HL Deb 16 July 1969 vol 304 cc421-59

10.32 p.m.

Lord O'HAGAN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the deterioration of race relations in the United Kingdom, and of the harm being done by the tone of public debate on race and immigration; and whether they will come forward with proposals which will reassure the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, whatever their colour.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sad that I have to raise this subject in your Lordships' House. I am sad that this country, of all countries, is in danger of letting a chance of real achievement slip away. Calmly and quietly I will try to indicate what I should say may be needed, and how Her Majesty's Government have the opportunity for satisfying that need.

Before I turn to each of the three parts of my Question it will probably be helpful if I tell your Lordships what I propose to talk about to-night. I am not going to talk about the rate or level of immigration control: those decisions have very largely been taken. I shall be talking about the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, the people who are already here. Every one of your Lordships wants all who live here to prosper and to get on well with each other. Nevertheless, since the way immigration is controlled does affect the approach of the immigrants and indigenous inhabitants towards race or community relations,]'. feel that I must touch on it.

The first part of my Question asks the Government whether they are aware of a deterioration of race relations in the United Kingdom.

I am not belittling the achievements of this Government, particularly their bolstering of the Race Relations Board and the establishment of the Community Relations Commission, to both of which I take off my proverbial hat. Still, things are getting worse. Who says so? Not just myself. It is the pervading impression that I have picked up from talking to people of good will actively concerned at all levels. The Community Relations Commission, in their first Report, say in cautious and dispassionate language: Many knowledgeable observers and many workers in this field would no doubt write 1968 down as a year of deterioration in community relations.

I have, myself, observed the many forces militating against peaceful development. Some of these I will indicate in more detail later on. The Rose Report shows that the situation is full of hope; but hope is not enough and must be nourished by action.

At this moment, I will point a finger at Her Majesty's Government. Some of their measures have contributed to the decay. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 broke pledges. It is blatantly discriminatory, and was rushed through Parliament in panic. Your Lordships will remember the threat of the1¼ million "yellow peril". This has taken its toll of good will. The restriction on fiancees has curdled the faith of many. I specifically ask the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to explain to me and to the House what would happen if two British white sisters got engaged, one to a German, one to a Pakistani, and subsequently both pairs got married. Is not the position at the moment that the Commonwealth citizen would probably not be allowed to remain here, while in due course of time the alien probably might be? I have been told that many Commonwealth immigrants have had little faith in the Conservative Party, but in the case of the Labour Party, seen as a bastion for the under-privileged, that trust has been considerably undermined with destructive consequences.

I now move on to "the tone of public debate." The Conservative Party have given no strong lead. So far as I am aware, there has been no firm statement of intent on community relations, even from Mr. Hogg. Perhaps we are waiting for a consensus. The numbers coming in and the concentration of those here are important factors, but discussion of those points should not obscure the need for a constructive and positive declaration of faith on race or community relations, followed by details of measures in store. By talking all the time about immigration the Conservatives are helping to mask the facts about the prejudice that exists in this country, and they are helping to focus attention on entry, rather than on the challenge for action presented by the state of race relations here to-day; and so the public debate is diverted from its most profitable role in a way that disturbs rather than calms.

Of course, no discussion can proceed until the facts are made public. We are all grateful for the solid material in the Institute of Race Relations Report. All the facts there must be made generally available; and the way they are presented is very important. There is the system whereby local authorities can obtain a grant if their area has special needs attributable to immigrants. Well and good. The figures which the local authorities have to obtain to get the money to deal with the problems of poverty (under which head the immigrants come) have been, in some instances, over-exposed by the local Press. The problem is turned on its head. The immigrants were made to seem responsible for the poverty. This is an example of what can happen in public discussion with genuine facts.

Your Lordships will expect me to be more particular on the decline in the tone of public debate. In my view, much of the blame sits heavily on the shoulders of Mr. Enoch Powell. I do not for one moment question his right to state his views. I believe in free speech. I am not indulging in character assassination; I am not saying that Mr. Powell is an evil human being. I am confident that he believes he is helping his beloved country. Still, it is stupid to dismiss him as a sort of Malcolm Muggeridge, or the Maharishi Yoga, as he is now called. One has only to note the attention which the Press gives to Mr. Powell's speeches—not so much those in another place, but those he makes up and down the country—to feel his impact. I should like to examine some of the facts contained in his latest speech.

Your Lordships will of course know how the B.B.C. poll on repatriation, to which Mr. Powell attached so much importance, has been dismissed by the pollster responsible. It was a straw poll, and as such it was not something on which a philosophy can be based",

said Mr. Taylor, of the Opinion Research Centre. Mr. Powell's strategy of repatriation appears to be based upon a flimsy foundation. But at the centre of Mr. Powell's argument lies the threat to a continuing high level of immigrant births in relation to total births. We know the truth, especially now that the Rose Report is out. Fewer immigrants are coming into the reproductive age than are going out of it; new immigrants are mostly highly skilled and tend to have small families; those already here gradually attune themselves to our social norms, and have fewer children. Dr. Eversely, an expert, to whom Mr. Powell himself refers in his latest speech, considers that the birth rate will fall very quickly.

Mr. Powell has now turned statistician. His dubious anecdotes have had their emotional impact, and now he seems to pose as the detached observer. I think that he has been misled by his zeal to preserve what he feels to be the truly British nature of Britain; and so he encourages his Party and the country to ignore the task of building bonds of trust between those who live here. It was another gentleman with a Welsh name who said in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I: I can call spirits from the vasty deep!

The bluff English reply was: Ay, but will they come when you do call for them?

Mr. Powell's appeals call up the most powerful phantasms from the very vasty deep. I sometimes wonder if he understands the nature of the responses he inspires. Does he look beneath the outer surface of all that proud patriotism?

Your Lordships will be relieved when I turn to the third part of my Question. I am asking Her Majesty's Government, Whether they will come forward with proposals which will reassure the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, whatever their colour.

If the problems connected with immigrants and their descendants are seen to be tackled, confidence in the possibility of their solution will flow round the country and make that solution more likely. The Rose Report shows how much goodwill there is, especially among the younger people here.

Let us capitalise on it. I know that much is being done: urban aid increases; the rate for grants under the 1966 Local Government Act has been raised; the local authorities have put more forward; the Race Relations Board prospers; the Community Relations Commission promises well. I attach a lot of hope to the Community Relations Commission. But are the Government satisfied it is accessible to the immigrant in the street? One wonders. Do the Government really believe in the Commission? Is it true, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that the Commission was not consulted over the fianc´e restrictions? I hope the noble Lord can tell us that the Commission will be given all possible assistance and more money, and that it will be trusted to do its job.

My Lords, I ask for proposals in three specific spheres. Housing is perhaps the key to the future. The new Housing Bill will help, for the nature and the location of the home determines the education of the child, which in turn influences his or her future employment. Can the Government indicate whether they will really co-ordinate the efforts towards urban renewal, so that there is more drive from the centre? Will they put greater emphasis on the criterion of need in local housing projects? The urban renewal programme must be tied up with the local housing policy. Will this come about? Specifically, will there be a chance for local associations to obtain funds without going through local authorities?

