HL Deb 20 July 1976 vol 373 cc732-832

5.4 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. We are facing a difficult period in race relations in this country. There is more tension and more uncertainty than for some time past. To some extent, this may be due to our current national economic difficulties. But there are clearly other reasons too; some of these were touched on last month during our debate on immigration.

I think that in our debate today we should remember one basic fact. We are a multiracial society. Not only this, but the character of our coloured population is changing. An increasing proportion of this population has been born here. They think of Lambeth or Bradford or Birmingham as their home—not some island in the Carribbean or a far away village in Pakistan. This generation, raised and educated in this country, finds discrimination even more offensive than did their parents. Discrimination and unequal opportunity on the basis of race or colour are morally unacceptable; they are also socially divisive. If we do not tackle this problem successfully, the consequences for our country could be extremely severe.

This Bill demonstrates the Government's commitment to deal with the crucial issue. It gives effect to the proposals for new legislation which the Government put forward last year in the White Paper on Racial Discrimination. That White Paper fulfilled the commitment which I gave in the debate two years ago on the Bill introduced by my noble friend, Lord Brockway. I said then that the Government were determined to introduce new proposals to strengthen the measures designed to promote equal opportunity, and that we should be carrying out a thorough review of the race relations legislation with that end in view.

The Bill of my noble friend Lord Brockway sought to amend the Race Relations Act 1968. The conclusion of our review was that more fundamental changes were needed. That does not mean that the 1968 Act has proved a failure. On the contrary, much has been achieved through the hard and devoted work of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. But discrimination is still widespread and there are many impediments to equal opportunity. When the 1968 Act and its predecessor, the 1965 Act, were drafted, race relations was a novel field for legislation. Experience was bound to show up defects, some quite significant. Indeed, the statutory bodies created under it have been among the first to press for more effective legislation. The major lesson we have learned is that it has not proved possible to make major inroads into discrimination by relying on taking up individual acts of discimination, and in particular by relying on the initiative of aggrieved individuals, as the existing legislation does.

It is essential, in the public interest, that effective action should be taken to eliminate discrimination and to promote equal opportunity. A fundamental principle of this Bill is that it assigns this strategic role to the single new statutory Commission. At the same time, it offers fuller legal redress to individual victims of discrimination. It gives the new Commission wide powers to assist individual victims to obtain legal redress, rather than placing on it a statutory responsibility for deciding on their complaints.

The Bill is long and complex. I do not propose to try the patience of the House by describing it in detail clause by clause. Much of it will in any case be familiar to those noble Lords who took part in our proceedings on the Sex Discrimination Act last Session. The situation of men and women, and of the different races in our society, is, of course, in many respects different, and the Bill does not slavishly follow last year's Act. But there are common principles on which anti-discrimination legislation may be based whether the grounds of discrimination are sex or race. To that extent, the new Bill follows the model of the Sex Discrimination Act.

The first six parts of the Bill set out the scope of the provisions against discrimination. These are similar to those of the 1968 Act, but are strengthened and made a great deal more comprehensive. Part I defines unlawful discrimination. The major change compared with the 1968 Act is that it covers indirect discrimination, as well as direct, overt discrimination. By this is meant the application of conditions or requirements which, though formally neutral, put people of a particular racial group at a disadvantage. Such requirements or conditions will he unlawful unless they are shown to be justifiable. Thus, dress requirements or recruitment tests which operate to disqualify applicants of a particular racial group will be unlawful, unless they are shown to be justifiable requirements of the job in question. The grounds of racial discrimination are those of the previous Acts—namely, colour, race or national or ethnic origins—but nationality is added in view of the decision of your Lordships' House in a judicial capacity that this was not included under national origins.

Parts II and III of the Bill set out areas in which discrimination is unlawful. Part II makes discrimination unlawful in the field of employment, training and related matters. These situations are already covered by the 1968 Act, but the Bill deals specifically with discrimination against contract workers and by partnerships of six or more persons. In Part III the Bill deals comprehensively with discrimination in the public and private sectors of education. Part III also deals with discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services to the public and the disposal and management of premises. In these respects it is similar to the 1968 Act.

Clauses 25 and 26 deal with the important and controversial matter of the Bill's application to clubs and other associations. Your Lordships' House, sitting in a judicial capacity, decided, in two cases (Race Relations Board v. East Ham South Conservative Club and Race Relations Board v. Preston Dockers' Labour Club) involving racial discrimination by social clubs, that the words "section of the public" in Section 2 of the 1968 Act do not apply to members or associate members of such clubs. As a result, some 4,000 working men's clubs with a total membership of about 3½ million people, are not covered by the 1968 Act. Nor are the many other clubs which are not affiliated to the Club and Institute Union, but which play an important part in the life of the community

I made it clear when I replied to the debate on the Bill which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that the Government were convinced that this situation was unacceptable. Clubs should be allowed to apply a test of personal acceptability to candidates for membership. But I do not think that it is in the public interest for clubs to be permitted to operate a colour bar as part of their policy. Clause 25 therefore makes it unlawful for a club or other association to discriminate on racial grounds. However, it does not apply to a small club with fewer than 25 members.

Part IV of the Bill deals with other unlawful acts. It covers such matters as discriminatory advertisements. It makes it unlawful to instruct, incite or exert pressure on someone in order to get him to discriminate, and it makes employers liable for discrimination by their employees and agents. Part V applies to charities. It exempts from the general provisions of the Bill any discrimination (other than discrimination on the ground of colour) which is necessary to comply with the terms of a charitable instrument, and it provides for the removal of all colour restrictions in charitable instruments.

Part VI contains general exceptions from the scope of the Bill. Three of these deserve particular attention. First, there is an exception in Clause 35 for discrimination in affording persons of a particular racial group access to meet their special needs in relation to their education, training or welfare. Second, since the legislation is extended to cover nationality and indirect discrimination, it is necessary to have an exception to preserve justifiable nationality rules and residence requirements. The third exception to which I want to refer arises from the need not to adhere so blindly to the principle of formal legal equality as to ignore the handicaps preventing many black and brown workers from obtaining equal employment oppor tunities. Clauses 37 and 38 therefore permit, but do not require, training bodies, employers, trade unions, and employers' associations to provide training or encouragement to people of a particular racial group to help them to take up jobs or other opportunities from which they have previously been excluded or in which they have been significantly under-represented.

Part VII of the Bill establishes the Commission for Racial Equality, and Part VIII contains the provisions for enforcing the law against discrimination. The principal functions of the New Commission will be to work towards the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups generally. It will have a major strategic role in enforcing the law in the public interest, by conducting investigations aimed at identifying and dealing with discriminatory practices by industries, firms or institutions. The Commission will be empowered to issue non-discrimination notices and to bring legal proceedings against those who persistently violate the law. Its investigations will also be concerned with promoting equality of opportunity by encouraging better practices. And the Commission will also be able to conduct general investigations and research, to advise the Government, and to take action to educate and persuade public opinion. It will keep under review wider policies and practices in the public and private sectors, having particular regard to their implications for, and their effect upon, racial minorities.

In place of the special enforcement provisions of the 1968 Act, under which all complaints of discrimination must be put to the Race Relations Board which alone has the right to bring legal proceedings, racial discrimination becomes an ordinary civil wrong. Victims of discrimination will in future have the right to seek legal redress in the normal way through industrial tribunals and county courts.

The usual terms will apply to the availability of the legal aid and legal advice and assistance schemes, and the Bill provides for a special procedure to help aggrieved individuals to question a respondent about his reasons for doing an act. But the Government recognise that, in addition to its strategic role, the Commission has an important part to play in assisting individual victims of discrimination. Its powers to do so under Clause 66 are very wide. Furthermore, in view of the concern expressed on this issue, the Government went beyond the White Paper in preparing the legislation. The Bill imposes a specific duty on the Commission to consider applications for assistance in carrying out inquiries if necessary, during a two month period, when the time limit on the institution of court proceedings will be suspended.

The question whether the new Commission should be, as the Community Relations Commission now is, the source of financial support, training and co-ordination for local community relations work was extremely difficult. The recommendations made by the Select Committee, the Board, the Community Relations Commission, and various voluntary organisations, showed a profound divergence of opinion. After lengthy consultation and reflection the Government came to the conclusion that the only practicable way of preserving the vital work done by the community relations councils and their officers at local level was by giving the Community Relations Commission's present responsibilities for work at the local level to the new Commission. Clause 44 therefore empowers the Commission to support local work. But it provides for a special committee, which will be kept structurally distinct, to exercise the Commission's fieldwork responsibilities. In this way we hope that the Commission will be able to avoid being compromised or weakened in carrying out its other functions.

Before leaving Parts VII and VIII of the Bill, I would draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 47 which empowers the Commission to issue codes of practice in employment. Some Members of your Lordships' House, certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will recognise that this clause is very similar to one which she moved in Committee on the Sex Discrimination Bill. The Government have reconsidered the question of a statutory provision for codes of practice, and have come to the conclusion that such a provision is desirable in this Bill. Clause 47 was accordingly inserted in the Bill in another place, and we shall be moving an Amendment in Committee to insert a corresponding provision in the Sex Discrimination Act.

I turn finally to Part IX of the Bill, which amends the law on incitement to racial hatred. Under Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1965 a person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to stir up racial hatred, he circulates written matter or uses words in public which are both threatening, abusive or insulting and likely to stir up racial hatred. As Lord Justice Scarman observed in his report on the Red Lion Square disorders, Section 6 is too restrictively defined to be an effective sanction.

The offence of incitement to racial hatred is closely akin to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936, which makes it an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned. As the second limb shows, an offence may be committed under the Public Order Act if there is a likelihood of a breach of the peace, whether or not there is an intent to cause a breach of the peace. Racial hatred creates the circumstances which engender racial violence. The Government have therefore decided that the right way to strengthen Section 6 of the 1965 Act is to remove the need to prove a subjective intent. This will bring it into line with the offence under the Public Order Act; and, in the light of the views expressed in another place, we have decided that that Act is the proper place for this provision. Clause 70 therefore takes the form of an amendment to the Public Order Act.

My Lords, legislation will not by itself secure the objectives which, I am sure, the great majority of people in this country accept. Everyone who shares our ideal of a society in which the colour of a man's skin no more determines his life chances than does the colour of his hair or his eyes must play his part, in his private life as well as in his public life, in working for this goal. But effective legislation is an essential prerequisite. I believe that this Bill marks a major step forward in providing a better framework within which we can work towards racial harmony and justice. As such, I commend this Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for the very comprehensive way in which he has outlined the major provisions of this substantial Bill. I wish I could give it a rather warmer welcome than I feel able to do. If what we were debating was confined to the questions with which the noble Lord concluded his speech, I suppose that there could be no serious division of opinion among us; that is, if what we were debating was whether or not we agreed with racial discrimination, we would, I think, all of us say, "No, we condemn it".

If what we were debating was whether we condemned also, or perhaps even more emphatically, offensive, threatening or abusive language either to or about racial minorities, or indeed other minorities, I think equally we would all be of one mind. But the question really is whether the piece of legislation with which we are now confronted is likely to achieve the aims which I think most of us have at heart; and we find ourselves at once in the debatable territory which we have traversed so often before in the past three or four years, as to whether, in the conduct which men and women show towards one another, legislation is a useful tool and, if so, within what limitations it is a useful tool and with what safeguards for other desirable objectives.

This is the third such Bill which Parliament has been asked to pass into law in a period of little over 10 years, and prima facie, I would have thought, three is too many. My view on looking at it is that the Bill is ill-timed and ill-thought out. I am afraid that I think that on balance it is likely to be counter-productive in its effects; and I am sorry to say that I think it already has been counter-productive in its effects. Before I go on to elaborate my reasons for saying this, may I be allowed, first, to make one or two general observations?

In the first place, I should like to make it absolutely plain that I do not regard this as a Party matter at all. I do not know what the situation may be among members of the Party opposite, but I say frankly and without shame, because this is not a matter upon which we claim to be united, that opinions differ in my own. I say only this: speaking by permission of my colleagues from this Box, and speaking as an individual counsellor of the Crown, in which capacity we all speak to this House, the views I utter are those for which I take personal responsibility, and I would not seek to involve my colleagues in them one way or another.

In the second place, I do not think it can be claimed that I am at all totally opposed to legislation in this field. My recollection is that from the Back-Benches I gave a fairly generous welcome to the Act of 1965 in another place, although it is true to say that I doubted whether it was wise to select race relations, as distinct from other relations of a sensitive kind, for its provisions. With regard to the legislation of 1968, I gave it a welcome rather more cautious and certainly more sharply critical at times. I was persuaded, and I remain persuaded, that there is a case for legislating in the field of big employers and big landlords. I shall come back to this point when it is appropriate in examining this Bill. But I thought that the Bill of 1968 went, and still goes now that it is law, a great deal too far into fields which were both unenforceable and counter-productive, and I still think that. I thought it contained provisions calculated to bring the law into contempt, notably in the field of advertisements; and I think it has already done so in quite a number of instances, most recently in the case of the rather preposterous Mr. Relf. But I am not opposed in principle to clear-sighted, practical legislation in this field.

If I thought for a moment that this Bill would in fact improve race relations or reduce racial prejudice, I would not hesitate to say so. Unfortunately, I do not. I am not quite alone in this opinion. I noticed that in another place Mr. Marcus Lipton, who represents a constituency which probably has more experience of these matters directly than I have myself, said that his first reaction was that it would leave race relations exactly where they were already. To say that is of course to damn the Bill, because I think that in view of the enormous flow of public legislation which is being passed at the moment the onus of proof lies upon those who maintain that the legislation they put forward is likely to make things, marginally at least, better than they found them.

I fear that this judgment is altogether too kind. To begin with, the Bill and the White Paper which has preceded it has already given occasion for speeches in Parliament and elsewhere which I can only regard as adverse to good race relations. I do not think that the Bill, and I do not think that the White Paper, justified those speeches. On the contrary, my personal judgment is that they were in every way to be deplored; but it provided the occasion for them. Well-intentioned Bills often do give occasion for the philistines to rejoice or the blasphemers to blaspheme. I must say to the noble Lord that good intentions are not, by themselves, a justification for legislation. Quite the contrary. One of the major fallacies of our time is that once you have identified a problem which requires infinite care, and, possibly, courtesy between individuals in dealing with it, you improve the situation or perhaps solve the problem by passing a law about it or, as in this case, changing the structure of the law about it. Well, the speeches were made.

There have been a number of quite deplorable incidents following them. Of course, I cannot prove that they have not been co-incidental but I must state my opinion that they have not been co-incidental. There have been two murders which may or may not have had racial motives; there have been demonstrations and counter demonstrations which are certainly orientated racially. There has been that to which I have already referred, the farcical and deplorable episode of Mr. Relf who succeeded in defying the existing law; and this episode was not the least deplorable because, if the reports are to be believed, Mr. Relf was himself a very unattractive character, his behaviour disgraceful and his character unstable. There have been by-elections at which an openly racialist vote, though still an inconsiderable fragment of public opinion, has multiplied for the first time in years. It may be said, and it may be said truly, that this vote was avowedly directed against immigration and not against the Bill, as were the demonstrations at the airport against the Goans who, I understand, are British citizens. I do not myself so read the underlying causes. I do not believe that there is no causal connection between the demonstrations, or some of them, and the White Paper, although there were other causes co-incidental with them, like the behaviour of some of the East African authorities and the strange antics of the person at present ruling Uganda and whose behaviour has been noticeable at the same time.

I now come to some positive criticisms of the Bill. My first criticism is that the proposals run counter to well-established legal principles designed for the protection of the subject. The Act of 1965 prohibited, under criminal sanctions, intentional incitement to racial hatred; but, as the noble Lord reminded us, intention had then to be proved. I certainly support this and did so at the time; although I would not myself have picked out racial hatred for special treatment since in my view deliberate incitement to class hatred, religious hatred or any other sort of hatred between groups of British subjects is, and always has been, a crime at Common Law—and, more specifically, the crime which used to be called sedition. Intention in all these cases must be proved. That corresponds to the principle that there must be a guilty mind as well as the commission of the prohibited act.

But this Bill re-enacts the 1965 Statute with a difference. The 1965 Statute re-enacted and followed the rule of Common Law. That rule involves that for any indictable offence punishable by prison two ingredients are necessary. Each must be proved by the, prosecution beyond reasonable doubt before a man can be found guilty. Clause 70 of the Bill overrides both these principles. The Common Law provides that there must be a guilty mind—that is, an intention—as well as the commission of the prohibited act. But with one qualification, Clause 70 abolishes the necessity for a guilty mind as well as the prohibited act. The one qualification is the distribution of written matter. But there, Clause 70 overrides the other rule of Common Law. By subsection (3) of Clause 70 the accused is not guilty in the limited class of the distribution of written matter if he acts innocently; but only then if he proves his innocence. The accused is liable on indictment to an unlimited fine or imprisonment for two years.

My Lords, in introducing the Bill in this House the noble Lord said—and in that he was echoing the view of the Home Secretary when he introduced the Second Reading in another place—that racial discrimination is morally repugnant. To my mind it is morally repugnant; so is murder, so is rape, so is treason and so is fraud. No doubt, intention is difficult to prove, as Lord Justice Scarman pointed out; but it is equally difficult to prove in murder and in fraud and in rape. The Home Secretary evidently thinks that incitement to racial hatred is so important to prove that he can ignore the safeguards for the citizen inherent in the rule that intention must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But I disagree. I do not think that convictions for these offences are more important than convictions for murder, rape, or fraud. I think that the Common Law rule should prevail. I am aware that by subsection (5) of Clause 70 the Attorney General's consent is necessary before a prosecution may be brought. I am not in the least convinced that the Attorney General's consent is a proper substitute for the safeguards of Magna Carta and the Common Law, a trial by jury who before convicting must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of both elements, both the prohibited act and the intent to commit it.

Exactly the same situation can be seen in the field of civil law if one looks at Clause 2; that is, discrimination by way of victimisation. This is rather a curious clause because in effect it introduces this. Never mind if the man does not, in fact, discriminate, he is to be treated as discriminating on racial grounds if he, in fact, discriminates against a person who has brought a charge against him. One can understand that if the charge were true; but the case is made out whether it is true or false. The only exception is in subsection (2) which reads: Subsection (1) does not apply to treatment of a person by reason of any allegation made by him if the allegation was false and not made in good faith". My reading of that is to put it upon the defendant in such a case to prove that the allegation was made not in good faith. He must not only prove his innocence in such a case but must also take it upon himself to prove the guilt of his accuser in not making his accusation in good faith.

My Lords, let us look again at Clause 29. This is the clause which deals with advertisements and this provides, I think substantially in the terms of subsection (1) of the previous legislation, that: It is unlawful to publish or to cause to be published an advertisement which indicates, or might reasonably be understood as indicating, an intention by a person to do an act of discrimination, whether the doing of that act by him would be lawful or, by virtue of Part II or III, unlawful. That is to say, you cannot lawfully publish an advertisement even if the thing which would result from the advertisement is perfectly lawful. It was that subsection which caused the preposterous Mr. Relf to set the law at defiance, and perhaps it is because of the absurdities which it has left, that subsection (2) is enacted. It says: (2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an advertisement—

  1. (a) if the intended act would be lawful by virtue of any of sections 5, 6, 7(3), 10(3), 26, 34(2)(b), 35 to 39 and 41; or
  2. (b) if the advertisement relates to the services of an employment agency (within the meaning of section 14(1)) and the intended act only concerns employment which the employer could by virtue of section 5, 6 or 7(3) lawfully refuse to offer to persons against whom the advertisement indicates an intention to discriminate."
I ask the House: Where are we going in this field of legislation? Let us imagine that a person wants to put an advertisement in a newspaper for an Italian cook. Obviously it can or cannot come within some of the clauses which I have enumerated and in some cases it undoubtedly will come within the exception. He has to ask himself before he puts his personal advertisement into the Wandsworth Gazette which of those clauses apply, and whether they do. The only excuse that he can offer if he goes wrong, so far as I can see, is that he shall not be liable under the subsection in respect of the publication of the advertisement if he proves that the advertisement was placed on the reliance of a statement made to him by another person in certain circumstances which are defined. In other words, again he has to prove his innocence otherwise he is assumed to be guilty under the civil law. I have to ask the House whether this particular vice of racial discrimination is so very much worse than other tortious acts that the whole of the Common Law and the whole of the Statute Law as we have come to understand them hitherto are going to be overridden in favour of a presumption against whom allegations are made.

