§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a short Bill, a very short Bill indeed, but none the less I think it contains some elements of considerable importance and some elements which are well worthy of your Lordships' attention. To go through the Bill as it now stands, very briefly there is in the first clause the definition of discrimination, which is merely that.… a person exercises discrimination where he refuses, withholds from or denies to any other person facilities or advantages on the ground of the colour, race or religion of that other person.The second clause defines those persons who are to be prohibited from exercising discrimination; and, in general, such persons are hotel keepers, common lodging-house keepers and those who keep restaurants and other public places for the consumption of food or drink, or halls used for dancing or entertainment. There is a further clause which brings leases into the scope of this Bill so that no lease shall contain any discriminatory clauses nor shall any lease be refused because of the colour, race or religion of the person who wishes to take the lease. The fourth and fifth clauses deal briefly with the penalties.
Let me make it quite clear at the outset that this Bill is not confined solely to black people, to coloured people. It seeks to outlaw discrimination not only on the ground of colour but also on the ground of race or religion, and therefore brings within its ambit Roman Catholics, Jews, even in certain circumstances, theoretically, members of the Church of England, the Irish—in other words, anybody who is of any specified race, religion or colour. I think it is important to have that firmly in our minds to-day and not to look at this Bill simply as one which deals with the colour problem, which is the problem quite naturally uppermost in our minds.
Your Lordships may notice that there are one or two omissions from this Bill Which may surprise you. The Bill does not include in its scope clubs, any more than it includes people who from time 440 to time let off a single room in their house in order to take lodgers. It is designed to deal with the professional lodging-house keeper and hotel-keeper, people who make their livings by letting, but it implicitly exempts those who try to add a small amount to their income by occasionally taking in lodgers. It excludes clubs, not because there is no discrimination in clubs, but because I think it is fairly generally agreed that if people wish to associate together for a certain purpose, whether it is playing golf or bridge, or tennis, or anything else, and for some reason or another wish to exclude a certain group of people from their own club, they should be allowed to do so, however much any of us as individuals may deprecate their excluding people on those specific grounds.
This Bill also does not attempt in any way to deal with the extremely important and serious problem of discrimination in labour. It may be thought, if this Bill is fortunate enough, as I hope it will be, to reach the Committee stage, that there should be a clause inserted to deal with this aspect. But my own view, at this stage, at any rate, is that this is a very complicated problem to legislate against, although it has been done in other countries; and therefore it is better, certainly for the time being, to keep this Bill as simple and as straightforward as possible.
What is the present position with regard to the law on discrimination, and what is the present position with regard to the obligation of people who come within the scope of this Bill, in particular hotel-keepers and innkeepers? As things are at the present time, under Common Law inn-keepers are obliged to provide refreshment and accommodation for bona fide travellers —not for people who happen to be living in the particular town, but people who are genuine and bona fide travellers—unless there are reasonable grounds in any instance for not doing so. What constitute "reasonable grounds" is, as I understand it, solely for a court to decide. Whether it would be held that the colour of a man's skin is a reasonable ground or not I do not know. There have been surprisingly few cases —in fact there is only one that I know of: the famous case of the cricketer Constantine—where a hotel has been 441 actually sued for refusing accommodation, but there have been a very large number of instances where accommodation has been refused on the ground of colour, as I shall be showing later. So, although at the present time it may be said that the law possibly does compel an inn-keeper to provide accommodation for a genuine traveller, it certainly does not work that way; and certainly, as it is at present, it does not compel the inn-keeper or hotel-keeper to provide accommodation or food to somebody who is not a traveller but who is a resident in that particular town.
So far as the licensee of a public-house or similar premises is concerned, he is under no obligation to serve anybody if he does not wish to do so. He can refuse to serve anyone. I understand that that right has been upheld in the Courts. He also has the right arbitrarily to eject from his premises anybody he does not wish to have there. So, as the law stands to-day, he is entirely within his legal rights in refusing to have on his licensed premises coloured people, or people of any group that he has decided he does not want there. It is perfectly true that when licences come up for renewal anybody who so wishes can object to (the renewal of the licence, on the ground that the licensee has exercised discrimination. It is perfectly possible then that the licensing magistrates may decide that he is not a fit person to hold a licence. But, so far as I know, nobody has ever objected at the brewster sessions on grounds of this kind when the renewal of a licence has been applied for. So I do not think that we need take that as a serious argument for suggesting that the law is at present satisfactory. As I say, the owner of licensed premises has the right to refuse access to his premises to any person, and there is no direct means whereby the law can prevent him from so doing.
While we are on the question of the law as it stands at present, I think it is worth recalling to your Lordships' memory a case which happened, admittedly, twenty years ago, during the war, but which is an example of what the Recorder of Liverpool thought of the existing state of the law. In this particular case, a West Indian was refused admission to a dance hall in 442 Liverpool when he was, in fact, wearing Home Guard uniform. As a protest against this action, he stayed away from subsequent Home Guard parades and was fined £5 for so doing. He appealed against the fine, and the Recorder, having heard the case, reduced the fine from £5 to one farthing. What he actually said was:Where the law is ridiculous one might as well draw attention to the fact … people come over here to risk their lives on behalf of what they proudly call 'The Mother Country' … and it is an impertinence for any country to accept the aid of coloured people from any part of the world and then to say 'our laws do not enable us to deal with you on terms of complete equality'".Since that date, twenty years ago, there has been no change in the law; so there is at least some legal decision for asserting that, from a purely legal point of view, the present state is far from satisfactory.
The second question I should like to come to is: does discrimination exist in this country to-day? Since I started giving thought to this matter and preparing for this debate it is quite staggering, and more than disheartening, to see the pile of evidence that exists showing that discrimination is a real fact in many of our towns and in many walks of life. My great difficulty has been to sift this evidence so that at least I can convince your Lordships that it is there, without wearying you with an over-long recital. I shall not dwell on this other than just to mention it, and I will give no evidence in support of it, because it does not come within the scope of this Bill at this stage. But there is undoubtedly—and many of your Lordships will know this—discrimination, in particular against Jews in golf clubs and similar places. As I say, this is not covered by this particular Bill. I merely mention it in passing, to show that we as a country cannot pride ourselves on the fact that we have no discriminatory feelings in this respect.
Secondly, there is discrimination in the matter of leases. Many cases could be given to your Lordships as evidence. All I will do is to read out one particular lease, a photostat of which I have here. It is in a perfectly standard form, and Clause 7 of the lease, which I may say is for 999 years, states:… not to assign underlet or part with the possession of the demised premises or any part 443 thereof to any coloured person or allow any such person to reside on the demised premises.There is proof of the fact that there is discrimination—one might almost call it legal discrimination, because so far as I know it is a clause which can be enforced by law, where the law of this land can be called in aid to implement discrimination. It exists in a perfectly standard lease of which there are many examples throughout the country.
Thirdly I come to discrimination in employment. Once again I make it clear that this Bill does not deal with employment. This is brought in solely as evidence that we in this country are guilty of discrimination in this respect also. There is much evidence of this. There was a report in the Manchester Guardian a year or so ago thatthe Youth Employment Officer of Lambeth reports coloured youngsters are finding it very hard to get jobs because of their colour.Then there was a letter, also in the Guardian, from which I will read an extract:As an interviewer for an employment agency, I come into direct contact with the colour bar at least a dozen times a day; the extent to which it is practised appals me. It is incredible just how many employers absolutely refuse to see a coloured applicant for a job, regardless of qualifications or experience. They trot out the stock phrase 'I don't mind, but my staff will object'. The reasons given for such objections are rare and most vague.The writer continues:I do not think we can afford to wait for peoples' basic attitudes to change; the only practical solution is a law to make racial discrimination illegal. I used to argue strongly against taking this measure, but it seems to be the only answer. Let us have no second-class citizens here.Finally, on this particular point, I come to the great issue of discrimination against coloured students looking for lodgings. That is where it is found in its most glaring and most widespread state. Again there are examples that can be quoted from many places. I have here a pamphlet prepared by P.E.P. entitled Indian University Students in Britain. There is one table there which is of interest in this matter. Under "Colour discrimination" where difficulties for accommodation are experienced among what they define as upper-class students, there appears the 444 figure of 63 per cent. who have met it. Among the middle-class students, 94 per cent. have met it. I will give a quotation, if I am not wearying your Lordships. They give many quotations, and one student, an Indian, said:After the first six months in the Indian Y.M.C.A. Hostel, when I had to look for a room, I had some very unpleasant experiences. I was refused many times for being a 'foreigner', and particularly for being an 'Indian'. I am not counting the many refusals which boldly and plainly rejected me in their advertisements. Some made it clear after only hearing my Indian accent on the phone. Even worse were those who opened the door, uncomfortably looked at me for a split-second with uncertainty and hesitation and slammed the door in my face with an obvious lie: 'Sorry, the room is gone'. It was false; I could see the shadow of hypocrisy clearly in their eyes. In my anxiety and being tired of hunting in rain and wind I fixed up the first room that was offered me.This pamphlet is full of similar cases, but possibly, my Lords, the most convincing of all these comes from the London University department which deals with students' lodgings. There, out of a total of 146 hotels only 23 are prepared to take students of any nationality or colour whatsoever—a very small proportion indeed. So I think there is ample evidence on that score to show that there exists in this country to-day discrimination of a widespread kind against people, simply because of the colour of their skin, the country from which they come or the religion which they profess.
Perhaps what is the worst of all in this matter is that it appears to be spreading, not only to the people who are directly affected—the people who keep the lodging houses, the hotels, the inns—but among the younger people because of the example of their elders; because of what they see and hear at home. Once more I gave a quotation from the Guardian. The heading is "Pupils Show Racial Prejudice":Out of a group of 70 schoolchildren in a part of Bristol without a colour problem, nearly a quarter showed signs of racial prejudice in essays on West Indian immigration. The most intelligent children were the most prejudiced.It goes on to state that the reason for this is undoubtedly because of the home atmosphere and what the children have heard their parents and their parents' friends say. My Lords, I will not spend any longer in trying to convince you that discrimination exists in this country to-day.
445 I now come to my next point: is it possible to legislate against discrimination? Is this something where the law can have some effect, or is it something Where we have to admit the law is powerless? We are fortunate in having examples across the Atlantic, in the United States, of legislation which has been in force now for many years. Undoubtedly, racial discrimination in the United States has been, and in many States still is, of an infinitely more virulent variety than it is in this country, but that to my mind does not affect the argument that legislation can be introduced and that, where it is introduced, it does have some effect in moulding public opinion and in preventing at least the most glaring abuses of this kind.
In New York in 1956—I am afraid that is the last year for which I have been able to get figures—under their racial discrimination legislation they had 756 cases brought to their attention, so at least it is possible to proceed against people if the laws are properly framed. In Massachusetts, a considerably smaller State, in 1959–60 there were 395 cases. But what to my mind is more important than those figures is a summary of 1960–61, entitled "State Anti-Discrimination Laws" and prepared by the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress. In this summary you can read the following:Progress against racial and religious discrimination was made … by State legislation in all parts of the country outside the deep South. The figures, either by the number of States, the number of laws or breadth of their scope for 1961 set records for State civil rights legislation not achieved in any preceding year …. It is clear that Legislatures throughout the country have observed the enactment of civil rights laws in other States: they have satisfied themselves that the laws work; and have decided to follow suit. Thus, we may conclude that anti-discrimination laws have proved their value. They have not brought about the calamities their opponents have predicted.That, my Lords, is one of the strongest arguments against those people who say —and there are many of them—" We deplore discrimination; we should like to see it brought to an end; but it is impossible to do so by legislation".
Although what I have just quoted does not in any way claim that racial discrimination has been abolished in those States of the nation which have such legislation, 446 it makes it very clear that the degree of discrimination has declined and that other States which wish to follow suit, far from being deterred by the ill-effects of such legislation, have been encouraged to follow suit. But even if we were convinced—even if some of your Lordships still are convinced—that legislation does not in fact end this evil, surely it is deserving of support if only because it gives public support to what is, I am sure in the minds of all of us, something that is ethically and morally correct.
Education cannot be dispensed with in this respect. Education must play perhaps the largest part in abolishing racial discrimination in any form, but well-conceived legislation is a very valuable adjunct indeed to any form of education, whether private or public. Here again, my Lords, allow me to quote once more from another American document, Racial Equality under Law, by Morroe Berger, because I feel it contains very good sense indeed. Mr. Berger writes:The law strikes directly at the acts of those who discriminate, rather than at their beliefs. Ultimately and indirectly, however, the law can modify attitudes and beliefs by changing behaviour and helping to set up the conditions that induce other changes. Moreover, law, because of its association with the immense power and prestige of the Government, can have a particularly potent influence on certain types of prejudiced persons and certain types of discriminators.I do not think we should underestimate here the immense prestige of legislation; conversely, I do not think that we should underestimate the immense effect of failure to legislate. There are very many people in this country who must say, who do say, to themselves: "By discriminating against people because of their colour, race or religion, I am breaking no law of the country. The country has quite specifically refused so far to legislate against discrimination. Therefore, in all probability, far from condemning this act, the country, the Government, without specifically saying so, must approve of this act, because they could legislate if they wanted to, and the very absence of legislation is condoning if not encouraging what is going on."
Having, I hope, convinced at least most of your Lordships, in the first place that racial discrimination exists 447 and, in the second place, that it is possible to legislate against it, as we have seen done in the United States, I would ask: where does our responsibility lie? Have we in this House any responsibility to take steps or should we adopt a laissez-faire attitude? In the past, as your Lordships well know, there have been debates in this House and in another place on this subject, and attempts to introduce legislation. Nothing has been done. So far as the discrimination itself is concerned, there has been no change. But one factor has arisen which, to my mind, strengthens very greatly the need for urgent legislation at this present time, and that is the passing to an Act of Parliament of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. As a result of that legislation, my Lords —wrongly we believe, and wrongly according to the assurance given us by Members of the Government—there are a very large number of people throughout the whole world, and particularly in what we still refer to as the "black Commonwealth", who believe that this country is anti-black. That is a belief which has spread very greatly indeed throughout those areas as a result of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
The Bill which is before your Lordships to-day gives you the chance to undo the damage which has been done by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, and to give proof of the words which have been expressed on both sides of this House, that in fact we are not against coloured people of any kind. May I quote—I believe that this is my last quotation—some words which I came across the other day?Many races have made their contribution to"—a certain country, and this countryneeds the brains, devotion and capital of all its peoples. This calls for a society and an economy without discrimination of race, creed or colour, where individual rights arc firmly recognised and maintained.Those are the words of Mr. Maudling and the country he is referring to is Kenya. But I think that they could be said with equal honesty by any of Her Majesty's Ministers about this country, and I hope we may hear them said before this debate is concluded.
So far, my Lords, I have dealt with (shall I say?) the practical and material 448 aspects of this problem. But surely the strongest argument in fact has nothing whatsoever to do with any of those things. The strongest argument for turning our faces definitely against any form of discrimination and for using all the due processes of the law that we may lay our hands on to do so, is not a material one but simply a human one. We are, after all, dealing with human beings like ourselves, different only in that they profess different beliefs, or have different colours of skin and come from different countries. It is our responsibility to these fellow human beings to look at this problem.
It is difficult for us sitting here in our security to realise just what it means, just what it has meant, to so many hundreds, so many thousands, of people to have come to this country hoping to make their home here. I ask your Lordships, if you can, to forget for just a few moments your own security. Forget your own position, your own background, your own wealth, all the things which you take for granted, which all of us take for granted, living in the country in which we have been born, living among people whom we know, with an assured position and with, so far as one can look ahead at all, an assured future. Try to imagine yourselves leaving that, with no background, because you have left that behind you, with no prospects of any assurance whatsoever, with nobody who has known you, who has been your friend, who has helped you, and not only going out as a stranger in a strange land but going out with the handicap of being different from other people, different in a way which is obvious for all to see —different simply because you have a different coloured skin, or possibly because you have a different shaped nose, or possibly because you worship in a place which is different from that in which all the people around you worship. Try, my Lords, to put yourselves in the position of such a person. When you have done that, if you can do it, ask yourselves if this simple Bill, which is only a small, only a modest step towards abolishing an evil which exists, is a Bill which in your own conscience you can refuse to support.
