 1965 legislation we had the PEP Report which influenced public 1579 opinion then. Once again we have a similar Report which dramatically and convincingly demonstrates that job levels are substantially lower for the immigrant communities, that earnings are lower and that we have an alarming proportion of young West Indians unemployed and homeless. The housing accommodation of immigrant communities is inferior and they are still suffering marked disadvantages in obtaining council housing.
All this calls for the strengthening and improvement of legislation, as the Bill sets out to do. But what must concern members of the Select Committee is not what is in the Bill but what cannot be contained in the Bill—namely, a clear, unambivalent, effective Government lead against discrimination. That has been continuously lacking in the past decade.
After the 1965 legislation the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants warned us:…without some positive action on the part of the Government and local authorities the voluntary initiatives…would prove insufficient.Now, after the 1968 legislation, we have the two statutory bodies giving us similar warnings. Both the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission complained to the Select Committee of a growing lack of confidence and attributed the situation to the lack of any Government lead. The Commission said:It can urge the Government to do things, but if when it urges them to do things there is really little response, its credibility and authority are inevitably diminished.The Home Secretary said that our Report was trenchant. I wish to call attention to one or two of the disturbing things to which we called attention. The remarkable fact is that the number of reports and recommendations pigeonholed in the Home Office now totals 300, a considerable achievement. Our Report also reveals the paucity of provision—indeed the provision is shockingly inade-quote—made in Government Departments regarding race relations. We have had an encouraging response from the Government, in their White Paper and again today from the Home Secretary, but it remains mainly declaratory. What we need to supplement the action we are now taking in Parliament is action to 1580 implement the Select Committee's recommendations on departmental responsibility, administration, ethnic communities and in particular on monitoring and urban aid.
I promised to be brief, and I shall conclude by reminding the House of the Select Committee's conclusion:Race discrimination and race prejudice are still widespread. The fact that much of the discrimination and prejudice is covert, negligent, or unintentional does not make this less harmful, and it is aggravated by growing lack of confidence among the ethnic communities, especially the young—the second generation non-immigrant population. Consequently there is a risk of the communities becoming permanently alienated. What is needed, above everything else, is a clear and demonstrable Government commitment to equal rights. We are aware of both the need of the provision of greater resources and the present necessity of economy in public spending. Our recommendations are devised to obtain the maximum return from a very limited increase in expenditure. Moreover, if severe restraint on public expenditure is to be accepted—as it is accepted by the Committee—this demands the selective and most effective use of resources: a competent administration capable of making the right choices is essential.I fully support the Bill. We need meaningful support for this measure by an immediate implementation of the Select Committee's recommendations.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I do not know whether the House will divide on Second Reading, but, if it does, I shall vote against the Second Reading—and for the same reason for which I, along with almost the whole of the rest of the Conservative Party, voted against the Second Reading of its predecessor, which is largely absorbed into the framework of this Bill.
The reason we voted against the measure on that occasion, the Second Reading on St. George's Day 1968, was that the Bill wouldnot in its practical application contribute to the achievement of racial harmony."—[Official Report, 23rd April 1968; Vol. 763, c. 81.]If anything, that argument applies with greater force now, in 1976, to the present Bill. This Bill is even more irrelevant to the real problems and dangers entailed on this country by the inflow from the New Commonwealth during the last quarter of a century.
To watch the Government and this House, against the background of that 1581 problem, considering this legislation is like watching a person who in the presence of a great and growing danger resolutely turns his back on it and faces steadfastly in the opposite direction.
In a speech at the beginning of January I criticised the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys for the fact that the data that used to be given of the proportion of births by locality to mothers from the New Commonwealth were no longer published. I criticised that omission in rather sharp terms, and I am glad to take the opportunity of acknowledging that the omission was repaired after the gratifying lapse of only three weeks—I do not suggest any relationship of cause and effect—by the publication of the first OPCS Monitor, as it is called. which gives, for the six years from 1969 to 1974, the proportion, not only nationally but place by place, between the number of births to mothers born in the New Commonwealth or Pakistan and total births.
There we can see in terms of six years an unmistakable picture. Naturally, I look first to Wolverhampton, and see that the figure runs steadily each year around 25 per cent., as I know it had been running for many years before the series commenced. The figure for Birmingham runs at 17 or 18 per cent. Leicester, which entered late into the race, rose in those six years from 18, through 19, 20, 23, 25 to 26 per cent. I shall only trouble the House further with certain of the figures from inner London—Brent, 36 per cent.; Ealing, 34 per cent.; Haringey, 34 per cent.; Hackney, 33 per cent.; and Lambeth 30 per cent.
These percentages, of course, are not the full proportion of what popularly would be called "coloured births". In these years children were also being born to mothers who had indeed been born here, but were as much New Commonwealth in all but a technical sense as the mothers of the children to which these figures relate.
So there, in these percentages, we see before our eyes the creation of a whole generation of which this is the minimum proportion—the grossly understated minimum proportion—which is New Commonwealth. I remember that six, eight and 10 years ago, when the figure for an individual year was produced from such places as Birmingham or Wolverhampton, 1582 all the experts said, "Take no notice of that. It is just a passing phenomenon." It was not a passing phenomenon. Over these years a whole generation has been built up and is now approaching its completion. Such a generation having been built up, with that proportion thus constituted, foreshadows automatically the minimum proportion of the whole population in the future.
I repeat that I have never myself at any stage in any discussion on this matter assumed any higher birth rate on the part of the immigrant or non-European population than of the rest. I have always rigorously worked upon the assumption, be it a minimum assumption or not, of taking the birth rate to be the same.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon)
If that is indeed the case would the right hon. Gentleman not acknowledge that the real difference, if there is a difference, between the birth rate of those who came from the New Commonwealth and those who are indigenous is caused because of the different age structure of those who are present in this country and the proportionately higher number of women of child-bearing age amongst New Commonwealth immigrants than amongst indigenous people?
§ Mr. Powell
I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman does not appear to have understood the point. We are not talking about birth rates. We are not talking about the proportion of number of births to relevant population, which is what birth rate means. We are talking about the proportion of the births of a particular year which are of a certain kind and a certain origin, and adding one year to another until we reach a whole generation of 25 years. We are talking about the composition of a generation—
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon indicated dissent—
§ Mr. Powell
—there is no point in the Minister shaking his head—and that composition must automatically reproduce itself for the whole population even upon the assumption, which I have always been prepared to make, that there is no difference between the birth rate of this section of the population and of the rest.
1583 Moreover, this element—the one-third of our cities coloured, about which a former Home Secretary told the House of Lords some eight or 10 years ago—is being increased by an annual influx assessed at a minimum of 50,000. Note that I am not working upon the net intake figures here; I am working upon the figures which are preferred by the Home Office. At that minimum rate this element of our population is being increased year in and year out.
That is the background which is seen by the people of this country in the large areas which are affected. That is the background against which we must consider the Bill.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller rose—
§ Mr. Powell
I ask the hon. Gentleman to forgive me because I have given an undertaking about time, which I am endeavouring to keep.
Dr. M. S. Miller
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an explanation, if he has one, for the undoubted fact that 70 years ago when similar strictures were made against another influx of population into this country—Jewish immigrants—the numbers of Jews who are in this country now are no higher than they were in those days?
§ Mr. Powell
I happen to have the figures but I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has them. The net intake of Jewish population in the 25 years before the first World War was 150,000 made up of a gross intake of 200,000 minus a re-emigration of 50,000. There was a further intake estimated at 50,000 during Hitler's years, and the total Jewish population of this country at present, according to the Jewish authorities, is estimated at under half a million. I defy anyone to suppose that he can see any analogy between those facts and that situation and what we are talking about here.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) rose—
§ Mr. Powell
I have to ask the hon. Gentleman's indulgence. I know that the hon. Member, coming from North Aberdeen, comes from an area which is very much affected by these problems—like Down, South However, I ask for 1584 the indulgence of the House to enable me to keep my remarks brief.
The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), who over the years has given great personal attention to this whole matter, made a speech which was reported in The Times of 14th January at the London School of Economics. He said that discrimination and deprivation would produce a state of affairs—I hope his words were quoted correctly and literally—which ought to send a shudder down our spines. It is a thing called segregation, not legal or enforced or even well-defined or precise, but segregation nevertheless. There are signs that this is possible and indeed once it happens the process is well nigh irreversible.I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It ought, as he said, to send a shiver down our spines when, in terms of the facts I have placed before the House, we see existing and growing this massive segregation. But the notion that, in its present form or its future potentialities, it will be affected by legislation of this sort is a ludicrous hallucination. This massive segregation is not arising because of discrimination—certainly not of any discrimination which it is within the power of the law to influence or remove. It is arising because of the combination between human nature on one hand and the mass and size of the original movement itself and the rate of its continuance on the other.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) quoted a former colleague of ours, William Deedes, now the editor of the Daily Telegraph, who said on Second Reading of the preceding Bill in 1968:I cannot believe that bad social practices can be remedied by the law made in this Bill, so much of which is bad. Rather I fear that in some respects they will flourish in an atmosphere of resentment."—[Official Report, 23rd April 1968; Vol. 763, c. 88.]If I thought the effects of the Bill were likely to be neutral, if it were mere waste of time, I do not think I would trouble to go into the Lobby against it. However, as William Deedes said on that occasion, there is more to it than that. It is, by its nature, counter-productive. It is counter-productive because the creation of new rights creates new grievances. Make no mistake, this new legislation creates new rights. Those who 1585 came into this country as immigrants instantly inherited all the traditional and fought-for rights of the inhabitants of this country—
§ Mr. Powell
I cannot give way. I have explained why, in fairness to others, I must not do so now.
Those immigrants came into the possession of those rights; but the purpose of this legislation is to create new rights, new remedies, which the inhabitants of this country have never enjoyed and never sought, for the sake of this new and growing element which is amongst us. But the creation of new rights in response to such a situation simply creates the ground for new "resentment", to use William Deedes' word, and new grievances.
Let there be no misunderstanding. The search for new grievance is eternal. There is no limit to the grievances which can be found by those who are determined to find them. [Interruption.] I wish that Labour Members could shout this problem away from this land.
§ Mr. Powell
Let the hon. Member ask his constituents.
We are here by what we do exacerbating the consequences and intensifying the nature of the segregation to which the hon. Member for Norwood referred.
§ Mr. Whitelaw rose—
§ Mr. Powell
I am sorry, I cannot give way. I must not discriminate, must I? I am now on my last few words.
Even worse than the consequences of creating grievance by creating new rights in response to this situation, a greater evil of this Bill is that, instead of addressing itself to what is actually happening, a subject which has not been debated for the last five years, this House is showing that it still prefers to turn its back and hide its head. That is the real evil of a Second Reading for this Bill.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
I do not propose to reply in any great detail to the speech by the right hon. Member for 1586 Down, South (Mr. Powell) I must take up one point in his speech, however. In many ways the main burden of what he said was that one of the effects of this legislation will be to create new rights for those who have come to this country as immigrants. He suggested that these were new rights which are not enjoyed by the people of this country. That is perfectly true. The Bill gives rights to people who need those rights. Those rights are not required by the mass of the population because it does not suffer discrimination. The entire point of this Bill is that a certain section of our population which is at a grave disadvantage because of its origins by the actions of a very small and prejudiced section of our population requires protection. It is by no means paradoxical that certain special rights should be provided for them.
In one respect, to a certain extent, I must agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not believe that the Bill will make an enormous difference. I do not believe that it will reduce by a large number the total acts of discrimination in any one year. I wish that we could pass a Bill to have that effect, but neither this nor any other Bill will succeed in that aim.
The introduction of this Bill, however, is a symbolic act of very great importance. The importance is that it expresses the determination of the Government and, I hope, the House to the country as a whole and, above all, to members of the ethnic minorities here that the people who have come to this country in the past 10 or 20 years are accepted as fully equal citizens of this country, that they will enjoy equal rights and, above all, that redress will be provided for them in any case where they think they have suffered an act of discrimination by other members of the population.
I regret that the Opposition will be abstaining rather than supporting the Bill, even though they say that they are equally concerned about the principle of equal rights for all members of our community. I regret, too, that the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw) devoted so much of his speech to the question of immigration, which, although important, is by no means wholly relevant to the purposes of the Bill.
1587 I welcome the Bill, and I welcome that it extends the definition of discrimination to cover so-called acts of indirect discrimination—in other words, the demanding of conditions of various kinds which, although not discriminatory, in practice have the effect of acting against certain members of our population and of particular communities. I welcome the fact that the definition is extended to include nationality.
Unlike the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, I welcome that this Bill, as distinct from the previous Act, extends the legislation to cover private clubs. That is not so tremendous a change in principle as has been suggested in some newspapers and elsewhere. Private clubs are subject to the laws of this country in very many ways—the licensing laws and other laws. To say that private clubs should not discriminate in this way between members of one racial group and another is not so different from saying that private landlords should not be allowed to discriminate in that way. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) says, the clubs are themselves willing voluntarily to abandon discrimination of this kind, I cannot see why they should resent so bitterly the fact that it should be made a matter of law.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
That is an interesting point because there is not that much to divide us here. My main point is that this kind of legislation can be counterproductive and create fresh resentment.
§ Mr. Luard
I very much doubt whether that is the case. If the members of these clubs know that in any case the Club and Institute Union will take this step, that their own clubs are shortly to become open to members of all races, I doubt whether they will feel particularly resentful that the provision is about to become law anyway.
The next point of the Bill about which I had initial misgivings is the basic decision to unite the functions of the existing Community Relations Commission and the Race Relations Board in the Race Relations Commission. My misgivings arose because I believed that both of these institutions were performing important functions, and I was not completely sure that those functions could 1588 be performed equally well by one institution. The advantages of simplicity and unification outweigh the significant disadvantages of uniting them, and I am reconciled in particular by the provisions of Clause 65 which is the key to the entire Bill. It is the most important single provision and gives the proposed Commission functions altogether unlike those previously performed by the Board, functions which are more necessary than any others in this country at present.
I have doubts about some aspects of the Bill. One of the most important provisions of the Bill is that which puts members of minority communities on a similar basis to other people in our society so that they can bring cases in the courts when they feel they have suffered discrimination. It is an advance that they should no longer be under the tutelage of the Board. If they have the resources and ability, they will be able to bring a case in the courts. However, I think the number of cases which will be brought in this way will be very small because of the difficulty, expense, unpleasantness and, perhaps above all, the publicity involved. This will deter the overwhelming majority of people who feel they have suffered discrimination and would like to take some action. They will be reluctant to embark on this course.
It is important to have a set-up for conciliation in race relations and it is of the greatest importance that the Commission should retain this role. I hope some cases will be brought in the courts and that there may be some lawyers who will become known as willing to take such cases. I hope that local community relations councils might also help individuals to bring cases and, of course, the Commission will give some assistance. However, there will be many cases in which conciliation is a better answer and that is why I welcome the provisions in the Bill which give the new Commission certain powers in this respect.
It is important that the Commission should interpret these powers generously. I hope it will be willing to give the maximum support and not feel inhibited by what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said about it not being distracted from its main role of undertaking general inquiries. I am not sure that that work should be its main role. Helping 1589 people to pursue complaints is almost as important, and I hope that members of the Commission will read the report of this debate and the views of individual hon. Members.
I hope the role of conciliation will also be undertaken in many cases by local community relations councils with the help of community relations officers. I am sure that many complainants would rather have their cases dealt with in this way instead of going to all the trouble and difficulty of bringing a case in the courts.
I am concerned about the need for a body to monitor the effect of legislation on immigrant communities. The new Commission will have a role of this kind, but it is important that local authorities, which have many important functions affecting members of ethnic minorities, should be asked to make regular reports to the Home Office or the Commission with their judgment of how minority communities in their areas have been affected by legislation and what action they are taking to improve the situation.
I take a different view from that of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border on the subject of incitement to racial hatred. Although the proposed change is an improvement. I am not convinced that it will allow very many more cases of this kind to be brought. There will be considerable problems in bringing prosecutions because of the need to prove that a publication is liable to stir up racial hatred. Hatred is a very strong word, and any lawyer would find it difficult to prove that the effect of an article or poster was to stir up a feeling of hatred in the minds of those who saw it. Such a publication might, nevertheless, have a very damaging effect on race relations and could stir up racial ill-feeling or prejudice. I hope the Government will consider amending the Bill to replace the words "racial hatred" with "racial ill-feeling" or something similar which might increase the possibility of prosecutions being brought.
Under the Bill, some cases will be dealt with in the county courts and others, involving industry or industrial relations, will be heard by industrial tribunals. In this matter, it is important that justice is not only done but is seen to be done, and some members of ethnic minorities may occasionally feel that these tribunals 1590 are dominated by employers or trade union officials who may not be as concerned to prevent discrimination as they should be. It is important that there should be representatives of minorities on these tribunals if they are to win the confidence of immigrants in the way most of us would hope.
There is another important matter which has been put forcibly by the Runny-mede Trust and with which I know the Minister of State agrees. The main problems suffered by members of ethnic minorities probably do not result from acts of discrimination. Like other people living in the inner areas of our cities, their main problems concern housing, education, social services and similar matters. More than anything else, they need government action to help with these problems. I know that the Government are concerned to try to improve race relations and the position of minorities in our society and the best thing they could do would be to provide more money for tackling these problems. For instance, more money should be devoted to urban aid programmes and similar schemes. It is important that we consider further measures to deal with these problems.