One of the main purposes of the Bill—perhaps the main purpose—is enshrined in Clause 43 and the succeeding clauses, particularly Clause 48 to which I am about to refer. This is regarding the abolition of the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission and their amalgamation with new and, as I shall show, directly inquisitorial powers in the new Commission for Racial Equality. I personally do not approve of this move. I do not approve of the amalgamation of a body like the Race Relations Board devoted to law enforcement with a body like the Community Relations Commission devoted to the promotion of good conduct. One might as well amalgamate the functions of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or the Director of Public Prosecutions with that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But I object still more to the inquisitorial powers. We have not given inquisitorial powers either to the Director of Public Prosecutions or to Sir Robert Mark, or, for that matter, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, in cases of murder, rape, treason, arson, incest or theft, serious though these may be. They are entitled to ask questions but they are not entitled to enforce attendance or compel an answer. The reason is well known: we abolished the Star Chamber in the seventeenth century because it was well known that inquisitorial powers were repressive. When we institute inquisitorial powers, as we have done in the Bankruptcy Act, as we have done in the Companies Act, or as we do from time to time in inquiries under the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, they are carefully hedged around with safeguards and limitations. They are not given a roving commission like those conferred under Clause 48, the like of which have not been conferred in many cases since the seventeenth century battle between the executive and the legislature. Apparently the detection of racial discrimination is more important than the detection of ordinary crime, so it is necessary to confer almost unlimited inquisitorial powers, although it is fair again to say that the Home Secretary has retained the right to direct them before the inquiry can be made.

I do not happen to believe that Englishmen or Scotsmen, whatever the colour of their skins—and, as the noble Lord rightly reminded us, in both England and Scotland, and for that matter Wales, there are Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen with very different kinds of colour—can be induced to behave better to one another or to immigrants under this kind of coercive legislation. On the contrary, I fear the more foolish among them may be tempted to defy the legislation. I cannot but draw attention to the Rake's Progress which we are permitting by this series of Acts. We passed the Act of 1965. At that time the difficulties of policing it were pointed out. They have now been admitted by the noble Lord in his introduction. The difficulties have proved difficult to overcome except in the case of the late black racialist, Malcolm X. So we have the legislation of 1968. I happened to think, and I think now, that there was a case for limited legislation along similar lines. But, apart from that case, which I conceded, and to which I shall return in a moment, the difficulties of policing such an Act are insuperable, and so they have proved. The principal witnesses that I call for the support of that statement are first of all the noble Lord, who said frankly at the very beginning of his speech that now in 1976, after eight years of the Act of 1968, "there is more tension and more uncertainty". Once more the Government are asking us to reinforce failure by going further—


My Lords, with great respect, I am following the noble and learned Lord, who is making, as ever, a powerful case; but I must say that I am sure he will agree that on reflection it would be a substantial overstatement to say that the current racial problems we are facing in this country are caused by the two previous Race Relations Acts and the discussion on this Bill. With great respect, that is a fairly substantial statement which, on reflection, I feel the noble and learned Lord would not wish to proceed with.


My Lords, I did not make that statement. What I said was that the Bill of 1968 had resulted in failure. It has failed to improve race relations. On the contrary, since those days they have become worse, and the noble Lord said so. If he is not satisfied with his own statement, I am entitled to quote the statement of the Home Secretary when introducing this Bill in another place. This is what the Home Secretary said: Yet, at the end of this decade, which stretches back to 1965, despite all our efforts both statutory bodies"— that is to say, the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission— have forcibly drawn attention, as they should, to the inability of the existing legislation to deal with widespread patterns of discrimination, especially in employment and housing, to a lack of confidence among minority groups in the utility of the law, and, as they themselves have put it, 'to a lack of total credibility of … both the board and the Commission' ".—[Official Report, Commons, 4/3/76; col. 1550.] This is not a record of resounding success, is it? I am bound to tell the noble Lord that this total lack of credibility—and again the words are not mine—was something that I predicted at the time. What moral does the Home Secretary, that archpriest of the civilised and permissive society, draw from this record of total failure? Instead of asking himself the question whether the mere passing of legislation which cannot be policed can be the solution of social problems, he goes blindly ahead, abolishing the safeguards of the Common Law in criminal and civil fields to which I referred, reversing the burden of proof and creating new bodies with inquisitorial powers which have not been seen in this country for a long time and extending the functions to clubs, partnerships, small firms and tenancies, to which I believe they can have no valuable application.

I said at the beginning that I am not opposed to all legislation in this field. I did not oppose the passage of the 1965 Act, and at the time of the 1968 Act I said plainly that in the field of employment and of tenancy there was a place for legislation based on the American experience, preventing public bodies and large private landlords and employers discriminating in the fields for which they were responsible. I still believe that, had the Government only heeded the warnings then given to them and confined themselves to this field, they would not now be proclaiming the total lack of credibility regarding the results of their own previous legislation.

The reason why large landlords, large employers and public bodies can be legislated for in this field is threefold. Each factor is quite obvious and can be policed in the courts. The first is that large firms of employers and large landlords genuinely cater for large sections of the public, and what they do and the principles on which they behave can easily be proved and, if necessary, inspected without great difficulty. The second is that the law can offer them protection. They have protection when, as is not infrequently the case, their black or white tenants or employees gang up against them and offer to impose sanctions if they do not discriminate.

They can say, "But the law compels us not to discriminate", and they can go to the courts for protection if necessary.

The third factor is that in the provision of services for the public, whether they are chances for employment—"job opportunities", as they are now called—education or housing accommodation, the law itself can offer a normative role. If that is the case here, it corresponds with the real national conscience and the real state of public opinion. But when you seek to press the law further and seek to intrude into private clubs or small shops employing a few persons, or estates with five or six tenants or a house with a few lodgers, you are setting yourself an impossible task. You are creating rights which it is impossible to protect. You are interfering with intimate relations which it is not possible to regulate. You are proclaiming rules of private conduct as against public behaviour, and no amount of dictatorial powers, no reversal of the burden of proof—and if you reverse the burden of proof you will, make no mistake about it, eventually convict some innocent people even if the Attorney General is made to consent—and no inquisitorial authorities will lend credibility to your endeavours. All you will do is to create fresh opportunities for new and preposterous Mr. Relfs to hold up your new laws to hatred, ridicule and contempt.

I am not in the least impressed by the fact that some, though not all, and not the most absurd, of the provisions of this Bill are to be found in the Sex Discrimination Act. That Act is far too young to be cited yet as a respectable precedent for success; and although I did not play a part in the debates on that subject, I am not sure that all its provisions are an ornament to the Statute Book. But there is at least this to be said about race relations: if the relations between the sexes were wholly antagonistic or if they performed exactly the same roles in society, the human race could not continue. For my part, I shall continue to try to practise sex equality but at the same time to cry "Vive la différence"!

But neither proposition is true of relations between different human communities, whether they are between people of different religions—and may I say that I have never understood why the noble Lord, introducing nationality as a result of a judicial decision of this House, has still determined to exclude religion, and perhaps in his reply he will tell us about that—whether they are classes, religions or races. Equality of rights, equality before the law and equality of public respect are fine ideals, and I share every one. But legislation is at best a negative weapon. What can and cannot be enforced is a difficult problem, and to pass legislation which cannot be enforced ill becomes—I am bound to say this to the noble Lord—the Party which criticised the Industrial Relations Act in 1971 on precisely the ground of criticism I am seeking now to pronounce.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not accept that the term "incite" itself implies intention? It is extraordinarily difficult to visualise how one could incite unintentionally.


My Lords, if that is so, in fact Lord Justice Scarman was wrong, and the Bill was unnecessary.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, there are so many things in the noble and learned Lord's speech with which I disagree that if I were to cover all of them I should have no time to give my own comments on the Bill but I must say that one particular point demands immediate answer, and that is whether this vice of racial discrimination is so much worse than any other sort that it demands special treatment. I should have thought the answer to that was unequivocally, "Yes", because in any other tort the victim is not in a position where he cannot alter the characteristics which give rise to the offence in the first place.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I was not asking whether it was worse than any other tort: the question I was raising was whether it was worse than any crime.


My Lords, I thought I had taken down the noble and learned Lord's words and that he had said "tort". But I will look in Hansard and if I am misquoting him then I apologise; but I think we must say unequivocally that it is worse than any other tort and therefore it demands different treatment. Also, I wonder whether the noble Lord, in seeking to pretend that the 1965 and 1968 Acts, by inference, have been the cause of the current state of tension, would like to reconsider the effect of those remarks. He did not actually go as far as to say it was cause and effect, but he said: Here we have the 1965 and 1968 Acts on the Statute Book for all this time, and not only have they been useless in remedying the complaints of the minority communities, but actually if one looks around one at the present time one sees a greater state of tension and a defiance of the law, as exemplified by Mr. Relf. I have discussed Mr. Relf a great deal with members of the ethnic minorities of this country, and I find they disagree with my belief that the case of Mr. Relf demonstrates conclusively the success of the 1965 and 1968 Acts, because in eight years he is the only person who has pressed opposition to the law to such an extent that the courts have been forced to commit him for contempt. I do not believe that the average law-abiding English citizen is going deliberately to set out to court the maximum publicity by defying the law and forcing a judge to send him to prison, as Mr. Relf did. I think his motives were perfectly transparent. He wanted to give people the justification for claiming that these laws are ridiculous, and for providing ammunition for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, in the speech which he made this afternoon. He has fallen into the trap, as did so many of the newspapers and television companies in commenting on that case.

I should have thought that if there were any doubts about the existence of powerful forces in society working unremittingly against racial justice and equality and fomenting hatred and contempt for ethnic minorities, then the by-election results at Rotherham and Thurrock to which the noble and learned Lord referred in passing will have come as a very sombre warning. The loathsome doctrines of the Fascists are attracting more support at the polls, while criminals and hooligans of the extreme Right are physically assaulting black people, damaging black people's property and breaking up peaceful meetings just as their predecessors did in the 1930s.

I find that with some of the individuals who are provoking disorder in the National Front and also in their breakaway organisation, the National Party, if one were to go back into their antecedents, one would find the same people who were involved in the activities of the Blackshirts before the war. Granted the existence of these visible and particularly odious forms of race hatred, it would be naive to suppose that prejudice against black people is not fairly widespread and that, in the absence of vigorous action by the Government to counter the effects of racism, minority groups would suffer discrimination. There is, indeed, abundant evidence to show that in employment, housing, education and social opportunities, ethnic minorities have been victimised, purely and simply, because of the colour of their skins.

Therefore, I welcome this Bill, as what I consider to be a very considerable advance on the 1965 and 1968 Acts; the more so as the Government have met some of the criticisms which the Liberal Party's Community Relations Panel made of the White Paper, and which my honourable friend Mr. Alan Beith made in another place on the Bill as originally drafted. But I think that, however laudable the provisions of the Bill may be, they are unlikely to be fully effective as long as we have a racist policy on immigration, and as long as we lack, … a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with the related and equally important problem of disadvantage", words which I take from the White Paper of last summer.

I hope I have demonstrated on other occasions that our immigration law, and the rules which are made under it, discriminate against black people, and I shall not trouble your Lordships with a repetition of the analysis. But for the purpose of this discussion may I simply remind the House that, having successively limited the rights of entry of Commonwealth citizens under the 1962, 1968 and 1971 Acts, while at the same time throwing open the doors to free entry by 8 million patrials are who almost entirely white, the Government have also made it as difficult as possible for those black people who, in theory, are entitled to come here—that is to say, the United Kingdom passport holders and the dependants of heads of households who are already in this country—to exercise their rights. Yet there are some people who demand—even some of the people who are in support of this Bill—that we should impose even tighter restrictions on black immigration, on the grounds that if you do that you will promote better relations between those communities who are already here.

I think it is a bizarre idea that you encourage friendly relations with a person by saying that, instead of being separated from his wife and family for two years, you are going to make it five years, and that if anyone like him has the temerity to come in the future you are going to make sure that he is permanently separated from his family. That was the effect of what Mr. Whitelaw appeared to be suggesting in the last debate on immigration in another place. I say that racism cannot be appeased, and that any concession is going to be met by further demands, and if there is any tightening up of the rules it will simply encourage the cry that is already being made for compulsory repatriation by people like Mr. Enoch Powell and Mr. Ronald Bell. I think one must ask this question: is not the moral authority of the Government, for preventing discrimination against black people settled in this country, undermined when it is itself discriminating against black people who want to come here, and who have a perfect right to do so under both domestic and international law?

With regard to the question of disadvantage, my honourable friend Mr. Alan Beith said in the Second Reading debate in another place that it was an even greater problem than discrimination, and I agree with him whole heartedly on that. In the winding-up speech, the then Minister of State, Mr. Alex Lyon, admitted that "we have not begun to tackle that whole area yet"—a frank and honest enough statement, one might think, from the Government Front Bench, but of course from the time of his dismissal until he unfortunately fell seriously ill Mr. Alex Lyon was making even more severe criticisms of the Government's failure in this respect.

I was also encouraged to read the powerful speech by Mr. Michael Alison during the Report stage in another place, when he was demanding far more resources for combating urban deprivation even, he said, at a time when other public spending programmes had to be cut. I think that that was a very courageous statement for Mr. Michael Alison to make at a time when his Party is so vociferous in demanding these spending cuts. I wonder, if I may say so en passant, what consultation the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, has had with his colleagues Mr. Michael Alison and Mr. David Lane, because the tone of his remarks this afternoon appeared to be directly contrary to what they said during the proceedings in another place. By the way, this was not a new point about urban deprivation. It was a powerful recommendation of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, published as long ago as 1st July, 1975, and, if I may quote from paragraph 4 of their Report, it stated: … Whatever action is taken against discrimination, the problems of urban deprivation, although recognised by successive Governments, nevertheless demand more effective action and greater resources". The two major sources of funds to remedy racial disadvantage are, of course, Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, under which the provision was £13 million in 1974–75, and a part of the urban programme devoted to this purpose, the total budget for which in 1975 was £22.8 million. I have not been able to discover what are the corresponding figures for the current financial year, because the headings are not separately identified in the Public Expenditure White Paper, and I should be extremely grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who is to reply, would be good enough to give the House those figures. In view of what are obviously pitifully small amounts in relation to the enormous need which is identified in the statements I have quoted, will he also give the House an assurance that no further cuts will be made in either Section 11 or the urban programme, as part of the review which is now being conducted by the Government?

In the Liberal Party's submission to the Home Office before last year's White Paper, it was recommended that both these programmes should be channelled through the new Commission, rather in the same way that money to be spent on research and development is channelled through the Research Councils. In other words, the Government would have control over the overall budget, while the detailed allocation to the various local authorities would be settled by the Commission. I think that that was the ideal solution, but I do not pretend to overlook the enormous practical difficulties involved in loosening central Government's control over the money.

What I would now propose as a compromise is that whatever new procedures may be established as part of the review of the urban programme and Section 11, that should involve consultation between the relevant central Government Departments and the Commission, and between the local authorities which are to receive the money and their corresponding local CRCs, because I believe that in this way the money could be spent far more effectively than it sometimes is at the moment. In addition to that, I suggest that local authorities should be given a statutory duty to appraise the needs of minority groups within their areas with the advice of the Commission, the cost of this work being met by a 100 per cent. grant from central Government, so that from now on any funds that are allocated to urban deprivation can be spent in the most effective possible way and the objectives can be part of an overall coordinated plan. I should be very grateful if the Minister would make some comment on that suggestion.

Moving on to the powers of general investigation which are given to the Commission, and which the noble and learned Lord totally ignored, but which I believe are at the heart of the Bill, if the powers in Clauses 48 and 52 are used as extensively as I hope, that may well disclose information which is very relevant to this choice of priorities in spending. If I may take a particular example, why has there been a relatively faster rate of increase in unemployment among black people than among whites? If one looks at the evidence given by the Department of Employment to the Select Committee on 8th April, they say that the phenomenon is not yet fully understood. But if we do not find out as a matter of some urgency and take immediate action, the consequences of unemployment, particularly among young black school-leavers, could be disastrous not only for the young black school-leavers, but for the community as a whole. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Seear will be developing that point later on.

As I say, these powers of general investigation seem to me to be the most important provisions in the Bill since, if I may paraphrase the comments of Mr. Geoffrey Bindman, a lawyer who is an expert in race relations, discrimination is seen now less as a series of isolated and distinguishable events in which, due to on the part of some identifiable individual or organisation, a person is discriminated against but more as a product of systems and procedures which, though not overtly discriminatory in themselves, work in practice to the disadvantage of minority groups.

I think that we have to come to grips with the aetiology of institutional racial discrimination as exemplified, for instance, in the gross under-representation of minority groups among council house tenants. I am not aware of any complaints of direct discrimination by housing officers or by housing managers in local authorities yet, as the PEP Report on Racial Minorities and Public Housing showed, only 4 per cent. of Asians and 26 per cent. of West Indians, compared with 30 per cent. in the population as a whole, are council tenants. The report goes on to point out that although one might think at first sight that the West Indian figure, being not far short of the national average, indicated a lack of disadvantage there, it was to be expected that the West Indian figure would be much higher, since many of the West Indian families living on low incomes are in the greatest need of modestly priced rented accommodation.

There is still a need to handle individual complaints. Here I suspect that I may disagree with my noble friend because and the Party as a whole welcomed the right of complainants to have direct access to the courts and industrial tribunals, subject to the reservation made by my honourable friend Mr. Alan Beith on the powers of assistance by the Commission. I think I may now say that with the addition of Clause 66(2)(e) in another place we are entirely satisfied on this point. I should also like to welcome particularly the provisions of Clauses 25 and 26 which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, mentioned and which are in line with the Bill that I presented in the last session, except that for some reason which I do not clearly understand—and perhaps we can go into this later on—there is exemption for clubs of fewer than 25 members.

Also I welcome the strengthened wording of Clause 44 which, as a result of Mr. David Lane's Amendment in Committee in another place, allows the Commission to support organisations which are concerned with equality of opportunity as well as good relations between persons of different racial groups. I think that the arguments for not spelling out too precisely the functions of the CRCs, which are voluntary bodies, are accepted, but clearly they have to be involved in the local implementation of the national strategy for racial equality. Therefore they should have those words in their terms of reference.

Finally, I should like to make two proposals which would help to increase the confidence of minorities in the new Commission. I suggest that the Government should produce a booklet which sets out the provisions of the Bill in layman's language, on the lines of the booklets which have been produced on other Acts—I remember the 1965 Rent Act and The Rent Act and You—and that it should be translated into the languages used by the principal minority groups. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will not say that this is obviously a matter for the Commission. In that event, we should have to wait for several months after the Royal Assent, whereas I have in mind something being made available immediately, not only to minority group organisations but to Citizens Advice Bureaux, Members of Parliament for their "surgeries", public libraries, trade unions, employers' organisations and any other bodies which may be asked for advice on the provisions of the Act as it will then be.

