HL Deb 21 February 1973 vol 339 cc173-213

5.0 p.m.

LORD BROCKWAY rose to draw attention to the recommendations of the annual report of the Race Relations Board for the enlargement of its terms of reference and activities; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Race Relations Board has been in operation now for four years. I think it is generally accepted that both the Race Relations Act and the Board which has administered it have been of value to our society. I would say that in three particular cases it has been important. The Act created a climate; there was a law against racial discrimination, and it had its effect over the whole community. Secondly, discrimination in the public services and in places of public resort has very steeply diminished. Perhaps that was mostly the effect of the previous Act. Thirdly, discriminatory advertisements have almost entirely disappeared. In the fields of employment and housing, the subject of the second Act, the effects have been more uncertain. The first point that I should like to urge upon the Minister is that research in this field is necessary. As I understand it, discussions are taking place between the Race Relations Board, the Home Office, the Community Relations Commission and P.E.P. on this subject. I should be grateful if the Minister, when he replies, could indicate what progress has been made in those discussions.

The present functions of the Race Relations Board are limited. Its duty is mainly to deal with individual complaints of unlawful discrimination. When those complaints are established, it seeks conciliation and assurances that discrimination shall not be repeated. I take the view that the feature of conciliation in the work of the Board is perhaps its most important aspect. There are nine conciliation committees scattered about the country, composed entirely of voluntary workers; I think that the whole House would wish to pay tribute to the service which those voluntary workers have given. The number of individual complaints is falling. Last year it fell from 967 to 828. I shall return later on to what I regard as the significance of that reduction. The Board has a second function: it can also investigate suspected unlawful acts, even when no complaint is made. In contrast to the fall in the number of individual complaints, it is significant that in the opposite direction the number rose last year from 57 to 89.

In the Annual Report—and I hope all Members will read it because it is a very important document—a number of recommendations are made for the extension of the activities of the Board. I do not propose to deal with them in detail as I intend to concentrate on its most fundamental recommendation; but for the purposes of record I think that they are worth repeating. The first is that the respondent and witnesses should be required to disclose information to the Board. That is not now compulsory. The second is that there should be an examination of the exemptions to what is regarded as illegal discrimination; the Board particularly asks for the repeal of the sections dealing with employment on ships and on racial balance in factories. To these I add consideration of the Act as it applies to clubs, in view of the recent decision of the House of Lords' Judges. Thirdly, the Board recommends that the courts should be empowered to award general damages. They have no power now to require damages for suffering resulting from discrimination. Fourthly, it asks that the Board should have the power not to investigate complaints which are trivial. At present when a complaint is made and discrimination appears, the Board is required under the terms of the Act, to investigate it. That has led to absurd situations, such as the occasion, if I remember it aright, when it was suggested that the sale of Scottish porridge should be illegal. The Board asks that it should not necessarily be required to take up trivial cases of that kind.

Perhaps other speakers may deal with those recommendations, but I want to concentrate on the fundamental recommendation found on page 22 of the Report in paragraphs 81 and 82. The Board, having given its reasons, then says in paragraph 81: We therefore consider that the Act should be amended to give the Board powers to investigate without the need to suspect that any individual unlawful act has been committed. Individual acts of unlawful discrimination discovered in the course of such an investigation would be dealt with in the normal way. But, additionally, if the investigation revealed circumstances in which discrimination was likely to occur, the Board would formally call such circumstances to the attention of those concerned and make recommendations for change; such formal notice would be admissible in evidence in any subsequent proceedings for unlawful acts of discrimination. 82. We consider that the granting of such powers would increase considerably the ability of the Board to engage in work of a preventive character. The Factory Acts are an example of legislation where the agency responsible for securing compliance does so more by prevention than by dealing with individual breaches. The mere existence of such powers would stimulate steps to promote equal opportunity.

I think we are now beginning to see that racial discrimination is not primarily a matter of individual victimisation; that discrimination exists in a wider social pattern within the community, in industry, in the environment surrounding the individual, in housing, in employment and, due to the racial feeling which still persists, in relations in industry, to promotions to jobs of authority, such as foremen and supervisors and to staff appointments as well as in the renting or purchasing of houses, particularly in white residential areas. Racial discrimination has now become not so much a matter of personal individual suffering as a part of society as a whole.

I am not suggesting that the Race Relations Board can deal with all the problems to which I have just referred. Many of them, such as the shortage of housing and the extent of unemployment, which arouse ill will against the immigrant competitors, are embodied in our social and economic system, but I suggest that there is large scope for the Board to contribute to the prevention of discrimination when practised contrary to the law and when, as at present it is so often undetected. In the passage which I have already quoted, the Board gives the parallel of factory inspectors. They have a duty to see that legislation providing for safeguards against accidents and for health is observed. If the rights of factory inspectors were limited to suspected cases, violation of the law would occur much more often and the deterrent value of a possible visit would be removed. I suggest that, from the point of view of the future of our society, racial discrimination is equally deleterious and dangerous. All the Board is asking is that its functions should be extended so that they become preventive as well as remedial.

In conclusion, I want to draw the attention of the House to a developing factor. We now have in our midst a large number of children of Commonwealth immigrants, who have been born in this country, who have gone to school with white children, who have most often been accepted as equal scholars and playfellows and have had a sense of equality—and who are now leaving school and going into the world. When Commonwealth immigrants arrive they very often accept the conditions here; they do not make complaints, because the circumstances are part of the society which they have joined. But that will not be true of the new generation of school leavers. They will not accept conditions of inferiority and humiliation, when in education they have been accepted as equals. Warnings have been sounded by many of those who are conscious of this situation that there may be an explosion from the new generation unless their need for equality in the world they enter is met.

May I give one illustration of what I mean? In industry, there has often been segregation of Commonwealth immigrants, and there is a good deal to be said in favour of it, partly because they did not know the English language and very often because it has even been the desire of the immigrants themselves to work and live in a community. Those conditions will no longer apply to the school-leavers. They will be familiar with the English language and will have had friendly associations with English children in the schools. I want to urge upon Her Majesty's Government that they face the fact that considerable changes are now necessary. The Board appreciates the position. I ask the Government to give it the opportunity to assist in transforming conditions which may become dangerous to society if it does not adjust itself to the new situation. I believe that that can be done only if we give the Board the extended rights for which it asks. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin with two apologies and one explanation. I greatly regret that, for reasons over which I have very little control, I was not able to be in my seat for the opening of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. Then, I am afraid that because of a meeting of a committee that I chair, to which I was committed before this Motion was tabled, I must also apologise to the noble Viscount for the fact that it is unlikely that I shall be able to be here at the end of the debate. My disclaimer is that I am a member of a conciliation committee, and therefore may perhaps be regarded as an interested party in this debate.

My Lords, I would go along a considerable way with much that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. However, there would be very little point in my repeating, far less adequately, the speech that he has made, and I wish instead to approach this whole problem from a slightly different angle. The Race Relations Board, set up under the Race Relations Act, has been struggling with a problem difficult in itself and, in my view, likely to get more difficult, although we have tended to think, as a country, that having passed the Act and set up the Board there is good reason to hope that everything will come all right in the end. But there are two aspects to the problem of developing harmonious race relations in this country, and it is to only one of those aspects that the Board, by its very nature, can primarily direct itself. The Board is there primarily to carry out the provisions of the Act. It is more than merely a body for enforcement, but this is its first task; and it is seen, and has to be seen, as a body to deal with the enforcement of the law. But the development of harmonious race relations requires creative acts of imagination backed by well-financed acts of administration if we are to reach the target that we have set ourselves of an harmonious society. I would suggest that we have given far too little attention to this side of the race question, and that it is unreasonable and indeed impossible to expect the Board either to do its primary task properly or indeed to take on the whole of the work that needs to be done.