This is not a Party matter, my Lords. There are to be speakers from all Benches on both sides of the House who, 449 I believe, will be supporting this. There is no question of Government and Opposition; there is no question of Party discipline. There is no question of Party loyalty in this. There is simply a question of loyalty to humanity, loyalty to your own consciences, and I do ask your Lordships before this debate ends, to think of this problem in this light and to make your decision accordingly. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Walston.)
§ 3.58 p.m.
My Lords, when I came down to your Lordships' House to-day to listen to this debate and looked at the names of the speakers who were going to address your Lordships I saw among those names one which surprised me very much and that was my own. The usual channels, as they are sometimes called in this House, are sometimes undredged or the buoy loses station, and I was expected to speak to your Lordships to-day. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will excuse me, because I have not prepared matters as I should and will keep my remarks very brief.
It seems to me that the principle behind this Bill, and the motives behind it, are without question good ones, admirable ones, which have ethical and moral bases which none of us could deny. Of course, I need not have risen to my feet to speak to your Lordships, but that might have given the noble Lord who introduced this Bill the wrong impression, that I was against it, and that is far from being the case. My reason for my not wishing to speak was that, before I finally made up my mind whether this excellent little Bill, as it is in theory, was indeed necessary on our Statute Book, I wanted to hear what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack had to say about it.
Is there room for it? What is the present state of the law? I was under the impression—and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, spoke about this—that hotel keepers and such-like were not allowed to refuse what they had to offer merely because of any sort of whim, and that if they did they would lose their licence or some other disciplinary action would be taken against them. I await the words of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack before I am quite 450 sure about this; but I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that like, I should think, most Members of this House, I support this Bill very generally in principle. At the moment I certainly have no intention of going into the Lobby against him, and I hope I may be able to go into his Lobby.
One of the chief advantages of this Bill seems to me to be that hotel keepers, restaurant keepers or whoever it may be, are often influenced against their own consciences by public opinion, and I suggest that if this Bill becomes law it will give moral strength to those men to take up the stand which they know to be right. Of course, it is really the case that public opinion ought to be educated, rather than that legislation should be directed against hotel keepers, and so forth; but to educate public opinion is a lengthy business, and we know from what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has told us, as indeed we know from our own experience, that there are grave and sad cases of such discrimination in this country.
Of course, the question passes through one's mind: why should a man who is running an hotel not be allowed to exercise his own conscience? It may be that he has a great antipathy against Scotsmen and will not allow Scotsmen to stay at his hotel. I am not of that opinion, having a large amount of Scottish blood in my veins, but it could be argued, hypothetically, that he had a case. It might be argued that people who practise black magic are unacceptable; but according to the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, no religion is to be debarred, and, therefore, there is no reason why black magic should not be practised in the Ritz, in the Savoy, or in the "Red Dragon".
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I did not suggest, and I do not think this Bill suggests, that people should be allowed to practise their religion in the hotels, but that they should not be debarred from going to the hotels because of their religion.
My Lords, no doubt I was going too far, but I think the noble Lord understood what I meant. Of course, there are many examples of discrimination, and I should like to recount 451 one that I came across. It was during the war, near an R.A.F. station, when that great Service was playing such a wonderful part in leading us to victory. A notice went up in a good-class hotel requesting that members of the Royal Air Force, officers or other ranks, who had been disfigured on their faces or were disabled in such a way that might cause distress to regular clients should not patronise the hotel. The anger which that caused one can well imagine. Of course, the notice came down almost immediately, and I glad to say that the custom went down very severely as well. That is the sort of thing we really cannot have. So, my Lords, I await to hear whether there is a lacuna in our laws which this Bill will fill.
While on this matter, and in general, I should like to say that it has come to my ears, through what I consider to be very reliable channels, that a political Party in this country known as the British National Socialists, who I believe were known as the Fascists or "Black-shirts" at one time, are seeking to organise a meeting on Sunday, July 1, in Trafalgar Square, which is entitled, "Free Britain from the Jews". I know very little more than that, except that I understand the matter has been taken up with the Home Office, and I understand that the Home Office say that they are unable to do anything about it. If they are unable to do anything about this sort of thing—and I give that as only one example—I hope we may have legislation which will enable them to take appropriate steps. So, my Lords, apologising for not having prepared my speech better may I assure the noble Lord that I have in my heart great sympathy for his Bill, and I thank him for introducing it so well and so clearly.
§ 4.4 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I believe there can be nothing but the strongest possible support for the underlying purpose of the Bill which has been brought forward and urged so movingly by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, for discrimination against any person on the ground of colour, race or creed is clearly abhorrent to a civilised man and clearly contrary to the teachings of the Christian Faith. The Bishops of the Anglican Communion, at the 452 Lambeth Conference of 1958, for instance, affirmed their beliefin the natural dignity and value of every man of whatever colour or race, as created in the image of God. In the light of this belief neither race nor colour is in itself a barrier to any aspect of that life in family and community for which God created all men".Judged by these standards, as the noble Lord who has moved this Second Reading quite rightly said, we certainly cannot be satisfied that this country is free from racial discrimination. I believe that there has been in recent years a considerable improvement in the relationship between the races who are inhabitating our land. As I go around the churches of the Diocese of London, for instance, it is very rare indeed for me to visit a church in which there are no Africans, West Indians, Indians, or other coloured people taking their full place in the life and worship of the congregation. In fact, there are some churches whose choirs would be in a very poor way indeed if it were not for the better voices supplied from the West Indies: and they are enjoying a full community friendship, which is what we should all seek to ensure.
But we know, of course, that all is not well, particularly with our visitors. Last week I was talking to a former pupil of mine, an African, who has been in England for some six months, and I asked him how he found the British people in their dealings with him. He said, with the utmost emphasis, that he had found nothing but friendship, help and courtesy. He instanced a number of occasions on which he had lost his way in central London, and how, when he had asked the way, English people had gone out of their way to direct him to the place which he was seeking. But then he added, very significantly, "Of course, I have not had to look for any lodgings"—and it is at that point, as we know all too well, that there is tension and difficulty. It would appear that the tensions occur most easily when our people and those of other races are in competition for the same things— houses or lodgings, jobs, or sometimes, even, the attentions of the opposite sex. We know all too well, as the noble Lord has told us, of instances of landladies treating students from overseas with less than common courtesy. All this is clearly to be condemned.
453 Nor are the grounds of discrimination restricted to colour or race alone. I have been told of instances of refusals to let rooms or houses on grounds of religious faith, and there is evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has already told us, of the existence of organisations in this country whose objects seem to be to foster racial hatred. I, too, have seen the notice of the meeting to which he referred, and I have seen in one of the publications of that organisation the statement that its policy is,The liberation of Britain from the coloured invasion and Jewish control".Though these organisations may command little popular support, their influence may be potentially dangerous.
Indeed, my Lords, there is no ground for complacency. When I saw that this Bill was coming forward, my immediate instinct was to support it; and when I read it for the first time my feelings remained the same, particularly with regard to Clause 3. And yet, on reflection, I venture to wonder whether its purposes can be achieved by legislation of this kind. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, has already dealt with this point, but perhaps the experience of the United States of America which he quoted is not altogether on that side. We know that the existence of legislation against discrimination in itself creates and intensifies tensions. The city of Little Rock, which was very much in the news a few years ago over the question of riots concerned with the desegregation of schools, is the See city of the Bishop of Arkansas, who himself played no small part in settling the hatreds which had grown up within the city. After the troubles were over he put down his opinions and reflections in a very moving book called Greater Than Little Rock, in which he argued that this was a matter not just simply for the State of Arkansas, but for the whole world.
In his book he said:A revolution is taking place in race relations … on the question of what constitutes the status and dignity of man. To this there is no ready solution, for the paradox which exists between liberty and equality is real. A liberty which permits an individual of great talent to compete against another of small talent will soon destroy equality. Yet any attempt to aid a person of lesser talent by some programme of equality immediately destroys the liberty of the other.454 It is my opinion, for what it is worth, that if we rely on legal sanctions only to remove this racial discrimination which we all deplore we shall not in fact have solved the problem; we shall only have put it a stage further back. Even if the provisions of the Bill could be enforced, would they produce the circumstances in which our African or West Indian friends, for instance, students in particular, would experience that friendship and fellowship which it is part of their purpose, in visiting England, to obtain? Would they be happy living in rooms which had been let to them by a landlord against his will? Would the relations between races be improved by an atmosphere of constant, if legally suppressed, hostility?
So I ask myself whether it may not be wiser, though it is a much slower process, to continue to work through education and mutual understanding to remove the causes of racial distrust and discrimination. Much, indeed, has been done. There are a great many schools in London where one finds African children and West Indian children learning and living very happily alongside English children; and, so far as I can discover, in those schools they are unconscious of their racial differences, and they learn to value each other for what each is worth as a person. That may be a slow process, but it produces the right results. I have also seen, in a number of schools, English children being taught most efficiently and happily by West African teachers, for whom they had the highest regard. All this takes time, I know, but it does create a permanent situation. In the meantime, we need a constant watch against the creation of unconscious prejudice.
There are in a great many books, and in a good deal of literature, even in a number of school text-books, references to racial inferiority which are probably not intentional on the part of the writer but which easily create wrong attitudes. I remember, for instance, going through a history text-book with some care to see how much prejudice it could create, and I think I marked in the course of 100 pages 70 or 80 instances of running down other races in order to show what a very fine race we ourselves are. The latter may be a good thing; the former is not a necessary accompaniment of it. 455 I think we have gone a good way in recent years. Some of my parochial clergy tell me that in their parishes, now as never before, race relations are easing, and the one thing they are afraid of is that they may be made self-conscious, because that is what they have now ceased to be. Although I appreciate the noble Lord's argument that legislation such as he proposes would show where we as a nation stood, it might have the disadvantage of creating a consciousness which perhaps does not exist in some parts.
My Lords, a long-standing diocesan engagement may make it impossible for me to stay for the conclusion of this debate, and I wish to apologise in advance to your Lordships' House and to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, if I cannot be here to hear his answer. But may I repeat that I believe that all right-thinking people are wholeheartedly in agreement with his purpose? I myself venture to differ from him only on the means by which it may best be achieved. May I just add this? If we reject, for one reason or another, the negative approach of applying legal sanctions, then that is surely a challenge to all of us, and to all citizens of our land, to take the positive action of showing, in all our relationships with those who come to stay among us and live among us from other countries, the friendship, the understanding and the courtesy which is their right and our duty.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, in rising to make a few comments on the Bill before us, I should like to say at once that I listened with great interest and appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in his introduction of the Second Reading, but I thought that he simplified his appeal too much. I thought he laid too great an emphasis on what was often a personal and rather emotional approach. I say that at the beginning to make it quite clear that I do appreciate what he was trying to do. For instance, he said that if we do not legislate, if we do not approve this Bill, then we shall be advertising to the world that we condone, if not sympathise with, discrimination. I cannot accept the validity of that argument. It surely is the duty of the Government, and the 456 duty of ourselves, to exercise our judgment in matters of this kind, irrespective of any misrepresentation or misunderstanding which may occur as the result of our judgment. If I may put it in that way, I should like to explain my intervention in this debate by exclaiming, with Kipling:I have drunk with various nations.Seen the racial ruction rise,And the men of half CreationDamning half Creation's eyes.This subject is of such complexity that one cannot afford, I suggest, to be dogmatic. I should like to assure the noble Lord, as I have done, that I appreciate and sympathise with what he is trying to do, though, like the right reverend Prelate who has just addressed us, I cannot agree that this Bill would necessarily be likely to achieve the object which he has in view. I, as much as he, should like to see it successfully achieved—the elimination of racial group discrimination. I have given the subject a good deal of study during my life and my experience throughout the world has been that racial discrimination is a universal defect in human relations. It seems often to be based on a mental stereotype, a fixed mental picture of another group. It is not merely, as the noble Lord himself said, a colour question. It is apt to be mingled with religion, culture and economic differences and opposing social traditions and differences of outlook of every kind. Once more, as Kipling said:But the world is wondrous large,Seven seas from marge to marge,And it holds a vast of various kinds of man—The wildest dreams of KewAre the facts of KatmanduAnd the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.That is part of the complexity of this question. There are nations who are rich and nations who are poor. There are nations full of suspicion, jealousy and hatred. Prejudice against foreigners, let us accept it as a fact which has run through the centuries, is world-wide. All nations have it, in greater or lesser degree. Sometimes, it is true, it is mixed with a number of feelings, estimable enough in themselves, such as a consuming pride in national achievement. But let us not forget that prejudice is an attitude of mind, which may 457 or may not lead to discrimination. Discrimination is action. For instance, a racial riot or a restriction of amenities or privileges is but the active rationalisation of a dislike that is already there. We know that there axe cultural differences. We know that individuals are not equal in intelligence, and surely it is reasonable to assume that the forces which have shaped evolution have not produced equality in the average mental agility in associated groups of men known as races. Different habits require time and patience to tolerate, and resentment is inevitable if a community is asked to absorb more than a certain number of an alien culture in one area at a given time.
That, I suggest with respect, is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, when he made reference to-day to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill which we recently passed. The point is that that Bill was precisely aimed at a reduction of the likelihood of a growth of prejudice in this country as a result of our trying to assimilate too quickly too large a number of people of a different way of life. For prejudice, as the right reverend Prelate has said, the only remedy is education in the broadest sense—the understanding of other societies, the realisation that we are all human and the appreciation of the common ancestry of mankind.
For many reasons, which time does not permit me to go into now, many racial groups have started late in the ever-increasing speed of modern human development. As Philip Mason has pointed out in his extremely interesting book entitled Common Sense About Race:It took 10.000 years to learn a new way of polishing a flint arrow-head, while a modern fighter aircraft is obsolete almost before it comes off the drawing board.It is no wonder that the backward races are bewildered and also desperately anxious to avail themselves of modern knowledge and training and prove themselves as fundamentally capable of advance as those races now so far ahead of them. They are naturally, too, resentful of any rigid separation which corrupts and strains good Will and hampers such advance.
The noble Lord who sponsored this Bill believes that the proper remedy is legislation and that this can be an effective 458 remedy. One of his earliest predecessors was Alexander the Great, who, in a famous proclamation, advocated the acceptance of the idea of human equality. And from Alexander the Great down through the centuries to the French Revolution and the American Declaration of Independence, this ideal has been proclaimed and never realised. It has not yet been achieved. Efforts have been made to accelerate the recognition of the brotherhood of man and the Churches have lent their voices in support of it. As the right reverend Prelate has said, great progress is being made, but I suggest that progress has been, and must be, slow when one is changing how men think.
The question remains: can the law alter race relations? In the main, I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Walston; I do not think it can. It can, at best, help to create a climate in which the only effective agents, the hearts and minds of men, can change, influenced in a slow, evolutionary manner by social forces and education. There is, I believe, relatively little discrimination in this country, as the right reverend Prelate has suggested, and it will diminish —it is, I suggest, taking it by and large, diminishing now—too slowly for most of us who would wish it to go faster, but it is one of those things in which an unwise attempt to accelerate its pace would probably defeat our object.
The United States of America have been mentioned. The United States have had a long experience in this matter of legislative attempt to control prejudice and prohibit discrimination. Law unquestionably is often an appropriate and effective mode of regulating behaviour, but I suggest that we cannot successfully legislate against feelings. As W. G. Sumner, the American, once said:Stateways cannot change folkways.I am inclined to believe in this comment: in the case of prejudice, where a law is backed by the community, it is unnecessary, and where it is opposed by the community, it is futile.
New York laws have for long outlawed discrimination in jury service; in the right to practise law; in the admission to public schools, places of public accommodation, resort or amusement; in insurance rates and benefits; in public employment and employment in utility 459 companies and in firms fulfilling public works contracts; in admission to tax-exempt non-sectarian educational institutions; in civil service, public housing, labour unions, public relief, defence industries and in the sale and delivery of alcoholic beverages. But the real impact on life has been relatively ineffective. Americans have rather a way of encouraging high-souled legislation, so long as they are left the freedom to disregard it or ignore it.
