§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD AILWYN in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ The Race Relations Board and conciliation committees
(4) The local conciliation committee shall make to the Board such periodical reports with respect to the exercise of their functions as the Board may require, and the Board, shall, at such times as the Secretary of State may direct, make annual reports to the Secretary of State with respect to the exercise of their functions; and the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament any report made to him under this subsection.
§ LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (2)(a), after "authority" to insert "in writing". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2. Clause 2(2)(a) requires local conciliation committees to receive and consider any complaints of discrimination in contravention of Section 1 of the Bill, made by an aggrieved person or with the authority of that person. This Amendment would require the authority given by an aggrieved person for another to pursue a complaint on his behalf to be in writing. An Amendment to this effect was moved in the other place by Sir John Hobson, who then made the point that unless authority of this kind were given in writing, there might, at some later stage in the proceedings, be a dispute as to whether the aggrieved 57 person had really authorised the complaint at all, and pressure might then be brought to bear on him to deny that he had done so. In replying, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said that he thought there were grounds for making this change in the Bill, but that he would like to consider them further, and the Amendment was withdrawn on that assurance.
§ We have given further consideration to the Amendment and find that the change suggested is desirable, not only for the reasons given by Sir John Hobson, but also because it may also do something to prevent the local conciliation committees from being asked to consider a large number of ill-substantiated complaints, made on doubtful authority, by people not directly concerned. We can all imagine instances of this kind, where complaints could be made by people who saw, or thought they saw, or heard, or thought they heard, something, and then complained without referring at all to the person directly concerned, and a great deal of trouble might be caused for no purpose. Therefore, I feel that the merits of this proposal will commend the Amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 35, after ("authority") insert ("in writing").—(Lord Stonham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD BROCKWAY moved, in subsection (4), after the second "functions" to insert:
and recommendations as to any change of their functions which in their view are desirable".
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment in my name on the Marshalled List. In doing so, may I assure your Lordships and the Minister that, in putting forward these Amendments, my intention is not to obstruct the Bill. I enthusiastically want it to be passed and I hope that my Amendments will be regarded as constructive. This Amendment suggests that, in addition to the specific places of public resort which should be considered by the Race Relations Board—I find from the Paper that this particular Amendment has been omitted; I suppose that it has been ruled out of order.
§ LORD STONHAM
If I can help my noble friend, it cannot be moved out of 58 order. When the first Amendment was called, my noble friend was not in his place and we had to proceed to the, second Amendment. I think that the Amendment he is now moving is Amendment No. 3.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I am grateful to my noble friend. The message did not reach me in another part of the House in time for me to be present for the first Amendment. The suggestion here is that, in their report, the Board should not merely review what has occurred, but also make recommendations as to changes of their functions. This is because I think that, in their experience, the Board will find many matters to which they would like to draw the attention of the Minister where they think it might be desirable to extend their functions in order that they may fulfil their duties satisfactorily. At present their functions are limited to the series of specific places of public resort which are mentioned in the Bill.
It is very likely that many of the local conciliation committees will in fact be the committees which are already functioning in connection with the inter-racial councils in the different districts. These interracial councils are finding many cases of conflict and misunderstanding between racial groups, other than those which are specifically included in the terms of reference of the conciliation committees at present. I think it might be of great value to the Minister if those conciliation committees are also able to suggest some change in their functions in order to deal with other questions of any racial conflict which may occur. That is my object in moving this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 18, after word "functions" insert the said new words.—(Lord Brockway.)
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sure that no Member of your Lordships' House could have possibly imagined that in moving Amendments to this Bill my noble friend would in any way wish to obstruct. Over many years he has been working towards a Bill, if not exactly in these terms, certainly on the principle now embodied in this Bill, and we know that throughout we shall have his support, although we may object to some of the details he would like to have included in the Bill. Although my noble friend has explained 59 the purpose of his Amendment, which is quite clear, I am afraid that, as it stands, it would achieve much more and place far greater restrictions and obligations on my right honourable friend and on the Government.
Clause 2(4) already requires the Race Relations Board to make an annual report to the Secretary of State, for presentation to Parliament, on the exercise of its functions. These functions are, first, setting up local conciliation committees to consider complaints of discrimination; and secondly, deciding on reports submitted to them by the committees whether, in a particular place of public resort, there has been a course of discriminatory conduct which seems likely to persist and which should, therefore, be reported to the Attorney General with a view to possible court proceedings. My noble friend asks that, in addition, the Board should be required to make recommendations as to any change in its functions which it considered to be desirable.
It would, of course, always be open to the Board in its annual report to draw attention to any difficulties which were impeding it in carrying out its statutory functions; but this is very different from entitling it to recommend a change in its functions (which could be introduced only by fresh legislation). My noble friend presumably would like the Board to be able to suggest that its functions should be widened to deal with forms of discrimination which have deliberately been omitted from the ambit of the Bill. It is thought by some that, in any case, as soon as local conciliation committees are set up they will be deluged with complaints of discrimination in these fields, although they would have no authority to entertain them. The object obviously would be—I make no complaint about this—to bring pressure to bear through the committees on the Board, and so on Parliament, to extend the whole scope of the law.
In fact if the Board and the local conciliation committees kept strictly to their statutory functions, as they should, the most they would be able to report on such matters is that large numbers of complaints have been made to them; as they would have no authority to investigate those complaints they would not 60 be entitled to express any opinion on their substance; still less to go on to make any recommendations. The only matters on which they could be regarded as expert are those with which the Bill requires them to deal: outside this their opinions should not be treated as having a special authority.
It would, in the Government's view, be quite wrong to make use of local conciliation committees and the Board in this way. The effect of the Amendment, as we see it, would be to enable the Board not simply to make recommendations to the Home Secretary, but, since those recommendations would be contained in reports which the Home Secretary would be required to lay before Parliament, to appeal to Parliament over his head. If there is to be a proper relationship of trust between the Home Secretary and the Board, and if the conciliation machinery provided by the Bill is to work properly in an atmosphere free from political pressure, it is essential that the Board should be able to concentrate on its administrative and deliberative functions without being expected in any way to pronounce upon controversial matters of policy. It is difficult to believe that the Board itself would wish to be put in such a situation, or would welcome a provision the effect of which would inevitably be to encourage a flood of complaints on matters outside the Bill which, if they did no worse, would seriously embarrass the work of the local committees.
This is not, of course, to say that it may not at some later date be thought desirable to extend the scope of the legislation; but this would be for the Government and Parliament to consider, on such information and advice as had been obtained from appropriate sources. The Home Secretary would, of course, always be very ready to consider the views of individual members of the Race Relations Board, and of the local conciliation committees, based on their experience; but that is very different from requiring the Board to make recommendations for changing their statutory functions.