My second suggestion concerns the representation of minorities on the Commission. As the discussion in the Standing Committee in another place showed, it is not at all easy to insert words into the Bill giving effect to the assurance given by the Government in the White Paper that: the various racial minorities are substantially represented in its composition". Yet as Mr. David Lane pointed out in Committee, the discretion of the Home Secretary is absolutely unfettered and fear is expressed, I am sure wrongly, that people will be nominated solely from the lists of the great and the good, as it is called. My proposal is that in making these appointments the Home Secretary should be obliged in the Bill to consult such organisations which are representative of ethnic minorities as he thinks fit. That does not tie him down to any particular unworkable numerical formula and it probably only puts into the Statute what any sensible Home Secretary would decide to do without prompting. However, I think that it would have considerable psychological advantages. There is, by the way, a precedent, to which I can refer in Committee, if necessary, in the Health and Safety at Work Act.

This Bill is, in my view, an absolutely essential component of a national strategy for dealing with racial discrimination and disadvantage. It is supported in principle, notwithstanding what the noble and learned Lord said this afternoon, by all three respectable political Parties and by informed opinion in the community as a whole, but it would be a great mistake to assume that by itself the law is the whole answer to racism or even that the policies on immigration and urban deprivation which I have outlined would have been enough to cope finally with the problem.

An important responsibility, I believe, rests on the shoulders of every single individual citizen of this country—the teacher, the journalist, the shop steward, the barman, the house agent, the foreman, or the priest—to stamp on racism wherever it rears its ugly head. I think that the creation of the society in which all can live together in peace and harmony, each preserving his own cultural heritage but genuinely equal in rights and opportunities, is a goal that transcends all others in importance, at least as much for the members of the majority as for the members of minority communities.

As a nation we seem to be going through a period of self-criticism and doubt which is nearly always attributed solely to our relatively bad economic performance over the last few years. I utterly repudiate that view and say that it is by the moral and ethical standards that we maintain that we shall be judged by history. I conclude with the words of the greatest English Statesman who ever lived. He said: Remember that He who has united you together as human beings in the same flesh and blood has bound you by the law of mutual love". And that law is more important than the one to which I hope we shall be giving a Second Reading this afternoon.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to crave the indulgence of your Lordships' House. I hope that on a subject as controversial as race relations I shall be as non-controversial as possible, but I am afraid that I must say to your Lordships that I cannot give any guarantees. I hope I shall be forgiven if I say that for once I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, that it is a regrettable Bill. It is regrettable in very many ways that in the third quarter of the 20th century we in this country are still having to pass Acts of Parliament that deal with racial discrimination and race relations. As Viking approaches Mars and looks for other life, I hope very much that it does not find any. We have enough difficulties in dealing with each other without finding added burdens for this country.

In this country we have very many people who are skilled in race relations and I should like to give credit to such organisations as the one in my own area; namely, the Gravesend Community Relations Council. Throughout the country these councils are doing a great deal of good work in instituting better race relations in their areas. However, there are also very many people who are skilled in anti-race relations. Too often they are allowed to create myths and rumours which are accepted; and too often politicians either tacitly agree with them by remaining silent or talk about immigration in a way that gives credibility and respectability to many of the racists in our country. It is up to politicians to speak out, and indeed as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said one cannot appease the racist because every concession that is made to their warped opinions means that one goes back further and further. Indeed, continuing on that path, it would not be very long before it was "Huguenots go home" and in fact "Normans go home", because there is no appeasement that one can make to them that will ensure better race relations.

One of the things that happens is that we speak too often of "immigrants". Eighty per cent. of the black immigrants in this country, if we talk in terms of Circular 15/1967 of the Home Office, are not immigrants at all, because immigrants in that category are those who have been here for fewer than 10 years. Indeed I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead—and I hope he will not mind my mentioning it—is often referred to as an immigrant, and he has been here for many more years than I think most of us care to remember. Of course most of the black people in this country have been here since the 'fifties and 'sixties.

As a nation we have thrived on migration. We take pride as a nation in migration to other countries of the world, and yet we have so much difficulty in assimilating and recognising migrant communities that come into our community. How often do we abuse and speak harshly to General Come-lately Field Marshal Amin when he shows discrimination towards migrants from this country. That is the kind of thing we ought to remember because the black people in this country are taxpayers and ratepayers; they are voters; they are trade union members, political Party members, and they are Olympic competitors. This country will be proud if any of those black people come back from Montreal with Olympic medals. Many of the people who claim that they have no racist feelings will want to accept them.

The Bill does not perhaps cover all the areas one would want it to cover, but there are three major areas in the question of race relations that this Government have to tackle very firmly. Let it not be said that I would voice any criticism of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs and his Minister of State in this House for the work that they have done in race relations. They have stood firm the whole time. But in regard to housing, when people find difficulties in getting rehoused and they see people of a different colour being rehoused, all sorts of myths and rumours are circulated such as that they got off the boat only last week. Since the end of the war we have not had in this country a situation where anybody could go along to a housing office and get rehoused. Last week the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, said he had never known a time since the end of the war when there had been a good housing situation in this country.

No Government can escape responsibility for the situation in regard to housing. Neither of the two major political Parties has fulfilled its promises and expectations of better housing in this country. It is an area of difficulty so far as race relations are concerned. I hope the Home Office will study the new and important document that the Community Relations Commission has just issued on housing in multiracial areas, because it is a document that has been compiled by housing officers and directors of housing in areas where there is a real difficulty in general housing, and not the particular housing of people of different races and creeds.

In many ways the area of employment is worse, because large numbers of young black people are finding it very difficult indeed to obtain employment. They have to contend with memories of what happened before the war when there was a recession and 3 million people were unemployed; but then other targets were the objects of blame for the difficulties of people not being able to get employment. We find the racists in this country using the fact that people cannot get jobs in their arguments on race—and there are well over a million unemployed.

Then there is education. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, this is an area where the Government can make a very real effort. Kent, for instance, under Section 11 of the Local Government Act, is given, I think, 75 per cent. of teachers' salaries to use in areas where there are linguistic difficulties. In Kent there are three large areas. Where they have a large number of Sikhs there are 12 teachers, and out of a pupil population of 243 in one of my local schools 94 would be considered immigrant children. It is certainly not enough for Kent to employ only 12 teachers and three non-teachers under Section 11 to ensure that those Sikh children are not handicapped by the fact that they have linguistic difficulties, and, just as important, that it does not hold back the teaching of the indigenous population. I hate using that word, but the situation is made difficult for teachers when they have a number of children coming into the class at junior level as opposed to infant level.

Certainly the Government ought to be putting more pressure on local authorities and making greater use of the urban aid programme, because if we look at the areas where there have been race relations difficulties and problems we see that they are the downtown areas of our cities which have been going down for decades rather than in the late 'forties. These are the areas where the Government ought to be concentrating their resources and their cash in order to ensure a better way of life for all our people. Without doubt discrimination is a serious threat; while people make it sound respectable, it is a matter of concern. Even though in Thurrock they got only 6 per cent. of the vote, it is a matter of real concern that people are being seduced in listening to the arguments on race.

Reverting to my first point of agreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, I would say that I welcome this Bill, but—and here I disagree with him—notwithstanding that we have a long way to go, I consider it is another step towards ensuring that, in another six or eight years, we in our country shall not have the need for another Bill, and that it is a step towards better race relations.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, this is the first occasion on which I have had the pleasure of following a maiden speaker in this House, and I am sure I voice the feelings of all noble Lords when I say how much we have enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend. For a time he and I were together in another place; in those years I always associated him with frankness, Party loyalty and concern for the welfare of his constituents. If I may say so, I think he is a notable addition to your Lordships' House and I am sure we hope we shall hear him in many future debates.

May I also say what particular pleasure it gives me to be speaking in this debate immediately before my noble friend—if I may call him that at least today—Lord Vaizey. I will be as brief as I can in my speech, because I want to hear him, as I am sure many other noble Lords will wish to do. I feel that the motives behind this Bill are entirely right. The emphasis in the Bill is squarely on the outlawing of discrimination. Here I believe, as I have always done, that legislation cannot force us to be moral. But legislation can do something, and something significant, towards the elimination of discrimination. I welcome the fact that discrimination is defined far more clearly in Clause 1 of this Bill than in earlier legislation.

This is a Bill to promote greater justice in race relations, and I beg your Lordships to remember the importance of the fact that we are campaigning in this whole subject for racial justice. It is not enough to say that we are for tolerant and harmonious race relations. Mr. Ian Smith has said on a number of occasions, as well he might, that he is for harmonious race relations. But this Bill is a real attempt at doing what the law can do—and I will make one or two criticisms in due course—to promote racial justice.

I must say I welcome particularly the emphasis in this Bill on the employment field, and the fact that the new Commission for Racial Equality will at last have proper powers to carry out investigations. In saying this, I speak not from any abstract point of view, or from any experience as a lawyer, but because for five years I have been chairman of a local Race Relations Board Conciliation Committee. I can assure this House that the aspect of discrimination which has bothered me most as a Committee chairman concerns employment in industry, and in particular promotions. This applies equally to public and private industry. The present powers of the Race Relations Board, delegated to local committees under Section 17 of the 1968 Act, simply are not sufficient.

Section 17 of the 1968 Act was certainly a step forward, but there is no power to investigate conditions in a firm unless one has reason to believe that a given individual is being discriminated against. There is no general power under the present Act to investigate the affairs, say, of a large bus company, even if not one single member of a minority community has been promoted to the rank of inspector, despite the fact that large numbers of that community are employed by the company. I have always personally felt that Section 17 was grossly insufficient in that regard, and that is why I very much welcome the section of the new Bill that starts in Clause 48.

I am sure the new proposals will be of the greatest encouragement to those younger managers who want to promote the best practices in industry. When we are considering this legislation do not let us think all the time of the adversary aspect. There are many younger managers in industry who wish to do the right thing today about promotions. Let us not forget the impact of legislation, and the effect it can have in encouraging those men.

I also welcome the right of the new Commission—and this is more controversial—to demand the production of documents. The issue of non-discrimination notices which require a person to halt discriminatory practices should prove a useful and effective sanction. I listened with great attention, as he knows I always do, to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. With regard to his analogy with the Star Chamber, I have one comment to make. Surely the same kind of arguments may well have been used both in this House, and in the other place, during the long arguments over the Factory Acts in the 19th century. We remember how strongly Ministers like Sir Stafford Northcote were dissuaded from legislating about merchant seamen. Sir Stafford Northcote's Permanent Secretary, Sir Thomas Farrer, argued against making the merchant seamen a privileged class in terms worthy of a former distinguished Member for Wolverhampton.


With respect—


My Lords, may I just finish this point? I was going to say to the noble and learned Lord that surely today the factory inspectorate is a respected and accepted part of our Governmental machine in which many people make a large part of their careers and that no one regards this as at all inquisitorial. I would have thought this would prove in the end true of the powers contained in this Bill.


My Lords, with respect, this is because they are not inquisitorial. They are entitled to inspect; that is what they are entitled to do. They cannot compel attendance, as is provided in this Bill. They are a very valuable inspectorate What is proposed in this Bill is not an inspectorate, but an inquisitorial action.


My Lords, I will not pursue this further, but I feel that the noble and learned Lord draws too sharp a distinction here. I believe there is some analogy with the Factory Acts, which is not an unfair one. I would have had more sympathy if the noble and learned Lord had made another point close to one of his many other interests. In this Bill we are getting rather close to something one can only call administrative law, and I believe that is something we shall have to consider in a number of other contexts besides that of race relations.

I should like to add, as the present chairman of the Race Relations Board, Sir Geoffrey Wilson, has said, that the Government themselves will have a vital part to play in backing up this Bill over the elimination of discrimination in employment. In the first place, the responsibility for making the new Commission effective will rest with the Department of Employment just as much as with the Home Office. There is always danger in regard to any Government policy that we look on the policy as the responsibility of one Department only, whereas the Department of Employment will be closely concerned here. Sir Geoffrey Wilson said last April: I hope that the Secretary of State for Employment will make it clear that his Department stands four-square behind the Commission, that the Commission will be supported in the vigorous use of its law enforcement powers to attack racial discrimination wherever it is found, and that the Commission will function in the employment field in a positive and constructive way to secure equality of opportunity. Sir Geoffrey also drew attention to the fact that the Government have great influence in vast areas of our national life. The Government, as he said, must be seen to be taking positive action in the spirit of its own laws. Sir Geoffrey mentioned Government contracts, the nationalised industries, the ramifications of the National Enterprise Board and the Royal Ordnance Factories, and this is surely right. To put it mildly, we have not seen the public sector reduced during the present Session. A number of new agencies have been planned or have come into being, and it is essential that the Government now back up their own laws with executive action, wherever this is possible.

My Lords, I want now to mention two provisions of the Bill about which I am more doubtful. One has already been referred to; namely, the unification of the Board and the existing Community Relations Commission. I incline to agree here with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. The Race Relations Board have been concerned with law enforcement, the elimination of discrimination. The Community Relations Commission have been concerned with the fostering of good relations between the majority community and the cultural minorities. As I understand the proposals in the Bill a committee of the new Commission, under a deputy chairman, will he responsible for coordinating work now carried out by local councils for community relations. I hope we shall not forget that these councils are essentially voluntary; they are community based organisations. They cannot operate as the eyes and ears of a central bureaucracy. We need to remember also that there is seldom such a thing as "the local coloured population". More often, there is a loose federation of minority groups, often with a constantly shifting leadership, but all wanting to achieve a greater sense of place in their respective local communities. I also have mixed feelings about the end of the present relatively informal conciliation procedures. I cannot help thinking at this moment of the skill, the patience and the expertise developed over a number of years now by local conciliation officers.—I naturally think of the officers who serve my own Committee—who are handling a heavy case load.

I feel decidedly alarmed when I read Clause 17 of the Bill dealing with education. If I may just give an example, think of the parent of a child from a minority community who has failed to get into a medical school where there is quite frequently very strong competition, and very strong feelings can be aroused. I have seen letters by parents couched in very angry terms, with accusations of discrimination. Naturally if this involves Leeds University, it has not been right for me to sit on the Committee for that case. But often the Committee has received a letter from the Registrar or from the Dean of the Faculty and after, I hope, an adequate discussion, the matter has been disposed of informally within, say, 20 minutes or half an hour, by a finding of "no discrimination". I find myself bothered at the thought of this kind of case having to be handled in the courts. One may well find that the largest amount of time and money may well not be spent on the most deserving cases.

I am glad to learn this afternoon about the history of Clause 66 in another place. I think that is important. Let us remember that a number of complaints in the employment field, even under the existing legislation, are really matters for industrial tribunals rather than the Board. The dividing line between industrial cases and true race relations cases is sometimes a difficult one to draw. Under the new legislation many employment complainants will be referred to the industrial tribunals, where, of course, the procedures are simpler than those in the Crown Courts. But I would remind the House that legal aid is not available in those cases, and this is where I think Clause 66 is of real importance; it will enable the Board to give greater assistance.

My Lords, as I say, there are aspects of this Bill—the bringing together of the Board and the Community Relations Commission, the end of the informal conciliation procedure—about which I personally have real doubts. But I would without any hesitation support the Second Reading of this Bill, and in general wish it well. I cannot agree that it is the presentation of this Bill which has of itself done anything significant to increase interracial tension during recent months. I think there have been a number of reasons for this. Frankly, I think the somewhat sensational and irresponsible Press coverage of the arrival of a small number of Malawi Asians did as much harm as anything, and what the noble and learned Lord might well call the preposterous local administration which handled that £600 a week hotel case.

May I say just this in conclusion. I think this Bill is motivated on the right lines, at a time when in particular the rising generation of the minority communities are just not satisfied, and will not be satisfied, with a second-class social position. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend, that it would be a very good thing if we ceased to use this word "immigrants" about those who have had all their schooling, and indeed all the life they remember, in this country. The number of coloured people who are British born will very soon be greater than the number born abroad, and this may indeed already have occurred, because we know the figures are difficult to interpret. As long as this term "immigrant" is common currency for all those with black or brown skins repatriation will appear to be a solution. Of course this is quite illusory. Quite apart from the moral objections, we would fall foul of international law, with the first generation, let alone the second. In any case, nothing is more repellent than when people talk about repatriation when what they really mean is deportation. I was extremely pleased at the robust words of Mr. David Lane and Mrs. Renee Short recently in another place on that subject.

It is a regrettable fact that the legitimacy of the presence of coloured people in Britain is still an issue. Public hostility to Asians and West Indians on account of their colour and their culture is a great deal stronger than we would like in this country at the present time. I take the votes for the National Front at recent elections as seriously as any Member of this House. This is a situation in which politicians, public figures, teachers, and many others besides, have an urgent responsibility to lead rather than follow public opinion. It must be roundly stated that racial discrimination is wrong, that coloured citizens must be treated equally, and that ethnic minorities of all kinds have a right to maintain their own cultural traditions. In standing up for that principle we are, surely, only exemplifying the ideal of equal citizenship for which so many British people have contended in recent centuries, and which I believe has to be argued out afresh in each generation.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I address your Lordships' House for the first time with great trepidation. Your Lordships have all been most friendly so far, but the fear of "putting my foot in it" is very great. Indeed, I would not have rushed in to speak in this debate were it not that today's Bill is a matter of great interest and concern to me and particularly to the younger people with whom I am in fairly frequent and close touch. I hope your Lordships will forgive any errors of commission or omission, I am, of course, extremely grateful that I follow my noble friend Lord Boyle, and I would join him in congratulating my noble friend Lord Murray of Gravesend on getting in first and making such a very good and helpful contribution to this debate.

Perhaps I might be permitted to make three brief points, all of them, I hope, relevant to the Bill but not of themselves controversial. They do help, I hope, to set the scene before which the Bill will be acted out. I agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury; I do not really think we can separate the issue of immigration from the issue of good race relations in this country. The confusion of nomenclature to which my noble friend Lord Murray referred is, I think, inevitable, and it is just as well that we should face up to this. Indeed, we live in an age of great migrations. When people think of the ages of great migrations they think about the fall of Rome, the incursion of Barbarian hordes, or the great movement out of Europe in the 19th century. Indeed, of course, mankind has always been on the march, but as that most distinguished of Welsh economists Professor Brinley Thomas pointed out in a series of very remarkable studies, which Lady Seear knows so well, this last 30 years has probably been numerically the greatest age of migration in the history of mankind.

We in Britain have been affected as have the other great industrial Powers by this great world process. A nation which is experiencing economic and social change is bound to experience migration. If you take the movement of the people from the countryside to the towns in the 19th century on which the Industrial Revolution was built, that in itself was a migration, and it carried with it consequences which were perhaps graver than the consequences of the migration which we have experienced in this country in the last 20 or 30 years. The only point at which migration will stop is when the economic life of the world itself stops. The result is that sooner or later we are all, in this country or in any country which is still alive socially and economically, a mixture. I come myself of a French Huguenot family, and I was very grateful for the reference which my noble friend Lord Murray of Gravesend made to that. I am married to an American whose own grandparents came from Russia and from Poland. I think I am entitled, at least on my children's behalf, to ask where is the notion of ethnic purity. It is an absolute absurdity. It has no place in real human history. We are all sooner or later migrants. We are all a mixture, and our black population is as British as we are by that very simple test.