Seeing that those decisions in America have been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, I should like to quote the conclusions which in recent years were reached by an authoritative Commission, appointed in New York to study this question of the efficacy of the law in this relationship. Their full conclusions, if your Lordships will allow me to read them (they are very brief), are, I think, extremely relevant to our discussion of this Bill. They were:That was the suggestion put forward by the right reverend Prelate just now—
- "(1) Discriminations on grounds of race, creed, colour and national origin are too serious a menace to democracy to be safely neglected;
- "(2) whatever moves are made against them must seek to win a strong supporting public opinion;
- "(3) while wise legislation may assist progress, any attempt forthwith to abolish prejudice by law can do serious harm to the anti-discrimination movement "—(4) prejudice is the fruit of ignorance, and is subject to the healing influence of education in the broadest sense of the term.They advocated a combination of compulsion, education and caution.
The Bill before us, if I may say so, is pure compulsion: it is neither educational nor cautious. Furthermore, it deals with only two aspects of discrimination, in both of which legislative interference is highly controversial. Surely the Government, by which I mean the law, can make clear their views on fairness, and can fortify the unprejudiced, by action within their own particular sphere without making it a criminal offence to disagree with it. In any sphere or region of activity which relies on Government support and is under the effective control of Government, it could outlaw discrimination by administrative rules without any legislation at all.
460 Perhaps I may quote a personal instance. During my early years in Nigeria, in every institution there which was controlled by Government, I abolished discrimination of any kind (and discrimination happened to be rather prevalent at one time) simply by an authoritative order. It so happened that I had the power to do so at the time. It is effective by a Government with the things that are solely under its control, but I suggest that it is highly improper to use compulsion of that kind to inflict upon the general public any matters which are not under Government control. That course of action—the outlawing of discrimination by administrative rules—might spread the custom and habit of toleration; it could—indeed, it does—steadily undermine and destroy the prejudice from which discrimination springs. Discrimination of the kind dealt with, for instance, in Clause 2 of this Bill is difficult to define or prove, and evasive tactics would be extremely easy. I do not know who would administer the Bill if it became law, and I do not think it makes administrative sense. It would not promote goodwill, and it would, in practice, constitute a grave invasion of private liberty.
Incidentally, and finally, if one wished to legislate against discrimination, why confine it to such narrow limits? Surely an important field is that covered by fair employment practices. Should it not be a criminal offence—if it is made a criminal offence in this Bill in the case of the hotel-keeper—for discrimination to be shown in labour unions— for instance, to strike against, shall we say, the employment of Italians? The field of public transport is not touched. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Walston probably anticipated a comment of this kind, and said that he had deliberately left out anything to do with labour unions because it was so complicated and complex a matter. Is that correct, or is it that the opposition would be so strong and so bitter that it would be obvious that it was an improper law to try to introduce at this stage?
In India, legislation was introduced by Mr. Nehru some years ago which aims at breaking down the caste system, which, as your Lordships know, is race 461 discrimination in origin (it has not up to date been followed by any noticeable success), just as in the United States of America legislation has the object of eliminating racial discrimination. As I have said, such action tends rather to hinder than to promote its main object as soon as it extends to private and semi-private activities the control of which can properly be exercised in specific State-supported enterprises.
I am aware of the argument that prejudice is acquired through contact with the attitude of prejudice itself and not through contact with the groups that are the object of prejudice. Again, this was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. Furthermore, I am aware that the law does not change attitudes directly, but that, by altering the situations in which attitudes or opinions are formed, law can indirectly reach the more private areas of life which it cannot touch directly in a democratic society. I think that argument is a very curious one, if you care to analyse it, and a curious criticism of what is necessary under a democracy. My own view is that the Government should set a public example in its own sphere and should not attempt to force tolerance by intolerant legislation. My Lords, I think this is a bad Bill, narrow in conception and impossible in administration and execution. It relies on naked compulsion and, because I believe in the aims and objects of this Bill as much as the noble Lord who introduced it, I think that it should be denied a Second Reading.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, we have listened to impressive speeches. It was possible to be much moved both by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and by the speech of the right reverend Prelate, though they did not arrive at precisely similar conclusions. Perhaps the speakers from other parts of the House will forgive me if I leave to my colleagues the task of replying to them, and I know the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, will not think me discourteous if I overlook most of what he said without in any way agreeing with it. I do not want to make a debating point, but I was rather struck by one sentence which I cannot resist mentioning. The noble Lord laid down, 462 or quoted, the proposition that when the law is backed by the community it is futile, and when it is opposed it is futile also. What was the conclusion there?
§ LORD MILVERTON
The first one. When it is backed by the community, when it has the full support of the community, it is unnecessary.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Unnecessary when it is backed by the community, and when it is opposed it is futile. Of course one could say that about all laws, in a sense. It is a proposition which clearly goes much too far. Surely, what happens in the case of most laws is that they are backed by the great majority of the community, but are resented rather by the minority. So it may well be in this case. I am a supporter of the Bill.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, may I point out that I was not applying that to all law, but to the law in this particular sphere.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Even to my imperfect intelligence that point was absolutely plain. But I was suggesting, with respect to the noble Lord, that if you applied it here in that way it would really be a means of arguing against all law. I hope I have not in any way been discourteous, but I just wanted to show the noble Lord how closely I was following his remarks.
My Lords, I would not have risen to speak at all, because in the first place I agree so much with my noble friend, Lord Walston, that I should simply wish to repeat his remarks, and, secondly, because I feel that I could not have done it so well, but I have a special reason which I hope the House will understand for spending just a few moments at this Box. I want to say one or two words about the manifestation of anti-Semitism, which has already been referred to by the noble Lord who leads the Liberal Party, and by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London. Before doing so, I should like to explain that I hesitated a great deal before mentioning the matter at all. I think it is not often of much value to the Jewish community, or indeed any other minority of this country, to single out their position for any prolonged discussion. I certainly do not regard our 463 Jewish friends as some kind of band or foreigners who deserve particularly good treatment in this country. That is not how they would look upon themselves. They are a part of the nation as much as any other part of the nation, and they are a most valued part of the nation, as they have proved many times in peace and war.
I have occasionally, in this country and elsewhere, pointed out the astonishing record of the Jewish community in the field of philanthropy—and the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, will, I know, agree with that—in the case both of Jewish charities and other charities. Their philanthropy is quite outstanding; as anybody knows only too well if he has tried to raise money. Again, their family life is an example to most of us, and their low record of crime is certainly an example to all.
But where one, on occasion, may allude to these words of distinction one would not ordinarily wish to drag up the question of anti-Semitism in any way that suggested that the Jews scattered about our country are in any way a people apart. They are right in the heart of the British nation, as much as any other section of our citizens. But every now and then one notices a tendency, one comes across the expression of a tendency, which should be alluded to so that it can be choked off as soon as possible; or, put in another way, so that we can be on our guard against it. I am sure it was in that spirit that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the right reverend Prelate mentioned this new organisation, the National Socialist Movement, of 75, Princedale Road, London, W.11. To avoid misunderstanding, let me say that this movement has no connection whatsoever with Sir Oswald Mosley, whose present movement, I understand, has no anti-Semitic aims. We are not talking of Sir Oswald Mosley, but people assume, when they hear the National Socialist Movement mentioned, that his movement has something to do with it.
I hold here a poster, and although the House cannot see it I shall be glad to pass it round afterwards. It is headed, "Don't Vote!" and continues:A vote for Tory or Labour, Liberal or Communist is a vote for more blacks, more 464 Jewish exploitation. Don't vote for any supporter of coloured immigration or Jewish control.Then it gives the time of the meeting:Trafalgar Square, Sunday, July 1, 1962, 3 p.m.Mass meeting. 'Free Britain from Jewish Control'.And this meeting will be held, one assumes, at that time, at that hour, on that day, with the permission of the Commissioner of Police. Permission has been sought for this meeting and obtained, despite protests which may or may not have been made—I am not quite sure—before permission was granted. The Commissioner of Police, I understand, cannot see how he could refuse this application, which was, presumably, in a technical sense, in order.
Now I do not want to say much about this Movement—there have been one or two cases in the courts, but I am not going to bother the House with those— but I must quote a few words from the official aims of the movement which is holding this meeting on July 1 with the consent of the Commissioner of Police.The British National Party"—we are told, and I am quoting from their official statement—is being reorganised (as from April 20, 1962), as the National-Socialist Movement, which will be an active service organisation for the promotion of National Socialism "—I am leaving out a few words but I am not spoiling the sense—and thereby the eventual establishment here, in British form, of a National-Socialist State to make Britain great again and greater still.So far the ideals are very unattractive but are not anti-Semitic. Then they give the name of a gentleman whose name I need not bother you with, and then go on:Its first mass meeting will be held in Trafalgar Square on July 1 under the Slogan: 'Free Britain from Jewish Control'".They then refer to Press conferences which are being held. That is all I know about this movement. I have heard some other things, but they do not enlighten me very much. So we are faced with this position: that there is a group—we hope it is a fairly small group—at any rate an organisation which is in this country, strong enough to undertake a meeting of this kind. It has certainly been active in certain other cities. And we are faced with the fact 465 that the authorities find it impossible to refuse permission for this meeting. I have not, so to speak, had time to study the movement from their angle as this information has come to me quite late in the day.
THE EARL OF WOOLTON
My Lords, did the noble Earl say "impossible to refuse permission"; that is to say, that the Home Secretary or the Chief of Police has no jurisdiction?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not offer an opinion. I was not saying it was impossible; I was saying that the authorities informed those who protested that it was impossible. I do not pretend to have studied the legal aspects; I am laying it before the House as it is. In fact, protests have been made and the Commissioner has stuck to this line: that in one sense or another they are unable to refuse this permission. It may be said that they made a mistake, but I am not prepared to offer an opinion because I have not studied the legal aspect. Let us assume that is so; that the police have no power to refuse permission. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, who has had only an hour or so's notice, will be in a position to tell us when he replies whether it would be possible to refuse this permission and perhaps also whether it is possible that the Home Secretary has thought it wrong, in the present state of the law, to refuse permission. Because, ultimately, the decision of the Commissioner is, no doubt, in a matter of this sort referred to the Home Secretary. So we shall wait to hear from the Lord Chancellor. At the moment, I place this matter before the House in the context of this present discussion. One is bound to ask what it proves in relation to the present discussion.
It will occur to many that if this Bill is in fact passed, as I hope it will be passed, in its present form, no power, it would seem, will be given to the authorities in a matter of this kind which they do not possess already. So it will be open to anyone to argue—perhaps the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor when he comes to reply will take this, line, or perhaps he will not—that this Bill is of no use for the purpose because it will not strengthen 466 the hands of the Government or the police in dealing with a matter of this sort. I must leave that to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to lay before us.
If that is so, it raises the question of whether this Bill should be amended in Committee in some way that will give additional power. I am not saying it should or it should not; I am only saying it is bound to make us ask ourselves whether some change or strengthening in the Bill would be desirable to cope with this sort of situation. Let us assume the House decides against that also. I still take leave to express the opinion that a situation of the kind that is revealed in this announcement and the permission given strengthens the case for the Bill—not directly, if you like, but indirectly. I speak as one who was already a supporter of the Bill. I do not want to deceive the House into believing that I have been influenced to the extent of being persuaded by this: I was already a supporter of the Bill. But I think it demonstrates afresh that these prejudices directed against the Jews in this case—it might be anybody—lurk below the surface and sometimes obtrude above the surface in the minds of some of our countrymen. They show that there are people who are fanatically sincere in their views and prepared to organise a meeting which may involve conflict-though I hope there will not be violence —because they believe this mad doctrine so intensely.
If that state of mind exists in people who believe that and are prepared to try to poison others in the same way, it seems to me that if one is wondering if a Bill of this kind is really necessary, if one is wondering whether this kind of new legislative initiative is worth while, if one is trying, so to speak, to minimise the danger, this sort of thing might well possibly make one decide in favour of the Bill. I hope the House will feel that I was right to place these details before it this afternoon. As I say, I was already a supporter of the Bill; I hope it will be agreed to. I feel this does supply some additional information and, to some extent, at least, a fresh basis.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl this: how does he deal in his argument 467 with freedom of speech? I thought anybody could really say what he liked. The noble Earl seems to be rather restraining freedom of speech, which I think is a very difficult problem.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I think the noble Lord is quite right, if I may say so, in describing it as a difficult problem. It is a difficult problem in all societies. I would only submit to the House, and certainly to the noble Lord, that a meeting of this kind must be regarded as an evil phenomenon, and if it has any effect at all—and let us hope it will not matter much in the end—it must do a great deal of harm. Then the question arises: how much harm? Is the harm likely to be sufficient, to justify interference? We have blasphemy laws and laws against sedition. I would say there should be some law which prevents the holding of a meeting of this kind for the poisoning of the public mind, which these people are attempting to do.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONTGOMERY OF ALAMEIN
My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of this Bill pointed out that it affected not only colour but also race. He mentioned the Irish. I have the great honour to belong to that race, and never in my life have I been refused admission anywhere because I am Irish. The Irish are a very fine race. They are a great fighting race; they like fighting. If they cannot find anyone to fight, they fight each other. I should like to approach this problem in a rather different way from that of noble Lords who have just spoken. I would take a quick look at this problem of equality, because that has been mentioned once or twice this afternoon.
Of course, we have had many references to what has been said in the United States. I have for some time been a student of the racial problem in the United States. It is well known that it is stated in the American Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. Personally, I have never agreed with that statement. But I think we must be clear on what that famous sentence means. For instance, I suppose in the secondary schools of this country there may be one million boys, or fewer—I do not know what the figure is—but no one can seriously believe that all those 468 boys were created with equal possibilities of brain power. The mark of a machine is sameness, but in human life and nature the mark is difference.
There is no doubt we will all believe that every human being is a soul of equal value in the sight of God. That is quite clear. But that does not mean that we are created with equal talents, and the hard fact is that all men are not created equal. As they grow up into men and women they become less equal. Of course, that does not detract from the general proposition that there should be equality of opportunity in so far as it is humanly possible to give it, and in this country of course we have it. We have the principle of one man one vote, one woman one vote, and all we are asked to give in return for having our affairs regulated for us by the Government is a modest contribution in the form of taxation.
To come now to the question of colour, I read that years ago, in 1854, Abraham Lincoln, who was the great emancipator, said that while he would not hold a negro in slavery, they could not be made equals. That is what he said, and that doctrine would seem to prevail in the United States to-day. I was staying with a farmer in the Northern Transvaal recently when an American reporter turned up. He said to the farmer, "Well, how is your apartheid getting on?". The farmer replied, "All right, thank you. How is yours?". My travels have taken me to most countries in the world which are inhabited by black people, brown, yellow, white, everybody. In this changing world the white man can no longer look on the black man as clay for the moulding, or as a docile object of his policy. The problem to-day surely is to find the best way towards a new relationship of friendship and mutual respect between emergent black races and the white man.
I do not think that that new relationship will be found by asserting that there is no essential difference between white and black. The hard fact is that peoples of different colours cannot be converted into a homogeneous whole by Acts of Parliament, nor by the exhortations of idealists. The distaste and the discriminations which exist may be due to prejudices which have no justification in 469 science or ethics. But the prejudices are there; they are strong and they are deep-rooted. Statesmen must make allowances for them or their policies will be stultified. Of course, science may insist that all human beings are potentially equal. Science will say that, but history would suggest that, like the animals on George Orwell's farm, some are more equal than others. I do not believe that we can get rid of these injustices and discriminations by entrenching laws about them in the Statute Book. That is where I think they went wrong in South Africa.