If we have a generation of young black and brown people in our society who feel that the cards are stacked against them and that society is unfair to them, what will help more than anything is the provision of active assistance and massive funds to enable more effective programmes of that kind to be implemented.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)
Perhaps I should declare an interest as Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration under the admirable leadership of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). I also have in my constituency a very large immigrant population of Indians. Given the size of the town concerned—Leamington Spa—it is one of the largest immigrant populations in the country.
Over the past two years, as a member of the Select Committee I have studied the problem closely and found it fascinating. I shall always give my support to moves calculated to improve the climate and the lot of immigrants and all racial minorities in Britain. Generally, I back the objectives of the Bill. However, I am 1591 doubtful on many of its aspects which will need to be examined closely at a later stage.
Parliament should be wary about the "racial hatred" clause extensions. Free speech must be preserved at all times. Parliament should be paramount in preserving free speech. However unpalatable or distasteful free speech may be at certain times to enlightened opinion, we must always allow it. Black people have little faith in the institutions Parliament has set up in recent years to try to deal with racial discrimination, and they have made their views plain to those who have worked in this sphere and to individual Members of Parliament. The Bill, and the new Commission which is to be set up under it, should give them a good deal of encouragement, and I hope that they will respond accordingly.
I am sorry that the Government are not intent on calling the new all-embracing body the Equal Rights Commission, as was suggested by the Select Committee. Instead, it is to be called the Race Relations Commission. The Home Secretary rather missed the point when I interrupted him. We were trying to get across in our Report that nowadays the term "race relations" is emotive in itself. It makes people think of race relations controversy. I see that the Minister of State is smiling—
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was smiling only because of the direction in which he looked when he said that.
§ Mr. Smith
I accept that benign response. It is an emotive phrase. When we can get away from the sterile argument which has gone on for so long about race, and win the good will and support of the ethnic white population of the country, we shall at last begin to make progress in achieving harmonious race relations.
The new Commission needs to be educative and persuasive in its motivation. It must not be too tough and bureaucratic, otherwise the approach will be entirely counter-productive. We do not want hordes of officials instructing people in what they may or may not do. That would invoke the hostility of elements in the white community. People of all colours, white and black, are weary of 1592 the constant proliferation of officialdom in our national life.
I wish to speak more of what is not in the Bill than about its contents. It is a serious error of judgment that the Bill contains no provisions for further curbing immigration or curbing it more successfully. The Home Secretary did not mention that in his speech. It would be a useful quid pro quo for the white population if a positive statement had been made that more would be done to curb immigration. The Government might then get the right kind of response to the Bill from the population. We had a much more positive approach in this direction from my right hon. Friend the Shadow Home Secretary who, I am sure from what he said, understands the point. He underlined the fears and anxieties of many Opposition Members.
§ Mr. Smith
That is the trouble about giving way. The hon. Gentleman anticipates what I am just about to say.
After serious consideration, I have come to the view that it is essential in the country's general interests, in the interests of the ethnic majority of the population and, just as important, in the interests of the racial minorities, that further immigration into Britain from the New Commonwealth should be ended at the earliest possible date. Only in cases where there are exceptional compassionate grounds should there be jurisdiction to vary that rule. I say that, having thought it out carefully over a long time, and, irrespective of some hardship which would be caused, it is essential for us to decide on a step which we should have taken a long time ago. Unless we face this responsibility there can be real trouble in the years ahead.
Although I have strong views on it, I say nothing about the present abuse that occurs. No one knows the real facts, but large numbers of visitors come into the country and stay on. There are large numbers of illegal entrants who come in with forged birth certificates or forged passports. All those abuses need to be taken in hand by the Home Office. In 1593 the interests of the nation as a whole, immigration as we have known it, even in the alleged more restricted form over recent years, should be ended. I doubt whether I shall get a response in that direction from the Labour Government, but I hope that the Conservative Party will come round to this point of view. I urge the leaders of my party to do so. It would be very much in the interests of the country and they would be representing the views of three quarters of the population who are by no means racists. The Home Secretary accepted that only a tiny minority of people are racists, as we understand the term.
Successive Governments have created a situation of near-disaster with their unrealistic immigration policies and their inability to keep a proper check on the figures and on the people who come into the country. I do not attack the Minister of State, although he and his Department are vulnerable. It was exactly the same when my party was in power, and it has been the same for a decade or more. It is time that the Home Office pulled up its socks, got its figures and practices right, and stopped the abuse of the procedures.
The time has passed for recrimination about what has happened in the past, whatever we may feel as to the rights or wrongs of what has been done by successive Governments. We must have more positive action to stem the tide, which is far greater than most of us realise. At the same time, we must have a full commitment to complete equality of opportunity for those who have settled here and who are becoming a second generation of British blacks. I yield to no one in my advocacy of that policy.
Although I put forward the suggestion—with which thousands upon thousands of people would agree—that immigration should be ended, there must be a much greater move towards full integration than we have had to date or even than is envisaged in the Bill. We may have differing views about the wisdom of allowing such a vast minority population to be established in this country. There are, in fact, only about four areas concerned—parts of London, the Midlands, Manchester and Bradford. In other parts of the country people have never seen a black face over 1594 the years. There is hardly any immigration at all.
Although we can argue about the wisdom of the way in which immigration took place and its distribution throughout the country, we have to banish for ever any thought that those who are here are in anyway second-class citizens, or that anyone in this nation who is fully entitled to be here, under the laws as they are at the moment, is anything other than a first-class citizen. To think otherwise would be totally obnoxious. The only proviso is that they obey the law, whatever their colour or creed.
We need a new crusade to overcome racial discrimination and to give our fellow Britons who are in the minority a new confidence, which they have singularly lacked over recent years. That crusade could have been provided by the Bill if it had also tackled the question of future immigration into this country. It has not done so, and a valuable opportunity has been lost. The Bill will perhaps do more to irritate than to encourage the population at large.
Some people will say that it is very inhumane to stop dependants coming in—especially as the numbers are trickling off anyway. But we have to realise that for immigrants the criteria are entirely different from those of people with an ethnic white background.
In the Caribbean, where the Select Committee has been recently, we came into contact with the knowledge that there are thousands of illegitimate children. I do not make this as a moral comment, because marriage is not uniform at all in the Caribbean. Most children are born out of wedlock. But there are thousands of illegitimate children there who are anxious to come here. Many of them have a claim to do so, and the line of dependants is long and complicated. Far from trickling off, the dependants could still be coming into this country 100 years from now unless the rules are changed.
The position in respect of India is also extremely difficult. I should like to quote from the courteous reply that I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when I raised a constituency case recently. Talking of the generality of the problem, he stated thatdependants and other persons seeking entry here for settlement are currently applying in 1595 such numbers to the British High Commission in New Delhi that despite measures we have taken to help posts in India to keep abreast of their work, there is now a delay of about 14 months between the date of receipt of the application and the date of interview by the Entry Certificate Officer. I am very concerned about the length of the list of applicants waiting to be interviewed, which largely results from decisions to allow into this country new categories of immigrants, including husbands and flancþs of women who are already settled here, and applicants under the amnesty arrangments for illegal immigrants. As husbands and fiancés now comprise more than three-quarters of the total number of settlement applicants awaiting interview in New Delhi it has not been possible, nor indeed would it be fair, to make arrangements under which they would be treated as a special category.People are therefore lining up in large numbers in India, wishing to come here, and this presents a very real problem. Quite apart from the technicalities for the Home Office, it is a problem for Parliament as well.
We have to approach these matters in relation to the background of the New Commonwealth countries concerned. People who have been separated for some years cannot be as close as all that to the relatives they seek to join. No one is seeking to keep them apart. It is perfectly possible for those who want to rejoin their relatives to do so in their country of origin. In cases of exceptional difficulty, the Government should provide sponsoring finance for these people. With the new set of rules and criteria, the Government should be able to approach the problem in a humane and sensible way.
As an indication of my good will and my belief in the need to do more to promote good race relations, I shall not vote against the Bill tonight in the Lobby. I am very tempted to vote in favour of it, although it is dubious in parts. But I shall go on stating what I believe—and what millions of others believe—to be the truth, namely, that the time has now come to call a final halt to immigration as we have known it. Unless we do, we shall find the sands of time running out even faster than we imagine.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that the sands of time are running out in the debate. Unless hon. Members make shorter speeches there will be a lot of disappointed people.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mike Noble (Rossendale)
I do not intend to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith). Suffice it to say that I would never be a member of a party that accepted the separation of spouses and the splitting of families.
I give the Bill full support, particularly in the light of the article that appeared in The Times yesterday, pointing out that in this country an increasing number of people of all races recognise the need for, and the rôle of, legislation.
I feel a personal commitment to the Bill. In the 12 months before I came to the House I supervised an equal opportunities project in the cotton textile industry. I shall be referring to it shortly.
I want to deal particularly now with the part of the Bill dealing with employment. In my view, this is the most important part. In employment we find examples of discrimination more widespread, and in employment it is possible to take the greatest steps to bring an end to discrimination.
If I have a disappointment with the Bill, it is that it is very largely a negative force. It tends to outlaw discrimination, and we need positive movements towards integration. It is in employment that we have the greatest mixing of races and of people coming together. When they leave work they tend to go back into their own communities.
In employment there is the greatest possibility of developing a shared culture—the culture of the workplace. It is here that there is a possibility for language development among immigrants. But these developments are possible only if adequate safeguards are introduced, as in the Bill, and if, in addition, there are adequate aids for people in the immigrant community. As things stand, this kind of development of integration is at best hampered and at worst unlikely to take place.
I have bored the House at great length in the last 18 months on the subject of cotton textiles, but the industry has something to show the country in this context. Immigrants have been attracted into the cotton sector over the last 150 years. In recent years these have been mainly of non-United Kingdom origin, 1597 namely, from Asia. They are concentrated in the spinning sector of the industry. Unfortunately, they are concentrated very largely in the worst-paid jobs. They are concentrated very largely on the night shift. In some mills, 60 per cent. of the total labour force is of Asian origin, and on some night shifts 100 per cent. of the labour force is of Asia origin. This concentration is not deliberate; it is something that has happened.
The immigrants have been attracted to these jobs because, generally speaking, there were vacancies there, and the pay was better, so that they could send money home to their families. Nevertheless, this concentration is extremely unhealthy, just as the barriers to promotion and advancement in the industry are unhealthy. Out of this I believe that a very dangerous situation can develop.
§ Mr. Alison
I am listening to the hon. Member's first-hand report with great interest, knowing that it is based on real experience. Can the hon. Member tell us whether the phenomena of exclusive night work and difficulty in relation to promotion are due to overt, or unconscious, or any other form of discrimination?
§ Mr. Noble
If the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment I shall come to that point.
We have now reached the stage at which we are dealing with the second generation—the children of immigrants, who have come through with skills and with a language facility. The barriers to promotion that exist have been based partly on discrimination. The textile industry is a very traditional industry, with tightly-knit groups, on both the trade union and the employers' sides. There have undoubtedly been barriers to promotion, but equally there have been barriers caused by language difficulties.
We have reached a stage, also, where the social barriers, as opposed to the language barriers, are important. We have a situation in which second generation children are leaving school—children who have command of the language and have the qualifications, but are unable to break through this barrier. Dr. Alan Little, head of the Reference and Technical Services Division of the Community Relations Commission, was 1598 quoted in The Times yesterday as saying thatMany black youngsters were leaving school not equipped for employment in a shrinking labour market in which they faced discrimination. 'You have a lot of disappointed, depressed people,' he said. He agreed that black youngsters born here were in revolt against the shift work that their fathers did as immigrants.The question is, how far does this Bill go to deal with that problem? If we do not get the job part of the situation right we shall not get the rest of the situation right. First, the Bill inserts negative controls, making it unlawful to discriminate in employment. It gives permissive powers for employers to train people of a particular racial group to help fit them for a particular kind of work. That is excellent as far as it goes, but we have to take positive steps. We need positive integration policies. We have to have employers and unions not just coming together and signing a declaration but taking active steps to promote integration.
Dr. M. S. Miller
Does not my hon. Friend agree that this is happening in the trade union movement? A high proportion are members of trade unions. Compared with 47 per cent. for the indigenous population, the immigrant percentage is 61.
§ Mr. Noble
I accept that, but it is a question not only of being a member of a trade union but of taking an active rôle and obtaining positions in trade unions. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard), who said that if we are to get social advancement we need resources, and if we are to get advancement in employment we need resources—but the financial effects of this Bill are not mentioned. The work can be carried out—I would tell my hon. Friend on the Front Bench that he need not ask the Treasury for funds—by the training boards. It is there that employers and trade unions are represented.
I want to say a few words about a pilot project, as an example. Before the project was developed, we had the background of the Mansfield Hosiery dispute and the Imperial Typewriters dispute. We had had simmerings of a similar kind in the cotton textile industry. Therefore, a project was developed as a result of a partnership between employers on the 1599 one hand and the trade unions on the other, with the training board as a catalyst, providing "body". The trade unions took much of the early initiative, and eventually financial support was secured from the Social Policy Committee of the European Economic Community. In mounting the project great care was necessary, and it was the careful preparation of the project that was responsible for its success.
We had an industrial conference of employers, unions and the training board, at which it was unanimously agreed that a project, designed as a pilot scheme, at least initially, should be launched. There was unanimous agreement on the desirability of a project on immigrant integration in the workplace. It was agreed that the establishment of a promotion ladder was essential in the industry. We decided that there should be three strands to the project. First, there should be a language training course for immigrants, based on the language used in the workplace. This is one area in which there is a mixing of races—an area in which people can see that it is economically and socially useful. We developed an oral language course at the workplace, based, as far as possible, on visual material. We did not touch literacy. The course ran for five days a week, for 10 weeks, providing 50 hours' tuition, one hour per day. The employers paid for employees to attend and the commitment of the people tutoring was absolutely first-rate.
Secondly, we mounted a course for immigrant leaders—people who could be identified as natural leaders in the immigrant community but who at work are seldom recognised for promotion. These are people who deal with translation and interpretation at the workplace—people to whom an immigrant will go, rather than to his supervisor, when he is in trouble. That course dealt with trade unions, industrial relations, safety, and so on. We mounted a course for managers and supervisors in industry, designed to illustrate the kind of problems that immigrants encountered in their indigenous background. These courses were successfully carried through.
What were the effects of the project? The first and most measurable effect was an improvement in the morale and efficiency of those among the immigrant 1600 community who had been on the language training course. They then sought local authority facilities. Sometimes, regrettably, these were not available, but the immigrants had been motivated to advance. We had modified success with the course for immigrant leaders, and—very important—we had substantial success with the course for managers and supervisors, who, having made highly prejudicial statements at the beginning of the course, were saying, at the end of it, "We should have been doing this eight or 10 years ago".
This demands resources, and I hope that my hon. Friend will have serious conversations with his right hon. Friend and with the Secretary of State for Employment, who I see has some responsibility for the Bill, encouraging him to meet training board chairmen, industry by industry, and tell them "If this Bill is to have any success at all the training boards must carry out this responsibility". I ask my hon. Friend whether he will give this kind of positive encouragement towards integration instead of dealing simply with negative controls against discrimination. When we take those steps we are taking steps towards a truly civilised society, and in those circumstances a measure of this kind may some day not be required.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
This Bill is being debated in a context where balance is essential, and it is the balance between concern for race relations and concern for an immigration policy that will be acceptable to the country at large. If we lose sight of these two factors we are not dealing with this issue in terms which the country will understand.
The 1965 Act and 1968 Act—and I served on the Standing Committee on both Bills—were concerned with problems new to this country. They were pioneering Acts, and one succeeded the other because the first Act was inadequate in dealing with discrimination. It is now some seven years later and the time has come for a review.
Those Acts sought to outlaw certain practices of racial discrimination which were judged to be harmful not only to the minority group but also to the host community—practices which, if allowed to develop, would have undermined the quality of life in the whole community, 1601 especially the qualities of tolerance and fairness as between individuals. Above all, those Acts aimed to eliminate discriminatory practices which, if allowed to continue, would have produced a large group of second-class citizens.
Those of us who, on both sides of this House, supported those Acts hoped that by the bringing to an end of a wide range of discriminatory practices, attitudes also would change. It is one of the great myths that laws do not change attitudes. Laws changing practices do, after an interval, change attitudes also. I suggest that some of those hopes have been justified. The general indication of PEP's national survey, "The Facts of Racial Disadvantages", supports the view that public attitudes in Britain in this field have becomes more tolerant. Although there have been special strains in special areas, to which some hon. Members with constituencies which are deeply involved have referred, I agree with what was said by hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) about the limited areas of intolerance and the widespread tolerance on this issue throughout Britain.
