§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Debate on Second Reading resumed.
TILE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred to the absence of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the presence of a representative of the Church this afternoon in his place, I think I should make it clear that I do not stand here as the mouthpiece of the most reverend Primate, who in fact has no idea what I am going to say. I completed preparations for my speech on my lunch-time train. I say that lest there should be misunderstanding.
I welcome the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in introducing this Bill. Whether or not this is a propitious moment for promoting further legislation in the sphere of race relations, or whether it would be wiser to allow a further period of experience in the operation of the present Act, I do not regard myself as competent to judge. It is, however, clear to me that if the admirable intentions of Her Majesty's Government in introducing the Race Relations Act 1965 are to be adequately fulfilled, certain limitations must sooner or later be remedied. And I would go on to say that if the fundamental principles inspiring the present Act are sound, as I believe they are, then a wider application of those principles is demanded.
I begin by saying a few words about the present Act and its limitations. First, by introducing the Race Relations Act Her Majesty's Government recognised that it could and should promote equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of race. The limitations of the Act, however, prevent it from promoting equal treatment in areas where discrimination is most prevalent; for example, as we 1855 have been reminded by the noble Lord, in the fields of housing, employment and credit facilities. Secondly, the Act prohibits discrimination on racial grounds only and does not cover discrimination on grounds of religion. In this way it creates a possible loophole for those who might claim that they are ready to serve coloured people but are not ready to serve Hindus, Moslems or Sikhs. Thirdly, by giving an exclusive definition of "places of public resort" the Act prevents the Race Relations Board from tackling many cases which are submitted to it. The present definition does not include, for example, shops, offices and other places which have already been mentioned by the noble Lord.
Fourthly, the powers of the Board and of the local conciliation committees are severely limited, as we have been reminded. The Board itself has no powers except to transmit to the Attorney General reports received from local conciliation committees. It is the local committee which considers and inquires into complaints and tries to settle difficulties. But, equally, the local committees themselves have no power. There is nothing that either the Board or the conciliation committees can do to obtain evidence from anyone who is unwilling to discuss a complaint with them. This is a severe limitation and must hamper the work of the Attorney General in enforcing the Act. Furthermore, the present procedure of working is prolonged and cumbersome. The Bill now introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is, in my judgment, to be welcomed, in that it seeks to remove these limitations and to extend legislation to cover wider fields.
Certain points in support of the Bill are, I think, worthy of particular mention. I begin by mentioning to your Lordships that legislation in Canada and the United States has been shown to be workable, flexible and effective. Between 1945 and 1962 the New York State Commission for Human Rights, which operates the New York State laws against discrimination, received 9,240 complaints. Of those, 39.1 per cent. were adjusted by conciliation; 1.1 per cent. were settled by consent after a hearing; 47.9 per cent. were considered unjustified, due to lack of any probable cause for complaint; 9.1 percent. 1856 were not dealt with, as they did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission, and 2.8 per cent. were withdrawn. In Massachusetts and Ontario similar figures are, I understand, available.
Then, legislation is a preventive as well as a cure. Legistlation now would prevent discriminatory practices from hardening into accepted procedures. This is particularly important for the second generation of the immigrants now leaving school and trying to get work suitable for their qualifications. We are indeed grateful to the noble Lord for the emphasis he has placed upon this aspect and on the urgency of this need. As the Home Secretary also said in a speech on October 10:It is essential to deal with racial problems before they assume such a magnitude that they become, if not insoluble, then capable of solution only at immense cost and effort, and over a period of time.There is also serious need to expand the areas of public resort covered by the present Act. Any limitation can be interpreted by those who wish to discriminate as being permission to do so in areas other than those covered by the Act. The new Bill attempts to meet this need by removing these limitations and by expanding the areas of public resort covered by legislation.
A fear has been expressed that extension of the legislation would provide protection for one group of the community and thus create a privileged class. It would, I think, be more accurate to say that at present there is a double standard of citizenship being applied by employers, estate agents and others, which results in inequality of treatment and inequality of opportunity. The purpose of the proposed legislation is to remove such inequality. Critics of the proposals have expressed concern that legislation in the fields of housing and employment would lead to an over-rigid interpretation of the law. It should be emphasised, therefore, that the whole basis of the present proposals in the present Act is conciliation, not punishment. The idea, as I see it, is to settle differences and to prevent recurrence of discrimination; and conciliation implies flexibility.
I would add that the Bill, as we have been reminded, would make it unlawful to discriminate not merely, as at present, 1857 on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, but also on grounds of religion. The reasons for this amendment are three-fold: to ensure that members of the Jewish community are protected as a religious, rather than as a racial group; to ensure that there is no longer a loophole in the law for people to assert that they discriminate because others are Hindus, Moslems or Sikhs, rather than because they are coloured; and thirdly, because religious discrimination is as unjustified in principle as racial discrimination.
The Bill proposes an extension of the powers of the Race Relations Board. This is crucial if the Board is to be an effective instrument against discrimination. We have been informed that the Bill would enable the Board to subpœna witnesses to give evidence and to make recommendations for enforcement of the Act. This is an important provision, for without additional powers the Board cannot be fully effective. By introducing the Race Relations Act the Government recognised that legislation has a role in promoting equality of citizenship. As I understand them, the intention of the new proposals is to adjust the legislation so that this role, already accepted, may be more effectively fulfilled.
I do not intend to examine the details of the Bill, or, as I have already indicated, to pass judgment as to whether this is the wise moment to proceed with further legislation. I content myself with stating my own sincerely held conviction that the principles underlying the Race Relations Act 1965, and the present proposals for its amendment, are fundamentally sound, and are such as ought to receive the wholehearted support of those who desire that the way of life in our country should continue to be ordered in accordance with Christian principles and should provide equality of opportunity for all persons, regardless of race, colour or religion.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, my first words can well be a corollary to what has already been said so eloquently by the previous speaker. I wish to commend this Bill on the ground that there is widespread need to reduce, if not eliminate, the kind of discrimination about which the Bill is concerned, and to express my confidence that the additions and amendments to the already 1858 existing Bill in another place are necessary in the light of the magnitude and danger of this whole problem.
As a professing Christian, I need not remind myself, or surely remind this House, that racial and religious discrimination is entirely opposite to the spirit of the One about whom many of us are professionally and fervently thinking during this particular Christmas week. I am up to my eyes, as are many other ministers, in carols and Christmas parcels and Christmas trees. I make no apology for that, because it brings home to me the more clearly that racial discrimination and religious discrimination is an evil thing, and is all the more evil because so much of it is concealed and ought to be brought to light. For that reason, I have done a little trawling in the squalid waters of the National Socialist publication. It may be of interest—I think it should be, if I may say so—to your Lordships to see something of the quality of the material that you can dredge up in this particular cesspool, which can, at least, I think, be included quite properly under Clause 8, the clause which includes "contempt", if indeed it finds no place in other parts of the Bill.
This publication states:Every manifestation of human culture, every product of art, science and technical skill, which we see before our eyes today, is almost exclusively the product of the Aryan creative power. This very fact fully justifies the conclusion that it was the Aryan alone who founded a superior type of humanity; therefore he represents the archetype of what we understand by the term: Man. It is our business to instil into the hearts and brains of the youth entrusted to us the racial instincts and the understanding of the racial idea. Our programme is to arouse general indignation against the maleficent enemy"—that is the Jew—and the real author of all our sufferings.The first proposal in the policy of the National Socialist Movement is to deport all Jews and coloured people already resident here.It may well be argued that this is not only a squalid but an insignificant movement. I should regard that with considerable dubiety. I believe that it has a purchase upon adolescent and impressionable minds, and my own feeling, for what it is worth, is that this process is not becoming less, but in large measure or in appreciable measure becoming more, serious. Therefore, I need not delay your Lordships to remind you that 1859 from the professional standpoint of one who believes in the Christian faith everything should be done to reduce the kind of evil of which racial discrimination is a characteristic part.
I should like to refer a little more particularly to the religious issue, because it fills a gap which was absent from the other Bill. I do not know whether it is proper for me to refer to matters which pertain to Northern Ireland, but I believe that what we do in this place will have some marked and, I hope, immediate effect on what is a most dangerous situation over there. I have some knowledge of the Reverend Ian Paisley, who calls himself "Doctor Ian Paisley"—the "Doctor" is a self-inflicted wound—and I can, from my own knowledge of his behaviour, say a good deal about the kind of hatred and the kind of religious vindictiveness created. Not long ago I was involved in a rather injudicious place—that is, a horse fair at Ballymena—in an open-air debate with the Reverend Ian Paisley. In the course of the afternoon he threw at me a Bible and a rosary, which I felt was an expression of the œcumenical movement. Those of your Lordships who have any knowledge, at first or even second hand, of the kind of wicked and evil vindictiveness that is generated in this particular Northern Ireland situation will be most anxious that it should not cross the St. George's Channel, and all the more anxious to do anything we can in this place to make it impossible for such incidents and conditions to prevail in these Islands.
There is a very peremptory reason why religion should be included. It has already been stated by the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken, and I will repeat it. It is that there may be some cause for alarm and perturbation among our Jewish friends that unless religion is included those who practice such discrimination may escape the net. It is therefore the more necessary—if I may be presumptuous enough to speak on their behalf—that we should safeguard them from any increasing and recurrent exhibition of the kind of thing from which they have suffered for so long.
I would refer your Lordships to the extension in Clause 8 under "Incitement" to what is called the promotion of 1860 contempt. I would mention a very public place with which I am not unacquainted. When I began to speak forty years ago in Hyde Park—and it is exactly forty years ago that I began to speak there—so far as I remember the only non-Aryan or non-white speaker was the immortal Mr. Saklatvala. I took the precaution on the last few Sundays of making a roundup of the speakers. I am not talking of those who are in a chronic state of "public utterance" to whom very few people listen at all; I am talking of those who at least can command some kind of audience. Is it within your Lordships' knowledge that three Sundays ago, at five minutes to three o'clock, there were six speakers, five of whom were coloured? On the Sunday afterwards there were four speakers, three of them coloured. Last Sunday there were five speakers, four of them coloured. I levelled up the score a bit until four-thirty, but at four-thirty it was still true that the larger number of speakers in this forum were coloured.
This might be considered to be inconsequential were it not for the fact that a new situation is arising, which I regard with great perturbation. Perhaps 40 per cent. of the habitués of Hyde Park on Sunday are now coloured, and there is a very large increase in contempt and the incitement of contempt. It would not be within my province to suggest that there is going to be racial rioting in Hyde Park, but unless something is done to reduce the kind of contempt which now flows, both from white and from coloured speakers, I, for one, am quite sure that sooner or later there will be some kind of undesirable disturbance, and maybe protracted disturbance, in that public place. It is for that reason I am the more concerned that incitement to contempt shall be included. I believe that the inclusion of a provision merely against incitement to hatred, as has been so clearly stated by my noble friend Lord Brockway, is not a sufficient guarantee that there will be a reasonable chance of maintaining free speech within the ambit of the fellowship of controversy.