I take it, my Lords, that on that point we in this House are all agreed. It brings me to my second point. It seems to me the problem before the House in this Bill is in fact a simple one. All settled communities have to deal with the consequences of this inevitable and extensive migration. In these islands we have already a mixed community. We also have equal protection under the law. What this Bill is about is the set purpose of Her Majesty's Government to strengthen the law so that all who live beneath it may truly equally be able to benefit from its protection.

Different countries have different ways of ensuring this protection. Ours, I feel, is a more satisfactory way than the continental habit of calling their migrants "guests", and turning them away when the rations get a bit short. In America, on the other hand, with their great Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the courts, of their own volition, have proved the greatest guarantee of racial equality by enforcing a law which is far stronger than that which is proposed in this Bill.

We, not having a similar Constitution in this country, have to achieve a similar end by legislation. I think we are all agreed that people who come to this country are entitled to equal dignity. I think the experience of the United States in the last 10 years has not only been the experience of the defeat of Vietnam and of Watergate; it has been the experience of the achievement of a genuine warm racial equality by a legal process. I think there is abundant evidence of that, as anybody who goes to America can see.

My third point arises from the first two that I have made. It is this. It is perfectly true that racial feeling occasionally rises high, not, I think, as high as the newspapers sometimes make out. I think, on the whole, that the people of this country are, by tradition, remarkably tolerant. Perhaps that is why we are not very good at high productivity in industry; we are rather easy going people. They may make racist remarks in pubs and clubs and so on, but I think they are jolly glad when the black doctor comes to them when they are in trouble. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Pitt will reassure me about that. It seems to me that this is a kind of human nature.

It is also fair to say that the impacts of the racial problem in this country have been extremely socially unequal. The "do-gooders" sometimes live in white areas, with perhaps a black ambassador or two up the street, while the poor live in Brixton or Huddersfield with all their problems, social and economic as well as racial. I am verging on the controversial, but I feel rather deeply about this element of hypocrisy in our public life.

What I would say, however, is that I am convinced from my own experience that for thinking and concerned young people the issue of racial equality is of the highest importance. They find the practice of discrimination utterly repellant. I think, therefore, that by making all this illegal we are taking a step of the highest conceivable importance; we are endorsing the feelings which they hold. I also strongly agree with my noble friend Lord Boyle that this Bill, by laying emphasis on the Commission's positive role, shows that the Government are wholly in accord with the wishes of thinking young people, of whom of course I necessarily in the course of my job see a lot.

Speaking personally, therefore, and to some extent I think for them, I hope that this Bill will eventually make itself unnecessary; as my noble friend Lord Murray said, make itself obsolete. I am convinced from the American experience—and indeed from experience here in London—that racial discrimination will go the way of other social scourges, and future generations will wonder what all the fuss was about. May I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.

6.53 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of WORCESTER

My Lords, I am sure you will wish me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, on his maiden speech; a speech as informed as it was persuasive. Indeed we can say that it is not often that your Lordships' House is enriched by a scholar of such distinction—indeed, a scholar of the right university—but when we have among us the head of a school of social science who is at the same time an educationist, we listen to a speech such as we have heard with very great gratitude. I am sure that we are going to be greatly aided by his presence among us.

I believe that a Bill such as this comes at an opportune time. In the last few weeks many British people, black and white, have been shocked by incidents of racial violence and expressions of hatred. These have been given wide coverage by the media, but many similar incidents are happening all the time which are not reported. We come for the first time in our history to experience 10 years of race relations legislation, and we are able to look back and, I believe, to look forward. It has been an instructive experience but not wholly satisfactory. We can now see how complex the situation is, how crucial to our national life and to the developments that take place. Indeed, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and others, who have expressed the hope that this Bill, when an Act, will become itself uncalled for. But looking back over these years, the main areas of, settlement for coloured people in Britain have become the inner cities, where housing is poor and neglected and where conditions are often oppressive. In access to, and in provision of, accommodation housing there is real evidence of a non-integration process with us still.

Over the years looking back some men and women in the new minorities—only some—are finding their ways into the styles and patterns of our society. Few, on the whole, have been accepted into the voluntary and the official institutions. Few have found their way into local government, local committees, boards or other official bodies. It is up to this Bill to make provision whereby groups will be free not only to find their own identity but also to have access to the common life of the community. In the face of this situation, I am sure we should welcome, however, in this House the unity of approach which has been shown in the speeches of the Home Secretary and the spokesman for the Opposition in the other place. We can be extremely thankful that this unity and determination is common to both sides of both Houses, and it reflects the life of the nation. They were clearly in agreement that the philosophy behind all race relations legislation must be a fair deal for the immigrant—we have to use that word—and a settled and clarity of purpose as it affects those who are yet to come. When I use the words, "yet to come", I hope to be allowed to refer to that momentarily at the end.

In the face of this situation, though we have a unity of approach, yet Government Ministries, such as Housing, Employment, and Education, have not produced programmes and resources to enable this new minority to find an equal and tolerable position in our society. As has already been said, we need to remember that they are not visitors. Almost half of the communities that we are talking about have been born here, and to talk of compulsory repatriation in these circumstances is as dangerous as it is irrelevant.

It is against this background that we now have a new framework; a framework that is proposed to counter racial discrimination and to improve relations. It is not, however, my intention to work through the proposals of the Bill or to look at the details committed to the Commission on Racial Equality, but I should like to look at some of the necessary constituent thought that should lie behind the working of any such Bill. In what we might call "The race relations industry" we know that there is uncertainty on the one hand because statistics are inadequate, and there is a degree of muddle. The future of happy relations is dependent on accurate statistics and accurate forecasting of situations.

Having said that, I find myself with my colleagues in the Churches as we come to this new Bill, asking certain basic questions of it. Will the minority ethnic groups share equality of opportunity the better? Will the new legislation enable the minorities to feel that they belong to the British community? Will the new instrument that is proposed aid in the development of a harmonious society? Basic questions such as these I believe that we, in the Churches, have to ask, and in doing so there seem to be three spheres of activity not necessarily mentioned in the Bill but necessary to its working.

In the first instance, this Bill tends to be based on the problem of fear. People are afraid. They fear, whether white or black, the loss of their own tradition and their family life. Yes, I repeat, whether white or black, they are fearful; they fear that we are seeing the start of what might be, although I do not speak from experience, an American type of racial confrontation which we have seen in past years. They fear the hardening of attitudes that leads to both physical and mental segregation. Provocation by one side has led to counter-provocation by the other, and exploiting the fears of a minority could have a decisive influence on future developments. The fears of our white society are as real as the fears of the coloured community. The education of both these communities, therefore, becomes particularly essential.

Fear must not be our counsellor and guide, though it strikes me, from reading the various aspects of the discrimination legislation, that it is based on fear. Our community in the past has been of sufficient justice and truth to cast out fear. I hope that the Bill is not proposed in the face of fear, for it is trust that must be our first objective and trust always involves two parties. We are not looking for a benevolent, trusting white community—we have to graduate from that—but a trusting atmosphere both among our British white population of the intentions of the coloured people now with us, and a trusting disposition by the coloured towards the majority. Trust is a reality when it involves real understanding. As was rightly said in the other House last week, the philosophy to which we now all subscribe is a fair deal for immigrants and for those who have yet to come. Trust will emerge if fairness is seen to operate in the spheres of work, housing, education and employment opportunity because for the new generation of British coloured folk among us in any area of shortage, unfair treatment rears its ugly head.

In this whole matter of building up trust, sensitivity of the expectations of old established communities will need to be explained and nurtured among coloured men and women who, we know, are ready to understand. Sensitivity towards the newly established among us must be developed in the official and voluntary institutions of our nation's life—our schools, our hospitals and our professional and other associations. It is in areas of stress that we will need much more constructive measures, such as the official recording of complaints about, incidents, such as the revitalising of the police-community liaison schemes, such as all the movements locally under the old legislation which involve the young members of the coloured communities.

If trust is our first objective, then the second is the development of local leadership in this sphere. The lack of security and the sense of being discriminated against has polarised the communities round certain issues, with the result that a dominating leadership has emerged. How often in my experience the race relations councils or race relations officers in an area have had to become the spokesmen of the coloured community because leadership has not yet appeared.

We in the Churches are conscious—and I speak from the areas of my diocese on the West side of Birmingham and Dudley, where we have considerable coloured communities—that Christian leaders need to get together with Asian and West Indian leaders as a counterpart to extremist leadership. We admit that there has not been enough of this meeting. Where confrontation breaks out it is often shown that local leaders have hardly ever previously met each other. All this, therefore, makes it more important that leaders should meet to discover a common responsibility before confrontation breaks out.

I hope that the Bill takes account of cultural values. It is extraordinary how often cultural differences are seen by large areas of the community to mean educational backwardness. On the other hand, cultural differences often demonstrate responsible commitment, religious commitment, moral responsibility, family solidarities and, indeed, self-judgment in the face of crime or irresponsibility. The cultural structures of many of the minority community among us are matters for which we can be thankful. In a sense, the Festival of Islam has shown something of what can now become a cultural asset in this country; it is just one of the varieties of culture that can now bring more colour and interest to the otherwise rather drab and monotonous existence that is already the lot of so many. Such purposes—trust, leadership and cultural values—will, I hope, be the inspiration and the main purpose of the Commission which is now to be set up. If it acts only in terms of inquiry, if it acts only negatively, the positive advantages that are open to our community may well be lost.

The work of the Commission will be made much more effective if certain specific issues are made clear for it from the start. The principal issue that I think needs clearing up is immigration control. Although with some hesitation, I think that I should take this opportunity to add a word about what the most reverend Primate said on this subject in his recent Diocesan Letter. His statement has, I think, been widely misunderstood, and one single point in it has been emphasised out of its context and out of due proportion.

The most reverend Primate's real message to his diocese was a plea for clear thinking and charity; for a clear recognition, on the one hand, that we are now a multiracial society and that there is no going back on that, and for a clear determination, on the other, to achieve racial harmony and friendship, whatever may be the difficulties. It was in this context of wording—as the Archbishop said, "towards harmonious integration"—that, as just one among five points which he wanted people to think about, he made the suggestion about having another look at our legislation in order to be more certain who is allowed in. This, I believe, needs clearing up before the Bill is enacted, and, to quote his words: I said there must be a clearly defined limit to the numbers that can be allowed into this country, and there are signs that our present legislation needs to be looked at on this point. I was not inveighing then against the legislation, I was inveighing against the fudging of it, evasion of the legislation which I think sometimes takes place. I believe that what has been said by noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, in his maiden speech about the importance of distinguishing between legislation and administration is one of the lessons of the Bill. I support its Second Reading in the hope that the Government will actively seek the co-operation of the representatives of the various ethnic minorities in this country, in order to build up trust, leadership and cultural values. I have found on talking to them a clear understanding of the extent to which the future happiness and security of those in their communities here depend on the traditional tolerance of British society. They know, too, that it is essential not to stretch this matter too far, although they will naturally have their own points of view. I hope and believe that the communities about whom we are talking will be ready to help.

7.10 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, first, may I have the honour of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend, on a very excellent speech. I remember him in the other House and, clearly, he has not lost his touch in the few months he has been away from us. I should like also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, for his speech. I have not previously had the pleasure of his acquaintance, but one thing that particularly struck me about what he said was that he hoped that progress would be made to make this Bill, which will by then, I suppose, be an Act, totally unnecessary. With that, I entirely agree.

I should like also to say to my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham that I admired his speech very much; I agreed with most of what he said, and I also respect him for his great honesty which I always feel impresses the House. I was thinking a moment ago of John Stuart Mill. I have been meeting the remaining suffragettes, who are all now in their 80s. How nice it would have been if, years ago, your Lordships had supported votes for women and women's rights as you are now doing for people from overseas. We were the indigenous people of this country and we had to fight. I did not have to do so myself, although I think I should have quite enjoyed it. We went to prison and we died to get our rights. I hope that through the rights that we give to immigrants to this country—and some can get on the register after only six months here—they will appreciate what has been done to give them freedom in this country. May I remind the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that Michael Alison was the person who moved to leave out Clause 25 in another place.

I should like to start by quoting from Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations. She said something which I think is worth thinking about. She asked: Where do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on the map. Yet they are in the world of individual persons. The place where he works, the neighbourhood where he lives, the school and the college he attends—these are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity and equal rights without discrimination. I believe that that is really what we are talking about today, and that we can be assured that, in this country, people get equal justice and that, now we have just passed some Acts, equal opportunities will be given to many more people. But I feel that other rights cannot be enforced by legislation: they have to be earned by the persons concerned.

Looking at the White Paper, the situation is not so grim as some would have it said. Paragraph 9 of the White Paper says that nearly half the coloured householders own their own house. Interestingly enough, the White Paper adds that this is almost exactly the same proportion as among white households. In Greater London, where concern has been expressed about the concentration of black workers in dirty and menial jobs, there is evidence that a substantial proportion of West Indians are in skilled manual employment. Furthermore, the White Paper adds that the proportion of young Asians out of work is lower than that of young people in general. So the situation is not quite so had as some people have pointed out.

I should like—and I do not think that anybody has done this before—to pay a tribute to the British people for the great tolerance they have shown, in view of the fact that some areas have had a very large influx of people with cultures which are completely different to their own. I must stress that word "culture". It is not the colour of the skin so much as the different cultures—the different ways in which people are brought up. I have lived for six years in a multiracial country working as a social worker, and I have knowledge of the differences between five different cultures and five different races. I read in the Second Reading debate in another place—and it was briefly mentioned by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham—what Marcus Lipton said in regard to the immigrants in his area. He said that the Bill would make no difference. However, what I really wanted to emphasise was the fact that he added that he would regard it is a confession of bankruptcy if he referred a case to the Race Relations Board. This shows that Mr. Lipton is a very worthy Member of Parliament, but I feel that we exaggerate these points.

That brings me to my first point. I should like a different name; I do not like "Race Relations Commission". I do not know whether we could have Equal Rights Commission or Personal Rights Commission. I want to get rid of the word "race", because one is made to think of it all the time and I do not want to see it perpetuated. I was very grateful for the document explaining the Bill, and I am therefore worried about the powers of investigation enforcement similar to those established under the Sex Discrimination Act, because the nature of the work is quite different. I well remember that, when we discussed in another place the question of immigrants being searched, I was able then to get an Amendment accepted to ensure that they could not be searched without a warrant.

There is also the question of private clubs, where people of different habits enjoy themselves, revert to their own culture and eat their own type of food. They can relax and be at home with their own race. I would suggest that many Asians and others have been accepted for clubs; many white people have been blackballed. If you look at the list, you will see that quite a number are members.

I want to consider the words of the Home Secretary on March 4th when, at col. 1547 he said: Ten years ago, less than one-quarter of the coloured population was born in Britain … today two out of every five of the coloured population have been born here, and the time is not far off when the majority of the coloured population will be British-born. That is why I was glad when a noble Lord said that we should not refer to these people as "immigrants"; they are British born.

If I go on to consider this, surely it should mean that they will know nothing about their country of origin and should settle here quite happily if it were not for those who wish to make trouble. It must be remembered that no one forced them to come to Britain. Work was offered by the National Health Service and by the British transport industry in particular. That start was followed up by a large number of other people, but what is sad is that, though I understand that British Transport and the National Health Service at first prepared people coming from overseas to this country, preparation is no longer made. That seems very strange to me, in view of the fact that recently a Select Committee recommended that British wives of Servicemen who were to go overseas should be given additional preparation for going. Those coming here have little or no preparation.

On March 4th, the Home Secretary said: Racial discrimination and the disadvantages experienced by sections of the community are morally repugnant to a civilised and democratic society. I agree but, surely, there is another side to this. Those who come here and have the privilege of receiving the benefits of a society such as the Home Secretary described should try to fit in. The British are tolerant. They expect others to be tolerant, too.

I was interested to hear on the radio the other day an Asian speaking at a conference—I think it was the Synod. He said that he did not wish his daughter to be married to another race, white or black. Having, as I said, lived in a multiracial society, I can understand that. But he went on to say that he would have to consider things in the future. Perhaps other people will do the same.

The Home Secretary said on 12th February at column 596: Together with [a] strong control over immigration, we must have a most determined and liberal policy of complete equality for those settled in this country. I regard these matters as two sides of a coin. When does the "strong control" over immigration start? In my opinion, it will be difficult to get complete equality if, in these days of very high unemployment—it is nearly 1½ million today—there is to be no further action taken with fresh people coming to this country. Can the Minister, when he comes to reply, say when we shall receive Sir Claus Moser's report?

I am not at all happy about Clause 69, which deals with incitement to hatred. In the Home Office notes, it is explained that the Bill provides for the strengthening of the law by making it an offence to publish or use threatening, abusive or insulting language. I have often heard in another place—though perhaps not in your Lordships' House—abusive and insulting language. That, I suppose, is privileged. The Bill also refers to circumstances in which racial hatred will be stirred up without it being necessary to prove that it was a subjective intention to stir up racial hatred.

The Runnymede Trust has pointed out that the main problems suffered by members of ethnic minorities probably do not result from acts of discrimination. They suffer, as do many British people, from overcrowding in their homes and difficulties over education. The PEP Report said that half of the adult Asians speak little or no English. The West Indians are better educated, but they are hampered by the fact that when they go home they very often speak the West Indian dialects. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have been to the Caribbean, but anyone who knows that area realises that it is practically impossible to understand them when they are speaking in their own local dialects. At the present time of unemployment I suggest—and I gather that this can be done under Clauses 35 and 37—that those who leave school and are not employed should go to colleges of further education. This would be an enormous help, particularly when one bears in mind that there are now over 200,000 school-leavers unemployed, although of course they are not all immigrants.

Much as I respect Miss Jocelyn Barrow I doubt whether it was wise of her, especially at the present time, to set up the National Council of Afro, Asian and Caribbean People. I wish to quote what she said in the Sunday Telegraph of 18th July—and I agree with the first part of it: There has never been effective consultation between groups until now. She continued: … to see our own problems rather than someone telling us what our problems are and deferring the solutions for us. I suppose that in many ways that is exactly what we are trying to do in the Bill. Unfortunately, I was not quite so happy with what she then said: "Groups such as the National Front would have to sit down and face the fact that the existence of an umbrella organisation for minority ethnic groups would curtail their activities in certain areas".

She went on to add: At present the National Front is functioning only in certain areas where opposition is small. Now it will be dealing with a different animal. As I said earlier, I respect the first part of her statement, but I think the latter part was unfortunate. It does not appear to me to be a very helpful attitude.

What would appear to me to be more helpful at the present time—I say this especially in the presence of the distinguished noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead—would be if the professional and highly skilled of the minority ethnic groups would undertake to help their unskilled and semi-skilled brethren. I have been to several parties for persons from overseas, particularly in the early days—I remember going to one given by the previous Archbishop of Canterbury—but there were only professional people there, not the type of people I expected to see nor the type I would invite to my house.

I shall not go through the various points in the Bill, but I hope at the Committee stage to say something in regard to Clauses 11, 13, 29, 34 and 64. I shall not vote against the Bill but I sincerely hope that it will be improved at the Committee stage.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I should like to ask her a question. As she says that the rights for immigrants have to be earned and that they are privileged to be here at all, would she not agree that there is a debt to be paid, so far as we are concerned, for colonising them and, in many instances, exploiting them?