However, this survey, and the findings of the Race Relations Board, the Community Relations Council and the Select Committee outlined areas in which important discrimination is still widely practised—in particular, in employment, which is the key sector, and in housing. That is why, seven years after the 1968 Act which dealt with these subjects, it is right to consider carefully and in detail additional measures put forward to check direct and indirect racial discrimination in those areas where existing laws are, after a fair trial, proving to be inadequate, but I am far from convinced by the arguments so far put forward in support of two of the provisions of the Bill.
The first concerns the amalgamation of the Community Relations Commission with the Race Relations Board. These two bodies have quite distinct functions and responsibilities. I am glad that the Home Secretary recognised that there was an arguable case for keeping these two bodies separate.
The second provision concerns clubs. I believe that a real distinction must be made between those which have virtually been open to anyone in certain employ- 1602 ment in a certain area and those which are based on selection by personal qualities and common ranges of interest and, usually, on limited numbers. Despite the welcome assurances which have been given by the Home Secretary on the protection of the right of members of a club to elect solely on grounds of personal acceptability, I am not convinced that a case has been made out for the provisions in Clause 25. This issue will need to be carefully considered in Committee. I hope that the Home Secretary will keep an open mind on how far the law should be allowed to intrude into this sensitive area of human relations.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller rose—
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley) rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Both hon. Gentlemen are hoping to get into the debate. Interruptions only cause delay.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
The provisions of the Bill will be effective only if they have public backing, and especially they call for leads by the Government, employers and trade unions. All three have more to do in this area than they have done in recent years.
But there is another major issue in this debate today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) has restated the Conservative Party's attitude on this matter. Since 1965 the consistent view of Conservative Party spokesmen has been that a balance should be struck between the interests of the immigrant minorities and the host community.
In opening the debate, the Secretary of State said that there was a clear limit to the number of immigrants who could be absorbed into this country. The balance which we have always advocated was that, on the one hand, all who were citizens of this country, either through immigration or birth, should enjoy equal rights; that there should be no second-class citizens; and that there should be protection against discrimination on grounds of colour. The Bill seeks to take that process a stage further.
The other part of the balance or compact was that there should be the strictest control over new immigration. That was repeated by us in every debate. I think 1603 that both major parties have been culpable in not being stricter in carrying out their part of the compact. I believe that strict control is essential to give the host community, especially in areas of heavy immigrant concentration, confidence to adjust to the changes and strains that they have felt, and confidence that those strains would not be increased by increased immigration of those coming here to seek work. My view is that that part of the compact has not been kept as fully as the people of this country had a right—and, indeed, were led—to expect.
There is a fairly widespread feeling that this Government have deliberately eased controls and allowed an inflow far in excess of what people had a right to expect from Government statements of policy. If this feeling is justified, there has been a serious breach of faith by the Government. Widespread unemployment at this time is another issue which only exacerbates this problem.
I believe that we are entitled to two assurances from the Home Secretary in the clearest terms. The first is that there has been no relaxation of controls and that tighter controls will be built up. I believe that many hon. Members will seek the same assurance.
The second assurance is that far stronger measures will be taken to check the flow of illegal immigrants and people who overstay their permits. I know, from serving on the Select Committee for six years continuously, how difficult these controls are both to devise and to enforce. As a Select Committee, we visited most of the countries from which most immigrants orginate, but we must have the assurances for which I have asked. Otherwise the failures on both issues will undermine the confidence of the host community and lead to worse race relations. In the interests of both the immigrant communities now established here and the host community, measures must be taken to remedy these faults.
I believe that there is strong support on both sides of the House for measures to reduce racial discrimination, but there is also a widespread demand throughout the country for the strictest possible control of immigration and a full disclosure of the facts demanded by my 1604 hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I assure the Home Secretary that we on the Liberal Bench support the Bill. We believe that his intentions are right, despite our reservations about certain features of the Bill and our belief that it can be improved. We share the general view that legislation alone cannot solve this problem although, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), it can have a significant influence in changing attitudes.
This Government, to some extent, are judged by the minority community on past deeds and misdeeds. The minority community views with considerable concern, suspicion and resentment some aspects of the legislation brought in by the Labour Government in 1968, because it was of a distinctly discriminatory character. They had much the same kind of resentment about the Conservative Government's legislation in 1971, with its overtly discriminatory patrial clause. This Government have undone some of that past mischief by indicating that they are prepared to show compassion for husbands in the way that the rules are applied and that they do not want the 1971 Act applied retrospectively.
Those who want fair, compassionate and non-discriminatory legislation are not advocating the abandonment or relaxation of proper controls over those who have no right to come here at all: everybody has an interest in control being satisfactory. At the same time, it is in nobody's interest that there should be seen, or even be thought to be, discrimination. It is important to realise that the other side of getting successful anti-discrimination laws rests with the minority community. Something has been said about the genuine fears and anxieties of the indigenous community. The fears and anxieties of the minority communities are there as well, and some of them will never be removed until the whole question of British nationality is properly sorted out. The Government have indicated that it is their wish to do this, but until there is clear nationality legislation we shall continue to face argument, anxiety, fear and uncertainty about 1605 who is entitled to be in this country and what his or her status is. That kind of insecurity is good for no community.
In one sense the Bill is particularly welcome. Unlike previous legislation of its kind, it is not a counter-balance or accompaniment to new legislation restricting immigration. I take a quite different view from that of some hon. Members. I think it quite undesirable that these two things should be as closely associated as in the past, and that legislation to deal with people who are here should be confused with legislation to deal with those who are coming in. I can think, of nothing more calculated to arouse further suspicion and anxiety among those who have the right to be here and regard themselves as citizens of this country.
In supporting this legislation I do not want to suggest that the legislation which has gone before has been worthless—because it has done a certain amount of good. Discrimination in advertising has virtually disappeared. It has been very much reduced in public houses and it has diminished in some areas in housing. But the PEP report on the extent of racial discrimination, published last year, leaves no doubt that discrimination in employment continues at a high level and that a further effort is required in this connection. Against the general background of unemployment, the situation of the minority community is that much more difficult, particularly where we have severe teenage unemployment, which affects all school-leavers in every section of the community, but particularly West Indians.
§ Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)
Just for the record, does the hon. Member also agree that discrimination in promotion opportunities and in promotion itself is a very significant aspect of our industrial life?
§ Mr. Beith
Indeed I do. If I omitted to mention it, it was for the sake of brevity, but one of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends made some interesting and constructive comments on that point a short while ago.
It suited this country well enough to import supplies of labour from countries overseas at one time, and we welcomed them then, sometimes perhaps not as kindly or as pleasantly as we should have, 1606 paying them, sometimes, not very good wages, but willingly using the services they provided. We now have a responsibility to ensure for those whom we encouraged to come here the full rights and scope of British citizenship.
Turning to the Bill itself, we welcome a number of features: the extension of the definition of discrimination; direct access to the courts for the complainant; the wider powers proposed for the new body and its general strategic rôle; and the provisions to prevent discrimination in clubs, which we say are almost indistinguishable from places that do not enjoy the protection of club legislation—indistinguishable in function and in the wide range of people who use them. We also welcome the attempt to assimilate as far as possible race and sex discrimination.
However, we are disappointed that the Bill is not more positive in some respects. The Government's own White Paper on racial discrimination admitted that it was only half a strategy and that anti-discrimination laws in themselves are not enough. Action must be taken to combat the disadvantage experienced by many people in minority communities—real disadvantage, not merely discrimination. The new body needs the resources to combat this. One might have been tempted to press for a greater role for the new body in disbursing the urban aid programme, had it not become obvious that there was not going to be much left of that. It is a matter of serious concern that one of the few means by which special help could be channelled into dealing with areas of disadvantage is likely to be seriously reduced. We understand the concern of hon. Members at the Home Office about this and about the general public expenditure question, but we cannot let it pass without comment that if these funds are not available the combating of disadvantage will be severely hampered.
It would have been welcome if the Bill, or the Home Secretary himself, had given some indication that the Government are prepared to take other action within their powers, by the use of their contracting role, to ensure that there is no discrimination among the firms with which they deal, and by monitoring more carefully the composition of their own staff, the Civil Service. The Government 1607 should set an example in this field, and local authorities should do more in this respect. We are glad that the new body will be responsible for local community relations councils and will therefore have some knowledge about what is going on in local situations. I recognise that there are some genuine apprehensions about this, but on balance it will bring benefit. In the past, community relations officers have far too often been left to carry out their difficult task on their own, with very little of the back-up help and advice that they need.
There is a danger that the new Commission will be seen by minority communities as even more a creature of the Establishment than its predecessors. Therefore, it is a pity that the Bill places no responsibility on the Secretary of State to consult the minority communities when appointing the members of the new body. There may be some practical difficulty in defining which bodies should be consulted, but it should be made much clearer that the Home Secretary will consult them when he makes these important appointments. This is another case in which the confidence of the minorities needs to be won, and the evidence of the Select Committee made it clear what a gap of confidence there is to be filled.
My greatest criticism of the Bill concerns the assistance that the new body will be empowered to give to an aggrieved complainant. Under present legislation the complainant can go to the Race Relations Board and have his complaint investigated; it does not cost him a penny, and the Board cannot refuse to help him. The Board has been concerned that it could not refuse frivolous complaints, such as in the "Scots porridge" case, and the first couple of weeks after the sex discrimination legislation became law brought more illustrations showing how the real purpose of legislation can be concealed by frivolous and foolish references. But the Bill goes too far in the opposite direction, because complainants can be assisted only in rather special cases. I very much hope that we can widen that definition before we enact the Bill; otherwise, nobody will be able to have his case investigated as of right.
1608 Nor is there any presumption that a strong case would be assisted by the Board. Even under the present Act the number of complainants has been relatively few, and is clearly only the tip of the iceberg. The disadvantageous position of minority groups means that without some help by a body such as the new Commission they may be unwilling to undertake the difficult and potentially humiliating task of going to the courts. There is more reason to fear that this Act will be under-used than that the Sex Discrimination Act will be under-used by women.
Our final worry is the Government's general commitment within their own structure and organisation. The comments of the Select Committee on the ability of the Home Office to cope with its present responsibilities have been quoted and are well known. The Select Committee criticised the fact that the Home Office, on its own admission, had very little idea of what was going on in many areas. This gives food for thought. The Home Office's important and necessary responsibilities in respect of immigration and of the police give it an image, in the eyes of the minority communities, which is quite inappropriate to race relations functions. Immigration legislation itself has led many people to be suspicious not of the present Home Secretary and his colleagues but of their potential successors. The Government must look again at where the ministerial responsibility for this work should lie.
A time of national economic crisis is a testing time for the whole community. It puts severe pressures on minorities and their relationship with the majority community. It is very important at this time that the black citizen, particularly the young black citizen growing up, should have a feeling that this is his country—a country to which he can owe allegiance, for which he is prepared to fight, if necessary, and whose future he is prepared to build. If he does not have that confidence, it is not he alone who suffers but the whole community of the United Kingdom.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Lambeth, Central)
I do not know in what kind of world some hon. Members live, but I 1609 have been concerned with various aspects of community relations ever since I was first elected to this House 31 years ago. I can, therefore, claim to have some little knowledge of how things are working out.
My first reaction to the Bill is that it will not make much difference. The people who are mainly affected by it will never read it. They may hear in some vague way that it has been passed. I would regard it as a confession of bankruptcy on my part if I ever had to refer a constituent's case either to the Race Relations Board or to the Community Relations Commission. I have never had occasion to do so, and I hope that I never have occasion to refer a case to the new Race Relations Commission. I deal with problems as they arise, at the grass roots.
In my constituency the Brixton Neighbourhood Community Association does very good work. If there is any problem, I consult it. We have a good community relations officer, working in close association with the local borough council, and I also consult him.
A few weeks ago, I asked a friend of mine, Monty Modlin, who is well known on radio and television, to walk around the streets of Brixton, he market and the discotheques, and talk to the mums and dads and the kids who might be playing truant from school, in language they could understand, so that they did not feel that they were being talked down to. The results were reasonably satisfactory. On one occasion he took with him the manager of the local employment exchange. He talked to some of the people in the streets and we managed to find jobs for one or two. That is the way in which to establish contact.
All this superstructure that we are trying to create reminds me of the research chemist who discovered a new wonder drug. His only problem then was to find some disease that it would cure. We are more or less moving in that direction with the Bill.
I have never been so inundated with printed and stencilled material as I have on this Bill. Reams and reams of stuff have poured in upon me. The Home Office has consulted dozens, perhaps hundreds of organisations. Everyone is an expert; everyone knows exactly what to 1610 do; everyone is prolific with advice. We have had Select Committees wandering all over the face of the earth, dealing with race relations and immigration, going to Jamaica, Bangladesh and all over the place. In the end, they have told us only things that we knew already. I have never learned from all their reports anything I did not know already.
The only sensible remark that I have come across was in the minutes of evidence to the Select Committee—on Thursday 11th December 1975. Sitting in solemn conclave the Committee was examining Mr. Courtney Laws, a prominent local community relations worker in my constituency. He said:Brixton is a very nice place in which to live. We have no fears about racial tension. We all live together. The mass media create fears and suspicion in the community. We are talking about working-class people who suffer the same ills and political problems.Everybody goes to Brixton sooner or later. The Home Secretary came to Brixton last year. At the end of his tour he said that the main problems of Brixton were due to urban deprivation and that they were not peculiar to that area alone. Urban deprivation has nothing at all to do with race relations or with whether people are black or white. All suffer the same difficulties in that situation.
Only the other day, I went into a works in Brixton which employs mainly white labour but where the shop steward is a black man. This process of integration goes on all the time. We have had a black justice of the peace and black councillors on the local borough council. Our community includes taxi drivers and people who work in West End restaurants—people who tend to take a benign view of the weaknesses of their fellow mortals. That is what enables us to get on together without indulging in race riots.
We have seen them come and seen them go, black racialists and white racialists, and they have made no impact, because the solid mass of ordinary people face exactly the same kinds of problems. All we want is to be left alone and not to have so many people examining us, probing us and analysing us—psychologists, psychiatrists and people preparing Ph.D. theses. We have had enough of all that. We do not want to know. We want to be left alone.
1611 All we want is a little more money from the Government for urban aid, so that we can establish places for young people who work during the day but cannot read or write, to learn to do so, and places where people can be looked after and eventually given reasonably good housing. The local council makes no distinction between black and white: merit, and merit alone, decides when it comes to housing. Some secretaries and officers of local housing associations are black men. We all mix together and get on well with one another.
That is why I hope that we shall not get bogged down by the theory that race relations constitute our main problem. We have general economic problems which are much more important. We hear a good deal about muggings and truancy. Only the other day the Assistant Commissioner (Crime) at Scotland Yard said that there were 8,000 robberies in London in 1975–22 a day. Some are committed by black boys and some by white, but to use statistics like that in an argument dealing with race relations is absolutely wrong.
The biggest mistake we ever made was to pass the Children and Young Persons Act in June 1969. Under a provision that we passed at 2.30 in the morning after only half an hour's debate no child under 14 can be dealt with by the police. Therefore, by the time a child is 14, he has a long history of offences. That also affects the problem of race relations and also gets mixed up with sex discrimination and all sorts of other things that have nothing to do with the subject.
I hope that we shall eventually be able to take a rational view of this matter, that people will be left alone to get on with it and to find their own way through the difficulties. In the end, people must learn to live with one another, and that is what they are on the way to doing now.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I am pleased to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton) and to join him in his tribute to Brixton for all that is being done there. I once fought an election in a neighbouring constituency, but I was not quite successful. I am glad of the chance to 1612 speak, because I had some ministerial responsibility for this subject in government and I am a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration.
I recall two sayings, one by a white man and the other by a black man. On 23rd April 1968 my noble Friend Lord Hailsham, who was leading for the Opposition in this House on the last Race Relations Bill, said:We should forget the colour of their skins and treat them as equals."—[Official Report, 23rd April 1968; Vol. 763, c. 71.]Last November the Prime Minister of St. Kitts, in the Caribbean, remarked to the visiting Commonwealth Parliamentary Assocation delegation>:We are all the same human creatures.Those are fine statements of an ideal. Although I have some criticisms, I welcome the Bill, on the whole, as a step towards that ideal, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) made clear my party's total commitment to equal rights.
Looking at the Bill in its wider perspectime, I am critical of the Government on two main scores. First, in their laudable wish to safeguard racial minorities they seem to be ignoring some of the anxieties of the white majority. Last September's White Paper contained hardly a word about the importance of relaxed attitudes among the majority if coloured Britons are to be welcomed as integral members of our society and regarded not just with tolerance but with respect. In this context there are real worries over the trend of immigration, now rising again, and doubts about this Government's determination to maintain strict, effective control. Reassurance is badly needed, and I echo what my right hon. Friend said on this matter.
My second criticism is that within the total strategy for helping minorities, legislation appears to be occupying too prominent a position. In addition to legislation, stronger Government leadership and action in other directions are now overdue.
During the last Session the Select Committee criticised Governments for their too passive rôle—not only the present Government but its predecessor, and as a member of that Government I accept 1613 my share of responsibility. In some fine phrases in the White Paper the Government seemed to acknowledge this, but precious little has happened since, apart from the Bill, and the Home Secretary said disappointingly little about it today. It is the same, as others have said, with the attack on urban deprivation. Economic and social disadvantage is an even greater problem than racial discrimination. Yet there are rumours today of cut-backs in the urban programme, and many hon. Members will have seen the eloquent plea by the Bishop of Liverpool in a recent letter to The Times.