It is not for me to go any further than has already been traversed by previous speakers into the fields of housing and employment, except to say this. I dare say all your Lordships will have in your minds a general feeling of unease that 1861 indeed there is racial discrimination in these fields. Your Lordships may not be as satisfied as my noble friend was as to the prominence of particular instances, but when particular instances can be adduced they should be presented. There came before the Methodist Conference a month or two ago irrefrangible evidence of racial discrimination in the matter of housing. It was in Brixton, where a protracted effort was made to find accommodation for a Jamacan minister and his wife who had come to Brixton in order to minister to fellow Jamacans. No accommodation was forthcoming—no accommodation whatsoever, a flat, or a house, in the whole of Brixton, until one day they found the possibility of a flat in Brixton. But when it was known that they were coloured, that flat offer was withdrawn, and, so far as I know, those two, who were to minister to their fellow citizens in Brixton, had to find accommodation elsewhere. This is a particular and precise piece of evidence. I give it, not that it can be adduced in general terms, but because when we talk of this particular field of racial discrimination some of us have first-hand evidence to back up what we have to say.
The problem of housing is probably more acute and complicated than almost any other. It would be unwise to assume that by any such Bill as the one now before your Lordships this particular problem could be solved. I am sure that the problem of housing, where racial discrimination is involved, has a great deal to do with the fundamental question of education and citizenship. Some months ago I was in the North Carolina city of Durham, where there is very little problem of inter-racial housing, because in Durham, unlike so many other cities of the South, there has been free and equal educational opportunities for black and white. It was an astonishing discovery to find to what extent housing is linked with a social consciousness, a freedom of access to the social and intellectual opportunities which hitherto have been there only for the white boy and girl, and how many of the emergent and exacerbating causes of discrimination and unhappiness have been removed.
What can be done is to act in the spirit of this Bill, in order to include within these categories such opportunities as we may have of making our case known and 1862 of declaring our intent. It is in that spirit that I believe this Bill has much to commend it. I make no apology for thinking that it is not an inappropriate time, when so many of us are singing "God rest ye merry, Gentlemen", that we should think of gentlemen who are black, white, yellow and brown and to whom we ought to offer that Christian comfort.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, before the noble Lord fully resumes his seat, I wonder whether he will enlighten me. Would he say under what clause, apart from Clause 7, he thinks his references to religious discrimination and prejudice would be covered?
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I believe that the question of religious discrimination is particularly apposite in our relationship to our friends the Jews. I wish the Bill could include Northern Ireland, when I should have a good deal more to say. But it may be of interest to my noble friend if I say that I have in my possession a letter under the signature of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Perhaps I may read it to your Lordships, as I think the appropriate paragraph may be of some help.
We should very much like to see the introduction of 'religion' so as to avoid the doubts which exist as to whether or not Jews are covered in any of the existing categories of 'colour, race, or ethnic, or national origins'.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, both of the last two speakers have used the word "Christianity", and I very much hope that they are not intending to tell us that there is any sort of Christian duty to support the present passage of this Bill which, whatever its intentions, seems to me to have all too little relation to real life. I am sure none of us can help respecting the intentions of the noble Lord who sponsors this Bill, or of the Bill itself. But, if we are going to talk about religion, I am reminded all too much of the good intentions (and good intentions by no means always produce good results) of the Puritans in 1655, when those eminently worthy gentlemen determined to eradicate vice and enforce virtue by the simple process of treating any conduct of which they disapproved as a criminal offence. Needless to say, the Puritans did not succeed in eradicating vice or in establishing virtue. What they 1863 did succeed in doing was very greatly to inflame the tensions already present within the nation; and I am very much afraid that that would be the result of this Bill if it were passed in its present form and at this moment.
I am very much afraid also that this is only the second of a long succession of Bills of this nature, progressively severer in form, with which Parliament is likely to be faced over the next ten, twenty or thirty years. This much might have been foreseen as soon as the immigrants, who, if they had arrived in their thousands, or even in their tens of thousands, would have been welcome as the flowers in spring, began to arrive in their hundreds of thousands, thereby ensuring the future growth of a multiracial State. For your true multiracial State is inevitably tormented by racial tensions, and inevitably driven on to ever severer enforcements of criminal sanctions and ever greater suppressions of freedom, in order to protect the rights and privileges of minority groups.
The truth, which we should always remember when we are faced with a Bill of this kind, is surely that what a minority group needs most—and, in fact, in a very real sense all it needs—is the good will of the majority. Now you can produce good will by conciliation; by example, by education. But what you cannot do is to produce good will by legislation. What you are much more likely to do by legislation is to produce ill-will.
Until a year or two ago "discrimination" was a word of high praise. According to my dictionary, it means "noticing a difference", and the discriminating person was a person who was generally respected. Even to-day, when "discrimination" has been turned into an ugly word, it is pretty obvious that there are an infinity of varied types of discrimination, which shade off into each other by infinitesimal stages until they become virtually indistinguishable, and of which, though some are reprehensible, some are neutral, some unavoidable, and some positively salutary. I can foresee infinite confusion over the elusive boundary line between the various types of discrimination: confusion in the Race Relations Board itself, and confusion in those local racial organi- 1864 sations which are said to be busily distributing complaint cards and encouraging immigrants to fill them up—a process which in itself is not likely to lead to good will.
To reduce the sort of problem which I should have thought was bound to arise to its very simplest elements—a mere reductio ad absurdum—suppose that two persons apply to the same employer for the same job. Let us say that one is an Englishman and one a Pakistani, and suppose that the employer rejects the Pakistani and says, in effect: "So long as I can get an Englishman I will never take a Pakistani." Obviously, he is liable to prosecution because he is discriminating on ethnic grounds. But suppose, on the contrary, he takes the Pakistani and says, "Well, I have studied recent legislation, and I know which side my bread is buttered on; I will never take an Englishman so long as I can get a Pakistani." Surely in that case he is also discriminating on ethnic grounds and is equally liable to prosecution, though whether he would in fact be prosecuted I do not know.
Then, of course, there are all the myriad examples of unavoidable discrimination. If I may give just one from my own countryside, which must be repeated ad infinitum and on a much larger scale in the urban areas, I have a neighbour who is manager of a small bakery in the neighbouring country town. There he employs a considerable number of Pakistanis, and his report on them is one which could no doubt be duplicated from scores of factories up and down the country. He says that at home they live in great squalor and overcrowding, riding rough-shod over our housing laws and regulations, but that in the factory they are most admirable workmen, avid for overtime, sending home every penny they can afford. He says that he would very much have liked to promote one of them, but he did not dare to do it because if he had done so his white employees would have walked out on him. For some while he attempted a sort of compromise, by secretly paying the man extra; but he has had to give up even that for fear of the possible repercussions. Of course, that sort of incident will recur on a large scale all over the country.
To take one other very simple incident from my own countryside, which again, 1865 in much more enlarged and embittered forms must be reproducing itself all over the country, not long ago in a certain village there were two houses which nestled up against the wall of the village church. They were both for sale or to let, and the owners were devoted members of the village congregation who were very anxious to let or sell them to tenants or purchasers who would join the village congregation. If they had heard of potential purchasers of an alien faith, I feel pretty sure they would have said to their agent, "Please, no Asians; we do not want Moslems, Buddhists, Sikhs or Hindus." That would seem to me to be a perfectly reasonable attitude to take, though I suppose that under this Bill it would be actionable.
But it is the provisions with regard to incitement which seem to me in this Bill, as in the last, to be full of the greater dangers. For we have to remember, in respect of legislation of this kind, that to the simple dweller in the back street in an area of dense immigration, who has had to watch helplessly while his neighbourhood has been reduced to the condition of an early Victorian slum, and who is therefore feeling apprehensive and resentful, legislation of this kind inevitably appears much more formidable and far-reaching than its actual provisions warrant. For example, to take what is perhaps a rather absurd example, but a perfectly true one, I know a woman who the week before last went into the local chemist's and asked for a dye. The assistant said, "What colour?", and she replied, "Nigger brown". The assistant said, "You could be put in 'jug' for that remark".
My Lords, what has this clause in the Bill really resulted in so far? The first prosecution by the Attorney General under the section in the original Act was of the unfortunate Christopher Britton. Christopher Britton, as many of your Lordships may remember, was a boy of 17 with a record of mental instability who broke two windows in the house of his local M.P. and affixed a notice to the door with the words, "No blacks wanted here"—an offence, one would have thought, which for a boy with a record of mental instability, could have been sufficiently met by, let us say, fining him £5 and telling him to behave himself in the future. What in fact happened to 1866 the wretched boy was that he was sent to Wormwood Scrubs to await a place in Borstal. I do not know what his latest history is, but on November 22 he had already been 34 days in Wormwood Scrubs, associating with the more sophisticated wrongdoers to be found there, and was expecting to wait for a further four weeks before finding a place in Borstal. That is the kind of ferocious consequence that this type of legislation can produce.
Once again, we ought to remember that legislation cannot create good will but can create ill-will Our people are kindly and tolerant. If we set them an example, if we educate them, and if we work the conciliation boards as they should be worked, we shall do far better than if we send feeble-minded boys to Wormwood Scrubs. After the Act of Union the Scots poured into Britain and they were extremely unpopular for a while.
§ LORD ELTON
Dr. Johnson, and even Charles Lamb, the gentle Elia, both uttered remarks which might have brought them within the provisions of the present Bill.Sir, it is not to be lamented that Old England is lost, but rather that the Scots have found it",was typical Johnsonese; while it was actually Charles Lamb, the gentle Elia, who said:I have been trying all my life to like Scotchmen, and am obliged to desist from the experiment in despair".
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, I must interrupt my noble friend for a moment. The English owe everything to the Scots. Without the Scots, the English would be sunk.
§ LORD ELTON
That is more or less the point I was endeavouring to make. What I was just going to say was that, in spite of these somewhat rough beginnings, the Scots and the English settled down together very soon in amity, to their great mutual benefit. Surely that process would not have been much assisted if Dr. Johnson had been imprisoned for two years, or Elia had been fined £1,000. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will take the advice which I rather think may be given from his Front Bench, and will postpone his Bill for the present; but if 1867 it does come to a Division I hope that your Lordships will not support it.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, as one of the Scots who was not discriminated against, I want to support the Bill proposed by my noble friend Lord Brockway. I believe, and sincerely believe, that the amendments to the 1965 Act are necessary; that the Race Relations Board has to be reinforced for its purpose; and that, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has said, it should be an offence not only to stir up hatred but also to promote contempt of any section of the public on racial grounds. I know, as the noble Lord has emphasised, that you cannot remove prejudices nor change attitudes merely by Act of Parliament; but, my Lords, you can quarantine prejudice, as you can a pestilential disease, so that its virus does not infect others. I know that you cannot, by Statute, make me like someone I do not like, but you can make sure that I do not persecute him or incite others to persecute him. An Act of Parliament spelling out duties, socially enforceable, can safeguard the rights of others and create a climate of tolerance which might even reconcile the English to the Scots more quickly than has happened since the Act of Union.
My concern is with international relations and with the world, which has now become a neighbourhood—a neighbourhood where what happens in Smeth-wick or Selma, in Notting Hill, London, or in Montgomery, Alabama, reverberates everywhere. The attitudes which we adopt here are the stuff of foreign policy. Our domestic behaviour must not belie our protestations. We have a coloured, racial and religious minority in this country, but we are a white minority in a world in which the majority are coloured—a global multiracial society in which we have to contrive to get along with people whom we no longer dominate and with whom we have to share the resources of a small planet. Our enlightened self-interest, apart from our common decency, therefore demands that we engender good will by our example and our deeds. Let us get our record of race relations straight because it will determine, and must determine, our international relations.