Baroness VICKERS

I am sorry, my Lords, that I cannot possibly agree with the noble Baroness. I was a coloniser myself and I hope I did a good job. Certainly I have been back and have seen that the work which I started in Malaysia has been carried on. When I think of the peace and security which we gave to these nations and I look at them now—particularly the African nations—with their strife and inter-tribal warfare, I do not think that we did a bad job.

7.24 p.m.


My Lords, first I wish to congratulate my noble friends Lord Murray of Gravesend and Lord Vaizey on two very remarkable maiden speeches. Unlike most of your Lordships, I knew what to expect because they were both with me at various stages in County Hall. I was expecting to hear what in fact we heard and I can assure both of them that I was by no means disappointed. I am sure that your Lordships will hear from them on many future occasions and that your Lordships will grow to respect them more and more as you hear the contributions they make to our various debates.

I have to declare an interest, of course, because I am the deputy chairman of the Community Relations Commission and I am chairman of its field work committee. The Community Relations Commission is one of the bodies which will be abolished when this Bill becomes law. Having said that, I say that the Bill deserves a wholehearted welcome. It is now over 10 years since the first Race Relations Act was passed in 1965, and I had some little part to play in making sure that the manner in which that was done was different from that originally proposed. Then we found that that Act had limited usefulness and we replaced it with the 1968 Act. The 1968 Act, in turn, has been shown to have its limitations, and it is right and proper that we should attempt to remedy its weaknesses. However, it must be remembered that this is our third attempt at race relations legislation and we must be very sure that we get it right this time.

It is right that the Bill should follow broadly the lines of the Sex Discrimination Act so that the remedies available to those disadvantaged by their sex are broadly similar to the remedies available to those disadvantaged by their colour. Having said that, however, I must invite your Lordships not to write off the 1968 Act. It was not useless. It has been effective in some areas—for example, advertisements. After all, with the exception of the notorious Mr. Relf and some little points which I shall make later in that respect about advertisements, the Act has been quite successful in stopping the blatant and very insulting advertisements which we used to see in shop windows. I invite your Lordships to go to shops in Oxford Street and other similar places where you will see part of the effectiveness of the 1968 Act. When people such as myself were inviting shopkeepers to employ black girls in their shops we were told that the customers would not like it, but now everybody knows that that is not true.

However, despite what I have just said, it is in the field of employment that the 1968 Act has been most disappointing, and I am very glad that we are to do something about that. Now that black youngsters are coming out of the schools with a full British education behind them it is vital that they should not be denied the opportunities for which that education has prepared them. Accordingly we should wholeheartedly welcome the investigatory powers which the Bill proposes for the Commission for Racial Equality, and I am very sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, viewed this in the way he did. These powers should go a long way to remedy the various sorts of frustration which the Race Relations Board have felt because of their more limited powers. These powers would also be very useful in public housing; but, of course, as those of us who are active in race relations know, it is in fact in the field of private housing that there is the greatest discrimination, and I should not like to pretend that we have been able to find an easy answer to that one.

Similarly we should welcome the new procedures for complainants who will have direct access to the courts, as they do for any other civil action, instead of being obliged, as they were under the 1968 Act, to undergo a process of conciliation. Here I am afraid I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Handsworth, because I know that many people regarded the process as unnecessarily patronising; and I know also that many of them were annoyed because of the length of time that was taken to deal with their cases. Therefore, I personally believe that the fact that they can now go direct to the courts is certainly an improvement. I regard the plugging of this loophole as very useful; and, again unlike some of the previous speakers, I believe the plugging of the loophole about clubs is an obvious advance over the existing legislation, even though it is only reinstating what was the original intention in the 1968 Act.

My Lords, I think we should also applaud the Government's wisdom in listening to the representations which have been made to them and in accepting a number of Amendments to the Bill in another place. Of these changes, the broader powers for the new Commission to provide assistance to aggrieved complainants is to my way of thinking the most important. If complainants had been substantially worse off under this Bill than they were under the old Act, there would have been a considerable danger of black people losing confidence in the new body. The new body will still be limited in the assistance it can provide, because after all its resources will not be infinite, but at least it will have the widest discretion within that limitation, and I must congratulate the Government on that.

I welcome the changes to Clause 44, which allows bodies to be funded if they are judged by the new Commission to be concerned with the promotion of equality and opportunity as well as good race relations. We also welcome the decision—I hope your Lordships will; I do—to put the clause concerning incitement to racial hatred in the Public Order Act, to which it belongs. I am afraid that that is perhaps the only bit of the speech of the noble and learned Lord with which I agree. I have never been in favour, in fact, of Section 5, as it is, of the 1965 Act. I said at the time it belonged to the Public Order Act and that it should be there, and that it was a handicap to the Race Relations Act. Everything that has happened has convinced me that that is so. It is because of that clause that a lot of people misunderstand the Race Relations Act.

Recently I had occasion to do a television broadcast, and as a consequence I received my usual quota of abusive letters. I am accustomed to receiving abusive letters; I have been receiving them now for 20 years. That never worries me; but what did worry me was the number of letters from which it was quite evident that people did not understand the Race Relations Act and believed that somehow or other the Act was oppressive. I am glad this particular clause is being removed, because I believe that that clause more than any other affected people's attitudes to the Race Relations Act.

I am also very glad to see the new clause putting a general duty on local authorities, who, after all, are probably in a position to do more to ensure good race relations than anyone else. There is only one suggestion I want to make, however, to the Government, and I hope they will accept it. It is that they might be strengthening the clause by making it incumbent on local authorities to consult or liaise with the Commission for Racial Equality. In other words, somehow or other one should find a way to bring the two bodies together to work in this field; but I agree that the onus being placed firmly on local authorities to see that there is racial equality in their area is a very big improvement in the Bill.

Having praised the Bill right and left, perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I now make a few small suggested improvements, if I may call them such. The first concerns Clause 10, which exempts from the Bill partnerships of less than six partners. I do not see many other doctors in this Chamber, but every edition of the British Medical Journal contains a section at the back, in the small advertisements, headed, "Partnerships Offered"; and in every edition a high proportion of those advertisements include a phrase such as, "graduate of British university preferred". In the edition of the 3rd July, 1976, 30 out of 40 advertisements included this phrase, or something like it. My Lords, since a quarter of the doctors in this country are overseas doctors, these advertisements are deliberately excluding them from applying for those partnerships. I should like the Government to look at this again. I am also quite disappointed that the Bill will continue to allow a certain amount of imported discrimination. Clause 6 allows discrimination in training for jobs abroad, and Clause 9 allows discrimination against seamen recruited abroad. I think both clauses would be better done without.

One final criticism, my Lords. I hope the Front Bench will not think I am making too many criticisms, but there is one final one, and it is a very strong one. The Bill gives a special position to the Department of Education and Science in dealing with complaints in the field of education. Either the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, was wrong or I am wrong, but I do not think that anybody complaining about education can go to court. I think it has to be dealt with by the Department of Education and Science. Now if I am right, then I want the Government to think very carefully on this one, because the record of the Department of Education and Science in tackling the problem of black children is very feeble indeed; and the Government need. I think, anyway, to make a very strong case for this exception, because discrimination in the field of education is probably the most dangerous form. It is no use saying that people are to have equal opportunity for jobs and for securing promotion if they are not given equal opportunities for training, and it is no use giving them equal opportunities for training if they are not given the necessary educational equipment to benefit from that training. That is why discrimination in education is the most dangerous of the lot.

Therefore, what happens in the schools is of paramount importance. And I am sorry, but I am not at all convinced that all is well in our schools in so far as the black children are concerned. Do not misunderstand me. I am not knocking the teachers. Many of them are very dedicated, and strive with might and main to help the disadvantaged children to overcome their handicaps. I know that. I am connected with the biggest education authority in the country. My daughter is a teacher. What is more, I am descended from a family of teachers; my father before me was a teacher. But teachers are a cross-section of society, which means that some of them will be indifferent, some will be insensitive and some will even be prejudiced. There is no use pretending that all teachers are angels. It is the motivation which matters in the education of children. The children need to be properly motivated and the teachers need to be properly trained to do that job.

This brings me to the Department of Education and Science. There have been many recommendations from the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration which required action from the Department of Education and Science and about which nothing has been done. I do not want to delay your Lordships for too long; but I will mention three examples. For instance, Recommendation No. 23 says: Local education authorities should be required as a condition of using the Department's resources and services to report to the DES regularly and fully on the situation in their area and what they are doing about it. The DES has done nothing about that. Another recommendation says that there should be an immigrant education advisory unit set up at the Department of Education and Science. We have not got one. Instead of that, we have the Educational Disadvantage Unit. But what is it doing? What advice has it given to the Government? A Question was asked about this in another place on 26th March. According to the reply given by the Minister, the Educational Disadvantage Unit has set up a centre for information and advice, taken part in a series of seminars and maintained contact with some voluntary organisations. Is this sufficient in this day and age? And may I ask why there is no ethnic minority staff in the Educational Disadvantage Unit or the Assessment of Performance Unit?

Let us take another Recommendation, No. 22. It says: Consideration should be given to the establishment of a central fund to which local education authorities could apply for resources to meet the special educational needs of immigrant children and adults. What has happened about that fund? Moreover, recently the Department of Education and Science organised a conference on the 16 to 19-year-olds. There was not one black educationist present.

I am probably "knocking" the Department of Education and Science, but the point is—and the reason why I am going on at such length about the Department—I agree with the Government that the Department of Education and Science should be the right people to deal with discrimination in education. But I am anxious that if they are going to be given the job, they should do it. I am saying to the Government that the Department of Education and Science so far by its record has not covered itself with glory. If, therefore, you are going to give them that job, start looking at the Department and looking at it hard. That is what I am asking.

Finally, a word about the staff of the Community Relations Commission and the Race Relations Board. Since their employing authorities are to be dissolved, they are working under a great deal of apprehension about their future. I think that the least that the Government could do would be to reassure them. There is no reason at all that I can see why the Government cannot give an undertaking that those members of the staff of the CRC and the Race Relations Board who cannot be employed by the Commission on Racial Equality will be absorbed into the Civil Service. When all is said and done, the Civil Service is large enough and the jobs are sufficiently varied for this to be possible. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity of this debate to give this undertaking; particularly as I gather that the Minister in charge of the Civil Service is the Lord Privy Seal, who is the Leader of this House. Therefore, before the Minister replies, he can consult his noble friend and ask him because, as I see it, this is the least the Government can do.

Despite these criticisms—and it almost sounds as though I was being very critical—the Bill's provisions are broad enough for the next stage of the attack on discrimination. What is inevitably missing—and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is right—is the attack on the related problem of disadvantage. I hope that the Government will recognise the importance of doing this and doing it well and properly. The Government have acknowledged the broader strategy. I hope they will make sure they produce it. Until they do, and until the discriminatory provisions are removed from the immigration legislation, the minority ethnic groups cannot be convinced that the Government are doing all that they should. Nevertheless, this Bill is an advance on the existing Act. I give it my support and I hope that it will come into force as quickly as possible.

Before I sit down I want to say again how sorry 1 was to listen to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, for whom I have tremendous respect, as he knows only too well. I want to tell him that I was saddened because, recently, when Jimmy Carter was selected as a Democratic candidate for the United States I said: "Ah! Here is success for racial legislation against racial discrimination"—because here we have a Southerner from Georgia being supported fully by the Reverend Andrew Young, who was the right-hand man of Martin Luther King. The South has done it!—and done it by legislation. This Bill may not be as good as the American legislation; but it can move us in that direction.

7.48 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I should like first to join in congratulaing the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend, will forgive me if I say that I always feel that those who come to us from another place are slightly bogus maidens. For all that, we are particularly glad to have the reinforcement of their political knowledge and skill and their experience which was so demonstrated in the speech he gave us today. To the noble Lord Lord Vaizey, whom I have known for many years, I should like also to extend my congratulations. He gave us an acedemic, historical approach to political issues which is something that we are right to expect from distinguished academics who join your Lordships' House.

This evening I am not speaking as a member of my Party; I am speaking as an individual, basing what I have to say on some years of experience on a conciliation committee—although somewhat an absentee member of recent months—and also from watching fairly closely the working of the equal pay and sex dis crimination legislation which has clearly some relationship to the measure before us today.

We are all agreed—I am certainly second to none—in supporting the objectives behind this legislation: the desire to improve race relations in this country, a that there has been a deterioration in recent months—perhaps in recent years—though certainly not recognising that this is necessarily due to the 1968 Race Relations Act. Having said that, I cannot, I fear, join in the wholehearted support for this legislation which has come from many quarters of your Lordships' House. I do not accept the move towards harmonisation in the areas of sex and race discrimination. When the sex discrimination legislation was before your Lordships' House I think it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who remarked that there could be nobody in this country who had not seen a woman although there might well be a few people who had not seen a black. This is not only a question of the distribution of the persons for whom this legislation is concerned, it is also the quality of discrimination in the two cases which is so markedly different.

Discrimination against women springs from attitudes so deep-seated that the discriminators do not recognise that they are discriminating most of the time. On the other hand, few people discriminate in areas of race without being fully conscious of what they are doing. Moreover, there is no sense of guilt whatsoever in my experience among male discriminators when they discover that they have been discriminating. Many of them are rather proud of the fact when they discover it. On the other hand, I suspect that however much bluster there may be in covering up the discovery of the discrimination in race, there is a sense of guilt and shame because people approach these two issues in a totally different way. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, pointed out that harmonisation, as it is termed, goes only a limited way. I hope, for my part, it will go no further. If we are going to make an advance in battling against discrimination and bad race relations in this country, we have to advance on two fronts: we need to have a tough, severe, enforceable law against the people who break the law of discrimination and can be shown to have broken it. I believe that this should be limited but that it should be strong and enforceable.

We also need to make a much more widespread advance—because it is not possible to be widespread in any other way—in changing attitudes towards race and discrimination. So we have the legal battle to be fought, and we have the battle to be fought in changes of attitude. I would rather not use the phrase, "the battle to be fought in changes of attitude". The approach towards change of attitude needs to be a different one from the law enforcement approach.

It is because I see these issues as two distinct issues that I am doubtful about the wisdom of this Bill in a number of different ways. But when we look at this Bill simply from the point of view of whether it is an effective instrument for improving the law against law breakers, I also have doubts, and in some regards I am not at all certain it is an improvement on the 1968 Act. There are of course certain changes which I greatly welcome: the fact that it will be possible to demand information in the investigation of cases seems absolutely right. On the Conciliation Committee we were held up again and again by lack of information and lack of access to documents which made it impossible to arrive at any proper dicision. The fact that power is included in the Bill seems a very great improvement.

I also greatly welcome the indirect discrimination clause. In the sex discrimination field people have not yet woken up to the potential power of that clause for bringing about change. I suspect that it will prove to be the most important section of the Sex Discrimination Act as that Act begins to be fully worked, as it is not being fully worked at the present time in this country. I am glad to see that clause in this Bill.

I am very glad to see the clause which allows discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups in the matter of training. If we were to concentrate on this area, we should probably be doing more for improving race relations than almost any of the other clauses that we find in this Bill. What use is it to talk about opportunities in industry, to talk about non-discrimination in promotion, unless there is good training to enable the youngsters leaving school at the moment to get into the skilled trades and professions and the higher administration ranks at the present time. This is not happening at the moment. If there is money available for the implementation of this Bill, I hope a great deal of it will go into improving training facilities, where we have been woefully slow and Departments of the Government have been woefully slow in its promotion in the past.

These are all undoubtedly improvements; but there are also considerable weaknesses in the new proposals. It has been welcomed by some and criticised by others that, in future, cases of discrimination in the employment field will go to industrial tribunals and in other areas to the courts. The conciliation officers that have been operating under the 1968 Act will no longer play a part.

I want to spend a little time on the importance of the industrial tribunals in this whole area and their weaknesses regarding this legislation. Employment cases—which will be numerically a large proportion of the cases with which this legislation will deal—will go direct to industrial tribunals. This is proposed under this legislation and is also the practice under equal pay and sex discrimination legislation. It is no easy matter for an individual to take a case which is a matter of internal discrimination, internal to the place of work, to an industrial tribunal. There are prejudices and pressures inside the place of work not only from the employer but from fellow employees. We are already seeing this in the working of the legislation in the sex discrimination field. Young men and women of other racial groups who want to use the industrial tribunals will not use them unless they are given a great deal more help than is envisaged in this legislation.

Unlike my noble friend Lord Avebury, I am not happy that changes in Clause 66(2)(e) are adequate to meet this deficiency. There is the matter of knowledge in the first place. Over half of the cases which have so far been brought under sex legislation to the industrial tribunals—the cases that have been raised with the Department before going to the industrial tribunals—have been withdrawn. Presumably this means that often people are bringing cases under a considerable misapprehension about their rights. No doubt there are other reasons; but a high proportion of cases have been raised and then withdrawn. I suggest this is likely to be an even more serious issue when it comes to people bringing cases under this proposed legislation. Unless there is a great deal of clear information, supported by access to people who can give expert advice—and expert advice to people of racial groups, with which conciliation officers are not particularly trained to deal—then a number of cases may be brought to the tribunals, but will be found to be inappropriate. A very great deal of disillusionment will follow from that.

Then there is the matter of what happens before the tribunals. Again, of the 130 cases that had appeared before the tribunals under the sex legislation and the two Acts by the end of June this year, only 26 were won. That kind of track record would lead to serious disillusionment if it were to happen in this area, unless a great deal of work is done to increase knowledge of the Acts and of how the tribunals work, and unless help is given to individuals who are in doubt as to whether their cases have a chance before the tribunal; and then there should be knowledgeable people helping them at the hearing.

Unless all that is done, I can see that the last stage will be worse than the first. I put a very strong plea to the Government to see whether it is possible to find ways to allow people who are expert in race questions to sit on the tribunals. Of course I know it is established doctrine that the people who sit on industrial tribunals have to be drawn from lists approved by the CBI and the TUC. I personally am up in arms about this in connection with sex legislation, but I think it is even more serious in connection with race legislation. It should not be difficult to find people to sit on tribunals in the appropriate areas, because in the main the race questions will arise in a very limited number of areas. Surely it is not too much to ask that this shibboleth of having only people approved by the CBI and the TUC—and in the case of the TUC these are only people who belong to unions which are affiliated to the TUC: they do not even include people belonging to a union which is independent and does not affiliate to the TUC. I protest that this is no way to get the kind of tribunal that will be acceptable to racial minorities in this country, and that there is no reason to continue with this extremely limited range of choice of personnel for tribunals.

May I revert to a remark I made a few moments ago. In some ways, I suspect that this legislation is less likely to be effective than at any rate certain sections of the 1968 Act. Attention was drawn during the Committee stage in another place to the fact that it is proposed to omit from this legislation liability for persons concerned with the running of an organisation inside that organisation—"concerned with the affairs of the organisation" is the phrase, I think, used in the 1968 Act—putting the responsibility for breaches of the legislation solely on the employer or, in the case of a trade union, solely on the trade union organisation. In effect, it means that supervisors and shop stewards will no longer carry personal responsibility for breaches of this legislation.

Any of us who have worked on conciliation committees and who know anything about factories and what happens on factory floors, will know that the key people in this situation are the supervisors and the shop stewards. Therefore this is quite unrealistic and, in my view, quite wrong. I suspect, though I do not know, the reasons why this exemption has been made, and I consider it is quite wrong that there should be the exemption. If, as was said in another place, it will make very little difference, then why not leave it in? Surely it is essential to pin responsibility on people who are involved in the face-to-face relationships on the factory floor, because it is what goes on on the factory floor which makes the difference between discrimination and non-discrimination and the difference as to whether an individual man or woman feels he or she dare take a case to the tribunal. It would be surely reassuring if this clause were to be put into the Act, as it was in the 1968 Act, and I can see no good reason for excluding it.