If equality of opportunity is to mean anything, a really comprehensive programme by the Government, including more help for the inner cities to benefit whites and blacks alike, is essential. For this we have been waiting too long.
To return to the Bill: the House must answer two basic questions. First, can any laws in this field do more good than harm? My answer is "Yes", because I believe in the value of declaratory legislation, which has already been proved in this country. To influence public attitudes it is surely Parliament's task to set the tone and give a lead.
To those who argue that this is an invasion of freedom, I say that freedom to discriminate racially is not one of the ingredients of a free society for which I have fought and worked. Consider the position and feelings of a black school leaver born in Notting Hill, near my London home, who has a fifty-fifty chance of encountering racial discrimination when he seeks a job. For that young man, freedom is a mockery.
Secondly, is stronger legislation needed now? When we were in government I was not absolutely convinced, but as the evidence of continuing discrimination has accumulated from various sources, I must now answer "Yes".
Thank goodness race relations and attitudes are somewhat better today than 10 years ago. We must indeed pay tribute to the tolerance of the white majority, who have seen dramatic changes in the British scene during the last quarter of a century. We must pay tribute, also, to the adaptability of immigrants and their British-born children, and to the great contribution that they have made to our national life both at work and at play.
1614 But we must not be complacent. The lessons of American experience, which the Select Committee was able to assess last year, are that if we want to forestall trouble later we should act firmly now to tackle discrimination, to save young blacks, in particular, from bitterness and alienation, and to give them, instead, a sense of confidence and security. The need for more action is most urgent in employment. Let us praise good employers who have made declarations of equal opportunity and carried them out, but there remain too many others, and perhaps even more trade unions, who are letting discrimination fester and who do not want to know.
Some of my hon. Friends, I know, are worried that the Bill will mean discrimination against whites. I believe it will not, because its aim is simply to help blacks up to the starting line on equal terms. There is encouraging evidence from recent surveys that most people, even among the white majority, are in favour of stronger laws against discrimination. Nevertheless, we have to take these worries seriously. We must learn again from American experience and avoid making our legislation too elaborate or oppressive. My judgment, therefore, is that we now need a stronger legislative thrust as part of our general attack on disadvantage and discrimination, but the House must take great trouble to get the Bill right, and the Committee stage of the Bill will be crucial.
I shall give a few examples of the matters that I hope will be thoroughly examined in Committee. There is the dubious provision about incitement to racial hatred. There is the precise extent of harmonisation that may be desirable between the sex legislation and the race legislation, and there is the advantage or otherwise of putting a positive duty on local authorities. There is the vital but difficult role of the new Commission. How are we to make certain that from the start it has a clear, effective strategy? I welcome the responsibility for education and research that the Bill puts upon it: there is a need for the education of the public in the wider realities of the multi-cultural society which Britain is now becoming, and there is a need, also, for more thorough research than hitherto.
1615 What should be the status of local community relations councils? How should they be funded, and how should they be related to the Commission itself, to the local authorities and to the Government? How are we to ensure that they get the high quality of staff that will be essential?
Lastly, there is the problem of clubs. I do not believe that the present situation can be accepted. It is deplorable that one of the clubs that fought all the way to the House of Lords to keep its colour bar was a Conservative club—but no doubt some Labour clubs are just as bad Can it be right that a black man should work all day alongside his white friend on the shop floor but then find himself unable to join him for a pint at the social club across the road, just because his skin happens to be black?
Yet I wonder whether compulsion now, in this delicate area, may prove counterproductive. Might it not be wiser to give voluntary action a little longer, to lean on the good sense of club members, but to make it clear that if the Club and Institute Union is unable to eradicate all colour bars by persuasion within a year or two, legislative action by this House will be unavoidable?
Before concluding, I want to make an appeal and to address some words, more in sorrow than in anger, to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Once again today I heard not a constructive word from him. I wonder whether he realises the damage that he has done to race relations by his speeches in recent years, or the fears and unhappiness caused to his non-white fallow-citizens and their families in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, of which I have personal experience. When will he face reality—that whatever the future trend of immigration may be, we have a coloured population, here to stay, of about 1¾ million rising to 2 million, of whom the word "immigrant" is increasingly an inappropriate description, because the majority of them will soon be British-born? The whole House acknowledges the qualities of head and heart of "Uncle Enoch", as he is known among our lighter-hearted black friends. Will he not even now turn those qualities to the task of building a society in which race relations remain harmonious 1616 and no citizens are second-class? Will he not at last speak up with all his eloquence for tolerance and equal rights?
Whether or not the right hon. Gentleman starts such a new chapter, there must be no mistaking the significance of today's debate. This House, I hope unanimously and I am sure overwhelmingly, is about to accept the principle of the Bill. To those listening at home and overseas our message is one of hope and harmony, not the doom and gloom from Down, South. Tonight the House of Commons will show itself virtually united in its commitment against racial discrimination, and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women in Britain shall have equal dignity and equal opportunities, whatever the colour of their skin.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), a Select Committee colleague, on his remarks and I invite him, if the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) forces a Division tonight, to join us in the Lobby in support of the Bill.
The Home Secretary said this afternoon that coloured people must not always be associated with problems. My right hon. Friend is right. It is because he is right and because he coined an important phrase that I shall, briefly, enumerate why coloured people must not always be associated with problems. They must also be associated with the constructive help that they offer our society. One does not have to be a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, as I am, to know about that. We do not need to make a special investigation to know that. It is apparent all around us.
All hon. Members will appreciate that our transport system and our hospital system would collapse if it were not for coloured people. Indeed, that applies to many of our social services. Many of the women who help the disabled and the aged and who man the home help service, particularly in our large cities such as London, are sterling women from Jamaica and other West Indian islands. I should like to see more of them devoting that constructive help to society. We see merely a pin prick at present. We have the occasional coloured magistrate 1617 and coloured councillor. I look forward to the day when coloured people, be they men or women, take their place in this House, because they are able and capable of doing so. They may be Conservatives. I do not mind, for I am tolerant enough to realise that we have a two-party or a two-and-a-bit party system. If they are Conservatives they will be misguided, of course.
It is quite obvious that discrimination exists, and no one realises this better than the hon. Member for Cambridge and myself as members of the Select Committee. We have gone around the country and seen the problem. There is discrimination. A year or so ago we inquired into a report on employment. Discrimination was clearly visible. Possibly this is self-criticism, but there is no reason why we should not look inwardly at this problem. Unfortunately workers on the shop floor, no doubt trade unionists—and I am a trade unionist of long standing—told me that they did not want any blacks in their shop. I am not saying that that view is widespread but it exists on a fairly wide front. The Report on Political and Economic Planning—PEP as it is commonly known—inquired into racial disadvantage in employment. It conducted a survey of 300 large factories. The Report said that 50 per cent. of the factories visited practised some form of discrimination and only 8 per cent. had taken steps to ensure that discrimination did not occur.
There is also the promotion situation. How many people at or above the rank of sister in a hospital are black? How many Barbadians who work on the buses in Brixton—which is within the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton)—are above the rank of the red or the blue labelled inspector? Most of them are drivers or conductors and there is just a sprinkling of inspectors. There is discrimination on promotion.
That same PEP Report said that black workers made twice as many applications as white workers before they could find a job and that when they found a job the great majority were given non-skilled manual work or were put permanently on the night shift.
I realise that legislation is not the cure and end-all of problems and the only 1618 creator of good race relations or of the abolition of discrimination, but it helps. It is essential to have it. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that coloured people must not always be associated with problems. We, the indigenous people, must be associated very much with the fact that we have created a society in which there are not enough houses for everyone, not enough jobs and not sufficient educational facilities. We have created that kind of situation, and we have failed in our responsibility to the coloured peoples.
Let those of us who dare to say "Why should we bother?" remember this, and let the right hon. Member for Down. South remember it. We went to the West Indies and recruited workers for our buses when we needed them. We recruited from Asia workers for the mills of Bradford.
§ Mr. Torney
The country; the employers. London Transport recruited bus-loads of workers. The National Health Service recruited nurses. Now it turns out that apparently we do not want to keep black nurses here after they are trained. However, when they return to Jamaica, there is no place for them there, either. That is a fact. I have been there. The right hon. Member for Down. South was at the Ministry of Health when we had great influxes of coloured immigrants between 1960 and 1963.
I am sorry that hon. Members, mainly of the Opposition, have mixed up the question of the immigration figures with discrimination, racial hatred and so on. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) make such a plank of the figures on immigration, the numbers coming in, illegal immigrants, and the like. I have a great deal of respect for him and I know that what he said was said in absolutely good faith. I accept that. But he was so wrong.
In Bradford we have a vicious little group called the Campaign Against Immigration. They are racialist. They are near-Fascist. They put up candidates at elections, even General Elections. The one and only plank in their programme is "Send the blacks back. Discriminate as much as you can."
1619 I do not suggest for a moment that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border meant his words to have this effect, but they will be welcomed by this vicious little organisation in Bradford and other vicious little fringe organisations in many parts of the country. They will be saying "There is an important Shadow Minister who is confirming what we have been telling you over the years: that the immigrants are just flowing into this country both illegally and legally." It just is not true. They make the wildest claims. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks will give them some credence. I am so sorry that some Opposition Members have made such a point about this matter.
I continue on the subject of racial hatred. I only wish that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was tightening the law more than he is, because although these people are small in numbers they can do irreparable damage. We must look at the people involved to get to the basis of this matter. From whence came those who are uttering the sort of cries that I have seen on posters on walls in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central, when I have been passing through Brixton, such as "Nigger, go home"? This is pure racial hatred, and it needs legislation to deal with it. I hope that this legislation will deal with the sort of people who propagate that vicious stuff.
When we look at them a little further we find that they are Fascists, or members of the National Front, or various other fronts, or of the Campaign to Stop Immigration. However, they are not far removed from the sort of people who were creating concentration camps in the last war and the sort of people who were conducting pogroms then, not against the blacks but against Jews. Perhaps it will be some other race or set of people that they will be attacking when they have worn out the attack on the blacks. These people are fringe elements. They are extremely noisy. They congregate in Bradford from a wide area. They come in coaches, cars and trains from a wide area. They have their marches and they certainly stir up racial hatred.
This brings me to what should be my final point because I know that many 1620 hon. Members want to speak in the debate. There was recently a very offensive BBC programme, particularly offensive to Bradford, in the "Open Door" series, in which the Fascists were given a programme to expound their racial hatreds. The programme was expounding racial hatreds in Bradford. We have a very large Asian population there. In the main they are doing as good a job as the indigenous population, working in industry and service industries, and they are earning their coin, but they are being discriminated against and they often live in bad social conditions.
Finally, I know that legislation by itself will not cure the problems immediately or completely. I know that all of us must look inward at our own selves and our thinking. When I say "us" I do not mean only we in this great House of Commons. I mean that we, the British people, must look inward—the factory worker, the bus worker, the hospital worker. We must say "For that man, that woman, working next to me, whose skin is black, the only test and judgment should be whether he or she is contributing as much to society as he or she is getting out of it, and whether he or she is doing a good job in return for a fair day's pay". That is how we should judge those working alongside us. That is what we must work towards. When we have achieved that, we shall achieve absolute and complete racial harmony.
I hope that the Bill is passed tonight. If there is a Division, and if the right hon. Member for Down, South dares to demand that Division, I hope that, in order to show the contempt for him that he deserves, many right hon. and hon. Members of the Opposition will come with us into the Lobby.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
If the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) believes that it is not right that immigrants are still pouring into this country, legally and illegally—to use his phrase—he is, I fear, alone in the country in thinking that, and, what is more interesting, almost alone in this debate in thinking so.
The House will readily concede that I have concerned myself with this subject for longer than any other hon. Member. There is much that one could say about 1621 it, but today I have felt sometimes like Mr. Reginald Paget, now Lord Paget, whom I once heard saying that when people began to agree with him he started to lose interest in his own opinions. I fear that my own are in some danger of neglect by myself as a result of what I have been listening to today. Although I could say much about that I shall not do so because I need a little time to adjust to the sentence of orthodoxy which seems to have been passed upon me this afternoon.
After all, the Bill is really about race relations, and although there is a very close connection—no one would deny it—with the astonishing thing that has happened to us over the last 20 years, the creation in this country of a population of, plus or minus a little, 2 million coloured people, happening with a suddenness that no one could have believed 20 years ago, and of course this debate arises out of that, nevertheless we are really considering a legislative proposal that is before us and I think it right that we should give our attention to it.
The House will know that I have spoken on almost every occasion when a Bill of this sort has been put before the House by a private Member or by a Government. I have always opposed them. I never opposed them on grounds designed to be attractive or acceptable to my audience. I have not chosen my grounds with that objective in mind. Indeed, there is a great danger in doing so. It is easy to be swept along with the tide. The expedient that is used on one occasion is the trap that catches on the second occasion.
I have said from the beginning that it is wrong to use the law in this context. In a letter which I wrote to The Times a good many years ago—so far as I know it is the only creative effort of mine to have appeared in our school books—I wrote that while I tried to be fair, courteous and kind to all with whom I have dealings, I discriminate between everyone I meet upon every ground that I can detect. I think that everybody does so, and it is right that they do.
Discrimination is not merely the supreme human quality; it is the very principle of life itself, whether it be vegetable or animal. Discrimination is everything. The perception and evalua- 1622 tion of difference is a basic function of every sentient creature. A heavy responsibility lies upon anyone who proposes to use a law of a country to declare that people must disregard certain things which they believe they perceive. The error which should be castigated, whether legal or not, is the attachment of unreasonable importance to an observed difference. However, the process of discrimination is always impeccable. It is always right and should never be discouraged, let alone forbidden.
I regard laws of this sort as laws against the very spirit of the human race. Of course, they grow. When I opposed the first Government Bill of this sort I said that it happened to be about race but that next time it would probably be about sex. At that time there was a Private Member's Bill before the House proposing similar machinery to act against discrimination on the ground of age. Since then I have seen many other similar proposals on the Order Paper.
Compulsion is so attractive and so quick. It saves all the bother of persuasion. It is the invariable objective of every pressure group that has a cause that is dear to its heart. We had the 1965 Act, the 1968 Act and, in 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act. We have a further turn of the screw with the Race Relations Bill 1976, and no doubt there will be others. Once we start on the process of using the law to mould minds—I have heard it described today as the declaratory use of the law and on other occasions as the educative use of the law—we are embarking upon something that is a total abuse of the coercive processes which a society accepts for some of its necessary purposes. That is the ground of my general objection.
I shall say only a few words about the Bill and why I think it is more objectionable than its predecessors. The Bill introduces a great deal of the procedure of the Sex Discrimination Act. It widens the range of discrimination. The bringing together of the Sex Discrimination Act and the widening of the definition of discrimination produces an oppressive system.
Let us consider the clauses which give the new combined body the power to start a general search. That may arise not because something has happened, or 1623 because there has been a complaint, but because there is an area of suspicion. Under the Bill there is the power to serve requisitions on anyone. The result of the interrogation process will be nondiscrimination declarations. Unless they are appealed against they will become binding.
It is said that the person who is caught up in this Star Chamber procedure can appeal to a county court or an industrial tribunal and that the order may be quashed. By the way, the person concerned cannot appeal beyond those tribunals. Such declarations are rather like perpetual injunctions. It is remarkable that someone affected by what begins as an administrative interrogative procedure cannot appeal beyond an industrial tribunal or a county court.
Let us consider the general enforcement procedures. First, I know it is said "Come along, they are not criminal but civil procedures. This is all fairly mild." I have pointed out previously, and I shall try to do so again in about 60 seconds, the vicious severity of the civil procedure and why it has been chosen to operate in these Acts. Perhaps the American experience or teaching is responsible. Advocates brush aside the criminal procedure because it is necessary to prove the person guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. That is the criminal burden. There is a jury, and the punishment is basically a fine. Judges are most reluctant to send someone to prison for this sort of offence. On the other hand, if the civil procedure is employed there is the attraction or the incitement of damages for the complainant to encourage him and reward him. Secondly, the whole matter is decided on a civil basis. It is not necessary to obtain proof beyond all reasonable doubt. It is necessary only to establish the balance of probability. Thirdly, a perpetual injunction can be obtained.
Fourthly, there are costs. Under existing legislation the complainant is always the Crown. Its resources are inexhaustible. It can always borrow from the Arabs if it runs out of money. Under the system that the Bill provides, the complainant shall be helped financially and otherwise by the Commission. There is nothing to be found in the Bill 1624 that provides financial help, or any other form of help, for the accused person.
We know how difficult it is for a defendant in these matters to acquire legal aid. In an inquisitorial procedure involving a right of appeal to an industrial tribunal or a county court the person concerned knows that he will not be given legal aid to appear before an industrial tribunal; and in the county court he will not be given that aid in practice, and if he loses he will pay the costs of both sides. If he wins, the Commission will have to pay the costs, but since the Commission is the Crown it will not worry very much about that.
