HC Deb 27 October 1976 vol 918 cc604-24

Lords amendment: No. 36, leave out Clause 65.

Mr. John

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This was another matter which raised a lot of problems in Committee and which led to a lot of discussion. It would be wrong at this hour to rehearse at great length the arguments we went through in Committee about the questions procedure. But it is right to suggest that this is a complicated Bill and that it imposes somewhat complicated obligations. This is because, although the subject lends itself to some simple statements, it is rather difficult in race relations to see these matters with quite the simplicity that some hon. Members seem to manage.

I come back to an earlier point. Up to now the victims of discrimination have been able to take their complaints to the Race Relations Board. That has been their duty, and from that point on the Board has taken over the investigation of the complaints, attempting to get conciliation and a settlement. When none of this is possible the Board institutes proceedings. This Bill seeks to give individuals the right of direct access to legal remedies.

Under this procedure we are trying to give individuals help in giving substance to their rights to avoid litigation which they may lack through their failure to understand how the legislation affects or does not affect their particular case.

During discussions on the Sex Discrimination Bill it was urged upon the Government, although not by hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench, that the burden of proof should be reversed in order to help the complainant. The Government did not, and still do not, feel that to be the right approach. The questions procedure was devised in the recognition that something needed to be done to sort out the issues at a pre-trial stage so that misconceptions were cleared away and litigation avoided wherever possible.

The clarification of the issues is clearly important where it disposes of unnecessary cases. It is against that particular background that I believe the questions procedure should be considered. It has attracted opposition in the other place. Lord Hailsham was to the forefront of that opposition. He raised again the question of the right of silence in the criminal law. I reiterate that this is not a matter of criminal law. The point to consider on the questions procedure is that, first, the court is enabled to draw an inference but is not required to do so. The relevant word is "may", not "must". It "may" only draw an inference if it considers it "just and equitable" to do so and provided that it considers that the failure to reply, or to reply properly or within a reasonable time was deliberate and without reasonable excuse. It is right that courts should have power to draw inferences without necessarily compelling them to do so. That provides all the safeguards necessary for the respondent. If he has a reasonable excuse for not having answered questions, he will not have an inference drawn against him. Even after that, the respondent has a right to be heard.

It may be helpful if I tell the House about the scanty evidence available from the operation of the questions procedure under the Sex Discrimination Act.

In most of the dozen or so cases in which the procedure has been used, it has led to no further proceedings being instituted because the person administering the procedure was satisfied that she had not been discriminated against. In four cases, the dispute was settled when the respondent conceded that he had discriminated. In only one case was it found necessary to resort to the law.

Great play has been made about the novelty of this procedure, but inferences can be drawn in landlord and tenant legislation when there has been a failure to answer forms. The questions procedure is a necessary part of this legislation. It will avoid unnecessary litigation and is not oppressive to the respondent.

Mr. Carlisle

I was not on the Committee which considered the Bill and I have not read the debates on these matters in full, but I read the speech of Lord Hailsham in another place on this amendment and I am amazed by what the Government are doing. I wonder whether people realise the effect of this clause.

As I understand it, the clause incorporates a new concept into the British legal system and forms of trial in this country. It provides for the first time that those who wish to bring a claim to court may interrogate the proposed defendant without his having the protection of the court, require him to answer questions in advance, use those questions and answers in evidence and use the failure of a defendant to answer questions as a means by which the court may be enabled to draw inference against that person to his detriment.

Many hon. Members opposite were among the most vocal and critical—as was the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson)—when, with a very much more modest method, the Criminal Law Division Committee suggested something similar in criminal law. As the then Minister of State, I was a rather lonely defender of the Committee's arguments.

There is a distinction between those arguments and the arguments being glibly advanced by the Minister. Under the Committee's report, before a court could draw an inference from a person's failure to answer he would have to be warned that such failure could be used against him. There is apparently no means of warning in this instance.