I have tried to think of a parallel, but I cannot think of any comparable body which has these powers or has asked for them. I submit to my noble friend that the proper course is to get the Board 61 and the committees constituted and working, and for the Government in due course, if the need is clearly seen, to make any changes that may be found necessary in the light of experience, but not to bind the hands of the Government in advance in the manner suggested by the Amendment. I hope that my noble friend will not press this Amendment.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
The purpose of this Bill is to bring about better race relations in this country. The local conciliation committees, and, in turn, the Board, will become aware of difficulties of which many of us are ignorant now. Would it not therefore be desirable that some opportunity should be given to them to inform the Minister of those difficulties as they occur? I am not thinking only of housing and unemployment. I am thinking of other places of resort where discrimination may be practised, and indeed encouraged, because they are not specifically mentioned in the Bill. I submit those considerations to the Government. I hope that the Minister may be able to think again, and see whether there is any way of meeting this problem before we come to the Report stage. In view of the circumstances, I beg leave to withdrawn the Amendment.
§ LORD DERWENT
Before the noble Lord withdraws the Amendment, I hope that he does not intend to press this matter on the Report stage, because I have not the slightest doubt that if there is a gap in the Bill as regards functions the Home Secretary will quickly get to hear of it. If you are going to put functions into the annual report, you will get all the committees putting up almost new draft Bills. I submit that this would not work, and that it might in itself make difficulties. If something is not working properly, I am sure the Minister of the day and the noble Lord will find out what it is; and further legislation may be needed. I must say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, about this. I think it might make things much more difficult, and I have not the slightest doubt that, if there are any gaps, they will soon become apparent.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I thank the noble Lord for what he has said, and for the encouragement he has given to the opportunity to give the Minister informa 62 tion upon these matters. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 [Proceedings for enforcement of section 1 in England and Wales]:
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words after the second "and". The noble Lord said: I think it will be convenient to the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 4, I discuss with it Amendment No. 5. The object of these Amendments is to ensure that there is an appeal on a question of fact from the decision of a county court judge in proceedings brought by the Attorney General under Clause 3 of the Bill for an injunction restraining the defendant from practising discrimination. Amendment No. 4, and the first part of Amendment No. 5, are purely drafting and transfer from subsection (1) to a new subsection (4) the provision conferring jurisdiction on the county court to entertain proceedings under Clause 3. The substantive change made by the Amendments is contained in the second half of the new subsection (4).
§ Under Clause 3, proceedings for the enforcement of Clause 1, which prohibits discrimination in places of public resort, may be brought only by the Attorney General by means of an action for an injunction. If the proceedings are brought in the High Court there will be a right of appeal, either on law or fact, to the Court of Appeal. But the position is different if proceedings are taken in the county court. From that court an appeal lies to the Court of Appeal under Section 108 of the County Courts Act, 1959, on any question of law and on the admission or rejection of any evidence. But Section 109 of that Act provides that, on a question of fact, an appeal lies, for present purposes, only if the action is founded on contract or tort. Although the point may not be entirely free from doubt, it seems very unlikely that proceedings under Clause 3 can be said to be founded on tort, because it is the essential characteristic of a tort that damages should be recoverable by the injured party, and Clause 1(4) of the Bill makes it clear that there is no right of action for damages at the instance of any person injured by 63 a breach of Clause 1. The second limb of the new subsection (4) therefore provides that proceedings under Clause 3 are to be included among those listed in Section 109(2) of the County Courts Act, 1959, thus conferring a right of appeal on a question of fact.
§ The consequences of an injunction are very serious. They restrain the defendant from the prohibited course of conduct on pain of personal detention for an indefinite period. It is right that an appeal should lie as of right in all cases from the decision of the court of first instance, whether it is the High Court or the county court. I hope I have made the point clear and that it is one that your Lordships will feel able to accept. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 34, leave out from ("and") to ("If") in line 38.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD DERWENT
May I interrupt for one moment, because I think we are a little out of order? Owing to a misprint on the Order Paper it does not show that we are dealing with Clause 3, and we have not had the Question whether Clause 2 stand part. The last Amendment should have been in Clause 3.
§ LORD DERWENT
But page 3, line 34, is in Clause 3—it is a misprint on the Order Paper. Clause 2 has not yet stood part.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. The Question is that Clause 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 4, line 10, at end insert—
("() Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any enactment or rule of law relating to the jurisdiction of county courts, proceedings under this section may be brought in a county court; and any proceedings so brought shall be included among the proceedings men
tioned in subsection (2) of section 109 of the County Courts Act, 1959 (appeals on questions of fact)").—(Lord Stonham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5:
§ Discriminatory restrictions on disposal of tenancies
(3) In this section "tenancy" means a tenancy created by a lease or sublease, by an agreement for a lease or sublease or by a tenancy agreement or in pursuance of any enactment; and "disposal", in relation to premises comprised in a tenancy, includes assignment or assignation of the tenancy and subletting or parting with possession of the premises or any part of the premises.
LORD ROYLE moved, at the beginning of the clause, to insert:
() For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that any covenant, agreement or stipulation, which purports to prohibit the disposal of premises comprised in a tenancy, or the grant of a tenancy or licence to any person or persons by reference to colour, race or ethnic or national origins, shall be void, and any covenant, agreement or stipulation which purports to restrict such disposal or grant by such reference as aforesaid shall be void to the extent of such restriction.
§ The noble Lord said: I hope it might be convenient if the three Amendments down in my name were taken together, because they concern one argument. Perhaps I may have the opportunity of the collection of voices later on, if necessary. When my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor wound up on the Second Reading of this Bill, he said that many noble Lords had regarded the Bill as going too far, and others regarded it as not going far enough. I am one of the latter; I do not believe the Bill goes far enough. There was a great temptation to put down Amendments concerning all manner of things that are not covered by the Bill, but, like my noble friend Lord Brockway, I am not anxious in any way to obstruct the progress of this measure; therefore I have picked out in these Amendments something which I regard as being important because the Bill does not seem to make the position clear.
§ I am asking for greater clarity in this clause which deals with tenancies, because I have some doubt whether it relates the matter correctly to existing 65 law and whether the Bill achieves what it is aimed at. The Amendments are complicated as the clause is complicated and as, to my lay mind, the present law seems to be. But I will do my best to explain, with the advice which I have received. If I am a little longer than is normal in moving an Amendment, in view of the fact that I have three Amendments on the Order Paper perhaps I may be forgiven.
If my proposals were accepted, the words in the first Amendment would precede subsection (1), leaving that subsection in the Bill, but subsection (2) would go out. Subsection (3) would remain, but subsection (4) would read:
This section applies to covenants, agreements and stipulations entered into or imposed and consents withheld, before as well as after the passing of this Act.