I agree very much indeed with what was said by the Lord Bishop of London. To-day in our country black and white are free to meet and to mix or not, as they choose. Is that not the best way? Is it not best to let time bridge the gap which exists? I think it will be disastrous to the bridging of the gap if the solution is to be found in the views of idealists, or if we give way to abstract generalities, or base our approach to the problem on emotional feelings. Surly the practice of government by a host of regulations tends to leave out the one essential in government—indeed, its essential basis—which is the good will of the people. If we make laws and put them on a Statute Book we must be able to enforce them. The laws in this Bill could not be enforced. I would suggest that on that count alone the Bill fails. I have a great regard for the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, and I listen with tremendous interest to everything he says in this House. I greatly hope he will agree that a discussion such as we are having now will do so much to dear the air that the Bill is best withdrawn. If the House were divided on this Bill I would feel in my conscience that I must vote against it.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will bear with me for a few moments while I express my support for the Bill—and perhaps it is in need of some measure of support—from a rather different angle from that from which earlier speakers have approached it. I support this Bill on the broadest grounds of national policy. I use the word "national" advisedly, because I believe that behind it 470 is a policy common to all the political Parties. It seems to me to offer a small but positive contribution towards the solution of one of the toughest problems of our international and Commonwealth relationship—namely, the problem of co-operation and understanding between the races. After all, in the international field "colonialism" as we know it, is basically the failure of racial understanding. The colonial Powers like ourselves have much more to their credit than colonial or ex-colonial peoples are prepared to admit. The new countries in Asia and Africa deserve much more tolerance and sympathy than some of their former masters are prepared to give. And this, I am sure, will be the judgment of history. The distinction history will draw is between those European Powers who have relinquished authority of their own volition and those who have held on to it and been forced to relinquish it by brute force; and this is a distinction between colonisers, not between the colonisers and the colonised.
In spite of this situation, which could be easily resolved by knowledge and understanding on both sides, we still have seen in East, Central and South Africa a political conflict that aligns most of the white races against most of the coloured races, while in two countries which have recently achieved their independence there are accusations of neo-colonialism which make it harder for us to give, and for them to receive, the material aid which they need so urgently. Colonialism, which divided the world, continues to defeat the United Nations. Whereas the United Nations used to be a preserve of the European Powers and their satellites or their dependants, they are now outnumbered by these new African and Asian members. So our influence on world opinion through the United Nations will steadily diminish, unless we are able to win the confidence of former European dependencies in the continents of Asia and Africa. Over this wide field of international relationships we shall fail to pull our full weight unless we show not only, as I believe we are doing, that we are sincerely doing our utmost to decolonise, but that law and opinion in the United Kingdom are on the side of equality between the races.
471 I have been dealing with international relations, but race is also the key to the future of the Commonwealth, as I imagine that the noble Duke who is sitting opposite, whom I have often had the good fortune to hear speaking, would agree. This, I think, is partly because many areas in the Commonwealth are inhabited by a number of races, and these countries of many races cannot prosper unless Europeans and non-Europeans continue to work together after political power has passed into the hands of the indigenous majority; and partly also because the Commonwealth has become a partnership between the races which could be broken up by racial antagonism. Indeed, racial antagonism is the worst threat to Commonwealth unity. We have just seen South Africa pass out of the Commonwealth on account of her policy of apartheid as a racial issue.
The new Commonwealth countries are more sensitive to race than they are of any other cause of difference between themselves and the older countries. Whether countries that will shortly become independent will choose to stay with us or go the way of Burma and South Africa will largely be decided by their attitude towards us and our Government, and by their trust in us as a country that is impartial in matters of race. There are many extreme nationalists in Africa who would like to break with the Commonwealth, and they will use their grievances against us (of which the most serious is racial intolerance), if they can, to displace their moderate leaders. I do not believe that, from the standpoint of our external relations, both our Commonwealth relationships and our international relationships, it has ever been more necessary than it is to-day to show that we at home stand for racial equality.
This Bill, in a rather different form, but based on the same principle, the principle of non-differentiation between the races, has been introduced before and has been turned down by Parliament. But there are three recent happenings which make it more desirable at this moment than it has been in the past to have a Bill of this kind. These are all happenings which have given the outside world the impression that our 472 attitude to race is less liberal than it used to be. The first is the growth of race prejudice in those parts of our own great cities where a large number of coloured immigrants have settled. Whilst I believe that there are these pockets of prejudice, I do not believe that the country is prejudiced. There I agree with the right reverend Prelate. Prejudice is, I feel, worse in certain areas—I think this is a fact that cannot be ignored —but, unfortunately, opinion overseas is not always aware of the social conditions here which give rise to this situation.
The second happening (this was referred to by my noble friend Lord Walston) was the passing into law of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which comes into force in July. My Lords, however liberally that Act may be administered, however excellent the intentions of the Government may have been, the fact is that most of the people who will no longer be allowed to come here will be people of African or Asian origin. One cannot be surprised that overseas it has been thought about as the beginning of a colour bar—and we know that this was the reaction that came to us from the West Indies. Then thirdly, curiously enough, there is the Common Market. We do not always realise that in Africa and Asia our approach to the Common Market carries with it the threat of racial discrimination. They see us joining forces with colonial, or ex-colonial, Powers in Western Europe, with the object of setting up a Western European tariff against their goods, whereas, of course, hitherto we have discriminated against Europe and given preferential treatment to Commonwealth goods. We all hope that the Common Market, if we go into it, will not work in this way, but this is what many people are genuinely afraid of.
In all these topical circumstances— which ate quite different from those which prevailed a year ago—I believe that we should lose no time in embodying in our law the principle of nondiscrimination. In several countries with a written Constitution, where racial or religious antagonisms exist, and where of course minorities have to be protected, this principle is included. In this country, of course, we have no written Constitution, so it is essential that this principle, if it is right and if it is acceptable 473 to public opinion (I think those are the two essential conditions by which we should judge the principle of the Bill) should go into our Statute Law.
How far this principle of nondiscrimination in the Bill can be applied depends, of course, on administrative and legal considerations, which we shall no doubt hear about during the course of the debate—and no Minister is better qualified than the noble and learned Viscount to point out to the House what these considerations are. It may be that the Bill will have to be altered in Committee, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Walston would be open to any arguments made by your Lordships now or during the Committee stage of the Bill. If some of these provisions are not practicable or are unenforceable, as the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, suggested, no doubt they can be amended. At this stage, however. the House is deciding only upon the principle of the Bill.
Here I would suggest just these two considerations. First, is the principle right? I think we are all agreed that the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or creed is right. Secondly, is this principle acceptable to public opinion? It is not always the case that something that is right is also acceptable to public opinion and enforceable by law. But, my Lords, I contend—and I hope that other noble Lords will share this view—that most people in this country are against discrimination. Some people are not, but most people are. I say that, admitting —reluctantly—that I think there has been an increase of prejudice in certain parts of the country. However, I still think that the majority of people, if asked individually whether they were for or against discrimination, would say that they are against it. So, my Lords, whatever our views may be about the contents of the Bill and the need for its amendment in Committee, I hope that when the Motion for Second Reading to decide on the principle of the Bill is put, the verdict we give will be in its favour.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, may I apologise to your Lordships very sincerely for having an engagement in a short time, which means that 474 I shall not be able to hear this debate to a finish? I hope your Lordships will forgive me, because I make a practice as a rule, as your Lordships know, to listen to every speech in a debate in which I take part. I am bound to say that so far as my personal experience goes I think statements about colour discrimination in this country are exaggerated. I am not in daily contact, but I am in constant contact, with white, coloured and half-breed workmen, and I have never observed any discrimination of any kind at all. I think that if we give this Bill a Second Reading it is very likely to rouse the very spirit we seek to allay. I should like to adopt every word uttered by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London. I agree completely with what he said on that point. I think that to some extent the Bill is bad, because, as a matter of fact, as Lord Walston himself fairly pointed out, it ought not to be necessary in the case of Clause 2, paragraphs (a) and (b), and, with regard to paragraphs (c) and (d), I look on the provisions as rather dangerous, for reasons which I will give.
I think, with regard to the categories of persons mentioned in Clause 2, that we are trying to punish them for what other people do. I will give an example, which must be in your Lordships' memory. Two years ago some Spanish gypsy dancers came over here to give performances. I forget how long they were here, but on one occasion I went along to see them. They obtained lodgings in an hotel, but, through some unreasonable prejudice conceived against Spanish gypsies, all the other inhabitants of the hotel threatened to leave unless the Spanish gypsies left.
The proprietor of the hotel was faced with such a grievous loss that, although I do not think they could have been compelled by law so to do, he begged the gypsies to go. I remember it well, because I was so horrified that we started considering what we could offer them by way of alternative accommodation. Before anything could be done, however, fortunately some other Briton stepped in and gave them accommodation, which they occupied during the rest of their stay. The point I am trying to make is that it was not the proprietor of the hotel who was at fault, but his customers. If he had defied his customers he 475 might have lost his business. Therefore I really object to this Bill because it is punishing A for what B has done, and I think that that is a strong objection.
In relation to Clause 1 and also to Clause 2 (c) and (d), here is a case where I think the Bill would punish a man for what was in his mind. A publican has, from time immemorial, had the right to turn anybody off his premises without actually giving any reason at all. Now you are going to argue as to what is in his mind. Clause 1, line 3, uses the expression that the person is deniedfacilities or advantages on the ground of the colour, race or religion of that other person.The noble Lord, Lord Walston, has, perfectly rightly, not used the words "expressed ground", because that would defeat his Bill altogether. Therefore, this is a Bill which is going to impose a penalty on a man on the ground of what was in his mind. What was in his mind may have bean perfectly right. I would remind your Lordships, in passing, that there is a very old code of good manners which forbids anybody to discuss anything about religion in a public bar. If anybody were to try to do that, the owner or the lessee would, I think, very rightly ask him to leave. There you would have a direct contravention of this Bill, for perfectly good reasons.
I will not emphasise that too much, but I would just point out that what follows from that (and it is a very serious point, to my mind) is that if there is any possibility of persuading a judge or a jury of what was in a publican's mind when he asked a man to leave his premises, there will be a great danger of miscarriage of justice, because one can never be quite certain—a jury may be wrong, a judge may be wrong. I will go further and say that you are opening the door wide to a very unpleasant class of blackmail. I could very easily construct a story (which would quite likely prove to be a true story if this Bill were to go through) which would show how that would work.
Moreover, I would say that while the Bill is ostensibly going to attack prejudice on colour, race or religion, it is probably going to arouse it and intensify it all the more, because—I do not know; 476 I am not clever enough to be sure—I think that I could run a restaurant with great success in complete defiance of this Bill, without the smallest difficulty. That being so, here you have a Bill which can be defied, can be set at nought, one which will not effect the purposes which it is intended to effect and which will give a possible opening to quite horrible crimes. I regard blackmail as a thoroughly horrible crime. I hope, therefore, that the House will not give it a Second Reading. If a Bill of this kind ought to be passed, it ought to be passed by the Government after mature consideration of all the factors involved, and after very careful and well-founded judgment. In that case, it might be possible to have a Bill which would not do more harm than good. In my opinion, this Bill will do more harm than good.
§ 5.24 p.m.
My Lords, like many of your Lordships I have much cause to be grateful to people of other races, colours and religions, for kindnesses shown me in countries overseas. I, like others of your Lordships, regard racial prejudice as immoral, as crazy, and as nowhere crazier than in the Mother Country of a multi-racial Commonwealth; and at no time crazier than in the 20th century, when science has made the world a unit, though not yet a unity. In my view, the removal of racial prejudice is the most insistent need of the 20th century. Colour bars are walls of partition which, in my view, are far more dangerous than any Iron Curtain. I rather question whether some of your Lordships appreciate, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowal, undoubtedly does, the urgency of this matter, and the depth and the bitterness of the feelings that some people from other countries have on this matter. I am sure that the granting of indepedence to an African people, for example, is not enough. The addition of economic aid is not enough. Their chief desire, above all, is to receive the respect, the friendship, the brotherliness of other peoples.
All the same, my Lords, when I was invited to sign a letter to The Times, in support of a Bill very much like this one, I hesitated, for I was nurtured in three beliefs which I still cherish: one, that the Englishman's home is his castle; two, that you cannot make men 477 moral by Act of Parliament; and, three, that it is unwise to make laws which cannot easily be enforced. I conclude that the first of these beliefs is scarcely affected by this Bill. Part of the Bill refers, indeed, to the common lodging-house, which is often the home of a landlord or a landlady. But it seems to me that the question we have to consider is not whether that house shall be open or not—its owner has already voluntarily invited the public into it—but whether people of other colours, races and religions do or do not form part of the public of this country. To that question, I should have: thought your Lordships would give only one answer.
I voted for the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, and I ventured to speak to your Lordships in its support. To me it seemed obvious that the Government should give powers to limit, if necessary, the number of immigrants into this country. It seems to me equally obvious that those Whom we do admit should be welcomed and enabled to feel at home. Indeed, I am glad to learn from so many of my African and other coloured friends how happy they are in this country, how often they are received with friendliness. I think that we should pay tribute to the hotel-keepers, the landlords, the landladies, the proprietors of this country, many of whom are worthy representatives of Britain in their dealings with these people. But, my Lords, some of them do prove to be guilty of racial prejudice, and thereby commit what I would call 20th century Commonwealth treason. For such actions are playing into the hands of the Queen's enemies and, if we look beyond this Commonwealth, are endangering the peace that we are all trying to attain.
The second belief to which I have referred—and others have referred to it to-day—is that you cannot make men moral by Act of Parliament. That, in my view, is true but quite irrelevant. This Bill seeks only to make certain offences punishable. And why does it do so?—in order to secure to thousands of people in this Kingdom certain elementary rights. This is not a racial prejudice Bill. The noble Lord has not tried to persuade Parliament to pass an Act against people's opinions. He is not so dense as to imagine that an Act 478 of Parliament can remove racial discrimination from the mind of anyone who has it. So he has introduced, not a Racial Prejudice Bill but a Racial Discrimination Bill. There is nothing in it to say that all men are equal. All it says is that if certain actions are done, the people who do them shall be liable to punishment. It is because this Bill is practical and limited to particular actions that this belief—I hold it—that we cannot make men moral by Act of Parliament does not apply. I believe this, but I do not wish Parliament to repeal the treason laws, on the ground that the treason laws do not make men loyal. We have laws against blasphemy; we have laws against pornography. Are we to remove these laws simply because, in fact, they do not help to make people reverent or pure in heart? Of course we do not take that line. The line we take is that the vast majority of us are so keen on these things that the few people who are guilty shall be punished. We do not say that, because these traitors, these pornographers, these blasphemers, are so few, there is no need to take any action against them. Nor are we content to say, "Let education"—which is a slow process—"gradually put them right".
The third belief—that it is not good to make a law which cannot easily be enforced—has, I think, some validity in this case. I do not think that it will be altogether easy to enforce this Bill, if it is passed into law, but I would point out that a very few successful prosecutions under this law would remove the need for many others. I would also point out that the timid proprietor, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, referred, who would like to admit coloured customers but fears the views of some of his clients, will be greatly strengthened. He can turn to them and say, "I am sorry if you are offended, but I must keep the law of the land". I am not saying that incidents of this kind occur very often. I think that we may get an exaggerated idea about that; and, as a former teacher of Africans, I would mention that there are plenty of them well able to "spin a yarn" and not a bit averse to exaggeration if it is going to win them sympathy. I beg your Lordships not to believe all the tales of discrimination 479 that you are told. Nevertheless, I am sure that there are such incidents, and I would say that, even if this law cannot be fully enforced, it would be worthwhile if it spared one young man from overseas from a snub or from the "cold shoulder". For that young man will go back to his country as an apostle of goodwill, as I am glad to think most overseas students do—and I need not remind your Lordships that he may in later years become the Prime Minister of his country.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the honourable Member for Slough in another place, are, I think, to be thanked for bringing up this matter; and if the noble Lord should fail to-day to persuade the House to give this Bill a Second Reading—though I hope it will—I trust that he will emulate the persistence of William Wilber-force. For sooner or later a Bill of this sort will have to become the law of this land—and I hope that it may be soon. It is not enough to say that education, though a slow process, will later achieve better results: it is not enough to say, with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, "Let time fill the gap". Time may be far shorter than we know.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, as I have the privilege of being Chairman of the Anglo-Malagasy Society, I trust that your Lordships will believe me when I say that I do not believe in colour or racial discrimination. In fact, last January I was in Madagascar and was entertained in a delightful manner by various Malagasy people. In Tananasive and in Tulear, in the southwest of the island, where the R.A.F. had a flying-boat base during the war, I was most delightfully received and entertained by the Minister in charge of that Province; in fact I stayed with him. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I too came unprepared for this debate, rather relying on the arguments that were to be put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Walston.