Therefore, a civil procedure is mainly oppressive. Under existing legislation a person against whom the Race Relations Board finds a prima facie case hardly ever dares to contest the matter in court. That has happened, but it is rare, and one can ignore it, because the individual would be crushed by the procedure, whereas the complainant—the Board or Commission—has behind it the inexhaustible resources of the Crown. It is a most oppressive procedure, and the Bill proposes to double it in terms of scope and oppressiveness. Therefore, I cannot give the Bill a fair wind, because there is much that is bad in it and the principle itself is wrong.
Let me now turn to Clause 69, which deals with incitement to racial hatred. In an anticipatory moment, because I knew that this legislation was coming along, I presented a Bill seeking to repeal the existing provision. But let us make no mistake about it, Clause 69 will be the greatest infringement of freedom of speech or writing since the days of religious persecution.
The Home Secretary said that the legislation was being tightened up because there were not enough convictions under the old system. I find that a lamentable reason for changing the law. The White Paper says, in paragraph 126:Relatively few prosecutions have been brought under Section 6 of the 1965 Act.…However, during the past decade, possibly largely as a result of Section 6, there has been a decided change in the style of racialist propaganda. It tends to be less blatantly bigoted, to disclaim any intention of stirring up racial hatred, and to purport to make a contribution to public education and debate. Whilst this shift away from crudely racialist 1625 propaganda and abuse is welcome, it is not an unmixed benefit.Then appears a sentence to which I wish to draw attention>:The more apparently rational and moderate is the message, the greater is its probable impact on public opinion.The Home Secretary is virtually saying "The situation is becoming dangerous. People are putting forward views that are moderate and rational, they will have a great impact on people's minds, and therefore we must hit at them."
The way the Home Secretary hits at that so-called abuse is by Clause 69 of the Bill. He said that all Clause 69 was doing was to bring the law a little closer to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936. But that is not true. Under the 1965 Act one must prove three things against a person: first, that he intended to incite racial hatred; secondly, that he used, in writing or in speech, words threatening, abusive, or insulting; and thirdly, that what he said or wrote was likely to stir up racial hatred on the ground of colour, race or ethnic or natural origins. In effect, the first and third points are being omitted from Section 69 because a person will commit an offence if he publishes or uses in a public place matter that is threatening, abusive or insulting.
§ Mr. Rose Hear, hear.
§ Mr. Bell
Let me tell the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) why that provision is not enough. The words "threatening, abusive or insulting" are disjunctive. It does not involve all three, but any one of the three. Where people express opinions that are profoundly disagreeable to the person who hears them, the reaction is likely to be on the lines of the passage I read from the White Paper. The Home Secretary is saying that people cannot be allowed to express scandalous opinions in moderate language because it is too dangerous, and that if they are put moderately and rationally, they may persuade people that they are right.
I have discovered that in matters of controversy there is hardly a word one uses that cannot in one form or another be described as "obscene". One has only to express a view about which somebody feels strongly for it to be described as "obscene".
§ Mr. Bell
My hon. Friend says that the word is used by the Lords Spiritual. It will be a little difficult for somebody who is accused to say that his words are not "threatening, abusive or insulting" if he is deploying an argument.
We know that in the last year certain geneticists have come close to saying that there is in certain races a certain mental inferiority which could be ineradicable. Never mind whether it is true or not, the situation is that they have reached that conclusion. Are they not to be at liberty to state that view? There will be many people who will describe the view as "obscene", but surely we should ensure that people who are expressing genuine opinions, opinions which may be deeply repugnant to certain categories of the population, are free to do so if they feel them to be true, authentic and rational arguments to deploy. That is what the Government are seeking to forbid. They are prepared, as laid down in the White Paper, to prohibit the expression of that sort of opinion in any way at all.
Paragraph 127 of the White Paper says:The present law does not, however, penalise dissemination of ideas based on an assumption of racial superiority, of inferiority or facts.…The Government is not therefore at this stage putting forward proposals to extend criminal law to deal with the dissemination of racialist propaganda in the absence of a likelihood that group hatred will be stirred up by it. It recognises, however, that strong views are held on this important question and will carefully consider any further representations that may be made to it.They are quite prepared to put in a new clause to say "You will not have those sorts of opinions."
The Bill proposes to eliminate the need for intent altogether. It strikes it right out in this restriction of freedom of speech. This really cannot be called a Committee point. It is central to the whole concept of the Bill [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that confirmation. The House should address itself to the Bill, realising what principles it contains and what is at stake. I know the attraction of the middle course in matters of this kind, but, in my view, when a Bill is put before Parliament the 1627 duty of hon. Members is simple and clear, namely, to consider the proposal on its merits and to vote according to their conclusions. No other considerations should prevail.
I know that there is constant talk about the danger of being misunderstood. If politicians cannot explain their own reasons sufficiently clearly to avoid the risk of being misunderstood, they are not good politicians. If it is any encouragement to anyone, I point out that I have been explaining my reasons for doing these things for a good many years and I appear to be still alive.
I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), who, I am sorry to see, is no longer present, that although I understand how he feels about this matter and what he said about the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), one has to balance the matter, and he should bear in mind the fear and unhappiness caused to our own British people by the views which are opposite to those expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South. What would those people feel if the Bill were debated throughout the whole afternoon and evening in the House of Commons and no one said a word about their anxieties or about the engine which is being fashioned for their oppression, to mould their minds and to ensure that they act as though they held the same beliefs as the Home Secretary and his Friends?
I do not challenge the right of Labour Members to hold their views, but what right have they to pass laws to proscribe those of us who think differently, from speaking, acting and behaving in all our daily activities according to our own conclusions and synthesis of all the complicated and difficult movements that make up the modern society?
For those reasons I shall not be leaving it to the right hon. Member for Down, South to divide the House. I shall do it myself although I hope that he and other hon. Members will join me in the Lobby when the Division takes place at 10 o'clock.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
I remind the House that there are 65 minutes available. There is a considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members who still wish to speak. It is in hon. Members' own hands.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South-East)
We have heard the Opposition Front Bench as well as Opposition Members claim that the Government have relaxed discrimination controls. That is true in two respects. It is true in relation to those illegal immigrants who came in before 1st January 1973 and who have been granted amnesty from the operation of the Immigration Act 1971. I hope that the Opposition Front Bench will make clear whether it agrees with the amnesty. As I understand the position, it affected only about 1,100 individuals.
The second respect in which controls have been relaxed is the way in which they affect fiancés, husbands or wives who have settled in this country. The immigrant population and English wives who have foreign husbands or fiancés are entitled to know whether the Opposition will reimpose such controls.
I represent a constituency which has a large immigration population. Last Saturday afternoon we witnessed the spectacle of violence and conflict arising out of immigration. For some reason known only to the demonstrators who were in support of candidates standing in the Coventry, North-West by-election, the conflict had to take place in my constituency of Coventry, South-East. That is an indication of how near to the surface troubles and difficulties can be.
In my constituency the only people who have so far criticised the Bill are club officials who see danger to club rights. I have been a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations since 1970. I have seen what I believe to be the ending of overt discrimination in this country. However, there is still substantial covert discrimination.
The Committee has been told of substantial criticisms of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. I never entirely accepted that criticism because those two bodies were set up by the House and when they were initiated they operated in almost uncharted seas. The basis of their remit of establishing harmonious relations is widely criticised today, but in 1968 it made sense because it was wide and it did not commit anyone to anything. It gave those bodies ample opportunity to 1629 carry out the work which they were expected to do.
Times have moved. In Britain today it is clear that we have a multi-racial society and that it will remain so for a very long time to come. Those who believe that Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians should be sent back to their own countries, as it is put, including even those who were born here, fail to understand the situation. My experience in these matters is considerable. The only people of whom I ever hear who wish to go back are the retired pensioners who feel that at last they need the sun of the Punjab on their backs.
In the last six months by sheer good fortune I have visited several parts of the world. In the South Pacific and in the West Indies there are groups of Indians, Pakistanis and Asians of all sorts. I often think that after the British, those who came from the Indian subcontinent are the best colonisers in the world. They turn up almost everywhere. This is a fact which must be borne in mind. Even after perhaps 150 years and four or five generations, they have still retained their culture, just as the first generation which came away from their country.
We have a multi-racial society here which will last for a long time. In 150 years we shall still have fish and chips and chapatis; there will still be the saris and the turbans; there will still be the churches, the Moslem mosques and the Sikh temples. We must consider what sort of society we are to keep in this country. I am sure that everyone would say that we must have a fair society where men and women are equal citizens.
It is necessary to have legal backing to combat covert discrimination. With the Select Committee on Race Relations I went to the United States, which has far more experience and far greater problems in the sort of matters we are discussing tonight. Everywhere those who are trying to face up to their great problems said the same. They said, "It is necessary to have lawful backing to what is sought to be done in combating racial discrimination." The new Commission will be able to build upon the experience of the past.
I would not be surprised if, when the Bill becomes law, there were a flood of 1630 applications from those complaining about discrimination. That is the sort of thing that was experienced when the legislation on redundancy payments was first passed. After a time, as the operation of the statute became known, these problems and difficulties became understood, the flood died away, and cases which might have been brought were settled without need to resort to the Act.
The only complaint I have received about the Bill is where it changes the law on clubs. I say humbly that I was not surprised by the decision of the House of Lords which gave rise to the Bill. It seemed to me that the law was always how the House of Lords ruled it should be. However, we should place on record in this debate the comment by the executive of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union. It said in a statement issued to all affiliated clubs,Conduct by a club committee which is based on colour, race or ethnic or national origins is unacceptable in that the Union is founded on friendship as is clearly shown in the Union Associate Card, namely, 'Honour all men, love the brotherhood, use hospitality one to another, be not forgetful to entertain strangers and he that need have friends must show himself friendly.I welcome the Bill, but it would be foolish to deceive ourselves into thinking that we were reaching a solution to racial discrimination and the problems that go with it. To the immigrant his fundamental problems are the same as those of all others. They are, "What is my house like; what is my job like; what will the education of my children be?" These are the problems which we should solve because, set against those, the right to go into a club is pretty small beer.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The debate illustrates, notwithstanding the probable result of the vote, the wide differences of opinion that are felt on both sides of the House. I shall try to start on a note that may achieve the maximum of agreement in this House. I believe that the greater part of this House will agree on two propositions. The first is that the position of any minority should always be considered carefully and honourably. The House would be almost united in its condemnation of racial prejudice—and I use those words to take into account the very clear distinction that is drawn 1631 by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell). I define racial prejudice as being blind, unreasoning dislike of any race. I believe that Labour Members would condemn racial prejudice, because they believe in the equality of all men in all respects. I need hardly add that I do not share that belief, but I do believe that all men and women should be considered as individuals in each and every situation.
The importance of human life demands that each individual person should be considered not as a thing with a label on it, but as a unique human being. Is there not a danger in this fashionable agreement, for we are all too inclined to say that we are agreed upon this, we should take the law to it?
Such an attitude has very great dangers. There are surely many preconditions to successful legislation. I rely on only two of them. There must, first, be widespread consent to the proposed law. Secondly, there must be a certainty that the law will be both enforceable and enforced. If these two conditions are not adhered to, damage is done to the rule of law, for whenever a citizen breaks the law and either feels no moral constraint or gets away with it, it becomes progressively easier for the citizen to break the law.
The great example of this was the Prohibition legislation in the United States. That law was without consent and was unenforced and unenforceable. Prohibition created conditions that led to more law-breaking and crimes not associated with drinking. This may be a general proposition upon which the House is agreed. But the argument has been put forward, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), that this legislation is declaratory.
The argument runs that there will be some damage to the rule of law caused by this unenforceable legislation but that it will be compensated by improvements in race relations and in the incidence of what he would describe as racial discrimination. Let us look at the most important area of this so-called racial discrimination—to use a term of the legislation that I do not understand. The most important area to immigrants trying to get estab- 1632 lished in this country is employment. Yet on page 2 of the White Paper we read:Political and Economic Planning estimated that a coloured unskilled worker has a one in two chance of being discriminated against when applying for a job, a coloured skilled worker a one in five chance, and a coloured white-collar worker a one in three chance.That is after a decade of this legislation. If this is true, it is an argument not for extending the law, but for scrapping it. It demonstrates that general damage has been done to the rule of law, but that there has been no compensating advantage here.
I have to disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) when he says the law has a part to play in this area, but I do agree with him that race reations generally have improved. Why is this? First, it is because the people of this country have believed many of the things coming from this House and the many politicians who have said that there has been strict control of immigration. Unhappily, those protestations have not been borne out by events.
I regret the policy being pursued by the Minister of State at the Home Office and I particularly regret his visit to the Asian sub-continent, when he encouraged people to apply for entry into this country, the way he extended the category of dependants and the way in which he recently told immigration officers "When in doubt, let them in". That is not strict control of immigration.
The whole nation will be most grateful for the firm and statesmanlike way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border dealt with this matter. He has given a firm commitment that the Tory Party will reduce the number of immigrants coming into this country. I make so bold as to say that from his high position as Deputy Leader of the Party, he may even be able to allow us to have a debate on this subject.
It is one of the most extraordinary things in British politics that we are never allowed to debate this subject, which must be one of the most important in contemporary politics. We have 1¾ million immigrants here—a population about equal to the number of people directly employed in agriculture. Yet compare the amount of time this House spends in discussing agriculture with the time spent discussing race relations or immigration.
1633 I hope that following the firm and statesmanlike way in which my right hon. Friend dealt with this matter in opening for the Opposition, and once we have the figures from Sir Claud Moser, we shall have a full debate on the subject.
I am also grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border for saying that, in his view, the greater part of the so-called immigrant population was here to stay. I hope that this important assurance to the immigrant population will be harkened to by them. I hope it will give them a sense of security and self-confidence. One of the great difficulties in dealing with immigrant communities is getting through the barrier of excessive sensitivity and extraordinary touchiness that arises from their sense of insecurity. Perhaps my right hon. Friend's assurance will make them a little easier to deal with in future.
Another reason why I believe race relations have improved is that the ordinary people of this country—not the media or the gentlemen in Whitehall and Westminster—have displayed an extraordinary tolerance. Let us pay a tribute to the people of this country who have borne the burden of this immigration. There have been many tensions and difficulties which have been reduced by the kindliness, decency and good humour of the British man in the street—the same people that we Tories instinctively trust rather than compel.
There is a rôle for leadership in this sphere. I hope the House will consider the extremely sensible and commonsense appeal of the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton) who rightly poured scorn on the whole idea of legislation in this field and upon the well-educated do-gooders who poured into his constituency for ever offering ill-considered advice. The hon. Member said robustly that the people of his constituency wanted to get on without legislation and he considered that he and his colleagues gave leadership to his constituents in the many difficulties thrust upon them—mostly by Westminster. These are all important considerations, which have helped to improve race relations in this country.
I have considered most carefully the eloquent plea from my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border and the less eloquent, but more forcible, 1634 pleas from my Friend's in the Whip's Office, that I should abstain from voting at the end of the debate. I regret that I am unable to accede to those pleas.
I go some way towards meeting my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border. I do not, unhappily, have the stark honesty of character and intellect displayed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield. I would not have been in favour of repealing the 1968 Act. It is nonsense, but it is established nonsense and it may now be necessary nonsense. But there is a world of difference between enduring necessary nonsense and accepting new nonsense, such as this Bill.
I shall vote against the Bill for three main reasons. First, it stirs up the whole issue of racial prejudice once again. It will cause further resentment as it grants yet further rights to the immigrant minority. It will be one more affront, not to the middle class who are here but to the ordinary British people who have to bear the brunt of immigration and who have done so with decency and dignity.
Secondly, it was profoundly wrong and mistaken to extend this legislation to working men's clubs. The working men's club is the last refuge of 3½ million of our fellow citizens. It is their refuge—
§ Mr. Budgen
We all need refuge from our families, our jobs, bad weather, and many other things. For many working people the working men's club is the last refuge where they can consort with friends of their own choosing. Here I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter). It is disgraceful that those people should be faced with the compulsion of law. I had hoped that in the near future the doors of working men's clubs would have been opened voluntarily to immigrants. But the Minister of State and the Home Secretary have unhappily postponed that day. The same tough-mindedness, the same bloody-mindedness, that made this country fight on in the last war when all reasonable argument would have told them to surrender, will be displayed by—
§ Mr. Budgen
It is perfectly true. The resentment of members of working men's clubs will be strong. The Government might have gained voluntary—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Budgen
The Government might have gained the voluntary co-operation of all the working men's clubs if they had approached the matter in a spirit of persuasion and not in a spirit of compulsion. Even if I do not take the whole of the Labour Party with me, I am glad that on this I take with me the hon. Member for Hartlepool.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it was profoundly wrong to tighten the offence of incitement to racial hatred. I do not want to expound at length upon that, because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield has done so admirably. I should perhaps declare an interest, because I recently made a speech in which I suggested ways in which immigration control could be tightened. For my trouble the Indian workers of Wolverhampton reported me to the Race Relations Board so that the Board might consider prosecuting me under Section 6 of the 1965 Act. My speech might have been unreasonable or unfair, but I contend that if that were so I should have lost votes thereby. Section 6 of the 1965 Act is being used as a threat to stifle discussion of an important problem.