That is instead of "tenancies." All this is to achieve three objects: first, to operate primarily as declaring the state of the existing law, rather than enacting new law; secondly, to declare covenants which prohibit or restrict assignment or under-letting by reference to colour, race, et cetera, void; and, thirdly, to rationalise the sequence so as to deal first with covenants and then unreasonable withholding of consent under certain covenants. The "avoidance of doubt" form is put in because of advice that the present state of the Common Law is such as, very nearly at all events, to achieve the results sought by the present Clause 5, and the courts would probably act on the same basis as in subsection (1) of the clause.
§ But the Bill does not appear to be comprehensive, and some form of discrimination will still fall under general law—say, for example, religious discrimination. It seems to be fairly certain that withholding consent because the proposed assignee, for example, may be a Roman Catholic would be held unreasonable at present, and this may not be the case if the Bill passes in its present form, because it would then be possible to say that withholding of consent cannot have been unreasonable before. If it had been, why legislate against it?
§ Clause 5 reads as if it makes due provision. Similarly, with a convenant, say, against Negroes. Here the law at present seems less certain than in regard to withholding consent, but it could be 66 argued that such a convenant is void. Therefore, my aim is to make Clause 5 declare the law so that the Bill should not be used to weaken the position of people not directly protected by it. My second object is also intended to settle doubt by showing that the covenants in subsection (2) are void. This subsection seems to be less stringent than the interpretation of the Common Law. Subsection (2) does not make these covenants void but deems them to be qualified covenants, not to assign without consent, and brings them within subsection (1). I am advised that this gives the landlord greater scope for discrimination than under the general law. Under general law, if a covenant is bad it is void and ineffective. Under subsection (2) of this clause it can be deemed to be qualified covenant. Thus I submit that under the general law the landlord would have to accept assignment to a Negro, for instance, unless the landlord is in occupation and sharing the premises, whereas under the clause the landlord could in any event withhold consent, say, on the grounds of inability to pay. He could not do so under the general law. If he is an occupying landlord he can withhold consent because the assignee is, say, a Negro (and this is provided for in the proviso to subsection (1)), or alternatively on financial inadequacy.
§ I am suggesting that the scope of the landlord is increased by the present clause and that the form proposed in these Amendments would make the covenant void. A landlord concerned on the basis of having to share part of the premises would have to take a qualified covenant against the assignee without consent in order to have any say in who the assignee is to be. Those are the purposes of my Amendment. I appreciate that what I have said probably expresses it in a most inadequate way. It is something which has caused honourable friends of mine in another place and myself to look deeply into the terms of this clause, with anxiety, as a result of which we took advice in the highest possible sphere. As a consequence of that advice we became convinced that the clause was not adequate and was not an improvement on present law. I hope my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will be able to give me some satisfaction on this matter to show that the law is going 67 to be improved in the way that some of us desire. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 34, at the beginning, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Royle.)
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I can well understand the motive with which my noble friend Lord Royle has moved these Amendments. They involve some complex questions of law, and I congratulate him on the clarity with which he has put forward his Amendments in this rather difficult field. However, the Government are satisfied that his Amendments would not, in fact, achieve the object which he has in mind. His object, as I understand it, is twofold; namely, first to provide for the direct avoidance of discriminatory covenants against disposal; and, secondly, to recast Clause 5 in a declaratory form so as to avoid any risk of validating by implication covenants which may at present be void.
It has been argued that covenants which discriminate by reference to race, colour, religion or national origin are void at Common Law as contrary to public policy, and that Clause 5 renders such covenants more effective than they otherwise would be, because subsection (2) converts them into valid covenants not to dispose of property without consent, and under subsection (1), and the proviso to it, the consent may be withheld on discriminatory grounds where the landlord would be obliged to share some of the accommodation with the tenant.
In the first place, the argument that discriminatory restrictions of this kind are at present void as against public policy proceeds from the doubtful premise that there is a rule of public policy affecting race or colour discrimination, but there are certainly no satisfactory authorities to that effect. There is no direct authority, but the recent case of re Lysaght, which was reported in The Times on June 5, 1965, suggests that there is no such rule. That was a case in which a gift had been left to a college on terms that excluded students of the Jewish or Roman Catholic faith, and the learned Judge, Mr. Justice Buckley, rejected the submission that the excluding condition was void for uncertainty or contrary to public policy, although he 68 accepted that racial and religious discrimination was nowadays regarded as deplorable in many respects, and there was a Bill dealing with race relations at present under consideration by Parliament. So it appears that in fact there is no such strong public policy; and, indeed, there had been an earlier decision of an Irish court in 1942 which upheld a refusal to consent to an assignment founded on racial grounds.
The direct avoidance of the objectionable covenants under my noble friend's new subsection would, it is suggested, lead to unwarrantable results. In the first place, the covenant would be avoided in all cases; there would be no exception in respect of premises forming part of the covenantee's own residence. Yet the need to make such an exception, which is at present incorporated in the proviso to Clause 2(1), is generally accepted, and it was even included in the proposals put forward by the Council Against Racial Discrimination, on the ground that it only conduced to an exacerbation of bad race relations if people were compelled to live in close daily contact with those against whom they entertained strong racial prejudices.
Secondly, where a prohibition against disposal to certain racial or coloured groups is linked with a restriction on disposal to any other persons without the covenantee's consent. In practice, the prohibition would lead to the illogical result that there was no restriction on disposal to a coloured person, while disposal to anybody else required the covenantee's consent. In practice, linked covenants are probably the normal type. I understand that the only example of a discriminatory covenant brought to the attention of Government Departments has been in that form.
Thirdly, it would be difficult to justify the application of the clause to existing tenancies under subsection (4) if the relevant prohibitions were completely avoided. If, however, the application of the clause were restricted to tenancies created after the passing of the Bill, it seems highly probable that all relevant tenancies would in future contain restrictions on disposal without consent, so that the effect of the amended clause would be little different from the clause as it stands. Moreover, it would be wrong to 69 enact the clause in a form which suggests that it is needed only to prevent doubts, unless there is a strong probability that under the present law relevant stipulations are already void. Then it is said that, unless the clause is re-cast in this way, it may have the effect of validating, by implication, discriminatory covenants not covered by the Bill—for example, on religious grounds—which may at present be void. But I do not think that is right. As I understand it, it is said that the courts would consider that other discriminatory covenants also have the limited validity which Clause 5 accords to the discriminatory provisions to which it applies. But there is no justification for any fears of unwarranted repercussions elsewhere, and I cannot think that any court, for example, will say that whereas it would have inclined to think that covenants based on religious discrimination would have been invalid, because religious discrimination is not referred to in this Bill it was therefore intended by Parliament that no objection should be taken to discrimination on religious grounds.