On education, are the Government satisfied that dispersal policies are sound? Will they attempt to substitute a linguistic criterion for the present odd immegrant criterion? Will they see that their disposal policies are properly implemented, so that the danger of predominantly immigrant schools, which lead to a coupling of colour and inferiority, is avoided? Will they ensure that the syllabuses and the intentions of the colleges of education and the like are relevant to the needs of the immigrants? Cannot the Department of Education and Science give a bit more of a lead?

On employment, will the Government make up their mind about something they have been thinking about since 1966—whether to put an anti-discrimination Clause in Government contracts? Will they make sure that private employment bureaux are regulated and their records open for inspection? Lastly, police. Will the Government have a look at the complaints procedure and the training of police in the field of race relations and put a stop to the harmful involvement of the police in vetting the accommodation for the dependants of immigrants?

My Lords, I hope I have not preached to your Lordships. If I were going to I might have chosen as my text the last words of a lady whose statue is not far from here. Nurse Cavell said before she died: Patriotism is not enough; I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone".

In that spirit I have tried to ask my Question. In that spirit I hope the debate will continue.

10.47 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships would all like me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, in bringing this Question before us, and not the least in his persistence with it. It has been on the Order Paper for some time. It is not his fault, in my view, that the Question is, however, a little mistimed. I do not refer to the fact that it is now 10.45 p.m. I do refer to the fact, however, that it is mistimed in relation to this Report from the Institute of Race Relations. The noble Lord began his Question by putting to us his view that there had been a deterioration in race relations; and that certainly is a debatable point. If he had asked it of us a week ago or a fortnight ago we should have had to discuss it with the best evidence and advice we could have laid our hands on. But if he asks us to discuss it to-night, we know that all the information, much the best available, is here in the Report I have in my hands. But for my own part, I am only too ready to confess that I have not had time to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" this admirable Report with anything like sufficient thoroughness to bring it into a debate on this complex subject in your Lordships' House. I venture to doubt whether many other noble Lords have yet had time to do so.

However, I offer a few brief observations about current attitudes to race relations culled from a very brief scanning of this valuable Report. Perhaps I may turn aside for one moment, because I think that this is the first occasion that this subject has been debated since this Report was published, to give it a welcome and to congratulate all those who have taken any part in its publication: the Institute of Race Relations and Mr. Philip Mason, for his insight, I think seven years ago, that basic information on this problem was so sorely needed; Dr. Leslie Farrer-Brown of the Nuffield Foundation, who had the insight in those early days to see the scale of the research that was required and to allocate the necessary funds; and, not the least, to Mr. Jim Rose and his associates for the perfectly sterling work they have done in producing it.

From just a very brief scanning of this Report, it seems to me that there are four elements in current attitudes to race relations which have a bearing on the question which the noble Lord posed to us. These four elements are, it seems, as follows: There is one set of attitudes, often the most extreme, which have their origin more in the disordered personality of those who hold and express them than in the factual situation to which they are said to relate. We really must not allow ourselves, my Lords, to get worked up into a lather about these attitudes, still less to let such attitudes govern policy, even if they do manage occasionally to get broadcast and reported.

The second group of attitudes seem to me—and this Report endorses it—to spring from fear or ignorance, or both. They are clearly susceptible to an educational approach on formal lines in schools and colleges and, perhaps more importantly, on informal lines in clubs, churches, trades unions and in every possible setting where people meet for ordinary converse. This Report when it has been read, marked, learned, inwardly digested and disseminated, will prove a most signal contribution in this field. I am sure that it will have a very marked and salutary effect.

The third group of attitudes, which has already been touched on by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, springs from multiple deprivations. These occur whenever too many people, and particularly when there are black and white in competition with each other, are chasing inadequate housing, inadequate schooling, insufficient playgrounds, not enough jobs or any other facilities and benefits which are in great demand. These attitudes are clearly susceptible to local government action, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in his reply to the debate, will tell us how things are getting on in the urban areas of special need, the educational priority areas and so on.

The fourth group of attitudes are those, alas! that are engendered and built up by the mass media. These media are, regrettably, only too apt to give prominence to the views of extremists because in their view this produces a better debate and a more exciting entertainment. They thus confer an importance on those views, and on the holders of them, which is not inherently deserved. Unfortunately, the mass media are not particularly susceptible to outside advice. One hopes that more responsible policies will in time prevail, but that in the meantime fewer and fewer people will believe everything they read in the newspapers, hear on the radio and see on television.

With all the evidence in this Report to hand but, alas!, at present unread—or certainly not read at all thoroughly by me—I do not want to venture any deeper into this topic to-night. Perhaps one of the main findings of the Report will provide some of the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, is asking for. I read from the third paragraph on page 737: The extent of tolerance in Britain cannot be stressed too often and is indeed one of the major facts of the actual situation. This has to be communicated to people whose anxieties on this score may stem in part from the mistaken view that there is not only widespread anxiety about coloured immigration but widespread hostility towards coloured people as such. What is needed, in short, is not an effort to make people unprejudiced but rather to remind them that they are unprejudiced. Nevertheless, this is a most important social issue and further debate in your Lordships' House in due time would be a good thing, but I would submit that further debate based on conjecture and on incomplete evidence, when we have 800 pages of fresh evidence based on widespread and thorough research waiting to be read and digested, would not in my view be wise.

10.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that Lord O'Hagan's Question discloses a real and frightening problem. I will try not to speak for too long—certainly not more than about 10 minutes—but I feel that even at this late hour on a hot night, and especially after the two moving speeches that have gone before, the importance of the subject demands more than a glancing blow. I have the honour to be one of the two Deputy Chairmen of the Community Relations Commission, under the forthright chairmanship of Mr. Frank Cousins, with his lifelong concern for people, whoever they are and wherever they come from.

There can be no doubt that the purport and tone of some notorious recent speeches on race and immigration have made the work of improving community relations in Britain immeasurably harder. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, referred to Mr. Powell's speeches in a truly dramatic way. The assumption [...]nderly- ing these speeches seems to be that coloured people somehow pollute or corrupt our pure British society, and the greater the numbers the greater the pollution. This is evil and dangerous nonsense. We are a hotch-potch of nationalities. Britain has been a country of immigration throughout its history. British life and culture have been created and enriched by successive waves of immigrants. Nobody now seems to object to white Commonwealth immigrants. Unreason and hostility begin only with people whose skins are a different colour. I believe that this sort of prejudice is a far greater menace to our democratic system and our cultural values than any coloured man, women or child could possibly be. It threatens our rights to call ourselves a civilised society.

It is not at all difficult to make speeches playing upon people's baser instincts and emotions, but the trouble is that every time views of this sort are uttered and given prominence by the Press they tend to gain currency. Mischievous gossip always travels far and fast (the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, made this point most effectively, if I may say so); this encourages the spread of intolerance, and makes it acceptable rather than thoroughly disreputable to talk a racially prejudiced way. And this, as I have said, makes it much more difficult to promote good relations between members of different races within the community. Moreover, all Community relations work depends on co-operation from local authorities in giving practical and moral support in promoting good relations. There is clear evidence that another damaging effect of these notorious speeches is to increase the Commission's difficulties with some local authorities.