Before the House forgets the unhappy incident in which paper was thrown down, we might reflect on why that happened. It happened because a large number of our fellow-citizens feel that they cannot discuss this issue. If they feel that they cannot discuss it, their only resort is to violence—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must by convention not refer to incidents that do not concern the Chamber. I also remind him that the clock is moving on.
§ Mr. Budgen
Those are the three reasons why, with great regret, I cannot follow the injunction put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border. I vote in the way I do not because I am in favour of racial prejudice but because I believe in the rule 1636 of law. I do so with a sense of regret that I shall not be voting with the remainder of my party. Most of all, I vote because I believe that this legislation will be bad for all my constituents, of whatever colour or class. I vote also because I believe that the legislation is interfering, patronising and paternalistic.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is so blinded by his obsession with immigration that he fails to understand the background to the Bill and the reasons for it. It is speeches like his which cause the sense of insecurity to which he referred. He gave himself away when he talked about our bearing the brunt of immigration as if we bear the brunt of immigration when our children are looked after by nurses from the Caribbean. I do not regard that as a brunt. I regard it as a benefit. This country from time immemorial has benefited from immigration from many sources.
Having served on the Committee stages of two Bills dealing with race relations, I am delighted that even after a decade the Government have accepted several crucial criticisms made by some of my hon. Friends and myself about the shortcomings of the legislation on those two previous occasions. One of the major shortcomings which we then pointed out and which applies equally to the legislation in respect of the Ombudsman is reliance upon individual complaints. At best it is a haphazard method, but it also ignores the reluctance to complain and the unawareness on the part of many people of discrimination and the remedies which are available to the victim.
I am in favour of the fusion of the Board and the Commission, and I welcome it in the context of the advisory body that is to be set up by my right hon. Friend. Most vital of all is the new power for the new Commission to initiate investigations and complaints. I should like a duty placed on the Commission to make application to the court in cases of persistent discrimination. So that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) can have the benefit of this legislation in his constituency, I should like Clause 78(2) to be removed from the Bill, so that the Bill would apply 1637 to what is termed an integral part of the United Kingdom.
Clause 9, which provides that an employer may discriminate against any person employed on a ship who was engaged or applied for that employment outside Great Britain, is a particularly distasteful provision. It will enable British shipping companies to continue to employ Chinese and other Asians on British ships on terms and conditions that are greatly inferior to those offered to British seamen. That clause is anathema to the National Union of Seamen, and i should like it to be removed from the Bill. If it is not removed, at least let us have a time limit for doing away with this form of discrimination.
In a Second Reading debate it is possible only to select one or two specific points in this very comprehensive Bill, which I warmly welcome. I hope that the Minister will take note, before the Committee stage, of what I have to say on Part IX of the Bill, which deals with incitement.
I remember warning the then Home Secretary in 1965 that the provisions concerning incitement would be largely ineffectual. The reason is apparent to anyone with any knowledge of the courts and the reality of the quite obscene—I do not hesitate to use the word—literature that emanates from racialist organisations. Anyone interested in seeing it can look at my file.
There has been no change whatsoever in the tone of much of the racialist literature distributed today compared with that which was published in Germany in 1933. The only difference is that it is now a good deal more subtle and insidious. On only three occasions that I recall has the Attorney-General been able to take successful action on the ground of incitement. Clearly, as the Attorney-General pointed out on 9th October 1963, an unsuccessful prosecution can do more harm than no prosecution at all.
But surely the racial, national and ethnic groups have a right not to be defamed. Just as individuals have a right not to be defamed or lose their reputations, so even more is there a fundamental right not to be defamed because of the way one is born—and cannot help being born.
1638 I should like to see a provision concerning religion added to the Bill. it is so easy—as the National Front and the British Movement do—to concentrate on Sikhs, Hindus, Jews or Muslims. Equally, today it might be Protestants or Catholics who are involved. Surely incitement to hatred on the ground of religion, as happens in the area now represented by the right hon. Member for Down, South—or perhaps the Deep South—is as bad as incitement where race is involved.
The law has until now maintained a double onus of proof upon the prosecution. First, there has to be an intention to stir up hatred. Secondly, there has to be a likelihood that it will ensue. Any practioner in the criminal courts will know that juries are very reluctant indeed—and quite rightly so—to accept the first of these propositions without the clearest possible external evidence. But here, by the very definition of the kind of offence, it is almost impossible to prove such an intent, except in the most blatant of public utterances, and where it is made in circumstances in which a breach of the peace is likely to follow. Even now the law remains deficient, because hatred is not the only emotion stirred up against minorities by organisations such as those to which I have referred.
People in my own city only recently committed acts of hideous violence against people of their own race at a public meeting, and they have so far remained unpunished because, unfortunately perhaps, they have friends in high places. But any publication which is written or spoken, or any pictorial representation, likely to incite hatred ought to be covered by the law, and not only hatred, contempt and ridicule.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the actions of those who, because of some deep sense of inferiority, have to project their feelings on to some identifiable minority, is that they tend not merely to hate but also to incite contempt for or ridicule upon a particular racial or religious minority. I believe that it is no different from the law concerning sedition. If we permit this it affects the very fabric of a democratic society and its cohesion.
It is no wonder also that under the old law after 1965 the Attorney-General 1639 at that time—for whom the enforcement of this Act is only one of many functions, and not central to his work—did not act with any sense of urgency. At that time it took eight months in the Great Yarmouth case. Now, in spite of the very best intentions, the present Attorney-General has accepted what some of us said 10 years ago in the debates we then had in Committee—that the law should be enforced as the criminal law is enforced anywhere. The Attorney-General should not be overburdened with each individual case.
There are very good liberal grounds, which I understand, for saying that this infringes free speech. I have always taken the view that where there is a balance between freedom of speech and what appears to be a curb upon it, we ought to come down on the side of freedom of speech. But we do not permit freedom of expression when it endangers national security, when it is seditious, obscene, blasphemous or defamatory. The end product of racial hatred is not merely the hatred itself. It is the gas chamber and the racial war.
It is especially significant—hon. Gentlemen should take note of this—that the countries with direct experience of those consequences, such as Austria and Germany—and occupied countries such as Norway—have the toughest possible laws against racial incitement. They know the end product of racial incitement.
I should like to see imported into the Bill the concept of contempt, which is a prime feature of much of the more disgusting propaganda of such racialist groups as the National Front. I am not satisfied that the wording as it stands in relation to the circumstances is sufficient. I believe that mere publication itself should be made an offence and I hope that the Secretary of State will look again at this before the Committee stage, as I am afraid his predecessor did not, 10 years ago, or indeed seven years ago, when appeals were made to him to rectify this.
To take just one example, in Norway the provision was:Similar punishment will be administered to a person or persons who publicly insult or provoke hatred or contempt of a race on 1640 account of its creed, extraction or origin, 0r who threaten such a race or spread false accusations about it".That is the situation in Norway, which can be regarded as one of the most democratic countries in the world and which recognises that there is a fundamental right to be free from calumny or racial incitement, which is even more important in that case than the so-called freedom of expression, which one has to weigh in the balance.
It is a source of great satisfaction to see in the Bill many changes which the International Labour Office, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other international bodies have recommended, and particularly in respect of the United Nations Resolution of 20th November 1963 which exhorted Governmentsto do all in their power to promote energetic action, which by combining legal and other practical measures, will abolish all forms of racial discrimination.I had myself the experience in the Council of Europe of drafting a 30-page report on discrimination. The delegates from 16 countries ended by unanimously asking their national governmentsto re-examine their legislation and practices with a view to tightening up and improving their system for the suppression of discriminatory practices—and perhaps the right hon. Member for Down, South will note this—particularly in the field of civil rights, employment and housing.The Sex Discrimination Act, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Equal Pay Act have all contributed to this under this Government, and under a reforming Home Secretary we have seen advances on a wide front. They have to be made before the kind of tension no longer arises that I have seen in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton)—and I am sorry he is not here—where virtually riots have taken place, involving hundreds of people.
One sees a vicious circle of deprivation occurring particularly in respect of young persons of West Indian origin, denied a job because of their pigmentation, who do not have the same kind of sense of indentity as that possessed by those with thousands of years of history. We stripped them of their identity and 1641 treated them like cattle by sending them to the Caribbean and then we reject them when they come to this country. It is therefore no surprise that, when they hear the speeches of the right hon. Member for Down, South, with his lack of sensitivity, they are a little oversensitive. They believe, and have a right to believe, that their allegiance is here, and their rejection is psychologically a bitter blow that can result in lasting problems.
Unlike previous generations of immigrants they are in a position that they remain physically marked out for attack by anyone who wants to make a scapegoat of them. Had the great grandfather of the right hon. Gentleman had a different pigmentation, obviously we would know his origins—and that is the difficulty in respect of colour. Those who wish to incite hatred or to discriminate against a person may well do so, even though that person was born in this country and even though his great-grandfather was born here. There needs to be positive action provided under the Bill to solve the problems faced particularly by black teenagers, many of them born in this country, who meet disadvantages not only in obtaining jobs but also in obtaining promotion.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the winding-up speeches start at nine o'clock and that there are still six hon. Gentlemen who would like to address the House. The hon. Member has taken 15 minutes.
§ Mr. Rose
The hon. Gentleman has in fact taken only 15 minutes during the whole of this Session. This is the first time that he has spoken this Session, and he served on both those Committees. I am drawing to a close. I think that the opening speech lasted an hour.
The PEP Report showed even greater discrimination occurring before the 1965 and 1968 Acts were passed.
We are not asking for privileged treatment for anyone. We are asking for equal treatment. Without it, I believe that we create social discord, wastage of talent, violence, crime, decay in our inner city areas and social tensions in our conurbations.
I believe that it is our duty to act not only in legislation but by giving financial 1642 help to inner city areas through education; above all, to strengthen the law relating to incitement; to apply it in the ordinary criminal courts; and to ensure that discrimination is dealt with by tribunals with the power and inclination to award far higher damages than hitherto. I believe that they should also be composed partly of other members of minority groups. They will and should have the power to require witnesses to attend, to produce documents, to initiate investigations, and to grant injunctions pending a complaint being heard.
Finally, we must recognise that discrimination is not only hurtful in a pecuniary way to a person who fails to get a job but is a psychological trauma which many people fail to understand. It causes suffering and pain and produces an adverse reaction in the victim. I believe that, with the combination of this Bill and other measures which I have suggested, we shall be able to tackle what we set out to tackle in 1965. We made a further stride in 1967 and we are making a welcome big stride today.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I begin by declaring an interest. I am an Englishman and a member of the Royal Society of St. George.
This Bill, as has been pointed out often enough, is closely mixed up with the whole question of immigration, which we rarely debate in this Chamber. Although we appear to be entering the age of referenda, the British public has so far not been asked to give its view on immigration.
I believe that most hon. Members know in their hearts the views of ordinary English people. They wish to keep this country, which they know and love, basically as a place to which they feel they belong. Fundamentally, they do not wish it to change either its character or its cohesion. In other words, they wish to retain their identity—their homeland. The word "home" has a familiar sound. It is something that one knows, loves, and returns to.
I believe that the aim of the English in this island is a natural, not ignoble, one. They remember their history with pride, but now, for the first time in this island's long history, they fear for their 1643 future. In the past we have always absorbed small numbers of immigrants, but the immensity of the coloured immigration that this country has received during the past 25 years is an entirely new phenomenon.
Immigration has completely altered the face of certain parts of this country. It has, as we know, created foreign enclaves in our midst. It has brought into this country alien people who live alongside us, whose religion, customs and habits are quite different from ours. In this way it has fundamentally altered the character of this country.
I believe that no Government have the right to carry out such a fundamental act without the most specific consent of the people. Successive Governments are gradually depriving English people of their birthright, and in time, if this procedure is not stopped, the local population will be swamped. Hon. Members on the Government Benches may laugh, but there are not many people in this country who would actually enjoy that.
Some years ago I met a constituent who found himself and his family the last English persons in a road otherwise totally occupied by immigrants. He said to me "What have I done to deserve it?" Although the reaction of hon. Members opposite is to laugh, my reaction was one almost of tears, because I thought that I and all of us in this House, who were sent here by our constituents, had let them down. Hon Members may laugh at that if they wish. I am not making a party point. I believe that all Governments have failed to protect the indigenous people of this country. Not only do our Governments lack the moral courage to put into force the natural controls on immigration that exist in almost all other parts of the world; for many years there has been a sort of brain-washing of anybody who has tried to control immigration as if he were an un-Christian and horrible beast instead of somebody expressing a perfectly normal and natural point of view which is supported by 90 per cent. of the population.
I make no apology for the fact that this problem mainly concerns England and the big English cities. There are certain areas there where an Englishman may feel that he is a stranger in his own 1644 land. Nobody has told him why, or how, this happened, or what is the point, what is the aim, what sort of England this will be in 10, 20 or 30 years' time.
The burden of receiving these large numbers of immigrants does not effect the editors of newspapers, the media, or hon. Members on the Government Benches. It affects the poor old English working class; they have to bear it. And we are supposed to represent them.
In recent years there has been a second form of brain-washing, by saying "Do not worry. Immigration is being brought to an end. There is going to a mere trickle." We have been expecting this "coming to an end", this "mere trickle", since the middle of the 1960s, but it has not happened. For some reason the numbers stay put, or go higher. Either it is the Asians—who, instead of going back from East Africa to India, for some reason come here—or it is dependants, and dependants, and dependants.
I notice that the laughter on the Government Benches is now less. We all know that this is a real problem, which should be dealt with, and it is not being dealt with by the present Government. I absolve from the charge of deceiving us the Minister of State, who represents one of the fairest of our English cities—York. He has never made any secret of the fact that he is on the side of the immigrant and would, I believe, like as many as possible to come here. What he has never told us is what he wants York to become, or England to become, later in his lifetime or in his children's lifetime. That is a question that he might answer tonight.
§ Mr. Stokes
What is wrong with green fields?
The Government's immigration figures are not believed. There have been too many mistakes. In any event, world travel is now so extensive that much greater will and effort by the Government would be required if illegal entry and illegal residence were to be curbed. Meanwhile, we all know the scandal of the dependants. They will be coming in, it seems, for a century. Labour Members had better realise that it will never stop unless they decide to press their Government to do something about it.
1645 It is against that sombre background that we should judge the Bill. Governments have not kept faith with our people in controlling the flow of immigrants, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) said. Now, they add insult to injury by placing new burdens on the British people. Can Governments for ever presume on the tolerance of the English working class—that amazing kindness, goodness, friendliness and gentleness on which we have all often remarked? If millions of people had suddenly gone into Germany or other countries, they would not have been received as we have received them. Immigrants to other countries stay for a fixed time; they do not settle there.
Unless definite and drastic steps are taken to cut immigration dramatically, in time there will be an inevitable explosion of popular feeling. Already, we have between 1,750,000 and 2,500,000 immigrants. Anyone who predicted figures of that size 20, or even 10, years ago would have been thought a dangerous lunatic. But it has happened. We now know that with the number of immigrant births and—no one has mentioned this—the rapidly falling English birth rate, the population proportions are changing even more quickly.
Under the Bill, our people will be unfairly discriminated against and will face new offences. It is the newcomer, the immigrant, who will have the privileges and will be able to claim a right to them. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) and others have said that liberty and free speech are directly affected. The wording of the Bill is wholly un-English, full of what Orwell called Newspeak or double-talk, and in parts reminds me of "Nineteen-Eighty-Four".
Did those who drafted or approved the Bill ever go into an English pub and ask the ordinary man or woman for an opinion? Of course not. The Government are constantly worried about what the Observer or The Guardian and the rest of the media think. They represent no one but themselves. The English man or woman in the street has never been asked, yet they, in the end, are the people who vote Governments in or out. At the moment, the ordinary Englishman does not think much of Parliament. He 1646 believes that we are a little out of touch. If he reads reports of this debate, which I very much doubt, he will think that we are even more out of touch.
We are told that there are now so many immigrants that their votes in elections are crucial. We hear the new word "realpolitik". We are told that since there are 2½ million immigrant voters, we must take care and watch our step, that we must above all get their votes. But there are still about 20 million English voters with their hopes, fears and feelings.
The Bill can be opposed on many grounds. There is also the large question of how much and how far we are prepared to tolerate the Government deciding everything for us in the most intimate details of our private lives. No wonder the Minister laughs, because the Home Office is doing it every day. I am thinking of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act, the Employment Protection Act and the family planning legislation.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentle man will have heard my appeal for brief speeches. The winding-up speeches start at 9 o'clock.
§ Mr. Stokes
We have Acts about crash helmets, and the new Bill on car seat belts. This Bill follows the Sex Discrimination Act, which I consider to be absurd and unnecessary. Why must we legislate for everything? With the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton), who made the best speech from the Government side of the House, I believe that people's good sense is often better than Government meddling.
Everybody says that we have lost our spirit and we are not the nation that we were 30 years ago. One has only to sit on the Tube every morning and look at people's faces to realise that we are a defeated nation. We must ask what the Bill will do to bring back the wonderful spirit that we had during the war. Will this Bill help, or will it hinder? I believe that it will cause resentment among English people and that it is not really wanted by immigrants. It is another futile, dangerous and irrelevant burden on this long-suffering, once-great nation. Can one imagine any one of our great leaders of the past bringing forward such a Bill? Of course not.