A minor alteration which would be effected by the first Amendment would be the addition of restrictions on disposal to the stipulations which are avoided by the clause, but it is not apparent what kind of restrictions are contemplated. Normally a restriction would also be a prohibition and, to that extent, be covered by the existing clause; for example, a restriction against letting to coloured persons for a term exceeding a month or at a rent below £20 a week would he a prohibition in respect of disposals for longer periods or at lower rents and to that extent be covered by the clause. The Amendment also, unlike subsection (2) of Clause 5, contains an express reference to the grant of a licence. This is otiose. A licence to occupy the premises is already covered by the definition of "disposal" in subsection (3) which includes any parting with possession.
The third Amendment is also objectionable by reason of its retrospective operation. It would apply the clause to consents already withheld and thus make it capable of altering retrospectively the rights and liabilities of the parties. Subsection (4) as it stands is not retrospective in any true sense as it affects only future dispositions. I can assure your Lord 70 ships that the Government have given a great deal of consideration to this; as the noble Lord, Lord Royle, knows, they arc in substance the same Amendments as were put down in another place, although they were not then moved. It depends, I think, partly on whether certain legal advice which had been obtained was right or not. For the reasons I have given the Government are respectfully of the opinion that it is not quite accurate. For those reasons, I am unable to accept the Amendments and I hope that on considering them further my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw them.
§ LORD ROYLE
It is always a bone of contention when two legal opinions are being given, and it always leaves the layman in a terrible state of mind. At least my Amendments may have accomplished one thing, and that is that if any of these cases do come before the courts of law there will be some clarification because of the opinion which has been given by my noble and learned friend. While I had a great deal of confidence in the advice that I received, I always bow to the great authority of my noble and learned friend, whose opinions on these matters I value very highly indeed. I would only say one thing to him and that is in reference to the case law which he quoted. I find it very difficult to see an analogy between administration of a will and the disposal of a tenancy. It seems to me that there is nothing very close here, and I could not have accepted, had it not been said by my noble and learned friend, that this was anything that could be closely related. However, obviously I do not want to do anything in any way to hold up this Bill. I gather from a whisper behind me that, before I indicate that I desire to withdraw the Amendment, my noble friend Lord Brockway wants to say something.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
In putting any consideration to my noble and learned friend I feel rather like a first form boy venturing to make a suggestion to a senior in the sixth form. But nevertheless I do, and I speak as a layman wanting to understand. The object of my noble friend Lord Royle was to secure that any agreements which were entered into before the Act still had authority by the understanding of law at that time. My noble and learned friend 71 has referred to a particular case which I am sure, because he mentioned it, has a relation to this subject.
However, I want to draw attention to a particular case in which I was concerned in which very high legal authority gave a different opinion. It was a case of a friend of mine who was a Commonwealth editor of a daily newspaper in London. He signed an agreement for a flat. When the terms of the agreement came to him in detail he found that one clause indicated that he would not obtain permission to sublet the flat to any coloured tenant or to anyone who employed a coloured tenant. He came to me about this and he took very strongly the view that he ought not to accept this agreement. I referred it to a colleague whom my noble and learned friend knows very well, and that legal authority advised me that any court would reject that clause as unreasonable. As I understand it, what Lord Royle is saying is that if after the passing of this Bill you particularise instances which do not include cases which might have come under covenants previous to that and which might then have been held as unreasonable, the very fact that they are not included in this Bill might mean that the law would be interpreted in future as stipulating them as reasonable. I understand that is part of the case which Lord Royle is putting forward. I am greatly reassured by the opinion expressed by my noble and learned friend, but I should like him to comment upon the actual case I have mentioned.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is evidently a point on which lawyers disagree. I can only say that the Government have given it considerable thought and are satisfied that the mere fact that the law is in this form instead of purporting to declare a law for the resolution of doubts will not have the effect which has been suggested.
§ LORD ROYLE
In view of what I have said and the assurances given to me by my noble and learned friend, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ The noble Lord said: On the Second Reading of the Bill I went into some detail as to the problem with which this Amendment tries to deal. After various noble Lords on both sides of the House had spoken to me afterwards, I knew that the majority of your Lordships understood the argument, whether they agreed with it or not; but I am afraid it was apparent from the answer of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when he came to reply that he had not in fact understood my argument at all—undoubtedly it was my fault—and I must therefore explain it in some detail again.
§ The noble and learned Lord when he came to reply kept on bringing in die question of colour and discrimination as regards colour. Let me say here and now that this problem and this Amendment have nothing on earth to do with colour as such, though they do to some extent have something to do with race. The problem is on a comparatively narrow front and it does not apply to all sorts of premises. It applies only to houses which are occupied under two or more tenancies. It would not apply to self-contained flats. It applies only to those subdivided tenancies where two or more tenants have to share a kitchen or a lavatory. It would not, I think, apply to the original tenants because they would take on the tenancies only if they knew with whom they had to share the kitchen or lavatory. But where it applies is where one or two tenancies are sublet.
§ This problem does not apply where the landlord is living in the house, only where there are two separate tenants. The illustration I gave last time I shall give again, because I think it is a good one. We will suppose that the original tenants of two of these flatlets (call them what you like) were orthodox Hindus, with their families. In the ordinary course of events they would not mind sharing a kitchen—although I believe that that is always difficult. But suppose that one of the Hindu families leaves and sublets to a Scotswoman. Here we have at once an obvious source of friction. The Hindu would object strongly to somebody who would cook beef in her kitchen, and doubtless the Scotswoman, who would be a sub-tenant, and who, I suppose, 73 might not take the sub-tenancy, would object to the strong smell of Hindu cooking. But really the person on whom trouble is inflicted is one of the original tenants, the Hindu lady. It is not a question of colour: it might equally well be the case that the second tenant was a Pakistani.
§ Under the Bill the landlord (who, let us assume, is a good landlord) cannot say that he will not give a licence for the sub-tenancy unless the new sub-tenant is a Hindu. The object of this Bill is to avoid friction. Yet this is one of the things that is likely to cause friction because, if it is on grounds of race, the landlord has no choice as to who is the sub-tenant. The poor Hindu lady is going to be put, to say the least of it, in a pretty awful state about this. The same thing applies to lavatories. As we all know, if I may put it in this form, Indians and Europeans have different methods of using lavatories. Neither likes the way the other uses them, although both are perfectly all right in their own way. This is so much the case that, in factories, in the London Docks and so on, separate lavatories for Indians have had to be set up. This is the problem.