It is maddening that so many people will confuse race with immigration or immigration with race. Often this is sheer thoughtlessnes, but sometimes, as in the case of a thoroughly obnoxious leaflet that I received through the post this morning from the National Front, it is done wih calculated evil intent. Of course it is justifiable to talk about controlling immigration to the extent that the net inflow of people into Britain must not be more than our housing, employment and social services can cope with. But what is wrong and barbarous is to discriminate, in immigration as in anything else, against coloured peoples simply because of their race and the colour of their skins. It is perhaps understandable, though hardly hospitable and worthy of the British sense of fair play, to treat newcomers, any newcomers, as outsiders; but it is outrageous to treat the quarter of a million coloured children born and bred in Britain as outsiders, and to try to relegate them to the permanent ranks of second-class citizenship. That is the implication of publicly induced racial hostility. I always find myself surprised at how supposedly intelligent men and women can say the things they do without ever stopping to think what they would feel like if they were at the receiving end of their own speeches. Arthur Koestler referred to some people as "mimophants"—people who, where their own susceptibilities are concerned, curl up like mimosa, but who trample like a herd of elephants on the susceptibilities of others.

One of the difficulties underlying the noble Lord's Question is that community and race relations work is for the most part very unspectacular. It is a new and untried and extremely complex field of social service. It is a matter of public education and public information. It is a matter of repairing what bridges there are in our society and trying to build new ones. This does not attract publicity, unless perhaps there is a Royal opening. But blow up a bridge, or even threaten to blow it up, or put some plasticine under it that looks explosive, and you hit the headlines the next day.

Even that admirable paper, the Financial Times, went out of its way a week or so ago in a main leader to allege, quite untruthfully, that the Race Relations Board was having to consider usurping the functions of the Community Relations Commission owing to its failure to make any real impact. This was about as ill-informed as it is possible to be and grossly unfair to both bodies. Incidentally, I must confess that even the New Statesman, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, did not do much better. I was very pleased to see that Mr. Mark Bonham-Carter, the splendidly successful Chairman of the Race Relations Board, lost no time in writing to the Financial Times to refute their heresy and to explain that the functions and spheres of operation of the two bodies are quite different from each other.

Community and race relations work is going to be even harder than it need be unless the British Press can learn not only not to discriminate against colour, but also to discriminate between the dramatic, spectacular, destructive story and the constant, plodding work of the bridge-builders in our society. Their work through and by influencing others scores no credits. But my old grandfather used to say, "You can achieve far more if you don't care who gets the credit for it."

I want to finish with two quotations. The first is from Mr. James Sweeney-Fenton, who described himself as public relations officer for the Montserrat Progressive Society when he was recently giving evidence at Hackney to the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. He said: We should work together to make this a better place for us to live in, because this is a very good country and we could help to make it better. He was talking as an immigrant. The second quotation comes from Colour and Citizenship: A Report on British Race Relations, by E. J. B. Rose and Associates, to which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has so warmly and rightly referred this evening. I hope that its great battery of recommendations will be taken seriously by the Government and translated into practice. I quote from that Report: By throwing light on a series of major social issues … immigrants illuminate the strength and weaknesses of our social system and indicate the surgery which it requires … In short, our society is in important respects an unjust society organised in such a way as to perpetuate these injustices. Immigration, by stimulating a concern for social justice, may also provide the solvent for the inflexibility which helped to produce the symptoms now ascribed to the presence of immigrants. I believe that the best way, in the words of the noble Lord's Question, for the Government to reassure the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, whatever their colour, is not to single out immigrants or coloured people, but to attack poverty and injustice wherever they occur.

11.5 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a few moments, but I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for bringing forward this important Question. I half agree and half disagree with some of the words which fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, is not entirely responsible for the timing, since he put down his Question some days earlier.


My Lords, I said is was not the noble Lord's fault.


I accept that. Since the Question was put down, the Report has appeared. This discussion may help to focus attention on its important recommendations, and I trust will encourage us all to study it in more detail. I would certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that it is a basic document. One of the things that we lack in dealing with this problem is knowledge of the real facts, and it is on a statement of this kind that we can base future policies.

I do not wish to say very much about the general question this evening. I am not sure that I share Lord O'Hagan's view that race relations are deteriorating in this country. In many ways, I think there are signs of improvement; and I should certainly have thought that it was something for the better that we are approaching many of these problems nowadays with more honesty and realism than was the case in the past. It is a factor for the better that it seems—I say this from my own observation—that younger people, on the whole, are freer from prejudice than many of the older generation, and this should be an increasing advantage in the future. The Report itself, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said, holds out various signs of encouragement for the future.

What is the case, I think, is that the tone of public discussion on race problems has deteriorated, and this, surely, is to be deplored: because what we are seeking for is a reasonable way of being able to live together as human beings, and if both sides take an extreme course, it will be extremely difficult to find solutions to the problems. Certainly fear, prejudice, intolerance and calumny are not suitable guides for us.

I want to mention one particular aspect of the problem, and that is the question of overseas students, who would not perhaps normally come into this category of things affecting the general problem. I raise it because I think the network of students round the world studying in various other countries is one of the factors making for a lessening of narrow, selfish nationalisms, and of helping perhaps to create a saner world order. In this country we have always prided ourselves on our ancient seats of learning, and more recently on our technical institutions, our medical schools and the various other establishments where people can receive training of every kind, and can conduct research under the most modern conditions. We have for centuries welcomed people from abroad to come for training and education in this country, and in recent years the British Government have been extremely generous in providing facilities for students from overseas.

I happen to be Chairman of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom, and perhaps on that account I should declare an interest in this matter. At the present moment, for example, we have more than 600 scholars and Fellows, men and women, from all parts of the Commonwealth. But that is only a small part of the total flow of students who come to this country in a variety of ways for a number of different disciplines and skills, and. the total number at the present time is something of the order of 70, 000. My point is this. Of course, the primary purpose of students coming to this country is to receive the appropriate training, but this can only be achieved if they live tender congenial conditions conducive to their work.

But there is a further point. I think it is not unfair that we in the receiving country, so to speak, should hope that the students who come here for two, three or four years should return to their own countries—where before long many of them are bound to be in leading positions—with an understanding of the British, and perhaps with a disposition to favour our attitudes. But how is the student likely to react if he hears the doctrines of racial intolerance being preached and applauded? How is he likely to react if he finds discrimination being practised against people whose only crime is that the colour of their skin happens to be precisely the same as his own? Or, indeed, if he or she is the victim of some petty persecution—because, after all, students are not distinguishable from other categories of people when they travel up and down the country? I am not for a moment claiming that instances of this kind are frequent. But no one can deny that some do occur from time to time. One has to remember that a hundred acts of kindness are treated as natural and no particular attention is paid to them, whereas one single, isolated act of an insult can leave a searing impression for life. There are far too many authenticated cases of students—men who establish themselves later—from Asia or Africa, who, because of some no doubt unthinking act on the part of an individual in their student days, have been soured for the rest of their lives.

On one occasion I was friendly with an Indian member of the I.C.S. who was speaking to me of his student days in London, and of the very happy time he had with a family. He was in lodgings in London, and spent three years with the family continuously. He said to me, "You must remember when I came to Britain for the first time you captured me, and when you captured me you did so for life". He ultimately rose to very high positions in the Indian Government service. He was certainly on occasion, when necessary, strongly critical of British policies, but he never lost his basic affection and understanding for this country. My whole point is that, surely, that is the atmosphere we wish to preserve; and my only reason for mentioning this this evening is as an additional reason for advocating that we should establish sanity in the conduct of our race relations in this country and moderation in our public discussions on the subject.