1868 My Lords, I want to make this country honest. I spend a great deal of my time in international conferences and in the United Nations bodies. I very much prefer not to be a hypocrite. This country is pledged to the principles and institutions of the United Nations, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister so constantly reminds us. As a country, we are committed to Human Rights Year, which in 1968 will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. If the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, wants any reason for some urgency in dealing with this, I would remind him of that—that in two years' time we are committed as a country to the defence and justification of human rights. That Declaration declares:Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.And Article 7 of the Declaration of Human Rights says:All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All arc entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and"—I emphasise this—against any incitement to such discrimination".We know that discrimination and incitement to discrimination do exist and are practised in this country, and without the statutory powers called for in this Bill the Race Relations Board, the Archbishop of Canterbury's National Committee on Commonwealth Immigrants and the Under-Secretary responsible for Race Relations cannot be effective in removing the worst abuses—because I am sure your Lordships will not deceive yourselves into thinking that moral sanctions or persuasion which might influence misguided people would have any effect at all on the red-necks of race hatred. Unless Parliament reinforces the Declaration by domestic legislation, our support for Human Rights Year is merely sanctimonious.
We have other international commitments. We have ratified the UNESCO Convention—and a convention has the status of a treaty—against discrimination in education. This calls for any measures 1869 that are necessary to guarantee that there is no discrimination in the admission of pupils to educational institutions, that there is equality of opportunity and treatment in schools and that we promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups. I think we have tried through the Department of Education and Science to fulfil this obligation. At least we have stated it and, as it were, regulated it by circular in June last year. We, as a country, have ratified the International Labour Organisation Convention on Migration for Employment. Article 3 binds all concurring Governments to take all necessary steps against misleading propaganda relating to immigration, and Article 6 binds the Governments to apply to the immigrants lawfully within their territory treatment no less favourable than that which is applied to their own nationals; and this includes the rights of membership of trade unions, the enjoyment of collective bargaining and accommodation.
The United Kingdom has not ratified, although most member States have, the I.L.O. Convention on discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Member States undertake to pursue national policies designed to promote equality of opportunity and treatment, regardless of race, colour, religion and so on, and to enact such legislation as is necessary to ensure this. The recommendation which accompanies this Convention wants agencies established by law to ensure that there is no discrimination.
Another I.L.O. Convention which Britain has ratified, and therefore is treaty bound to apply, demands a policy to ensure that there is freedom of choice in employment and the fullest opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his skills and endowments in, a job in which he is well suited, irrespective of race, colour, religion, et cetera. There is the overriding United Nations Convention adopted by resolution of the General Assembly a year ago. The Convention covers social rights, including rights of employment, rights to join trade unions, rights to housing, social services, education and cultural activities. It demands right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport, hotels, restaurants, cafés, theatres and 1870 parks—the kind of rights this Bill is prepared to safeguard. It calls upon Governments to institute legislation against racial discrimination which in any way diminishes any of those rights.
My Lords, there was a time when as a nation we could afford to ignore world opinion, to ignore even the reproach of "Perfidious Albion". To-day we have to practise what we preach or be denounced as hypocrites and lose our authority in the councils of the world. Where we ratify conventions we have to abide by them. Often, as in the case of the I.L.O. Convention on discrimination in employment, we have had to admit that we cannot ratify because discrimination does exist. We have had to to admit it; we have had to admit that discrimination in this country exists, at least in sex and colour, and that the Government had no powers to counter this and therefore could not ratify. This Bill, proposed by my noble friend Lord Brockway, would give the Government the powers which would enable them to enter into this I.L.O. Convention with at least this much authority. My noble friend Lord Brockway pointed out the problem of school leavers. I would remind your Lordships that the school leavers are not immigrants; they are now British; they are children of these islands. We must accept them and do our utmost by them. If by any reason of race, colour and creed we discriminate against them, we are not fulfilling our duty.
My Lords, I am at this moment worried. If there is to be unemployment this winter we are liable to see an upsurge of racial resentment. In full employment immigrants can have the jobs that other people do not want, but if jobs are scarce then the whites—to use that pejorative term—look for the jobs that the coloured people already have and then there can be trouble. Colour just accentuates it. One recalls Glasgow in the 1920s when it was the Irish with the label "Catholic". The Irish came as potato-lifters and never went back—as everyone can read in the books of Patrick McGill. They took jobs as navvies and scavengers which the Scotsmen did not want. That was all right when skilled tradesmen did not want to be navvies and scavengers; but when they were jobless, they did—and the "Scurvy Papists" were in those jobs; so we had 1871 bitterness, violence and gang wars. I speak with some knowledge and, indeed, with a great deal of perturbation about that because at that time I happened to be a crime reporter in Glasgow. Those days are gone we hope; and the religious wars have been ritualised in the Celtic and Rangers matches. But now, all over the country, there are hundreds of thousands of workers identifiable by their complexions; and without some protection, hatred and contempt can be fomented.
My Lords, I have noticed in my brief sojourn in your Lordships' House a predilection for Edmund Burke. May I remind you of his "sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour which felt a stain as though it were a wound"? I hope that we shall never be anæthetised against that sense of wound and against that sense of stain, and that we shall honour our obligations to our fellow men, regardless of race, Or colour or creed—and honour them in practice as well as in professed principle. I ask your Lordships to support this Bill.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, this subject of discrimination seems to me to be one essentially suitable for legislation, and for a tougher and more comprehensive legislation than we have at the present moment. I suggest that more would be lost than gained by following the cautious recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. The effects of discrimination seem to me to be cruel, wasteful, dangerous, irresponsible and unnecessary. The cruelty of causing gratuitous indignity to a large community of people seems to me to be self-evident. Discrimination tends to be wasteful because it results in increasing the number of persons relegated to jobs below their trained capacity for reasons that are irrelevant. It is dangerous because, over time, it will provide risk of an embittered attempt at violent redress by this under-privileged minority, as we have seen happen in the U.S.A.
In an age in which there are awful disparities of national wealth and in which the various nations of the world are becoming increasingly embittered in their international race relations, it seems to me to be irresponsible that this country should not go out of its way to provide 1872 some measure of racial harmony at home. It is particularly so when there are a great number of coloured students leaving this country each year, highly educated and highly qualified, with their lessons in political tolerance behind them, to return to their own underdeveloped countries. It seems to be unnecessary because the current tendency towards increasing discrimination—which I am convinced exists—seems to be still legislatively controllable.
I think one ought also to remember that this Government have accepted what small numbers of immigrants they have electorally decided they could afford to accept into this country, on the assumption that they were to be full citizens of this country with full political rights and, by implication, with full economic opportunities. They are not helots. And in those circumstances it seems clear that a failure to institute adequate legislation would be at once dangerous and immoral.
This is a question which is particularly important at the present time. In the first place—and this has been pointed out—there are coloured people in this country, leaving school and about to leave school, who will have had the same education as their white colleagues. They will have been imbued already with precisely the same culture. In other words, their qualifications in every possible respect will be equal to those of anyone else in this country leaving school at the same time. As they apply for jobs—the evidence indicates that this has happened in a great number of cases already—they will almost certainly find that it is markedly more difficult for them to get the job for which they are suited than it is for their white colleagues whose training has been similar. I would say that this has probably not yet become the general pattern in this country.
I think that racial discrimination tends to start as a perfectly natural competition for limited domestic resources in housing, employment and that sort of thing, and the resentment grows at an intrusion of foreigners into this highly competitive situation. After all, one saw something fairly similar in the case of the resentment against Italian miners in Yorkshire some years ago. I think this is aggravated again by a natural, and perfectly obvious, tendency for coloured 1873 immigrants to congregate, in this unfamiliar and at times rather hostile climate, into the same areas; and by doing so they tend obviously to crowd these areas and make competition yet more severe. I think that the novelty and the danger of this particular division between the indigenous and the alien competitors lies in the fact that each is easily and immediately distinguishable from the other to the eye.
Once a community has begun to resent the intrusion in this competitive situation, other commercial competitors—shopkeepers, landlords, employers, hotel owners—less from any prejudice of their own than from a cautious sensibility of what they fear may be the prejudices of their white customers, start themselves to discriminate. I think that out of this grows a collection of assumptions and fears which become reciprocated, and there occurs a bitter and potentially explosive resentment. Although I do not think this has become, as I said, a pattern in this country, it undoubtedly exists now in its simplified final form of naked racial discrimination. It is perfectly easy for any noble Lord who doubts this to check it for himself. He should go to one of those boards recommending accommodation for sale posted up in various parts of London, and there he will see, in a very high percentage of cases, a small, but perfectly prominent legend, saying, "No coloureds wanted", or, "Only Europeans wanted". This is a perfectly blatant and perfectly clear form of naked racial discrimination, against which, I am glad to see, there is a provision in this Bill.
The present legislation seems to me inadequate on two principal grounds. In the first place, a law which insists on racial equality in the pub and in the public dining room, but declines to require it where a man's accommodation or employment is concerned, reflects, I should have thought, a bewildering view of the priorities of life.
Secondly, I would criticise the procedure in the legislation as it now exists. The Board is unable to compel evidence; it is unable to subpœna witnesses. Moreover, if it approaches any person against whom a charge has been brought, that person is perfectly entitled to have nothing 1874 further to do with the question; not to answer it and to decline to take any part in the investigation of the Board at all. This again is something which this Bill seeks to remedy, and I think it is possibly relevant—and certainly more indicative of the limited powers of the Board than the limited degree of discrimination in this country—that only two cases have been referred to the Attorney General, in neither of which has a prosecution been initiated.
My Lords, the present Bill retains the provisions for conciliation, and I am quite sure that this is correct. In the first place, what would tend to happen under a stronger anti-discrimination law, I think, is that the commercial position would be equalised; that is to say, if one hotel owner or one shopkeeper knew perfectly well that he stood to gain nothing over his rivals by discriminating, the general tendency for him to do so, or the impetus for him to do so, would be removed. I think also that people tend to be conformist, and if they were told that something like this is against the law they would stand to win too little by defying it. Thirdly, there is the quite astonishingly impressive evidence of what has happened in the United States. Figures were given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who quoted a figure of 30 per cent. But of the actual cases that remained within the jurisdiction of the law, or where it was decided there was a case to answer at all, over 90 per cent. were settled by conciliation.
My Lords, there are one or two respects in which I would tend to take issue with the Bill. I am not entirely happy—and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, did not give his reasons why it should have been included or be part of the Bill—that there should be no provision for appeal against an order issued by the Board.
§ LORD REAY
In that case I entirely withdraw that objection.
I think that, for once, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, on an issue, in that I believe that clubs ought not to be included. Certainly there is a provision for the exception of bona fide clubs. It seems to me that clubs exist to permit the congregation of people for irrational reasons and to this extent ought to fall into the same sort of categories as private domestic servants—for which, again, the Bill makes exception—and cases of accommodation where facilities within a house are shared between landlord and tenant. This seems to be something which it would be quite easy to do; and although, clearly, there would be certain difficulties over borderline cases, these could be dealt with later.
So far as the question of religion is concerned, there has been a certain amount of confusion, I think, between noble Lords about precisely what the Bill attempts to do. It seemed to me that the ground of religion was to be reinserted in an earlier clause from which, by accident, it had been omitted. I appreciate the point that what you could get is a sort of redescription in religious terms of what is basically a racial reason for discrimination, and it seems to me right on these grounds that something of the same sort should be included.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, more for the sake of someone on the Front Bench than for his sake? I indicated in my speech that, through an omission, religion had not been applied to employment and to the definition of "discrimination"; but that it would not be included in the incitement clauses.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, I am quite well aware of that: it is clear from the Bill. I understood that in the proposed new Section 1J (which appears in Clause 3 of this Bill) it had, by accident, been omitted. I am pleased to hear that it has not been included in the provision for incitement. It would seem to me a very sorry day for intellectual liberties and for our chances of legislative progress if it became illegal to promote contempt of religious dogmas. In any case, race seems certainly by far the most important question with which the Bill concerns itself.