§ What I have tried to do in this Amendment is to say that when it comes to the landlord's licence, this clause shall not cover the sharing of kitchens and lavatories—in other words, that the landlord shall be able to say, "As I have a Hindu lady in this kitchen, I will not allow the sub-tenancy to go to anyone but another Hindu lady." It may be that those concerned are Pakistanis or people of yet another race. This is a question partly of religion—though this does not come into the Bill—and partly of race. It is a narrow point. If this Amendment is accepted I think it will do away with what may be a serious cause of friction; and, most important, it will give the good landlord an opportunity of trying to get suitable tenants to share this limited accommodation. I hope that this time I have explained the problem. Whether I have found the right solution, I do not know; but I thought it best to put it on the basis, relating it to subsection (3). I hope that what I am trying to establish is now quite clear. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 11, after ("enactment") insert the said words.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am quite sure that the whole Committee will agree that Lord Derwent has made his point, and also his intentions, perfectly clear, although I do not think we should agree that it is such a narrow point. At least, as I shall attempt to show, it could be widened in use to a considerable extent, and so damage, or seriously impair, one of the most important safeguards that we have in the Bill. By his Amendment Lord Derwent proposes that we should extend the exemption which is provided in Clause 5 for the landlord who occupies part of a house, to any tenancies in a dwelling-house where the lavatory or the kitchen accommodation is shared among the tenants. He has explained why, in his view, this extension is justified.
Although it is not of paramount importance, I am sorry that I must point out to the noble Lord that his Amendment is defective on two counts. The first is that, although in substance it relates to the proviso to subsection (1) of Clause 5—which is where the change should properly be made, if it is made at all—it attempts, somewhat curiously, to operate by adding to the definitions in subsection (3). Secondly, the Amendment does not make it clear what the term "lavatory accommodation" is intended to cover. Properly speaking, as I understand it a lavatory is a place where one washes, and it is a euphemism to use it to denote a water closet; but presumably, although the noble Lord did not say so, his Amendment is intended to cover both.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. That is not so. Let us call it a water closet. I was not referring to the washing place.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am sure your Lordships will appreciate that I have to deal with the Amendment and not with later verbal interpolations. But I do not regard what I have just said as the paramount objection to the Amendment, although, as the noble Lord realises, if it is defective in that way, for that reason alone it could not be accepted. But the principle of the Amendment is open to considerable objection.
The noble Lord argued again, as he did on Second Reading, that it is not conducive to good race relations to compel people against their will to share 75 these facilities with those of a different race. He pointed out that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was wrong when, on Second Reading, he interpreted this as meaning colour or colour prejudice. He explained, in the example which he has just given, that a Scotswoman who wanted to cook beef would be offensive to a Hindu lady if they were sharing a kitchen, not because of racial antagonisms perhaps, but largely because of religious feelings and habits of that kind. But that would indeed be a narrow case in the whole field. If we take the Amendment as it would operate as a whole, then, quite obviously, it would cover race, colour or nationality—people who are of different habits, whose habits, although perfectly proper to themselves, are objectionable to other people if they used in common such accommodation as a kitchen or a w.c.
Lord Derwent also said that if you grant the exception to sharing between a landlord and his tenants, so that a landlord is not compelled if he occupies the house to accept a tenant he does not want, it should apply equally to tenants sharing a house. But we think that this is a far from impartial statement of the case. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor made it clear on Second Reading that the proviso regarding landlords is not intended to condone the sort of prejudice which would lead a person to object to sharing a kitchen, for instance, with a coloured person when he might be prepared to share it with another person. The saving is in the clause simply to recognise the principle that a landlord is entitled to some choice as to whom he would accept into his own home to share his accommodation, however misguided or irrational his choice may be thought to be. But this cannot in our view be a line which should be extended necessarily to a tenant occupying, under contract, premises which are not his own.
Apart from this, there are serious practical objections to the Amendment. Lord Derwent said that his Amendment would not apply to self-contained flats, but it would apply where there was, for example, a washroom or w.c. available for common use by the tenants even if each of the tenants also had his own. That is the position under the Amendment as it stands.
§ LORD DERWENT
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I think that he has misunderstood the point. We are talking about disposal of premises. If there is a common washroom for a block of flats, the tenant is not entitled to dispose of a common room. He can dispose only of something that he shares in his particular tenancy with another tenant. If a block of flats has it, he cannot dispose of it, of course.
§ LORD STONHAM
I do not think I am wrong. The Amendment says:'disposal of premises' does not include permission to use in common with any other person lavatory or kitchen accommodation.To take a house, whether it is in self-contained flats or not, or whether it is a house which is divided up and in which each divided part has a lavatory and a kitchen to itself, and where the whole block of flats or the whole of the house is owned by a landlord, if this Amendment were accepted it would be perfectly open to a landlord to evade the provisions of this clause simply by providing, at a small expense, a urinal or wash basin somewhere in the building which the tenants would have a common entitlement to use, even if in fact, having their own, they would rarely, if ever, wish to do so.
If it were the case that tenants of a block of flats or the tenants of a house, each had his own separate lavatory and his own kitchen, but there were provided in that total tenement one place to which they had a communal right, it would be open to the landlord, if this Amendment were accepted, to discriminate or accept one tenant but to object to another, and he would then be protected under this Bill. That is why I said that this is not a narrow issue, much as we appreciate Lord Derwent's sentiments in bringing the matter forward. If we accepted what he described as a narrow view, it could blow this Bill wide apart in relation to housing accommodation.
To put it as concisely as possible, so long as the saving in the subsection remains in its present form the opportunities for evasion will be strictly limited since it will apply only in houses where the landlord is himself resident; but as soon as it is extended to any form of accommodation shared between tenants it becomes an open invitation to abuse. Because of the two earlier defects I 77 pointed out and because—very much more important—quite obviously we could not accept an Amendment which would render almost nugatory the very important safeguard in subsection (1) of Clause 5, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his Amendment; or, if he does not feel able to do so, I would ask your Lordships to reject it.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
May I beg Her Majesty's Government to go into the question of principle raised in this Amendment with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, before Third Reading? If the Amendment has technical faults, then it will clearly have to be redrafted and could be moved again on Third Reading very reasonably. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has been resident for a long time in the East, and therefore he does not perhaps realise what very acute problems the sharing of lavatory or kitchen will produce. Even sharing a bathroom will produce some problems, since Europeans very commonly hang their toothbrush in a bathroom, and to an Oriental a toothbrush is an incredibly dirty and horrible object. When I was teaching school in India little boys would sometimes penetrate to my bathroom and shudder at the sight of my toothbrush.