I should like to raise an issue which has not been mentioned so far this evening and which will raise the wrath of my noble friend Lord Avebury, if not of other Members of your Lordships' House. I think that, under very carefully controlled conditions—and I would underline that phrase—we ought to consider the clause on racial balance, which has been taken out. I know the phrase "racial balance" is a red rag to a bull, and that even to mention it is considered to be the mark of a racist. I am no racist, my Lords, but I believe there can be situations, rare but important ones, in which, under controlled conditions of course, it should be possible to invoke a racial balance clause. I ask the Government at least to look at this once again.

There are, to my certain knowledge, some instances where a company which has had a very liberal race policy and has taken on all comers regardless, has found itself over a period of time with a very high proportion of immigrant and a workers. One may say: "This could be a very good thing. Why worry about it?" I think it is undesirable from the point of view both of race relations and of the companies concerned. Some of those companies are in fact becoming ghettos. They are becoming almost entirely occupied by particular racial groups, and the native inhabitants—by whom I mean the native English inhabitants, and nobody can stop them doing it it—will be worried about this. The native mums are going to say to their children: "That is a place you are not going to work in".

So we are getting a kind of segregation which has arisen out of the fact that the companies in question have been far more open in their policies than have many of their neighbours. But it is doubly disadvantageous because that organisation is then very restricted in its choice of employees. As full employment increases, such a company is going to find it increasingly difficult to build up and retain the labour force it needs to have. The racial balance clause has been used extremely little in the past, I know, and I would hope it would be used extremely little in the future. But the absence of such a clause can lead to abuse, and I would ask the Government to reconsider whether, under the strongest possible safeguards, there is not a case for reinstating that clause.

So much for the legally enforceable aspects of this proposed legislation. But law is at any time only a very small part of the means whereby we attempt to improve race relations in our society. What matters far more, really, is the change of attitude that has to be brought about; and where I disagree with many, though not all, Members of your Lordships' House is over the Government's decision to bring together in one organisation the work previously done—with, of course, appropriate modifications because of the change in legislation—by the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission. I believe that the drafters of the 1968 Act were right when they recognised there were two distinct jobs to be done and that if those jobs are merged neither will be properly done. That is why I fear that the end result of this legislation, which is being hailed on all sides today, may be less and not more good than what we have had in the past.

Why do I say this? If you have an essentially investigatory job to do, you are seen as the enforcer of the law. You cannot be, at one and the same time, the enforcer of the law and the person who can act persuasively as the influencer, the educator, the person with whom to discuss problems. The noble Lord, Lord Boyle made the point of the comparison with the factory inspector. I think that is a valid comparison, and the work of factory inspectors is of the greatest possible importance. But I was 10 years in industry and had many dealings with factory inspectors, and as representatives of the law I should never have dreamed of discussing difficulties with them. They liked to think they were advisers, and occasionally one asked them for their advice, which they were very pleased about; one way of placating them was to ask for their advice. But they were not the people to whom one went to discuss difficult problems, and I do not believe that one body can combine these two functions.

If you give the educative, persuasive, attitude-changing job to a body which is perceived to be a law enforcing body—even though it is the court which will ultimately enforce the law, it is the Commission which will start the whole law enforcement process—it will be identified with enforcement, and the differences between the role of the Commission and that of the court will not be perceived by the mass of people in industry, such as the managers, supervisors, shop stewards and the rest, whose attitudes we wish to change.


My Lords, I know my noble friend said that she is speaking entirely for herself, but will she recognise that the Liberal Party's Community Relations Panel, which considered this matter very thoroughly, unanimously came to the conclusion that the two bodies ought to be merged?

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I recognise that, and that is why I said I was speaking for myself. There are people on both sides of this argument. It is not an argument of principle; it is an argument of machinery and tactics, and I believe there is a confusion of roles and a misunderstanding of the way in which changes of attitude take place. For that reason I am very much opposed to the merging of the two, and to the idea that a body which is basically an enforcement body should ultimately have responsibility, however remote, lo the people responsible for community relations at local level. It seems to me that that will undoubtedly lead to deterioration in the work that can be done at local level.

What, then, should be done in terms of changing attitudes? How does one do it? It is done by getting people involved in bringing about change, in believing that attitudes must change and in getting a public commitment of those people towards new policies. First and foremost, there should be example by public employers. How often do we see a black face in the Box here? How many black people are there in the higher reaches of the Civil Service? We should start there, and then begin to move elsewhere inside the economy. Then we want to find ways of involving the people concerned in bringing about changes in attitudes. There is some work going on in the country, but all too little. It is that kind of work that needs to be supported.

May I make one suggestion about the kind of involvement which would really help in bringing about change? The noble Lord, Lord Harris, mentioned the code of conduct, and I should like to suggest, as a start in involvement, that the CBI and the TUC should be asked to have a first shot at drafting the code of conduct for race relations. This would focus their minds wonderfully on the problems with which, as a last resort, they and the people they represent have to deal and solve. Of course, the ultimate incorporation of their ideas into the code will be a matter for discussion with the officials, but let them come from there. That is the way in which we shall ultimately get the changes we require.

I have gone on too long at this time of the evening. I wish this Bill well, but I believe this is far too important a subject to make a mistake now. We have already waited some time, so let us get it right. We dare not risk getting it wrong.

8.15 p.m.


My Lords, I agreed so much with a great deal of what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said that, especially on the industrial clauses, I shall cut down a great deal of what I wanted to say. She said that, at the end of the day, it is the attitudes on the shop floor of superintendents and shop stewards which will determine our approach, and she was so right. I had considerable experience, at a time when great changes were taking place during the war period, when, from the trade union angle, I was in charge of a factory of some 30,000 people, striving, and I believe succeeding, in getting such things as equal pay for women, and handling many hundreds of young men from Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean, who were insisting on their right to be upgraded and given skills.

I would go further than the noble Baroness and say that, if any of the issues which arose in that factory had had to go to a court of law, a conciliation court or a tribunal, I should have considered that my machinery was utterly defective, because I never believe that that which cannot be cured by discussion among reasonable people on the shop floor can possibly gain by going further away from the point of dispute. Therefore, I have the same feeling as the noble Baroness that we may well be erring on the side of introducing too legalistic an approach, especially when I look at Part II which deals with discrimination in the employment field.

When one views the wording of Clauses 4 to 10, one is almost led to believe that we are dealing with employers in the last quarter of the 19th century, rather than in the last quarter of the 20th century. It is stated that it is unlawful for a person"— that is, an employer— to debar access to opportunities for promotion, transfer or training, or to any other benefits, facilities or services. I do not believe that, in this day and age, employers have the power or facility to make such crazy decisions. Certainly, with my trade union experience, which is very wide, I cannot imagine that we are still at the stage where matters of training for skill, upgrading and promotion can be determined by any employer, without adequate discussion with the trade unions involved. Therefore, I believe that this legislation starts from the wrong angle.

As I said, Clauses 4 to 10 tell of all the things which employers are not allowed to do. I wish to God that about three lines had been given to what they are obliged to do! Indeed, we have to go to Clause 11 before we even realise that there are industrial organisations, and there they are threatened with what will happen to them if they do the wrong things. I suggest to my noble friend Lord Harris that this is the wrong approach to a very delicate and vital subject. I have said that I have great personal experience both of equal pay for women, and of young men coming from Jamaica and such places who were far less sophisticated than they are now. They now know how to look after themselves, as I learned when I was Colonial Secretary. But in those days they were quite unsophisticated and one would have felt disgusted with oneself and with one's own organisation if one had taken advantage of young men of that kind. Therefore one views with some pride the achievements of those days.

One looks again at Clause 11. As I have said, this applies to organisations of either workers or employers and it deals with the terms upon which we are prepared to admit people to membership of trade unions. In many respects the clause vetoes much that is contained in the rule books of the trade union movement. It tells us that it is unlawful for a person to be denied access to benefits, facilities, or services or to be refused access to them.

If we think of this question in terms of trade union rules, most trade unions allow a member to pay his dues within a certain number of weeks. If he does not comply, he is not dismissed from the union but he is out of benefit. Frankly, this clause would veto that arrangement. In other words, a man would have to go much further into arrears before he could be dismissed from the union rather than merely be out of benefit. As I read Clause 11, certainly it would contravene the rule book of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, and my feeling is that it would also contravene the rule books of many other unions.

If we may turn to Clauses 37 and 38, this Bill goes almost full circle. We begin with the proposition, which I wholeheartedly support, of ending discrimination in industry, yet when we read Clause 37 we find that it is not unlawful to afford only to persons of a particular racial group access to facilities for training which would help to fit them for that work. The legislation will afford only to persons of a particular racial group the opportunity for that kind of training. Paragraph (b) envisages that only persons of a particular racial group should be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities for doing that work.

Quite frankly, having begun by trying to eliminate discrimination we shall finish up by enforcing discrimination. I know what the legislation is trying to do. There have been instances of culpable actions by both trade unions and employers; they have victimised coloured people. But there is no way in which one will achieve a healthy outlook that regards the immigrant as a positive asset, as a person to be welcomed, trained and given every facility, if that kind of discrimination is offered against or in favour of the coloured immigrant. Therefore, I believe that we are overdoing a very fine principle.

I shall not detain your Lordships for much longer. I have said that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has made almost all of the points that I wanted to make. However, I do not know whether my noble friends can tell me whether this legislation was drawn up on the advice either of the TUC or especially of those unions which deal with the training of skilled labour. Noble Lords may remember that a few weeks ago I opened a debate in this House on the question of training for skill. I know that from now on there will be a huge demand for non-existent skilled labour. I want to feel that we are going to provide facilities for what is still called "the immigrant population" to fill those gaps, in order to produce the skilled men and women that the nation badly needs.

During the war period to which I referred we had no time for legislation. We had a dilution agreement which played a huge part in winning the war for the Allied nations. Under this agreement, literally hundreds of thousands of people, irrespective of their colour, creed or any other irrelevancies, were trained by our people to become highly efficient men and women, and we saw to it that they received commensurate pay. That was at a time of enormous stress, as one can well imagine, for it was the war period. We were bombed out two or three times, and there were other small incidents.

At this moment when I see racists scoring thousands of votes in elections I believe that the answer is to achieve again the healthy, wholesome approach which we cultivated during the war period. I am talking not about theory but about practice. I should like to feel that we in the trade union movement will train our shop stewards to accept the need for a completely new and healthy outlook towards all our brothers, no matter where they come from, in order to ensure that this awful business of discrimination on a racial basis shall be eliminated for ever. I am sorry to say that I do not believe that the Bill will do anything towards eliminating discrimination, and I suggest that the Government should look at the way in which our dilution agreement performed that which they are now trying to perform. Then they will do far more good than all the legislation which we are now discussing.

8.27 p.m.


My Lords, we have become so inured to successive Race Relations Acts and Bills since the end of World War II that it is worth standing back and asking ourselves exactly why so much legislation, all of it of a restrictive rather than permissive nature and therefore illiberal in the truest sense of the term, should be necessary, or alleged to be necessary. After all, we had Indian councillors and even Members of Parliament in this country as long ago as the end of the nineteenth century and nobody thought anything of it. Before World War II Doctor Hastings Banda practised in Scotland and Mr. Jomo Kenyatta worked in Sussex without any problems. Nobody worried about this or ever suggested that any legislation was necessary. What altered everything was the arrival of the first immigrant boat from the West Indies in 1948, which the then Labour Colonial Secretary, Mr. Creech-Jones, described as an isolated incident which would not be allowed to happen again. We all know that it has been happening again, to a greater or lesser degree, ever since.

It is impossible either to diagnose or cure the discrimination, real or alleged, which is the subject of this Bill without taking this mass immigration into account, and the emphasis must be on the word "mass". In the same way as I am delighted to welcome to this country my Indian and Pakistani friends but am a good deal less happy about the entry for permanent settlement of 1½ million of their compatriots, so my Indian and Pakistani friends, while, I hope, always being ready to welcome me and my family, would be every bit as distressed if we were to be accompanied by 18½ million fellow Britons (which is the proportionate equivalent), most of them from the less well educated and therefore least adaptable section of the community. Their distress would be all the greater if the British immigrants boasted of being able to determine the election results in 9 per cent, of the constituencies in India and Pakistan, in the same way as immigrant leaders in this country have claimed to be able to swing the results in 57—or is it 59?—United Kingdom constituencies.

There is, I believe, a "1 per cent, law"; that is to say, that any country can not only tolerate but can positively benefit from the admission of people from exotic or strongly different cultures— up to 1 per cent, of the total population. Once you start rising above 1 per cent, then the troubles start. One might instance Kenya. Disregarding for a moment the undoubted hardship and suffering of those Europeans and Asians who have been displaced, I do not think that it can be denied that Kenya is a more stable country now that the non-African population has been reduced to less than 1 per cent. Once you exceed the 1 per cent, mark the country ceases to be a homogenous one. I think it must be conceded that multiracial, multicultural, multilingual countries are inherently more tense and less stable than homogeneous ones, particularly so far as a, temperate zone countries are concerned.

It is common knowledge on this side of the Atlantic that New York has a very much higher murder rate than London—approximately 30 times as high, I believe. This is generally attributed to the absence of gun control laws in the United States, but it is a fact that New York State has extremely strict gun control laws—almost as strict as those pertaining in the United Kingdom. I think most impartial observers will concede that the very high crime rate in New York is due to the nature of New York as something of a melting-pot. It is true to say that the first generation immigrants in the United States were exceptionally law-abiding, just as the first-generation immigrants in this country are: it is with subsequent generations that the problems start.

Worse than the fact of the large-scale immigration was the utterly intolerant attitude of those responsible for it towards any dissent from the prevailing pseudo-liberal consensus in the early 1960s. Anyone who expressed the opinion that unlimited immigration was perhaps not wholly desirable and a good thing was virtually stigmatised as being a Nazi. This had extraordinary consequences. I remember being in this House when one noble Lord rose to say that he looked forward to the day when 50 per cent.—not 15 but 50 per cent.—of the population of this country would be coloured. Nobody dared so much as to gasp. A right reverend Prelate who is no longer with us said in that same debate, as I remember, that it was Britain's moral destiny to become an experimental forcing ground for multiracialism—if I can remember the words correctly—which after trial and error would set the tone for the rest of mankind.

A well-known sociological magazine, commenting upon an incident reported in the Press, where elderly working-class people in some industrial city had complained of being kept awake until two o'clock in the morning by Caribbean music, attacked these elderly working-class people as possessing ": anal-retentive, petit bourgeois tendencies". Some courageous individuals did hold firm against the Zeitgeist, notably the late Sir Cyril Osborne. It is ironic to think that those who so strongly criticised him at the time have today swung round completely to accepting the very measures that he earlier advocated.

What is to be done about the situation as it is? If I interpreted the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, correctly—and I am sorry to see he is not in his place—his recipe would include screwing down the lid on the bubbling cauldron of indigenous resentment. He used military metaphors such as "national strategy for dealing with racialism" by means of Bills such as this, which he actually wanted to make more coercive, certainly so far as Clause 25 was concerned. I believe this would mask symptoms while doing nothing about the disease; indeed it might well exacerbate the latter, for reasons which I will give later.

My recipe, which I do not expect for one moment will be accepted, is three-fold. First, I would urge a complete stop to immigration. Those who have not been in Britain long enough to put down sentimental roots—and surely they are the only roots that count in this context—those who still retain links of affection and kinship with their homelands and who have not brought their families with them, should, I believe, be treated in the Continental fashion as gastarbeiter, in exactly the same way as Britons working in the Gulf States, Pakistan, Nigeria or wherever expect to be treated; that is, they do not expect to take their families with them, and after working abroad for three, four or five years they expect as a matter of course to return home to Britain.

As for the difficult moral issue of the British passport holders, I would say this: I accept, of course, that the possession of a British passport entitles the holder to British protection, which may imply the granting of temporary asylum or refuge in cases of persecution. I would not deny that for a moment, but I do not believe that it confers the right, unless there is some previous link with Britain, to permanent settlement.

Secondly—and this is asking for the moon even more—I should like to see those responsible for encouraging mass immigration in the past conceding publicly that they were wrong; and where in the past they adopted publicly some of the arrogant and contemptuous attitudes to those who expressed fears about this immigration, they should apologise. I think this would do a great deal to defuse tension.

Thirdly, I believe that given tact and patience the natural hospitality and, perhaps, kindness, and the essential neighbourliness of the British people would gradually erode discrimination over a period of time. This can be greatly assisted by a sense of humour, and I say in all seriousness that I believe films like that excellent film which some of your Lordships may have seen—"Blazing Saddles"—which consistently pokes fun at racially stereotyped attitudes, do more to improve good race relations than all the coercive legislation ever devised.

Like the Conservative Opposition in another place in 1968, opposing a very much less draconian Race Relations Bill I believe that this Bill, "will not in its practical application contribute to racial harmony". Here are a few reasons why. Is it really wise to include nationality in Clause 3, which the 1968 Bill did not do? Supposing this Bill had been in force 30 years ago, would it not have been perfectly natural for a Jewish employer at that time to be reluctant to take on a German employee, whatever his politics? It would not, of course, be saint-like but it would be absolutely normal, human and instinctive. Similarly, supposing at the time of General Niazi's drastic putting down of the rebellion in East Pakistan (as it then was) would it not have perhaps been natural for an East Bengali not to wish to employ a Pakistani at that particular moment? One can think of so many instances of that kind where it is natural, such as between Turks and Greeks and Cypriots. We had the example the other day of the man whose workers did not wish to work with an Irishman right after the Birmingham pub bombings.

Of course, in an ideal world people would say that one should not be blamed for one's nationality, but in the real world one must take these considerations into account and I believe that it is dangerous to include the word "nationality" for this reason. If those employing under five people were excluded, as in Section 6(3)(b) of the Sex Discrimination Act, that is to say, very small firms, it might not be so bad but those words have not been included in this Bill and I should be very interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, when he replies, why they have not been so included.

I also wonder whether it is wise to include house sales in this legislation. We have already discussed the Relf case. I was speaking to a Ugandan barrister about this and his view was that the only sufferer from such practices as Relf's was the vendor himself, because he reduced the market for the products he was selling, and therefore would almost certainly obtain a lower price. I may say, as a matter of interest, that the barrister himself (although he speaks only for himself personally and clearly not for Africans in general), while generally being in favour of the 1965 Act does not approve the 1968 one, and still less this Bill.

Clause 12(2) is almost the worse feature morally, if not in its practical effect, of this Bill, just as in the comparable Section 13(2) of the Sex Discrimination Act which I attacked at the time, receiving very welcome support from varying quarters of your Lordships' House. This subsection was debated for one hour and twenty minutes in Standing Committee in another place on 13th May and for no less than 3½ hours at Report stage and I would highly recommend that your Lordships who have the time should read the reports of those proceedings. I will not go into the full details of the clause at this stage, except to say that the effect of it, if unamended, would be that a man who studied for a professional qualification for five or six years, and who was on the point of receiving his degree or other qualification, could theoretically be disbarred and therefore lose his livelihood if an employee who 20 years previously had been working for him had once discriminated against someone on grounds of race.