I submit, my Lords, that we have not at present analysed what the problem of race relations in this country really is. Moreover, we have allowed a multiplicity of bodies to be concerned with the handling of race questions. A number of different Government Departments are involved: the Department of the Environment, the Home Office, the Department of Employment, the Department of Education and Science—and it must be an open secret that from time to time these different Departments get in each other's hair, if I may use so unparliamentary a phrase. Then there is the Institute of Race Relations; and then, of course, there is the Community Relations Commission, with its somewhat loosely attached units in different parts of the country. Those of your Lordships who have been closely connected with this work must know that there is not inconsiderable chaos between these different bodies, and this does not help either in defining the problem or in approaching a solution of it. So I would say that the first job, if the Race Relations Board is to do its part properly, is to look at the other side of the question and to see what kind of organisation we really need if we are properly to handle the very large amount of work that in fact needs to be done.

We need, too, to clarify what are our objectives here. It is easy to talk about the development of harmonious race relations, but what sort of race relations are we trying to develop? Do we want (to use language which is current in the race industry) to develop a mosaic pattern or do we want a melting pot, or do we want a mixture of the two? Do we want to encourage different cultural groups to maintain what is best in their own culture, or do we want to minimise the differences in every way we possibly can? Or is it right to have one approach for one part of the work and a different approach for another? For example, it is crystal clear to me, at any rate, that so far as the field of work is concerned we must go for the melting pot and we must go for it thoroughly. We have not worked these matters out; and the bodies which are trying to deal with this question we have left shamelessly unsupported with the resources necessary to do it. The Community Relations Commission has, in this year's budget, two-thirds of a million pounds to do the job of developing good community relations in this country. This, I submit, is a sop to our consciences, but it is not the backing that is required for the really creative policies that we need.

This argument can be developed in many ways, but I do not intend to do so. I merely wish to say that, along with a discussion about the Board to-day, we must surely resolve to discuss this other side of the work and look at the resources that we are prepared to commit to it. I would suggest that we are probably going to need, sooner or later, some kind of body, an authority, backed with really adequate finance and free to a considerable extent from the trammels of Civil Service control, which very largely interfere with many of the things that the people concerned are wanting to do. This is not because the Civil Service wishes to interfere, but because Civil Service rules and regulations make it extremely difficult for the people concerned to get on with the job that they have to do. Indeed, the extent to which the Community Relations Commission often has to rely on funds drawn from foundations in order to carry out work which is most assuredly the responsibility of the community as a whole, and for which the community should pay, should give us very considerable reason to review the whole of what we are attempting to do in this field.

My Lords, we in this country, in comparison with the Americans, have so far been extremely fortunate. It is of course a very different problem, both in scale and because of the different histories in the two countries; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said, there are many people (and they are far closer to this problem than I am) who believe that this relative calm may not endure. The noble Lord has referred to the question of the school-leavers. This is indeed an urgent problem. We know from recent studies that there is the particular problem of the West Indian adolescents. We do not understand this problem, and so far our policies for dealing with it have been quite inadequate. Then, there have been warning signs in industry; the warning signs that have come, for example, from the textile factories in the Midlands. These suggest that the relative peace and calm, and the acceptance by the immigrants of tacit discrimination, particularly in the area of promotion and advancement inside the industrial field, is something which may well not endure. We have been given time. To a not inconsiderable extent, we are squandering that time. If we continue to squander it, my Lords, it is possible that here, too, in this country, before the decade is out, there will be frustrated and angry men with their rifles on the roofs.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure I am expressing the views of all your Lordships when I say that we are very grateful indeed to my noble friend Lord Brockway for having provided us with the occasion for discussing the extremely important Report of the Race Relations Board. This Report appeared last summer, and the Government have therefore had time to consider the recommendations made therein. We hope that later this afternoon we shall hear from the noble Viscount the Government's views on these recommendations. It is not the first time that the Race Relations Board in its Report has dwelt on the need for certain extensions of its powers and responsibilities. Therefore the Government do not have the excuse that these proposals are brought forward without some notice. I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in his expression of gratitude to those who work, as does the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on the conciliation committees, of which there are nine in various parts of the country. We appreciate that the Race Relations Board and all connected with it are in a sensitive area and have to walk delicately, but it is only right that we should try to bring forward in this debate what appear to be some of the real problems.

In reading the Report I was struck by the comment that the Race Relations Board has to rely on offices in five cities only outside London and it noticed that the flow of representations to it, as one might expect, is greater in the places where it has these offices. Its remedy for having relatively sparse representation geographically is to try to maintain relations with other organisations who may hear of instances where things are going wrong. This is admirable so far as it goes, but it seems to me that we are reaching a point where much more fundamental consideration should be given to this whole question of setting up bodies designed to safeguard citizens' rights. We have here this particular concern of ours this afternoon. We have recently in this House been discussing the National Health Service Reorganisation Bill where we are setting up community health councils and an Ombudsman to safeguard citizens in other directions. In certain local authority areas we have welfare rights officers established to help the citizen in his dealings with the Department of Social Security. Last week there was published in another place a Police Acts (Amendment) Bill which envisages setting up regional tribunals to deal with citizens' complaints against the police. If the Bill on discrimination against women reaches the Statute Book finally either in this House or in the other place presumably there will be some mechanism whereby its provisions may be carried out. Although I do not think that this is the occasion to pursue the subject it seems to me that we are in some danger of establishing a conglomeration of bodies dealing with citizens' rights and that this is an aspect of the situation which appears to need a great deal more thought that anyone has so far given it.

As things stand, the Race Relations Board relies on its own machinery and such other organisations as appear to co-operate with it. When I made inquiries about this, I asked what was the flow of information from the community relations councils established in various parts of the country. As one would expect, this varies a good deal from one to the other. Some are forthcoming and others seem not to see the relevance of instances of discrimination which must come to their attention but which they do not seem to pass on to the Race Relations Board. In the light of some of the hard things that have been said about the police in the context of race relations, I was much encouraged to learn that some police forces are very good indeed about contacting the Race Relations Board if they have occasion to suppose that the law has been breached—and not least is this so in the metropolitan area. With the brickbats that are sometimes thrown at the police, when one can offer them congratulations one should do so; and I am happy to do so in this context.

I am glad that we have in the Minister himself and in the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, two people learned in the law who can comment on the legal aspects of the proposals made for the extension of power, particularly in Section 7 of the Annual Report. I look forward to the stringent mind of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, addressing itself to these matters because I do not profess to be adequately experienced to judge how far legally these proposals hold water. All I can say is that to someone who is a lay person most, though not quite all, suggestions in this section for amending the Acts seem to be valid.

I am interested in the introductory paragraph to this section in which the Board indicates its concern that it should not be exclusively a body dealing with individual complaints. The Report points out the weaknesses of such procedure. I was interested to have drawn to my notice the words of the Solicitor General in the other place in the debate last week on the Bill on discrimination against women. He quoted, with approbation (one supposes from the way he put it), evidence given by an American witness to the Committee examining the Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in which this witness pointed out that to confine oneself to individual complaints really is not adequate and that if one is looking at industry, for example, on employment where discrimination is accepted and widespread, one should not reduce the operation to that of following up individual complaints.

This really is the message of this part of the Report of the Race Relations Board. It goes on to make various proposals, in particular in Paragraph 81, where it wished to have the rights and "powers to investigate without the need to suspect that any individual unlawful act has been committed." In other words, it wants to be able to take preventive action. It also wishes to have the right to obtain information. I hope that on both these matters the Minister will be able to give some positive indication as to what the Government intend to do. As I understand it at the present time if the Board is in difficulty over obtaining its information it is able, as it explains in this part of the Report, to take court proceedings in order to get discovery of documents and then, if the documents do not provide as strong a case as it expects, it abandons the proceedings—which is what Paragraph 84 calls "fishing for evidence".