If I may say so with respect, I do not think that there is racial discrimination in this country to the extent the noble Lord seems to think, especially having 480 regard to the large number of coloured people who now sojourn in this country. For instance, there was the recent nomination of a coloured justice of the peace. So one cannot accuse the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor of being prejudiced in that respect in any way whatsoever. Furthermore, there is the manner in which coloured people are employed in London and around the country: by London Transport, in industry, in various trades, in hospitals and so on. And if a coloured man passes a Civil Service examination, and comes up to the standard required, there is no question of discrimination when acceptance of the candidate is being considered. In fact, I believe I am right in saying that at London Airport there is now a coloured customs officer.
Secondly, my Lords, it seems to me that such a Bill as we have before us to-day, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, would be difficult to enforce. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Walston, rightly, he said that hotel-keepers or inn-keepers cannot, under Common Law, refuse refreshment or accommodation to travellers. My Lords, when a booking is made through an agency—for instance, Cook's or American Express—the name of the person is mentioned, but not the colour of his skin. Also, when a traveller calls at an hotel and is told, "I am very sorry, but the hotel is full and there is no accommodation", what action can he take? I presume none whatsoever, either now or under this Bill. I do not suppose that, under this Bill, he could ask to see the hotel register, or the register of bookings; nor could he check to see whether or not all the rooms had occupants.
It seems to me, too, that this Bill could infringe upon the rights of the individual. For instance, under the Bill, the owner of a lodging-house could be placed in a very difficult position. It might be that other tenants or residents in his lodging-house objected to a coloured person coming in, and that the landlord had admitted a coloured person because he was not prejudiced. Should he then lose his livelihood? That is why I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, said, that, in effect, we should be legislating for one class of person, when it is the other 481 class of person who would be committing an offence.
With regard to dance halls, I feel that the keeper of a dance hall could be placed in a somewhat invidious position if he were obliged to refuse admission to a coloured gang—for instance, on the grounds that he feared they might cause trouble. My Lords, we know that there are a number of white gangs about, and there is no reason why in the future, and if this Bill becomes law, there should not be coloured gangs, and they might seek admission to a dance hall. If that were the case, and if the dance hall keeper felt that a disturbance could be caused, he might like to refuse them entry but would not dare to do so on account of the provisions of this Bill. I noted that yesterday's Observer referred to racial discrimination, which the writer considered one of the worst social problems facing Britain to-day; and the writer specifically mentioned this question of accommodation. But I fail to see how this Bill would offer any remedy to those who were seeking hotel or lodging-house accommodation. For one cannot legislate against the feelings of a resident in an hotel; nor can one legislate so as to deprive a lodging-house keeper of his means of earning a living. For these reasons, my Lords, I feel that your Lordships should not give a Second Reading to this Bill, as was so clearly and ably stated by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who knows so much about this question.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I, like the rest of your Lordships, entirely sympathise with the motives of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in introducing this Bill. I think all of us in this House, and the majority of the people in this country, deplore discrimination of any kind, and especially racial discrimination. But, of course, the prevention of discrimination really goes deeper than mere legislation. Wherever you look you have discrimination. We have prejudices in human character which go back for thousands of years, and racial discrimination is probably one of the strongest instincts of the human race. To find discrimination you have only to look at the trade unions and the closed shop. Where could you have greater discrimination?
482 I would even go so far as to say that the noble Lord is himself introducing discrimination by this Bill; that he is discriminating against the free choice of hotel proprietors and restaurant keepers as to the clients they will have on their premises. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who mentioned that there were certain golf clubs, which I have not come across personally, where Jews were not elected. I realise that this Bill is not about clubs, but I was in Brighton once, and I went into an hotel and was asked to extinguish my cigarette because it happened to be a Jewish special day in the calendar. Of course, I extinguished it, and had no objection to extinguishing it, but that hotel proprietor's hotel was chiefly for Jewish people, presumably because he preferred having Jewish customers, and he was perfectly entitled to do so. But if this Bill became law, he could not have only his known clientele; he would, for instance, be scared to refuse me. If he did, I could then say to him: "This is racial discrimination".
I think this would be an extremely hard law to enforce. I have heard some people say that we shall have racial discrimination until all the world is coffee-coloured. Personally, I am inclined to agree with the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London, that, with education, time and tolerance, gradually it will disappear. But what I am concerned about is that we shall not bring the law into disrepute. We already have on the Statute Book many laws which extremely law-abiding citizens often disobey. You have only to take the case of the 30 miles an hour speed limit. I frequently break that. I do not wish to break it, but I just cannot help breaking it. I think that if this Bill were on the Statute Book it would be broken the whole time, and I will shortly tell your Lordships why.
How is Clause 2 to be enforced? If a coloured man, or a man of Jewish religion or any other religion, goes to an hotel, the proprietor may refuse him on genuinely good grounds. The man may then think he is being refused on racial or religious grounds. First, he would have to prove that the proprietor refused him on racial or religious grounds. That would be extremely difficult, because the hotel proprietor could say: "This man was rather insulting". 483 Or he could have a list of fictitious hotel bookings. He could have friends who booked rooms in their names—stooges who would be hand in glove with him— and it would be extremely difficult to prove.
Another objection is that hotels, especially our great hotels in London, have their known clientele. I may go to an hotel and the proprietor may refuse me because he does not like my face. But if a coloured man went to the same hotel, the proprietor would not dare to refuse him, because he was coloured, and the proprietor would be afraid of an action against him. The Bill would really work unfairly against white people. My noble friend Lord Merrivale has pointed out that a gang of white youths could be turned out of a dance hall for being rowdy, but a gang of black youths, who could be equally rowdy, would make it very difficult for the proprietor, who would be extremely careful about turning them out.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, said that in various States of America there is legislation doing away with all racial discrimination in hotels and public places. I have been to America a good deal, and if they have these laws they do not work. Every summer an increasing number of American tourists come over and pour dollars into this country. Though I do not approve of it, as your Lordships know, a great many Americans dislike coloured people, and if our great hotels in the West End have preference for coloured people—and it would amount to that—we are going to lose a great deal of our dollar tourist trade.
We must also think of the police in this regard. They have their hands full as it is, without chasing around every dance hall and small hotel in connection with this Bill. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that it is monstrous that some hotel proprietors and lodging house keepers should charge coloured people double the price they charge white people for a room. But this Bill cannot cure that. I think we could cure it if we did as is done in France and Italy, where, as your Lordships probably know, the price of every hotel and lodging house room has to be approved by the Government and it is stated on 484 the back of the door. Whatever colour a man is, he can pay only the legal price. If we had a law like that in England, it would stop the overcharging of coloured students.
If this Bill is given a Second Reading and is eventually passed into law as it is worded it is going to be unfair to property owners. Different races have different domestic habits. I am not saying whose habits are the best, but some people prefer not to have another race living next door or occupying the same premises. This depreciates some properties a great deal and owners have no redress at all. After all, property owners pay the rates and a great deal of the taxation of the country, and I consider they ought to have some consideration. I honestly think that we might just as well have a Bill to provide that all men between twenty and thirty must prefer blondes and all men between thirty and forty must prefer brunettes. This Bill is almost as absurd as that. The noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, has said that we have laws to prevent treason and pornography. But treason is extremely unnatural to the average human being, and so is pornography. One cannot compare the two things. I think that that is an unpractical argument. I will vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, because it takes the freedom of choice from the property owner and the hotel keeper and because it is unpractical. It would be evaded all the time and bring the law into great disrepute.
§ 5.59 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I confess that I have not found it easy to make up my mind on this matter. Others of your Lordships may have found the same thing. For, let us face it, the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has set us a pretty problem. On the one hand, we are asked to approve a Bill the purpose of which may be difficult and, on occasions, impossible to carry out; on the other, if we vote against the Bill, we shall, by implication, be approving racial discrimination, at any rate in the eyes of the outside world.
As I understand it, the present position is that an inn keeper is bound to provide a room for a bona fide traveller, unless his inn is full up or unless he regards him as an unfit guest, while a publican or bar-keeper can say "No" to 485 anyone he chooses, without giving cause, and eject him if he thinks fit. I am told, however, after inquiry among hotel keepers, that in practice if a proprietor or manager does not like the looks of a prospective customer, he usually manages to find some bogus excuse for refusing him accommodation. A litigious-minded person can, of course, take him to court, but in practice this rarely happens. People just cannot be bothered.
How would this Bill affect the present position? So far as lodging houses and hotels are concerned, a manager wishing to discriminate would hardly be so foolish as to say, "We do not take in coloured people here." He would either tell a lie and say he had no room, or refuse admission without giving a reason, relying on the words "unfit guest" as an escape formula if he were taken to court—the "unfitness", he would tell the court, having nothing to do with colour. In licensed premises the manager or proprietor would simply exercise his right to refuse to serve a customer without giving cause. Only in dance halls or cafés would the management find themselves forced to let in coloured people, which would admittedly be a useful step forward. Broadly, then, it seems likely that the terms of the Bill, if it became law, would be very difficult to enforce; and it may well be argued that it is better not to make a law if you cannot enforce it, and, further, that it is undesirable to create a new offence unless the grounds for it are overwhelming. That is on the one hand.
On the other hand there is the moral issue—a strong and compelling moral issue, I believe. First, let us openly admit that it is to our shame that such legislation as this should even be considered necessary. We have been masters of the greatest Colonial Empire in the world, containing hundreds of millions of men and women of every colour, and it has been our boast that ours has been a liberal and a benevolent rule, aiming in the end at giving independence to the subject races. Yet here we find ourselves forced, it appears, to contemplate legislation at home against those people whom we profess to regard as our equals in every possible respect. It is a sad confession that we are making before the world.
486 But, having made it, are we now going to shrug our shoulders and say that we propose to leave ill alone? There are no doubt reasons other than those I have mentioned why the Bill will not make a practical addition to the Statute Book. Doubtless, indeed, we shall be told of half a dozen or more. But I, at least, shall need a lot of persuading that they add up to something greater than the open admission—for that is how it will be regarded—that we are willing to give official countenance to a colour bar. Imagine what the world will think of us if we reject the Bill. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act, though I believe it to have been necessary in the circumstances, can hardly have enhanced our reputation for racial tolerance. Imagine what this new refusal will mean. Imagine what they will think of us in Ghana, Nigeria and the West Indies. Will they not say that the stories put about by the Communists that we are anti-black are true? Imagine the aid and comfort we shall give to Dr. Verwoerd and his band. Do we really want their unctuous sympathy? Imagine the reaction in the United States. At least they have anti-colour bar laws, even if they fail most lamentably in certain places to carry them out. Are we going to tell the Americans that we are not even going to try? Imagine what a rich and splendid gift we shall be making to Russian propagandists. May we not rely upon them to make the very most of it?
Your Lordships will answer, perhaps, that we should not be influenced by what others think of us, and that we should make up our minds according to our own consciences. Admitting that, for the sake of argument, can one have a clear conscience in voting against this Bill? All I can say is that I personally cannot. To my mind, a vote against it means a condonation of a wrong. No one will deny that racial discrimination is with us, perhaps even more so to-day than before. So far we have managed to turn a blind eye to it. We have known of its existence, but so long as we were not guilty of it ourselves we have been content to let others practise it, without vocal protest or active intervention. But now the noble Lord has put us on the spot. He has put us in a position in which we must either proclaim that racial discrimination is a grievous wrong which should be punished—
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
My Lords, I am very interested in what the noble Earl is saying. He says that if we vote against this Bill we shall be saying that we are in favour of race discrimination or discrimination against religion. Is there not some idea that we might vote against it because we thought it would itself make for more race discrimination; that we believe it might stir it up; that we think we have very little at present, and that this Bill might make it worse? Is there not the possibility of that?
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I agree that there is such a possibility, and I am sure that would cause your Lordships to vote in that sense. But I am afraid that this action, particularly in enemy territories, will be misinterpreted. But I agree that there is that possibility which does exist, and I thank the noble Lady for having made the point.
As I was saying, the noble Lord has put us on the spot. He has put us in a position in which we must either proclaim that racial discrimination is a grievous wrong which should be punished, or take refuge behind a smokescreen of legal and legalistic objections. As I said when I began, it is a difficult decision we have to take; but, for me at any rate, there is only one answer to the challenge, and that is to support the Bill.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, with whom I find myself in very great agreement, although at one time I was afraid that I was not going to be. I completely agree with him. I should begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Walston, for introducing this important Bill and for affording us the opportunity of discussing this important topic to-day. I listened to him with the greatest attention, and I hope there is no need for me to say with what clarity, conviction and persuasiveness I think he expressed the arguments, with which I should like to associate myself fully. I agreed with every word he said.
I do not know whether there is going to be a Division. I hope there will not be one, but if there is I will certainly vote 488 in favour of the Bill. I am especially happy to say that from these Benches, because I believe that this Bill should outstandingly recommend itself to Liberals—whether spelt with a capital or a little "L"—and I must say that I am sorry that my noble Leader could give it only his rather qualified support. It has not been really seriously suggested that no discrimination exists in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, expressed the opinion that it was perhaps exaggerated. I am sorry to disagree with him, but I feel that that is not the case. Many noble Lords have already given examples, to which most of us could add from personal experience. To me, the most lamentable fact is that the Bill should be necessary; that there is this cancer in the bowels of the body politic. I believe that this Bill will provide a scalpel against it before, let us hope, the disease reaches a stage, as it certainly has in the United States, where it becomes inoperable.
My Lords, I think that this evil growth of which I am speaking is, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned, a relatively recent complaint. Even I need look back only into my recollection to see that this is the case. I say "even I" because only the other day the noble and learned Viscount, whose reply to this Motion we are all so eagerly awaiting, informed your Lordships from the Woolsack that I have the advantage of youth. It was very kind of the noble and learned Viscount; I was very glad to get my youth back as I thought I had probably seen the last of it. But I realise that in your Lordships' House I am, at the age of 41, still a "teenager". That is one of the charms of your Lordships' House.
However, it was nearly a quarter of a century ago that I went to Oxford, to the same college as the noble and learned Viscount himself went, though nearly two decades later. The college of which I speak, by a long and proud tradition, has more than any other in the country, I think, welcomed as her sons —need I say, as her loved and equal sons?—the men of Africa, Pakistan and India. This was illustrated, if I may mention it, when the film "Sanders of the River" was being shown, rather appropriately during Eights Week in Oxford, when a large and primitive boat 489 was being propelled down the river by a great heterogeneous crew and a cry was heard from the back of the stalls, "Well rowed, Balliol!" We did not mind, my Lords; it was a long tradition of which we were very proud. But the point I wish to make in all seriousness is this: when I went up in 1939 there was no controversy if the skin of one's friend were black; if one went with him to a pub, a dance hall, or restaurant, if he came to one's rooms. It was not an issue in those days.
The noble and gallant Field Marshal mentioned that there was an essential difference between black and white, and I agree with him; of course there is an essential difference. It is a striking physical attribute just as though one had very fair hair or an exceptionally brilliant mind. Nothing more. In those days it was not a social problem. I am not suggesting that Oxford is any less liberal to-day than it was then and, in fact, I think and hope that the reverse is the case. But if I go anywhere nowadays with a man or woman of colour I am aware of a reaction, aware of hostility; I am aware that a social problem is involved. This is perhaps a small indication of the change that has taken place, but it is also possibly a significant one and I believe that this Bill would do much to reverse this tendency.
This Bill has been opposed because it might constitute an unwarrantable abridgement of the liberty of the individual, something which is very dear to me. When I was thinking about this Bill, this at first seemed to be a contradictory argument, but I came to realise that it is in fact the central problem. I saw that what could be claimed as a liberal argument could be adduced on either side; that the liberty of the hotel-keeper, and, especially in Clause 3, that of the landlord, also has to be considered. This is a point which I believe was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I feel that this is not the time to dissertate on the nature of liberty, of which it could be said that all laws are an abridgement, or the extent to which, in the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we are "forced to be free"; and I do not think I should be an appropriate or qualified person to speak on that subject. But, having thought that matter over most carefully, 490 in my heart I have reached an honest conclusion that it is not a valid argument simply because I believe that discrimination is evil.
No noble Lord would oppose a law against blackmail or against arson because it diminishes the liberty of the blackmailer or the pyromaniac; and in a case such as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, of the Spanish gypsies, my feeling is that this Bill, if it were law, would greatly strengthen the hotel-keeper's position in those circumstances because he would be able to say to his clients, "The law forbids me from excluding these people from my hotel". He would be able to say, "I cannot turn them out".