1647 I hope that there will be some in my party—the national party of this country and the only party capable of defending ordinary people's freedom—who will join me in the Lobby against the Bill.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)
In the two and a half minutes that remain to me it is impossible to answer the speech to which we have just listened and to do justice to it. We have heard the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) who said he was speaking as a true Englishman. I agree with him that we have a tradition of toleration, friendliness and acceptance of visitors, but there is another aspect of our society to which we have not referred in the debate. There has been an underlying implication in many speeches from the Opposition Benches that the problems that we are facing are the problems of the black people and the brown people. We have not looked at the problems of the white people.
The House needs to be reminded of two problems of our society into which the black and the brown people have moved. Whether we like it or not, all of us are, to some degree, tainted by the fact that not many years ago we were an Imperial power and regarded ourselves as superior in our abilities to rule and guide affairs. That tradition perhaps makes it more difficult for the older amongst us to accept immigrants into the country as equals. It is made even more difficult by the fact that of all the nine countries in the EEC, ours is the most class-ridden. In most cases immigrants come into Britian to take up unskilled or semi-skilled jobs and therefore they move into the bottom strata of society.
I am sorry that those factors have been left out because they point strongly to the need for the legislation. The problems are just as much the problems of white people as they are of black people and brown people. It is therefore vital that the legislation be brought on to the statute book to redress the balance that has existed against black people and brown people, who are treated as second-class citizens and therefore inevitably discriminated against.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)
One of the general themes that have run through today's debate has been the central question of principle—that is, whether so intangible and generalised a concept as "community relations" or "race relations" can be improved or possibly damaged by specific, narrowly-drawn and detailed statutes of the sort that we have considered today. My conviction is that, on balance, the law has a positive and helpful rôle to play.
The implicit assertion of the principle of equal rights, which this sort of Bill contains, is in itself valuable, and perhaps Section 6 of the 1968 Act, which made it unlawful to publish explicitly colour-discriminatory advertisements, is an example of a specific provision that is both desirable and helpful on race relations grounds and is an example of a law that is enforceable and enforced—a criterion that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) requires of legislation.
At the same time, the balance of advantage over disadvantage in this kind of legislation is much less clear-cut and self-evident than some hon. Members have asserted today. Here I do not refer to the narrow case of clubs, which is dealt with in Clause 25. I am sure that in that respect the Bill has things wrong and that more harm than good will be done. We shall certainly try to change the clause in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) gave a good example of the way in which the provision could be usefully refined. That we shall attempt to do. Rather, I refer to the provisions of the Bill that are in principle impeccable—that there should be no discrimination on grounds of race or colour in matters of employment, training, education, housing or the provision of goods and services.
My point is a simple one. If we continue to trumpet through our laws and statutes that there should not and must not be discrimination in these areas, about which most of us would agree—certainly I applaud the assertion unreservedly, and most of my right hon. and hon. Friends would also—and yet discrimination still persists and even increases, that trumpeting begins to give 1649 an uncertain note. Laws can be brought into disrepute. The potential value of race relations legislation is possibly undermined and unrealised by this sort of contrast between theory and practice. The whole elaborate framework of laws and institutions in this country can even be in danger of turning sour.
There is some evidence—that was mentioned by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Wilson)—that in the eyes of minority immigrant groups the golden prospect originally opened up by the establishment of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission has already turned to lead, and it is by no means certain that the alchemy of Clause 43, which sets up the new Race Relations Commission in place of the old Commission, will turn this lead back into gold.
Helpfully enough, the reason why well-meaning, declaratory, and even thoroughly desirable legislation in this area can turn sour is explicitly faced and expounded in the Government's White Paper on Racial Discrimination, Cmnd. 6234, which was published as recently as last September. The reason is that in real life the lot of the poor coloured immigrant is beset by two quite separate hazards. One is unfair discrimination, based upon prejudice. Against that we can make, have made and should make laws. However, the other hazard, which is much more intractable and, in my submission, much more persuasive, is inescapable discrimination based upon disadvantage.
I am very glad that the Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, referred to this in terms. My only regret is that he did not make it the major feature of his speech—in contrast to the authoritative speech of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), with his special experience in this matter as Chairman of the Select Committee, who majored on it in his speech. We should note that when we talk about racial disadvantage, we are talking about discrimination. It is easy to slip into a way of thinking that when we talk about discrimination we automatically mean only racial discrimination. Racial discrimination we know and can legislate against. However, much discrimination is based upon disadvantage.
1650 Not only is discrimination based upon disadvantage allowed; it is, indeed, positively entrenched in the Bill. The paragraph at the top of page 2 entrenches discrimination based upon disadvantage. It says, in effect, that it is a legitimate basis for discrimination that one should require a certain educational standard in applying for a job that requires technical, mathematical, numerate or literate ability, so we entrench the right to discriminate on various grounds where qualifications are essential. This means that discrimination based upon disadvantage is recognised, established and entrenched in this very Bill.
Let me spell out this theme of disadvantage in a short digression. The White Paper touches upon it quite extensively. First, there is language. Political and Economic Planning tells us, in round figures, that one-half of adult Asians—the largest immigrant group—speak English only slightly, or not at all. West Indians are better linguistically, but not much. PEP says,If West Indian children tend to find that the educational system passes them by, one of the main reasons is that they tend to have poor command of the kind of English that is used in school, as opposed to the West Indian dialect that they speak at home"—the Creole.
Then there is housing. I quote from paragraph 8 of the White Paper:The latest figures suggest that the housing conditions of the coloured population have hardly improved in the last 10 or 15 years. The proportion of them who live in overcrowded conditions or who are forced to share the basic amenities is higher than that for the population at large. Coloured people are grossly over-represented in the private furnished rented sector, where conditions are worst and insecurity greatest, and significantly under-represented in the council housing sector.I need not elaborate upon the effect that bad housing has on personal motivation, capability, performance, health, and so on. It is self-evident. But it also spells disadvantage.
Then there is education. I have already mentioned the phenomenon of education "passing by" poor immigrant children with linguistic difficulties, but there is an additional factor in education, related to home life, and affecting West Indians particularly. A very high proportion of West Indian women are working—no fewer than 74 per cent., which 1651 is nearly double the average for the population at large. Not all are mothers, but the broad result is that West Indian children are peculiarly vulnerable to the risk of being left in large, inactive, unsupported groups without proper care and stimulus. Again, I need not stress the subsequent educational handicap that this entails. Nor need I stress the resource constraints likely now to be placed upon playgroups, organised child-minding, nursery education and other such provisions by which this handicap may be mitigated, as a result of likely trends in public expenditure.
It is worth adding, under the heading of education, that a large number of Asians arrive here comparatively mature in years, many of them having left school at the age of 12 and many having had no formal education whatsoever.
There is another factor in the disadvantage theme—namely, the cumulative effect. Paragraph 11 of the White Paper reads:If, for example, job opportunities, educational facilities, housing and environmental conditions are all poor, the next generation will grow up less well-equipped to deal with the difficulties facing them. The wheel then comes full circle, as the second generation find themselves trapped in poor jobs and poor housing.It was that vicious process which my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) analysed and described as the cycle of deprivation.
Nothing is more important in a debate about race relations and racial discrimination than to be clear-headed about the two different discriminations that I have described. There is unfair discrimination based upon prejudice and inescapable discrimination based upon disadvantage. There is unquestionably all the difference in the world between saying to a chap "I refuse to employ you because you are coloured", and saying to him "I should genuinely like to help you by giving you a job, but as you can neither add nor subtract, nor read nor understand simple English, with the best will in the world I must take on an educated white person." Both situations give rise to discrimination. One form of discrimination is based on prejudice, and the other on disadvantage. Both are profoundly regrettable.
1652 To complicate matters, these discriminations interact upon each other and form an amalgam, but both can be tackled by Government action. The one overriding danger and hazard that Governments must avoid at all costs is to seek to apply laws appropriate to tackling discrimination based on prejudice as an assumed remedy to a situation in which the essential character is disadvantage. If that is done, the scale or extent of the discrimination is unchanged, and in the process the law is brought into total disrepute. My criticism of the Government is that they have fallen into that trap. It has emerged with overwhelming clarity that since the passing of the 1968 Act the extent of discrimination has scarcely abated. The predominant cause is disadvantage, with prejudice a derived and subordinate factor.
It was of great interest to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) asking the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he agreed that, on the whole, the British public were pretty good and not much given to racial prejudice. The right hon. Gentleman immediately replied that he agreed that only a tiny proportion of the population is racially prejudiced. The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) echoed the same sentiment a little later.
If there is little racial prejudice inherent in the British people, it demonstrates my thesis that unabated discrimination—indeed, it has increased since the passing of the 1968 Act—is based not on racial prejudice but on disadvantage, an entirely different and much more complicated factor.
The real worry is that the Government's reaction, after eight years in which discrimination has hardly abated, is to bring forward a Bill that is essentially the 1968 Act refurbished and slightly polished. There has been some elaboration, some consolidation, and one or two vivid but small embellishments. I take the point of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East that the embellishments that stand out most notably, such as those concerning clubs, are rather small beer.
The 1968 Act was a disappointment, or we should not now be facing new legislation. A period of eight years has elapsed since that measure was passed, 1653 yet the racial minority groups today are still undertaking the poorer jobs, earning much less, occupying much poorer houses, and suffering far more in relative terms from unemployment than is the rest of the population. Clearly, the 1968 Act was a failure in fundamental respects, whatever good it may have done in other directions. I admit that the prohibition on discriminatory advertising was all to the good, but in terms of the prevalence of discrimination based on disadvantage, that Act has had a profoundly disappointing effect.
I wish to analyse the main changes in the Bill—1968 Act Mark II, as it were—to see whether they are sufficient to make any real difference. I take first the strengthened definition of "discrimination" in Clause 1. It has been extended beyond the parallel provision in the 1968 Act to cover so-called "indirect" or "unintentional" discrimination, and to cover,unjustifiable conditions or requirements which are discriminatory in effect".The measure matches up to the parallel provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
The White Paper cites, as an example of the practice that the refurbished Clause 1 would prohibit, the banning of turbans or saris, if not justifiable on safety grounds. But the extent to which this provision will secure a few jobs for Sikhs and Pakistanis compared to the vastly greater number who will continue to be disbarred by difficulties of language, education, experience, or training is infinitesimal.
Clause 1 writes in in terms, that discrimination due to disadvantage is acceptable. Unexceptionable though the clause may be as refurbished, it will make not a ha'porth of difference to the disproportionate burden of unemployment and low-grade work borne by immigrants. The clause should have made provision for special language centres at primary, junior and secondary schools, greater provision for adult language classes at work and at Government training centres, and the elaboration of urban programmes and so forth.
The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) made an impressive speech, which was derived from his experience on the shop floor of a textile firm. He described the kind of measure that could 1654 get to grips with discrimination at work. That would mean a deliberate step by employers and unions to provide in-service training, elementary English tuition, and so on. The hon. Gentleman appealed for further resources. He will certainly get nothng of the sort from this Bill. Clause 1 will help him not one iota in that respect.
Let me turn to Clauses 37 and 38—another innovation since the 1968 Act—under which the so-called "racial balance" provisions in employment will be repealed and provision will be made for allowing employers to provide special training facilities for minorities. The Home Office, in a Press notice, made brief reference to this innovation in the following terms:The Bill will also permit employers and certain vocational training bodies to provide training confined to members of a particular racial group for, or to encourage, members of such a group to take advantage of opportunities for doing work in which comparatively few members of that group have been engaged.How admirable that sounds when seen in cold print. Presumably disadvantaged West Indians or Asians can obtain special favourable exclusive training facilities both in and out of service to help them catch up. The only snag is that there are, at present, nearly 1,200,000 registered wholly unemployed in Britain, amongst whom the minority groups are disproportionately represented.
To match this, the main Government agency for retraining individuals—the so-called Training Opportunities Scheme, nicknamed TOPS—has about 60,000 training places to offer, that is, six places for every 100 unemployed. However, in addition, TOPS applicants are required to take pre-entry tests to show acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy, thus placing immigrants immediately at a disadvantage. Applicants under 19 are not eligible, thus disbarring the large number of unemployed West Indian school leavers. It is no wonder that immigrants account for only 3 per cent. of the 60,000 training places, which are, as I have already said, pathetically inadequate in view of the total of unemployment.
Admittedly, there is a big programme of in-service training in industry. But if one is concentrated—as immigrants are—overwhelmingly in a few plants, mostly doing unskilled work, one is really 1655 in the wrong place for helpful in-service training, to begin with.
Therefore, the Bill, following the 1968 precedent, simply bypasses the realities of discrimination based upon disadvantage, and will have little, if any, real effect.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Is my hon. Friend saying that the Bill is not strong enough in connection with affirmative action on Government contracts?
§ Mr. Alison
Certainly it does nothing about Government contracts, in spite of what the White Paper says. However, my general thesis is that the White Paper is designed to deal with racial prejudice. We are now dealing with an entirely different creature—racial disadvantage. That is a quite separate phenomenon. I believe that, again with the best will in the world, the second major innovation—the ending of the so-called racial balance provisions in training—will do little, if anything, to get to grips with the real disadvantages that poor immigrants suffer as a result of their deficiencies in language, and so on.
Like the 1968 Act, in addition to employment and training the Bill covers provisions concerning education, housing and goods and services and so on. In the 1968 Act there was a 17-line clause—Clause 5—about housing.
After eight years of operation, PEP reported that coloured people were grossly under-represented in the council housing sector. The Government's own White Paper states that the housing conditions of the coloured population have hardly improved in the last 10 or 15 years. I challenge any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who has listened to today's debate or studied the Bill to show how Clauses 21 and 22 of the Bill, where the 1968 housing provisions are elaborated and consolidated, will make the slightest difference to the gloomy housing situation that has persisted for 10 or 15 years. It will make no difference at all. It is the wrong kind of instrument, aiming at the wrong target. It deals with prejudice, but the real cause of the failure of West Indians and Asians to break through to council housing is that they do not know how to fill in the forms, register, or carry on a conversation with the housing officer. That is what the PEP made clear.
1656 The hon. Member for Rossendale pointed out the failure of the poor Asians in the textile industry to fill in council housing application forms after a little literacy training at their work.
I turn to the provisions of enforcement contained in Clause 52 and subsequent clauses. Once again the realities of racial disadvantage have been blithely overlooked. PEP estimates that there must be tens of thousands of cases of potential or prima facie discrimination every year under the various headings of the old 1968 Act. I suspect that the House will agree that there must be—otherwise it would not have been worth trying to launch legislation in this area in 1968—a vast number of potential cases of prima facie discrimination which the Act was designed to nip in the bud or to destroy.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I do not want my words to be interpreted as racial prejudice, but it seems to me that where there are huge housing lists—as on Merseyside—where people have been waiting 10 or perhaps 2o years for a home, immigrants who come along subsequently should go on the end, not to the front of the list. It would cause trouble if they were given priority. The answer is to get more houses for all and to cut the housing waiting lists.
§ Mr. Alison
The hon. Member has made a fair point—but why bring high-sounding housing provisions into a Bill of this sort, allegedly to deal with the phenomenon of profound discrimination against coloured immigrants in council housing, when, for the very reasons the hon. Member adduced, it is totally unequipped to come to grips with the problem? The immigrants will think that the housing section of the Bill is the key to prosperity, and that can lead to the inherent danger of disillusionment.
I was dealing with the enforcement provisions. The evidence of the Race Relations Board is that in the last seven years the completed cases it has handled have averaged well under 1,000 a year, of which only 15 per cent., on average, have resulted in the verdict of discrimination. That was in the situation in which the burden of bringing a charge was borne by the Board and not by the individual. This was the set-up under which, 1657 nevertheless, to quote paragraph 36 of the White Paper,most victims do not complain. Many do not know that they have suffered discrimination. Others are reluctant to complain because they do not want to re-live the humiliation which they have suffered, or because they have no confidence in the objectiveness of the complaints procedure, and the redress which it is likely to provide for them".Is it likely, to draw on a Runnymede Trust publication, that the inarticulate, working-class black citizen who has a basic shyness, fear and suspicion of tribunals and courts, and who is by no means guaranteed legal aid, will leap enthusiastically into direct personal litigation under the new facilities offered by this legislation? I doubt it. He will take the line of least resistance and simply look elsewhere for a job. Yet he is the category of immigrant who is most exposed to discrimination.
The one provision of the Bill that is better calculated than others to secure some real changes for the better is that which provides for the new strategic rôle given to the Race Relations Commission under Clause 47 and following clauses. I take the point by the hon. Member for Oxford that this is perhaps one of the most important features, and I personally believe that it will be extremely valuable to have the Commission examining the actual situation in particular industries. I believe that one of its most useful rôles may be to bring home to Government, not to employers, the areas in which they should be concentrating resources, in matters such as numeracy, literacy, facilities for the language, and so on.