Secondly, if I remember correctly, the terms of the questions would have to be in a precise form. Subsection (1) lays down the power of the Home Secretary to prescribe forms by which the respondent may … reply to any questions. But, turning to subsection (2), we find: Where the person aggrieved questions the respondent (whether in accordance with an order under subsection (1) or not)". What does that mean? Does it mean whether he questions him on the forms or in an informal way by letter? It goes on, without any protection for the defendant, to say that if he refuses to answer, or if his reply is evasive or equivocal, the court may draw any inference that it considers just and equitable to draw. That goes far wider than the Criminal Law Revision Committee's report went. The Minister of State said that was perfectly all right and the House need not worry, because the court was not bound to draw conclusions; it only "may" draw conclusions or inferences. In any event, he said, it is safeguarded by those magnificent words "just and equitable".

I have not had a chance to look so far, but if the Minister will look at the words used by the Criminal Law Revision Committee he will find that they were to the effect that the court, if the defendant refused to answer questions and relied on his right of silence, "may"—not "must"—draw such inferences as to the court or the jury seemed "just and equitable".

The defence offered by the Minister of State on this occasion—that there is nothing to worry about because the court only "may" draw inferences and only inferences which are "just and equitable"—was the argument put forward by the Criminal Law Revision Committee which was so strongly criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the House when the matter was debated.

Although I remain basically in favour of the principles advanced by the Criminal Law Revision Committee and believe that we ought to look at the whole question of rights in criminal cases, I find it extraordinary that the Government, whose many supporters both inside and outside this House were highly critical of those proposals, should suggest in this legislation a similar system, but without the protection that the Criminal Law Revision Committee's recommendations would have provided. I believe that they are bringing a totally new principle into the law by a back door.

Mr. Ronld Bell

I entirely agree with what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle). Clause 65, which the other place proposed should be left out, has to be seen as part of the general provisions in the Bill for assisting the complainant.

The first thing that strikes me is that the clause applies only to the person who considers himself to be aggrieved. There is no provision whatever for the respondent to administer questions to the com plainant. It is a totally one-sided procedure. The complainant may interrogate the respondent, but the respondent may not interrogate the complainant.

Time and again the Minister of State has told us that we must not think of this as a criminal procedure. However, as I have said, it is a penal code whether the procedure is criminal or not. If it is a civil procedure, there is not the slightest reason why procedures available to the plaintiff should not be available to the respondent. If the Minister of State wants to rely on this civil procedure argument, he must find it very difficult to resist the claim of reciprocity. If Clause 65 is left out, as their Lordships propose, the question of reciprocity does not arise. If it is left in, it is undoubtedly oppressive.

10.45 p.m.

Clause 65 states: the Secretary of State shall by order prescribe forms by which the person aggrieved may question the respondent on his reasons for doing any relevant act, or on any other matter which is or may be relevant. Really! One could hardly have a wider definition than that. The person concerned can interrogate in the most oppressive manner, and he can virtually collect the forms from, I suppose, a labour exchange, a post office or something like that.

These forms, almost by definition, will be used by people who are likely to be of an umbrageous and possibly even of an aggressive character. People who are not of such disposition will usually let things pass. Let it be remembered that under the Bill we are changing the basic procedure. It is no longer the Race Relations Board that will initiate proceedings. It is the individual who will start county court proceedings, so he has a fair head of umbrage going before he reaches Clause 65. That person is literally given carte blanche to write in his questions, and the Secretary of State will have prescribed in general terms within what period the respondent must answer.

It is certainly a novelty. I cannot think of anything remotely close to it in our existing procedures, certainly not in any of the penal provisions.

I repeat that, although this is cast for oppressive reasons into a civil mould, let us remember how harsh it is. I shall not repeat what I have said earlier this evening and on many previous occasions—that the civil procedure was chosen simply to be oppressive. I gave chapter and verse for that.

Then, into that already oppressive arrangement is introduced this oppressive novelty, and it is one-sided. How on earth does the Minister of State justify this? The answer is that he does not justify it at all. He merely says that it will not be quite as bad as it sounds. That is not an unfair summary of his speech. He said that we shall manage, that the court will be reasonable, and that kind of thing. But as for starting from the floor and erecting an argument as to why this innovation should be made, why it should be made solely in relation to the Race Relations Bill and why it should be one-sided, on all that we have heard no argument at all.