As we have given to a number of bodies in various Statutes rights of obtaining evidence, I cannot see why the Race Relations Board should not have rights equivalent at least to those of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in Scotland which, I am astonished to learn, can obtain all kinds of information and can serve notices on persons that they must supply required information within three months. There is, in addition, a large range of provisions under trade descriptions and monopolies and restrictive practices legislation, and so on, whereby persons or bodies are obliged to give information without having to go through the sort of procedure which at present the Board has to undertake if it wishes to get this kind of information.

On some of the other propositions for amendment of the Act I am not quite so certain. Here I should be much interested to hear the views of our legal luminaries. For instance, there is the question of general damages. One can obtain special damages at present; but general damages is one thing suggested in paragraph 89. I am not quite certain that I would altogether go along with the suggestion that one should claim monetary compensation for loss of dignity or injury to the feelings. It seems to me that it would be very difficult to compute that loss. I am well aware that such a facility exists in the New Zealand legislation which came into force last year, but I am not entirely satisfied that conditions here are the same, or that that provision is necessarily one that I should be disposed to support. On the other hand, as was indicated by my noble friend Lord Brockway, I think we should all support another provision contained in the New Zealand legislation; namely, that the Board should have discretion not to investigate a complaint which seemed to be trivial, frivolous or vexatious; but I repeat, I should be glad to hear the legal arguments for and against the proposals.

My Lords, on the social side, with which one feels better able to deal, we have some extremely important problems which are becoming more and not less acute especially, I think, in the sphere of employment. It seems to me that we are in grave danger of making permanent a situation which may be acceptable when immigrants first come to this country because they may well recognise that their skills are not perhaps fully adequate or that they have language or other difficulties. But if this situation is allowed to become stratified and solidified it will have a very serious effect on the second generation, and unless this problem is tackled with firmness now, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, was quite right when he suggested that we may be on the way to a very explosive situation.

We have a position in a number of industries where it has become the custom for immigrant workers to be employed in certain processes on certain shifts and so on. This situation, if it is not tackled, may lead to most serious social consequences in the future. To my mind, the primary responsibility here rests squarely on management. I want to say a word in a moment about the trade unions; but I think that management sets the tone, and if management is determined that there shall be no discrimination the probability is that the practice will be accepted which makes discrimination, so far as possible, non-existent. But management has to face this matter and take specific action.

There was an interesting report over the weekend regarding a very large advertising firm, one of whose agents, quite plainly, was acting in a strongly discriminatory way. When this fact was brought to the attention of the management consultants themselves, one of their directors said he was extremely glad the matter had been raised. He said: "It is a salutary reminder to us that we must be much more explicit to the firms we employ. I find that the instructions given by their agents are incredible." One could produce a number of examples. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned the problems there had been in the hosiery industry in the Midlands. It so happens that about a month ago I was visiting another firm not far from where these difficulties had arisen, and where virtually the same processes were being carried out—where one had the knitters and beamers and so on about whom the troubles had arisen in the neighbouring firm. But in the firm which I visited there was no such trouble, and I am convinced that that was because management were on the look-out for possible discriminatory practices and had made certain, so far as they could control the situation, that these would not happen.

If one reads the report of the investigation made, at the request of the Government, by Mr. Kenneth Robinson into the dispute at the Mansfield Hosiery Mills in Loughborough one recognises that, important as responsibilities of management are, responsibility also lies with the trade unions. In the report one finds Mr. Robinson saying that the union leadership said that they acknowledge precisely the same obligations to their Asian members as to the rest of their membership. Nevertheless, their failure to press home this policy in the face of the resistance of some of their members had led them into conflict with the Race Relations Board. Mr. Robinson goes on: I am satisfied that the Asian members of the union have accepted and are prepared to follow the procedures of their union, but their understanding of these procedures is less than complete. Positive action is required by the union to correct this state of affairs. I think the question of union responsibility is very important. Some unions take their responsibilities more seriously than others. For example, the Transport and General Workers' Union, of which I was a member for many years, makes a practice when interviewing potential officers to ask them specifically what is their attitude to race relations problems. Presumably, if their answers are not considered satisfactory, their chances of promotion to officer level within the union are thereby diminished. So there is a dual responsibility here which does not come directly in one sense from the Race Relations Board but which could, I think, be fostered by it if it was allowed to take the same positive attitude for which it asks.

This problem is, I think, particularly acute where the West Indians are concerned; more particularly, with those born in this country. One has had special difficulties over West Indians because they do not have the close community relationship based on religion and culture which many other immigrants have, particularly those from India and Pakistan. They have a language problem which has gone very largely unrecognised in many parts of the country. I think that some of us were rather shocked by the report on immigrant pupils in England by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which report came out in 1971. There it was pointed out that there is a real language problem where West Indians are concerned because their version of English is not the same as that commonly used here. This is not unnatural because it is perhaps based on English as it was spoken two centuries ago.

I very much hope that, among other things, the proposals made in that report will be carried out by the Government, because we are now reaching the stage where more and more second generation children are coming into the employment field in this country. It seems to be extremely difficult to get accurate figures. I have done my best, and I am grateful to those who have given me such figures as seem to be available. So far as I have been able to ascertain, at the present time, of young people in this country of immigrant origin aged between 12 and 21—the teenage group with which we are all so much concerned—some 47,000 out of 67,000 were born in this country. Even if these figures are not precisely accurate, if that proportion is correct, then one can see quite easily that we have a significant group of people who are not themselves immigrants and who therefore are likely to be peculiarly sensitive to any kind of discrimination, whether real or suspected.

This brings me to my final point. No matter what we do to encourage the Race Relations Board, or to extend its powers, as it requests, it is not likely to be successful except in a climate of opinion in which it has a considerable degree of public support. We shall of course always have the rabid minority, among whom I include Mr. Enoch Powell, who has been speaking again, to my mind, in a most irresponsible way this weekend. We need to counter that positively, and more particularly in two fields. The first is that of education, where we need not only education of immigrants but education of our entire school community in the value of a multi-cultural society. We had a debate some time back on this subject and we discussed the importance of what is taught not only in schools but, as I think even more importantly, in the colleges of education and the departments of education in the universities. One is well aware that the Department of Education, as we pointed out forcefully the other day, does not control curricula; but it has ways and means of encouraging education in this context of a multi-cultural society, so that our own children are given some appreciation of the history and contribution to civilisation of the countries from which some of our immigrants come and can thus have a proper sense of values in the matter. Education, therefore, is one extremely important element in creating a climate of opinion in which the Race Relations Board can do its work adequately and successfully.

But, my Lords, the political stance of Parliament and Government is of extreme importance. We had a speech by Mr. Robert Carr delievered in Cambridge on Monday of last week in which he said: The Government is firmly committed to the pursuit of positive policies to maintain and improve good community relations. That of course is admirable so far as it goes; but, unfortunately, he tacked this on to his statement of January 25 on future immigration policy. When we are told that we are going to have immigration in future at an irreducible minimum level, and then we have provisions (which we shall be discussing next week) whereby we considerably increase the probabilities of immigration from certain parts of the Commonwealth and not from others, it leads to a certain amount of cynicism and I am afraid does not help those who are endeavouring to improve good community relations.

I should like to know what the Government are doing so far as employment in Government Departments is concerned, because from such inquiries as I have been able to make, again this is not entirely reassuring: there are fair words, but not a great deal of action. It would be interesting to know how far the Government have taken to themselves the recommendations in the most interesting Report of the Department of Employment called Take Seven. I think they investigated the employment practices and the opportunities available in seven firms, and they made some successful and interesting recommendations, but how far have these been followed so far as the Government are concerned, as one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in the country? I hope that we may hear something about that, because all of this adds up to the climate in which the Race Relations Board does its work. We have action where immigration is concerned, but one has sometimes the impression that one has words rather than action in some respects on race relations. I hope I am wrong in this, and that in the speech we have from the Minister he will be able to give us not just fair words but some positive indication of action by the Government to improve these matters.