1876 The problem will not be solved, a solution will not even be helped, and the danger of domestic discord will accumulate, unless the present law is strengthened. I see no reason why this should not be painlessly successful in providing the prerequisite for a racially undiscriminating society. If, however, this opportunity is evaded by the Government, for reasons of political cowardice, because they are intimidated by the illiberal forces of the trade unions or the C.B.I., or those sections of the electorate which have already been infected—and it may here be worth pointing out that electorate resistance will tend to harden with the years unless something is done—then an inexpensive way of avoiding a great deal of misery and danger will have been shamefully lost.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ LORD ARCHIBALD
My Lords, first of all, I would thank my noble friend Lord Brockway for having introduced this Bill and congratulate him on having done so at such a seasonable time. I will not follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in his ultra-political references, which I think were most misguided. There is only one statement in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, with which I agreed, and that was that the problem is intensified with the number of immigrants who come into this country. The point is an obvious one, but I think that it has to be made; because the greater the number of immigrants, the greater the problem of integration.
When the noble Lord made that point, I was reminded of the time, two or more years ago, when I was in one of our former Colonies, now a well-developed independent country, where I talked with people about their attitude to our immigration laws. I talked with a leading member of the Government, whose attitude was that Britain had the right to impose any restriction on immigration necessary for Britain's interest—to stop immigration altogether or limit it, provided that there was no discrimination on grounds of colour. I talked with the Leader of the Opposition, who used almost exactly the same words. I talked with a Member of Parliament and with a local mayor, and both of them, too, said the same thing.
1877 I thought that these four men showed an understanding, a tolerance, of our problems which we should do well to display with regard to the immigrants whom we have permitted to come into this country. A week or two after I came back from that visit, I was in a factory not fifteen miles from your Lordships' House and saw on the notice board that workers were required in various categories. Underneath were the words, "No coloureds". I thought then how little we showed of understanding and tolerance compared with those four public men in one of our former Colonies.
I want to depart to some extent from the line of the discussion we have had so far this afternoon, because this problem of integration and legislation against discrimination is not peculiar to this country. It occurs in many other countries. And the International Labour Office has instituted a series of studies of this problem of discrimination, and of legal action for its elimination. The first study was carried out, not surprisingly, in the United States of America, where the problem is probably even more acute than it is here. In the I.L.O. Journal of March of this year there is a report on the situation in the United States. Its emphasis is with regard to fair employment practices.
I know (and my noble friend Lord Brockway will probably rebuke me for this) that what in the U.S. study are called "public accommodations"—that is, schools, restaurants, hotels, public transport and private and public housing—are extremely important, but to my mind the most important thing of all is fair employment practice. If a man has the same chance as any other man of getting the kind of job for which he is fitted, then the probability is that these other things will to some extent fall into place. But if he cannot get a job, it does not really matter whether he has the right to go into a restaurant or public house or not, because he will not have a penny in his pocket to spend there.
I am not going to weary your Lordships with all the actions that have been taken in this field in the United States. It starts with Presidential Executive Orders, something for which we in this country have no exact equivalent. There have been many of these Orders from 1878 about 1946 up to date. There has been fair employment practice legislation in most of the States. And these have culminated in the Civil Rights Act 1964, probably one of the most important and romantic pieces of legislation that the U.S. Congress has carried into effect. It would be an over-simplification to say that the Civil Rights Act is based on conference, conciliation and persuasion, but these, fundamentally, are the line of approach to the problem of discrimination and its elimination. All the evidence in the U.S.A. is that conciliation and persuasion are completely ineffective unless behind them there are the sanctions of legal authority for those who can be neither persuaded nor conciliated.
Let me give the House one or two examples of how the system works in the U.S.A.—and I would say that the examples I am giving are the results of conference, conciliation and persuasion, and not the results of legal action. In 1952, there was an aircraft factory on Long Island which was looked at by the appropriate board. It had over 11,000 workers and only 247 Negroes. As the result of the processes of persuasion and conciliation, by 1959, seven years later, 7 to 8 per cent. of the then total employed were Negroes: and at all levels; not all at the most menial level. In Detroit, Michigan, a taxicab company employed no Negroes at all. The process of complaint was made, and consideration was given to this by the appropriate board. As a result, within a year there were 300 Negroes employed, out of a total employment of 1,200. In the department stores (and I think that this American term is quite well understood here now) the situation in 1948 was that one store had only six Negroes in its employment. By 1958, as the result of conciliation, persuasion, and so on, there were 200.
The point I want to emphasise—and this is the justification for my noble friend's Bill—is that conference, conciliation and persuasion are effective only if they are backed by legal sanctions. That is why my noble friend's Bill is important. The approach to this whole problem must be, in the first place, the approach of voluntary conciliatory action; but that action must be backed by legal action, to be taken, only if and 1879 when necessary. In other words, there must be teeth. I think that the Bill provides the teeth, and I hope your Lordships' House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, in rising to make a few comments on this Bill, may I say at once that I agree with the objections already voiced by the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Derwent. To me, they seem completely convincing. I shall try to confine the few remarks I have to make strictly to the principle that I think demands that we should refuse a Second Reading to this Bill. I do not intend to yield to any temptation to stray over the field of the details of race relations. The Race Relations Act 1965 is, as has been said, barely a year old, and any attempt to extend its scope seems to me indefensibly premature. One may legitimately urge that the Act of 1965 should be given a reasonable time to reveal whether or not it is inadequate, and whether so drastic a reconstruction as is contemplated by this Bill is justified by the proved inadequacy of present legislation and by its own intrinsic merits.
I think that the process of trying to change psychological prejudice by Act of Parliament—in short, by making the exercise of innate personal prejudice or personal rights of choice a crime—is a violation of the liberty of the individual which cannot be justified by any alleged public interest. Both racial and religious discrimination, as we all know, are difficult subjects, and they cannot be cured or profitably dealt with by legislative force. I very much doubt whether public opinion in this country is in favour of the restriction on choice embodied in this Bill.
I listened intently to the speech of the noble sponsor of the Bill, and I do not for a moment doubt his sincerity of purpose. But I very much question his judgment and the timing of this effort to force public acquiescence in the views that he takes. If I may say so, he seems to me to be a political homœopath, and apparently believes that intolerance can be cured by doses of the same thing—"a hair of the dog that bit him", in more vulgar parlance. For this Bill aims to 1880 carry the principles of the 1965 Act to a point where deeply felt racial and religious differences of outlook are to be treated with penal severity. You cannot (I should have thought that there was no necessity to make such a statement as this) make people good according to your own personal views of what is good by Act of Parliament; nor can you inflict upon the community your own views with the severity of the law of the Medes and Persians.
In my view, for instance, this Bill is the acme of intolerance and an attempt to cure intolerance by heavy doses of the same thing. I am not an uncompromising defender of intolerance, and certainly not when what appears to be intolerance is carried to lengths that endanger law and order. But, equally, I am not a political homœopath, and I believe in leaving private choice as wide a scope as reasonably can be given to it without trespassing on the legitimate sphere of public legislation.
If I may say so with respect, this Bill enshrines public interference with private rights. I appreciate that many men are inspired with the urge to regulate an erring world on their own lines, feeling, as Shakespeare said:The time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite That ever I was born to set it right!Men arise from time to time with a Messianic megalomania and aim to stereotype human nature in a mould of their own making even to the eclipse of common sense. They may be ahead of their time, or just dreamers striving to make dreams come true, or perhaps merely bigots. In fact, one has to have patience and rely on the modifying force of education and social understanding. It is no use being like Kipling's missionary, who first of all knocked a man down and then led him up to grace, which is what this Bill is trying to do.
I believe in the value of civic education and in giving a fair deal to immigrants; of course I do. But I also believe that the natives of my own country have a few rights left which they ought to be allowed to enjoy. I am reminded of the remark of Oliver Goldsmith, who said:A virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarcely worth the sentinel.That is how I feel about this sort of subject. You cannot enforce a principle 1881 like this by penal legislation. So I am not in favour of this kind of political forced feeding. As I see it, you cannot cure imponderables like personal prejudices and predilections with the sledgehammer of penal sanctions. If we continue on this course, the time is not far distant when the only people in this country who will find there is no place for the four freedoms are the natives of this land. I therefore submit that the Bill should not receive a Second Reading, and that the issue should await the greater knowledge of the working of the present Act.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend who has just sat down in entirely recognising the sincerity and motives of the noble Lord who is sponsoring this Bill. Everybody recognises him as an entirely sincere man and one who wishes well for others. But I must also join with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in saying that I do not think this is the way to achieve what he is trying to do. Many noble Lords have said that legislation is the way in which to introduce a greater consideration for others. But, my Lords, I do not think it is. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said, the more we are told that we must think one way, the more we shall most certainly think in the opposite direction. The Englishman is a very independent animal, and when he is told that he must think one thing he will most certainly think the other, whether he makes it public or not.
The motive behind the Bill, the prevention of the victimisation of any particular section of the community, is absolutely sound and good, but I do not think this is the way to achieve it. In his opening speech the noble Lord mentioned the mounting evidence to show that the Race Relations Act is inadequate. If it is, surely that is evidence that one cannot work by legislation. I was most interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Elton, put before your Lordships a case of which I had been thinking on my way here. It is the case of an employer who had two men set before him, one coloured and one white, with probably similar qualifications. The noble Lord pointed out what might happen if he chose one or other of them on grounds of colour. But I would point out another 1882 thing. Suppose the employer has no feelings whatsoever about colour. Suppose he is entirely willing to employ a coloured man or a white man, and suppose he chooses purely from the point of view of the man's qualifications and his fitness for the job. If he chooses the coloured man, of course no questions will be asked. A white man has simply lost, and he has no method of suing the employer for discrimination. But if the employer chooses the white man, the coloured man has that right, and if the case comes before a judge who is to say what was actually the motive in the employer's mind?
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, may I interrupt for one moment? If the noble Lord will read the Bill, he will find that if the white man is excluded he has just as much right to complain as the coloured man.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I do not think that any white man in his senses would imagine that he was being excluded on the grounds of colour. I do not think that would arise. The point is that this gives the coloured man a definite privilege over the white man.
§ LORD SOMERS
Even if the motive is only that of colour, we must remember that we are only human beings and that there are some excuses for it. I know that perhaps some people may not be very adaptable and, as I have said, discrimination purely on grounds of colour is a bad thing. But one must remember that with the enormous number of immigrants streaming into this country there has come a considerable proportion—I will not say even the majority—of those whose civilisation and social and moral standards are very low. Any race can produce people of this sort, and we produce plenty of them ourselves. You have only to go into certain parts of London to see that or travel on the Underground, as I do very frequently.
§ LORD SIMEY
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord is making special reference to the coloured people employed on the Underground, or to the travellers on the Underground, because there are large numbers of Barbadians employed there, and I deeply resent any aspersion on them.