I am afraid that the answer is that there is such a frenzy of opposition to discrimination on the part of certain parts of the Labour Party. One has only to mention the word and the Labour Party thinks that anything in relation to it is justifiable. Socialists say "We are talking about people who have or may have discriminated, and one does not have to be gentle with people like that as they are not subscribing to the tenets of the Labour Party, decided at its last seaside conference. Why should one bother with people like that? They are not Socialists."

Mr. Budgen

I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will withdraw that remark. These views are not decided at the seaside. They are decided in Hampstead and in the places where the permissive intelligentsia of the Labour Party live. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will, on reflection, withdraw his remark and appreciate that it is the ordinary working people, on the whole, who congregate at the seaside, and they would wish to repudiate any suggestion that they were a party to such affairs.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend has made a fair point. I have been unfair to the seaside. Opinions of this sort are what the president of my college at Oxford once described in a warning message as "the great strides of thought which come after midnight". That is what this sort of thing is. It is the airy-fairy erections of late discussion over cups of coffee and so on.

Once somebody is found to be unsympathetic—not tuned into these modes of thought—the attitude is that there is no reason to bother about him. He can be pushed around and oppressed as much as he likes. After all, he is likely to be English, and if that is so, why the hell does it matter? It is almost like what took place after the Norman Conquest when a man could get into trouble if he killed someone but if he could show that it was an Englishman it was all right. It was called "presentment of englishry" and that is what this sort of legislation is all about—we are in trouble if we misuse people, but if we can show that they are British we can escape the rigours of the law. That is the attitude for keeping in Clause 65. Thank goodness we have the Lords to pick it up and throw it out. I hope that my hon. Friends will vote to keep it out.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

I know of nothing, and have not heard of anything, brought before the House in the English law to compare with what the Government are attempting to do tonight. It is a scandalous abuse of procedure which can benefit one party and put the other party, which should be on equal footing, at quite intolerable risk.

If this clause is given effect tonight it will be a legislative aberration which can only do harm to race relations, and it will bring the law which supports it into contempt. I hope that the Government will think again before trying to impose on our English system a procedure that is so repugnant to what I believe is the idea of justice for the majority of people in the country.

Mr. Hooson

I have listened to the most exaggerated language about this clause. Anyone would think that this kind of procedure was unknown to the civil law of this country. How on earth do hon. and learned Members who have made such extravagant speeches justify interrogatories in a civil case?

The sole purpose of this provision is to ensure that if a man thinks he has been discriminated against he can inquire why, for example, somebody has reached a certain decision. If, in fact, a man has applied for a job and is under the mistaken impression that he was discriminated against because of his race rather than his ability, he has the ability under this clause to inquire, by means of certain forms, as to the precise grounds. If that is so, I do not see anything wrong with this provision.

Mr. Mayhew

I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me. Would he not think it fair to the House to explain that the provision of interrogatories in the civil procedure applies only after a claim has been formulated and proceedings have begun, whereas this procedure allows for interrogatories to be administered before a claim is made?

Mr. Hooson

That is right, but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, there are provisions in the law whereby one can issue a writ but immediately ask for interrogatories before delivery of a statement of claim. That has very often been done.

Mr. Rees-Davies


Mr. Hooson

Of course it has.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Virtually never.

Mr. Hooson

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to interrupt on that point—

Mr. Rees-Davies

I will deal with it later.

Mr. Hooson

—or whether he wishes to show his ignorance from a sedentary position.

Of course this is allowable, and there is no great innovation about it. It is simply a question whether this Bill is to be made effective. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah".] Hon. Members say "Ah" because they are against the legislation. I can perfectly well understand people who say that legislation has no place in good race relations. I do not happen to agree with that view. I think that it has a place. It is sometimes counterproductive, but it is important to ensure, if we have legislation, that it is effective. This case is one of the ways of making it effective.