It will depend very largely on the new Commission securing good will and a spirit of friendly co-operation with employers. The operation will start against a background in which most firms already suffer from a surfeit of bureaucratic prying and form-filling at the hands of Government. The Commission will have to tread extremely cautiously, and if it is associated in the wrong sort of way with a particular militant local hostile community relations group it may well find that it receives a dusty welcome from local employers, who feel they are being got at by the back door. It is not certain that the Commission will work effectively, but it is well worth trying.
My welcome to the Bill is cautious and qualified. This sort of legislation is 1658 legitimate in itself, but it can be dangerous if it is dressed up as something that will cure the problem that it is quite unequipped to deal with. It is rather like providing an aspirin to deal with a cancer. There is nothing wrong with aspirin, or with many of the provisions of this Bill. I shall not vote against it, but I urge the Government to realise that they may be bringing forward the wrong kind of machinery to deal with the intractable, long-term, underlying problem of disadvantage. If they do not get to grips with that problem, the Bill will literally do more harm than good.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon)
I agree with some of my critics to the extent that the issues we are discussing are some of the most important in this country, and it is right that Parliament should discuss them extensively. With one or two exceptions, including the leaflets fluttering from the Strangers Gallery, we have discussed them in a serious, informed and responsible manner, even though many things have been said with which I fundamentally disagree. I want to deal with as many of the serious points made in opposition to the Bill as I can and to try to put the legislation into context.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) suggested that I was honest enough to say that any number of black people could come in for as long as they liked. I have never suggested that. I have said that there are about 1¾ million black people who are here permanently. Our society is now multi-racial, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not. It is multi-racial and multi-cultural for the rest of our future history. These people who are here are our citizens and must be treated like any other citizens.
If this situation has arisen because of the attitude towards immigration in the past and if that attitude is criticised because it was unplanned and ill-considered when the new Commonwealth immigration began in the late 1950s, the fact is that these people are here now. If, as some people have suggested, we need to end immigration, we can end the citizenship rights, which they have acquired over the years, only if we do so in a humane and civilised 1659 way. We cannot take away the rights given to them in the 1971 Act which provided that, having settled and thrown in their lot with this country, they should have the right to bring their wives and children so that families were reunited.
If the House ever took away the rights people have acquired by settling here and becoming part of our society, it would not only be inhuman and intolerant, in a way in which this country has never been intolerant, but it would be against all the codes of human rights to which we subscribe.
That is why there is still a continuing immigration commitment. Most of it relates to dependants, and the only other area of the commitment is to the citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies—just as most hon. Members are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. The only such citizens now are those in East Africa. It seems unlikely that they will be able to stay there because national Governments have refused to allow them to stay. They have nowhere else to go and British Governments of both parties over the last 20 years have assured them they will be allowed to come here. If we take away that right, we take away also the right of white Rhodesians to come here in the same way. The attitude taken by both parties towards this problem is that we have a humane and moral duty—and probably an overriding legal duty, as the Attorney-General of a previous Government asserted—to take these people in any event. Those two commitments are the final commitments of Commonwealth immigration into this country, and we intend to wind them up as fast as we can.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is right. We have increased the rate of immigration so as to cut down those two final commitments as quickly as possible. The result of what we have done so far is that there is already a drying up in the number of vouchers issued in East Africa. The queue there has virtually disappeared. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that we are baleing out an ocean. We are not doing that in relation to the dependants in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Because we have said that we intend to end that commitment as fast as possible 1660 and people recognise that the relationship aspect will be treated humanely, there has been an increase in the number of applications, but that increase is merely drying up the pool faster and the pool will be exhausted much more quickly.
§ Mr. Stokes
The charge against the Minister is not so much about illegal immigration as about extending the categories of people who can come here. It is reported that when he went to the Indian sub-continent he more or less advised any relative to come here and, unfortunately, any relative is coming here.
§ Mr. Lyon
Either the hon. Gentleman misunderstood the report or I was wrongly reported. The only extensions the Government have made to the immigration policy of the previous Government are those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Wilson). We have declared an amnesty, and the extent of that amnesty is that 1,300 people have been allowed to settle.
Secondly, under considerable pressure from both sides of the House and with the unanimous approval of the House, we changed the rules so that women who were settled here could bring their fiancés or husbands to live here. That was the change. The House will recollect that for some time my right hon. Friend delayed making that change because he wanted to estimate the extent of the commitment. Under considerable pressure from both sides of the House, and to the great delight of many people who would otherwise have been estranged from their loved ones, we made that change. Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but I get letters from Opposition Members on this subject. One of the most vociferous critics of immigration control told me that, whatever he felt about immigration control, he hoped that I would allow the wife of a particular man to come into the country because otherwise the pair would be permanently separated.
I take the view that we have to get rid of those two commitments as quickly as we can. Then we shall be in a position to redefine the whole citizenship and immigration law in a way which will put an end permanently to this whole business. Within the next year or so we shall define the British citizen for the 1661 first time. A British citizen will have free right of entry. Anyone else, whether a Commonwealth citizen or an alien, will have to subscribe to the immigration rules, which will be redefined so that they accord with our needs for labour and recognise family relationships. At that time, this debate on immigration control that has lasted for 20 years will, I hope, have ended.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will the Minister explain to the House what pre-existing commitment there was to allow fiancés in? I understand the argument about the commitment we made to dependants generally before the 1971 Act and before the 1962 legislation, but what pre-existing commitment was there to fiancés?
§ Mr. Lyon
There was no pre-existing commitment, which was one of the reasons for our delaying for some time before deciding to take on that responsibility. But, under the rules approved by the Conservative Government, we gave the right to men to bring in their wives and their fiancées. The whole burden of the case was that it seemed wrong that in these times there should be one rule for women and another rule for men. It was partly as a result of that, and partly also from humane considerations, that we changed that rule. But I repeat that the two other commitments to which I have referred are finite and are diminishing rapidly.
In 1968, when we passed the Race Relations Act, we devised a system whereby the brunt of the fight against discrimination was to be borne by the Race Relations Board, which would have the job of considering complaints, discussing them between the parties, hoping to arrive at conciliation, and only in the last resort taking them to court. As the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) has said—the PEP studies have shown manifestly that there is still a considerable amount of discrimination in this country, as defined in Clause 3.
The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said that any civilised person discriminates. If all he means is that a person decides whom to like or what to like, that is, of course, the case, and no one would deny that right to discriminate in the sense of making a judgment. But if we make a judgment about someone else because of 1662 his racial background or his colour, and then treat him differently and worse than we treat those in the majority group, that involves serious disadvantages for the person concerned. If, further, it takes place on the scale on which it is occurring in Britain today, the only way to change it is by force of law.
The 1968 Act succeeded in eliminating overt discrimination. We now have to do something about discrimination which is indirect, latent or concealed. We have decided not just to change the general powers of the Race Relations Board but to create a completely new structure which will have a completely new rôle.
The only exception I take to part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) is that I believe that the powers of the Race Relations Commission concerning strategic investigations will be by far the most important part of its work. One of my concerns has been that the Commission should not be burdened to anything like the same extent as is the Equal Opportunities Commission in the United States of America, by individual investigations of complaints. If, for instance, the Race Relations Commission decides that it wants to do a strategic investigation into the employment, promotion and general conditions at, say, Ford of Dagenham, and comes to the conclusion that a system of discriminatory practices has grown up, based upon racial grounds, within Ford, and then issues a non-discrimination notice putting an end to those discriminatory practices, it will affect the lives of thousands of people by one decision, whereas the Race Relations Board in the whole of its life considered 7,000 complaints most of which in the end had to be rejected.
The individual complaints system is important for the individual. I do not minimise it, and we have made provision for it. But the real test will be what the Commission does in its strategic investigation. It is for that reason that it is more than a brushing up of the 1968 Act, as the hon. Member for Barkston Ash described it. It is a completely new approach to the problems of dealing with racial discrimination.
§ Mr. Luard
I know that my hon. Friend is a lawyer and attaches great 1663 importance to the processes of the law in clearing up such cases, but would he accept that a very large number of complainants will be deterred by the procedures of going through the law and those people will be dependent, just as they are today, on some form of conciliation such as the Commission will also have to do? It is at least a very important part of the functions of the Commission under the Bill.
§ Mr. Lyon
I recognise the difficulty that an individual complainant will have now that he has the right to go himself directly to the court, whereas before he had to go through the Race Relations Board. But it seemed to me right not only that he should be given this opportunity but that the burden should be upon him to go himself to assert his rights under the law. After all, why in principle should a black person be constrained to pursue his rights only through an indirect machine, a semi-Government agency, when a white person will be able to go directly to the court to exercise his legal rights? Since a white person, or a black person for that matter, who suffers unjust dismissal would go to the Industrial Tribunal direct, why in this case should he have to go to the Race Relations Board?
In principle, therefore, I am against the sense of paternalism that came from the old Race Relations Board procedure. The argument is, "Why do you not do both? Why not say that the Race Relations Board should do the strategic investigation and at the same time investigate the individual complaint?".
In addition to the point of principle I have made there is the whole problem of resources. Unless we are able to have a machine very considerably greater than that which we are creating, it has to make an option between one course or another. We recognise that in the initial stages there will be considerable difficulties for some complainants, and we are making provision for the Race Relations Commission to help them as much as it can. We have also made provision for a new questions procedure, contained in the Bill, allowing a complainant in such cases to get from the defendant answers which will help him to put his case. Equally, there is a whole range of other alternatives to help him.
1664 In relation to non-employment cases in the county court he can get legal aid, so he should be able to get legal aid advice in respect of those cases. In respect of employment cases, because legal aid does not exist there—I wish that it did, but it is not likely to come very shortly—he will have to rely on his trade union, neighbourhood law society or community relations council, and all the other agencies which at present exist to help people who go to industrial tribunals.
There will be an increasing necessity for minority groups to make provision for helping their own people in this way, and it seems to me highly desirable that they should do so. I want to see a situation in which minority groups in this country feel a sense of independence and self-respect coming from their own self-help. I hope they will begin increasingly to help themselves in relation to problems of their own people in this way.
May I deal with some particular points in the Bill? The official Opposition complained about the position of clubs. We shall have to discuss that matter in Committee. We are keeping an open mind on the representations which have been made.
I should like to deal, first, with the general attitude of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union, which was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter). The CIU is concerned not with being allowed to discriminate on the ground of colour against some of its members—it has always been against that—but with the fact that, if we legislated in the way suggested by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), we should cover the CIU alone, not the clubs in Pall Mall or some other gentlemen's clubs. The suggestion was that we should, in effect, be saying "The CIU clubs do not have the same kind of privacy as gentlemen's clubs. Therefore, they are not entitled to the same respect in law as, say, gentlemen's clubs in Pall Mall." We were clear from the beginning that, if we legislated for clubs, we should legislate for clubs of every kind. That is in the Bill. The only exception is in Clause 26 which deals with clubs with a distinctive cultural connection.
1665 Merely to say that it will be unlawful to discriminate on racial grounds for entry into a working men's club is not to say that it is no longer a private club. After all, the law says that one person cannot kill another in a working men's club, for it will be murder to do so. It does not take away the privacy of the club. It just says that the law has a certain part to play in relationships inside the club. That is all we are saying in the Bill.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) suggested that would be counter-productive, because it would lead some clubs to take action which was inimical to their black members when otherwise they would not have done so. The hard facts of life are against the right hon. Gentleman. Within two weeks of the Preston club case being decided by the House of Lords, three clubs in the Birmingham area openly declared a colour bar. They said overtly what perhaps they had said before only indirectly, namely, "We will not allow black people into our club." In my view, that can be changed only by the force of law.
There are 4,000 clubs in the working men's club category, with 3½ million members. Therefore, they form an enormous part of the social life of the black citizen.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge referred to my constituency. I know full well that working men's clubs in York have to some extent superseded the public houses as places where people go for liquid and social refreshment. Throughout the North, working men's clubs have become the major area of social provision. If we were to leave them out of the Bill and to put public houses in the Bill, we should have a ludicrous situation. It would mean that a man had to be treated equally when he went to work, in the provision of housing, in his children's schooling, and when he went to the public house or to the cinema, but that when he went to the working men's club, where most of his comrades went, he was to be treated in a different way on racial grounds. For that reason, we felt that we had to legislate on clubs. I hope that we shall have the support of the House in that respect.
1666 I was asked about positive discrimination. I dislike that term intensely. When I refer to this problem, I refer to correcting the disadvantages of our black citizens. Clauses 35, 37 and 38 relate to training and welfare provision for particular racial groups.
I was asked about incitement to racial hatred. I do not think that I can usefully add anything to what my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate. No doubt we shall have to debate that issue at some length in Committee.
In relation to the shipping clause, and to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), may I say as strongly as I can that I was determined that if it were at all possible, the exemption contained in the 1968 Act would be taken out of this Bill. We put considerable pressure upon the shipping interests to do that. In fact we have done so for all purposes except the employment of seamen overseas where not recruited for the purpose of service in the United Kingdom.
There were two basic reasons why we allowed this exemption. One was that the Indian Government was very strongly against removing the exemption, for reasons that we can go into in detail in Committee. The second was that the shipping interests claimed that one-third of the cargo fleet that flies the British flag is now manned by Indian seamen—and be it known that they are paid less than one-third of what British seamen are paid. I regard that as an intolerable situation, but it was quite clear to us on investigation that if we had pressed this clause at that moment the likelihood was that a great many of the shipping interests would have flown a flag of convenience and moved out of the area of bringing that amount of money into the British balance of payments.
That was a serious factor which we had to consider, so we have allowed the exemption, albeit very reluctantly, to continue. However, we insist that in due course that exemption be phased out, and we have told the shipping interests that they now have to apply their minds to bringing their Indian seamen into line with their British seamen, and that over a very limited period of time this must be phased out. Again, we can discuss that 1667 issue in Committee, if my hon. Friends agree.
I agree with what was said about the importance of monitoring. I do not see how we can have an equal opportunities policy of any kind unless we know how many black people and how many white people we have. I hope that in due course the Government will be able to give an effective lead in such monitoring.
I agreed with very much of the analysis made by the hon. Member for Barkston Ash. There are two parts to solving the problem of ensuring satisfactory race relations in this country. One is to eliminate racial discrimination, and that is what this Bill is about. The other is to eliminate racial disadvantage, and we have not begun to tackle that whole area yet.
Racial disadvantage is of two kinds. One kind, which is shared by the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), is in relation to housing. It does not matter whether a man is white or black, he has to take his turn on the housing list. In problems of housing, all are dealt with in the same way. But there is disadvantage in relation to the problems of language, fostering, child welfare, and whole areas of the cultural life of the black community in this country. The black community are at a disadvantage because they arrived here only in the last 20 years and have still to develop, within
§ our majority culture, their own standards within their own culture. There is, therefore, a whole area of disadvantage. That is a problem that only the Government can solve and it is their responsibility ultimately to solve it. One of the first tasks of my right hon. Friend's Advisory Committee on Race Relations will be to apply its mind to the ways in which the Government can set about doing that.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
The hon. Gentleman was less than honest with the House when he spoke about United Kingdom passport holders. He spoke as if they were all in East Africa, which he knows not to be the case. He has told us that he intends to increase the rate of intake of such people, and very soon, apparently. The facts are that there are many people entitled to British passports elsewhere in the world, particularly in Singapore, Hong Kong, and other parts of Africa. What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about them? What is the Government's policy about that reservoir of people who are entitled to United Kingdom passports?,
§ It being Ten o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business.
§ Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 132, Noes 8.1669
|Division No. 81.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Ennals, David||Kerr, Russell|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans,Ioan (Aberdare)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bates, Alf||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Lamond, James|
|Bean, R. E.||Freud, Clement||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Beith, A. J.||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bldwell, Sydney||Gilbert, Dr John||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Ginsburg, David||Lipton, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Gould, Bryan||Loyden, Eddie|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Luard, Evan|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hayman, Mrs Helene||McElhone, Frank|
|Cartwright, John||Heffer, Eric S.||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Hooley, Frank||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hooson, Emlyn||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Howell, Rt Hon Denis||Maclennan, Robert|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Madden, Max|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hunter, Adam||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Cralgen, J. M. (Meryhill)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cryer, Bob||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoin)||Marquand, David|
|Davidson, Arthur||Janner, Greville||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Mendelson, John|
|Deakins, Eric||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dunn, James A.||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Eadie, Alex||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Edge, Geoff||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Molloy, William|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Tomlinson, John|
|Newens, Stanley||Slikin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Torney, Tom|
|Noble, Mike||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Urwin, T. W.|
|O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Silverman, Julius||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Ovenden, John||Skinner, Dennis||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Parker, John||Small, William||Watkins, David|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Watkinson, John|
|Penhallgon, David||Spearing, Nigel||Wellbeloved, James|
|Perry, Ernest||Spriggs, Leslie||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Stallard, A. W.||Williame, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Reid, George||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Stoddart, David||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Rooker, J. W.||Stott, Roger||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rose, Paul B.||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Sandelson, Neville||Thompson, George||Mr. J. D. Dormand and|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tinn, James||Mr. John Ellis.|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Budgen, Nick||Ross, William (Londonderry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Molyneaux, James||Stokes, John||Mr. Ronald Bell and|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Stott, Roger||Mr. Ivor Stanbrook.|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Winterton, Nicholas|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).