I do not want to push things to extremes, but I do beg the noble Lord to give further consideration to this matter simply to avoid the intolerable friction which will result if a European, or for that matter a Moslem, cooks beef in the same kitchen as a Hindu, or if a Hindu cooks pork in the same kitchen as a Moslem. I feel that, whatever technical defects there may be in the Amendment, there is a great deal to be said for the noble Lord's principle, and I ask for its further consideration.
§ LORD DERWENT
I accept first of all that the drafting is at fault. I am not particularly interested in that at the moment because there is a Report stage of the Bill, and doubtless what Lord Stonham has said may help us to get round that. This is a serious matter, but Her Majesty's Government have not considered the matter at all, and they do not care. This is a problem which is going to affect a lot of people, particularly in the poorer districts. Just for some theory or other they are not going to help out. 78 That is the position as I see it at the moment.
To take my illustration of the Hindu lady who finds herself sharing a kitchen with a Pakistani, you are going to force her out of the building because she Will not stay. This is not such a wide question. What we are dealing with here is the landlord's licence. It ought not to be beyond the wit of man to find an Amendment to the Bill enabling a landlord to do his best for his tenants. This will not include the actual rooms people live in, because he would not have the right to do anything about that. This is in regard to the kitchen and the lavatory. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, wants to say anything more to me this evening on this. I see he nods his head.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am brought to my feet for two reasons, one good one and one not quite so pleasant. The first reason is the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. Naturally, he knows that I attach very little importance to the drafting point. We all know that it is possible to get over drafting points, and that is why I did not labour that. But we do attach the greatest importance to subsection (1) of Clause 5 of this Bill, which would prevent a landlord from refusing to grant a tenancy, unless he himself lived in the house, to a person solely on the grounds of race, nationality, ethnic considerations or colour. I thought I made it clear—certainly, I made it clear to my own satisfaction—that acceptance of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, could amount to driving a coach and horses through that subsection.
I can tell the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, that I have not been out to the Far East recently, but I have been continuously in touch with the near East—the East End of London. When I was a constituency Member of Parliament in the East End of London, which is not so very long ago, every Friday, and often more frequently than that, I had to meet in person just across the table people who were having precisely the difficulties that we are now discussing. I would go so far as to say that in my constituency there were at least 5,000 dwellings where a kitchen was being shared. I agree that that is one of the greatest sources 79 of friction possible between two women, but they do not have to be two women of different religions or different races. They can be women of the same family, mother and daughter, if they are both married and sharing a kitchen. I do not need to be told about the contrast. In the space of fifty yards, in the same area of which I am speaking, you can see two shops. One is the Istanbul Emporium and the other is the Hellenic Wine Stores. The proprietor of one of those establishments is a Turkish Cypriot and the other a Greek Cypriot. You get all these conflicts, and they are well understood.
What I object to, which rather forced me to my feet, is the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that the Government have not considered this and the Government do not care. That is quite untrue and quite uncalled for. My noble friends and I, and my right honourable friends in another place, do have very considerable first-hand experience of the problems that are created, and because of that experience we have brought in this Bill and the other legislation that we have introduced on housing matters.
I now come back to the point again. It will be for the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to reconsider the matter and bring forward at Report stage a different Amendment if he wishes to do so. But it can be acceptable to the Government, and I should have thought could be acceptable to your Lordships' House as a whole, only if it is in terms which ensure that subsection (1) of Clause 5 of the Bill is unimpaired. Very proper considerations have been put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, of which we are aware and for which we have sympathy, but we cannot and will not, for that reason alone, destroy this whole provision and one of the greatest values of this Bill by so widening the possibilities for exploitation and abuse that we lose the whole value of subsection (1). I hope that that will make the Government's position perfectly clear, and it will be up to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to take whatever course he thinks proper.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am very glad that I have got under the skin of the noble Lord, because we may yet find 80 a Government Amendment being drafted. I find it very disappointing that although the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has admitted that there is a problem here, we do not know how the Government have tried to draw an Amendment to deal with it. They have the Parliamentary draftsmen with them. This is in one way a small point, and although I quite see that it can be widened, it is a question of drafting. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said—I shall read it very carefully—I shall not press the matter now, on condition that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, says that he will look at whether something can be drafted from the Government side. He can flatly say "No" now, but will he have another look at it? I should like to know that before I decide.
§ LORD STONHAM
I would have had another look at the matter, whether the noble Lord had asked me or not. Of course I will look, but it must be on the understanding that there can be no undertaking about this matter.
§ LORD DERWENT
In view of the fact that the noble Lord is going to have another look at it—and I know that when the noble Lord says that, he does in fact do it; and I hope he will ginger up the Government draftsmen—and as we still have a Report stage on this Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Incitement to racial hatred]:
§ 6.27 p.m.
LORD DERWENT moved, in subsection (1), to leave out paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: I explained my views on this matter on the Second Reading, and they are that paragraph (b), which deals with using
in any public place or at any public meeting words which are threatening, abusive or insulting
is far too wide. I maintain further that these words are unnecessary, because I believe the position to be covered by the Public Order Act. In Clause 7 of this Bill, where the Government are tidying up the Public Order Act, 1936, your Lordships will see that the same sort of matter is dealt with, for paragraph (a)
of the proposed new Section 5 of the Public Order Act includes the words:
uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour".
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor did not like the illustration I gave on Second Reading of what this clause might do. I think he was shocked at the very thought that I might, even by mistake, give a penny tip to a taxi driver. But I think that, as this clause stands, it is interfering on far too wide a front with free speech.
§ Let us take this simple example. This provision, of course, covers any public meeting, so let us assume that there is a by-election and that one of the candidates—it does not matter which Government is in power—is a Pakistani. Let us suppose that the other candidate goes round to his meetings and says, "Do you want a Pakistani as your Member? He was not even born here. He has got ideas different from ours. Do you want that as your Member?" And as it was Election time some of his supporters, whichever side they were on, might put it in even stronger language. I believe that under this clause as it is now written that second candidate is committing an offence, and that seems to me to be going rather wide. If, on the other hand, he or one of his supporters went to nothing but Pakistani meetings and abused them, he would undoubtedly be committing an offence under the Public Order Act, because it would be likely to provoke a breach of the peace and violence might well be used.
§ I do not want to say much more about this point as I think it is clear. The clause as drafted is much too wide. It might interfere—and I think politically it would interfere—in certain cases with what has always been considered legitimate speech. Moreover, I believe it to be unnecessary, because if severe language is to be covered by this clause then it would equally be covered by the Public Order Act. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 24, leave out from ("insulting") to end of line 26.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ LORD SOPER
I hope that this Amendment will be vigorously resisted and, if it is put to the vote, overwhelmingly defeated. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, impeccably des 82 cribed one of the principal purposes of this Bill when he said that it was to avoid friction; and the appended description of this particular clause in the Bill has specifically to do with the incitement to racial hatred. It seems to me that there is no substantive difference between, on the one hand, the publication and distribution of written matter calculated to threaten, abuse or insult in racial terms, and, on the other hand, using in some public place words conducive to the same ends; and it seems to me that only an invidious and factitious difference can be drawn between the two. It may well be argued that the pen is mightier than the sword, but, in questions of the promotion of racial incitement and hatred, the pen is by no means mightier than the larynx.
