HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc417-22 4.22 pm
Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

I beg to move, The leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Public Order Act 1936, as amended by the Race Relations Act 1976, so as to provide further for the prevention of incitement to racial hatred.

When I started to move to obtain the leave of the House to bring in the Bill, I did not anticipate the ugly events of recent days. The Bill is pertinent in easing the build-up that can result in the horrific situations that we have witnessed.

The proposed Bill is two-pronged and is designed both to give powers to local authorities to apply to the Home Secretary for selective banning of marches that are likely to stir up racial hatred and to toughen existing restrictions on the dissemination of race hatred propaganda. The Home Secretary has been saying for some time that he has these matters under review. There is no reason why he should not embrace one part or both parts of the Bill as a serious attempt by the House to reduce his burdens and those of the police.

If the Bill is successful, it will relieve greatly one of the more difficult tasks of the police in protecting race hatred marches and other activities. Above all, it will bring some comfort to members of ethnic minorities to see positive steps being taken to protect them instead of hearing specious talk about their equal rights. When anti-black marches are being heavily chaperoned, how can police chiefs expect black people to join the police? They cannot expect that to happen while the police are accompanying white morons chanting "If they are black, send them back." The imposition by the Home Secretary of a series of blanket bans to prevent possible disturbances arising from race hatred demonstrations has raised again the need for revision of the 1936 Act.

Over the past few months the Home Secretary has been closely questioned in the House. I propose in the Bill that the legal basis for combating racism could be more effective through a revision of sections 3 and 5A of the 1936 Act. This view is supported by the Ealing community relations council. Members of different racial groups lawfully settled in the United Kingdom are full and equal citizens with all the rights and obligations that that entails. Discrimination on the arbitrary ground of race and ethnic origin is illegal, as is any public expression of hostility against racial groups.

In a true multiracial and multicultural society, discrimination against or hatred of ethnic minorities would not exist. The verbal abuse of people because of their ethnic or racial features that threatens their physical and mental well-being would be a thing of the past. In public life, in newspapers and in the media it is ridiculous to discuss the repatriation of certain groups merely because of the colour of their skins. Long ago people discussed whether discrimination against Catholics and Jews was justified. That is not exactly the issue that now confronts us, although Fascist and racist leaders base themselves on the barbarity of the Nazis of Germany.

Obviously, the private expression of views cannot be subject to legal control. However, as long ago as 1965 Parliament decided that we would be more civilised and that we would outlaw actions likely to inflict suffering upon people because of the colour of their skin. For some time there has been growing concern about the ineffective nature of the provisions of the 1936 Act, as amended by the Race Relations Act 1976, on incitment to racial hatred. Secion 5(1)(a) of the 1976 Act provides: A person commits an offence if—(a) he publishes or distributes written matter which is threatening, abusive or insulting; (b) he uses in a public place or at any public meeting words which are threatening, abusive or insulting, in any case where, having regard to the circumstances, hatred is likely to be stirred up against any racial group in Great Britain by the matter or words in question. For several reasons, that provision has become deficient in the courts. After the death of Gurdip Cuaggar in Southall in 1976, a man who subsequently went on trial declared "One down, a million to go." The case against him failed in the courts. One can well understand the concern that was felt when it was realised that a man could use words like that and escape conviction for incitement to racial hatred. He was inviting a holocaust.

When Parliament passed the 1976 Act, including the section that amended the 1936 Act, it intended to place the full weight of law behind the promotion of equality of opportunity for ethnic minorities and the outlawing of incitement to racial hatred. It did not intend the section to which I have referred to be ineffective merely because the words "threatening, abusive" were not sufficiently strong. The word "intent" was dropped because it had been shown to be an obstacle to bringing forward successful prosecutions. Jurors and defending and prosecuting counsel have wasted time on mere semantics while missing the essential objective of outlawing incitement to race hatred.

My Bill proposes different words: A person commits an offence if having regard to all the circumstances he either stirs up hatred against or advocates any discriminatory policy or course of action against any racial group in the United Kingdom through either the publication, public exhibition or distribution of any written, printed or pictorial matter, or through the use of words in any public meeting or broadcast or in any public place.