Mr. Rees-Davies

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) has invited one to take up this point. I have great pleasure in doing so. I have heard practically all the debates tonight, with one exception. I was not tempted to speak before, because of the ability with which my colleagues dealt with all the points.

Mr. Hooson

They have fallen short this time.

Mr. Rees-Davies

They have put the case extremely well, and anything else said on the matter would only have been duplication.

I want to deal with the matter on the basis that one would be favourably inclined to the general upshot and purpose of the Bill. Even asuming that to be true, one would be wholly against this provision. The law relating to discoveries and interrogatories is absolutely plain. First, one has to establish that one has a case for action. One must issue one's writ and establish to the judge that one has reasonable cause and a general basis in the statement of claim for that action.

Once that is done, within the limits, one cannot engage in what are usually called "fishing interrogatories". One cannot have carte blanche to fish because one thinks one may have suffered, under the law of libel, for instance—a branch of the law in which I may claim to be something of an expert, having dealt with a great number of cases in the field.

A person in this position cannot fish and say "I think I may have been discriminated against." He must produce solid evidence of that discrimination, and based on that, he can then interrogate clearly on specific questions put down to be answered on oath. There is obligation to do so because that course of action is taken and because it has a solid foundation.

It is rare that interrogatories are given until after the defence, until after there has been proper discovery, both documentary and otherwise. This is merely a branch of the law of discovery which enables someone to obtain early by interrogatory what in the ordinary course of events is discoverable from the documents. [Interruption.] If the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery suggests that I am wrong, I will gladly give way.

Mr. Hooson

Of course it is common that interrogatories are normally dealt with after defence, but on certain occasions—for example, where a person has died after an accident—

Mr. Edward Gardner

Oh, really!

Mr. Hooson

—where, in other words, it is virtually impossible to get the evidence save by interrogatories, they are allowed after the writ in the statement of claim.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes, but in this case we are dealing not with dead bodies but with someone who presumably is in a position to go ahead on the ground that he has been the subject of discrimination. If he can give prima facie evidence that he has—in the ordinary way, perhaps, he has been sacked or dismissed—he will be able to take action for breach or dismissal or wrongful dismissal or matters of that kind.

11.0 p.m.

The clause goes far beyond anything known in the law of England. It is a disgrace. The judiciary finds it intolerable and consequently it has evaded it. Instead, the Secretary of State will by Order prescribe forms by which the aggrieved person may question the respondent. The Government are seeking to ensure that the aggrieved person shall have all the money and help he needs to enable him to pursue a claim, whilst nothing will be given to the accused. There will be a procedure under which questions may be put, and if no reply is given by the other person, who has no legal advice, any view which is considered equitable may be drawn. That is not jusetice but farce.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the commission is charged with helping the complainant to investigate and form his claim, to help in every way by arranging for a solicitor or counsel, but gives no help at all to the respondent?

Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes. It introduces a totally novel feature into our law. I know of no other case where one side is given the advantage not only of being able to interrogate but to receive legal assistance in the preparation of a claim to the disadvantage of the other side. Everyone will recognise that it is a gross injustice from the beginning. Everyone will see that the Government are deliberately put on the side of the person who is pursuing the claim whilst disregarding the other side. It will involve the Government in the very thing that we do not want in this country—taking sides in a judicial issue.

A person aggrieved as a result of discrimination is in a similar position to a person dismissed from a job. The situation is almost analogous to the law of master and servant. Whoever heard of a case where one side is offered money and advised and the other side is given no chance of any help? It is a judicial monstrosity. It is impossible to believe that anyone who has passed the Bar examination can possibly support it.

Mr. Mayhew

I shall express our support for the amendment in a way that will show that the amendment is concerned not with some detail in a forensic game but with the concept of justice and fairness which the Bill purports to represent. The clause would generate injustice and give a unique advantage to those who would benefit from it. Each reason is enough to justify the amendment; taking the reasons together, the case for the amendment is overwhelming.