If I may take one illustration with which I am not unacquainted, I would venture to draw your Lordships' attention to a condition which is rapidly arising in one very public place—none other than Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park. I spent some hours there yesterday in robust controversy. It might not perhaps be within the knowledge of every one of your Lordships that there has been a profound change in the personnel frequenting that public place. Yesterday, I suppose that, in that forum, which has been enlarged, as you know, in the changes which have taken place in the general set-out of the Carriage Road and that part of Hyde Park, there were as many coloured as there were European people; and there were as many inciting to racial hatred or to racial discrimination whose colour of skin was dark as there were those who were similarly inciting to racial hatred whose colour of skin was light. I am quite sure that there is an explosive situation here which would not be met if this Amendment were passed, and, though attempting no prophetic mantle, it does not seem to me likely that we shall be long spared some expression, quite obvious and perhaps dangerous, of racial violence in that time-honoured or time-dishonoured place.
I happen to be responsible for a multiracial church in Notting Hill, and I know that the flashpoint on racial hatred is the ill-considered and hasty word, often in intoxicated conditions, rather than the distribution of inflammatory pamphlets, which have a time lag which may well take off the edge of their virulence. If 83 we are really genuinely concerned for the promotion of a more genial spirit as between those of different races, it seems to me completely facetious to delete from this particular Bill the kind of clause which would prohibit or would invest with serious penalties those who, by word of mouth in public places, were able so to incite their fellows, as they do now—and I have every reason to know this—to the kind of hatred which your Lordships deplore and which it is the prime purpose of this Bill to do something to alleviate. Therefore, I very much hope that this Amendment will not be pressed; but, if it is, I very much hope that it will be rejected.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think we would all agree that my noble friend Lord Soper speaks on the subject of addressing audiences in public places with as much authority as, if not more than, any single one of us. I am bound to point out to your Lordships that, in his Amendment, in plain terms, what the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, seeks to provide is that it should not be an offence under this. Bill to use… in any public place or at any public meeting words which are threatening, abusive or insulting …with intent to… stir up hatred … on grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins".That is the precise purpose of this Amendment.
This evening, Lord Derwent argued again, as he did on Second Reading, that the paragraph which he seeks to delete is too wide and that it would interfere with free speech; and he gave examples—including the one of the Pakistani and the election—additional to the ones he gave on Second Reading. He said that he thought my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was shocked at the thought that Lord Derwent might possibly give a penny tip to a taxi driver. I think that, in the absence of my noble and learned friend, I can say he was in fact shocked at the thought that anyone could possibly call Lord Derwent "a bloody Jew". My noble and learned friend pointed out on that occasion that this taxi driver example was not apt. Indeed, it was no more apt than the one he quoted just now about canvassing at a political election with regard to Paki 84 stanis, because in that case there would be no intent to incite hatred. That is the point. There was no intent on the part of the taxi driver to incite hatred; nor was there in the other example which he gave. Expressions of temporary irritation against a particular individual do not come within the scope of the clause unless they can be shown to have been both intended and likely to stir up hatred against a section of the public, and it is difficult to see how that could be established unless the expressions that we have just been referring to were clearly part of a systematic campaign against the section of the public concerned.
There is some substance in the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, put forward that offences under this paragraph which he proposes to delete would be likely to be caught by Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936, and that they ought to be dealt with under that section, because it is of the essence of the offence that it occurs in a public place, and in a public place the objective and relatively simple test of the likelihood of a breach of the peace can be applied. In practice it may well be that Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936 will continue to be the provision most frequently invoked against people who are indulging in anti-racial speeches or in displays in public places which are generally intended to provoke as well as persuade—and it should be noted that Section 5 covers written material as well as the spoken word.
Indeed, it is likely that the minor rabble-rouser will continue to be dealt with under Section 5, and that Clause 6 will be reserved for the occasional, bad case. But when the bad case does come before a court, it may not be possible properly to present the whole substance of it if the charges are limited to written matter. It might well be that, if you eliminate the spoken word as an offence, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, proposes to do, then the standard-bearer, the man you really want to get after—the man who gets up on a platform and so sways people that they give vent to feelings which are in fact an explosion—would be the one that would not be caught. The publication or distribution of written matter, of course, can be undertaken—it usually is—in a public place, and can be accompanied by spoken 85 words, and both forms of attempt to stir up hatred should be dealt with on the same basis if at all possible.
If, in such a case, both forms were intended or were likely to provoke a breach of the peace Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936, as re-enacted in Clause 7 of this Bill, would apply equally; and if a breach of the peace cannot be shown to be intended or likely, but the different criteria for a Clause 6 offence are justified, it is logical that both written and oral incitement should be caught. It is impossible that cases will occur where threatening, abusive or insulting words intended or likely to stir up racial hatred are spoken in a public place or at a public meeting without there being either the intention or the likelihood of provoking a breach of the peace. Indeed, it has been argued that, under the present law—that is, under the law which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, thinks is sufficient—the only way a Jewish audience can prevent an anti-Semitic speaker at a public meeting from saying vile things about the Jews is by showing signs of being provoked into a breach of the peace. There was a general belief that this was the only way in which the law could be brought to bear against a Fascist campaign conducted in carefully chosen words and innuendoes which could lead to serious disorders and difficulties from which only the Fascists would be certain to gain. From this, in the view of the Government, it is clear that Clause 6(1)(b), which the noble Lord seeks to delete, is absolutely essential and his Amendment therefore is quite unacceptable.
§ LORD DERWENT
I might have been fully persuaded by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on this if the noble Lord, Lord Soper, had not made my case for me. As he well knows there have been difficult people and abusive people at Speakers' Corner for years. Ever since I was a boy—and perhaps more so in those days—we have had the Irish saying all kinds of things there, and people saying similar things to the Irish, and the Public Order Act and its predecessor have been perfectly adequate to keep order. It is what I said at the beginning. But there is a danger. The police understand the Public Order Act; they know what is likely to cause a breach of the peace. They normally do not run these 86 people in; they move them along. The danger is that the police—particularly the young policemen—are going to be in difficulties here. I am certain of that. I leave it at that. I hope that no noble Lord gets into trouble for saying things about Yorkshiremen, for instance.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has made an adequate case; but we shall watch it. If there is trouble under this clause because of silly arrests (I will not say "prosecutions") we shall ask for it to be changed. Meanwhile, I think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has made a reasonable case for keeping it. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Extension of Public Order Act 1936 s. 5 to written matter]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
Before this clause is agreed to may I put a question to the Minister? Could he inform the Committee what is the relevance of Clause 7? The Bill is a Race Relations Bill. So far as racial relations are concerned, they are covered in Clause 6. This clause is an amendment of the Public Order Act 1936, which looks to me as though it has been dragged in because of some desire to bring about such an Amendment. But it has no relevance at all to the Bill before the Committee, and in the view of some of us this particular amendment of the Public Order Act may be very dangerous in the future.