11.12 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with others in thanking Lord O'Hagan for initiating this discussion. I regret the time, but I do not entirely accept the view which has been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that this is the wrong period in which to have this discussion. We have had within recent weeks the Report of the Race Relations Board; we have had the Report of the Community Relations Commission. We have now had this momentous document from the International Relations Institute, Colour and Citizenship. While I appreciate that many have not been able in three days to read that large document, it has been well covered in the daily Press. Apart from those three reports, a Select Committee of another place which has been discussing the question of school leavers is now going to discuss the system of appeals in immigrant countries. Next week we shall be adjourning until October; therefore I think my noble friend was quite entitled to raise this issue tonight before we resume in October.

I want to say a word or two about those Reports. There is the Report of the Race Relations Board. I endorse with deep appreciation the service which Mr. Mark Bonham Carter has contributed as Chairman of that Board. It has been quite outstanding. The one point which particularly interested me in their Report was the statement that Commonwealth immigrants are inclined to go to those firms which welcome them, while a large number of firms do not accept them as employees. Therefore Commonwealth immigrants refrain from going to those firms, and because they refrain the fact that there is discrimination by those firms is not brought before the Race Relations Board. Tonight I want to urge that the Race Relations Board, who have within their terms of reference initiative where discrimination takes place, should challenge on this issue of discrimination the many firms in this country which do not employ coloured persons. I may mention, incidentally, that I have never seen a coloured person as a clerk in any of the banks in this country.

On the Report that has been issued by the Community Relations Commission I want to make this comment. It has a distinct contribution from the Race Relations Board. The Race Relations Board have to deal with discrimination when it takes place. The Community Relations Council have to seek to prevent discrimination occurring. Frankly, although there are two members of that Commission in the House this evening I was a little disappointed by their Report. I was disappointed because it did not reveal positive action by that Council to prevent discrimination, as one would like to see it. There was little indication that they were carrying out the educative work against discrimination which seems to me to be within its terms of reference.

I just throw out this other suggestion. I am not a Scot, but when I have been to Scotland I have been tremendously impressed by the absence of racial feeling in that country, particularly in relation to coloured persons. There may be some religious feeling between Orange and Green, but there is none between those who are white and those who are coloured, and I should have liked to see the Community Relations Council establishing in Scotland the co-operation between the different races which might be an example to this country as well.

Let me just say one other thing, because I think it is important. The Community Relations Council are a quite extraordinary departure in our pattern of constitutional and voluntary organisations in this country. They have a statutory centre, but under that statutory centre are local voluntary organisations. I am one of those who believe in a democracy which is not just centralised in government and not just centralised in local authorities. I believe in a democracy which is local, spontaneous and dynamic, and I regard this pattern of a statutory central authority with these local voluntary organisations as an example of what might be an advance in democratic relations in this country. And I would only say to the Community Relations Council that I think they must be very careful indeed of their statutory position, not to impose upon local voluntary organisations requirements which may often not be according to local circumstances, and which may very often prevent the voluntary, spontaneous, enthusiastic dedication of individuals to the cause of community relations. I say that because I believe in a democracy which has local spontaneity.

I turn to the third Report, which is the Report on Colour and Citizenship, to which reference has been made. I regard this as a quite historic document. One thing that impresses me in this Report is some doubt about the point which is made in Lord O'Hagan's Question as to the deterioration of racial relations in this country. There are factors for it; there are factors in the immigration policy which Her Majesty's Government has pursued which have caused great resentment among very many of our coloured population. In that matter I wan: particularly to refer to one problem which I have raised previously in this House, arising from the decision that immigrants should have entry permits before they leave their territories. I want to ask very strongly about this. It is much easier at Heathrow, much easier for our immigration officers here, much easier for the Home Office.

But what is the situation in the countries from which the immigrants come? I ask the Minister to tell us when he replies—this has gone on for about five weeks now—has one single appeal come from any territory from which immigrants have been desiring to come to this country against the decisions in those territories? I do not believe there has been one. That does not mean that there is not the desire. It means that there has been a total collapse of the whole machinery by which those appeals could be voiced. I know the situation. I am Indian born; I come from an Indian village. I have seen the reports about women with children in their arms who for days and days have asked for the right to come to this country, and there has been no answer. That has been going on for weeks. Nothing has been done.


My Lords, nay I interrupt my noble friend? He told us that this had been going on for weeks long before we introduced the question of the need for compulsory entry certificates. There is nothing new in this, and it has no direct relationship to the need for compulsory entry certificates.


Of course it has. It was going on for weeks before, and I exposed it in this House. But now that these people are not allowed to leave these territories without getting their entry permits it means that there is greater and greater delay; and the Government have been guilty of establishing no machinery at all by which the appeals can be made. I challenge the Minister to say that one single appeal has been made since this inhuman treatment in our Commonwealth countries has been established. I speak deeply about this because I know of it. I am not suggesting that our Government are inhuman. They are appallingly ignorant, and the suggestion that someone should be appointed to investigate this matter may take six weeks; and these wretched people from their distant villages are left absolutely uncared for because the Government have introduced a system of control which, although it may be easier here, does not help those wretched people in the territories. I apologise for speaking in this way, but I feel very deeply about this because I have a knowledge of it.

I want to turn to the Report which has been issued on Colour and Citizenship. There is one most interesting proposal here. It is the proposal that responsibility should be transferred from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Services, and the argument is that the problem of coloured immigrants in this country is largely a problem of urban poverty, of housing, of employment and of education. I think all of us who have any knowledge of this problem will accept that. But it is not only that. We have to acknowledge that in addition to the problem of poverty there is certain racial prejudice.

On that proposal, I would say that while in the long run it may be desirable to transfer this authority from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Services, I rather doubt whether it should be done immediately, partly because this is a new Department which has its own large problems, and partly because it is also a matter of racial prejudice, in addition to the problem of poverty.

I want to look at two problems which are raised in this Report. The first is that of housing. The Report indicates that local authorities have not been equitable in their allocation of houses to the Commonwealth immigrants; and also that the absence of accommodation at low rents has meant that there has been overcrowding in immigrant homes because of the high rents and, even when homes have been bought, by the high mortgage rates. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will very strongly urge local authorities to find accommodation in their council estates on an equal basis for Commonwealth immigrants, and will take advantage of the allowances which are now made for meeting mortgage charges and for home grants, which will enable these problems to be dealt with.

The other problem with which I want to deal especially is that of schools and education. I find it very difficult to come to a decision whether the proposal for the dispersal of the children of Commonwealth immigrants is correct or not. It is incorrect in the sense that it recognises the difference of colour; it has the advantage of distributing children of Commonwealth immigrants among a larger section of the community, and therefore meeting very many prejudices which occur. I believe it to be quite wrong to take the view that when these children have become masters of the English language they are any disadvantage to educational advance.