Clause 25 is highly objectionable, and also disliked by many immigrants who fear, with good reason, that it will exacerbate racial tensions rather than otherwise, and few of whom wish to force themselves into quasi-private institutions. It is most peculiar that it deals with clubs with as few as 25 members, because the Minister of State in another place on 20th May, said: The average membership of the clubs —which they were discussing— is about 900 members and clubs therefore represent significant features of social life."—[Official Report, Commons: Standing Committee A; 20/5/76; col. 394.] There is a large difference between 900 and 25. If the figure in the Bill were 500 there might be some sense, but a figure of 25 seems astonishing, and it is particularly alarming if other noble Lords join the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in trying to reduce the figure below 25. As an honourable and learned Member said in Committee in the other place on 20th May: I draw attention to Clause 25(1)(a) which states that the cut-off point or the break-in point of this association which the new law will apply is 25 members. On any view of the matter, a club of 25 members is a very intimate association, and if it be the case that the majority of clubs, and certainly all those with a membership of 25, are properly to be seen as extensions of its members' homes, we have to ask ourselves why we do not seek to apply the principle of this legislation to our private homes? Why do not we seek to apply the principle of this legislation to other private domestic decisions and choices which we have to make—the choice of the girl we dance with, the choice of the person we sit next to in the Underground? After all, there would be logic in so doing".—[Official Report; Commons; Standing Committee A; 20/5/76; col. 385.] My Lords, Clauses 65 and 66 deal with the power of the Commission to give every sort of help to complainants and claimants, but none whatsoever to the alleged discriminator who may well be a poorer or less well educated person than the complainant; this seems to me to be a denial of natural justice. Clause 70 has already been vigorously criticised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and others, but I would say that its full implications are even worse than have been suggested. For instance, yesterday a Kenyan newspaper in Nairobi described President Amin as a tyrannical buffoon. This is undoubtedly insulting, albeit accurate. If this Bill were law, and this was reprinted in an English newspaper, could it not be held that although it is perfectly true that most of the victims of President Amin have been fellow black Africans, none the less the more ignorant parts of the population in this country might thereby be stirred up to a hatred of Africans as a result?

The clause also applies to illustrations as well as words, so that if there is a reprint of a paperback book about Nazi atrocities, and on the cover of the book is shown a picture of a typical German soldier, a member of the Wehrmacht, bayonetting a Polish baby, this almost certainly would revive hatreds against Germans, some of whom are living in this country. There is absolutely nothing in Clause 70 which limits the object of insult or abuse or threats to specific ethnic or cultural groups. It can in fact apply to anybody. Therefore, if someone were to refer to the idiotic, harebrained fools who had given an amnesty to illegal immigrants (referring to the Government of the day) this could be held to be stirring up hatred against immigrants themselves by reminding people of the existence of illegal immigrants. The fact that prosecutions require the consent of the Attorney General I do not think is adequate safeguard here.

My Lords, despite the cogently expressed doubts of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and the fact that no Conservative voted for the Third Reading in the other place, we must accept, with misgivings, that this Bill will go through. Therefore, we must concentrate in Committee on knocking out the worst features of the Bill, because unless that is done, the consequent sense of grievance among the indigenous population will undoubtedly make matters worse rather than better.

8.36 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships, may I first express my admiration for the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today. They chose a most delicate subject, and in the most expert manner walked the tightrope of being non-controversial. I am sure that in future, if they continue in this way, we shall all be most anxious to hear them speak again.

Having said that, I find tonight that I am rather out of step with most noble Lords who have spoken, because I have a feeling that this Bill is a fundamentally wrong approach to the subject of race relations. Since I have been listening to noble Lords speaking, I have wondered why, on the front page, in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, we see the words: Direct discrimination against a person of a particular racial group on the grounds of his colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin …". I have heard nothing this evening except with regard to coloured immigrants. This Bill applies not only to coloured immigrants, but it also applies to Cypriots and to Australians. It applies to every race, and perhaps after devolution we might find that it applies even to Scotland and Wales. So, when looking at this Bill, do not let us confine ourselves just to the fact that a lot of bother on discrimination is coming from coloured people, from Pakistan, the West Indies, or wherever else you like.

My Lords, I do not propose to discuss or to suggest amendments to clauses in the Bill. I think that all this racial legislation is totally the wrong approach. Over its history, this country has suffered invasions by races from almost every part of the world. I personally am here because of the invasion of the Normans. We have had the French, the Dutch and the Scandinavians. This country has the ability to absorb migrant populations, if only they are told, honestly, the truth, and are allowed to develop in their own way; we can then absorb them.

As I see it, the situation now is that we have a rather overcrowded country. We are short of housing, we are short of work, and, with the addition of this Bill and numerous others from day to day, we are getting more governmental interference in people's business. This is happening all the time. I feel that much of the reaction which is taking place is a result of this. I must say also that I feel it is a sad day when we start talking about people who have lived here, whose ancestors have lived here for many years, as "the indigenous population of this island", but we have now been reduced to that by legislation such as this.

I am quite convinced that if the truth about the immigrant population and the numbers which were going to come to this country, wherever they came from, could be told honestly to these people, to the country as a whole, they would accept the people who are here and accept the people coming in. But the difficulty at the moment is that the country does not know how many more people are to come, they do not know how many more people they have got to accept. Figures are continually being given as to the numbers which are allowed in every year, immediately contradicted by the fact that there are about another 30,000 or so on top of that, and we never know from one day to another, nor does anybody in this country, what in fact the problem is going to be over the coming years.

When you have ignorance of a situation like that, and what we now have to call the indigenous population can see no end to it, can anybody wonder that there is a reaction? Until somebody can and will tell this country what in fact the future holds from the point of view of the immigrant population into this country, you will get a reaction which will make the National Front and people of like mind grow and grow, and it will be a most disastrous day when they begin to get really well established. It is the fear of the unknown which always gets reaction.

This Bill, together with the ones from which it is taking over, does one thing which to me is a disaster. I see in the paper today that the gentleman who runs the housing department for Brent has stated that he is getting into his area coloured migrants who are literally taking over estates. He cannot, he says, refuse to sell or to rent them houses in that area, and as a result blocks of migrants of the same nationalities and ethnic origins et cetera are coming together in one place. To my mind this is a disaster. Have not we yet learned what happens when this sort of thing occurs? We have running at this moment the typical example in Northern Ireland; in that case it is a religious block of people. If this creates trouble there, there are exactly the same basic difficulties facing you. I personally think that when we produce a Bill such as this and the previous Bills which create situations like that, we are merely making a rod for our own backs from which we shall suffer.

I cannot understand why nobody likes talking about immigrants. In the days when we had our far-flung colonies and dependencies, which we were liberating, we were always known as expatriates. Are we now to say, "Do not let us call all these racial groups which come to this country immigrants; shall we say they are temporary expatriates"? I fail to see what difference it makes what you call these people who come here. They have got to be absorbed into this country in some way or other, and one must not concentrate them together. We have to make the indigenous population, as, unfortunately, we have to call it now, absorb them. What I think is really happening is something that we saw happening in reverse overseas. Over there the expatriate was slowly removed from his job to make way for the local population; over here we are in a situation where the indigenous population are now by law being compelled to take on people at their work.

My Lords, I would appeal to everyone to look at this from the point of view of the people, right round the country, who have been here for years and generations. Tell them the truth; tell them what is happening. Let them absorb these people without trying to force it down their necks by laws. Inevitably when you adopt force you get some very fierce reaction.

8.55 p.m.


My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord in his arguments, but one day I really would like to have a cup of tea with him and just tell him a little about what is happening in the world outside this island, how history at the moment is escalating towards disaster if we do not change certain ideas that we have at the moment, and even some of his. My Lords, I welcome this Bill and the scrupulous explanation of its clauses by my noble friend Lord Harris. The hour is late, so my comments will be briefer than would be my wish.

First, perhaps I may mention the two outstanding maiden speeches, wonderful speeches, both of which were skating on very thin non-controversial ice, so much more interesting than when they are just bland, as they are meant to be. Not only do I hope but I know that we shall hear both noble Lords often. Then I must comment on Lady Vickers chiding me about my intervention on colonialism. I have spent more than five years of my life defending colonialism in the United Nations, in seminars and in conferences. We did not educate our colonial subjects enough. Of course we did a great many things. We built roads. We left them our language and our Parliament and our Civil Service and so on. But, all the same, one hundred years ago people were not so keen on equality, or not so interested in equality as they are getting to be these days.

My Lords, I found the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, for whom we all have such great respect and affection, difficult to understand. It seemed to me to be a speech addressed by a very distinguished lawyer only to other lawyers. What was emphasised for me in his speech was his plea for no legislation in this field. This really surprises me, because he is a great one for speaking about law and order. So, why should we not have a little law and order on this subject too? After all, we really cannot leave it to "beautiful human nature".

This Bill, the third in a trilogy since 1965, completes the pioneering work of the 1968 Act and the PEP Report. This Bill will stand as a permanent achievement to Roy Jenkins' term of office as Home Secretary. I welcome this Bill particularly because it sets out to face the facts and deal with the realities of the situation in Britain today, which has greatly changed during the last 10 years. Personally I dislike moralising about human nature and the universal prevalence of race and colour prejudice. No one should deceive themselves about this; nor that legislation, by itself, can do the whole job of improving race relations. But it is now generally accepted that legislation is an essential precondition to combat discrimination and to afford equal treatment to coloured minority groups and to promote equal opportunities for them.

It is also generally accepted that where there is unfair discrimination there should be a remedy for such an injustice. The Government's first priority in this Bill has been to provide a legislative framework, as my noble friend the Minister pointed out, and it is a framework which only Government can provide. For, my Lords, the supreme fact of the situation in this country is that the majority of the coloured population here at present are here to stay, and because their children were born here increasing numbers belong to Britain. They are British citizens, and that is a fact which none of us can get away from.

So the time has come to ensure fair and equal treatment for all, regardless of race and colour, and now also national origin. The moral wrong and the economic waste cannot be hidden any longer. The legislation in this 1976 Bill is wide, as many have pointed out, and in its enforcement measure it is very radical. It is an advance and an improvement on the paternalistic measures of the previous Acts and the machinery they set up, despite the good work that was done by those who took part in it. The new Commission to be set up, as stated so clearly by the Minister today, will have a strategic role and a positive role in promoting equal opportunities, as well as being free to decide its own priorities. Personally, I prefer the name of the Commission suggested by the Select Committee, the Equal Opportunities Commission.

In any debate on race relations the arguments are diverted into arguments about immigration; an emotive subject often closed to rational discussion and confused by an ignorance mainly of the number of immigrants entering this country. I should like to say that however difficult it is to monitor the numbers, however difficult it is to stop illegal entry, let us have the truth about the facts. May I ask the Government why the general census was scrapped? We can, however, welcome the Home Secretary's decision to set up a three-man committee which will give high priority to finding the objective facts and information. Race prejudice is so easily fuelled by rumour, and the numbers game assumes mountainous proportions, and this produces volcanic reactions for hard-line racialists. Dangerous and unrealistic talk about compulsory repatriation becomes common currency among many people.

The only way in which this Government legislation, which now assumes wide powers, is to match this is with wide responsibility to make this Bill work in a firm, fair and non-discriminatory way. I think that the Government might take very seriously, when looking at the Bill after this debate, the speech made by my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton, who had a very important addition to suggest. Whenever race relations are debated, I cannot help thinking of the late President Kennedy's views on race and colour prejudice. I cannot quote his exact words so I must give my own; these are that the hallmark of a civilised society can only be judged and tested by the way it treats its minority groups. Finally, I think that this Bill is a tribute to Roy Jenkins, a great Home Secretary, and in this piece of legislation he has brought law and order into an area where it is badly needed, and by so doing an area which demands a civilised approach.

9.8 p.m.


My Lords, I wish first to congratulate the two maiden speakers who have run their maiden races in the House today so successfully. For many years I farmed in Jamaica and I grew very attached to that country. I have also had experience of Africa. Noble Lords may also be interested to know that have in my household two orphan children, one African, though he was born in this country, and one Jamaican; nobody can accuse me of racial prejudice.

I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that things have altered regarding the coloured population of this country during the last 10 years. We now have an increasing number who will remain here permanently. I also agree with the noble Lord that we must take into account the fact that we have an increasing number born and educated here and who are therefore full United Kingdom citizens. As such, it is right that every effort should be made to see that these racial minorities suffer no disadvantage as a result of their colour, race or ethnic origin. However, I support my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone when he says that good intentions are not necessarily an excuse for legislation. There is a limit to what can be achieved by law. To make any law work in a democracy one needs the support of the great majority and it is very difficult to make racial laws completely just, whether they be for integration or segregation.

We must understand that all racial laws must infringe, to a greater or lesser degree, the freedom of the individual. From my point of view, the most important thing is freedom under the law. Fortunately for immigrants, the British are a most tolerant race; the British are, on the whole, more tolerant than some of the countries from which the immigrants come. There have been a few minor incidents recently of hooliganism between coloured and white people, and, incidentally, white people can equally be called coloured; I have always thought that white was a colour and I do not see why black and brown should necessarily be called colours and not white. On the whole, I think that such incidents have been exceptions.

To make the Bill work—and I foresee that in some respects it may not—it will be extremely necessary to get the confidence of the British people. Some noble Lords have said that the Government must come clean on the efficiency of their steps to control illegal immigration. They must also come clean—this is extremely important—on what steps are being taken to tighten up on the meaning of the word "dependants" because we must remember that, especially in Jamaica, individuals such as common law wives are called dependants. Such dependants in a family with their children can run into 100 people and there is no definite stop mark. We are told that already there may be 300,000 children dependants wishing or waiting to come to this country. It is vital for the Government to come clean on this and, so far as they can—I appreciate that it is not easy for them—give clear figures of what this country may expect by way of immigration in, say, the next 10 years.

Others with far greater experience than myself have commented on the Bill. I wish, however, to draw attention to a few of its provisions. Clause 10 appears to restrict six or more people in a partnership from choosing who they may like as partners. Will one really be able to make that hold in law? How will one prove that they did not take somebody in as a partner because he was an African, a Jew, a Red Indian or an Australian? I think it will be almost impossible to prove. Clause 12 appears to be rather vindictive because it says that an authority, before conferring a qualification on an individual, must take into consideration evidence tending to show that he—and I suppose it also means "she"— or any of his employees or agents (whether past or present), has practised unlawful discrimination … What does "past" mean here? We have not had these Acts for such a very long time. Does this refer to discrimination before these Acts? Clearly, it cannot before these Acts became law. It does not make it very plain. I feel that it is very unfair that a person should be held responsible for the past actions of his employees. That seems to me extraordinary.

Clauses 17 to 19 deal with education establishments. We have just suffered the shock of hearing that the Government wish to have an examination for all schoolchildren that no one can fail. If we are to have a complete comprehensive education system for all, the standards of education will be considerably lowered. I understand that, in America, where I have been quite often, some universities lower their entry qualifications for negroes. I sincerely hope that we shall not come to that pass in this country, though I do not suppose it will really matter if we are to lower all the standards anyway.

The clause which astounds me is Clause 25, which deals with clubs. Several noble Lords—indeed almost all who have spoken—have mentioned this. Where is this to stop? If the Government are to interfere in clubs by not allowing members to choose whom they will admit, where will the Government stop? Will they say, "You can't have so-and-so to stay in your home"? There is no way of saying where we shall end once we start on that slippery path. This is a great denial of the freedom of the individual.

I come next to Clause 66. I have had some experience of this. The clause allows the Race Relations Commission to help a claimant to arrange legal assistance if he imagines that he has been insulted under this Act, but no provision is made to help the defendent. Is it fair to help the claimant—and I presume that this refers also to financial aid—to arrange his legal case and give him financial aid and not to help the defendant? The law must surely be fair to both parties.

Next we come to Clause 70 and, here, I quite agree that it reads very well. It is perfectly right to have a ban on threatening, abusive and insulting words which stir up racial hatred. But, as my noble friend Lady Vickers said, this is rather subjective when one talks of insults. One can define threats and abuse, but can one define insults? Some people may think themselves insulted whereas others may not. As a term of endearment, I might call someone a lazy bastard. I have many friends who are coloured and if I say that to one of them he might take offence and have me up under the Race Relations Act. I feel that we must be careful here.

I am really rather worried about this proposed legislation. A small company of which I am the chairman and managing director was had up the other day under the Sex Discrimination Act. We had advertised for persons to wait. A young man and a young woman drove up in a car and of course—or, rather, not of course—we chose the young woman. But the man then had us up under the Sex Discrimination Act. The magistrates did not know the law; they had not read their law. So the case was adjourned, though I could have told them the law in about three minutes. But later, after they had studied the law, the case was thrown out of court. The point is that this young man turned out to be an employee of the Ministry of Employment —he was not a waiter at all. It is only my opinion—of course I have not taken any action on this, though some people have advised me to—that there was collusion and that what the young couple intended was to have us up, thinking that we would not go to court but that we would be pleased to settle for £60 or £70. But of course we did nothing of the sort, though the case cost us quite a lot.

If legislation of this kind is to go on to the Statute Book it may be found that many people bring cases against firms or individuals under the Race Relations Act. They may bring the cases frivolously hoping that the party against whom they bring proceedings will settle out of court. Much care is needed here. I have always said—I have said it often in this House—that it is very difficult to legislate for human likes and dislikes. Some men prefer blondes and some men prefer brunettes. I think it is very dangerous to force people to like blondes when they prefer brunettes. I thoroughly agree with the intentions behind the Bill. Racial discrimination—discrimination on grounds of colour—is absolutely loathsome and highly uncivilised. But I can only hope that this legislation does nothing to jeopardise the splendid reputation which this country has always had for tolerance regarding race relations, and I view this legislation with some misgivings.

9.23 p.m.


My Lords, I intended to begin my speech with some analysis of the present racialist situation in this country, but in view of the hour I shall refrain from that and shall say only this. I am not sure whether sometimes we do not confuse racialist feeling with the feeling of frustration of people who need houses, jobs, or perhaps maternity beds in hospitals, with non-whites in this country whom they feel are competing for those necessities. Many of those who voted in recent elections for the National Front are among those who applaud non-white pop singers on television, and who also applaud the great non-white atheletes whom we see on our cricket fields and football pitches and whom we now see in our Olympic team at Montreal. Very often it is not a racialist feeling that animates the present tensions in this country. They are due to social and economic conditions which lead to a sense of irritation that there should be here those of a different colour who sear) to be competing with them in all the ills of our economic system today. I should like to expand that theme, but I resist the temptation.

My Lords, I listened, as I always do, with great fascination to the power and persuasion of the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. If he will forgive me for saying so, I think that speech failed to reflect the logic which is so often in his utterances. He argued that because past and present Bills against racial discrimination have not ended it to a greater degree, and because they have left a sense of frustration among our non-white population, quoting statements from Government spokesmen to that effect, therefore those Bills have failed. My Lords, I think that, unusually (because the noble and learned Lord has a sense of historical philosophy), he failed to appreciate the complicated character of legislation against racial discrimination, balancing what should be law and what should be persuasion—one of the most difficult issues to decide today. I think he failed to recognise that difficulty sufficiently.

It is now 25 years since I first introduced, in another place, a Bill against racial discrimination. I have sometimes been called the pioneer of this legislation. In fact, I am not. The late Lord Sorensen was the first Member of Parliament to introduce such a Bill. But even in the nine successive years that I introduced that Bill I appreciated the subject was so difficult and complex that, year by year, its scope was changed. In this complicated area, necessarily one has to experiment and try and fail and, one hopes, succeed. That is not merely the fact of this country: it is enormously the fact of the United States of America; and I think one can say now, so far as the United States of America are concerned, that the many experiments in legislation that they have had in their different States and in federal law are now moving towards a solution of this problem with hope, very great hope, for the future.