In any case, I myself believe that it is the psychological effect—which might come under the heading referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, as "human considerations"—which would be most valuable. No landlord or lodginghouse-keeper, even if he were to find a way of wriggling out of these provisions in the manner suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, would be able to say, "I take no niggers here." Those are terrible, degrading words to be said in this country, but they are said. He could no longer say that to a coloured man who appeared on his doorstep. A landlord also would be committing an offence if he allowed any of those well-known degrading provisions such as "Sorry, no coloureds" and "Whites only" to appear in advertisements for his property. Apart from the psychological value, I assume that it would be illegal to put a clause in a tenancy agreement, as is sometimes done at present, to the effect that a lessee is not allowed to have coloured visitors. Another example of this is that there is at least one large block of flats in London where Jews may not use the swimming pool in the block. It is degrading and abominable but true: it exists. But this too would be illegal.
We have heard a great deal said about the difficulty of enforcement of this law. I must admit I do not agree with the force of this argument. The right reverend Prelate, and also, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, mentioned the case of the United States. I must admit that this seems a very strong argument when one remembers that the 491 Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence are themselves not enforced in many parts of the United States; but I think it is in the Southern States where discrimination exists, in such States as Arkansas and Carolina in the deep South. The great majority of the white people in that area, who are of course the people who matter there, are in favour of discrimination and that is why the anti-discrimination laws are not effective. It is quite a different case, for instance, in Washington, D.C., or in New York, where there is an enlightened majority; and that, I believe, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, pointed out, is also the case here: there is a strong majority in this country which is opposed to discrimination of this kind and therefore it is not comparable with the position that obtains in the Southern States of America. In any case, on the question of enforcement, I would say that almost all laws are very difficult to enforce. It is hard to catch a thief, but it does not stop us from legislating.
I have only one small criticism to make and then I have finished. It is that no mention of schools is included in the Bill. I do not know Whether the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has considered this matter; possibly he might mention this when he replies. I am not talking about State schools, where I do not believe there is discrimination, but private and so-called public schools where discrimination exists. I should like to see them included in the Bill, even if again the main effect is only a psychological one. I wish the Bill well. I hope there will be no Division; if there is I will vote for the Bill, and I hope that the great majority of your Lordships will follow the noble Lord into the Division Lobby.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lord Walston, and the Bill before your Lordships this afternoon, particularly in regard to the principle which underlies it. I should perhaps apologise to your Lordships for having been absent during a substantial part of the discussion; but I had an engagement elsewhere. I hope that the remarks I have to make will not prove too repetitive of what has gone before.
492 I am sure from what I heard of Lord Walston's speech in moving the Second Reading, and from what I have heard in other speeches, that it is quite unnecessary for me to take up time in arguing that there is a good deal of racial discrimination in this country at the present time. Indeed, I think that must be pretty clear to everybody who moves about and reads the papers, and hears people talking in buses and in Tubes. I think the debate has been very valuable from that point of view, in bringing a number of very bad cases concretely before your Lordships. We tend to get into a rather self-satisfied condition in regard to these matters, contenting ourselves with generalisations, and it is good from time to time to be brought up against the sort of concrete instances of discrimination which do exist and are found up and down the country.
There are two aspects of this particular matter which I wish to underline: I think they have been touched on in some of the other speeches. Here I disagree with what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London— and I think the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, rather echoed what he said: Chat this is a decreasing plague spot in the community. I am afraid that I do not agree with that: it seems to me to have become a good deal worse of recent years. Indeed, I think it is a growing menace which may, if we do not tackle it, and tackle it pretty forthrightly, become one of the main dangers to the health of the community over the next years. I hope that is not too pessimistic a view of the situation, but I cannot help feeling that there is a good deal to be said in support of that view. It has been made the subject matter increasingly of propaganda, by wicked (and I think there is no other word which can be used in this connection) and unscrupulous people. I use those words deliberately, because I am sure that they are wicked and completely unscrupulous.
I content myself with one concrete instance of the sort of thing which is happening. I believe that my noble friend Lord Longford referred to something of the sort. In the current local government elections the British Fascist Party have been going all out on their scoundrelly note of propaganda in their 493 leaflets. They now masquerade, of course, under a different name. I think they call themselves the National Union Party. The propaganda can only be described as wicked and vicious. I have here a leaflet which was left at the house of a friend and colleague of mine, a four-page leaflet in which there are six or eight references to the colour question. Half the points which are made in this deplorable leaflet are "Stop coloured immigration"; "Protect your children now by insisting on medical check"; "More social services for our people, instead of for the coloured immigrants". And so it goes on, one after another. If this is to be the stock in trade of those who take this sort of attitude, the result, in the end, cannot but be to build up a most unhealthy and vicious atmosphere in the country. I cannot agree that this racial discrimination is decreasing; it seems to me that it is increasing all the time.
I could, with the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, wish that the Bill went a little further in regard to some of these matters, although I appreciate that it is probably necessary to go step by step, and if we could eliminate some of the abuses at which this Bill is aimed we should have done a good job of work. Until recently the problem does not seem to me to have been so serious as it has now become; and considering the considerable influx of coloured people who have come to our island in the years since the end of the war, I think that, on the whole, the British people are to be congratulated upon the very reasonable way in which they have faced up to the quite obvious difficulties which this situation has brought about. There have been, as we all know, a few awkwardnesses, and, indeed, in a few cases, particularly as a result of bad housing conditions, and the vicious sort of propaganda that the British Fascists have been putting about, a number of disturbances. People of this sort are always ready to take advantage of anything which crops up in this way, and I think the recent attempt to work up hatred as a result of the quite small smallpox epidemic is very symptomatic of the sort of thing that occurs.
It so happens that it was a Pakistani who brought in the smallpox. It might easily have been some other visitor from 494 some other part of the world, a person who was not coloured and was not a British national at all. But that accident has been fastened upon by these people; and although the total number of cases involved in the whole of this epidemic has been smaller than the number of serious accidents which have occurred on our roads in one single day, nevertheless undoubtedly in quite a number of parts of the country they have succeeded in working up a great deal of ill-feeling. I was up at Manchester not long ago and found this very obvious there. If this campaign is allowed to go on, it may well lead to a thoroughly unhealthy situation developing in which the riots—as they were almost; in fact I think that technically they were—which occurred in Nottingham and Notting Hill Gate will appear quite unimportant. I hope that the Government will give their serious attention to the need for legislation on this particular aspect of the matter, because I doubt very much whether the law as it stands is at all satisfactory. I do not suppose than any noble Lord here would suggest that the sort of anti-social conduct which has been described is not properly the subject of criminal legislation, provided that it can be made effective. And that, of course, has been the great division of opinion in this House this afternoon.
The setting of one section of the community against another falls within the definition, well-known to all lawyers, of sedition, enunciated by that great master of the criminal law, Mr. Justice Stephen. Certainly when the propaganda leads to the actual use of violence, and to disturbances of the kind which occurred two or three years ago, and which I have already mentioned, I should have thought it was sedition clear enough; although, so far as I remember, the prosecutions which were brought at that time were for rather less serious offences, such as assault or obstruction and offences of that kind. Moreover, they were brought against the people who were "egged on" to take part in the disturbances, and not against the people who were stirring them up behind the scenes, who were the people who ought to have been got at, and against whom the charges of sedition should have lain. I think it is true that we need a simpler 495 and more clearly defined rule than is provided by the law of sedition for dealing with that type of case. That is why I hope that the Government, and particularly the Home Secretary, are giving careful thought to this problem at the present time.
The same applies to the objectionable type of conduct which is specifically aimed at in the Bill before us this afternoon. To some extent, as has been mentioned by one or two of your Lordships, it is already hit at by our criminal law. But it is an old-fashioned law, one which I think is not well adapted to the needs of modern times; and in any case it is too narrow in its application, in that, in effect, it covers only hotels which are technically common inns. One noble Lord referred to the fact that for a long time it has been an indictable offence at Common Law for the keeper of a common inn to refuse to take in a guest. Nor is this a section of the law which has fallen into desuetude. It has, in fact, been applied in the criminal courts from time to time over the last 100 years. One case, that of Sprague, in 1899, is famous, in its way, and most amusing, because that was at the time when women wanting to ride bicycles had adopted a form of what they called rational attire, which, when I was a small boy, was referred to as "bloomers", which enabled them to ride their bicycles more easily. This gave rise not only to a good deal of ridicule but to real feeling. It is almost impossible to believe it now, but they were actually turned out of hotels and barred in that way. It was as a result of that that the case to which I have referred was brought in 1899.
But that is not the most recent case. There was a case just after the war, in 1948, in which a man was convicted of this particular offence, although afterwards the conviction was upset on technical grounds. But this Higgins case, I think, makes it perfectly clear that it still is an offence to refuse food and lodgings without some proper excuse. So, my Lords, there can be no question that conduct of this type—because, after all, it is conduct of this type which is hit at by this Bill—is a proper subject for criminal legislation. It has been the subject matter of the Common Law 496 of this country for many centuries. Indeed, I think that if this Bill receives a Second Reading, as I hope it will, it would be useful to give magistrates summary jurisdiction over this type of case, At the present time it is prosecutable only on indictment, which means having a jury and using the "big gun" to deal with what often is a small business. I think it would be much more appropriate if many of these cases could be brought before the magistrates and dealt with summarily. It would be worth while, I think, amending the law on those lines. Perhaps we could do that at the appropriate time.
It is much easier to prove against an inn-keeper the sort of case that I have mentioned, because there all one has to prove is that one was turned away, and the inn-keeper has to satisfy the jury that he had reasonable grounds for doing so—as that his accommodation was full, or that the would-be lodger was not in a fit state to be received. Those are perfectly sensible reasons why the prosecution should not succeed. Obviously, it would be more difficult to prove that somebody was turned out of a hotel or refused rooms, or was refused a meal in a restaurant, because of his colour. In such a case the burden of proof is on the prosecution; and no doubt a certain number of these wicked people—and I think they are wicked people—would be able to cover up their tracks. Nevertheless, there will be a number of cases where the offence is clear enough, and where there will be no difficulty about securing a conviction.
After all, as I think has already been mentioned, there are many important crimes which are not too easy to prove against the criminal. One is the receiving of stolen goods. Anybody who has had much experience of sitting at quarter sessions will know that often that is the most difficult type of case to bring home to the criminal; yet nobody would suggest that we should not have a stringent criminal rule against receiving stolen goods. Therefore I do not think that this technical difficulty of proving the case is at all insuperable. Moreover, the American experience which has been referred to more than once this afternoon, shows, I think, that it is perfectly possible for a normally constituted tribunal to handle problems of this kind.
497 It is true that the method used in the United States is not the one which is proposed in this Bill. They have, at any rate in some of the States, established special tribunals to hear complaints of the kind which are aimed at in this Bill; and they have the power, if the particular complaint is made out, to make an order that the accommodation refused on grounds of colour shall in fact be provided to the complainant; that is to say, they have adopted a civil rather than a criminal approach to this problem. In the circumstances of Massachusetts and other States where this sort of law has been enacted, it seems to me that that is probably a sensible way of working at it, but in this country I should have thought that the method proposed in this Bill was a better one.
But the point that I am really making here, my Lords, is that this American method, which has now been in operation for some time proves, I think, perfectly clearly, that the courts would find no particular difficulty in handling this sort of problem. I have had the advantage of looking at a stenographic note of the proceedings when a case of this kind was before the Commissioners in the State of Massachusetts. I think that that would show to any experienced lawyer that there is no out-of-the-way difficulty about dealing with a problem of this kind before a properly constituted tribunal. Therefore, I cannot see that the arguments which have been put up, to the effect that this Bill is impracticable, have any real substance behind them.
As has been said by more than one speaker who has opposed this Bill, it is true that, in the long run, education will be the best way of curing the community of this disease. However, that does not mean we ought not to be using all the other weapons at our disposal for fighting against it. I should have thought that a Bill of this kind was a very obvious weapon which ought to be at the disposal of the authorities and of the well-disposed sections of the communities in their efforts to deal with what, as I have already said, seems to me to be a very menacing and vicious sore in our public life at present. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD TWINING
My Lords, while I find myself in sympathy and in general agreement with the principles behind this Bill, I have always been doubtful whether these principles are attainable by legislation, and after studying the Bill my doubt remains, despite the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Walston. I am utterly against discrimination of any sort. I have had some experience of racial problems in a number of countries situated in three continents. In one of our Colonies, which shall be nameless, I have seen the colour bar at its worst, Where even families were riven because some of the children had darker skins than others. No legislation could have cured this. On the other hand, in North Borneo a very complex racial community has resolved its difficulties with the greatest tact, charm and success. Colour consciousness scarcely exists, and the differences in social habits have been dealt with so delicately that no offence is caused.
In several Colonies in which I have held responsible positions I have been under pressure to introduce legislation to ban the colour bar. But I have always resisted these pressures because I was convinced that it was the wrong way to go about things. It has always seemed to me preferable to encourage an attitude of tolerance, understanding and good will, and usually such an approach has met with an encouraging response and has been successful. To deal with the colour bar by law may or may not prove effective, but it is likely to lead to resentment rather than fostering mutual understanding and good will.
How bad are race relations in this country to-day? It is difficult to assess the position objectively, as much depends on individual experience. A Nigerian, a Jamaican or a Pakistani might each give different answers, and these differences may well depend on the part of the country in which he is residing. My own impression—I am in close touch with a number of organisations concerned with this problem, and have discussed with a number of coloured people how they have been treated—is that there has been a steady improvement in race relations in recent years. One of the least attractive features of the old-fashioned British Imperialism 499 was that our people were prone to adopt attitudes of intolerance and arrogance towards the subject races, who were looked upon as inferior people who should be kept in their places and, at best, treated in a patronising manner. To a very large extent this attitude has gone. London, which seems to have become the world centre of anti-colonialism, attracts in their thousands coloured people from our former dependencies. Everyone here is familiar with a coloured face and accustomed to seeing these people undertaking various types of work, often in the public services, efficiently and courteously. In this case familiarity seems to have bred, not contempt but mutual respect. It is true that, from time to time, we read of racial incidents in the Press, but these are usually insolated cases, though the impression may be created that they are more common than they really are.
My Lords, let us just take a look at the position from the point of view of hotel and lodginghouse keepers and those who manage restaurants, cafés and places of entertainment. Some may have an inherent prejudice against coloured people, but it is more likely that they have heard or read that their domestic habits and social customs are such that it would be damaging to the standards they try to maintain if they were to admit them, and that it would thus be detrimental to their business. Of course it can be provocative to refuse these people admission, but provocation is not a one-way traffic and there are some coloured people—a very small minority, I am thankful to say—who like to indulge in provoking incidents. The matter rests to a large extent with the coloured people themselves, in that if they conform to our standards of conduct they find they are received in a friendly way and with equality of status. From my own observations the majority try to emulate us, and on the whole their conduct is impeccable.
My Lords, I believe that if this Bill is passed into law it may do more harm than good and could lead to a worsening of race relations. One effect might be to create an over-privileged minority. Discrimination against a member of this minority would be punishable by law, while discrimination against an individual of the majority—because, say, 500 he was poorly dressed or unwashed— would not. Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount who is to reply for the Government can give an assurance that the existing laws will be reviewed to make sure that any respectable person, whether he belongs to a minority group or not, has fair and equal treatment under the law.
But the real solution to this problem of racial discrimination lies in creating a public opinion which will insist that visitors to our shores are treated with our traditional hospitality and made welcome. A lot is already being done in this direction, particularly by voluntary societies, but no doubt more could be done and in this the Government might take a more active part. For my part, I remain unconvinced that legislation is the right way to deal with this important problem, and I feel unable to support the Bill. I hope to be able to remain in this House until the conclusion of the debate, but I have an important engagement which I must attend and if I have to leave before the debate is concluded, I hope your Lordships will forgive me.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill. I must apologise to your Lordships for not having been present earlier in the debate. I welcome the Bill and, if I have any criticism of it, it is that it does not go fat enough. For example, it does not include clubs, where there is from time to time a certain amount of discrimination. I believe that in the old days of our colonial rule nothing did more to make us disliked than our attitude towards the native populations in the territories which were then our Colonies or over which we had mandates. I remember that during the war there was an English club in Cairo of which only British people were allowed to become members. One was not even allowed to take an Egyptian Minister there as a guest. Yet we were allowed to belong to some of the Egyptian clubs—in fact, in some cases we rather preferred them. The consequence of this attitude of the English club was that during the riots, after the King of Egypt fell, the first place to be burnt down was this particular club.