This suggested change goes further than existing legislation because it adds "pictorial matter" and includes public broadcasts by the media as being forms of presentation that can incite racial hatred.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

A Ten-Minute Bill is usually heard without interruption.

Mr. Stanbrook

I am well aware of that, Mr. Speaker. Surely, even on a Ten-Minute Bill it is out of order to read a speech. The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) has scarcely looked up from his text since he began.

Mr. Speaker

We all know that, although no one should read a speech in the House, the copious use of notes is allowed.

Mr. Bidwell

It is most necessary, Mr. Speaker, to have the discipline of notes if one is to keep within the Ten-Minute rule. I am trying to respect the rule. It is plain that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has raised a fictitious and bogus point of order.

The suggested change that is incorporated in my Bill was acknowledged in the Home Secretary's paper of April 1980. The absence of "pictorial matter" allows the printing of cartoons that give grave offence. Some of them are horrifying. It is clear that they are meant to stir up racial hatred. Besides being offensive to the recipients, such abuse helps to create the motivation for serious physical assaults.

On marches and demonstrations, the mainspring of the Bill would be to put in the hands of local authorities, in concert with the police, the power to approach the Home Secretary for the selective banning of race hatred marches, which lead to further scenes of commotion with the police having to play piggy-in-the-middle.

The objective of the Bill is to drive public expression of racist abuse and public advocacy of racially discriminatory policies out of public life. I call upon all people of good will outside to back it up and upon those who are listening to take note of the mutterings on Conservative Benches which have been heard for the whole time that I have been presenting the Bill.

4.31 pm
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, West)

I oppose the motion. I do not believe that the House should be fooled by the emotive headline and the blandishment of the title of the proposed Bill, because it contains some proposals which would be dangerous if the House saw fit to pass it.

This is a two-pronged Bill. It deals with the selective banning of marches and, to a lesser extent, with tougher restrictions on race propaganda. It is right that we should approach it with a great deal of suspicion, knowing the views of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) and that he comes from a constituency with a large majority of immigrants in the electorate. I represent a constituency which has 20 per cent. immigrants. I shall try to speak for all my constituents, whatever the colour of their skin.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It would appear that the hon. Member is reading his speech.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am anxious that we should proceed to the regional policy debate.

Mr. Carlisle

The House will know that the Select Committee considered selective bans on marches rather than a blanket ban at the moment. It is right that the present blanket ban should be a ban on saint and sinner together. Many Conservative Members would question the right of those people to march at all, because it is a fact that over the last few months those marches have been used as an easy and convenient excuse for political extremists to make trouble. The damage which has been caused by those marchers is apparent for all to see, particularly in London.

I wonder whether the hon. Member realises the consequences of his Bill and the consequences of selectively banning marches. Does he realise that any organisation would find it easy to purport under one name to put forward a march—even giving notice—which was then banned and then parade under another name? Does he also realise that, if organisations took violent opposition to a march which was due to take place and that march was then cancelled, a protesting organisation could march under another name as triumphant victors? Does he realise that if the selective ban took place, it is, in effect—

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Apart from the fact that the hon. Member is reading his speech badly, would he be prepared to declare to the House whether he has ever had membership of any of those dubious organisations on the right of politics apart from the Conservative Party? —

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member knows that that is not a point of order. He is merely delaying progress.

Mr. Carlisle

The real issue which I must take with the hon. Member for Southall is his proposal that local authorities should leapfrog over police in the decision on whether marches should take place. That would leave the decision open to vile political bias. If the local authority is to make the decision, we all know that not all local authorities are completely impartial.

In his evidence to the Select Committee, the hon. Member said that he felt that the Greater London Council should take over control of the police. It sends chills clown the spines of Conservative Members to think that a man such as Ken Livingstone, after his disgraceful comments in Southall about the action of the police, should have some authority on whether people should be allowed to march. The Bill is a total criticism of the police.

The police are far better informed than any local authority on whether a procession should take place. They have a special knowledge of peacekeeping, as outlined and admitted by the Select Commitee. They know their resources which would be needed to correct any measures which took place. They know where the dangers anti trouble which might affect them arise. They are financially and politically accountable to the local magistrates and to the Home Secretary. To relegate them, as the Bill proposes, to the role of consultant would lessen police authority and would be a complete appeasement of the Left wing. At this time, when matters are delicate and when the Home Secretary, with great courage and resolve, faces a terrible problem, he needs, as do the police, every strengthening from the House.