From the somewhat veiled, not to say obscure, manner in which the Minister expressed his argument, one would not have thought that the proposal for deleting the clause was as far-reaching as it is. I was therefore glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) intervened to explain the exact purposes of the clause. I wonder how many hon. Members previously knew that it provides a system of interrogating a person against whom one thinks one may wish to bring a claim when one is undecided as to any matter that may be relevant to the claim if it is brought—not after, but before one has formulated the claim.

My hon. and learned Friend's intervention was very helpful. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) pointed out, the procedure is unique in our legal system—for good reason. There is a very good basis for the general rule that in a civil matter one cannot be made to answer questions before a claim can be made. It lies in the principle that one is entitled to privacy, something that I should have thought the Liberal Party would have some interest in. One is entitled to keep one's affairs to oneself until it is shown that they are relevant to a claim that has already been made against one.

If somebody is allowed to survey one's dispositions, which he can oblige one to disclose before he formulates his claim, there is a strong temptation for him dishonestly to tailor his ultimate claim to what he has learnt as a result of his reconnaissance. That is why we have the rule. It is not just an archaic survival of the days when the rules of procedure dominated us. Everybody, save those who wish only to make legislation effective regardless of whether it is fair, will see the justice of that.

In a matter where the sanctions for infringement can be so severe, to be obliged to make such disclosure before any claim is formulated against one is grossly unjust. Before the amendment the Bill provided for just that.

The Minister of State may be preparing to say that here is no need to answer, in much the same tone of voice as he assured us that it was only possible that an adverse inference might be drawn—"might" not "must"—from one's failure to answer. I acknowledge that there is no absolute obligation to answer the questions, but subsection (2)(b) makes very clear what risk one runs. It says: if it appears to the court or tribunal that the respondent deliberately, and without reasonable excuse, omitted to reply within a reasonable period or that his reply is evasive or equivocal, the court or tribunal may draw any inference from that fact that it considers it just and equitable to draw, including an inference that he committed an unlawful act. In other words, it includes an inference tha he infringed the Bill in a sense that might make him liable to the sanction of a fine—for that is what it is in effect—of up to £5,200. This is intolerable.

For the sake of speed, I wish to give a practical example which I gave in Committee, that of the secretary of a working men's club which a coloured man has tried to join but whose application has been refused, not because he is coloured, but because he is thought locally to be a man of bad character. We can transpose it and suppose it is a white man of bad character. He may be thought locally, rightly or wrongly, to be a thief or otherwise dishonest. Under this procedure, that man can apply to know the reasons for his rejection"— by administering interrogatories— and require the secretary of the club to say why the discrimination was not unlawful. The secretary of the club may be very reluctant indeed to set out the true reasons, bearing in mind that it is a small club in a small locality. What reason has he to suppose that he will not get into very considerable trouble of a practical sort, or become involved in victimisation, if he sets out the true reasons? He may reply, therefore, in a manner which, in the wording of the clause, is regarded as evasive or equivocal, in which case the court may draw any inference, including the inference that he committed an unlawful act."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 17th June 1976; c. 667–8.] That shows where we are getting to.

Mr. Hooson

Is not the exact analogy that of a man who dismisses a person and is required, under modern legislation, to give reasons why he dismissed him?

Mr. Mayhew

One may be required to give reasons, but only when proceedings are initiated against one in the manner laid down by law. Here no action has to be initiated before proceedings.

Then we have the title over these clauses: Help for persons suffering discrimination". This is help which may be afforded to somebody who considers that he may have been discriminated against in contravention of the Bill in deciding whether to institute proceedings. One does not have to be certain that one is discriminated against before using the investigatory procedure.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is it not the case that this procedure, when no judicial proceedings are in existence, would not enjoy privilege under the law of defamation?

Mr. Mayhew

My hon. and learned Friend is right.

This is where we are getting to, as shown by practical example, and it is useful to have a practical example to test a proposed Bill. All this is justified by the Minister of State on the ground that it is a complicated Bill imposing complicated obligations. He draws an analogy with a rent officer who may ask questions in certain circumstances and if they are not answered an inference may be drawn. The difference between this example and that of a rent officer is that the rent officer is seeking to find the facts. Under this clause, a party or prospective party to a dispute is obliging, in practical terms, his prospective opponent to declare his position before the case is formulated against him.