501 I believe, my Lords, that if there is discrimination in a club that club should be struck off the register, whether it be in Pall Mall or in some small town. Because, of course, there is not only discrimination against coloured people, but also, in some cases, discrimination against Jews and against Catholics. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, mentioned that members of the Jewish faith were not allowed in some flats as tenants. I believe that this also applies with certain golf clubs, which seems to me absolutely disgraceful. I think I am right in saying (this perhaps is rather outside the scope of this debate) that it is not possible for a Catholic to occupy the Woolsack, from which the noble and learned Viscount is shortly to address us.
§ 6.50 p.m.
My Lords, I would just say that I think this is quite an unexceptionable Bill on sentiment, but I should regard it as utterly impracticable to enforce as legislation. I think that Parliament should be very careful when it tries to make men good by passing laws, because it generally does not succeed.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, this Bill has obviously aroused a great deal of interest, judging by the fact that we have had up to now eighteen speakers and before we shall have finished with it we shall have had twenty. The House will not be surprised to hear that every single argument that could be put both in favour of and against the Bill has been put, not only once but several times over. We have had a tremendous amount of repetition and I hope that I myself shall not add to the repetition, either for or against the Bill.
Looking down the list of speakers, I tried to assess in advance what each speaker was likely to say and what line he was going to take. I have been right every time, with one exception. I was a little surprised at the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, who, I thought, having been a traveller all over the world, visiting peoples of different colours and sometimes making rather astonishing comments about them, would have been in favour of the Bill. But he is not here, so I do not think I need say any more 502 about his views, which I thought were not very helpful in the context of discussing this Bill.
One thing has been remarkable, and that is that every one of the eighteen speakers up to now has agreed that racial and other discrimination is a bad thing. I do not think anyone has attempted to support racial discrimination, although I thought that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal went a little near to it by suggesting that people are not all equal. If one should draw any inference from that, one should draw the inference that it might be justified in the case of people who were not as equal as others. But, apart from that rather doubtful observation, nobody has suggested that this discrimination is right or justified; and that is perhaps one of the most gratifying features of this debate.
There has been a difference of opinion whether or not racial and other discrimination is growing. Some people have thought that it is gradually dying as we become accustomed to the presence among us of large numbers of coloured people—and I am referring to Coloured people in the main, because from the point of view of this country this is, to my mind, the most important of the prejudices that we are suffering from. My own view is that racial discrimination is growing. It may not be growing very fast, but it is greater than it was one, two or three years ago.
But this Bill is not intended to deal primarily with the subjective aspect of racial discrimination. It is not intended to make people less discriminatory in their thoughts, in their minds. It is intended to deal with certain objective symptoms of race discrimination, and only certain of them. Some doubt has been expressed whether, in the first instance, it is right to deal with this matter by legislation, and, secondly, whether legislation would be effective. I think I can best help the House, in the few moments that I propose to speak, by dealing with those two aspects of the matter.
Having agreed that discrimination exists and that it is undesirable, I think we ought to consider whether this Bill or any Bill is the right way of dealing with it. I would agree that, if one could foresee that in the very near future education, 503 public opinion, would deal with this problem effectively, then perhaps legislation would not be a desirable thing to have. I can even see some dangers in legislation. The noble Lady who is no longer with us suggested that it might even stir up difficulties. I will not deny the possibility, just as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, did not deny the possibility. It is a possibility, and we must face it. We must consider very carefully whether legislation is the right way of dealing with this problem. As I say, if I thought time could, within a limited period, bring about so great a change in the outlook of our people here that discrimination would come to an end, then I would say: "Let us try that, rather than try to promote legislation." But, my Lords, time is not on our side. Let us face that fact.
We are very proud of the fact that we have a great Commonwealth. This Commonwealth consists, in the main, of an enormous proportion of coloured people —people who are, as the noble and gallant Viscount said, unequal, and who are the possible victims of discrimination. As I have said in this House on many occasions, I attach the greatest importance to the maintenance of the Commonwealth. That was my objection to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. If discrimination continues, and if it is felt by our friends and fellow citizens of the British Commonwealth that we are taking no action to-day, and that when action is suggested we even decide against taking it, then I fear that the effect on the Commonwealth may be very grave indeed.
The noble and gallant Viscount said that we must not look at this matter in terms of emotion. I hope that we shall not. I do not know whether he was more emotional than I am about this subject. I regard the maintenance of the Commonwealth as a very practical and important issue for the peace and happiness of the world. Anything which tends to disrupt the Commonwealth is, I should say, not a matter of emotion but a real practical issue. That is one of the reasons why I hope that we shall give this Bill a Second Reading: that we shall not let it go out to our friends in the Commonwealth that we refused even to consider a Bill of this kind, which would make it punishable to exercise racial discrimination. 504 So, on the first question, as to whether it is desirable to deal with this matter by legislation, I say that, on balance—and I think it must be a balance—the answer is, "Yes".
Now let us consider the second question, which so many noble Lords who are against discrimination have raised: that is, that this Bill will not be effective; that it will be found difficult, if not impossible, to establish a case of discrimination. My Lords, is that true? I wonder whether those people who say this have really studied the Bill. It is very limited in its terms—indeed, some noble Lords have thought it too limited. Its limitations have been introduced, probably, for that very reason: that to extend it might create the difficulties which some noble Lords have said they find in the Bill as it is. But in the Bill as it has been limited—dealing with discrimination by the keeper of an hotel or the keeper of a common lodging-house—I do not think that these difficulties exist.
I would agree straight away that in some cases where a person applies for accommodation and is refused, and where he will infer that he has been refused on the ground of discrimination, it may not always be true. We know that in London and in many of the large cities it is, at certain times of the year, exceedingly difficult to get accommodation. One knows that from personal experience; and, of course, the coloured person would be inclined to believe that he has been refused because of his colour. On the other hand, if he has reason to think that the hotel is not full, the true facts can easily be established from the records.
But suppose that people have been provided with accommodation immediately before the person discriminated against has been refused, and that people have been provided with accommodation immediately afterwards. Is there not then a prima facie case that the person has been refused on discriminatory grounds? I would suggest that where there was such a set of facts, while the onus in the first instance is on the prosecution to prove its case, the onus would then be automatically shifted: it would be for the hotel proprietor, or the keeper of the common lodging-house, to prove that the refusal was not on such 505 grounds; and if he could not establish good grounds for refusing, then I would submit that the case has been made.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? You could have fictitious bookings, as I pointed out in my speech. An hotel proprietor could have fictitious bookings.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, of course you can have fictitious bookings. You can have fictitious anything. But if the noble Viscount is really arguing that, because fictitious cases can be produced, because people can be crooked and try to defeat a law, you should therefore not pass that law—if that is the argument —then it would be a very good argument for abolishing all laws. I am sure the noble Viscount does not want to go so far as that.
Of course the law will be evaded; I admit that straight away. There will be evasions, and there will be difficulties, and there will be people who think that they are going to be hard hit. The case has been made of people who would be in fear of losing their clientele because their clientele do not like coloured people; and I think we have to face up to that risk. But it will not happen, because if there is a law that there must be no discrimination the hotel proprietor has a perfectly good answer to his clientele, and can say that, however much he may want to refuse admission, he cannot, for fear of breaking the law. So I think we are making rather heavy weather of the difficulties.
To take the case of a restaurant, I had thought that if one were refused admission to a restaurant it would be fairly easy to establish that one was being refused on that ground. At any rate, if there was accommodation in a restaurant and other people were being admitted, surely there would be a prima-facie case in a prosecution for saying that there was discrimination on the ground stated in this Bill. And the same would apply to "public dancing, singing, music or any public entertainment of the like kind". If some people are refused and other people are admitted, then there is surely a ground for saying that there is a prima-facie case. So, in my view, the difficulties are being exaggerated. But I will again emphasise the advantages 506 of having this legislation. It would be a deterrent; it would prevent people from arbitrarily exercising discrimination. Although, admittedly, there are a limited number of people who would indulge in the practices that the noble Viscount has in mind, I am glad to think that there are not very many; I think very few people would be prepared to break the law by indulging in these practices. So I think that there is not really adequate ground for refusing to give this Bill a Second Reading.
Many of us may like to amend this Bill. We may think it goes too far in one direction or another, or not far enough in one direction or another. Those noble Lords who think that it will be found difficult to deal with hotels or common lodging-houses may delete Clause 2 (a) or 2 (b), as the case may be. Others may want to introduce something. But I think the mere fact that we have given this Bill a Second Reading—I repeat, that mere fact—will be of tremendous help in creating the feeling among our coloured fellow-citizens and members of the Commonwealth that we are serious about this and that we do intend, so far as possible, to prevent active race discrimination. Of course, as I said at the outset, we cannot prevent people's thoughts or feelings, and this is not an attempt in the very least to censure people's thoughts or feelings; but it is an attempt to prevent the outward, objective exercise of racial discrimination in those instances where it is most affecting the reputation of this country.
May I just give one example and one example only, and then I must leave it to the noble and learned Viscount? The other day the noble and learned Viscount gave a reception, which I was very proud to attend, of people who had come to this country from the Commonwealth on a course. I spoke to a number of them without having this debate in mind; that is the last thing I thought about. But we got into conversation, and some of them had come to this country for the first time. I asked them how they felt on coming to the Mother Country, and, of course, they were delighted and overjoyed at being in London. But a number of them told me that they had had considerable difficulty in getting accommodation.
507 I did not, of course, cross-examine them, and it may be that they had this difficulty because London is full; it may be they had difficulty because there was discrimination. But quite certainly in their own minds there was this feeling that there was discrimination, and it is a terrible thing for them to go home with the feeling that in the Mother Country they had great difficulty in finding hotel accommodation. Therefore, I hope we shall make a demonstration by giving this Bill a Second Reading, in spite of some of the difficulties which I know will be outlined, as is his duty, by the noble and learned Viscount. I hope that many of them can be dealt with in Committee, where we shall have the opportunity of the fullest possible discussion, of seeing whether we can devise ways and means of getting over these difficulties and of protecting both the hotel proprietor and others who want to take advantage of his hotel. I believe that this House is to-day sincerely desirous, not only of preventing discrimination, but of letting it be known that it is against it, and so I have every hope that this Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, proposals for legislation to prevent discrimination on racial grounds have been made frequently in recent years, and Her Majesty's Government have always appreciated the sincere motives of those who favour legislation of this kind. This applies no less in the case of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, whose sincerity in this matter was readily apparent from the persuasive speech that he made to-day in support of the measure which he introduced. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that there have been differences about the movement— whether there is an increase or a decrease—in racial discrimination, and I should like to point out at once to my noble friend Lord Twining, who asked about this question, that racial discrimination has no place in our law. The law imposes no special restriction of which I know on people because of their religion, race or colour; they have equal treatment under the law.
508 That is the present position, and I wanted to make it clear, because it is of importance not only in itself but in considering the new Constitutions, with which my noble friend Lord Twining is familiar and with which I myself have had something to do, where it has been necessary to introduce a code of human rights and to deal with matters of discrimination in order to get the position clear in the countries concerned. But here we start from the position that racial discrimination has no place in our law.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sure that racial discrimination has no such place, but it is often said that no Roman Catholic can be Lord Chancellor. Is that correct?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, raised that point. It is a matter on which much has been said or written; but, of course, I do not want to go off the argument with which I am dealing, because it is a matter of some complexity, and the noble Earl will appreciate that. The Queen is the Head of the Church of England, and the Queen is also, under the Act of Union, Head of the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In that position there are differences from the run of our debate to-day, but I hope the noble Earl will excuse me. It would require quite a considerable amount of historical analysis, and delightful though it would be, the patience of noble Lords would be very much thinner than it is at the moment.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, is it not also the fact that no woman can be head of the Church of England?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I would very willingly take the place of the man who answers these questions, and on another occasion I will; but at the moment, and for a few brief moments, we had better get back to the subject of racial discrimination.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
My Lords, might I ask if it is not the case that this Bill does not deal with sex in any way 509 whatsover? It deals with race and religion, but not with sex.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, let us, as my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh implies, return to the Bill. Of course, what I have said about the position of the law is not to say that some colour and racial prejudice does not exist. We have heard two suggestions to-day. One, of which I think the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was the first noble Lord to inform me, was that racial discrimination is largely a development of recent years following the arrival in this country of immensely large numbers of coloured people. It is certainly true that this arrival in large numbers in so short a time has naturally given rise to social problems and tensions, particularly in some of our large cities. But I think it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Chorley, and also my noble friend Lord Twining who said that, given the changing circumstances and the suddenness of the increase in numbers, it is remarkable how few examples of these tensions and incidents there have been.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting once more. I should in fact have done so earlier, but there was a spate of interruptions at the time, and I thought that possibly the noble and learned Viscount was going to deal rather more amply with this particular point. I think he actually said that the law of England does not countenance discrimination—or words to that effect. Would he like to be in a position to give his opinion whether the law of England would in fact enforce a clause in a lease, such as the one I quoted, which is based on discrimination, or whether that is fundamentally opposed to our laws; and therefore could not be enforced in a court of law?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I was intending to come to the proposals in the Bill afterwards. The point I made was that the law as it stands imposes no special restriction which I know of on people because of their race, religion or colour. If I may give the noble Lord an advance view of the answer, it is doubtful whether a clause drawn in simple words would be sufficiently clear to be enforceable. If it could be made enforceable, I would come to the question of reasonableness. 510 I hope that the noble Lord will allow me a minute to develop my argument, because this point comes later in his Bill and I think that he would agree that it is better to take things logically and in order. I do not mind his question, but I must make my own speech.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, it is not the clause in the Bill I am referring to, but the clause in the lease I quoted in the course of my speech.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the clause of the Bill is designed to deal with such a clause in the lease, and I propose to deal with it in that way. I want to make clear that I do not mind interruptions. I have taken a solemn oath to this House that I will never object to interruptions, so I do not want the noble Lord to feel that I am in the least annoyed about it. But I prefer to deal with it in this way.
I am glad to hear from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London that, in spite of the tensions that have been occasioned, things are improving, and to hear this view corroborated by my noble friend Lord Twining. I hope that he will not mind my underlining what I thought was a striking phrase of great hope—that in this context, familiarity breeds respect. I thank him for the phrase, which I shall probable use, with or without acknowledgement, as occasion may demand.
Having said that Her Majesty's Government do not deny the existence in this country of some prejudice resulting from the differences of colour and race, I want to say most anxiously, with all the feeling I can command, that to recognise it is not to condone it. We deplore all manifestations of prejudice, whether in the form of discrimination of otherwise. May I give the noble Earl, Lord Longford, an example? I am devoted to the poetry and historical works of Hilaire Belloc, but I can hardly open one of his novels. I have never enjoyed any of them, because of the anti-Semitic prejudice shown in them. Of course, in my own case my feeling that anti-Semitism is the badge of the absence of civilisation has been largely increased by the research work I had to do, and the subsequent work of marshalling the misfortunes of the Jews in Europe at the Nuremberg Trials. I assure the noble 511 Earl—and I hope he will accept it—that we do not condone; we deplore it. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London that we are convinced that this prejudice can be eradicated by the removal of such causes as can be indentified, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, by education in the wider sense of the word and by the patient growth of understanding and tolerance. I agree that this will take time. It is not a process which can be greatly hurried. But this is a problem of human relations, and I have yet to find in the problems of human relations that there is a golden road which takes the place of the increase of understanding and toleration.
I want to emphasise what many of your Lordships have already stressed this afternoon: that the causes of such prejudice, whether they be social and economic, or perhaps something more deep-rooted in the instincts, would be an interesting topic of discussion, but it is not the one with which your Lordships' House is concerned to-day. Your Lordships are concerned with the much more limited question of whether it is practicable or desirable to attempt to reduce by legislation discriminating action of an anti-social kind. I agree with my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein that this is a question which must be settled by dispassionate analysis, putting aside the strong emotions which the exercise of racial discrimination quite naturally calls forth among right-thinking people.