With regard to the phrase "racial hatred", I believe that it would be in the interests of the House and of time merely to say that the hon. Member gave his usual rhetoric. There is no guarantee that any change in the wording of the Bill or the many posturings of the Commission for Racial Equality would help relations between the two communities. Damage might be done. The essence of the Bill refers to ethnic populations, which is discriminatory.

The hon. Member may have had good intentions in bringing forward the Bill. He has a wealth of experience in these matters. However, the House should not be fooled. This is only a mask for Left-wing, Socialist doctrine. I ask the House to reject the motion.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business): —

The House divided: Ayes 171, Noes 38.

Division No. 256] [4.35 pm
Abse, Leo Biggs-Davison, John
Anderson, Donald Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)
Ashton, Joe Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)
Atkinson, H. (H'gey,) Bradley, Tom
Bagier, Gordon AT. Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Buchan, Norman
Beith, A. J. Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)
Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N) Campbell-Savours, Dale
Bidwell, Sydney Canavan, Dennis
Carmichael, Neil Janner, Hon Greville
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) John, Brynmor
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cowans, Harry Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Craigen, J. M. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Cryer, Bob Kerr, Russell
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kilfedder, James A.
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Kinnock, Neil
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David
Davidson, Arthur Lamond, James
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Leighton, Ronald
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Lestor, Miss Joan
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Dempsey, James Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dewar, Donald McCartney, Hugh
Dixon, Donald McElhone, Frank
Dobson, Frank McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Dormand, Jack McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Douglas, Dick McKelvey, William
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McNally, Thomas
Dubs, Alfred McWilliam, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Magee, Bryan
Dunn, James A. Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Maynard, Miss Joan
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
English, Michael Mikardo, Ian
Ennals, Rt Hon David Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Evans, John (Newton) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Ewing, Harry Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Faulds, Andrew Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Flannery, Martin Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) O'Halloran, Michael
Foot, Rt Hon Michael O'Neill, Martin
Forrester, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foulkes, George Palmer, Arthur
Freud, Clement Park, George
Garel-Jones, Tristan Parker, John
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Prescott, John
George, Bruce Race, Reg
Gourlay, Harry Richardson, Jo
Graham, Ted Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Grant, John (Islington C) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Robertson, George
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Rooker, J. W.
Hardy, Peter Sandelson, Neville
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Sheerman, Barry
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Haynes, Frank Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Home Robertson, John Skinner, Dennis
Homewood, William Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Huckfield, Les Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Soley, Clive
Spriggs, Leslie White, Frank R.
Stallard, A. W. Whitehead, Phillip
Steel, Rt Hon David Wigley, Dafydd
Steen, Anthony Wilkinson, John
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Straw, Jack Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Winnick, David
Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Woolmer, Kenneth
Tilley, John Wright, Sheila
Torney, Tom Young, David (Bolton E)
Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Wainwright, R. (Colne V) Tellers for the Ayes:
Watkins, David Mr. John Sever and
Watson, John Mr. Stanley Newens.
Weetch, Ken
Alexander, Richard Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Body, Richard Molyneaux, James
Brotherton, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Browne, John (Winchester) Morgan, Geraint
Burden, Sir Frederick Myles, David
Cadbury, Jocelyn Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Cockeram, Eric Porter, Barry
Colvin, Michael Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Costain, Sir Albert Proctor, K. Harvey
Dover, Denshore Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Eggar, Tim Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles Shepherd, Richard
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Speller, Tony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Stokes, John
Goodhew, Victor Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Winterton, Nicholas
Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Tellers for the Noes:
Kimball, Sir Marcus Mr. Ivor Stanbrook and
Knight, Mrs Jill Mr. Christopher Murphy.
Marlow, Tony

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Sydney Bidwell, Mr. Ian Mikardo, Mr. Clinton Davis, Mr. Christopher Price, Mr. Thomas Cox, Mr. Stanley Newens, Mr. David Winnick, Mr. Russell Kerr, Mr. Clive Soley, Mrs Renee Short, and Mr. George Park.