It will be the same here. The Labour Government decide to adopt my Bill; they introduce it; it is not adequate; the Race Relations Board makes proposals for a new Bill; I introduce in this House a Bill carrying out its proposals. The Home Secretary stated that he would include those proposals in his Sex Discrimination Bill—which he has done. And he now brings it forward in this further legislation.

So, my Lords, in this sphere one must try and try, and try again. Although I believe we have made a tremendous advance in the Bill now before us, I am not going to say that it will be the ultimate form in which we will deal with this problem. I welcome this Bill. I welcome it because it extends the negative function of the Race Relations Board to the positive function of investigating and preventing racial discrimination. In particular, the new Commission will have power actually to promote equality of opportunity between whites and non-whites in employment, in housing and in education.

During the Committee stage I shall be tabling certain Amendments to this Bill. I regret that a little; because it will be at the time of the Labour Party Conference. I have attended that Conference since 1910 and I shall not be able to attend it this year. But there are two issues that I want to emphasise while leaving others to the Committee stage. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham was perfectly correct when he said that there is now scepticism among the non-white population in this country about the legislation and administration against racial discrimination. I want to suggest—and I hope that the Minister will listen—that there are two ways in which this scepticism can be removed. The first is that the Government themselves in their executive capacity should promote equality of opportunity between the non-white and the white populations.

The steps which the Government could take were pointed out by Sir Geoffrey Wilson, the Chairman of the Race Relations Board, in his speech to the annual conference of the United Kingdom Immigrant Advisory Service in April last year. He asked that the Secretary of State for Employment should make it clear that his Department stands foursquare behind the new Commission and its objectives; that the Department will support the Commission in the vigorous use of its enforcement powers and will accept the Commission as the Government's chosen instrument for the promotion of equality of opportunity. He asked that the Government should use their control in the vast areas of national life where they have influence to take positive action in the spirit of their own law.

A promising start was made three years ago in the Civil Service; but there are other wide areas of overt action which the Government could take. What about Government contracts? The Government have proposed that the Department of Employment should keep an eye on such contracts. Is that enough? Why should not the Government insist by making it a condition of Government contracts that equality of opportunity shall be observed? There are the nationalised industries. There is the wide scope of the National Enterprise Board and of the Royal Ordnance Factories owned by the Government. These are all areas where equality of opportunity could be directly enforced. There is also the Governmental financial provision to local authorities for housing, education and other activities. Why should not these grants be made conditional on equality of opportunity being observed? The Government themselves have the opportunity, if they will accept these suggestions, of proving their sincerity in bringing this legislation before the House.

The second sphere in which action can be taken to gain the confidence of the non-white population is by giving them full representation on the new Commission in all spheres of its administration and on the tribunals for judging discrimination. This legislation must not seem a device of the white community to do justice to the non-white community. It must not be patronage. It must be a co-operating, participating endeavour in which the non-whites feel that they are a part. It must be theirs as much as ours. My Lords, I rejoice in the introduction of this Bill. I believe that it is a contribution of great importance to the creation of a civilised British society in which all races can live in harmony.

9.39 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway; the quality of his eloquence and the sincerity of his conviction remains undimmed. But I hope that he will forgive me if I say that sincerity and eloquence are not enough. I should like to express some views about the likely results of the legislation that we are examining tonight while fully sharing the objectives which motivate the Government in bringing this legislation before the House. But before I do so, may I make one general comment echoing the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and other noble Lords. I feel that the linking together of the work of the enforcement agency and the advisory agency in this field is out of line with Government policy generally. We are introducing an independent element to look into complaints against the police. There is the criticism that the Department of the Environment appoints its own inspectors at the inquiries it conducts into the building of highways, and so on. Yet this legislation is linking the policeman and the friend, and I do not believe that it is really wise to do so. But, accepting that that is part and parcel of the Bill that is before us, I should like to restrict my comments to probing one or two areas in which I feel some concern because the Government may not have thought through the consequences of what they are seeking to do.

Before doing so, however, I should like to add my voice to those who asked that in the review of Government expenditure now being conducted,the urban programme and the projects financed under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 may be cut at least less severely than some other areas. I think at the Committee stage when we are talking about racial disadvantage, as opposed to racial discrimination, the projects financed under this head are very relevant.

We understand that the new Commission for Racial Equality is to have some sort of long-term strategic role, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, repeated that phrase when he spoke today. The Government have not made clear what this strategic role is to be, and during the Committee stage in another place Ministers explained that their reluctance to be specific about this strategic role was because the Government felt it important not to tie the hands of this important new body by laying down in advance how it should proceed.

This could be dangerous. I think it is at least possible to say that the Equal Opportunities Commission has suffered by not having a hint from the Government as to how it should operate, and the new Commission will have no genuine strategic role to play if it does not know what that role is intended to be. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, whether he is able, to tell us, for example, how the strategic role of this new Commission is to work in fields such as employment, public housing or education. What sort of strategic role would the Commission have in these important fields? Could we be told whether the new organisation is to be the keystone of the Government's policy in the longer term? What sort of relationship do the Government envisage between the Commission and the Home Office? Will it be better, more useful, more constructive and ongoing than that now existing between the Home Office and the Community Relations Commission?

There is a feeling—and I believe it has some justification—that the Home Office in the past has used the existence of the Community Relations Commission and the Race Relations Board as an alibi or excuse for its own inactivity; that is, its inactivity in action, in thought and in planning. The fact that there was such a body whose role was clearly understood and defined in legislation somehow seemed to excuse the Government Department which still held ultimate responsibility in that sphere from doing as much as it might have done. Can the Government assure us that this will not happen, and can they assure us that the existence of this new body will mean that they will not run away from their own responsibilities, which will continue?

The other field that I want to mention is something which I find it difficult to talk about, because I know there are so many sincere and dedicated people involved, and it is hardly for me as an outsider to seem to be intruding in the deeply valuable work that they do. But just as there is a vagueness, a woolliness, a lack of thorough thought in the Government's announced plans for their relationship with the new Commission for Racial Equality, so I think there is an equal vagueness in the Government's view of what local community relations councils and officers are to do. It is not enough to express pious hopes. It is not enough to pay tribute to the work that has been done in the past. If there is confusion now—and there is, in some sense, not a very uniform pattern—then if this new body is to have an important strategic role it must know what its local offices are meant to do, and so must they.

The community relations councils have an uneven record, it would be fair to say. There are some that are excellent, and I will not name them; but there are some that are not, and I will not name them either. What is the relationship between this new central body and the local offices to be? What are local offices to do when the new strategic body comes into being? Are they to be the mouthpieces of the black or coloured community? Are they to be the megaphones of disquiet? Are they to be bodies which serve the whole community? And what is to be their relationship to local authorities—advisory, aggressive, adversary? Could the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government give us, at some stage, some hint as to what the Government see as the role for these bodies?

I have concentrated on two practical areas which give one pause for thought. However good the intentions behind this Bill, if the implementation of its admirable objectives has not been fully considered those of us who fear that it may not do as much as it would like to do, and as much as we should like it to do, may well be proved right. I do not think there is much to be lost for the Government, if they say what is intended to be the role of the new Commission for Racial Equality which is brought into being by this Bill. What is its role, and what is to be its relationship between local government, central Government and the local community relations organisations?

My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham gave some grounds on which he had disquiet about some of the legal implications of this legislation. I myself feel that to single out this kind of injustice and inequality for special treatment, in the way that this Bill and its predecessors do, is not really the right way to go about it. I am a written Constitution man. I am a Bill of Rights man. I am one of those who feel that, in order to combat the temporary tyranny of a Government elected on a minority of votes, we need to embody in our law some principles which would override the normal day-to-day considerations of the Party ebb and flow. We have the beginnings of a written Constitution in that our membership of the Community gives all its nationals, including our own, certain rights. In the longer term, the way to deal with the rights that we need to give to all our citizens, of whatever colour, is to have a general declaration embodied in a Constitution.

It is too late for rhetoric but in 1776 the Americans declared: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ". I should like the rights of the citizen to be defined in a declaration that is embodied in a written Constitution. Meanwhile, let us go on with this Bill, try to make it work and remedy its faults. But we shall never solve the problems with which this Bill is trying to cope unless this isolated, separate area of immigration, citizenship and race relations is seen as part and parcel of the general need to define human rights and obligations in a modern industrial society. My Lords, I support this Bill in its intentions, if not in its entirety, as it is at present drafted.

9.51 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will feel it is both helpful and proper for me not to make any comment about the Bill, or to add anything to what has been said by my noble friend, Lord Harris of Greenwich, but to content myself with trying to answer some of the points which have been raised tonight. If I do that I shall—of necessity, perhaps—ignore a number of speeches which have been made, because in them no direct questions were asked of the Government. It is not because I feel that the contributions to which I shall not refer are not worth referring to, but because it is a question of making the best possible use of time, particularly at this hour of the night.

May I begin by paying my tribute to the two maiden speakers—to my noble friend Lord Murray of Gravesend, whom I have known for some considerable time, and also to my noble friend Lord Vaizey. Perhaps enough has been said about the quality and content of their speeches to allow me not to make any personal reference to them, except, having before me the list of speakers tonight, to say that they were both brief and to the point and that if they are going so to conduct themselves in your Lordships' House in the future they will be a model to the rest of us.

Perhaps I may say a word or two about the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, although I feel singularly ill-equipped to do so. I always feel at a slight disadvantage when I am trying to deal with matters that have been raised by the noble and learned Lord. If I say that time does not permit me to reply in detail to all of the points made by the noble and learned Lord, I presume that his points about the individual provisions—the advertisements clause and the burden of proof—are matters which will be raised at Committee stage. Indeed, I imagine that many of the points with which I shall not deal tonight will be raised in Committee.

However, I should like to say something about Clause 70—Incitement to racial hatred. This is a difficult and controversial matter upon which strong views are held on either side. If we have to choose between Section 6 of the 1965 Act, which in the view of some of us has failed to do its job, and a provision which tackles the problem of racial incitement by making people answerable for the consequences of their words, we are proposing the latter. The Government are not persuaded at this stage that we have got the provisions wrong, despite the eloquent words of the noble and learned Lord.

I should also like to say to the noble and learned Lord that some people have been disappointed that the Government have not gone farther and have not, for example, covered the use of insulting language or the expression of ideas which may encourage racial prejudice or ill-feeling. But we have come to the firm conclusion that it would be wrong to extend the criminal law in this way. We believe that false and evil racial propaganda of the subtle and insidious kind is more effectively defeated by public education and debate than by prosecution. It is fundamental to a democratic society that unpopular ideas should be freely expressed, even if they are regarded by most people of sense and reason as false and evil, unless they clearly endanger the public peace. Some people indeed believe that the Bill already encroaches unjustifiably into free expression.

Clause 70 has been carefully drafted to ensure that regard has been had to all the circumstances in deciding whether there is a likelihood that racial hatred would be stirred up. We have also been careful to include specific safeguards for fair and accurate reporting of legal proceedings and of proceedings in Parliament, as well as affording a defence to the unwitting publisher or distributor of written matter. We believe that the provision strikes the right balance between the need for effective sanction against racial incitement and individual freedom.

It is with some hesitation that I pass on to the other matter which the noble and learned Lord raised, that of inquisitorial powers. The noble and learned Lord described as inquisitorial the powers which the Bill proposes for the Commission for Racial Equality: powers which, as I think he recognised, Parliament conferred last Session on the Equal Opportunities Commission in the Sex Discrimination Act. The noble and learned Lord suggested that it was strange to have to give greater powers to the Commission to deal with discrimination than to the police to deal with crime.

The other side of the coin is that, because of the potentially more serious consequences for a person who is accused of a crime than for one who is "charged"—and I use that word in inverted commas—with discrimination, a civil wrong, greater safeguards are necessary in the former than in the latter. But we should not ignore the safeguards which the Bill also gives to those who are investigated by the Commission; those in Clause 50(2) which restrict powers to require information to those circumstances in which either the investigator is concerned with alleged discrimination by a person, and confined to that matter, or the consent of the Secretary of State has been obtained. But these are details and, as I said earlier, no doubt they will reappear and we can argue them, perhaps, in the Committee stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised a number of matters which I should like to deal with at some length. He drew attention to the minorities on commissions and said that they should be properly represented. I think he used the phrase, "the good and the great". I am happy to say that my Department long gave that up and we now have a list of the "committed and concerned". The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to racial disadvantage. I do not want to stray too far beyond the provisions of the legislation, but it is right to say something on the serious problems which go under the name of "racial disadvantage". As Lord Avebury emphasised, an effective policy in this respect is an essential complement to the provisions of the Bill. Legislation is an essential part of race relations policy. It is certainly really essential. The Government take these problems very seriously, as also the need for a coordinated approach. The racial minorities have settled especially in the urban centres of the country, and these are areas in which problems of deprivation are especially acute. For the time being, the racial minorities are not the only sufferers from these procedures, but they suffer from them disproportionately.

It is important to remember that many of the problems which the racial minorities experience are problems from which many suffer. For example, homelessness is not a racial problem. What is important is that such problems should be dealt with according to need, and where the needs of the racial minorities are proportionately greater than those of the rest of the population they should benefit accordingly, but on the basis of need, not race. By far the greater contribution to tackling these general social problems is that made by the main social programmes of the major spending Departments. These are not race programmes, but they make their contribution to the problems which face the minorities. The urban programme is an important programme of special assistance to urban areas with special social problems, but it is essentially supplementary to the main programmes.

I take careful note of what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said about the importance of not cutting off the programme, but I am sure he will not expect me in the course of this evening to give him the firm undertaking for which he asked. I just cannot do that. But I think I can say that we see the need to maintain the programme at the highest possible level. As I said, the urban programme, though important to the racial minorities, is not a race programme.

As to Clause 11, it is specifically a source of funds for local authorities' expenditure in meeting the special needs of the racial minorities. I cannot give the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the information for which he asked with regard to expenditure in 1976–77; I just have not got it. But if I can get the information, as on former occasions I will let the noble Lord know. Clause 11 is a mechanism for paying extra expenses incurred by local authorities, as the noble Lord knows, and as such cannot be estimated in advance until claims under the different headings—I am referring to the social services, education, and so on— are submitted. That is as far as I can take that matter tonight.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Hands-worth, raised the question of Government backing for the new Commission. I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, that the Government as a whole are committed to giving the new Commission full backing for its work. We accept that the backing which the Government give by their attitudes and actions is very important. Lord Boyle of Handsworth also raised the question of the role of local community relations councils. The Government recognise the importance of the voluntary contribution made by local councils. The relationship between the central statutory Commission and local councils is not changed at all by the Bill. I am hoping that that will go some way towards answering what was said by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. No doubt the new Commission—and when I use the phrase "no doubt" we really mean that—will approach this sensitive area with proper care.

The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, raised the question of the name of the Commission. As I am sure she knows, this was a matter which was discussed at great length in another place, as a result of which a change was made. On the question of the word "race" or "racial", the fact of the matter is that the Bill is about racial discrimination and race relations, and we would regard it as disingenuous to flinch from using the word in the title. At the same time, we have introduced the positive concept of equality into the name of the Commission, and we think the present title of the Commission for Racial Equality gets the balance about right. As the noble Baroness will know, a good deal of thought was given to it, and, as I say, rightly or wrongly, we feel that the right balance has been achieved. The noble Baroness raised the question of the Moser Report. My understanding is that a copy of the Moser Report is in your Lordships' Library as well as in another place—I have not checked that, but I understand that that is so.

My noble friend Lord Pitt raised a number of matters, and whether I shall have time to deal with them all I do not know. He had a criticism of Clause 6. Clause 6 is designed to except from the Bill employment which is intended to provide a person not ordinarily resident in Great Britain with skills to be used outside this country. This is necessary to protect training and trade agreements which Government Departments and private companies are increasingly negotiating with overseas Governments. For example—and I can speak with some personal knowledge of this—in providing health systems in developing countries, which may involve building a hospital and supplying the necessary equipment, it may well be part of the contract to train the staff to run the hospital. This training will be given in Great Britain to the nationals of overseas countries. It may be necessary to reserve and allocate employment for training places on the basis of nationality, and without the exception in Clause 6 this would be unlawful.

The noble Lord, Lord Pitt, raised the question of the Department of Education and Science's role in education complaints. The Government accept that it is essential that education should be properly covered in the Bill. That is why three clauses, Clauses 17 to 19, are devoted to it. The enforcement provisions in relation to education are special only to the extent that before a complainant may institute court proceedings the Secretary of State should first have an opportunity to consider it. This is because the Secretary of State has general statutory functions under the Education Act 1944 for dealing with complaints against public education bodies. It is likely to be to the complainant's advantage that the Secretary of State's assistance is available. But the Bill does not prevent the complainant from pursuing his case through the courts if he is not satisfied with the action of the Secretary of State.

The noble Lord raised the question of the staff of the Community Relations Commission and the Race Relations Board. The Government appreciate and greatly regret the insecurity which the organisation of the statutory bodies is causing the existing staff. We are engaged in discussions with their representatives in order to keep this to a minimum and to make satisfactory arrangements for them where it is possible. I do not think I can say anything more on that which will be of any value.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, raised the question of the small firms. The Bill merely perpetuates the situation as it operates at present under the 1968 Act. For the first two years of the 1968 Act there was an exception for firms with fewer than 25 employees; for the next two years the exception was reduced to firms with fewer than 10 employees. Thereafter, the exception disappeared entirely. This phasing out of the small firms under the 1968 Act has produced no difficulty, and this is why we are proposing to leave it as it operates at the present moment.

The noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, raised the question of rent. I have seen the article in The Times for the 20th. I believe that the noble Lord was referring to a minority report disagreeing with the majority report of the Community Relations Commission's Working Party of local authority housing directors. On this I can just say that my honourable friend the Minister for Housing has welcomed the Working Party's report as a contribution to the discussion of the important question of race relations and housing. It is being circulated to regional officers of his Department who will draw it to the attention of the relevant local authorities. I do not think I can add anything further to that.

May I come to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who raised the question of racial balance. The 1968 Act contains an exception which permits employers to discriminate in order to secure and maintain a racially balanced work force. As she knows only too well, the Government proposed in the White Paper that, as recommended by the Race Relations Board, this exception should be repealed. We have considered carefully the views expressed by the CBI on this issue, but have come to the conclusion that the discrimination which the racial balance exception involves is incompatible with the principles on which the Bill is based. I should like to give her the undertaking—because there is no point in having these debates if they make no impact, or nobody takes any notice of what is being said; and I know that my noble friend feels exactly the same—that we shall certainly study what the noble Baroness has said, but I cannot go beyond that and hold out any hope. It is a point that we shall certainly study.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of shop stewards. The Government are aware of the arguments that have been put forward in favour of extending Clause 11 so that persons concerned with the affairs of the organisation are brought within the scope of the Bill. During the debate on the Amendment to this purpose in another place the Government undertook to look seriously at the need for such an Amendment. This is, however, a sensitive and difficult area, particularly in regard to the activities of shop stewards. There are important industrial relations questions to be taken into account. The Government's consideration of the matter is not yet complete and I cannot take the matter further than that.

My Lords, I have dealt, if not with all the questions that have been raised, then with the ones that I thought needed a fairly substantial answer and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served at this hour by saying more, other than to commend the Bill to the House. It was encouraging to my noble friend and to me to notice how many noble Lords gave the Bill an almost unqualified welcome. There were certain reservations, but perhaps there was not more than one noble Lord who really did not have much time for it. My Lords, I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.