Those of us in this House who are concerned with race relations sometimes find it a little discouraging when we go to Ministers on matters which are not perhaps within the purview of the Race Relations Board but impinge on it, and have to wait many weeks before we can get any kind of response. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may know one of the instances that I have in mind—and I mentioned to a colleague of his at the Home Office, the Minister of State, that I might be mentioning this subject to-day. Where people make representations concerning immigrants of one sort or another, it would be encouraging if the Government were able to give replies to inquiries with perhaps a little greater sense of urgency. It does not help also when one has reports in the Press of instances such as that of a stateless Ugandan person who was somehow impeded from coming to this country to see his wife after their child had died. All of this adds up to a climate in which it is more difficult for those who are dealing with race relations to act. So, in thanking my noble friend Lord Brockway for giving us a chance to discuss this matter, I hope also that it will prove to have given the noble Viscount the Minister an opportunity of giving us some further information about the proposals of the Government.

5.59 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, knows that there are many occasions when I do not agree with him, but I should like to start by saying that I agree with the way in which he set out the problem. Where I am going to differ from him is on certain matters in the Report which I do not like and which I feel need a word of warning, if no more. As regards the speeches of the two noble Baronesses, they both said that there was great urgency to this matter because there might be an explosion. Indeed, that is possible. But explosions can come from both directions. One word of warning I would utter is that, however fast one moves, one must be careful that one moves correctly. If what I might call the "race relations lobby" (I am not being rude about it) wishes to move too fast, without due thought, the explosion may well in certain areas come not from the immigrants, but from the people who resent their presence.

This is a short debate and I intend to raise only a few matters arising in the Report. In at least one or two of them I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, but I should like to issue a word of warning regarding the others. Starting with purely factual points and not those relating to the policy of the Board at all, I should like first to turn to paragraphs 22 and 23 which deal with insurance. I know something about insurance, having spent many years in that line of business. The Board takes the view that immigrants have an unfair deal—I am putting it broadly—in two lines of insurance. One is car insurance and the other is life assurance. It then proceeds to set out what it thinks should be done. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the Board members do not necessarily know very much about the insurance business.

The first essential for a good insurance company is to see that one policy holder is not treated better or worse than another. One tries as far as possible to treat policy holders alike, but if a person shows an undue risk then he has to pay more for his insurance, or perhaps he may not be able to get it at all. In the matter of car insurance, for instance, we know that an undergraduate is asked to "pay through the nose" as a rule, and there are good reasons. It seems to me that in paragraph 22 the Board have become a little muddled. They take the view that some insurance companies are unreasonable in insisting on too long a period before an immigrant can get car insurance at normal rates. They suggest that after three years the immigrant driver should be treated the same as everyone else, though some insurance companies take a ten-year period.

I entirely agree that in the ordinary way, if a man has been driving here for three years, three years is an adequate period; but there are other reasons why special rates are charged. There are certain groups of immigrants—I will not mention them in detail—who have been found not to look after their vehicles and not to spend the money on them that other people do. As a result, they are a bad risk. This situation probably springs from the fact that the countries they come from do not have very much mechanical knowledge or experience—that is partly the reason. But for a Board such as this to try to say how an insurance company should run its business seems to me quite outside practical considerations.

Speaking of life assurance, I think the question is much more difficult. This is a long-term business and, as the Board themselves point out, there may be a worse expectation of life perhaps in the country of origin than there is for normal citizens in this country. Again, as they themselves point out, it may be many years before there are sufficient statistics available about mortality on which to rely. Life assurance companies who have no experience of any particular country should be free to assess for themselves the cases of the ex-nationals of that country. If I may cite my own experience as an example, I was a director of a company which had great experience of Nigeria, where the company had done life business for a very long time; and their mortality experience in Nigeria proved that the rate was much worse there than the mortality rate for normal people here. What is not known, of course, is whether, when people from Nigeria come to live here and stay for a long time their mortality rate will eventually become the same as for citizens of this country. But to say that such immigrants must be treated the same as people in this country must be wrong. One must really leave these things to be decided by the people who understand this business and not merely by those people who wish to do good to the immigrants.

Turning now to paragraph 24, I hope that the Government will look at this again. The Report mentions cases of discrimination in the private housing sector which are mostly related to people seeking rented accommodation. The Report then goes on to talk about discrimination in buying houses, and I believe they are right in their view about that. However, in the case of rented accommodation trouble arises as often as not in a house which is divided up. One must realise that this situation leads to more bitterness in racial relations than anything else, and I wonder whether the Act is right if a landlord cannot say, for instance, "I have two Pakistani families in my house so I must not have a Sikh family coming in." Or, of course, he may say, "I have two English families living in my house, and because they cannot bear the smell of Indian cooking I will not take an Indian family in." This is not a question of buying a house but of sharing it in the form of rooms, or a flat. I believe, and have always believed—indeed, I have proof of it—that this situation causes great damage to racial relations; that is, forcing a landlord, where a house is being shared, to take particular people. I believe that action can be disastrous and that the Government ought to look at that problem again.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred to paragraphs 80 and 81, and I believe these paragraphs were also referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady White. Here the Race Relations Board is asking for the right to go—and presumably enter—for interrogation, even where there is no suspicion. There already exist considerable powers: there are powers to do all the things it wants at the moment, if there is a suspicion. But here it is asking for power to do something that even the police cannot do, namely, to interrogate someone without having any suspicion. There are thousands—and I mean thousands—of what the general public call "snoopers" who have the right of interrogation and entry into premises without a warrant, almost invariably for health or safety reasons. There are, for instance, gas and electricity inspectors, factory inspectors, and so on, all dealing with health or safety matters. Here one is asking that a body, which the noble Baroness suggested should not be under Government control, should have the right to interrogate people, and I imagine also the right of entry, without any suspicion of any kind, on the off-chance that they might find something wrong. If anything is going to cause more ill feeling, it is that suggestion.

I imagine that we all approve of paragraph 90, to the effect that the Board should not have to investigate nonsensical complaints. I am sure everyone agrees with that. Perhaps I might refer also to paragraph 88 which says: This means that discrimination against Irish citizens and citizens of any foreign country on the ground of their nationality is not unlawful. I know there was a recent case of such a kind. I wonder in fact whether it should be made unlawful. That case was dealing with employment, but I take this paragraph also to refer to housing. One has to be careful in this direction. When Bradford was being rebuilt there were notices in practically every landlady's room saying, "No Irishmen", because the Irish at that time were all navvies who drank themselves silly on Friday nights and used to beat up the lodgings. The landladies did not mind Pakistanis or anybody else, but they put up signs saying, "No Irish". I think that is illegal now. But should it be illegal? That is another matter that ought to be looked at.

My Lords, that is all I have to say—I have been quite long enough on a short debate. But those are words of warning. I do not think one should accept these recommendations because of people so involved in race relations as a matter of course. One must remember the other side, and anything that may cause people to be anti-immigrant, as some of these suggestions might, can do no possible good to race relations.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, may I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for having introduced this subject, and giving us an opportunity of discussing this extremely interesting and important Report. Perhaps I might start by saying that it is evident that this is a most carefully prepared and efficient document. It reflects very great credit on the people who prepared it, and it reflects even greater credit on the work that it describes. I say this because I have a few words of criticism to make about it which I would not like to be uttered except against a background of complete approval of everything that the Board is trying to do, and the immensely important objective that it is trying to achieve.