The Minister attempts to justify it on the ground that applicants are not likely, unassisted, to get a case off the ground because the Bill is complicated. In truth, it is quite unnecessary. The whole point of the other provisions in this part of the Bill is to see that they are not left to themselves. Unhappily, they will not be troubled, thanks to a vote earlier today, by having to discharge the burden of presenting a case. We went through that on Clause 1(1)(b), in which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery-shire (Mr. Hooson) voted.

However, that is not all. Thanks to Clause 66, a whole armoury of help is provided, free of charge and exclusive to the complainant: three different modes of assistance. They are

  1. "(a) giving advice;
  2. b) procuring or attempting to procure the settlement of any matter in dispute;
  3. (c) arranging for the giving of advice or assistance by a solicitor or counsel;
  4. 618
  5. (d) arranging for representation by any per son, including all such assistance"
and so on. For good measure, it provides for (e) any other form of assistance which the Commission may consider appropriate,". That is all provided for the prospective complainant by Clause 66. Therefore, to argue that this is necessary in addition, to offer the unique privilege of being able to interrogate before a claim is formulated, is to argue in a wholly unrealistic manner. We say that it generates injustice and that it is unnecessary.

Our third and last objection is that it confers a privilege unique to those thinking that they might like to claim that they have been unlawfully discriminated against on racial grounds, a unique privilege because it offers an unfair advantage as against all other claims outside this Bill and its hideous sister, the Sex Discrimination Act.

11.15 p.m.

All this is proffered to this class of claimant, in whose case there is no trigger mechanism. Anyone can come along—without having to establish before a judge or anyone else that he may have a prima facie case—and say "I wish to make use of this procedure. I am thinking of bringing a claim against X, Y or Z, notwithstanding the fact that I have done so half a dozen times already and, in the end, after causing untold expense, trouble and anxiety, been sent packing". The whole thing constitutes a legal abortion.

The Minister of State said that the Government had accepted some of the amendments made by the Lords. They have accepted notably those made to Clause 12 dealing with qualifying bodies taking account of special evidence of bad character—the fact that someone or his servant or agent 10 years ago had committed an act of discrimination. That point, having been hotly contested in Committee and on the Floor of the House, has now been abandoned, the House of Lords having flung it out. Under Clause 45 a substantial amendment has been accepted by the Minister.

I ask the hon. Gentleman, much more in sorrow than in anger, to say, even at this late stage, that the balance of the argument has gone so strongly against the Government that he will make it a threesome and accept the amendment, which the Lords have done us a service in passing.

Mr. John

By leave of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) said that he was speaking more in sorrow than in anger. I shudder to think how he sounds when he is speaking more in anger than in sorrow. The hon. and learned Member has made a vehement case which, as usual, suffers from a characteristic over-statement of several points, notably on the issue of the burden of proof which we debated earlier. He knows that the burden of proof is not wholly removed from the complainant. To suggest otherwise is nonsensical.

I say to the hon. and learned Members for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) that this procedure is certainly novel in that it is new but it is not novel in that it is unique because, although they will not thank me for giving the example, it is contained in the Sex Discrimination Act. I made that clear, and I made clear how the procedure in that Act has worked in a way which—in most of the cases we have been able to monitor so far—has avoided proceedings rather than promoted them.

Hon. Members should bear in mind a little of the history of the Sex Discrimination Act. I believe that the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) led for the Opposition on that measure. He expressed some anxieties, and revisions were made to the Bill to take account of Lords amendments. When those amendments came before the House they were approved without debate. Hon Members present tonight were Members at that time. They cannot now come here fulminating about the novelty of this measure when they did not oppose that earlier Act which provided for exactly the same procedure.