§ LORD SOMERS
I am making no reference to colour whatsoever; I am merely saying that any race, either coloured or white, can produce people of a very low standard of civilisation. It is the unfortunate fact that some people who have had the misfortune to live close to these groups of coloured people have come to take that as being the standard. They do not perhaps realise that the coloured races produce also men of very high civilisation, and very fine men indeed, of great responsibility. On the other hand, I think one must give to the individuals of our country, our own natives, the right to choose whether they wish to open their premises to a coloured man or not. This is still our own country, although it is rapidly becoming less so. I believe that to introduce legislation which will definitely give rights to the coloured man which it does not give to the white man would be the very gravest mistake, and I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will not force the Bill to a Second Reading.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, may I, with your Lordships' permission mention a couple of reminiscences? First of all, in 1942, in Australia, during the long summer holidays—and it is very hot where I was—we had staying with us a Burmese boy. He was a very nice boy by the name of Reggie Ohn Kya. In that hot weather we used to go out at 4.30 in the morning and get all our work done before the heat of the day, and then come back. One day when I had come back from shaving and my wife was in the kitchen cooking, a rather stupid woman arrived at the backdoor and explained that she had stalled her car at the entrance. My wife, frying pan in hand, listened to her woes. She was mainly concerned with the fact that she had left the sprinkler on in her garden and it was a crime to do so after 9 o'clock. My wife shouted to the Burmese boy, "Reggie", and he answered, "Yes Ma'am". He came and stood behind her, and the woman took a pace to the rear. Then my wife said, "Go and tell Dad to help this lady to start her car". The woman took one more look at my wife, who is comparatively white, another look at Reggie, comparatively brown, let out a scream and fled! I think there is a moral in that particular story.
1884 May I mention another one? In 1962, back in this country there was a Ghanaian student at Seale Hayne college who was going through a difficult time trying, to find accommodation for his wife and child. The professor there said the student could not stay unless he could put his affairs in order. It came to my notice and my wife and I looked after his child for six months. Everything would have been fine and dandy had it not been for the rather usual intrusion of the Press, who, without permission and against special pleading (it was an agency), sold the story, with the photographs, to the Daily Mail. Then of course there followed headlines in that paper: "Baby Bongo moves into a stately home", and all that sort of thing.
The point I am trying to make is that once that had happened it let loose a whole flood of prejudices. Quite apart from the fact that the unfortunate student (who I am glad to say is now an important official in the Ministry of Agriculture in Ghana) was pestered, we also were pestered. There were some nice, sloppy, sentimental letters, and some the reverse. This is one of many, but the sort of thing one received was this:Sir, all you are doing is to seek cheap publicity forthis, that and the other—"degraded British", "hypocricy", "mongrel breeding", all that sort of thing with which I am sure your Lordships are quite au fait.
The point is that a lot of this sort of thing is going around. One of the best paragraphs here saysColonel indeed; you are only fit to be that in some African tribe of cannibals who mutilate and eat our white children and rape our women",and then the writer goes on to accuse me of sharing my bed with all sorts of what he refers to as "lice-ridden" some things. I mention those points purely to show that one has had some minor experience of what some of these things mean. However, I do not believe that this malaise should be dealt with by legislation. To my mind, this is a case of tolerance against prejudice and fear, and I think that should be dealt with not by law but by education and example.
We all have prejudices. I was speaking to a Member of another place the other day (not an Opposition member, in case 1885 anyone might think it was) and he told me that he was always plagued by a subconscious "thing" about gypsies. I asked him why, and he said he had been examining his conscience and it was because his nannie, when he was a boy, had always said to him, "You be good; otherwise the gypsies will get you". That is one example of the sort of prejudice one has. Why should any of these things be dealt with by law? It is only a matter of time. I admit that I have some prejudices. Your Lordships will remember that just after the last war there were some rather brutal murders in Palestine by extremist gangs. I happened to be a British soldier out there and a certain Mr. Ben Hecht was reported as saying that he had a song in his heart every time a British soldier was bumped-off. Now until the cows come home no Bill passed by Parliament will stop me from having a prejudice against Mr. Ben Hecht. The effect of the Scots on Dr. Johnson has already been referred to.
Another thing I cannot understand is why everybody seems to be so touchy nowadays. When I am in Australia—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would bear me out if he were here—I am introduced regularly as a "Pommie bastard" and my American relatives refer to me as their "God-dammed Limey liability". When I am in South Africa it is something about an unmentionable Rue Kneck, and in China it is unprintable in both senses of the word. This particular Ghanaian friend of mine had the name of Martin Ohemeng and he was one of the nicest chaps I have ever met—and I mean that in the Christian sense of the word—but when he telephoned me on one occasion and I did not recognise his voice he said, "Oh, this is the Black Irishman", because he thought his name sounded somewhat Irish. What I am getting at is that there is a lot of super-touchiness going around and the sooner we forget it and get on with overcoming the problem by education and example, the better.
On the question of religious persecution I come from a family which, by law, was excluded from your Lordships' House from the passing of the Test Act until 1829. But did the passing of the emancipation Act in 1829 make any 1886 difference to what people felt inside? No, it allowed us to come here, but that is all. I had a great-uncle who, as a major, was awarded the V.C. in the Crimea. A few years later he became a Major-General in the Aldershot Command and we still have a letter from him to his wife, saying, "Don't worry; you will not have to do any entertaining; nobody will entertain us". That was thirty years after the passing of the Act.
What people feel inside them will not be altered by this or any other Bill. I should not mind a bit of religious intolerance towards me if only the people who showed the intolerance really believed something themselves. The scientific humanists who seem to run our permissive society to-day think anyone who believes anything is rather a peculiar oddity. We all know what unfortunate or unpleasant people inverted snobs are, and I think we are in danger of being inflicted by a lot of inverted racialists—those people who complain bitterly that the greatest insult they can be offered is to be regarded as a racialist, and yet the whole time go around accusing other people of being racialists, and probably have never had any dealings in their private capacity with a person of a different view or colour.
To sum up, although I fully sympathise with the motives of the noble Lord who is introducing this Bill I am against it, because I do not believe men's minds and thoughts should, or can, be governed by laws. I think it would be much better if we could remove the causes of these things. The fear of losing your job, your position, your home or your women, or the possibility of getting a home: it will be much better if we concentrate on those rather than on unenforceable Bills.
I think also many of my friends who have a different colour from us really do not respect us any more because of the attitudes of some people who, let us face it, strike me as being rather humiliating and crawling, as if they were going around always with a kind of super-guilt complex. I think people of another colour would rather be treated man to man, which I think would happen with the majority of people in this country if they were left alone. Lastly, I am against this Bill because I cannot see where the 1887 trend is going, unless it is back to Cromwell and all the controls over men's minds. I remember when I was a prisoner of war there was a very earnest young man who, when we were having a semi-religious argument, told me he had only one religion. I asked him what it was and he said it was the "religion of Socialism". If we go on like this we may have the noble Lord, in a few years' time, introducing a Bill to say we must not do anything to bring the religion of Socialism into disrespect. With respect, I think that when that sort of thing happens the brain drain will be complete.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, this is a racial Bill and I must declare I am a chunk of Norman, a chunk of Saxon, a bit of Viking—not the Viking Club—a touch of Dutch, a streak of Shamrock, a quake of Scot. I must also declare that my original name was Lest range, meaning the stranger or foreigner, so I am not sure whose side I am speaking on, but I think it will work out that I am speaking on my own.
Some years ago I was in America, and was struck by the fact that in the South they had rather Victorian adequate arrangements for travellers; they had ladies' waiting rooms and gentlemen's waiting rooms and gentlemen's smoking rooms, but of course their use was translated into their own idiom—black women, white women, black men, white men, and so on. I was on a small river boat going across an estuary, which is called a river in America, and I got completely confused. I found I was in "white women" and bolted out, and then I was in "black men" and I bolted out of there, and found I was in "black women", and I gave up. All this racial stuff is very confusing when you are not used to it. At that time in America there were hotels with no Jews and other hotels with no gentiles, and I believe, though I did not see it, there were others with no gentiles and no "kikes". There was a colony of Swedes up in the North who did not speak any English at all, or any American at all. There were these terrifying shanty towns where Africans were cooped up under corrugated roofs and broken down motor cars, and nobody seemed to realise or do anything about it at all. Worse—I 1888 think it was worse—was the position of the Costa Ricans. It was not known how many there were. They spoke no known language and wrote no known language, and were breeding as fast as it was possible for human beings to breed. Above all this there was the fear of a witch-hunt going on against the Communists.
I was very generously treated in America, but I could not help feeling a great deal of relief when I got back to the country I knew. My hall porter had just adopted a piccaninny for no very good reason I could discover, and he was very pleased about it. The B.B.C., radio and television, were filled with lampoonists such as Britain has always had, good cartoonists, who were running down everything we consider sacred, even our Prime Ministers and your Lordships' House, but they were very witty and amusing and everybody was laughing at them. It was a non-union which had no Communist in it, which the ordinary people describe as a "Commy". The British people were exactly the same as they had always been. They were completely unmoved by all this. They were solid, with their feet on the ground, taking it all in their stride.
In the 'eighties and 'nineties of the last century there was havoc over Europe as your Lordships will remember. It was a very poor procession if somebody did not lob a home-made bomb into it. The President of the United States was assassinated. There were strikes and lock-outs and beating ups, and the Secret Service and private detectives were everywhere. Yet Herr Karl Marx could come to this country and live in complete comfort in Bloomsbury, and write his book and have it published, and have a decent funeral in Highgate. In the 1914–18 war I think the casualty list proved for ever that we are not a class country. The same thing happened in the Battle of Britain. When something really happens the British people wake up. They are completely united; they will see anything right through to the end.
I do not know why these ancient ancestors of mine came to this country. I am jolly sure they were not asked, and I am certain they did not come for the climate. People have been coming ever since, the Huguenots from France, and others from every other place. But the one thing I 1889 think it is important to realise is that in this debate speakers over and over again talk about coloured workers and coloured people, blacks. These people are British. When they are in this country they are British; they are not Pakistanis any more, they are British. We have laws for the British. They must obey our laws. Those laws are carefully made; we live under them and we have lived under them for centuries and they have evolved through centuries. We must never think of them as anything else but British.
This system would have worked all right, but unfortunately, as your Lordships know, we have had too large an intake recently into this country. I am very anxious—I expect we all are—that they should have time to adapt themselves and soak into the British way of life. I feel this Bill is very ill advised at the present moment. We are facing very large troubles. I should not like to describe what is going to happen if unemployment rises to astronomical figures. It is not the moment to stir up all this racial stuff, as in America. Leave it alone. I am sure the British Government are very carefully considering a Bill on these lines. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, I trust his Bill never sees—if any daylight comes through these stained glass windows—the light of to-morrow.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Brockway has asked me to wind up the debate, and he will speak very briefly after my noble friend Lord Sorensen. I hope that I shall be able to answer the various points that have been raised, and if I do not I hope that noble Lords will interrupt me. The case for this Bill rests on three propositions: first, that discrimination in the areas covered by this Bill is wrong and cannot be condoned; secondly, that there is evidence that it is being practised, and will go on being practised, on a very wide scale; thirdly, most important of all, that legislation on the lines proposed by this Bill is an appropriate weapon in the armoury which society can dispose of to stop it.
Bearing in mind the opposition which has come from the last four speakers, I think it is important to realise that there has been complete agreement on the first proposition. There cannot be many Bills which come before your Lordships' House 1890 where there is complete agreement on the objects. This is quite a different subject from immigration control, on which a number of widely differing views have been expressed, in all parts of the House. I think it is perfectly consistent for someone to hold the views of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on immigration control, and yet hold my views on this Bill, because we are talking about citizens of this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Strange, said; and it is quite unjustifiable, and wrong, for those citizens to be denied equal treatment and equal opportunity on the grounds of colour or race alone.