If we come to the conclusion, after analysis of the noble Lord's Bill, that its enactment would not be a practical contribution to the prevention of discrimination, we must not be accused of a want of proper feeling against discrimination just because we come to that conclusion. If any action is to be forbidden by an extension of the criminal law, it is axiomatic that the law must be precisely defined and must be capable of enforcement in the courts. That point was made by my noble and gallant friend and by my noble friends Lord Merrivale and Lord Massereene and Ferrard. And I say this to my noble friend Lord Arran, with the seriousness with which he developed his own speech: this is not a debating answer. The noble Earl rather gave the impression that if the scales 512 hung anything like evenly, he would come down on the side of legislation, even though there was some doubt about the effectiveness of it in law. I hope (because I value the noble Earl's opinion) that he will not think that I am speaking to him merely as head of the legal profession of this country and therefore prejudiced in favour of the legalistic approach. I have seen in countless places the gradual diminution of the desire for the rule of law, the making of law to fit politics, the making of laws a gesture in order to give one's politics a greater power. And I would say to the noble Earl—I hope that he will not think that I am exaggerating the point—that this kind of action is not only a sin in the lawyer's copy book; it is also one of the methods by which danger can enter the lives of ordinary men and women.
I am sorry to tell your Lordships, but it is my duty so to do, that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, this Bill is imprecise and, to a considerable extent, which I shall try to indicate, unenforceable. I do not want to put an unfair argument, but the very limitations of the Bill—the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, would not dream of dealing with the question of employment, which would affect all the various forces who have to deal with employment to-day— shows, I believe, that he is conscious in his heart of hearts of the limitations of legislation in this field.
Now may I ask your Lordships to consider one or two points in the Bill? The difficulty of the matter is shown when we come to Clause 1. It defines discrimination as the refusal, withholding or denial to any person of facilities or advantageson the ground of the colour, race or religion of that other person.Your Lordships will appreciate that refusal or denial of facilities is not to be an offence in itself, for, of course, plainly that would be an invasion, not only of the rights of property, but of the fundamental human rights of any human person. It is to be made an offence only if the refusal or denial is carried out for a particular reason, namely, on the grounds of colour, race or religion. It is the Government's view that, where a person seeks to exercise discrimination in the circumstances set out in the various clauses of the Bill, it will, as my noble friend Lord Saltoun said, rarely be 513 possible, whatever the suspicion may be, to show in such a way as to satisfy a court of law in criminal proceedings that his reason for the refusal or denial of facilities is in fact on the ground of colour, race or religion. If that be so, then the clause is ineffective in achieving the purpose for which it is designed.
Before I develop this point in relation to the particular actions which the clauses of the Bill seek to forbid, I must draw attention to the difficulties of this subject, of the lack of precision in the meaning of the word "race", which is, with "colour", one of the key words of the Bill. In a book We Europeans, first published in 1935, Julian Huxley (who was even before me at the educational institution which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, mentioned, and who, as your Lordships know, is a zoologist) and Mr. A. C. Hadden, an ethnologist, made a survey of racial problems and the meaning of the word "race". In the introduction of the book they say:The term 'race' is freely employed in many kinds of literature, but investigation of the use of the word soon reveals that no exact meaning is, or perhaps can be, attached to it. …After quoting various examples from Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Milton's Paradise Lost, this particular paragraph of the introduction concludes:It is necessary in dealing with scientific themes to distinguish carefully between the terms which we use in an exact sense and those which are valuable for their very vagueness. The word 'race', if it is to be used at all, should find itself a place in the latter class.The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, put his finger on this difficulty when he said that the real matter with which we are concerned here was colour, and the Africans and the Asians coming into the country. After all, in defining criminal offences one must use words which should be capable of an exact meaning. The book from which I quoted goes on to give six ways in which the word "race" has been used. We have to ask ourselves, "Does it mean any, or all, of these six meanings?" If a person is liable to commit a criminal offence, he must know clearly where he stands. My noble and gallant friend, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, mentioned the point that he was from Northern Ireland, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was kind enough to draw my attention to the placard that he mentioned in his speech 514 which, I think, contained the words "Jewish domination". I can tell him that it was brought to my attention by somebody saying that he had heard a great deal about Scottish domination in England, but not so much about Jewish domination. Is race to be on a national basis? Is that to be one of the meanings? I quote the example I have given only to show the difficulties that come in from the beginning.
Now let me take Clause 2, which prohibits the exercise of discrimination by occupiers of various premises. All your Lordships, whether lay or lawyer, have the matter exactly right—that apart from the Common Law obligation on the hotel keeper who is an innkeeper, other persons have at the moment the occupier's Common Law right to refuse admission to any person and to request any person to leave their premises, without giving a reason. To begin with, the clause would be a serious infringement of their right, and could be justified only if there was evidence of a widespread wrong and reason to suppose that the Bill's provisions would have some practical effect in righting that wrong.
My noble friends Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Merrivale pointed out the real difficulty that exists on this point. The occupier of such an establishment may well have grounds other than personal prejudice for excluding certain categories of persons. He may find their presence leads to disorder. As my noble friends pointed out, the disorder may be in a white gang or in a black gang. But as my noble friends pointed out, and as my noble friend Lord Saltoun reinforced, what a very difficult situation it would be—I am not exaggerating—for the person who is trying to keep order in a dance hall if he turned out the black gang! I have had experience of being in charge for three years of the police forces of this country, and I know the difficulty it would cause the police.
It is extremely important that those in charge of dance halls, public houses, and so on, should bear full responsibility for the preservation of good order within their establishments, and to this end should retain their discretion to exclude people, without giving reasons. This discretion is widely exercised now in the interests of order and good 515 conduct against particular individuals or particular groups whom experience has shown to be troublesome. As I said, this applies to both white and coloured persons. I do not think I need to emphasise the point that has been made by my noble friend, because it stands out a mile. That would go. The man would not dare to take that responsibility if he had this sort of charge and this sort of obligation hanging over him. I said that it would be extremely difficult to enforce. There are cases, of course, where it cuts both ways. There are cases where coloured people have got a room of their own and regard that as a privilege to be jealously guarded. They may be mistaken, but that is the position which has existed and has been found to work.
Then one comes to the point that was made by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, that to prove a case of discrimination on grounds of colour it might be necessary to bring evidence of the treatment of a number of coloured people and also of a number of white people of similar social status who have received different treatment. Assuming that the evidence could be obtained, there might have to be an organised attempt on the part of a number of coloured people to obtain it by co-ordinated attempts to gain admission. But, in such a delicate matter, such action might well have the reverse effect to that intended by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, in introducing this Bill—namely, the fostering of racial antagonism where none existed before. It is interesting that, again, that point started with (I think I have the order right) the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, and was then taken up by my noble and gallant friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein.
With regard to the position of common lodging houses, I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Walston, meant that term in the strict sense of a house provided for the purpose of accommodating by night poor persons who are referred thereto and are allowed to occupy one common room for sleeping or eating. If he did, it is difficult to believe that the eminent bodies which run such places in fact exercise discrimination. But if he meant to go further than that—and I want to deal 516 with the general point—to cover the case of a person who regularly lets rooms as opposed to a person who lets an occasional bedroom, then I think there would be grave difficulty.
Again, I know that my noble friend Lord Arran put this as a sort of quantification of infringements of principle, but I find it very difficult to say that someone who lets off to people all the rooms in her house as bed-sittingrooms, or what-have-you, should not be entitled to say, "I am a Welsh woman and I want Welsh lodgers"; or, "I am a Scots woman and I want Scots lodgers"; or, let us say, "I am a woman from Northern Ireland and I want Northern Irish lodgers." I do not know; I have not the gift of noble Lords to my left, of sweeping aside these principles and not being afraid to infringe them because they think greater good may thereby come. Principle, I assure your Lordships, is not something which can safely be played with.
And the same applies to the other clause. I put it quite shortly. What your Lordships are asked to do to-day on the other clause, concerning the lease, is to finance your own altruism at the expense of, it may well be, quite poor people who own property. What you are asked to do—and there is no question about this; I am not overstating it at all-is to pass legislation to say that if someone believes, and honestly believes, and it is corroborated, that her property will decline in value because certain houses are occupied by people of other races she is not to be entitled to prevent that. Of course, there are various methods by which she could seek to do it if she took legal advice, but what the Bill is aimed at is that she should not be entitled to do it. I should like to try to persuade my noble friend Lord Arran to believe that there is a basis in my words, whether he accepts it or not. I ask him to consider that.
Is the way to say: "All right. In the interests of this fine ideal, I am going to make it impossible for a widow who owns three houses, which bring her in her entire income, to prevent them from depreciating in value"? There is a lot to be said for the fact that it is a fine ideal but there is a lot to be said against, as I say, financing your ideals by taking 517 from other people money which they may not be able to afford. That is the difficulty that we are in. In all these cases one has to prove the criminal offence; one has to do it in a way which, in my view, would be very likely to increase the absurdity rather than diminish it; and at the end of the day one would find that the case was impossible to prove and therefore that the Act was not enforceable.
I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, with regard to Clause 5, on the powers of licensing authorities, that of course, as he said, licensing authorities can now take the matter into account; and I am told that if a licensee has exercised discrimination on racial grounds the licensing authorities have power to refuse to renew his licence; and I am told that there have been instances. I admit at once to the noble Lord that I did not check that: that I did not ask for the instances. I obtained the information from the Home Office. I thought I would tell him that because I believe that was one of the points he was worried about. I have not had the opportunity of checking that information myself. There again one would have the difficulties of enforcement, which I need not go into.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked me about the possibility of stopping the procession that the people he mentioned—I think he said the National-Socialist movement—were going to hold. The first point to look at is the Public Order Act, 1936. In accordance with the traditional freedom of speech in this country it is open to any person to address a public meeting on any subject. That freedom is limited only by the requirements of the Public Order Act, 1936, by the Common Law provisions relating to sedition, about which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, spoke, and by the law relating to slander. Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1936, provides that:Any person who in any public place or at any public meeting uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned, shall be guilty of an offence.Then there is the penalty of three months or £50. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and I were in another place when it was introduced in 1936. It was argued that the basis should not be a breach of 518 the peace but (I think I am right in my quotation)the making of speeches calculated to excite racial or religious prejudice".That was made in both Houses when that Section 5 was being discussed; in neither House was the Amendment passed. I am told—I believe it to be right—that neither the Home Secretary nor the Commissioner of Police have power to ban a public meeting in advance on the ground of the political character of the organisation which is to hold it. That is the position. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, wishes the law to be changed (I think this is what he said). He asked whether, if that was the law, would I say how it could be changed. I should like him to formulate his grounds of change. As I have said, I detest racial discrimination and I detest attacks on the ground of race, colour or creed. But I also detest infringements of traditional rights of freedom. I should have to consider a proposal in practical detail before I should be prepared to pronounce on it in advance. If the noble Earl would do that and give me his proposal, I would be very prepared to discuss it with Mr. Butler as soon as he comes back.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount. May I ask one further question? Would not rather different considerations apply for permission to hold a meeting in Trafalgar Square from the consideration which would apply, so to speak, to noninterference with a speaker in Hyde Park?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I can see what is in the noble Earl's mind. The meeting in Trafalgar Square might have repercussions; it might extend and might go into a march; there are all sorts of possibilities that have to be considered, and I would be quite prepared to consider them. But I am sure that the noble Earl, as an Irishman, ought to —there is no question of whether he ought to; I am sure he does—entirely agree with one of the oldest stories in the world, about the speaker in Hyde Park who was abusing the police very hard and a man pulled up his car and left the engine running. The policeman came up to the man in the car and said, "Would you mind moving on as soon as 519 you can. You are interrupting this gentleman's speech". I think the noble Earl would agree that that is one of our fundamental not only rights but joys in this country, and therefore he can see that side of it.
There is one other point which I should like to mention and that is legislation in other countries. I think it is fair to say that the problem in many of those countries is very different from ours here, both in scale and in kind. The constitutional, legal and institutional background to the legislation is also widely different, as I pointed out earlier in my speech; and when the legislation takes the form of provisions of a declaratory character in written constitutions or other fundamental laws, which have no place in our Constitution, it is dealt with at great length, with great care and particularity and with many safeguards and exceptions. In some, as I think we came near to hearing, the legislation depends for its operation on the existence of statutory bodies with conciliatory functions.
One comes back to this. As I said, the problem of racial discrimination is basically one of personal human relationships, always a delicate matter and particularly so when a large number of people come here from countries with different climates and economic and social backgrounds. Legislation could not, in itself, prevent discrimination on the part of individuals in their private dealings with coloured people., and indeed the Bill makes no attempt to do so. But from these personal and private dealings between neighbours, workmates and children, arise the public attitude and behaviour towards coloured people in general, which the Bill seeks to control. In the Government's view, this problem is not solvable by legislation. There is, unfortunately, no shortcut answer. Only patient education of public opinion by example and expressions of view by responsible individuals and bodies can achieve lasting results. We have heard twenty expressions of view by responsible individuals against racial discrimination this afternoon. Social habits must be determined by education and by the manifold influences that help to mould our tolerant British society. It is on this basis that 520 I suggest to your Lordships that you should, while acknowledging the sincere motives that have prompted the noble Lord to introduce the Bill, deny it a Second Reading.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, I believe it is a convention on such occasions that the mover of the Motion speaks for a very short time—probably an admirable convention. But I will be quite honest with you; I consider this a sufficiently important matter that I would happily, in spite of your unhappiness, run away from that convention if I thought either that my eloquence was sufficient to move any waverers or that your minds were sufficiently open to be moved. I have very great doubt on both those points, so I shall not detain you for a very long time.
I should just like to take up one or two of the points which the noble and learned Viscount has made. He said at one stage that he was not one of those who was content or happy to sweep aside certain liberties—I think those were his words—in order that greater good might come. He said at another point, "I detest racial discrimination"; and there I am sure everybody, or almost every one of your Lordships, is in agreement. But surely we must be honest with ourselves in this matter and be absolutely straight in our minds. Are we prepared to stand here, and let other people know that we stand here, saying that our belief in the liberty of the individual is such that we will allow the individual liberty to discriminate on grounds of race or colour, although we are passionate opponents of it, and yet, at the same time, in spite of that belief in the freedom and liberty of the individual, refuse to allow that same widow the noble and learned Viscount so eloquently described with her three houses—let us say, only one house—sell a pint of beer at 11.30 in the evening? We interfere with her liberty to run her own pub as she likes, although we are not passionately devoted to the cause of teetotallers. Yet we defend her liberty to such an extent that we allow her to discriminate, although we are passionately opposed to discrimination. It seems to me there is some contradiction in our thoughts or words if that is What we are saying; 521 and some of your Lordships have been saying that this afternoon.
The only other point I would take up is when the noble and learned Viscount and many others, including the right reverend Prelate, spoke of education. Obviously, this is a matter which, in the long run, can be solved only by education; but the noble and learned Viscount was quite right when he said "education by example." Surely our example, showing where we stand in this matter of proved discrimination, can assist the education which we all agree
§ is the only long-term, fundamental way of solving this problem. Here, to-day, we have a chance of giving that example with which to assist those who are trying to educate. We have an opportunity now to take or to reject it. I sincerely hope that the majority of your Lordships will decide to take that opportunity.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 21; Not-Contents, 41.521
|Airedale, L.||Kilbracken, L. [Teller.]||St. Davids, V.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Lawson, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Arran, E.||Listowel, E.||Silkin, L.|
|Burden, L.||Longford, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Lucan, E.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Hemingford, L.||Melchett, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Kenswood, L.||Rea, L.||Walston, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Goschen, V.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Grenfell, L.||Newall, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Newton, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Hastings, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Hawke, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Bossom, L.||Home, E.||Remnant, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Horsbrugh, B.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Oswald, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Lambert, V.||Saltoun, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Somers, L.|
|Denham, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V. [Teller.]||Spens, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Strang, L.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Merrivale, L. [Teller.]||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.||Teynham, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
§ House adjourned at nine minutes past eight o'clock.