I was fascinated by the discussion about interrogatories. While I am grateful, as a solicitor, for the help of so many "conferences" to clarify the facts, the analogy with interrogatories is not exact because—and it is not merely to do with the time in the case at which interrogatories are administered—once interrogatories are administered and answered, they are part of the pleadings of the case. It does not matter that the court has discretion to draw inferences from them, they are on the face of the pleadings and the answers must be taken into account. What is different about this procedure is that it is a discretionary matter. I am sorry that so many hon. and learned Members have cast doubt upon the capacity of the court to draw a just and equitable inference from the facts.

The hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells discussed the case to which he referred in Committee—namely, the refusal of a secretary of a working men's club. He gave a number of facts and particularised the case. The overwhelming probability is that the court would find that the reason for refusing to answer was reasonable. That means that there would be no oppression. When the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) intervened to suggest that there would be privilege, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not assent to that proposition because he knew that in Committee he and I had discussed the fact that qualified privilege would be attracted to such answers.

It is an unusual procedure to administer questions, but I believe that it is good as it helps to clarify issues and avoids unnecessary public airings of differences where a little more information could persuade the person who thinks he has been discriminated against that that is not true. It is because I think that it is an aid to the avoidance of litigation rather than an encouragement that I ask the House to reject the amendment.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

I am astonished to hear the Minister of State trying to make a comparison between the Bill and the Sex Discrimination Act. He must appreciate that they are entirely different. He must appreciate that the object of the race relations legislation is to improve relations between races, but I do not suppose that he intends his Sex Discrimination Act to improve relations between the sexes. If he had had that intention, I suppose that he would have called it the Sex Relations Act. That would have been a quite different matter.

The Minister of State is making a mistake by saying in one voice that he wishes to improve relations between different races and in another that he is making an exception by introducing a procedure to the courts which applies only to people of certain races. This is the mistake that those on the Labour Benches make over and over again. They do not understand that it does not need a lawyer to tell them what this is all about. It only needs an ordinary Member of Parliament, who has people come to see him on these subjects, to give the Minister the answer.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that of all the people who have come to me and made representations believing that they have been discriminated against, I have not had one who on application to the Race Relations Commission has been successful in establishing that he has been discriminated against. For him now to say—[Interruption.] I do not know why Labour Members laugh. They should treat this as a serious matter.

When we reach the stage when we find that there are many who believe that they have been discriminated against but are subsequently found not to have been, these provisions will only give the impression to the indigenous population that discrimination decisions are being given in favour of immigrants and new arrivals as against the rest of the nation, and that those categories have a right in the courts that does not apply to others. That is something that the Government often forget. If they wish to improve race relations it is high time that they understoood that to make special provisions in favour of the non-indigenous population will only make matters worse.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 191, Noes 152.