§ LORD STONHAM
The purpose of Clause 7 is clear and, we think, very necessary. It is to extend to written matter the provisions of the 1936 Act which at present apply only to the spoken word. In the discussion that we had on the previous Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, I thought I made the position clear: that there were some cases which would be caught by Clause 6 and others which would be caught only by Clause 7 which is an extension of the Public Order Act.
§ LORD DERWENT
May I say from these Benches that we consider that probably the most important parts of the Bill (and I said this on Second Reading) 87 are Clause 6(1)(a), which deals with published matter, and the tidying up of the Public Order Act, which deals with the same thing, but which was not properly covered before. I will not say that these are the only good things in the Bill; but we believe they are by far the best in both cases.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY moved, after Clause 7, to insert the following new clause.
§ Review of operation of this Act
§ ". The Secretary of State shall within one year of the coming into operation of this Act present to Parliament a review of its operation and provide Parliamentary facilities for the consideration of any amendment to it."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move to insert after Clause 7 the new clause as printed on the Marshalled List. I think it is generally accepted that the purpose of this Bill is not so much to penalise persons for acts of discrimination as to seek conciliation between those elements in our society which come into conflict on racial or colour grounds. When we discussed the Bill on Second Reading a number of us indicated that in our view the Bill fell far short of that purpose and that it did not deal with many of the major causes of racial conflict at the present time. My noble friend the Minister mentioned in an earlier intervention that it does not deal with aspects of housing and of unemployment which, in the experience of many, are the most serious cases of discrimination.
§ It does not deal with the incitement to resentment which is caused by the columns of advertisements, particularly in suburban newspapers: "No coloureds wanted." It does not deal with many cases of discrimination which occur in places of public resort. If the intention really is to have legislation which will remove the causes of discrimination and of racial and colour feeling, I think we are entitled to ask that the Secretary of State shall, within one year of this quite new experiment in legislation, present to Parliament a review of the operation of the Act. It is only if we have that kind of review that we shall be able to judge whether the Act is effective and whether it should be extended.
§ I appreciate that the second part of this Amendment (where I ask that Parlia 88 mentary facilities should be provided for the consideration of any amendment to the Act) is probably a precedent so far as the drafting of legislation is concerned. I am not committed to it. But I should be happy if the Minister, in considering this new clause, could give us some undertaking that within a year of the operation of the Act a report would be presented to Parliament which would enable us to review its operation. By that, I do not mean only a report of the kind which would be presented by the Conciliation Board but a report which gave a balanced view as to how far it had succeeded in meeting the hopes which we have in mind, which is to improve racial relations in this country. It would enable the Minister, on reading the report, to make recommendations to the Houses of Parliament about how far the legislation needed amending.
§ I think I am correct in saying that when he received a deputation on this matter the Secretary of State for Home Affairs indicated that after a year, when we had been able to look at the operation of the Act, he would consider the necessity for further legislation. It would greatly help those of us who believe that at present this Bill is inadequate if some undertaking could be given to-night that after the measure has been in operation for a year and its success or failure has been calculated, there will be an opportunity, on Government initiative, for the Houses of Parliament to introduce amendments so as to make the legislation more capable of fulfilling its purpose.
After Clause 7, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Brockway.)
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I feel that even as he moved his Amendment, and even as he advanced his argument, my noble friend Lord Brockway felt that what he was asking was quite impossible. He quite properly made clear that he was concerned with the provisions of the Bill dealing with discrimination. He felt that experience will show that in many spheres not covered by the Bill there will be a great deal of trouble and that fairly early on it will be found that the measure is in sufficient and does not meet the case. That may possibly be so, but even if, in principle, one were willing to admit that, it would be quite impossible to say that 89 a year after the legislation came into operation the Secretary of State would be able to present to Parliament a review of its operation and provide Parliamentary facilities for the consideration of any Amendment to it.
The provisions of this Bill will come into operation a month after the Bill becomes an Act and then a number of important things have to be done. The Race Relations Board has to be appointed. In turn that will have to appoint local conciliation committees. They will receive and consider complaints of discrimination, some of which will be referred to the Race Relations Board. The Board may refer some to the Attorney General so that the possibility of taking action in the courts may be considered. How would it conceivably be possible, within a space of twelve months from the coming into operation of this legislation, for the Secretary of State to comply with the statutory obligation which my noble friend proposes should be written into the Bill, and make a report which will have any real value? My noble friend Lord Brockway is aware that he will have ample opportunity, if he so wishes, to raise matters regarding the working of the Bill when it becomes an Act, and even to create opportunities to debate its working or the extension of its scope. His Parliamentary experience is great, perhaps greater than that of almost anyone else in your Lordships' House, and I ask him to consider the consequences not only of the acceptance of his Amendment but of compliance with the request which he made to me.
First, there would clearly be an inadequate period to obtain any real experience of the working of this measure, in respect not only of a review but of amending it. Secondly, I must remind my noble friend that it is not my right honourable friend the Secretary of State who provides Parliamentary facilities, and he cannot guarantee Parliamentary time for a Government measure or Government time for a Private Member's measure. Surely it is clear that no Government could possibly agree to having their Parliamentary timetable pre-empted in a way such as is suggested by the Amendment. Regrettably enough, my noble friend has too much reason for knowing how impossible it has been until now to get a Government 90 to devote time and backing to legislation on this subject.
I can give no undertaking of the kind for which my noble friend asked, but I will say that the Government have a very keen and continual interest and concern regarding this matter and for the working of this measure which will be watched closely and anxiously. If there is a need for a change which is clearly shown in the light of experience (I submit that that certainly will not be within twelve months or even two or three years, for it will take time) we shall, of course, have to consider what else it may be necessary to ask Parliament to do. Meanwhile I hope that my noble friend, having almost got this Bill on the Statute Book, will realise that we must gain reliable knowledge of its effectiveness so as to be able to take action if and when it should be proved to be necessary.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
In view of the crumbs of consolation handed to me in those last sentences, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ The Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.