The major problem in this Report has been reflected in almost every one of the speeches that we have heard this evening, except perhaps from the last speaker. That concerns some uncertainty of the nature of the problem with which we are dealing and, more important, of the magnitude of the problem. We find the matter reduced in essence in the last paragraph of the Report, which reads: Although we consider that the law should be strengthened and that the Government could play a more active role in ensuring that the principle of equal opportunity is more extensively applied, the realisation of the social purposes of the Act will essentially depend on voluntary action by all concerned. The Act by itself is not sufficient to prevent racial discrimination from becoming an extensive and entrenched feature of our society. We consider, however, that the chances of avoiding this situation would be increased if the combination of measures that have been suggested in this Report are taken in time and effectively implemented. That expresses with immense clarity the duality of viewpoint contained within the Report. There is almost only one viewpoint expressed, except in a few paragraphs, and in the recommendations.

The viewpoint expressed in this Report, and demonstrated by the statistics of the Report, and the tables that appear of the prosecutions and complaints et cetera, reflect most satisfactorily that this is at the moment an eminently containable problem. The Report nowhere suggests that we are confronted with an imminently explosive situation. I do not believe that we are, from my own observations, upon which I would not rely for a scientific assessment of this vital matter. My own observations, for what they are worth, suggest that we are containing the problem. There are a few people passionately, frenziedly engaged in making utterances that do not help the situation; but there are very few of them, and they are nearly always people whose political future seems to depend on their prophecies of woe being fulfilled. All I can say is that they have not seriously aggravated this problem. The fact that people of such exceptional oratorical talents have not succeeded in aggravating the problem to me demonstrates that the problem is not so acute as we might think it to be. If it is indeed the case that the problem is not so acute, one must wonder at some of the recommendations. I believe, as I think this Board believes, that if we allow this problem to be dealt with in a kindly fashion by persuasion, by the action of these splendid volunteers who are engaged in giving advice, in conciliating, in trying to reduce problem areas where they are to be found, if we regard these problems as being appropriately dealt with by these measures, I wonder whether the recommendations contained in this Report are either necessary, or, frankly, even wise. This is the view that I have of the matter.

If we look around, we see that coloured people seem to be settling down perfectly happily in large sections of London. I motor through London and see numbers of them in one place, and fewer numbers in another. Nowhere does one seem to see any imminent collision or conflict at this moment. It may well be that things could happen to transform the whole situation. But we ought not to anticipate these events. We do harm to the situation by suggesting that it is necessarily going to blow up. It seems to me that it is necessarily not going to blow up. If we remain, as I hope we do, a kindly and generously-minded people, capable of absorbing a relatively small section of people from other cultures, accustomed to other conditions, as has always happened in the past, and if we continue to believe that this will happen in the future, we need not take too pessimistic or too drastic a view of what needs to be done.

I believe that the whole of the opinion I am expressing now is inherent in this Report. If one were to ask the members of the Board whether their view is that it is a situation that will contain itself and solve itself, or that it is a situation that is so dangerous that we need to have pressure guages watched every second of the day, it is at the former conclusion that they would unhesitatingly arrive. There are some rather comforting facts in this Report: first, the relatively few numbers of complaints dealt with. Of course it is said that the relatively few number of complaints may be due to the fact that people do not complain because they believe that the Act is ineffective. That is conjectural, and I do not think it is damaging by itself, even if it happened to be true. The Act is there, people can resort to it if they want to. If their grievance is sufficiently acute, if the pain of their feeling is sufficiently acute, they will complain, or someone will complain on their behalf. I have a firm conviction that that would happen. I do not think we need be unduly worried by the paucity of complaints. Anyway, there is a slight absurdity in seeking to legislate on that basis. If we were to seek to legislate by the paucity of complaints on any number of heads, the amount of legislation with which we would now be dealing would be even more overwhelming than it is at the moment. We must accept that people who do not complain when given an opportunity of complaining on the whole are not minded to complain and have not a lot to complain about. If we start from that position then the drastic recommendations for the enlargement of the powers of the Act are unnecessary. We ought to consider first that the Act is barely four years old. To start amending an Act after four years can only be necessary if there is a considerable weight of evidence that something is seriously wrong with it. I do not see much sign from this Report that something is seriously wrong.

I do not wholly agree with the last speaker about insurance companies and matters of that sort. Such questions are pre-eminently well dealt with by tactful approaches to the insurance companies. I was not moved with horror by the notion that we should seek to control or in some way regulate the activities of insurance companies. A great deal of the activities of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the late Board of Trade, were concerned with seeking to regulate the activities of insurance companies. I have a feeling, too, that the explanations that the noble Lord gave—I was about to use the word "specious", but that would be unfair to the noble Lord—are not wholly convincing. It cannot be necessary to ask a man who is applying for life insurance what his racial character is. It only needs a pair of eyes on the part of the doctor who is examining him for the purpose to determine that the man is of one colour or another. So long as insurance companies are minded to employ doctors who are not colour blind, I think this problem could be resolved.


My Lords, may I make myself clear? The question is not one concerning certain countries that these people come from. Certain companies do not accept the people because the companies have experience about mortality, or they only accept them at a higher premium rate. This is not because the fellow is black, but because he comes from a particular part of the world.


My Lords, I am not sure that that is a very happy description of the activities of the insurance companies concerned. I do not think they should exclude a whole classification of human beings because they come from a particular spot. I think that it might be pointed out to them that this is likely to cause a good deal of social disquiet and unhappiness, and they might vary their practice to the extent of accepting applications on their merits.

Here I think one sees that the kind of thing dealt with by this Board is dealt with with tact and discrimination and I am sure always with a good possibility of good will. I should not have thought that a sensible, responsible insurance company, if it was pointed out to them that in a very sensitive area of the population something they are doing is likely to cause unnecessary unhappiness, would be unwilling to adapt their practice without any serious loss to themselves. This is not an important point, but it illustrates the fact that it is not necessary to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, invited me in the most polite and flattering terms to express my views on the legal suggestions in the Bill. I start off by dealing with a major one. It really turns on the assessment you take of the situation. If you take the assessment, as I have said, that there is a very grave situation indeed, then you might consider employing a corps of inspectors to go around the countryside to assess the state of relationships in particular factories and whether or not there are matters of which complaint ought to have been made but about which no complaint has been made, and about which there is at the moment no suspicion that a complaint should be made. This might be a very extreme measure in a very dangerous situation. You might have to do this if you thought that by so doing you were averting the possibility of a national and domestic catastrophe. But in the atmosphere which is reflected by this Report, I should have thought it not only highly unnecessary but highly undesirable. What you particularly do not want to do is to emphasise the distinction between the different segments of the employees who are to be found in the organisation. To send in an inspector to inquire as to whether one particular category of employee has a complaint that he has not enunciated or uttered in any form, and of which no one has even a suspicion, seems to me very calculated to draw precisely the discrimination that you are seeking to avoid. Hence, I would be strongly opposed to this proposal, unless we are told by the Government that there is a really dangerous situation to deal with.