In another place I used to represent the constituency of Eton and Slough. We have in Slough a large immigrant population. I want to read to the House the statement made by the Slough Education Officer, Mr. Charles Smythe, last week. He said: More and more immigrant children at secondary schools are taking G.C.E.s and passing them. In schools with large numbers of them they tend to be the pace setters, and often raise the whole academic standard. In many cases Asian children arrived in Slough with little or no English so they did not pass the 11 plus, but once the handicap was overcome they often surged ahead and became the pace setters at around the age of 13 to 14. Another factor was the young immigrants dedication to school work, aided by Asian parents who set great store on education. I believe that as we now go forward we have a great opportunity, because I think the psychological situation is much better than it was. As we go forward with the recognition of the equality of human beings, whatever be their race or their colour, we must welcome them, give them an opportunity, and we may be able to solve the problems based on the Reports which have been presented in the last few weeks in a way which will be encouraging for the future, and which may mean that we may not suffer what has happened in some other countries as a result of racial discrimination.

11.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my appreciation of the Question which has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, which I think is of immense importance not only to this country but to people with humanitarian ideals everywhere. In the speeches that have been made so far, the consequences of this subject have covered a very wide aspect, but I should like to get back particularly to the terms of the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. The noble Lord is specifically asking Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the deterioration of race relations …, and of the harm being done by the tone of public debate on race and immigration; and whether they will come forward with proposals which will reassure the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, whatever their colour". My Lords, I do not know exactly what was in the mind of the noble Lord when he framed that Question, but I want to confine myself very strictly to the issues which I think it raises.

What has rather surprised me tonight is the fact that no noble Lord has really touched on the Commonwealth and all its aspects. When I think of racial relations and the tone of public debate, I think instinctively of the Commonwealth, for whose people I have a very deep affection. Racial problems do not really exist with the old Commonwealth as we understand it, composed as it is of our own and European stock. The difficulties that arise involve the peoples that come from the new, independent nations—post-1945. I suggest that the problems of race and immigration which have arisen would have been immeasurably easier to discuss if we had set the tone of our debate with some clear concept of the Commonwealth and what I think the Commonwealth means to all your Lordships.

We have no real idea what the Commonwealth to-day stands for. There is no concept about the Commonwealth except that we do not interfere with the internal affairs of member States, and that we are all independent. Some of these independent nations recognise the Crown and Her Majesty as being Head of the Commonwealth. Other nations, such as Malaysia and India, do not recognise the Crown and have their own Heads. The real result of the situation is that, independent as all of us are, we are free to criticise each other. The independent nations are free to criticise us, and do so on racial problems in the United Nations and elsewhere.

There are two problems which arise here. There is the fear of the immigrant and the fear of our own, European, white population. This raises doubts and fears in Britain, and antagonises sections of our own population. It does not make the solution of our own racial problems, any the easier, and it does not help, I would venture to suggest, if we do not explain ourselves and if we do not seem to answer the criticisms that are made against us. I submit that this is very largely the position, that we do not defend ourselves; and at the present moment there is no leadership within the Commonwealth.

Then, my Lords, in our public debates and in the debates which are carried on in the Press and on the radio and television there are the convictions as to how we should deal with racial and immigration problems, very sincerely held by many of us, which may be diametrically opposed, and yet each of us in his own way passionately desires to see a solution to these problems. If we allow passion to rise it raises the temperature. Anything said about race can be inflammatory, whether it is said about our own race or the coloured races, and I would submit that this sometimes happens.

In this country there is an organisation known as Black Power which exists to exploit the wishes of the extremists. In my humble submission, it has no relevance in Britain. Basically, the British people are fair-minded and tolerant; and for this reason alone it has no relevance. But Black Power increases the fear and will never help in the furtherance of good race relations. I should be the first to admit that there are white racialists just as much as there are black racialists. But both categories are in the minority and nothing should be said or done which would increase the numbers of those minorities.

The Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, was: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the deterioration of race relations in the United Kingdom, and of the harm being done by the tone of public debate on race and immigration; and whether they will come forward with proposals which will reassure the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, whatever their colour. I do not think that the tone of debate on race and immigration has always been as high as it might have been, for the reasons I have given; but I certainly do not think it has been deplorable. I think the public would tend to be reassured if we were seen to be debating these question with knowledge and understanding, entirely without passion, and with some proposals for the future. Among the proposals that I have in mind would be proposals to establish confidence with our own people and with those of the immigrant community. We should always proceed, so far as is humanly possible, by persuasion rather than by compulsion.

My Lords, if there was anything which could impress on us all the fact that we must live together it was the television picture of the world in space, the picture which was passed back to earth last Christmas by the television camera of the astronauts, Lovell, Borman and Anders. But we sometimes tend to forget that we exercise considerable influence over a quarter of the earth's surface. I firmly believe that we should use that influence for the good and benefit of mankind. We have the experience and the knowledge to deal with these problems. It is my opinion that if we use that influence wisely and well, this indeed willl be a contribution to humanity and mankind. I would make one final comment. I should like to see within the Commonweath countries, in the newly independent nations and in our own nation and Government and people less desire to air their grievances and difficulties and a greater desire to be constructive and to seek areas of agreement. If we did that I think that much of our problems would be solved and that this would be a great contribution to the stability and happiness of our own people and of the immigrant community we have with us.

11.44 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to take the merciless view that as we have sat here so long there is no practical reason why we should not sit here all night. I shall in fact say what I want to say briefly. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, flattered me by asking me to give him some little support in this debate. I must say that I was very attracted by the subject he selected. It seems to me to be a matter of particular importance this moment of time and one worthy of the attendance and notice of a number of noble Lords. I venture to say, without being patronising, that I was particularly gratified to see a very young man take an interest in these matters. I hope he will not resent the observation that he is a young man. There is no particular importance in his being young except that we have the comforting knowledge that for a good many years to come there will be a Member of your Lordships' House concerned, and intelligently concerned, with matters of this importance, and that is the significance of his youth. I should like to say this. First, no one could possibly deplore the tone of the debate this evening. It has been exemplary, and if all discussions had been conducted in this manner, no complaint would have arisen from any quarter.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, is justified in saying that there has been a serious deterioration in race relations because of a few people who have made unseemly and inappropriate observations calculated, perhaps deliberately calculated—one cannot be sure—to exacerbate the situation. I am inclined to think that on the whole the amount of publicity they have received exceeds their importance of their lasting significance. That is my own belief. But I do not think that anyone could deprecate or deplore too strongly any observations calculated to arouse misgivings on the part of any section of the community that people were concerned to bring up a feeling of hate and resentment against them. I know of no higher crime that a man can commit against his neighbour than that he should make him feel that sections of the community living round him hate him, resent him and may wish to do him injury. If that could be instilled in the minds of the people concerned, perhaps for political motivation; if they could realise the extreme enormity of what they were doing, without perhaps having in mind that they were committing a crime of such magnitude, I am sure that that crime would be committed far less often and in far less extreme manner.

It is because that needs to be said that I have ventured to keep your Lordships here at this hour of night and after a very long and exacting debate. But having kept you here, there is one other observation I should like to make about the Press. I do not think that the Press, on the whole, has been too bad. If you review the Press as a whole you find a fairly even, a fairly responsible, a fairly just and a fairly tolerant approach to this matter. I have not seen the particular examples to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskan, referred in his admirable speech. I did not see the example in the Financial Times, a paper from which I should have expected total moderation and total good sense. Nor did I see the example in the New Statesman, which I am sure ought to have been a leader in proper and sensible judgment in these matters. I have seen features in the newspapers that I have deplored and thought to be wrong, but on the whole I have not thought that the Press has done badly. What the Press does do, and what I think is often very wrong, is to call up illustrations from other countries and warn us of the dangers that exist and which we can find if we examine the history and folklore of some other place. Nearly always it is totally inappropriate, and nearly always they relate to our friends in the United States of America.