Division No. 349.] AYES 11.25 p.m.
Abse, Leo Douglas-Mann, Bruce Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Anderson, Donald Dunnett, Jack Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Archer, Peter Eadie, Alex Lipton, Marcus
Armstrong, Ernest Edge, Geoff Luard, Evan
Ashton, Joe Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McCartney, Hugh
Atkinson, Norman Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Flannery, Martin McElhone, Frank
Barnell, Guy (Greenwich) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Bates, Alf Ford, Ben MacKenzie, Gregor
Beith, A. J. Forrester, John Mackintosh, John P.
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Maclennan, Robert
Bidwell, Sydney Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Bishop, E. S. Freeson, Reginald McNamara, Kevin
Blenkinsop, Arthur Freud, Clement Madden, Max
Boardman, H. Garrett, John (Norwich S) Magee, Bryan
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Mahon, Simon
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gilbert, Dr John Mallalieu, J. P. W.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Golding, John Marks, Kenneth
Buchanan, Richard Gould, Bryan Marquand, David
Campbell, Ian Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Canavan, Dennis Graham Ted Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cant, R. B. Grant, George (Morpeth) Maynard, Miss Joan
Carmichael, Neil Grant, John (Islington C) Mikardo, Ian
Cartwright, John Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Miller, Dr M. S. (Es Kilbride)
Clemitson, Ivor Hardy, Peter Moonman, Eric
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Harrison, Walter (Wakefleld) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Cohen, Stanley Hatton, Frank Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Coleman, Donald Hooley, Frank Movie, Roland
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Hooson, Emlyn Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Conlan, Bernard Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Newens, Stanley
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Ovenden, John
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Park, George
Cralgen, J. M. (Maryhill) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Parker, John
Crawshaw, Richard Hunter, Adam Parry, Robert
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Penhallgon, David
Cryer, Bob Jeger, Mrs Lena Perry, Ernest
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) John, Brynmor Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Johnson, James (Hull West) Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Radice, Giles
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Robinson, Geoffrey
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kaufman, Gerald Roderick, Caerwyn
Dempsey, James Lambie, David Rodgers George (Chorley)
Doig, Peter Lamborn, Harry Rooker, J. W.
Dormand, J. D. Lamond, James Roper, John
Rose, Paul B. Stallard, A. W. Wellbeloved, James
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Steel, David (Roxburgh) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Stott, Roger White, James (Pollock)
Rowlands, Ted Strang, Gavin Whitlock, William
Ryman, John Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Sandelson, Neville Swain, Thomas Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Sedgemore, Brian Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Woodall, Alec
Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Tinn, James Woof, Robert
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Torney, Tom Wrigglesworth, Ian
Silverman, Julius Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd) Young, David (Bolton E)
Skinner, Dennis Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Small, William Watkins, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Watkinson, John Mr. Joseph Harper and
Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Weetch, Ken Mr. David Stoddart.
Spearing, Nigel
Adley, Robert Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Page, John (Harrow West)
Alison, Michael Hannam, John Page, Rt Kon R. Graham (Crosby)
Arnold, Tom Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Paisley, Rev Ian
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Havers, Sir Michael Parkinson, Cecil
Awdry, Daniel Hawkins, Paul Percival, Ian
Bell, Ronald Hayhoe, Barney Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Hicks, Robert Raison, Timothy
Benyon, W. Higgins, Terence L. Rathbone, Tim
Berry, Hon Anthony Holland, Philip Ridsdale, Julian
Biffen, John Hordern, Peter Rifkind, Malcolm
Biggs-Davison, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Body, Richard Hunt, David (Wirral) Ross, William (Londonderry)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hurd, Douglas Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bottomley, Peter Hutchison, Michael Clark Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. James, David Royle, Sir Anthony
Brotherton, Michael Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Sainsbury, Tim
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Jessel, Toby Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Budgen, Nick Jopling, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham)
Bulmer, Esmond Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Shersby, Michael
Burden, F. A. Kershaw, Anthony Silvester, Fred
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Kitson, Sir Timothy Sims, Roger
Carlisle, Mark Lamont, Norman Sinclair, Sir George
Carson, John Latham, Michael (Melton) Skeet, T. H. H.
Channon, Paul Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Churchill, W. S. Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Le Marchant, Spencer Sproat, Iain
Clegg, Walter Lester, Jim (Beeston) Stanbrook, Ivor
Cope, John Lloyd, Ian Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Loveridge, John Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Luce, Richard Stokes, John
Drayson, Burnaby McCrindle, Robert Stradling Thomas, J.
Dunlop, John Macfarlane, Neil Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Durant, Tony Marten, Neil Tebbit, Norman
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Elliott, Sir William Maude, Angus Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Eyre, Reginald Mawby, Ray Townsend, Cyril D.
Fairgrieve, Russell Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin van Straubenzee, W. R.
Farr, John Mayhew, Patrick Vaughan, Dr Gerald
Finsberg, Geoffrey Meyer, Sir Anthony Viggers, Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Miscampbell, Norman Wakeham, John
Forman, Nigel Moate, Roger Wall, Patrick
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Molyneaux, James Walters, Dennis
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Monro, Hector Watt, Hamish
Goodhew, Victor More, Jasper (Ludlow) Weatherill, Bernard
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Morgan, Geraint Wells, John
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wiggin, Jerry
Gray, Hamish Mudd, David Young, Sir G. (Eating, Acton)
Grieve, Percy Neave, Airey
Griffiths, Eldon Neubert, Michael TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grist, Ian Newton, Tony Mr. John Corrie and
Hall, Sir John Onslow, Cranley Mr. Carol Mather.

Question accordingly agreed to.

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