I think there is also a very large measure of agreement on the second proposition, the evidence of discrimination. Many examples have been given, and I should like to add only one of my own, which concerns a friend of mine who was looking for a flat. She went to a large flat agency which was thought to operate some kind of colour bar. The point of my story is that this friend has a strong West Indian accent but a very lightly coloured face. She went in and she asked for a flat. The girl looked at her and listened to her and said, "I think so. I am not quite sure". Eventually she had to go and ask someone else, and eventually again had to come out with a personal question, "Excuse me, where do you come from?" They were absolutely flummoxed. That is a lighthearted story, but it shows quite a serious situation.
Nor can I agree that the problem is likely to get better if we do nothing about it; on the contrary, I am quite sure that it will get worse—not because the white citizens of this country will get more illiberal, but because the numbers of coloured people competing for jobs on equal terms with the white population is increasing. Until now the great majority of immigrants to this country have been subjected to what is regrettable, but what one may call justifiable discrimination. Their English is bad; their qualifications are not the same, they are unused to the English way of life. But in the future there will be an increasing number of coloured people, particularly school-leavers who, as has been pointed out in this debate, are as English as any noble Lord in this House. I cannot disagree more with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, when he claims that someone whose family has been here a long 1891 time can claim to be more English than someone who has recently arrived.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for a second, I am surprised, then, that he has taken his seat in this House, because that arises simply from the fact that his family has been in this country a little longer than others.
§ LORD GIFFORD
And I am sorry for the principle that means I am here; I do not approve of it at all. But, to revert to what I was saying, it is estimated that by 1975 one in six school-leavers will be coloured. It is these people for whom we are legislating. These are the people whom this legislation is designed to protect. To me, the most startling stories of discrimination are those which concern them.
I think the question, and the only question, which has divided opinion in this House is whether we can tackle by legislation in general, and by this Bill in particular, the problems which we know exist. I should like to deal first with one argument—though I must say that I do not feel it to be an argument at all; namely, that you cannot abolish prejudice by legislation, prejudice being an attitude of mind. Of course you cannot. You can no more abolish prejudice than you can abolish other attitudes of mind which lead to reckless driving, breaches of contract, fraud, indecent assaults or any other kind of anti-social behaviour which is sanctioned by the civil or criminal law. Discrimination on the grounds of race and religion is a form of antisocial behaviour. What legislation can do is to provide a remedy for the victim which this Bill does; to deter, and if necessary sanction, the wrongdoer, which this Bill does; and to guide and educate public opinion. In this latter field I believe that this Bill can do enormous service. There are many people who, as the noble Lord, Lord Reay, pointed out, practice discrimination, not because of their own prejudices but because of what they conceive to be the prejudices of other people. If this Bill becomes law, those people will have an excuse for doing the right thing. They will be able to say to anybody who objects, "I am sorry but it is the law, you know". It will become respectable not to discriminate.
1892 If your Lordships have followed me so far I hope you will agree that a prima facie case has been made out for this Bill. It has been said by many noble Lords that it will have adverse effects which outweigh its advantages. The most serious of them was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Strange, that the Bill will increase racial feeling and not diminish it; that it will defeat its own object. Although the noble Lord is not in his place at the moment I think what he meant was that there will be a number of unfounded complaints made by people with a grudge or a chip on their shoulder, and that the ill-feeling which these complaints will arouse will bring the law into contempt. I would sympathise with this objection if the victims, or the so-called victims, of discrimination were enabled to rush to the civil courts, or even the criminal courts, for redress. But this is not the case. The complainant must go to the local conciliation committee, who will investigate the matter quietly and without fuss. If it appears that the complaint is without any foundation, the committee will report to the Board accordingly, and the Board is empowered to convene a hearing only if it is satisfied that a prima facie case has been made out.
I am sure that noble Lords will agree that this kind of procedure will effectively stop vexatious complainants from causing any trouble. I think it will also stop the trouble which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, foresaw when he talked about an isolated incident. If there is an isolated incident of discrimination, the local conciliation officer will have no difficulty in going round and talking to the people concerned, perhaps extracting an apology from the man who discriminated and an assurance that he will not do it again; and the matter will all be forgotten.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but I think the noble Lord is mixing up the present Act and this new Bill. Under the present Act, of course, nothing would happen, because the man concerned would not be practising discrimination. Under this new Bill he would in fact be discriminating and committing an offence. I do not know on what grounds the noble Lord says that no action could be taken.
§ LORD GIFFORD
He would be discriminating, I agree, but the complaint, surely, would be quite easily conciliated.
I turn now to the argument raised by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, among others, that this Bill will create a privilege class of coloured people. I find this difficult to understand. The Bill is not the Black Muslims' Charter. Take the case that Lord Somers raised, of the employer who rejects the coloured applicant because his qualifications are not as good; and assume that the coloured applicant complains and says that it was a case of discrimination. Again the conciliation procedure will be made to function: the officer will go round, and he will no doubt see the other coloured people who are working in the factory. He will listen to the reasons why the employer thought the qualifications were not so good, and he will have no difficulty at all in establishing that no case of discrimination has been made out.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I think the noble Lord is rather over-simplifying this matter. Supposing there were no other coloured workers in the factory, and supposing, too, that the employer in question was rather tending to defend himself, which is not unusual in such cases, how is the judge to know? I think the noble Lord must be endowed with remarkable gifts of mind-reading if he can tell what is in other people's minds.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I will deal with the noble Lord's point a little later, if I may. I was thinking at this particular moment of the man who, according to the noble Lord, had no prejudice at all, and I was assuming that there would be evidence in the nature of his employees to establish that without difficulty. But I will take up the noble Lord's other point in a moment. The noble Lord's point is really that of enforcement, a matter which has been mentioned by a number of opponents of this Bill. They say that it is not enforceable, that it cannot be proved. I believe that discrimination can be proved, in exactly the same way as any other wrongful act in which the state of a man's mind is an essential factor, by the surrounding circumstances. Your Lordships may know the dictum of Chief Justice Bowen, that "the state of a man's mind is as much a question of fact as the state of 1894 his digestion". There are countless crimes and wrongs in which exactly that, the state of a man's mind, has to be established.
There will be some cases where the discrimination will be open and apparent; there will be others where the excuse of the neighbours or the customers will be given; there will be others where some vague generalisation will be put forward. These cases can be easily established. But there are others (and I agree that they are the most difficult) in which an employer says, perhaps: "I turned down this applicant because he was not suitable, but I have no prejudice". If he says that then the Board has to discover whether this reason is a genuine reason or only a pretext. For instance, there was a case in the U.S.A. where a large airline turned down a prospective air hostess, who was coloured, because her hips were too large. The local Civil Rights Commission went round; they measured the hips of the applicant, they measured the hips of a sample of air hostesses in the fleet, and they soon found that her hips were not too large. Not all cases, perhaps, would be quite so simple as that. Even so, from the practice which is in operation at the factory, from the surrounding circumstances, discrimination can be proved in exactly the same way as fraud can be proved.
I should like to refer briefly to two specific objections which were put forward. One related to clubs. I can see that many noble Lords were worried possibly at the invasion of White's or Boodle's by large numbers of coloured people. The promoters of this Bill were thinking of clubs which were hardly "clubs" at all. They were thinking of night clubs, working men's clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs. I can see that there may be difficulties. This is obviously a point which needs to be looked at in Committee, and I feel that possibly we can formulate, as my noble friend has said, a definition of "club" or even perhaps (although I should not like it) exclude "club".
I want to refer now to incitement and to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I have some sympathy with what he said about the Britton case, which I think was a bad case. There are many good arguments to be put forward on 1895 behalf of this particular provision, and in particular the extension which it brings in to cover the Viking Club and other such organisations which have been mentioned in the House to-day. But again it is only an insignificant part of the Bill, because incidents involving incitement are insignificant when compared to the instances of discrimination. In voting upon this Bill, if we vote tonight, we should be thinking about discrimination and the appropriate remedies for it, not about incitement.
Lastly, I come to the main argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent: that we are debating this Bill too soon after the 1965 Act. First of all, we believe that it was the wrong Act, and that that Act should have gone as far as this Bill goes. Secondly, the noble Lord said that the committees were not fully established—and that is true. But the three which are established cover the whole country. I think the best answer to the noble Lord's argument is given by the endorsement of the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, about which my noble friend has told your Lordships, and by the remarks of Mr. Mark Bonham-Carter, which provide as good a summary of the case for this Bill as can be imagined.
My Lords, if we shelve legislation now we shall be allowing attitudes and patterns of discrimination to harden. This would be a tragedy. We shall be faced with an American-type situation in which, as the Home Secretary has said, the trends will be almost impossible to reverse. I believe that this country can, and must, show that it offers equality, equal treatment and equal opportunity, to black and white alike. I have tried to show that legislation can be effective in helping to bring this about. I consider that there is no better forum than your Lordships' House in which to have a full discussion of this human problem. For these reasons I urge your Lordships' support of this Bill.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend Lord Gifford that I have not allowed him to wind up as he indicated. I also apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I am speaking at all, as my name does not appear on the list of speakers. I probably would 1896 not have been drawn to my feet had it not been for the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Milverton. What they had to say this afternoon disturbed me immensely. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and his criticism of Lord Brockway's idealism, I would say, with deep respect to the noble Lord, that I am always mystified how a noble Lord who has been a Governor of any of our territories in colonial days can take the line he does in these debates. It is something I cannot understand.
I would remind him that three weeks ago he and I, together with other noble Lords, participated in the Barbados Independence celebrations. Could there be a better example than that small island that a multiracial society can exist in happiness? Therefore, I cannot for the life of me understand why the noble Lord should have any doubts about the success of a multiracial society in this country. Yet everything he says seems to contradict the possibility of a multiracial society. I am deeply concerned indeed that a point of view so representative of past centuries should still exist in your Lordships' House in one or two places.
With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, we have, of course, heard him often on these subjects; he has heard me often on these subjects. We take entirely opposite points of view. He has claimed again this afternoon that we can get over these problems by a spirit of good will. I would not be supporting my noble friend Lord Brockway this afternoon if I felt we could overcome these difficulties just purely and simply by hoping that good will will come.
A number of years ago my friend Mr. Nigel Fisher, M.P., and I formed the British Caribbean Association. By coincidence, we formed it at a time when the Notting Hill troubles were beginning. We found this problem on our shoulders. Since then we have had an organisation which has consisted in its executive and council work of 50 per cent. English people and the rest Commonwealth immigrants. We have gone on with great success. But this organisation, since the passing of the 1965 Act, right down to this day, has been inundated with complaints which this Bill would put right. Every week instances of where discrimination has been apparent pour into the Association. Therefore, I am merely 1897 suggesting that it is quite ridiculous to hope in this day, particularly with the number of coloured people we have in our country, that by good will for very many years to come we might overcome this problem. I do not believe it. I believe, therefore, that the time has come when there has to be extended legislation because the idea of good will has failed.
The main purpose of this legislation will be prevention. I believe that if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament people will not risk the form of discrimination dealt with in the Bill. I believe they will make quite sure that they do not offend against the principles and ideals which have been so very well expressed in many parts of the House during the course of this debate. I do not want to say more. It is because that good will has not succeeded that I believe it is now necessary to proceed to an extension of legislation to cover the points with which the Bill deals.