As to the other proposals, there are proposals which seem to me to be very much at variance with the debate we had recently about changes in the criminal law. We were all urging upon the Government that the right of silence should be meticulously preserved. We are told here that, in respect of this particular category of offence, which would of course enhance it into an offence of exceptional gravity, the person suspected of committing the offence should be required to incriminate himself out of his own mouth before a prosecution. Here again, one can justify a recommendation as extreme as this only if there were an extreme situation. My Lords, this is a short debate, and it reflects the excellence of this new system whereby we have short debates that we all know that we shall be home for dinner by 7 o'clock. I would not wish in any way to spoil this happy procedure. May I conclude by saying just this. The work of this Board is invaluable. The passing of this Act reflected the most civilised values that this country possesses. I do not think it was an intrusion into personal liberty; it was a highly necessary measure to ensure that we were seeking to regulate situations that have gone desperately wrong in other parts of the world. But I do not think we want to make too much of a mouthful of it. And while we can hope that the situation will regulate itself, and that on the whole one can rely on the inherent qualities of the British people to deal with the situation, then I should be strongly opposed to unnecessary and excessive reforms.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, before I make a comment on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who has just sat down, may I say how grateful we are to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for introducing this debate. If I may make a few comments on some of the speakers who succeeded him, I would say that I could not agree more with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady White. In our schools it would be a great value that our school children as they grow up should be taught something about the Commonwealth and the histories of the peoples who have come from various parts of the world and are now living among us. If I might now say something to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, we are always tremendously impressed with his speeches—they are extremely fluent—but I cannot go along with quite the complacency with which he looks at this subject. I personally do not consider that it is necessary to amend the Race Relations Act in any great degree, and I would agree with him in connection with that proposition. But, on the other hand, we have in this country situations which I feel could become extremely explosive. I think I detected in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, a situation in which she felt there were currents outside the operation of the Race Relations Act existing in this country—problems which are not being faced at the present time and which, perhaps, if we do not look at them and try to be constructive about them now, may entail a difficult situation coming before us in a future which is not too far ahead.

We have had on the last two Sundays (and I regret having to mention this) two very interesting debates put out by B.B.C.1 called "Sunday Debate". One was on the permissive society, and the other one last Sunday I think was on Immigration or Race Relations. The protagonists in that debate, which has not yet been concluded, were Mr. Enoch Powell on one side of the table and Mr. Mark Bonham Carter on the other. I do not know how many people watched that debate on television, but assuming there were something like 8 million or 10 million who were watching what occurred then, I must say in all seriousness that my reaction was that the most inflammatory situation occurred. Mr. Powell gave what I considered to be quite a lucid and calm exposition of the dangers of large numbers of immigrants coming to this country and what would be its position in the foreseeable future. Then we had, when questioning started, the Chairman of the Race Relations Commission in this country, of all people, depicting a situation which occurred in Wolverhampton, Mr. Powell's constituency, some four years ago, I think, when a certain rather disgusting act was perpetrated by a coloured immigrant. I will not describe it because I think it is too dreadful to do so. Accusing Mr. Powell of being extremely racialist for having brought up this question at all, and in spite of the fact that the Chairman, Mr. Robin Day, had asked for calm and deliberate consideration of the great issues which they were then considering, this matter got completely out of hand.

My feeling about this matter is that the coloured people who are here who are reasonably decent people would not like to have seen that kind of thing occurring on British television; the white people would probably consider that the only exponent championing their causes was Mr. Powell himself—that is to say, in Wolverhampton; the people who have had this act perpetrated against them by coloured people would feel that the only person looking after them was Mr. Powell, and other Europeans or white people up and down this country would feel that this was a terrible thing to be happening in Great Britain and would have an adverse feeling toward all immigrants who were here. I mention this only because I think it is a most unfortunate thing for the Chairman of the Race Relations Commission to have brought it up on television.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but I happened to see the particular programme and it is rather relevant to say (I am sure Mr. Mark Bonham Carter needs no defending from me) that what Mr. Mark Bonham Carter put to Mr. Powell was that he had suggested that such an act was typical of black people. This was really the point of the discussion; not that he was instancing it as a single occurrence, but that Mr. Powell had suggested that this was typical. I think, if I may say so, that Mr. Mark Bonham Carter got the better of that debate.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord said he did not see it; but I did see it—


I did see it, my Lords.


My Lords, I did not hear that he said it was typical of black people. I understood Mr. Powell to say—I am subject to correction on this—that he felt there were people in his constituency who had a right to bring this to the notice of their Member of Parliament. I feel it is unfortunate that Mr. Mark Bonham Carter ever brought the subject up.

How should we deal with this situation? We now have the excesses perpetrated in Uganda. We have a large number of Africans in this country, and British people have seen these excesses perpetrated overseas. I feel it is only right to bring this to the notice of the House because there are two sides to the argument. We have the Africans here and we also have the indigenous white people. Would it not help, in the circumstances, to rectify the unfortunate impression and the taint which may fall upon Africans who are resident in Britain if we could get some understanding on the part of their own leaders and if they would refute in public the excesses perpetrated overseas? These matters are possibly beyond the province of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Act, but I feel that they are problems which exist to-day in this country and which cause fear among the white people; and if we are to have better race relations we must take into account some of the problems and the fears which face white people. Only in that way shall we get better racial understanding.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a constructive debate. Over the centuries in this country we have always had people of other nationalities and other cultures who have come in and we have been very much enriched by the contribution they have made to our way of life; but I think we have also to remember that within the last 15 years or so we have accepted a really very large number of immigrants, a great number of whom are coloured immigrants, and we have not done too badly in absorbing them. I do not think that any other country in the world has had to face an influx on this scale, so I think our record has stood up, as it has done over the centuries.

To-day, despite what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, I am not going to get involved in the subject of stateless Ugandans. I am sorry, but I will not be drawn into that. But although it is, in a way, coincidence, it is quite a good thing that in another place the House should be discussing the immigration rules, because whatever some Members of this House may think, I do not believe that we can go on with this process of absorption unless we now seek to limit the number of new immigrants who come in. Once they are here, they—and the ones who are here—should have equal rights and privileges with the rest of the population. But I do not think it is any use disguising from ourselves the fact that there are areas of strain, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Dement for reminding us, in effect, that there are two sides to race relations: there are those who come in from somewhere else and there is the indigenous population among whom they come to live. In those circumstances we need a positive policy and to it many different people and agencies can contribute and are contributing. I agree—and I think this was the tenor of the speech made by my noble friend Lord Gridley—that it is better if they work away quietly without too much fuss, because dramatic initiatives are rarely the best way to attack race relations problems.

I want first to say a word about what the immigrants themselves are doing to help this problem. I am glad to find that they are going into local politics. They are trying to get into another place. I am glad to find their participation in the community relations councils, of which there are more than 70 round the country. I have met them myself when I have been to places where there is a local council of social service. I have met them in Oldham, I have met them in Leicester, I have met them in Slough; and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will know the proud and helpful record of immigrants and their contribution to the life of Slough. I remember the irresistible little black girl in the adventure playground in Liverpool who insisted on showing me with the greatest of pride every single piece of apparatus and gave me a warm kiss on the cheek at the end. This is what they do to contribute, and I do not think we should forget about it.

But the noble Baroness, Lady White, rightly stressed that the Government must have a positive stance and attitude on this matter, and therefore I should like to tell the House what we are doing about it—and it is not a bad list. In the first place, I think one has to bear in mind the urban programme. This is a scheme—and I accept its origin in the Party opposite—which attempts to deal with areas of poverty and deprivation: quite often the city centres, quite often the areas where immigrants live. The problems that arise from these areas are also set out in the criteria, and the problem of immigration is one of the criteria that is adopted. It is worth remembering that over the past four years between £20 million and £25 million have been spent on urban aid; over the next four years it will be £40 million. That is a positive contribution on the ground to what this debate is about.

One speaker mentioned the Department of Employment Race Relations Advisory Service study called Take Seven. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady White, who referred to that. It was a study in 1970 and 1971 in which seven reputable firms in different parts of the country and different industries, employing a substantial number of coloured workers, took part. It showed that there were problems but they did not find overt discrimination. They found that all the firms believed in a policy of equal opportunity, but they also found that there were variations in positive application and the publicity given to this policy inside the firm. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White, that the need emerged for the employers' policy to be better publicised and better understood at all levels and by all employees. It is the job of management, and equally, it is the job of trade unions, and I welcome what the noble Baroness said on that subject.