If I may venture to say so, it is great nonsense to find any parallel at all between this problem in the United States and the problems of our coloured immigrants in this country; because in the United States of America there is, unhappily, an established history of the most unfortunate and often the most prejudiced and the most difficult character. We have no such history. We are not saddled with this kind of legacy. We have not the problems of the Southern States, of lynching, of the Scotsborough cases and matters that are bound to remain in the minds of the coloured population in that country for generations. We are in the fortunate position of starting from scratch. We have none of those matters to prejudice the position, to ruffle the surface, to make it more difficult for us to build sensible and reasonable institutions in relation to people living side by side as civilised neighbours.

I think it is very wrong to call up these foreign illustrations. It is particularly wrong because nobody ever calls up illustrations from countries which have no such problems. No one ever calls attention to the fact that, for instance, apart from individual political matters, on the whole in France this problem has never been of serious significance for years, for generations, for centuries. It is always to a problem based on conditions where no parallel of any kind exists that our attention is directed and solemn warnings are uttered. It is some- thing that needs to be dealt with, and, on the whole, I think it is time that we pointed out that people who are celling up the customs of other countries ought to have an intimate knowledge of those countries; and they ought also to have an intimate knowledge of their own country before they make these false and invalid comparisons.

I would conclude by congratulating the noble Lord on having raised this issue. I am not sure how timely it is, I am not sure how important it is, at this moment of time to seek to find that there are real and valid problems to be dealt with. In some ways, as the noble Lord speaking from the Opposition Benches rightly said, it may be more important to seek to find that the problems do not exist. What we want to do is to emphasise not the absence of tolerance but the presence of tolerance. The fact remains that this young Lord has drawn our attention to a matter of great conscience and great importance and the House ought to be very grateful to him.

11.49 p.m.

The Earl of SELKIRK

My Lords, may I intervene very shortly before the noble Lord replies? I should like, to say how glad I am that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has raised this question. I am sorry that there is not a fuller House, because I think noble Lords would have liked to hear what was said on this important subject. I will mention only one subject quite shortly. This is a debate on race relations, and it is constantly referred to as "coloured immigration". The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, used that expression. I would never dare to go to anybody and say, "You are a coloured immigrant", and if I do not like saying that to a man's face I do not like saying it to his back. It is slightly offensive, it is slightly perhaps disparaging, it is slightly condescending. I should like to see the words "coloured immigrant" cut out of our terminology altogether.

It is suggesting, for instance, that we are not coloured. I will not refer to the colour of your Lordships' faces, but you are all different colours. It if a question of what one means by "colour". The Northern Chinese are far whiter than any of your Lordships are to-night. This expression suggests that we are normal and the rest of the world are abnormal. That is wholly wrong. Let us call people, if we may, by the names of which they are proud: Indian, Pakistani, West Indian, Malay, Singaporian, or whatever it may be, but do not just call them together a lump sum, which of necessity is slightly offensive. If we want a collective word, let us speak of "non-European immigrants", but do not pretend that "coloured immigrants" can possibly cover everybody. They are individuals, proud of the country they represent. I apologise for intervening before the noble Lord for a moment.


My Lords, may I intervene briefly? The reason why I did not put my name down was the reason why I now feel compelled to intervene. I wanted to be here, as your Lordships have, to show what I think is a proper respect for the Question which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, put down. The only thing which brings me to my feet—and I shall be brief—was not so much the provocation of my noble friend Lord Brockway as his encouragement to speak. I, like my noble friend Lord Campbell, am a member of the Community Relations Commission. I always listen to my noble friend Lord Brockway, with the profoundest respect and am usually in complete and absolute agreement with him.

I do not complain that he criticises the nature of our Report. I should think, like every intelligent Minister and every intelligent body, that the more you criticise us for not doing what we want to do the better we, on the Community Relations Commission, shall be pleased. We are a body whose ultimate success will be achievements that nobody will recognise. The chevron of our victory will be that it is never going to happen. The less we impinge on the public consciousness, except in supporting the causes we have in mind, the less we invite either praise or blame, the better—because, surely, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has just said, what we are doing is to try to forget that the people we are talking about are different kinds of people—the "we" and the "they's". Remember Kipling: Father and mother and me, Sister and auntie', say— All good people like us are 'we' And everyone else is 'they'. And they live over the sea, And we live over the way. But would you believe it— Would you believe it?— They look upon 'we' As just a kind of 'they'? I feel that if we merge, through the work of the Commission and not, with all due respect, through the Race Relations Board, not through envigilation but through the disappearance of differences, we shall achieve success.

11.56 p.m.


My Lords, the world will never believe and the newspapers of this country will not take the slightest notice of the fact that at 11.56 p.m. we are debating this subject in the House of Lords and that at this time, apart from those noble Lords who had signified their intention of speaking, we have had two "chalk jockeys" in the shape of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and of my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder. Another fact which is significant but of which again nobody will take the slightest notice—not that that worries me at all—is that we are virtually in complete and passionate agreement on this subject.

My noble friend Lord Goodman has just said that although the Press had not done badly on this subject, they were wrong to call up other countries as examples of what could happen in Britain; it was not appropriate to us. That is another way of saying that this country is unique; and though we never say so and leave it to other people to point it out, in very many ways this country is unique. I am sure that this debate will be intensely gratifying to all noble Lords—and I suppose that means everyone in this House—who believe in human decency and in justice, and I want to add my thanks to the many already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for raising this Question to-night.

As my noble friend Lord Goodman said, the attendance of so many noble Lords at this hour is an indication of our intense interest and also, I hope, of our particular pleasure that this subject was raised at this time, despite all difficulties, by one of the younger and newer Members of your Lordships' House. That is tremendously encouraging.

The fact that so important a subject has been raised in your Lordships' House is an augury of the increasing volume and importance of the work we do and an illustration of the fact that there are occasions when, because of the great pressure of business on Parliament as a whole, your Lordships' House is the only place where matters of this kind can be urgently raised. Let us be grateful for that and grateful also for the fact that we have had this debate, which should help to dispel some of the murky myths of immigration and get over some of the facts.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, made references to the tone of public debate in this country on this subject. Unquestionably the tone of public debate on race and immigration has a significant effect on race relations in this country. Unquestionably, also, much harm results if debate is conducted irresponsibly or in extreme terms. We need rational and informed comment on this matter of legitimate public concern, and unfortunately—I dislike having to say this—some recent speeches have fallen far short of this: for example, one of Mr. Powell's in which he focused attention on the alleged unpleasant activities of a tiny minority, with the implication that this is how most coloured people behave now and will behave in the future. And there are other speakers who have argued that some members of our community are unalterably alien because their skins happen to be darker than the majority. I was pleased to have the last minute intervention of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who suggested that the words "coloured immigrant" should be cut altogether, and that they should be referred to, if they so wish, by names indicating the countries from which they have come and of which they are so proud.