§ LORD SIMEY
My Lords, may I make two brief but most important points? The first point is that most of this debate has been developed in terms of immigrants, more immigrants, immigrants not aware of our way of life. I come from the North-West of England, from Liverpool, where our coloured fellow citizens are nearly all locally-born. They have been educated in our schools, they speak the common language of Liverpool, but because of their colour they are given unskilled jobs. They are the first to become unemployed in a slump, they have the worst accommodation, the worst social services, and the worst neighbourhood to live in. We are creating a Harlem and we are creating a group of sub-standard fellow citizens.
That situation is about to become universal in this country. What now applies to Liverpool, and has obtained for some sixty years in increasing degree, will shortly apply to all the big cities in England. And may God help us if we lose equality of citizenship with people merely because they are coloured! Where is the process to stop? We are at our wits' end to know how to deal with this problem. We have tried every way we can think of, including the recent Act, and we have got nowhere. There is no sign that we shall get anywhere. There is no sign that we can educate, that we can 1898 rely upon good will and upon bettering our knowledge of the problem. We want urgently a better means of dealing with the problem, which is what this Bill seems to give us a chance of, and we ask your Lordships most energetically to give us a chance.
My second point is a brief one. My first point was simply on the matter of colour; I forbear using the word "race" because the whole thing is entirely bogus from start to finish. The second problem on Merseyside, and in our district, is religion. A certain number of our people, mainly in Manchester, are Sikhs. They are religious people. We welcome them to live beside us and to fight with us so long as there is a war. There was no complaint whatsoever in our Army about living and fighting with Sikhs in the last war, and allowing them to wear turbans. But as soon as they become members of bus crews the trouble starts. That is absolutely abhorrent to me. As a Christian I must demand the right of members of religious minorities to practise their professed religions. I have the deepest respect and admiration for the Sikhs, and I ask your Lordships to pass this Bill in order that we shall wipeout this shameful disgrace.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate lasting for over three hours, and I do not mind confessing that I am most grateful that at last I have to wind up after a procession of speakers, although the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will have a few words to say after I have finished. First of all, may I express my appreciation of all the contributions which have been made of varying points of view and from both sides of the House? To some extent, arguments have been answered by other sneakers who take the contrary point of view. Nevertheless, I think that running through the debate as a whole there has been a consensus of opinion to which I shall refer again in a moment or two.
Meanwhile, may I join with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in his opening expression of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I have sympathy with myself as well, because I have to take his place and had he been here that would not have been necessary. But, certainly from the moment when many of us heard that he was stricken with infirmity and 1899 was seriously ill, we were seized with great anxiety and a fervent hope and prayer that he would speedily recover. It is very heartening to know that steady progress is now being made, and I hope very earnestly indeed that we shall have further reports in the very near future of his speedy return to good health, with the prospect therefore of his once again speaking from this Box.
My situation this evening is certainly somewhat ironical, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred to this in his second sentence. It is quite true that some years ago—I did not think it was as many as almost twenty years ago—I had the opportunity of introducing a Bill along these lines in another place. It did not get very far, because I was not called on the particular Friday when the Bill was down for debate. Nevertheless, it was an initiative, and I am most grateful that later the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, took the substance of that Bill and added to it, and with his characteristic energy has pursued it through the years. But it is somewhat in the nature of a poacher turned gamekeeper that I am here to-night to inform the noble Lord of the advice of the Government regarding his Bill; but for the moment that advice shall be shrouded in mystery which will therefore make everyone curious to know exactly what it is.
If the House does not mind a brief personal reminiscence, I would say it is strange that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I through the whole of our lives have been interested in much the same issues, though not necessarily in the same way. To think that he and I are here related in this strange juxtaposition is certainly very curious. It almost makes me think that we are reincarnated non-identical twins, with the accent on the non-identical. Be that as it may, there is certainly deep appreciation of his devotion to this purpose, and the Government are entirely sympathetic both with the intention of his Bill and with his motives and expressions, which were also voiced by other noble Lords supporting the Bill.
We all know, of course, that a similar Bill—not entirely identical, but similar—was introduced in another place only last Friday, and that the mover of that felt it wise, in the end, having had an exten- 1900 sive and useful debate, to withdraw the Bill. I do not know whether the noble Lord feels the same wisdom—we have yet to see. But I would exhort him to consider very carefully doing that, as perhaps, in all the circumstances, the best thing that can be done in advancement of the purpose he has in mind.
I quite agree that many of the proposals in this Bill are logical and consistent in their extension of principles already accepted in the Race Relations Act 1965; and to that extent, too, I can appreciate the reasons why he has brought this matter to our attention—so that we realise there is still a very grave need for further action to be taken at an appropriate time. The word "discrimination", of course, is in itself quite an innocent one. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who had done as I have done—that is, looked up the dictionary to find the etymological meaning of the word. To "discriminate" means merely, "to note the difference between one thing and another", which in itself is quite innocent. Therefore, I would myself distinguish between natural, innocent discrimination, such as we all practise, on the one hand, and that which is, on the other, quite uncivilised, by calling the latter "uncivilised discrimination".
Here, I would just touch on a few remarks made by Lord Royle, and others, in regard to good will. Always there is this difficult problem confronting legislators, and others, as to how far they should go in trying to encourage good conduct by legislation—by, if you like, coercion—and how far they should rely purely upon guidance, inspiration, education and persuasion. Really, my Lords, I would submit there is no necessary antithesis between the encouragement of good will, on the one hand, and legislation, on the other. Surely all beneficial legislation embodies the principle of good will to the citizens as a whole. Every good Act of Parliament, I would submit, is the embodiment of an aspiration to a better society. To that extent there is no distinction in essence between the diffusion of good will generally and the encouragement of it specifically through an Act of Parliament.
But I agree, of course, that there are limits. There are limits both ways. There are limits to reliance upon the diffusion 1901 of good w ill and limits, also, on what can be done in trying to enforce, if not good will then good behaviour upon citizens. Here, therefore, I must make it quite clear that the Government, considering this matter, believe it to be highly desirable to determine, in the light of experience that is still continuing, what in due course may need improvement in the present statutory machinery dealing with race relations, and then to take whatever other action may be necessary. That is the Government's position. Perhaps I may anticipate later remarks by saying now that in these circumstances—feeling, indeed, that the noble Lord has stimulated all our minds, and has already warned us that there is a great deal of evidence which has accumulated to show that there is need for further action—I hope he will now leave it to the Government to ponder upon these matters.
Moreover, I think we have to remember that the Race Relations Board set up under the 1965 Act has been operating only since last April, and it is customary to give a little longer time than that before trying to assess the results of such an investigation. It is surely a little too early to assess its working. Moreover, we hope to receive a report from the survey that P.E.P. is undertaking. And might I explain, for the benefit of those who may not know what the initials "P.E.P." mean, that they do not mean merely that which we all require in this House and elsewhere, but "Political and Economic Planning." They have undertaken, on behalf of the Government—or, rather, on behalf of the Race Relations Board—an investigation into the whole of this field; and that, together with the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, to which reference has already been made, in respect of the nature and extent of racial discrimination in Britain, will surely produce factual evidence (it has been and is being secured now) which will fortify the Government in whatever action they feel should be taken some months ahead.
I feel very strongly (and I assure your Lordships that I feel this personally, and not merely as a Devil's advocate) that until further evidence is available, further evidence than has yet been obtained, it would be unwise and imprudent to make any firm decision. I say this while expressing, as I have already said, great 1902 appreciation not only of the motives of the noble Lord and others but also of the many facts which he has brought to our attention. There is much to cause us disquiet. We have all, I am sure, in one way or the other, had experience of gross unfairness and injustice which, at least from a moral criterion, Christian or otherwise, no-one can support or endorse. Here, one knows, of course, that moral patterns vary enormously, and I am not therefore suggesting that anybody who does not accept this particular criterion which I personally accept is immoral; it merely means that his morality is different. That is why I deliberately select the words I use to indicate a moral criterion which is in accordance with, I think, the feeling of most noble Lords in this House, even though others may not subscribe to it, or may desire to qualify it quite drastically.
All the contributions of noble Lords, whether they subscribe to the implicit moral criterion by which some of us approach these matters or otherwise, have made invaluable contributions which will be most carefully considered. But, again, I am sure we shall all agree that any new measures dealing with a serious social and ethical problem should be fortified by careful and detailed consideration of what is appropriate and practicable, and will effectually serve the purpose which we endorse. There are complexities in this matter, and even dangers; and these must be appreciated, not just brushed on one side. It is always well, I think, for all of us who have strong convictions on one side to try to understand the convictions of those who oppose our own convictions. By so doing we are better informed, and sometimes we can build abridge where otherwise there would be merely a yawning vacuum or abyss. It would be wrong, of course, to exaggerate these dangers and these complexities. Nevertheless, I submit that they demand and require of us the obligation of constant, earnest attention, lest otherwise the difficulties increase, and even provoke reactions that may confuse the basic issue.
Before I touch on those contingencies, may I be permitted observations of a more general character, though I hope relevant to the nature of both the existing Act and this Bill? The question that arises with all of us, and has arisen one 1903 way or the other this evening, is: why should there have been urgent need for legislation on this matter of racial discrimination? We know that the evil exists—at least, some of us believe it to be an evil; others, perhaps, do not think so—either passively or flagrantly. We also believe that, while Acts of Parliament can certainly do much that is substantial to check racial prejudice and to prevent its gross expression, they cannot of themselves erase the fact of prejudice from human minds. That I think, is agreed. Only education and enlightenment, and a convergence of moral assessments, can do that. This, of course, includes the nourishment of a moral conscience that makes racial prejudice utterly repugnant to human decency.
But, again, we have to ask ourselves this question, platitudinous though it may be: what are the roots of this evil? Psychologists have probed deeply into the subject, and have provided their own assessments from time to time. A few appear to accept the fact of racial prejudice as a natural fact that cannot be reasoned away; and a few sociologists and politicians have appeared to rear on that alleged ineradicable basis a social structure of permanent racial separation. Again one must understand that, either openly or secretly, many accept that and say that it is a law based on nature that there shall be this severe and permanent separation of different communities. Thus the existing Act and the proposals of the noble Lord have more than a national significance. They are a challenge to our thinking, a challenge to our moral values; and, more than that, they are involved in the whole world-wide problem of racial relationships within our human community. Such a debate as is taking place to-day is being listened to, so to speak, representatively, by those in South Africa, Rhodesia and many other parts of the world.
Most of the human race, we must remind ourselves—as I think another noble Lord reminded us—consists of so-called coloured peoples, although "coloured" is a most misleading term, because those of European or Caucasian stock are themselves coloured. We here in this House this afternoon are coloured. The pigmentation of the human race ranges from pallid to pink, and from persistent or tem- 1904 porary sun-tan, such as the advertisers of holiday resorts or bottles of skin varnish extol, to the aggressively ruddy and choleric. I believe that we are all coloured, from fair to swarthy, but many of the fair minority, unfortunately, presume their own lighter hue to be a valid criterion by which they relegate the less fair or the swarthy to an inferior status. That is an assumption that exists in this country even among those who do not tolerate the worst excesses of discrimination. They still have the assumption that this purely accidental fact of pigmentation indicates an intrinsic inferiority. Of course, it is true that in other parts of the world this assumption does not exist.