That employment Advisory Service in the Department of Employment is always available for those who wish to take advantage of it. That is only one example of its work. When one looks at that Department one must not forget that it has the ordinary industrial conciliation machinery. I think that twice in this debate the dispute at Loughborough has been mentioned, and that is very much a case of the sort referred to in paragraph 74 of the Report of the Race Relations Board. A court of inquiry under Mr. Robinson was set up. I believe it successfully resolved the dispute, and what I think one should do is to recognise that the Board is right in spotlighting in its Report the need for action in the field of employment. But we should not belittle the ordinary industrial processes which apply right across the whole range of industry, and the help that they can give. These, after all, are supplementing the special in-industry machinery under the 1968 Act. If I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, aright, she talked about the "race industry". Leaving aside Peter Simple, I am not sure that there is such a thing as the race industry as such, or if there is that it is a good thing. I believe that we should not try to pick out this problem as a special problem. If, for instance, the ordinary Department of Employment conciliation machinery will deal with the dispute, so much the better, even if there is a racial element in it. I do not think that we should highlight these things as being specially racial and therefore different, if we can avoid it. However, I pick her up only on the phrase; I do not suppose there was any significance in what she said.


My Lords, may I say that the emphasis in the noble Viscount's speech, I think, is on the word "if".


My Lords, I entirely take what the noble Baroness has said. It was just a word. I recognise the implications.

The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, asked me next about the P.E.P. situation which is foreshadowed in paragraph 93 of the Report itself. I am very pleased to be able to tell the noble Lord and the House that there is a new research project with the ideas of the Race Relations Board very much behind it, which will be undertaken by P.E.P., financed jointly by the Home Office and the Gulbenkian Foundation. It is to be a survey of disadvantage and discrimination and will include research among employers for practices and policies to try to get the national picture. There will be case studies of local housing authority policies and practices in six areas. They aim to interview 3,650 men and women from West Indian and Asian communities to see how they have fared since being in this country. They aim also to have a comparison survey so that they will have, as it were, a control group of the indigenous population. That is an interesting venture and I am glad to be able to answer the noble Lord directly on it. We hope that it will start soon.

It may very well be true, as various noble Lords have said, that we should be looking more closely still and following up some of the indications that we have about performance of immigrant children in schools. I knew about the language problem among the West Indians. I was not altogether surprised about it, but it is interesting to have it highlighted by the noble Baroness and by the source which she quoted. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that the generation now at school, the generation born in this country, and their progress (how they get on when they start to take jobs), may very well be the acid test of our true integration with the immigrants. I understand the point about the compartments of work into which the first generation of people who come may fit and may be content, but which should not be "stratified"—a word which the noble Baroness I believe used—so that these become traditionally areas for immigrant workers and there is nowhere else where they may be likely to get a job. That is a very important point to watch and I am glad that it has been emphasised this afternoon. That is something which the Government must look at also and is something for my noble friend Lord Belstead and his Department.

Then there is the question of the Civil Service Department. The Race Relations Board points out in its Report that we should give a lead as model employers operating and monitoring a policy of equal opportunity. One noble Lord asked me, "Are we applying this in Government"? The answer is that for some time the Civil Service Department has been discussing with the Race Relations Board how to formulate precise guidelines on this matter for all the Departments of Government. We have a great deal of helpful and valuable advice and information from the Race Relations Board. It is obvious that that will go to matters like training and management policies. These things will feature in the guidelines, but we are trying in that way to take the lead as employers in this particular field. The Home Office has been further picked out because we have now obtained the services of Miss Nadine Peppard, who is so well know in this particular connection that I need hardly describe her background. She has been doing wonderful work with the Ugandan Resettlement Board just lately, and invaluable that has been. Now she can be spared from that task and she is joining the Home Office as a special adviser on race relations. We have been picked—I suppose it is only fair—as a Department that can be specially advised. She will look at the Home Office itself and see how our employment and promotion prospects go. She can advise us also in relation to the other services for which we are responsible, such as the police. Certainly one would wish that they would ask for advice before she got among them, but I am certain that she will be available and glad to advise them if they should so wish. The Uganda resettlement problem has diverted some of our resources in the whole of the race relations field, but I am glad that we shall now have Miss Peppard, and what she teaches us can be applied to other Departments as well.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked the Community Relations Commission to investigate unemployment and homelessness among West Indian youths. That was another particular point which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned. We are making a special investigation into this matter. It was something which was recommended by the Select Committee of another place, and we use the Race Relations Board under the 1968 Act because it is there specially to advise my right honourable friend on anything he should particularly refer to it. He has chosen this one problem at this particular moment. When I say that he has chosen it to deal with this particular problem, I mean that he is in touch all the time with the Race Relations Board about its work and the way in which it may be developed, modified or improved and there is no lack of continuing dialogue about that.

Finally, I should mention that we must plainly respond to the Select Committee of another place on the police/immigrant relations. We value the Report which that Select Committee has produced, and not least that part of paragraph 342 where the best examples of police leadership were given high praise. I thank the noble Baroness also for what she has said about the police and the example that they set. We are very carefully considering that Report and concerting a reply to it. In what I have just said I have, I believe, mentioned ten areas of Government activity, which is a considerable package when added to what is being done by the quiet collaboration of many private people, both immigrants and indigenous, to whom I offer support and encouragement from the Government as wholeheartedly as I can in what they are doing.

That is the preface to the Race Relations Board itself, because I think it is right to show that there are many things going on in this field. I agree with everybody else who has spoken on this matter, that to its work must go much of the credit for the wide acceptance now which I believe the race relations legislation enjoys. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said that the 1968 Act at least is only four years old. It is difficult to remember that it is so new as it has already got itself ingrained into our way of thinking. I agree with all those noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, the noble Baroness, Lady White, and others—who wish to congratulate and commend the Race Relations Board and to say how beneficial have been the activities that it has been pursuing. Of course its main attack has been on the individual cases of discrimination. It points in its Report to the falling-off in the number of cases. There are three possible reasons for that. One of them could be the pure success of the policy. I note that the Board tells us that the settlements it has been getting lately have been of a better quality. Possibly it lacks powers, and possibly there is an unwillingness to complain. I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, about this, because I think he strongly suggested that it was not lack of powers, at least of those three, that was the cause of a falling off in numbers. I do not know. It certainly has not been shown to me that it is lack of powers that has brought about this situation.

The Board suggest a number of minor amendments. As it is a short debate, perhaps I may be forgiven for not going through all the amendments, but I promise that they will be studied very carefully. On the unreasonable complaints such as the Scottish porridge—and noble Lords must remember that Scottish porridge is plural if they ever wish to refer to it. I wonder whether the Board cannot deal with these complaints in an administrative way so as to cut down some of the time spent.

There is the new decision from this House, sitting in its judicial capacity, about clubs. I do not think I had better go very fully into this to-day. What the House has done is to clarify the meaning of the present law, but it is a singularly sensitive and complex area, and I should think that the Race Relations Board itself will want to look at and consider the practical effects of the case and the implications for the Board's work. Certainly we should wish to do so as well. I think it is too soon for me to comment on that matter. The various points that have been made on these less important, though no doubt very strongly felt, suggestions for amendment perhaps we can take away and study.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount leaves that subject, will he assure the House that the decision given by the Court of Appeal will be very carefully studied by the Government, because it does raise very serious problems, problems which have faced the country for years. It may result in a big disadvantage to certain sections of the community who hitherto have been prevented from joining clubs in consequence of restrictions which have been imposed by them, even such clubs as have been on ground leased to them by public authorities. Perhaps the noble Viscount would say that he will give this matter his very early attention.


My Lords, I thought that that was what I was saying. Of course the Government will. It is the decision of this House rather than the Court of Appeal to which one should refer, because the Court of Appeal was reversed; it is the decision of the House of Lords itself that we should be considering. I was looking to see what was said about clubs by my predecessor of another Party at the time of the passing of the 1968 Act. In fact I think what the House has decided is remarkably similar to what was said then. But of course we will consider this, and I promise the noble Lord, Lord Janner, that this will be done.