People who make the kind of speeches to which I have referred obviously never stop to think what it feels like for a coloured teenager, born and bred in Manchester or Birmingham—who follows the exploits of Manchester City or the Warwickshire county cricket team—to be told that he is a foreigner and that he ought to go off to Jamaica or Barbados or wherever his parents came from. As my noble friend Lord Campbell of Eskan said, it is outrageous: indeed, I would go further and say that it is obscene. It was West Indians and Indians who raced on to the field at Lord's to congratulate Hampshire on completing his test century. He was no less their hero because his skin was white and he had made his runs against men with coloured skins. Apparently these racialist speakers are indifferent to the humiliation which a person feels when his application for a job or a house is rejected because of the colour of his skin, or the embarrassment and resentment which arises from widespread use of derogatory expressions for negroes or other coloured people.

Unquestionably, Mr. Powell is an intelligent man, so I cannot acquit him on the grounds of ignorance. But I have to say that, in my view, he utters his distortions of considered intent. The surprising thing is that, despite this, some people still say that he is an honourable man. My Lords, I cannot. Because the tragedy is that these speeches are thus accepted as respectable comment and encourage otherwise decent people to express racialist views.

Then there are those contributions to public debate which imply that immigration to this country is getting out of hand and that our people are about to be overrun by alien coloured hordes. The truth is that the number of people entering this country for permanent set lenient is declining, and immigration to this country is under firm but humane control. In 1967, 61, 377 Commonwealth citizens were admitted for permanent settlement. In 1968 the number dropped to 53, 069. In the first four months of 1969 the total number admitted was 14, 269, compared with 17, 988 in the first four months of 1968. If admissions for the remainder of this year continue at the same rate as the first four months the 1969 total will be under 43.000.

I give these figures because they are facts, despite my firm agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Eskane, in deploring the fact that people will confuse race with immigration, and vice versa. Nevertheless, these figures are important to the people of this country, and it is right that I should give them. I trust the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, will feel that these remarks of mine will show that I wholeheartedly agree with him and with other noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Garner, that public debate on race relations and immigration has deteriorated, and that this can do great harm if it is not conducted in a fair and rational way. Highly emotional debate may bring major issues to the surface, but it also confuses them and makes no constructive contribution to their solution, and this applies particularly to the expression of extremist views.

It is perhaps fair to make the point that racialism has its black as well as its white spokesmen, as the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, has said. That there is ample scope for a constructive approach is shown by the quality of response to some alarmist speeches which have been made. We do know this response. It is up to us. The late Dr. Martin Luther King said that this generation will repent, not the outrageous acts of evil men, but the appalling silence of good ones. Surely, no man worthy of the name who heard his widow speak in St. Paul's can remain silent.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, suggests that there has been a deterioration of race relations in the United Kingdom. During the debate other noble Lords, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Garner, have supported this view. I reject that suggestion, which I would submit is not supported by recent independent evidence. First, we have this massive report Colour and Citizenship just issued by the Institute of Race Relations, which the Government welcome as of considerable value and consider that it is likely to make an important contribution to the understanding of race relations in this country. That report, in chapter 28, gives the findings of a survey which showed that among the people interviewed 73 per cent. (an enormous percentage; I should be delighted if the Government could be so fortunate as to get 73 per cent. of the people of this country behind them, and I could equally say this about the Opposition) were tolerant, or tolerant inclined, only 27 per cent. were prejudice inclined and 10 per cent. highly prejudiced.

If it is argued that this survey may be a little out of date, I would point out that its findings were, broadly speaking, confirmed by the nation-wide survey carried out recently by the Daily Express. I was delighted to see in that newspaper that most British people say that coloured immigrants already in this coun- try should be made to feel at home, with no different treatment from anybody else, and that six out of ten people accepted present immigrants and said they should be given equality of treatment.

This does not tie up with deteriorating relations, and it has been conducted all over the country—and I would add the following from Colour and Citizenship. It says: First, the extent of tolerance in Britain cannot be stressed too often and is indeed one of the major facts of the actual situation which has to be communicated to people whose anxieties on this score may stem in part from the mistaken view that there is not only-widespread anxiety about coloured immigration but widespread hostility towards coloured people as such. What is needed in short is not an effort to make people unprejudiced, but rather to remind them that they are unprejudiced. As the Daily Mirror put it even more succinctly, Tolerance is what comes naturally to the people of Britain". Please, my Lords, let us hang on to this. This is us. This is unique, and as this has been confirmed by two completely different inquiries do not let us forget this, and do not let us forget that we have a big job to do.

Colour and Citizenship runs to 800 pages with no fewer than 78 pages of conclusions and recommendations; therefore comprehensive comment from me, as I hope the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will agree, must await another occasion—an occasion to which I look forward. Meanwhile, I can give your Lordships the assurance that while a number of the recommendations in the Report have inevitably been overtaken by developments since the Report was written, the remainder are receiving careful consideration by the various Departments concerned and will no doubt be the subject of further discussion in due course.

I now come to the last part, after the semi-colon, of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan's Question, on which the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, concentrated his remarks. I point to the very important practical measures which the Government have taken to assure all our people that they can look forward to a future in which no one will be at a disadvantage because of his or her colour. You cannot banish discrimination by Statute, but the great majority of people obey the law, and we now have a Race Relations Act which is as wide in scope as any national legislation anywhere in the world. Your Lordships will recall the care with which noble Lords on both sides of the House considered the details of the Bill which was before Parliament last year. Indeed, we improved it in several important respects. The Act makes discrimination on grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin, unlawful, in housing, employment and the provision of goods, facilities and services, and it provides machinery for the settlement of differences by conciliation, and for the ultimate sanction of the courts where conciliation fails. Above all, it sets a standard of behaviour and conduct to which I believe most people will willingly conform. Whatever the standard of debate, we have this legal framework within which we must all live. The Act has now been in force some seven months, and today's debate comes shortly after the publication of the first Report of the re-constituted Race Relations Board. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for the tribute which he paid to Mr. Mark Bonham Carter, the Chairman of the Board. I am not so much in agreement with my noble friend on the other aspersions which he raised on the Government, and which I cannot accept.

If I may now deal with my noble friend's point, the machinery is in operation. As he challenged me to say so, I will respond to the challenge. There has in fact been an appeal. The distinguished assessors are waiting for customers, and perhaps the reason why they have no customers is because almost no dependants are being refused admission into this country, because they have entry certificates. And to stop my noble friend getting to his feet and interrupting me, let me say that the other end of the business is also being attended to. I do not feel in this matter any less than he does. When he refers to these unfortunate people waiting family by family, perhaps for a week or more, outside the High Commissioner's office, or wherever it may be, I would point out that they were doing this before ever we introduced compulsory entry certificates; and I ask my noble friend to accept that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I will be dealing with whatever deficiencies remain as quickly as ever we can.


My Lords, I acknowledge that my noble friend is just as humanly concerned in this matter as I am. The point I put is this. How many weeks is it—five weeks, six weeks? There was a promise that voluntary organisations were to be assisted in giving help to these people. Have any of these voluntary organisations yet received this help? What has been done for these wretched people in the ports of departure who are just left without any knowledge of this procedure? Of course there have been no appeals; they do not know about it. There is no machinery for it. That is the point I was putting.


My Lords, I must reject this again. I really cannot go on with this. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, because to some extent this is irrelevant to the Question, but I had to answer the point. The appeal system is there. In fact one applicant has used it. It is not our fault that there are no other applicants; it is a virtue on our part. My noble friend raised the question of voluntary organisations. I gave a pledge on behalf of the Government and it stands. My noble friend knows as well as I do about these various voluntary organisations and about the failure to secure unanimity of agreement with some of them. I would ask him to leave it at that and ask him to accept the good will of the Government in this matter. These problems will be solved.