Some years ago I addressed both Houses of the Venezuelan Parliament and saw their elected representatives of every shade of colour from ivory white, on the one hand, to the most sable black, on the other. There are other parts of the world where this extraordinary reaction to colour does not exist as it does in some parts of this country and in some parts of the world. Of course, pigmentation is not the only prejudicial factor; for generally associated with this are differences of ethnic culture including religion—and here I would say, in passing, that I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, or some other noble Lord who suggested that, while one cannot help the colour of one's skin or its ethnic significance, one is responsible for one's religion. The great majority of Hindus are born into the Hindu faith as part of their being; the great majority of Moslems in the Moslem world—or, for that matter, Christians—surely are born into a community where the religion is part of its fabric, part of their being. To that extent people are not, by intellectual conviction, Moslems, Hindus, Christians or Jews. Religion is to that extent a communal characteristic. Let that be by the way. I would merely say that, because of these different factors—whether they be cultural, religious, moral or economic—there are reactions evoked of fear between one human community and another. That fear, I would submit, is quite natural; but it can be exploited and aggravated either by those of primitive identification with their own familiar community or, more deliberately, by those with a sophisticated and distorted mentality.
1905 Your Lordships will forgive me for dwelling on this; but I know very well that there are those theologians and others who argue that there is a natural law, apart from a Divine Law, which can make certain things intrinsically evil. I do not accept that. I say it is natural for one community to fear another whose characteristics are unlike its own. National prejudice can be fused with racial animus, although not necessarily so; for national enmity to another nation can be ephemeral, according to national State political policies, economic exigencies or the psychological concomitant of war. Our own variable attitude to Germany and France respectively could illustrate this. Just behind the Throne, noble Lords will remember, there is a large mural painting of Blucher and Wellington shaking hands at that time when Germany and England were allies against the "infamous French"—who are, of course, recumbent on the ground at the feet of the conquerors. That has passed. I mention it merely to illustrate how in the course of time the bitter enmity and hostility to a particular nation can pass away.
But racial prejudice, I think, can go deeper and last longer than ephemeral national hostility or prejudice. Moreover, it can operate within a particular nation, as it did most woefully and tragically with Germany in the persecution of the Jews in the last war. However, anti-Semitism has operated elsewhere and exists in the United Kingdom. In this, as with other forms of antipathy, it is a defensive fear of the impact of differences that issues in aversion, discrimination, virulent hostility and, sometimes, in vicious persecution. It is precisely because of this that I welcome the attempt of the noble Lord and of all others to try to educate legislatively the people of the country into the realisation that differences should be welcomed. Instead of being accepted as a source of conflict, they should be welcomed as adding to the richness of our national life and as showing that differences and diversities can exist within a national harmony.
In the few, moments that I have remaining I will turn to the Bill. May I say that we should bear in mind the fact that communal protectiveness is very strong with many sections of our com- 1906 munity who are not themselves evilly disposed, as soon as they feel that their particular rights or privileges or standard of life need protection against those Philistines or vandals who would blindly tear them down—not necessarily through base intention but through ignorance. To understand that, we must understand why there is a fear as much in the working class as in any other section of the community of miscegenation, of intermarriage between different communities, because they believe that would cause a deterioration of their particular community and its values. We must understand this, even though biologically and anthropologically the assumption of some people that there is some deep biological difference between different sections of the community is quite absurd and spurious. Nevertheless, we have objectively to recognise that, however irrational and morally reprehensible the several kinds of community prejudice may be, they not only exist but can persist despite prohibitive legislative measures designed to eradicate or diminish the social evil.
I am sure that my noble friend Lord Brockway fully appreciates this; and also that in our eagerness to take strong action we must be careful not to implement our conviction in a manner that could stimulate emotional resistance and evasion and thus frustrate our good intentions. Oil may be appropriate for pouring on troubled waters but not for putting out fires. Unfortunately community distinctiveness can become deliberately aggravated until its victims become obsessed to the point when they react automatically to casual stimuli and lose customary restraints. They can be so conditioned as to be impervious to reason and moral obligation.
Not irrelevant to this, may I cite an unhappy experience I had myself some years ago when two young men came, separately, to my house. One was a South African national, the other a Nigerian. I have know them for many years; I admired them; indeed, they were my young friends. But as soon as they arrived coincidentally in my home, I could sense a freezing apprehensiveness on the part at least of one of them, and before many minutes had gone by, possibly preceded by an exchange of words which I did not hear, they were almost 1907 at each other's throats. It was a lamentable experience; and, of course, my home not being adapted to such pugilistic encounters, I am glad that it did not proceed too far. But it was a revelation of the latent ferocity of racial animus. These two otherwise excellent young men, when together in a certain situation, reacted automatically in a mood of almost murderous hostility.
I mention this, my Lords, only to apply it to the Bill—many of you may say, "And about time too!" Imagine, instead of these two young men just being temporary guests in my home, that one was a landlord and the other a prospective tenant; that one was applying for a room—shall we say?—in the house of the landlord. Under the law, it could be said, and rightly so, "You must not declare that there shall be discrimination against the Nigerian because he is black", and therefore no advertisement would appear to that effect. But with what consequential result? I submit that it is possible for the landlord to advertise his room to let, invite the applicant to attend at a certain time and then to give some spurious, evasive excuse for not granting him the tenancy, an excuse which it would be impossible to refute. And even if he accepted the tenant, one has to appreciate the state of tension and conflict that would exist in this situation. I am not saying that therefore nothing should be done; I am saying that we have to bear this in mind and realise that in some circumstances, though theoretically it may be desirable to coerce and compel, and sometimes it may be necessary in truth, nevertheless, there are emotional and psychological feelings which we should do well to bear in mind and they should counsel us to be cautious.
In his Bill the noble Lord proposes greatly to extend the provisions of the existing Act in many respects. Incidentally, I note an indication in the Title that he proposed to deal with religious discrimination, but I have looked through the clauses very carefully and, so far as I can see, except for Clause 6 there is no clause which deals precisely with this particular matter. It may be that on second thoughts it was discovered that there were very great difficulties in this respect and I can appreciate that as well; because once you start bringing in the matter of religious discrimination, you 1908 begin to tread on very dangerous ground. It might well mean, in course of time, that the satirists on television and other brash young men would find themselves in danger of being prosecuted for satirising religion or bringing it into contempt. It might, indeed, mean that all those humanists, or others, who satirise or criticise some of the more archaic elements of any particular faith would themselves be liable to prosecution as bringing that faith into derision or into contempt. I do not know; I simply say that there is this danger.
My Lords, there are certain clubs to which reference has been made, and their members undoubtedly indulge in distasteful discriminatory practices. But it is the essence of a club to be selective in its membership, and even with the proviso which the noble Lord has written into his Bill, it would be very difficult to deal with undesirable practices at some clubs without imposing unfair restrictions on the freedom of the many genuine clubs established for a wide variety of purposes. Reference has also been made to trade unions. Here, again, I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has been in consultation with the trade unions, for although I know that trade union officials have exercised a very beneficial influence over some of their members who may be infected by racial prejudices, nevertheless any attempt to try to deal with these tendencies still further requires consultation among those who are responsible for the great unions of our land.
There is much else that I could say. I am sure that already many are saying, "Please don't", and I will not. I will conclude by saying once again that we appreciate the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the plea he has made and the facts that he has brought to our attention; and, indeed, also those which have been brought to our attention by other noble Lords. But we ask that the existing Act and the Race Relations Board shall be given a reasonable time to accumulate experience upon which we can rest our determination to do something even better than has been done so far. It does not mean that nothing is being done meanwhile. We will continue to use our influence as a Government in every possible way, within the legislative and administrative machinery already at our disposal, to support and encourage all those who are devoting 1909 their time and energy most splendidly to combating any manifestation of racial discrimination as a cancerous growth in the body politic.
My Lords, I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, intends to do, but I would say as I sit down that I hope most earnestly that he will feel that the debate has been more than worth while. All the contributions to it will be heeded by the Government most carefully. I hope he will then withdraw his Bill. If, on the other hand, he does not do so, most reluctantly I must advise the House to oppose a Second Reading.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, we have had a long and I think a useful debate. I do not propose to enter into the controversy on the merits of the Bill; I propose only to make a comment on the advice which my noble friend Lord Sorensen has given. I think I am right in saying that at the beginning of his speech the noble Lord urged that the Bill should be withdrawn on the ground that the Government are considering the surveys that have been carried out and will introduce a Bill later if, in their view, those surveys justify that measure. On that ground the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, asks me to withdraw the Bill. As my noble friend says, our association has been very close. But I am afraid that on this occasion I cannot accept the advice which he has given.
I cannot accept it for three reasons. The first is that it will be next October before the new Session of Parliament begins and before the new measure which he contemplates can be introduced. Between now and October will be a period for the formation of public opinion, and it seems to me very desirable that this House should give some leadership to that public opinion by agreeing to the Second Reading of this Bill. I am looking at this matter in quite a practical way. I appreciate that if the Bill obtains a Second Reading to-night it will be very difficult, in view of the programme of the Government, and indeed in view of other Bills which are before Committees and before this House, to give facilities for this Bill to
§ to have a Committee stage. I recognise that in a practical way. But I say to your Lordships that if that is the case, there is a greater importance in our now declaring in favour of the principles of this Bill which have been supported from nearly all quarters of the House.
§ The second point I wish to make is this. This House is proud of a certain independence and liberty. In recent weeks we have demonstrated a liberal attitude on many issues which, I think, is ahead even of the attitude in the House of Commons. This is one of those deep moral issues. I believe that this House would be fulfilling its recent record of liberality on moral issues if to-night it were to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ The third reason why I would urge this House to accept this Bill to-night is that this is not a matter for the decision of either Front Bench of this House. This is a Private Member's Bill. It is a free vote. It is one of those occasions when individual Members of this House can, without Governmental or Party pressures, express their own convictions. I was just a little surprised when my noble friend, who has known me over the years, appealed to me to leave this to a Government. I do not believe that we ought to leave matters like this to a Government. I believe tremendously that, particularly in the Houses of Parliament, democracy involves that on every possible occasion—and this is one—when there is a free vote Members should declare their convictions and vote accordingly. I believe that to carry the Second Reading to-night will be an encouragement to all those—and I know they are in the Government itself—who wish to see a Bill on these lines carried. On these grounds, I am afraid that I cannot accept my noble friend's advice to withdraw the Bill, and if the Second Reading of the Bill is challenged I have no other course than to take the matter to a Division.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the Bill be now read 2a?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 23; Not-contents, 60.1911
|Addison, V.||Arran, E.||Chorley, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs.||Collison, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Brockway, L.||Faringdon, L.|
|Gifford, L. [Teller.]||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Royle, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Mitchison, L.||Simey, L.||Truro, Bp.|
|Popplewell, L.||Southwark, Bp.||Winchester, Bp.|
|Reay, L. [Teller.]||Stocks, Bs.|
|Auckland, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Milverton, L. [Teller.]|
|Audley, Bs.||Elton, L.||Monson, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mowbray & Stourton, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Erroll of Hale, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Bowles, L.||Falkland, V.||Newall, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Fortescue, E.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Rhodes, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Greenway, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brown, L.||Hall, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Burden, L.||Hawke, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Champion, L.||Henderson, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Somers, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Sorensen, L.|
|Conesford, L. [Teller.]||Kilmany, L.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Strang, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Leatherland, L.||Strange, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Lindgren, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Margadale, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Merrivale, L.||Ypres, E.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.