It is perfectly plain that the weight of this debate has been concentrated on the suggestion in paragraphs 81 to 84 of new powers which the Board suggest it would like to have. I am not sure that its existing powers are all that bad if it wants to take the initiative. One notes its increased use of Section 17 and there are three cases in Appendix 6 which it has selected to show how it uses this. I am told that counsel's opinion has now been given to the Board that its powers under Section 17 are wider than it originally thought. One has also to remember that where it is invited there is no restriction or problem which prevents it from advising anyone on employment or housing or anything else. What it suggests is that it should have an entrée where it is not invited, nor necessarily welcome, and, incidentally, that it should be armed with quite substantial powers of investigation in the process, where a breach of the law is not even suspected. I am not certain about the Highlands and Islands Development Board, but I have a nasty suspicion that it was an extremely controversial point that the noble Baroness raised about their information seeking. At any rate, the other powers of this sort relate to a state of a breach of the law, or a possible breach of the law, which is being investigated. I am not sure that this is therefore a correct analogy.

Certainly we need education and we need persuasion and we need coaxing and cajoling—I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, about this—to develop perhaps a code of equal opportunity, of good practice in employment, and this sort of idea is now increasingly familiar in the industrial field. If there is no complaint, if there is no suspicion under Section 17, and if there is no code or practice against which one can compare what is actually going on inside some particular firm, I think we should be slow and cautious—I agree with my noble friend Lord Derwent on this—before we legislate in the way suggested, and we should be careful when we look at this analogy with the Factory Inspectorate to see whether this is really quite as accurate as is suggested.

What would happen if an unwilling employer being investigated under these powers was accused of not providing equal opportunity? It would not be a matter of discrimination. Suppose he simply disagreed. Is this justiciable? I do not think it is. There is no foundation, there is no background against which one can judge whether or not the Board is right or the employer is right. What is possibly even more important, having gone through this performance, unwilling though the employer may be, is whether this is likely to be conducive to conciliation, which, as the Board says and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, emphasised in his speech, is the underlying philosophy of the 1968 Act? Would this be conducive to conciliation? I am bound to say that I very much doubt it.

For somewhat the same reasons, the lack of an objective standard against which to judge what is going on, I am equally doubtful about the non-discrimination or equal opportunity clause that the Board suggests towards the end of its report should be put into Government contracts. I do not want to be totally negative about it. I say that we have no objective standards, but on this we shall surely get some guidance, for example, from the work of Miss Peppard, certainly I hope from the work of P.E.P. and the work in the Civil Service Department that I mentioned earlier. We really must have the knowledge to state what the equal opportunities consist of in practice before we start trying to apply them, let alone apply them by force of law.

On the extension of the Board's powers, I think much of the same research that I have spoken about will help to see whether there are standards and guidelines which could be the foundation of still more positive action. The Race Relations Board is looking and seeking experience; the Government is researching; we are looking and seeking experience, and of course we are also acting in the field where the problems are found. So we are not idle in this respect. I would suggest to the House that we should do what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, and get a little wiser about the whole of this subject before we rush into legislation which is wider than that which we now have. Having said that, I will study, and I will see that my right honourable friend studies, and those in the Home Office study, all the speeches made to-day, because they have been constructive and helpful and thoughtful. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this Report, and for me to give an up-to-date picture of what the Government are doing in this field.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, I think that all those who have followed this debate have felt it to be worthwhile. My own feeling has been that I should have liked so much to join in the broader considerations of this problem rather than keep to the Question that I had on the Order Paper. The Question on the Order Paper was: To draw attention to the recommendations of the annual report of the Race Relations Board … Perhaps inevitably the discussion has gone much wider, and, as Members of the House know, I am interested in those broader issues. I am not complaining, because I think that if I did complain attention might be drawn to that fact when I put certain questions in this House. Nevertheless, I tried to discipline my speech by referring only to the recommendations. The House benefited from the fact that I lost three pages of my notes, and therefore my speech was much shorter than usual. I regretted that, and I shall regret it as I read the report in Hansard, because I think that the logical sequence was a little absent too.

I shall refrain from making a comment upon each of the speeches that have been delivered. The speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the speech of my noble friend Lady White from the Front Bench, were, as we all expected from their experience, tremendously apposite to the broader problems. In these few concluding remarks I want just to fasten on what seemed to me to be the fundamental issues. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, with great interest. Just let me say to him that I do not expect an immediate explosion on the issue of race relations. When I used the word "explosion" it was in relation to the school-leavers of the next generation. It is urgent that we should make great changes so that they may feel that their experience of belonging with the other children in their schools is not denied in the world to which they come. It is in that respect that I think that a possible explosion may occur in the future unless we take action.

It is terribly difficult to measure the degree of racial discrimination at the present time. I take a little more pessimistic view than the noble Lord. It is probably deeper and wider than he seemed to indicate when he said that, on the whole, we were getting on pretty well. However, we need much more information and research about that, and I shall refer to that aspect almost immediately. If I do not refer to the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Derwent and Lord Gridley, I ask them to appreciate that I noted their points. If I were a Minister I would say that I would write to them on those issues, but I am afraid that I have not the facilities to do that. I want to come to the concluding speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. May I say how delighted I was to hear that Miss Peppard is to join his staff. I have known her for years. I have considerable affection for her character as well as a great admiration for her ability, and I am sure that if she acts as an adviser on community relations at the Home Office it will be greatly to the advantage of the Home Office, and I hope that the Home Office will accept the recommendations that she makes.

The real issue which came out of the remarks of the noble Viscount was the central issue which I raised: whether the Race Relations Board should deal with individuals who feel that they are the victims of racial discrimination, or whether the Race Relations Board should seek to prevent the conditions from which racial discrimination arises. In the pages of notes that I missed I had quoted from its Report of 1970–71. In that Report the Board said: It appears to us increasingly that the question of racial discrimination in employment needs to be seen primarily not in terms of active discrimination against individuals, but in terms of an acceptance or tolerance by everybody, including coloured workers, of employment situations in which equality of opportunity is consciously or unconsciously denied.


My Lords, may I just say to the noble Lord that I do not disagree with that. What I was saying was that I was not certain that it should be allowed, as it were, to force its way in. The powers now allow it to go where it is welcome and where it is invited. That was the distinction that I was drawing. I do not deny the truth of what the noble Lord is saying at all.


My Lords, I do not want to be too long, but I shall try to come back to that in a sentence or two in a moment. I just want to add what the Board says in its Report this year in commenting upon that. It says: We consider that this applies also, in varying degrees, to the other fields covered by the Act. If this is so, then the central need is to prevent the development of occupational and residential patterns which reflect lack of equal opportunity. The noble Viscount says that the Board already has the right to intervene where it suspects discrimination, but for the reasons that I put forward when I was opening this debate I strongly urge that that is inadequate. It would be inadequate in the case of factory inspectors who were thinking of laws regarding accidents and health. In my view racial discrimination is just as important, and I do not take the view that, just as factory inspectors are accepted in industry, inspectors of the Board dealing with racial discrimination should be regarded as unacceptable.

I was tremendously encouraged by the fact that the noble Viscount reported upon the research which is to take place. The Board has been in existence for only four years, and it is twenty years since I first introduced a Bill in the House of Commons against racial discrimination. I introduced it for nine years in succession before any Government would accept it. I am not impatient with the time it took, but I would say that if Her Majesty's Government will carry out, in association with the Race Relations Board, the research which the Minister has indicated, then the tremendous knowledge that may come from that research, if it is done thoroughly, will put us in a position where we can come to the right conclusions upon this matter. I do not have the authority of the Board for saying that, but that research and information would be valuable and we could then act correctly upon it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.