I was referring to the Race Relations Board, and in their Report covering the period to March 31 last the Board stressed the value of the declaratory effect of the Act. They point out, for example, that several major firms have been prompted by the Act to take positive steps and to adopt non-discriminatory employment policies. This accords with the information that has come to us from the Department of Employment and Productivity, that a number of employers who previously denied employment to immigrants have amended their policies. After only seven months it is clearly too soon to draw firm conclusions, but the present indications are that it is having the desired effect in those important aspects of human activity in which racial prejudice could, unless checked, find expression in acts of discrimination.

Your Lordships will recall that one effect of the Race Relations Act has been to replace the voluntary National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants with the new statutory body, the Community Relations Commission, of which my noble friend, Lord Campbell of Eskan is Deputy Chairman. The Commission's first Report appeared about three weeks ago and it covers the work of the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants for the period from January I to November 25 last year, and the work of the Commission from November 26 to March 31 this year. The Report merits close study, as it sets out in some detail the many practical measures which can be taken to bring about an understanding of the real, as opposed to the mythical, social problems with which we have to deal. The conferences, courses, lectures and projects that the Report describes, and which go on week in and week out, up and down the country, are precisely the activities which can make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of our society and stand in sharp contrast to the negative approach of certain public figures.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, asked, in effect, whether we are taking any notice of the Community Relations Commission. He spoke about fiancees. Of course we take a great deal of notice of the Commission and listen to them. But while it is certainly the Home Secretary's intention that the Commission should have full opportunity to express their views on, and discuss, immigration policy in general, or any legislation in this field, the Government have to accept the responsibility for authorising administrative changes in conditions of entry; and as the noble Lord should be aware, timing is usually the essence, and there are obvious difficulties in the way of advance consultation about them.

Let me give your Lordships a particular example of what the Commission can do. The educational needs of immigrant children are in many respects much the same as the educational needs of other children—and this is, I think, a point worth emphasising—but some of them have additional needs which must be met before they can take their full place in our society—primarily the need to learn English. At the same time, teachers need to acquire a full appreciation of the new dimension which the presence of immigrant children has introduced into their work. These are problems which the Commission are energetically facing in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science and the local education authorities.

The teachers themselves are responding in a magnificent way to this challenge. One of the things which I find most impressive is the enthusiasm with which they, and others in the schools, training centres, and colleges, are meeting this challenge to their skills. They are actually doing the job, and theirs is not the story of gloom and despondency which is disseminated in some quarters. Please let us help them: do not let us talk of despondency. They are doing the job. Theirs is a story of wider interests, new horizons and knowledge, which are of benefit to themselves and to all the children for whom they are responsible. My impression is that this sort of response is in fact typical of those many professional workers who now come into contact with immigrants and their children and to my mind this is a most reassuring sign for the future.

I believe that we can be reassured by the many voluntary activities which take place at the local level. The Government fully support the concern of the Community Relations Commission with the establishment and encouragement of voluntary organisations in those areas of the country where immigrants have made their homes. By the end of March this year the number of community relations councils had risen to 78 and the number of full-time officers serving them to 42. The Commission, rightly in my view, have recognised the importance of the work of these officers, and the need to improve their professional standing and career prospects. Theirs is not an easy job. On the one hand they must command the confidence of the community as a whole; on the other they have to provide the expertise and initiative behind local efforts to improve community relations; but their work is of major importance, since it is at the local level in the field where the real problems arise in confrontations between human beings, and where, in the final analysis, they must be solved.

Now where do the Government fit into all this? When Mr. Jenkins was Home Secretary he defined integration as: not a flattening process of assimilation, but as equal opportunity accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance". That remains our aim, and I say that we have provided the framework within which it can be achieved. Then there is the quite massive programme of grants to local authorities who employ staff to deal with the special problems of culture and language associated with immigration, which are paid under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. I was perhaps a little despondent that the noble Lord did not deal with the massive effort that we are making there. This year the sum eligible for 75 per cent. grant is expected to be £4½ million for liaison officers, teachers, and all kinds of special workers. You get a lot of them for £4½ million. They are specially appointed to cope with difficulties of language and customs. I would again emphasise to your Lordships that this is an open-ended subsidy, in the sense that local authorities can spend as much as they like on staff within the range of jobs covered. I look at my noble friend Lord Goodman: would he not like an open-ended subsidy in some of his fields?

In addition, there is the urban programme of aid to areas of special social need, in many of which immigrants have settled. This year's expenditure will be a further £½ million, and I would remind your Lordships that it is based on need as recommended in Colour and Citizenship. Many thousands of nursery school places are being provided. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, asked whether I would say how it was progressing. It is going on extremely well and it is ascending all the time. This is really providing massive help. In addition, the Government departments support and complement the work of the Board and the Commission in consultation with professional and voluntary organisations and the local authorities.

There is one other point I might deal with. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, spoke about the collection of statistics and suggested that the figures were overexposed in the local Press. Well, we have to collect statistics. It is true that the Home Office circulated a memorandum to the Select Committee on Race Relations indicating Government support for the collection of statistics about immigrant groups, and of course many of the figures must come from local authorities. They are necessary if policy is to be developed on the basis of real facts, which is the only basis on which we can proceed. That is not to deny the need for the greatest care in using the figures in a responsible way and with full appreciation of their limitations and precise application.

The noble Lord asked about the police making inquiries about accommodation for the dependants of immigrants. I would point out that the police in fact are the only national body who can do this work. It is not possible, as the noble Lord appeared to suggest, for welfare workers to do it. Moreover, the police normally do it very well. Possibly, the difficulty is that many immigrants do not yet quite understand—I hope they will do before long—that the police in this country are unique and are there to help them.


My Lords, if I may now interrupt—it is the last thing I want to do really—the noble Lord has put his finger on the point that the immigrants do not, in some instances, fully appreciate the role that the police fulfil in this country in contrast to some of the countries from which they come. It is the unfortunate association of the police force with persons who come and inspect your private rooms that is so harmful. If we want the immigrants to trust the police it is rather short-sighted to make the police fulfil this duty when it in fact undermines the growing confidence that so many of the immigrants do have in the police.


My Lords. I cannot accept that the police are undermining this growing confidence. But this is a matter which we are carefully considering. Indeed, a few weeks ago I attended a seminar with the police on this particular subject, and we are hoping to improve their standing.

My Lords, important as all these practical steps are, perhaps the most important task for the Government is to set the right tone. At the end of their Annual Report the Race Relations Board say, In the field of race relations British society faces a straight choice between segregation and integration. In our situation, a segregated society would be one in which a tiny, readily identifiable minority of the population would be treated in an inferior fashion. I accept that analysis. We have chosen the second course, integration, in the sense which I have already defined, and I have outlined some of the steps which are already being taken to make this policy a success. That is my reassurance to all members of the community for which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has asked. The Government have made our objective clear in word and deed. There is scope for public debate about the methods by which we can achieve it; but that debate must be informed, constructive, reasoned and moderate. The Government have made racial discrimination unlawful. It is for your Lordships and other leaders of public opinion to show that it is also an obscenity. I hope this debate will have made some contribution to that end.